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4 day surf trip

Very exciting to have brother Nick coming for a visit but he only had 4 days – and wanted to fit in a surf or two. Crikey, mate. Actually I’m very happy as living in the mountains means I’m just a bit too far from the sea to get a regular fix, and it was about time my soul and her natural habitat were reunited.


No time to waste. Let’s get started. He arrives in Lisbon in the evening. We, of course, head directly for Confeitaria Nacional.


We have scored a bargain rate at a new 4-maybe-5 star hotel opposite Rossio Station called the Altis Avenida. Room wasn’t ready but the bar is so groovy that we forgive them, and plus the bed measures 190×200 instead of the 140×140 that apparently old Portuguese bed makers think is adequate for humans. We are totally stoked about this, so happy in fact that we don’t even get cross about the complicated parking arrangements synonymous with any trip to Lisbon.

Off to dinner then. Barely 50 metres away is one of my favs, the Casa do Alentejo. Adeptly described by my friend Lawrence as a place one goes to for the tiles, not the food, the Alentejo nonetheless serves up reasonably good grub with expert service. And the surroundings are superb, whether you take the baroque ballroom, the pastoral Alentejana scenic tiles or the classic blue & white salons. Also has an antique English urinal in the Mens, worth seeing, so I’m told.

Por certo, fresh-off-the-plane brother wants fun now, so off we waddle to the Elevador do Gloria and up to Bairro Alto. As a vague memory of an outdoor rooftop bar in Bairro Alto fails to re-materialise, we momentarily find ourselves embarrassingly un-local and at a loss. But lo! Like a genie from a bottle came another memory and we huddle together ringing the bell of the Pavilhão Chinês.


Here’s what we like about Portugal, indeed about Lisboa. Anywhere else in the western world this out-of-this-world-wacky and unique über cool bar-of-the-bizarre would have been run by a 23 year old heir to a fortune coke head with supermodel sidekick and turned into the most pretentious and expensive place to swill a cider. It would have a 45-page cocktail list with distracting art nouveau girly pictures… oh actually this one really does. However, the waiters are mature and serious about their red waistcoat and bow-tie attire. The barman is from a Woody Allen film. Somehow the decor is beyond description. It has come from the terrifying mind of Luis Pinto Coelho, a collector of bric-a-brac, antiques and ephemera. Discovering that the place has been designed is a bit disappointing actually: it looks like the rooms of a person of wonderful obsession who has lived a long and varied life. Take your Dad if you have one handy.


The morning comes after what is described by The One (a new character in my life who will be introduced in due course) as the best night’s sleep of his whole entire life. Just as well because we have some serious touristing to do after breakfast. Bit of a whip-round Rossio, a gawk at the Santa Justa, the inevitable Tram 28 ride up to Castelo São Jorge and a coffee back at the Confeitaria. Top 5 essential-first-time-in-Lisbon stuff that was all mission accomplished before lunch.


But even still before lunch we made my first ever visit to the Museu Nacional Do Azulejo, just the thing to blow the unsuspecting visitor’s mind, as it turns out. Tiles you say? Not just the world’s most extraordinary collection of tiles but a history of tiles themselves from those who created and mastered the art – the Portuguese. In a 16th Century convent. An exceptionally exquisite 16th Century convent, devoted to Our Lady of Pleasures (!) with glamour, serenity and architectural majesty. And quite a nice cafe too. Where we had lunch.



We then had surfing to do so we piled into the car and shot out of town towards Ericeira. The Coxos Beach Lodge in Ribamar, Mafra was our destination. At first I thought it slightly presumptuous of the lovely Sofia to suggest that we would like the place because other Australians had liked it too. But not only was Sofia a spunk, she was right. The Lodge was just our cup of tea entirely. Smashing views of the sea, highly practical and slightly funky accommodation… it kinda reminded me of the south coast of NSW. So totally cool was the basket of bits for the morning, to which we would add our fresh bread from the fresh bread box, and thus have breakfast. Way cool.


Brother Nick hired a board downtown and while he surfed we played a little too hard at Praia do São Sebastião. Here’s the final shot taken with my trusty Panasonic Lumix camera before it was wiped out forever by a large slice of Atlantic Ocean. Donations are welcome (Support button to the right above and down below, thanksverymuch).


That night, we all had the prawn, which is only natural after a day of sunny & salty physical activity. Of course the Coxos people anticipated our every desire by providing a large marisqueira restaurant next to our house. We ate a lot of seafood and drank a lot of vinho verde, surely Portugal’s greatest invention. Another perfect day.


After the second best night’s sleep of The One‘s life we packed off to Mafra (that place with King João V´s outrageous palace). We satisfied our nutritional needs before moving up north to Peniche for more surf.


Baleal is a fine spot, without doubt. Reliable waves, crystal clear water and a well turned out surfing infrastructure for hiring or how-to. I was a bit daunted by the local’s steamers, but the water temp turned out to be just fine, and Nick survived in a spring suit for over an hour.


