London can be a dreary place in late January, and we were pining for some warmth. With visions of sun, surf and sand in our minds, flights to Portugal were booked for a weeklong escape without too much of a second thought.
The sun shone in Lisbon as we hoped, but the ambient temperature still hovered in the low double digits. Never mind; the spirit of summer still permeated through our sweaters and coats.
Our days in the Portuguese capital were spent casually wandering the steep cobbled streets, sampling the country’s iconic tarts at every opportunity and scouring the city for its Roman ruins. A late afternoon hike up to the hilltop Castelo de Sāo Jorge provided the ideal location to watch the glowing sun set behind the Tagus River, and a cleansing Sagres lager tasted even sweeter for our efforts.
We hired a car and set course northwards, first on Portugal’s impressive but deserted highway network and then on narrow and twisting local roads, to the Douro Valley wine region. We spent a day travelling slowly through the vineyards and villages, following the River Douro to its conclusion in Porto, which was the happiest surprise of our short trip.
Maybe it was due to the warm inner glow from regular tasting of Porto’s most famous export, Port, but we instantly fell for the style of this historic trading city. One evening we ambled slowly across the Ponte de D. Luís, a bridge built by Gustave Eiffel using the same methods as his famous Parisian tower, and spent the evening eating tapas, drinking the local wine, and looking back across the Douro to the historic walled city perched high on the hilltop. We remarked that should we ever return, we’d likely just spend the entire week in Porto.
Our final night was spent in the photogenic seaside surf town of Ericeira, dining on seafood as we watched the waves from thousands of miles of open Atlantic Ocean crash onto the Portuguese cliffs. We might not have entirely cheated winter as we hoped, but we nonetheless felt every bit as far away from a grey London as we dreamed. The surf will have to wait for next time.
Words and Photography by Andrew Coles for Client Voyage