Posted by The SoleSisters on -
I've been to some parts of the world that I've found so magnificent and jaw dropping- but I would never want to live there. I've also been to places where I have considered staying forever, only to pack up and leave again.
But most recently, I've found the haven where I could actually relax and feel safe. Somewhere close to the sea so we could surf and swim every day if we wanted. We've searched everywhere. From Baler, Siargao, Penang, Chiang Mai, Manila, Versailles. And now, we're finally in a little village in northern Portugal.
There's just so many waves. If you look at Portugal on the map, you will see it's just one huge chunk of coastline. It is one of the best countries for surfers, in fact the largest waves ever surfed in the world were in Portugal! But it's not just for the pros. There's plenty of waves to be enjoyed anywhere. Waves you can learn on and waves that can smash you. The goal is to find something in between.
From experience, the waves are usually big and punchy. But there are also days when it gets small enough for beginners and long boarders. But it's not just about the waves. It's the uncrowded beaches for most of the year except for about 2 months in summer. It's the freedom of not having to line up just to catch a couple of waves. It's the contentment of knowing that you don't need to rush or be greedy, there's more waves tomorrow.
And the best part? It's the only place where I have ever surfed alone on a good day. You have no idea how that feels! It's like your birthday and Christmas rolled into one. It's ride all you can!
Check out the Best Surf Spots in Portugal
Feijoada of red or white beans, beef, pork and sausages. It will make you come back for seconds (or thirds). A feast of Cozido a Portuguesa with beef, pork, chicken, blood sausages and smoked pork parts. There's also potatoes, cabbage and carrots thrown in the mix, but it's certainly for the meat lovers. Grilled bacalhau (cod), sardines or octopus. Portuguese rice with onions and olive oil that will make you realize why the Portuguese call plain white rice as something from the hospital. Queijo fresco, a creamy, soft, white cheese that pairs perfectly with traditional bread fresh from the padaria. Wash it down with vinho verde (white wine usually from the Minho region) or a bottle of ice-cold Superbock or Sagres, and you're good for a siesta.
3 You'll love Portugal for the wine.
Portugal is known all over the world for Port wine, which is typically red and sweet and often served as a dessert wine. Legend has it that to protect the wine during the long sea voyage it was ‘fortified’ prior to shipment with the addition of a small amount of grape spirit, or brandy, which increased its strength, prevented it from spoiling and gave it that sweet taste.
But that's not all that Portugal has to offer in the wine department. You will be surprised by the inexpensive vinho verde which is served even in small restaurants or tascas. They can be fresh, vibrant and fruity. If you prefer your wine to be robust and full-bodied you might want to try a bottle of Douro from steep, terraced vineyards along the Douro River.
Learn more about Portuguese wine.
Coming from the Philippines, I have to admit that I love sunny, warm weather. After moving to Europe and experiencing a harsh winter in France, I knew that Portugal has the perfect balance of sunshine, dry air and oceanic weather. We enjoy one of the longest summers in Europe, and the most number of sunny days in a year.
Mountains, rivers, beaches, rocky cliffs, islands, I have to say we have it all- and I'm just talking about our little region in northern Portugal. And it's not just the landscape- it's what you can do in all that wide open space. Kayaking, surfing, whitewater rafting, birdwatching, canyoning, fishing, rock climbing, biking, hiking, paragliding, the possibilities are limitless! It's definitely paradise for people like us who love the great outdoors.
Enjoy more Outdoor Activities in Portugal
For such a small country, the Portuguese have made their mark on the world. Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco Da Gama, to name a few. They used to own half of the world! They were the first colonial power to abolish slavery.
"Azulejo" is a word used in Spain and Portugal to designate a glazed tile: a terracotta tile covered with an opaque glazing. In these two countries, azulejos have been frequently used since the 13th century to cover and decorate walls, fountains, pavements, ceilings, vaults, baths, or fireplaces. (source)
I see them everywhere, but I can't get enough of them! I especially love the old ones which are often painstakingly hand painted.
The cost of a prato de dia (plate of the day) in Portugal at a normal restaurant is around 5-10 Euros. That usually comes with an appetizer of olives, bread and some pieces of bacalhau. A main dish with meat or fish and rice or potatoes. Plus a dessert and a glass of house wine. You may even get a small cup of coffee if you're lucky. In France, you could only get a sandwich and coffee for that price! You may also find that the cost of accommodations, car rentals, tours and experiences in this country are considerably lower. Portugal is definitely the most inexpensive places I have visited in Europe!
9 You'll love Portugal for Fado.
I've heard traditional music from all over the world. But I have never heard anything as haunting as Fado. Fado literally means fate or destiny and is the soul music of Portugal. It's often about love or loss, and has a melancholy theme accompanied by mandolins or guitars. I love listening to Fado played in small villages during festa time. Although I can't understand all the words, I can feel the emotions echoed in Fado music.
The quick to smile, easy to love, warm, friendly Portuguese. The fishermen with their old fashioned hats. The grandmas dressed in black with their soft faces and culinary secrets. The industrious people working in their farms and gardens but take a moment to pause and return your wave. The beer drinking surfers who let you use their cellphone to call a cab. The shopkeepers who actually mean it when they say Obrigada and refuse your tip. The Portuguese who are often trying to teach you something new whether it's a Portuguese word or one of their hundreds of recipes to cook bacalhau. The ones who are often proud that they can speak to you in English or French and will go out of their way to give you directions or help you find what you need.
It was love that brought me here. I would not have pointed out Portugal on a map, marked it X and called it home. It was my husband, who is half Portuguese, who thought that it would be the best place for us to take root as a family. And he was absolutely right!
I've only been here for less than 6 months and have only explored a few towns in the north and the city of Porto. But it has become so endearing to me that in my heart I am already beginning to call it home. I love Portugal as it stands out from most European countries because of its "roughness".
I love it for its raw beauty that does not need any superlatives or praise.
I love the old ladies who work hard in their gardens and work even harder in the kitchen making feasts for the entire family to enjoy.
I love how I can actually own parts of this place in my memory- in ways that I will never be able to claim Paris or New York.
I love hearing people scream and shout as if there's a fight breaking out in the streets, only to realize that they're just watching a football match.
And that's why I invite you to come love Portugal. Discover it. Find pieces of it you can call your own. Make it your playground. Find your own reasons to love this country.
But I won't reveal exactly where we live in Portugal.
Sole Sister Lois
Have you been to Portugal before? Why do you love it? Please share in the comments.
Lois has traveled extensively and has lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She is currently based in Portugal with her husband and baby girl. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters and has written the ebook "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" based on her travels in the region for 6 months on less than 2,500 USD.