Off the Beaten Path in Portugal

Off the Beaten Path in Portugal

What better way to stray from the tourist trail than to take a local bus to a town you can’t pronounce? After a few days in Lagos, I felt this was the best way to discover a more authentic side of Portugal.

An hour and a half later, I hopped off the bus at this random town called Odeceixe. I walked into the center of town with the hopes that I’d find a place to stay that night. Channeling my inner American friendliness, I walked into the reception room of a small family run hotel and asked if I could stay there for the night. A kind man and woman replied to me in French that they had a free room. The couple’s home was downstairs, and there were about 9 or 10 rooms on the three floors above. The man gave me three old, rustic keys that looked as if they’d unlock a treasure chest, and explained the breakfast and check out times to me.

Once I got to my room, I unpacked my backpack and sat down on my bed in deep gratitude since this was the first night in a couple of weeks that I haven’t had to share a room with at least four or five other travelers. At around 5 p.m., I went on a search for food, which can usually be an interesting adventure when in a different country. When I walked out of the hotel, it was a ghost town. I felt like I was in an old movie set. I found the main and only town square and sat down at the most promising of the three restaurants in the square. The waiter at the bar shook his head at me, indicating that he wouldn’t be serving me. I gave him a look of utter confusion and slight desperation, and he came outside to tell me the restaurants here are closed from 3 to 7 p.m.

Quietly distraught, I left the restaurant and wandered around until I discovered the only pastry shop in town. I spoke to the waitress in English and was met with undisguised irritation. I switched to ordering in Spanish, which seemed to have gone better than my attempts in English. I stocked up on enough pastries to last me through the evening.

I spent the rest of the evening roaming around aimlessly in this sleepy town, feeling a bit sick with a cold and sorry for myself. I feared that my enthusiasm for travel might be slipping away. After some time, I retreated back into my cozy hotel room and took some medicine, reminding myself that tomorrow is a new day.

As I woke up the next morning, I pushed open the window to be greeted with birds chirping and a view of the town’s white buildings and orange tile roofs. I went downstairs and the hotel owner directed me to the room where breakfast was being served. He spoke with obvious enthusiasm as he described the array of food offered. Homemade honey, yogurt, strawberry and fig and lemon jam. It was a delightful way to start the day.

After breakfast, I headed out towards the only possible reason for someone to visit Odeceixe, Praia Odeceixe. This beach is rated one of the top 10 beaches in Portugal. To get to there from the village, you have to walk about 3 km alongside the Seixe River that then leads up to the Odeceixe beach. Shortly after I left the hotel, the owner called my name. I turned around only to find him running towards me with a bright yellow folded up beach umbrella. He offered it to me for the day. I was touched by the thoughtfulness. I continued on my journey with some pep in my step, seeing everything as amusing and wonderful. I loved this little town. The strange inhabitants who seemed to be giving me the death stare the night before were now smiling and waving at me as they watered their brightly colored plants. With this new and improved way of looking at life, I contemplated the phrase “when you smile at the world, the world smiles back”.

It’s funny how many different circumstances come into play when traveling that can shape your experience. If you happen to go to Paris just after you get your heart broken, forget about it. It would be an absolutely frustrating and dreadful experience. It’s all about perception and your mindset in that exact time and place. And with that being said, I was relieved to have shaken that my lack of enthusiasm encountered the night before.

The 3 kilometer walk turned out to be more like 5, but it was wonderful nonetheless. I passed by a field of cows, and naturally, I had a short conversation with one of them because I had been traveling alone for far too long. The cows stared back at me unamused, chewing the same pieces of grass they’d probably been chewing for three days straight. I wasn’t sure why I was let down when none of them replied to my jolly greeting. I walked on, looking around at the surrounding nature. There were olive trees, a small garden, and an open road ahead of me where cars would zoom by me without the slightest concern that they came within inches of running me over. That didn’t hinder my enthusiasm, though.

I walked on until I finally reached the beach. Praia Odeceixe. A sign boasted that it had won the Prize of 7 Wonders – Beaches of Portugal. The Atlantic water was shockingly cold. Surfers were making their way in and out of the choppy waters. I set up my bright yellow umbrella next to a group of French girls who were the only brave ones to go topless on the beach. Unlike Spain, I guess people here were more modest about showing off their goods at the beach. In anonymous bliss, I sunbathed topless along with the French girls. To my right, a group of American girls felt daring enough to do the same.

A few hours of people watching later, and I was ready to head back to the homefront. Only the idea of walking an hour back to the village seemed terrible and highly unnecessary. I packed up and raised my thumb in the air with a smile that said “I swear I’m not a psycho killer please just help a sister out”. About ten minutes of this and a lady pulled over not too far up the road from where I was walking. I booked it over to her car.

