Portuguese Paradise

April 6, 2013

The Portuguese people are warm, polite and welcoming, so  even cool, blustery, wet March weather couldn’t spoil our five week stay in Costa de Caparica, a beach town across the Tagus River from Lisbon.

We  arrived in Lisbon after an eighteen-day repositioning cruise from Miami to Venice, which was dusted with snow when we arrived in late February.  It was a long, long trip, with ports of call  in Malaga, Barcelona, and Italy. Sailing through the Strait of Messina and up the Adriatic side of Italy had been exciting,  but we  realized halfway through the cruise that traveling by ship has a different meaning for home free travelers.  We were more interested in transportation than most of the vacationers on board and we used the time to write, rest, and enjoy all the benefits of a first class hotel while moving from one home to another.  It was an altogether different experience from our first crossing in May, when the transatlantic experience and cruising itself were new to us.

The approach from Lisbon airport gave us a tantalizing peek of the magnificent 25th of April Suspension Bridge, one of the world’s longest. Buildings painted in Easter egg colors, topped with red tiled roofs scrambled up the hills and when we rounded the final bend in the highway we saw the rust colored  bridge spanning  the Tagus River, which  spilled into the Atlantic Ocean.  I shouted, “Oh, look, Tim – it looks like San Francisco meets Istanbul!” As usual, my darling could NOT look or we would have run off the road and taken five hundred Portuguese citizens with us!

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Over Lisbon’s rooftops.

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Nice work, if you can get it!

The rented beach house was two blocks from the ocean, was protected from the blast of spring winds by dunes and a pine tree forest. By our standards the house was huge – three bedrooms, two baths, a working fireplace, a spacious front patio, and a HAMMOCK!  Here is this writer, hard at work one warm afternoon.

Our experience in living home free for eighteen months taught us to organize ourselves in a hurry, and within twenty-four hours we were installed completely, unpacked, kitchen stocked, ferry transport arranged and tram tickets purchased. Practice makes perfect and it certainly helped that almost everyone in Portugal speaks some English. When we complimented our sweet property manager on her perfect command of our language, she informed us that she and most Portuguese people had learned it from TV and movies!

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“Our” beach.

Portugal has  some of the biggest waves in the world and the minute we had secured our gear,  we took the path down to the beach, which stretches for seven miles along the Atlantic. The huge sets are a surfer’s dream, and romantic, beat-up wooden clapboard buildings house restaurants serving them and us less athletic types among the dunes.

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The Kontiki on Sunday afternoon.

Our favorite, which we frequented often, was the Kontiki. People from Lisbon came from the weekends and we loved the octopus, sardines, cod and other local specialties, washed down with good local Portuguese wine. The children played on the beach while the grown-ups gossiped and enjoyed the afternoon sun. There are beanbag lounges strewn across the sand with little tables for drinks and food.

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Fishermen on “our’ beach.

Fishermen were out all the time, ready to haul in their dinner, and between those hardy guys, the surfers, and the constant wave action, we found a walk down to the ocean irresistible.

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The ferry we used almost every day!

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe, older than Paris or London by hundreds of years. It is westernmost large city on the continent. We always love being near the water and traveling into Lisbon on the ferry system made every visit even more exciting for us!

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This is Tim NOT driving!

Tim especially loved the ferry rides because for once he could actually look at the scenery without risking our lives!

Portugal, with its rich history, castle, palaces, beaches, and fabulous food was a feast for us in all ways and I’ll be sharing more of its abundant pleasures with you soon! Until then, ciao!

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The Santa Justa elevator, which helps everyone get around in hilly Lisbon.