Souls well washed, we then headed for the woods of the beira litoral (that´s central Portugal to you, newbie) stopping in Leiria for nourishment Martin & Thomas style. We finally checked in at My House in Portugal with just enough light in the sky to shock the shit out of my poor brother who was left wondering the whole night how I could have bought such a monster… er, ruin.


Next day was a hotty so we headed over the Serra da Lousã for a swim, a nature hit and some castleage. Boys like castles don’t they? I think it makes them go all Errol Flynn.


Had to show off my newly found sneaky swim spot and we showed the locals how to do the Australian crawl. In the nuddy.


More castle followed, at Montemor-o-Velho. And then onto Tentúgal for, Pasteis de Tentúgal of course, but also for the Casa Armenio, a stupendous restaurant that does the meanest roast duck this side of Beijing. Another bottle or two of snappy Portuguese tinto and it’s time for another big sleep.


Thus the trip ends, as they always do, with a rush down the A1 to the airport and then with a woosh, my brother and his waves were gone. :´(



  1. Emma September 19, 2010 1:10 am Reply

    Gorgeous photos. Which hunk is you brother? Sounds as though you had a ball while I was away! Sorry that your trusty Lumix has found its final resting place in the big, wide ocean. Is the Casa Armenio Dad friendly do you think, as mine’s here right now? xx Emma.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: September 19th, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Certainly Father Emma friendly provided he likes duck! Dinner starts at 7pm, really, and we were home by 11pm. Giving them a call to let them know you’re coming helps I think. And there are other things on the menu but why would you? How could you?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: September 21st, 2010 at 5:44 am

    @Emma, Do you know if it’s open for lunch? Dinner not an option mid week as Lawrence is working (yeah!!).

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: September 24th, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I suspect they are, but you´ll have to ring and check…

    [Reply to comment]


  2. Kerry September 19, 2010 1:16 am Reply

    Fantastic! Sounds like you had an awesome time, glad you like the Coxos lodge, theyre one of the coolest kids this part of the world. bjs.

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  3. tNb September 19, 2010 4:59 am Reply

    Ooooh, Coxos looks loverly …

    So it’s a good thing we didn’t wander down to the river beach the other day or we would’ve been in for a nude suprise! 😉 x

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  4. frogdropping September 19, 2010 9:45 am Reply

    Well well – well! A good (four) days fun then! As for The One – has ne never slept before? Must he jaunt around in order to find himself suitably recumbent?

    Fab photos, as always, and what a pity I’m in blighty and not Lisboa. I coulda tripped over ya surfboards!

    Has to be said, Vinho Verde is quite my favourite. I was known to drink the green stuff to the wobbly level a time or two.

    bjs 😉

    [Reply to comment]


  5. Maria Silva September 19, 2010 10:41 am Reply

    Well Emma, another fabulous blog and I can see you’re having the time of your life! I dream of the day I can return and enjoy everything Portugal have to offer, like the Vinho Verde, one of my favourites. I’m glad your brother has a good time! Stay safe 🙂 xx

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  6. rodrigo September 19, 2010 5:56 pm Reply

    über cool Emma. You got me saving pennies to visit this cool bar-of-the-bizarre 🙂

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  7. Marielys September 19, 2010 9:09 pm Reply

    Great post Emma! I missed Portugal this summer due a knee operation which is taking far too long to recover 🙁

    You are without any doubt the most entertaining and truthful expat I ever had the pleasure to read. Your posts are ever so precise, honest and realitisc about Portugal.

    One thing I find fabulous in Portugal is how practical they are about food i.e. as you mention in here often : they have the right approach about food : always providing something to eat in their palaces, museums, beaches etc.

    I am looking forward to read more of your posts, continue my dear .. you should get a medal for your openness in a foreign country.



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  8. Beth Jennings September 21, 2010 2:57 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, great post! You really are mixing in there like a local, what an accumulated wealth of knowledge you have. I love the Lisboa square photo…keep the posts coming

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  9. Diana September 22, 2010 9:43 am Reply

    Olã Emma,

    Great post, thanks so much! I have to visit Casa do Alentejo one more time:)


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  10. Richard September 29, 2010 1:50 pm Reply

    What another fantastic post Emma!
    Brings back so many memories of my times in Cascais – Lisboa area.
    Have to stop making excuses and get my butt back over there! Damn you GFC! Had to ruin everything! LOL!
    Keep up the great work – very inspirational

    [Reply to comment]

  11. coxos beach lodge October 9, 2010 1:45 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, Thank u so much for including Coxos Beach Lodge in this special xpress surf trip ! See u next time in Ericeira for a ” Winter Sea Storm weekend at Coxos Lodge ;)) Kind Regards

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: October 12th, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Hey you are welcome, and hope to see you again soon. x

    [Reply to comment]


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