We are back! Portugal has got to be one of the most beautiful, friendly, relaxing, and fun places we have seen so far. I guess it also has to do with how you ‘do’ your vacation, what type of trip you want to have, and how much you want to fit into the time available. Well, this trip was done just right. Kaleo and Remy were already on tour in Europe until the 3rd of August, and flew back to Lisbon to wait for me. I left LAX on the 3rd and got into Lisbon the morning of the 4th. Remy had decided to fly home to California even though Kaleo and I really wanted him to stay and have a fun family vacation (aka Surf Trip to Portugal, Brah!!) with us. In his defense, they were just in Japan, home for a few days, then Portugal and all over the UK, so all in all traveling for like a month and a half. So I can understand him wanting to sleep in his own bed. When I got there that morning I figured he was already heading home to Cali. To my surprise, Kaleo had talked him into staying!! I was so happy. As you know, Remy and I are super-duper close for a brother/sister and the idea of spending the next 12 days with my two favorite guys on a surf trip in Portugal was just perfect.
We have some incredible friends that live in Portugal named Alexa and Hugo who offered their gorgeous two bedroom beach house to us for our entire trip! The place was in one of the best areas to surf in Portugal, near Peniche, Foz, and Baleal. It’s about an hour north of Lisbon so we rented a car to get there since the rail system hasn’t yet reached all of that region. Well, the car that they gave us was simply awesome. It was a Citroen C1. C1!! Even Alexa didn’t know they made them that small! It was like a Smart Car with four doors. Seriously. Kaleo named him…. Pepe the Mule.
We were staying at the Praia del Rei resort area which is close to Caldas da Rainhas (bath of the Queen) and Òbidos. Òbidos (pronouced oh-be-doosh) is a little city within castle walls that was a gift from the poet King Dinis to his wife, Isabella of Aragon. They saw it in passing once and she likened it to a jewel-studded crown so he gave it to her as a wedding gift. It is a medieval town that is set in the middle of a valley of vineyards. Just stunning. I am adding a page for our Portugal pictures after this post, so check back for it within a day or so.
We had absolutely no agenda on this trip. Such a great feeling when you are on vacation. Of course there were things that we wanted to do such as eat the local food, taste the regional wines, surf the world famous surf spots, hang out with our friends, hear some Fado music, see Òbidos, go out in Lisbon, etc. But we weren’t necessarily attached to the outcome of whether we checked any of it off our list or not. Well, except for the surfing. It’s not a surf trip with no surf, right? Of course, since I don’t surf I got to relax and explore a little more than the guys did, but believe me, they were not complaining. They got some great surf, most of it with little or no people out besides themselves. So not really caring what we did each day that we were there gave us such a sense of freedom. We got SO much done and still had much more time to just relax and do nothing than we have had in a really long time.
If you could design a dish that is perfect for Kaleo and I (and Remy!), it would be found in Portugal. Oh my gosh… Especially at our favorite place called Rio Cortiço which was hidden deep within the woodsy, beachy area that we were staying. Through the trees and down a white sand road into a clearing is the cutest little restaurant on the beach. You just park on the sand in a make shift lot, and walk to the restaurant that has only outdoor tables. It’s set up on a deck a couple of feet up off the sand and has hanging rice paper lanterns and a bamboo shade “ceiling”. The fish that was caught that day is grilled right outside on an old school homemade grill so you can see what looks good as you walk up. The fish is prepared just grilled, some as is, others halved and grilled in two with only sea salt as a seasoning. When you order a fish it is served with a side of boiled potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a salade mixta, or lettuce, tomato and onion salad with a tiny bit of olive oil, vinegar and sea salt for flavor. Oh wow. I was in heaven… Pair it with a glass of the house wine which is the Vinho Verde (like a very light, dry white wine with the slightest bit of sparkle to it) or a Super Bock (national beer of Portugal) and some meláo (a huge slice of melon that is kind of a cross between a honeydew and a cantaloupe. Honey-loupe? or Canta-dew?) for dessert. We must have frequented this place about 5-6 times while we were there. The owner, Susana was trying to get Kaleo and Remy to play a Sabotage show there… Which is a funny story because our waiter was this cool Brazilian guy named Luciano, who looked like Seu George, one of our favorite Brazilian musicians. He barely spoke English and my Portuguese at that time consisted of ordering food, so using a lot of hand motions, we figured out that he liked the same music as us. The guys gave him a Sabo CD, which was the only CD we had in Pepe. The ext time we came back for dinner they decided to put the CD on for the restaurant. If you’ve heard the CD, you know that it may or may not be for all ears during dinner, depending on how open your mind is. 😉 And Susana and Luciano most likely didn’t understand anything the songs were saying because of their limited English. Cool beans, right? Well the clientele at this restaurant is basically British and Irish tourists. Who understand English. I know! I’m laughing too! So I was having a blast watching Kaleo and Remy squirm a bit at first as we looked around the restaurant. What did we see? Everyone was grooving! Even this man who was in his 60’s wearing a lemon yellow sweater vest and white yacht pants was literally dancing in his seat. A mother was bouncing her kid to the beat, another woman was tapping her feet and people all around were just loving it. It was a cool scene.