Thanks so much!!! Are you driving to the village? I asked just out of politeness. The road was passing through the village no matter what.

“I am…but I don’t want to take you with me”, she said as if I to take me along with her on a cross-country road trip. Her turned up nose made me feel like a scrub, so I just replied with an “oh…thanks anyway…” and walked away as quickly as possible to save my embarrassment.

I was about five minutes down the road when I heard a voice behind me, “Okay, come on, hop in!” she yelled out the window. Yes!!! She felt guilty! Great! I jumped in and listened appreciatively as she gave me a list of things to do and see while in Portugal. She dropped me off right in the city center, and I went back to the same pastry shop as the night before. This time, the grouchy waitress smiled back at me as I walked through the front door. I opted for pointing at the menu instead of trying to speak to her in a different language. It seemed as if things came to a full circle there in the small village of Odeceixe.

Next up, I’ll be traveling up north to Lisbon. Until then!

 

Azulejos em Lisboa

Azulejos em Lisboa

Azulejos em Lisboa

Tiles in Lisbon

In almost every major city, you can find incredible artwork tucked away in museums and cathedrals, but in Lisbon, the artwork is on display for all to see. Just take a stroll through the city and you’ll find colorful tiles, or azulejos, on façades of apartments, storefronts, and even on the walls in the metro. From vibrant geometrical patterns to massive wall murals, each tile tells a story spanning over five centuries of Portugal’s history.

GEOMETRIC PATTERNS

RED AND BLUE

LISBON MARKET

FLORAL

MURAL

DETAIL

RELAXAR

FADO MUSIC

METRO ART

MIRADOURO DAS PORTAS DO SOL

RENAISSANCE MURAL

AS SEEN IN THE LISBON MARKET

TILE DETAIL

MUSEU NACIONAL DO AZULEJO

AROUND TOWN

RAISED TILE

ANJO

DANCE!

Looks Can Be Deceiving in Lagos

Looks Can Be Deceiving in Lagos

You know that feeling when you see an extremely beautiful man (or woman)? You’re in awe of his beauty, dying to get to know him. As you finally find a way to approach him, you realize that behind that beautiful face and tan skin, he can’t hold a conversation to save his life. Once you actually meet him, you realize he’s got no substance. His personality is nonexistent. What you see is what you get. He’s gorgeous in the daytime and mostly drunk once the sun goes down. Disappointing as it is, you can still appreciate his beauty and leave it at that. Nothing more, nothing less. Based on my direct experience, this metaphor is the best way to describe my impression of Lagos, Portugal.


After an eight-hour bus ride from Granada, I finally reached my destination in Lagos, Portugal. I walked through along the Marina into town, searching for the hostel. Admittedly, I did little to no research about Lagos, so everything was new to me. From the initial impression, the town felt really similar to the port area of Ibiza in Spain…white washed buildings, overpriced fancy restaurants along the water, and a very touristic vibe.

As I arrived at my hostel, the owner seemed surprised to see me there. I was just as surprised to have seemingly interrupted them as well. He and his girlfriend were cuddled up on the couch in the lobby, watching a movie in the dark.

Hutch Hostel? I asked hesitantly.

The owner nodded and got up from the couch, quickly going through the check out procedures without pausing the movie. I moved my backpack into the room and got out of there as quickly as possible.

BEACHES

I walked over to the beach, camera in hand. The turquoise water gleamed in the afternoon sun, contrasting beautifully with the red orange cliffs. The rock formations and natural caves made for a nature lovers paradise. Colorful umbrellas lined the sandy shorelines. In the distance, there were numerous sailboats and kayaks scattered along the sea. I took a few moments to let my soul settle into this new environment. An hour passed, and I headed back to the hostel as the sun slowly made its way down past the horizon, leaving a full moon in its place.

NIGHTLIFE

As seen on the website of one of the most famous bars in Lagos. This says it all.

Nightlife in Lagos consists of about 20 bars, which is a lot considering you can walk from one side of Lagos to the other in less than 10 minutes. Every bar had a similar theme: young Australian backpackers looking to get as wasted as possible. Every bar was pretty much the same, with the same drink special every single night. It was like entering into the twilight zone. The people from my hostel decided to go to one of the bars, so I joined them. I looked at the drink menu, which featured a poorly drawn pinup girl offering cheap shots of Jäger. I tried having a conversation with some of my hostel roommates, but it was impossible over the blaring music from the Top Hits chart. After an hour or so, I snuck away back to the hostel. A couple days of Lagos was enough for me. From here, I’ll be heading north along the Atlantic coast, stopping in towns I most definitely don’t pronounce correctly.

But before I go, it’s only right to admire the beauty of Lagos found in the day time:

 

Have you ever been to Lagos? What did you think? Let me know by contacting me or reaching out on Facebook or Instagram.  Até a próxima vez!