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Week 8: Gnarly

November 21, 2021

Last year when we visited Portugal, our intention was to go to Nazare, famed for its giant waves due to the underwater canyon that funnels huge swells into its bay. Having got as far as Porto (and having driven upwards of 1,500 miles in just over a week) we were exhausted and needing to head back, so we didn’t drive down the last 130 miles of coast needed to hit this surfer’s paradise. We were gutted to discover that the storm of the century hit just one week later, resulting in waves over 100 feet high. We vowed next time we would return.

This year, the weather wasn’t on our side. I mean seriously, it’s been amazing – we have become totally accustomed to vivid blue skies each and every day, blazing hot sun at lunchtime and glorious sunsets to follow – but in order to get big waves you need to have rather less picture-perfect summer-holiday weather, and rather more gale-force winds and the odd spot of precipitation.

And so it was when we rocked up into Nazare on a gloriously still and warm afternoon, the waves were a little less gnarly than we’d hoped, and any aspirations of seeing any Patrick Swayze (r.i.p.) types roar out the back end of a totally rad tube (or something) were dashed away on the sand.

But not all was lost – on closer inspection down the beautifully broad and impeccably clean beach, the waves turned out to be very entertaining indeed, especially as they had sufficient power and depth to soak the unwary going in for a close up photo (us, and a local women’s rugby team, half of whom nearly lost their shoes after a particularly sneaky wave).

The swell visibly grew as we stood watching and the next day was even bigger, probably rising to around 12-15 feet. Perhaps a bit more knotty than gnarly but good enough for these Fenlanders.

Heading north we travelled through more pretty coast line (this stretch is called the Green Coast due to its numerous forests) and saw pine trees being tapped for their sap (I’m going to have to do a separate post at some point about all the crazy flora and fauna we have seen on our trip (cork trees! cotton! flamingos! erm, zebras?) as it’s been very educational.

One beautiful sunset later (it’s getting a bit old) we arrived in Porto, a city we seem destined to only see at night, and had a fantastic meal at a restaurant called Miss’Opo (if you ever go, go) whose menu was as picturesque as it was tasty, including a starter named “Deal with it” (we did). A wobble down the hill to the Ribeira took us back to a wine bar we’d visited the previous year so we popped in for a port (it would be rude not to in Porto) and Uber-d it home.

The next day was spent relaxing by the beautiful beach, readying our stomach muscles for the night’s feat – the Francesinha. Rather troublingly named “Little Girl” this French-inspired sandwich features, in ascending order: Bread, cheese, sausage, bacon, cheese, more sausage, steak, more cheese, bread, egg, more cheese, all sat in a pool of beer-infused gravy and served, just in case you needed a few extra calories, with French Fries. It was bloody delicious.

Last year we went through the Doura valley to get back into Spain but we decided this time to head north into Minho in the search for vinho verde – green wine, released just three to six months after the grapes are harvested – and so ended up on a long, loooong road out of Porto, which seemed to take most of the morning, and then east into the countryside. It will be a shame not to see any more coastline this trip, but I’m not sure the blue filter in my camera can take much more.

This week (our last) will see us head back into Spain, France and eventually (boooo) the UK at which point I will merrily stick on “Driving home for Christmas” and bundle myself in seventeen jumpers and all my wet weather gear. Look out, we’re coming home!

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