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Why house sitting is the best for travel less ordinary
Hiring a car in Portugal
Our final week of our first international house sit started with us hunting for a rental car and we ended up finding one through Kayak for a fiver a day. The only drawback was we had to wait a few days before picking it up as we needed room on the credit card to cover the huge security deposit. Now we know why it was so cheap! Initially we were disappointed we wouldn’t have a car for the final week to fully explore the area but in the end, we kept up our great routine of doing one or two big walks every day with Angel and had more fun on the beach - not a bad alternative! It did start to get a little chillier in the evenings and it was time to bring out the Superser. For anyone who didn’t have them growing up in Ireland, they’re little portable gas heaters that need gas bottles attached to them. We managed to figure out, with charades and bits of Portuguese how to buy the correct gas bottle as most houses use different gas for their water heaters. The locals in Atalaia de Cima had a good laugh watching me wheel it on a trolley through the streets (normal people would drive to collect it) so I think the whole village got a bit of gossip out of us!
Getting to Lisbon Airport
The day arrived for us to go pick up the car and we had another lovely walk into Lourinha to catch the bus to Lisbon. We caught the Rede Expressos bus which provides a comfortable, reliable service all over Portugal and the journey to Lisbon is lovely. Once there, we were met by the rental agent who quickly transferred us to the depot where our brand new beaming white VW Polo awaited us. It terrified me! Especially knowing that the excess was a thousand euro for any damage to the car, regardless of fault. We quickly opted for a slightly more expensive rate to drop the excess to three hundred. It only slightly diminished my apprehension about driving on the right-hand side and dealing with Portuguese drivers. I had read way too many stories about driving in Portugal and my nerves were gone! Neil masterfully navigated our way through the streets out of Lisbon (after he got us lost) and onto the motorway that would take us straight home. I am brutal at finding my way or following maps while driving and it was a relief to know I could concentrate fully on keeping the car on the right side of the road while Neil handled all the confusing one-way systems and complicated motorway on/off ramps. A lot of Portuguese drivers like to drive an inch behind the rear bumper at high speeds so when we finally reached home I relinquished my iron grip on the steering wheel and breathed a sigh of relief! Angel was delighted to see her new mode of transport (she’s fond of being driven around the place!).
The next day we decided to head to a town called Obidos on Sarah and Jon’s recommendation. There was a thick fog that had rolled in off the sea, blanketing the coast so it was a good opportunity to head inland a bit. We drove through pretty little towns and villages, a cork forest, vineyards and farmland, just getting to Obidos was a treat in itself. We hadn’t researched anything, just heard it was a medieval town worth checking out and it was such a lovely surprise. It’s a walled town complete with castle and battlements, all intact and beautifully preserved. Inside the walls were whitewashed houses with red-tiled roofs and brightly coloured doors and window frames. All over the town, beautifully vibrant and fragrant flowers tumbled over the walls with the odd lemon or orange tree laden with fruit. We walked on top of the walls taking in the commanding 360-degree views and then ambled our way through the tiny and quiet cobbled streets. Picturesque is an obvious choice but it describes it exactly. Although, Neil made a rookie mistake and forgot a spare battery for the camera - doh! Luckily the pictures nearly take themselves on any old phone! We’ll absolutely be coming back to see it at night time sooner or later.
A surf beach alternative
Angel apparently likes swimming at the Obidos lagoon, an inlet full of fishing boats and tree-lined beaches. The fog, however, lended a chill to the air and the water looked cold. Angel managed a toe but that was it, she was contented instead to run along the shore chasing sticks we threw. It was a pity about the fog but it gave the lagoon such an eerie, mystical atmosphere it created its own opportunities for photos. The water is lovely and calm compared to the wild Atlantic beaches out on the coast so it must be a great place for little kids and non-surfers. This is definitely on our “return to” list for the future.
The curse of the fog
From there we really wanted to get to Nazare, home of big-wave surfing (the biggest wave ever was recorded there) but on the coastal drive the fog was making the journey difficult and we wouldn’t get to see anything of the famous surf spot. I’m nervous enough on the roads, I just wasn’t able for the lack of visibility so we headed for home. It took a bit longer, sometimes you just couldn’t see the road in front of the car so I drove at a snail’s pace! We missed out on some cliff-top views on the road back but there’s always another day.
How the time flies
Our final two days we explored the local surf beaches - Praia da Areia Branca, Baleal Beach and Praia dos Supertubos. Praia da Areia Branca has a couple of beach bars. One of them has a very hipster surfer-dude vibe which is excellent for tapas and sunset/people watching. We also found a nice pizzeria but it’s just a little expensive relative to what you get used to in Portugal. Neil got to photograph more surfers here at sunset but none of them would surf past the big ball setting into the horizon - another reason to return! At Baleal we had a blast playing in the big waves. Everyone else was in wetsuits and seriously trying to surf, they simply looked on perplexed at our pasty white bodies jumping up and down to crazy, excited screams. After our fun in huge waves, we were enthusiastic to say the least about Praia dos Supertubos, seeing as the name implied Super Tubes! For some bizarre reason though, there wasn’t a ripple in the water when we got there. We left immediately (sad face). Our consolation prize was another lovely sunset - can’t go wrong there!
Time to say goodbye
We couldn’t believe how fast the time had flown by and while we were cleaning up and packing all our gear on our last evening, Angel was breaking our hearts with the looks she was giving us. I hadn’t realised how attached I’d get in a matter of weeks! For Biscuit on the other hand it was just another day, cats really don’t mind what’s going on as long as there’s at least one servant under their command. Still though I’d like to think she might miss her pm blanket snuggle on the couch with us! We highly recommend house sitting and trustedhousesitters is a fantastic site to get started on your first experience. They have excellent customer service and they’ll quickly answer any questions you have. But we can’t emphasise enough that pet sitting is a huge responsibility and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The pets are not just there to be fed and walked. They need and deserve company and affection. As a result, you grow attached and you have to be ready to say goodbye. What saved the day was Sarah and Jon coming home and Angel was delighted. It completely distracted her from us packing! We regaled them with stories of her escapades and bravery as she looked on proudly. The Irish stew we cooked went down well with the weary travelers and they told us all about their cruise on the Danube. It was a lovely last night of our first international house-sit and the beginning of new friendships.