I’m drafting this post at 5:47 a.m. the same day I’m sharing it with you. I don’t normally wake up this early, but my son woke me, so here I am: reflective, quiet, . . . tired.
As I lay in bed this morning unable to go back to sleep, my thoughts ran through the past couple of months. COVID here has made me feel like a bobblehead, looking in all directions to figure out what the heck is going on. Lockdown, no lockdown. School, no school. Beaches, no beaches. Restaurants, no restaurants. Things are open, then they’re closed. Vaccines are coming, then they’re not. Curfew, no curfew; curfew in this area but not that area. Can we leave our house after 1 p.m.? Can we leave our district on the weekends? Are we allowed to meet friends? Can we buy shoes, clothes, and toys yet?
But amidst all of the head spinning caused by the Portuguese government, one thing has kept me going: the beach. At least, when it’s open.
Can we just talk about the beach for a moment? Because for this Idaho girl who grew up in a valley surrounded by mountains, now living 1.5 miles from an incredible beach is surreal. I go there to walk; to talk on the phone; to work out; to play with my family; to spend time with my husband. I swim there. I eat there. I shavasana there. I meet new people and connect to nature there. I make sandcastles with my kids and fly kites and play tag and soak up the sun (carefully, with SPF 50+). I de-stress there and think about important life decisions and listen to podcasts and breathe deeply when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It anchors me. It cleanses my anxiety and worries about big and little things, like will my kid get into the school we want and will this pandemic ever end?
The beach. The beach. It’s such a treat. An anchor. A sandy, sunny, ocean-y, seagul-ly safe haven for my brain. And Portugal’s beaches? They are some of the best I’ve ever been to.
I don’t know if it’s the cliffs, or the dewy constant of the winds of the Western Algarve. Or maybe it’s the temperate ocean or the Portuguese architecture stretching up the hillsides: whitewashed houses, terra-cotta roofs. Whatever it is, I’ve never experienced anything like it anywhere in the world.
The beaches are so different too. While we’ve stayed mostly in our region of Portugal during the pandemic, I’ve been amazed at the varied landscapes of many of beaches. Meia Praia, the biggest tourist beach in Lagos, stretches endlessly: long with plenty of space for all. In the same town, Praia Dona Ana is accessed by a steep set of stairs leading into a cove; this is also where many grotto tours via SUP and kayak start. Not too far away, in Aljezur, we love to go to a dune-flanked beach you can only access along a one-lane windy road with a steep drop and no guard rail. And there are so many! We live within 20 minutes of at least a dozen amazing beaches.
This is the fourth country in which I’ve lived near the beach. And while I loved the beaches of the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and even Thailand, I am partial to Portugal’s.
How about you? Where’s your happiest place right now? Share with me in the comments. I love to hear from you.