Portugal – Part 1, Getting there. Fail.
‘Traveling’ tends to have this persona of being a glorified experience that creates everlasting memories that stay with you your whole life. The funny part about traveling is that the actual ‘travel’ part totally sucks. There is nothing glorified about sitting on an airplane in the middle seat for ten hours smelling fart from the washroom conveniently located beside you. I’ve had some very interesting ‘traveling’ stories but our journey to Portugal was one of the winners. Here is where I will start at the beginning:
I was tasked with the role of ‘chaperone’ for one of Canada’s most promising up and coming riders Mackayla Petrie, to attend the WWA Boat World Championships in Portugal. First of let me clarify that there was no ‘chaperoning’ required with this girl – she’s an exceedingly mature 16 year-old who if anything she was the one keeping us from being lead too far astray. The plan was for her to get on a flight in Montreal, I in Toronto, and we would meet in Phili for our connecting flight to Lisbon. When I arrived at the airport at 4pm a distressed travel agent informed me my flight had been cancelled, and I would be getting on an Air Canada flight that evening at 10pm. Awesome.
I DO have to mention that there was a small silver lining to this story – the fact that I was upgraded to first class on a direct flight to Lisbon from Toronto. Mackayla on the other hand was stuck with a middle seat beside two rather large individuals, seething while watching my snapchat updates of wine and copious amounts of leg room from afar.
When I got to Lisbon it took an hour for the bags to come out, naturally I had zero phone service so Mackayla was quickly becoming a bit of a stress case thinking I hadn’t made my flight. Finally we were Re-united ! (Champagne cork pop, streamers, balloons and all). She enlighten me on how she had been heckled by border patrol because she was traveling alone without a chaperone, then proceeded to sleep for five hours on her board bag in the middle of the busy airport. We went to the rental car counter which had a three hour line up, but we did eventually get out of there 8 hours after our planned departure time.
We had scheduled a practice run at five pm, and it was going to be pretty tight to make it on time. I had printed out detailed Google map directions which turned out to be useless since all the road signage was in Portuguese and did not list North, South, East or West, only the final destination. Our final destination was a small town in the middle of nowhere, which meant it was basically impossible to find our exit. Luckily Mackalya’s mom had ordered a ‘roam like home’ plan, so we address the all-knowing I-phone and set off on our adventure.
After about an hour and a half I started noticing signs that said ‘Porta’ . Not wanting to contradict the I-phone I asked Mackayla to see how much further north we had to go on the highway until we reached out exit. The all-knowing Iphone replied – “45 minutes until your destination’. So we ignored the signs and kept on keeping on. Eventually the signs said Porta ’10 kms. At this point I knew something was up since Porta is the most northern Portugese city basically at the Spanish border. That’s when the all-knowing I-phone decided to change it’s mind, update itself and reassuringly informed us to ‘take a u-turn’ at the next exit. We had driven 105km in the wrong direction. Awesome. We turned around, giving up all hope on making it in time for our practice run.
When we got to the hotel three hours later, we checked in and decided we would head to the site to register. We needed to get gas first after our minor directional mishap, so we pulled into the gas station beside the hotel. I got outside and looked at the pump – Two options, one black that said Gasoline, and one green that said Gasolina. WTF. I asked the lady beside me “Gasoline? Gas? Regular?” and she just looked at me funny and nodded. I saw that she was using the black pump so I assumed it must be gasoline and not diesel. Little did I know more than half of Europe runs on diesel.
We paid, got in the car and headed to the site. After 5 minutes of driving the car started to chug. Mackayla and I both looked at each other with and ‘Oh Shit’ expression. I pulled over and immediately turned off the car. At this point I really started to loose it – primarily because the option I chose on the rental insurance had a $15,000 deductible and I was convinced I just blew a brand new engine. It was pouring rain, dark and we were on the outskirts of a town in the middle of nowhere miles away from the closest garage where no one spoke a lick of English. We start walking and got on the phone with Mackayla’s mom who calmed us down and told us to call the rental company. We made our way to the only restaurant in town, and came across familiar faces in the wakeboard world. They all told me not to panic, that diesel in a gas car is not bad, only gas in a diesel does significant damage. We even went as far as calling Jay Poole, who runs a marina in Bobcaygeon, and he assured me that the car should be fine, they just had to drain the fuel and fill it up with gas. Phewf.
At that point we did the only thing we could do – cheers a glass of very good Portugese wine while we waited for the tow truck to come pick up the car. Eventually the truck showed up and we hitched a ride back to our hotel where we passed out for the night.
Mackalya rode the next day in qualifiers where she managed to snag a 3rd last off the dock for finals the next day. After her run a cab from the rental company picked us up to drive us to the closest rental place – about an hour and a half from where we were. When we arrived I was charged a standard ‘wrong fuel surcharge’ of 200 Euro’s – still a hefty fee but luckily not $15000. A big ol sigh later Mackalya and I took off with our brand new mini-fiat locked and loaded for adventures.
Portugal Part 2: A Wee Change in Luck Sir!
We shook off the past twenty-four hours and decided we would be the masters of our own destiny for the rest of the trip. The one good part of the disastrous journey was that the city where we picked up our rental car was only thirty minutes from two of the best tourist destinations in Portugal – Obitos and Naraze.
When you come over the hill you can see Obitos from miles away. It is a castle with Roman origin that dates as far back as the Medieval Roman period. High walls surround a small town of authentic Portuguese white sided, red-clay roofed buildings with cobblestone streets. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
We toured around for an hour but we didn’t want to miss Sunset over Naraze so we headed towards the coast. Naraze is known for the largest wave ever surfed in the world, over 75ft tall by big wave surfer and Hawaii native Garret McNamara. Yes insane. I had checked Magic Seaweed the day before and it was calling for 18ft waves, the largest of the week, so I figured it would be the time to go. When we got there we had to do a bit of searching to find the infamous look out. On our left were massive cliffs overlooking the city. In front of us were intertwined paths that made their way to a lighthouse overlooking the grotto, and to the right a beach break like none other. I’ve never seen waves that big in my life.