Every morning at the casa we would wake up at about 8, Remy and Kaleo would do some yoga and stretches and check the surf while I made breakfast. By then the clouds would burn off and we would head out to the beach. Hugo tried to surf with them everyday, work permitting, and as Kaleo says, he is like the unofficial mayor of this region. At least in the beach areas. He knows everyone! Perfect way to be introduced to a local break, just paddle out with Hugo Amado. The Portuguese are so kind and welcoming, it felt a little like being back home in Hawaii.
Alexa and Hugo told us about this festival in the town of Ferrel called, well, Ferrel Festival. It lasts for an entire week and they practically shut everything down to move in an huuuge stage, lots of gypsy vendors, caipirinha and Super Bock stands, bumper cars, some octopus-like ride that made me feel woozy looking at it, churro and fartudo stands and most importantly… donkey races! Oh yeah. I wanted to race a doney SO bad! Hugo and Alexa said that anyone could enter, so I was going to find a donkey and race it. Of course since I grew up riding and showing horses, I thought it would be a piece of cake, no problemo! We had to pass through the town of Ferrel to get to the beaches everyday and I secretly would bring an extra bag stashed in the very back of Pepe that held my jeans and boots JUST IN CASE that day would be the day that I got to race my donkey. The festival had been going on for three days and we still hadn’t stopped once! We were waiting for Saturday when Hugo and Alexa could come with us sans the kiddos. Saturday came and we were invited to Hugo’s friends birthday party and then we were to hit the Ferrel! I got dressed for the party in a cute black, short, frock (I just said frock. who am I? I think I’ll leave it) with my slippers. Dressy casual for a Portuguese party that I had no idea what to expect. But how could I ride a donkey in this?? So I re-packed my donkey-racing-clothes bag. Busted. Remy walks by my room and says, “Sister, what are you doing, bringing like 3 more changes of clothes for the night? Just wear what you have on.” I told them that I really DID want to race a donkey (I think they thought I was kidding), and they laughed hysterically at me! Whatever, I’m bringing it. After the party we went to the Ferrel. It was so packed we could barely get through the crowd. We saw some of Hugo and Alexa’s friends and danced a bit to the crazy Brazilian pop stars on the massive stage, got a caipirinha, browsed the gypsy wares, and ate a fartudo. Now, I’m sure most of you know what a churro is. It’s basically dough squuezed into hot oil and fried then rolled in sugar and cinnamon. It’s about an inch thick and maybe 8 inches long. A FARTUDO is the same process, but it is about 4 inches thick and over a foot long! Cra-zaaazy. Now nicknamed the burro churro. Figure it out. So it was all fun and games, but no donkeys were seen! I was bummed, but I figured we still had a few more days to find the mystical donkey races. On the way home, I asked if the donkey racers were just locals who were drunk enough to want to ride a donkey, because I figured that I would be stone cold sober and bringing my A-game and would take this thing. Well it turns out that the adorable little old Portuguese men that I kept seeing on the side of the road in their cool hats were my competition. And they practice all year long for these things. Whoa… Ok so reality is hitting me a little bit and suddenly I am a little intimidated! But I still persisted on riding a damn donkey. The next day we were at our local little restaurant and Remy saw a poster for the Ferrel. Turns out, the donkey races had happened on Saturday, but it was early on in the day… Alas, I rode no donkeys on this trip. I guess I saved face though, because I probably would have been last and made an Ass out of myself and my donkey. Pun very intended.
***more to come! I’m going to post some photos on the Portugal Page***