Did you know the biggest wave ever surfed was in Nazare, Portugal?
It was easy to picture during our visit this week on a misty April morning as the ominous clouds loomed over the jutting cliffs.
We loved the classic riviera towns of Cascais and Estoril but what we will forever remember was the rugged, booming western coast of Portugal.
It was clear that summer was sovereign in this region as we spent blustery days exploring deserted beaches. Although the beaches were desolate, the surf was full of adventure seekers taking the cold and wind head-on and loving it.
There were days on Guincho that we counted 30 kite surfers flying high above the golden dunes.
As we headed to Cabo da Roca for sunset each night we passed surf villages reminiscent of the North Shore of Oahu. The more time we spent in each town, the more we fell in love with Ericeira.
The colorful buildings and classic working fishing village, coupled with the pedestrianized center and funky surf shacks gave it a charm that far exceeded the cold, rainy weather. We watched school groups at Carcavelos and Ribeira d’ilhas brave the chilled surf as we nestled in the dunes to shield the wind.
I like the stated elegance of riviera towns. They seem to have a timeless quality and history that exceeds regions that are all sun. Many of the coasts we have been too seemed to have strictly emerged out of the snowbird movement toward the sun sure, golf course, gated condo lifestyle.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed sun sure and cursed a few times as we huddled for warmth further north, the stories that emerged from threads of tradition we caught glimpses of in these historical seaside towns won us over.
We were not quite brave enough to surf in the salty rain, but we soaked in every ounce of the coast we could when the skies cleared and the wind quieted each day. The balance between antiquity, stunning natural beauty, and the bohemian surfing culture gave this place a harmony that will stay with each of us.