An Ode to the Beaches of Portugal

Enjoying a quiet morning with my girl at Porto de Mos in Lagos.

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.

Digging holes and building castles at Praia Boca do Rio in Vila do Bispo.

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.

Running on the beach in Albufeira.

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.

Enjoying a beach walk with my husband in Luz.

How about you? Where’s your happiest place right now? Share with me in the comments. I love to hear from you.

6 Comments

  • Laura Reply

    My happy place is right where I wake up every morning overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Puerto Rico. Each new day brings different colors and hues. Photos never really capture the beauty, still, I try.
    My husband and I have been here for nearly a year and a half and we haven’t yet grasped the reality that our home is now here, and we don’t have to return to our small apartment in NY. It has felt like an extended vacation and it makes us giddy and guilty all at once, until we remember that we no longer live in the rushed life of Long Island.

    Our neighbors greet us and they linger as they pass, to engage in lengthier conversations. They really want to get to know us. They come bearing gifts of plants, palms or Puerto Rican sweets like tembleque, a delicious coconut pudding topped with cinnamon.

    We sit together on the patio at the end of the day, many times in silence, only the sound of the waves and the distant whistling coqui. We wonder if this will ever feel commonplace. Our hearts overflow with gratitude, so we thank God for gifting us with this place in time.

    • Stacy Ennis Reply

      Thanks for sharing this, Laura! We have been in our new countries about the same length of time (we moved in August 2019). I miss fresh coconut—I ate it weekly when we lived in the Dominican Republic and Thailand. Here’s to continued gratitude for your beautiful, welcoming home!

  • Janet Cleaves Reply

    My happy place ? Well I’m going to have to say that it’s right here – at home. Husband Malcolm and I have been through so much since we got together – it’s a second marriage for both of us. the loss of two baby boys broke up his first marriage, emotional abuse broke up mine – but together we’ve been through as much – read “ my husband’s six year affair saved my marriage” (daily Mail) a mortgage fraud, countless house moves and high powered jobs until now – now we’re in the relatively calm waters of our seventies – broke, living in a tiny house in Takeley Essex but with our wonderful little doggy Rollo who came to us by accident and living on the edge of Hatfield Forest.So a happy place is wherever we take Rollo out to play with his throwing balls – we have to play according to Rollo’s Rules – or even just sitting in our garden in the sun with a cup of tea and a slice of home made ginger cake. We’re both in constant pain but battling through and so we’ve discovered our happy place is literally Home Sweet Home.

    • Stacy Ennis Reply

      Thank you for sharing, Janet! I love that you find contentment in the everyday. Home sweet home really is sweet, isn’t it?

  • Robina Reply

    Nature is my happy place. Yesterday, I started the morning on horseback riding around a local lake. I grew up riding horses, but it had been 20 years since I sat in the saddle. I wanted to reclaim this piece of me again. I was back at the same lake later in the afternoon to walk with a friend. Awkwardly adjusting for social distance. During that visit I gave my worries to a rock and threw it far (or not) into the water. The weight of worry now resting with mother nature. Then I placed my hands in the water to hear the truth now that the worry was being held by a greater force than me. As the sun started to set I returned to the lake again. An itch not quite scratched by my earlier visit. I retraced my steps and went farther. To another shoreline. I walked by a peace symbol made of rocks and found a large log that seems to have held many thoughts, conversations, and quietly offered support. A good place to do the same. On this visit I took my shoes off and stood in the lapping water. Feeling mother nature in many forms. There is a soothing quality to lapping water. Much like time spent with my head in my grandmother’s lap and her stroking my hair. I stayed until the itch subsided. Until there was no memory of an itch. Just quiet contentment. I wrote in the sand what the water and wind had whispered to me. Acknowledging what I already knew in my heart. A day like I spent so many growing up. In nature surrounded by truth, love, and infinite possibility.

    • Stacy Ennis Reply

      This is beautiful, Robina. Thank you for sharing. This sounds like a lovely and profound day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.