5 Weeks in Portugal’s Surfer Paradise

I’ve rarely seen such a stunning city…like Istanbul meets San Francisco, with its pastel-colored buildings and the wide river running right under a Golden Gate look-alike and sweeping out to the ocean.

My husband Tim and I were in Lisbon, Portugal, on the way to our rented house at the beach in Costa da Caparica. For $1,500 we were set up with a rental for a five-week stay living in this beach town just 15 minutes from the Portuguese capital.

Since we had chosen to stay there in late February through March, we were enjoying the off-season rates, about a 50% saving over the summer months…and avoiding a glut of vacationers, too.

We sold our house, re-homed our furniture, and put the rest in a storage unit over two-and-a-half years ago. We’ve been living internationally in rented apartments and houses ever since, and we have never regretted our decision to spend our retirement years exploring the world.

By the time we reached Portugal, our ninth country, we were practically on automatic pilot.

Our new temporary home had a private walled, tiled patio, complete with hammock. It was big enough to host a large cocktail party (if we’d known enough people to invite). The living room was spacious and light, featuring a wood-burning fireplace, plus a dining table that seated six. The large kitchen was well-equipped, and we even had a “laundry room,” well, really a covered back porch, but it had a big clothesline and lots of storage. This wondrous find featured two full baths, one up, one down, and three comfortable bedrooms upstairs. For around $45 the apartment was cleaned once a week to perfection, while our rent included all the utility bills.

Tim had visited Portugal in the past and loved it, and when we planned our eight-month European stay, we reasoned that Portugal, although rainy then, would offer us warmer weather than most of the continent and it would give our budget a break allowing us to save for more expensive destinations like Paris and London later in the year.

Luckily, we were right. Even downpours didn’t last long and moderate temperatures made it comfortable to take in the sights Portugal offers visitors. But of course, it’s not just for the attractions we travel. Wherever we go, be it Paris, Ireland or Portugal, we live most of the time like locals. It’s affordable, and a more authentic experience than being in hotels.

A stroll down our lane and through a passageway into a small forest that we’d seen locals use led us to some large dunes, and as we crested them, we were stunned by the sight of a seven-mile-long, wide pristine beach, with Lisbon decorating one arm of the embracing bay and a forest-covered headland forming the other.

To our far left was the little town of Costa da Caparica and along the top of the dunes, spaced about a city block or two apart, were clapboard restaurants, each with its own patio and awnings, all looking out at the sparkling ocean bringing in waves as big as any we had ever seen. It was a surfer’s paradise!

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