Why house sitting is the best for slow travel
Reunited in Portugal
After the first week on my own, Neil arrived - yeaaaay! We had debated picking up a car together at the airport but we neglected to leave adequate space on a credit card to hire one - Doh! We knew we had plenty of time to rent a car later in the coming weeks and there is lots to see in the immediate area anyway so no worries there. I walked the thirty minutes into Lourinha and met Neil off the bus around lunchtime and he was wrecked. He had been doing 12 hour days with work then the flight was at stupid o’clock and he was running on about two hours sleep. Thankfully we found a taxi straight away at the bus station and it was only six euro up to our little village (the walk would have been torture in the sun with a squeaky wheelie-case on a dirt road).
Meet Angel and Biscuit
After one or two barks at the gate, it didn’t take long for Angel to realise Neil is the best dog scratcher in the world and they were instant pals after that. I showed Neil around the house and he was just as delighted as I was when I first arrived and he was quick to study Jon’s beautiful photographic work that adorns the walls. Biscuit meow’d hello from under her blanket and he was now officially part of the family! I was dying to show him the beaches and the little town so, after unpacking and some butternut squash soup I had made the day before (there had been a pumpkin festival so there was loads of free pumpkins and squash left outside everyone’s house), we took Angel out for walkies. The first place I wanted to take Neil to was the cliff-top walk down to Praia de Peralta. It has breathtaking views up and down the coast and to the crashing waves beneath. Neil reminded me of our previous trip to Portugal when we stood on the cliff edge at Cabo da Rocha, looking North along the coast saying “wouldn’t it be magic to get back someday to explore that?”. We stood, standing hand in hand, looking back to the view and the trip that started our love for Portugal. We knew the coming weeks were going to be unforgettable.
Neil was already planning drone shots and sunset views from the cliff top. With November bringing shorter daylight hours we made sure to be up early to make the most of each day. This wasn’t an issue at all seeing as Biscuit woke us up at 7 a.m. every morning meowing for a cuddle/more food/more water/litter tray change/to go outside/just to meow! We started every morning with coffee and some of the freshly baked bread that always appeared, dangling on the front gate as if by magic, accompanied by delicious Portuguese cheese and fresh vine tomatoes from the garden. Getting to the sea was a priority so we walked down to Praia de Peralta nearly every day with Angel and soaked up the sun. It’s a stunning beach and we had it completely to ourselves. We occasionally met a fisherman or saw someone walking their dog in the distance. Probably just as well, as we don’t really swim so much as play and frolic in the waves and laugh and scream our heads off with delight! The waves were great fun and the water wasn’t nearly as cold as what we’re used to on the west coast of Ireland or the lakes we frequent around the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. Even in the height of the summer we never get that kind of temperature in Irish waters so we felt positively tropical this far South in the Atlantic.
A couple of times we walked into Lourinha to get some bulk shopping done in the big supermarkets. It’s only thirty minutes and thankfully, downhill, along a dirt road through farms full of pumpkins and cabbages with no traffic to worry about. At the end of all the farmland another steep hill took us up to the back of Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo, a beautiful 14th Century gothic church that overlooks the town. From there we descended the steps lined with lemon and orange trees and took the street that leads directly to the Dinosaur Museum (Lourinha is the capital of dinosaurs). Of course, we picked days and times to be there when it wasn’t open but we consoled ourselves with the best Pasteis de Nata north of Lisbon in the lovely Cafe Central. Even though we were only there a few times the ladies behind the counter knew our order - four Pasteis de Nata and two coffees (everyone else was normal and only had one!). It’s a great little spot and full of locals which is always a good sign.
Best place for the sunset
For two weeks we divided our time between Praia de Peralta, where Angel and the two of us played in the sand and the waves and Praia de Porto das Barcas. The second beach is smaller but no less beautiful, although we weren’t brave enough to venture in. The waves are always huge and the current looks like it would sweep you out to sea if you weren’t a strong enough swimmer. At the North end of the beach is a rocky outcrop with an old hotel that has been boarded up and left to eventually crumble into the sea. Apparently it had been built in the seventies but was shut down due to planning issues. During the summer months though, a tiny tapas bar is run by the locals there and the food is highly recommended. Sure we’ll just have to come back to sample it next year! I think we decided anyway that this was our favourite spot for the sunsets. Check out the video below and then read about our final week on our first international house-sit.