On our way home we managed too get lost downtown Tomar. I figured with our luck it was probably best to park, get out and find someone who spoke English to direct us back to the highway. We managed to park in the middle of the Knights Templar castle square beside an authentic Medieval restaurant. Win. The guy in the restaurant knew all about the Wakeboard contest and was stoked to help us out. He pointed us in the right direction but with the promise of checking out the Knights Templar castle first. Due to the fact that it was now midnight, the castle was closed to the public. However this small fact did not stop us from scaling a wall to get a closer look. (If they didn’t want us there it wouldn’t be so easy right?) Alas we were held up by the castle gate, but managed to get a few nifty photos while we were there. Eventually we made our way home to crash.
The next day was finals for Mackayla. She had qualified third and was hoping to keep that same spot moving into finals. We talked a bit of strategy and she pulled off a pretty good run which put her right up into second in the whole wide world. Pretty stoked for my chica!
I rode the following day in pro women but had a pretty stacked heat – Dallas, Melissa, Taylor, myself and Charlotte. The wake was big and I fell first hit on a tanny, totally stupid and uncharacteristic move. I decided at that point I was going to throw down and I actually pulled off 80% of my run. Not enough to get me to finals but I was stoked to just to be out riding with the boat girls again.
The rest of the contest was filled with more adventuring – We went to the Mira de Aire Caves and had dinner at the Medieval Restaurant with Tara and Cobe, caught the action on floaties in finals with Larisa and partied away the last night of contest. It was so awesome to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in ages.
PENICHE: SURF, HOSTELS, AND GETTING SUPERTUBED
Mackalya and I woke up on Sunday morning with a mission to get to Peniche – the surf capital of Portugal. Earlier that month I had chatted a bit with Nicola Butler and Melissa Marquart about sharing a rental car, but little did I know we would end up with a Mini Fiat. We rocked up to the host hotel slightly concerned about the probability of us all fitting, four wakeboard bags and all. Thanks to the WWA film crew who are always prepared, they hooked us up with two ratchet straps, we stuck two bags on the top, the rest in their van and we were on our merry way.
Peniche is a Peninsula about halfway down the Atlantic coast. It is best know for one main beach: Supertubos, aka European Pipeline. We were in town right before a major surf contest and the place was packed with beautiful jacked men, with salty hair and surfboards. No complaints from us four gals. We went straight to the beach to get out surf on, catching a few small waves on short foam tops.
After searching for two days to find vacant accommodation, we linked up with boys who were staying at a place called ‘Surf Moments’. We figured we’d give it a shot. The owner Carla is a bad ass, pole dancing, pro surfer babe who owns two places side by side for guests who surf to crash. The film crew grabbed the house next door, and we took over the upstairs of the main house.
The next few days were spend getting tossed as we all attempted to take on SuperTubos. Both Mackalya and I knew pretty quickly we were out of our element but got a chance to watch some of the guys shred. Noah, JD, Steele and Oli were out actually catching the steep barrels that were breaking right on the beach. Later we headed back to Baleal Beach to play in the baby waves with Nicola and Melissa. It was tough and crowded, and we were more successful at picking seaweed out of our hair than surfing, but came away with a few laughs all the same. I even managed to get out kiting one afternoon. I thought I was going to get skunked with wind, but a nice German guy lent me his 11m kite to play on for the first little bit. (Crazy dude, most people don’t lend out their kites!) After about an hour the wind picked up and I was back on my 9 just lit, flying over some of the biggest waves I’ve ever kited on. I’m talking 4-6ft swell… pretty fun to boost!
Our last night Carla invited a bunch of her friends over for a big ‘family’ authentic Portugese Dinner. Nicola and I discovered the best white wine in history – Verte, local to the region. The night carried on with Pole dancing lessons and a trek to the beach bar where we got our dance moves on into the morning.
We figured we would spend the last day kicking around Lisbon and taking in the sights of the capital city. The only issue was getting there – we had 5 people, 5 board bags, luggage and a mini Fiat. Awesome. Daniel Powers came up with a pretty smart idea of consolidating all the bags. (He’s not just a wakeboarder with pretty hair ladies). We stuck all the boots in bag one, all the boards in bag 2, rubber in back 3 and left the 4/5th combo flopping in the wind. I honestly didn’t think we were going to make it. There were a few close calls where I thought we might start rolling backwards down the highway while we tried to crawl up a steep hill in the slow lane. We did finally make it to the airport with just enough time to sprawl all our gear out at arrivals so Nicola and Daniel could catch their flight that took off in 45 minutes to China. …(song) … The 5 best kooks that anyone ever knew….
Mel, Mackalya and I ventured into the city to try to find our hotel. About 15 one-way streets, 20 roundabouts and an underground parking garage later we came upon our home for the night called Short Stay Apartments. If you ever make it to Lisboa check this place out, we paid 90 Euros and had our own two bedroom apartment right downtown with a top floor terrace overlooking the entire city.
The rest of the day was spent touring castles, shopping, eating amazing food and catching the local nightlife. Early the next morning we got our sleepy, but satisfied heads back on the plane home.
If any of you ever get a chance to visit this beautiful country jump on it!! It is quaint, affordable, and filled with so much history it would take years to really knock off the entire bucket list. Its top of my list of thrill seeking destinations, and at the same time the perfect place to just chill out on the beach. I will definitely be back sooner than laterJ Until then, peace out!