Since we were getting Good Friday and Easter Monday off, Paul and I (well mostly I) thought it would be a good idea to take a few extra days and visit Portugal around Easter. Paul really wanted to go to Estoril for the Estoril Open (an ATP and WTA tennis tournament) and I wanted to go because the surfing in Portugal is nice.
On April 20, we flew into Lisbon where we rented a car (they gave us a big station wagon which was handy because I had brought my surfboard) and we drove off to Cascais for our first three nights. Cascais is a really lovely little town just south of Lisbon.
The beach was absolutely beautiful and the first night we just strolled around and found an Italian place with a nice view of the ocean. The next day we set out to visit Sintra, a town just an hour’s drive away where the old kings of Lisbon built loads of palaces to retreat to during the summer months. It’s located in a national park, on top of a mountain. Parking is a pain, but once we did manage to put our car away we walked through a park to the main square. It started to rain a bit so we had some lunch in one of the cafes, and when it got dry again we walked over to Pena National Palace which has beautiful tiles, fabulous wooden floors as well as great views of the countryside and the ocean (in the far distance). When we finished our tour, it started raining rather hard, so we got back to the car and decided to go back to Cascais. There we had a little nap at the hotel (cute little place by the way), and when the sun came out again we strolled around Cascais some more.
On Friday, we first stopped by the Boca de Inferno (mouth of hell), a big cliff with a hole in it where the waves pound in very loudly. After that, I wanted to go surfing, but unfortunately the closest beach to Cascais (Guincho) was devoid of waves and otherwise also pretty deserted except for a few kite surfers. The guy at the surf shop told us we could try Carcavelos, which is a little bit more sheltered from the wind that blows the waves flat. Indeed Carcavelos looked a lot better so I put in a little surf session while Paul had some coffee at one of the beach bars. When we got back to Cascais, I had a shower and then we hit town again. We first killed some time in a rock cafe, where we had a nice chat with the bartender, after we made our way to a tiny little place that was only open on Fridays and that did fado. It was truly one of the greatest holiday experiences. The place had about 5 tables in there, as it had opened at 20:00 and we got there at 20:30 we were quite early and only one of the other tables was occupied. The menu was chalked on a blackboard and had three options. The waiter/owner did not speak any English, but whenever he brought a dish to the other table, he would show the dish to us and point out on the blackboard what this dish was, upon which we could say that we wanted that. Paul got some really nice veal chops, and I had some excellent fried cod with very long grain rice (this was probably the best meal of the entire holiday). Then the musicians came in, one of them nearly resting his elbow on my table. The lights would be dimmed and they would play a few songs during which everyone in the restaurant was completely quiet and stopped eating. The lights would come on again and people would resume their conversations. Then someone from one of the tables would get up and join the musicians, the lights would get dimmed again, and he/she would sing a few songs. My description doesn’t do it any justice, but it was just a fantastic experience. At around 11pm, Paul and I were pretty tired, so we unfortunately had to leave otherwise we would have probably fallen asleep at the table, but I’m sure the party went on for another while.
On Saturday, we went to Carcavelos again, where I had booked a surf lesson, just because I’m a chicken and like surfing with someone else in the water. It started out quite windy, but while we were in the water the wind went down. After two hours I was completely knackered, so I got out of the water and hopped into the car to drive to the next destination on our trip: Ericeira. Ericeira is a nice little town a little bit north from Cascais and Sintra and it has one of the four World Surfing Reserves in the world.
Because the swells were coming in just straight from the ocean as well as the wind, the conditions were not for me, too much pounding, but it was very interesting to watch other surfers get taken away rather rapidly by the strong currents, and great to see them having battled through the surf and catch some waves. So we sat around the various little terraces the Ericeira has to offer, overlooking the waves, drinking sangria and eating tostas mixtas. We also played some tennis at the tennis courts right by our hostel and lazed about on the sunbeds. On Easter Monday, we drove down towards Cascais again, this time not for the surf, but for the Estoril Open. It was a bit of a pain to find the stadium and even more so to find out where to park, but once we got the car parked and the shuttle bus had taken us to the entry, we were fine. First of all, it’s a beautiful tennis park, with the cute little tiles you see everywhere in Portugal, and lined with palm trees. The matches we saw were quite interesting too (amongst others Thiemo de Bakker getting his arse kicked by Kevin Anderson). We also saw Verdasco and Söderling practice, and we even almost bumped into Tsonga on one of the narrow little paths. After a long day of loads of nice tennis we were getting a bit peckish, but the food at the tennis park wasn’t so amazing, so we drove back to Ericeira, where we watched the sunset and had a nice meal at a fish restaurant. The next day we briefly dipped our feet into the water and then we made our way back to the airport. With a tan and a big smile 🙂