Tag Archives: Portugal

“Take the First Step in Faith”

1 Apr

There is a saying by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”. This sums up my entire travel philosophy. Some people are planners, down to each and every detail. This does have a certain value. However, to me, the excitement in travel is the unknown, and the freedom to change plans on a whim.

My very first trip to Europe alone was planned this way:                                                                                                                                                          1. Purchase roundtrip open-ended ticket to Paris and Euro Rail pass
2. Buy a map of Europe and keep in mind some countries/towns/landmarks I want to visit
3. Go! And figure it out along the way…

And while life has brought me to the place where I no longer have to stay in hostels and fit my worldly belongings into a backpack for three months, I still enjoy the nomadic freedom of travel in much the same way as I did in my early 20’s. Only in nicer hotels. And with more luggage. And shoes. 🙂

If taking a vacation or even a quick getaway seems like a huge deal, there’s so much to plan, it has to be perfect, and so on… Let those feelings go. Planning a trip can be as simple as:                                                                                                                                                                  1. Decide on a destination and buy ticket.
2. Make a reservation at a hotel for one night with the option of extending. This way you have a place to check into and get some rest. If you love it, stay. Or, check out the other options and decide from there.
3. Get out and explore! Meet some locals and ask questions. Where do they like to eat? Are there farmer’s markets? What is the location known for?

Have fun with it and don’t feel like you have to do what everybody else does. In Florence Italy and don’t care to see the David? Don’t! (Although it is beautiful…) Customize your trip so that you enjoy it to the fullest, not like it was planned out by a tourism agency. The best times for me, are the ones that are spontaneous and exciting. Even though I buy a travel book for each place I go to, it’s mostly so I will have something to read on the plane and to put on my bookshelf as a nice memory when I get home. Once I am at my destination, it’s time to immerse myself into the culture and create my own adventure.

Another way to make planning a trip easier is to ignore the idea that a trip isn’t worth it if it’s shorter than a week, or two weeks. Who made up that rule anyway?? I once flew to Stockholm for the weekend. No rules, no pressure, not even time to get jet-lagged! I just found a really cheap ticket (it was Sweden in November) and decided to check it out.

As your trip is coming to an end and you are getting ready to head home, wouldn’t it be more fun to look back on all the amazing experiences you had instead of feeling regret that you only checked off certain things that were on your ‘list’, or wishing you had more free time?

Once you let go of the pressure of having everything planned out, and making sure you stick to that perfect plan, you will be able to enjoy a sense of freedom… Just take that first step.




Temos saudades Portugal!

16 Jun

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 on the deserted beach in front of our condo getting ready to surf an empty wave 
Deserted beach in front of our condo getting ready to surf an empty wave


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. We named him…. Pepe the Mule.  



More Pepe the Mule 
 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.

we are walking on the castle wall walkway around the city of Obidos
We are walking on the castle wall walkway around the town of Òbidos

 aleo walking up the stone stairs to the castle wall walkway that surrounds the town of Òbidos

 Walking up the stone stairs to the castle wall walkway that surrounds the town

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.

The empty break in our front yard
 The empty break in our front yard

Porto Batel on our first day

Porto Batel on our first day


If you could design a dish that’s perfect for me..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.

on the road that goes to our beach house in Praia del Rei
On the road that goes to our beach house in Praia del Rei


Every morning at the casa we would wake up at about 8,  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 us everyday, work permitting, and as the locals say, 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. 

Kaleo, Hugo and Remy
Kaleo, Hugo and Remy
Entering Ferrel Fest
Entering Ferrel Fest


 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. 

Temos saudades Portugal!