Roadtrip Portugal – bohemians go #realvanlife
Lisboa –> Ericeira –> Óbidos –> Nazaré –> Tocha –> Porto –> Odeceixe –> Lagos
After intense working months I was just looking for some rest in a country I was already familiar with but which had enough hidden gems I could still discover – so it’s no wonder I chose Portugal again for a three weeks lasting time out.
The plan was to start with some luxury to smoothly slip into holiday mode before going back to basics, driving around the country in an old VW T3 van – no destination – just let the wheels carry you by intuition. Our trip should end with another two nights in Lisboa to close the loop.
My home in Lisbon
(Calçada do Monte, 48, Lissabon, +351 919 090 595)
Situated in the Alfama neighbourhood in a modern concrete townhouse with no sign indicating what a treasure you’ll find behind the walls, my home in Lisbon is what the name says – a home away from home but just so much better: quiet, stunning view of the castle, perfectly white linen, rain shower, mid-century interior and a little park directly at your door step.
Maria, the owner, warmly welcomed us when we arrived at 8.30 a.m., exhausted by the early bird flight and she did what I haven’t experienced in a hotel ever: she said “you must be hungry. Sit out on the terrace we will serve you breakfast and after that you can have a rest in your room”. The start of my never ending big love for this place!
Enjoyed strolling around all my favourite places .
Maria’s place is only a ten minutes walk to the big fleamarket (Feira da Ladra) at Campo de Santa Clara on Saturday!
Market at Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB) (every first Sunday of the month)
Delicous cheeses, fruit and bread. I also bought some sea salt sprinkled with herbs to use for cooking on our road trip to come.
For relaxing visit the Botanical Garden and eat a small picnic with the little treasures you bought at the market while observing the peacocks.
We went there on bikes along the coast. Renting bicycles in Lisbon is really expensive and Lisbon is not a city suitable for a bicycle (very narrow and steep streets and dense traffic, hardly any bicycle paths except of some kilometres along the coast) but for us it was still more enjoyable than taking the tram to Belém.
+351 Store & Atelier (Rua Poiais de S. Bento Nº18, 1200-348 Lisboa; Monday to Saturdays: 10am to 19pm; +351 218 015 984)
Buy a timeless classic t-shirt or sweatshirt with a little something by this local fashion designer
Upcoming neighbourhood just a few minutes of the center: BEATO
Directly at the harbour area this is where artists live as the rents are still moderate.
On our way back from the coast we searched for a little refuge away from the crowds and found this inspiring place via Airbnb in Lisbon’s neighbourhood Beato. It was also perfect for parking our van before it getting picked up by flynsurf.
If you can’t walk take one of the many Uber cars – they are so comfortable and you can have a nice chat with a local. Now I know that Portugal is also a good place to buy a Landrover defender for much less money than in Germany – a vehicle I am dreaming of for a while now…
–> picking up our van
Finding the right vehicle for the right price in high season was a mission in the preparation for the trip: what I didn’t want was a van printed with advertisement of the car rental company all over. Being the romantic type of person who idealizes spending time in nature and away from the big bad city I wanted a van as authentic as possible to start real van life: No hotel room on four wheels but instead back to basic to become one with nature whatever this is gonna be. I know this sounds pretty contradicting when looking at the place we stayed in Lisboa but hey I wanted to prove to myself that I do not need all those amenities to be happy and I wanted to dive into a totally different life for a limited amount of time where you are put back to your basic needs.
The “Economist” by Fly and Surf was the winner of my research: 1.500 Euro for three weeks including surfboards (deposit 500 EUR cash). Jackpot!
Martin and Lucas from Fly and Surf let us soak in the laid back and slowed down way of life immediately and gave us really good advice for free parking at the most picuruesesque places overnight around Ericeira.
Instead of choosing the option to get the van delivered in Lisboa for an extra 35 Euro we took the public bus from Campo Grande to Ericeira. Well, it was a good bye bye exercise from the materialistic bohemian lifestyle we heavily enjoyed at my home in Lisboa. To spoil you – on our way back we chose the option to get the van picked up at our airbnb in Lisbon…
The “Economist” – our home for the next weeks was: a VW T3 van with 329.000 km on the odometer. The temptation to use the toll roads was quickly over with when we realized that our old lady had maximum speed of 80 km/hour (downhill). Who wants to drive 300 km in 2,5 hours anyhow when you can have them in six? Now I know what #slowtravel means…We passed every little town on our way north. Isn’t this what a real roadtrip is gonna be? Driving is not a means of transportation any longer but the main attraction of the day. On our way we once in a while stopped for picking some fresh oranges from the orange trees on the side of the road to freshly squeeze juice with our bare hands for breakfast the next morning. So tasty!
What else had our “Economist” to offer? Well, may I present our camp kitchen: 2 plastic plates, two spoons/forks/knives, one pot, one pan, an ancient one flame camp bistro stove operated by gas bottles that you find at every Decathlon (attention: there is only one in the algarve in Pedrogão). Well you couldn’t make the supperclub style dinner as I imagined, I could but as our van immediately exploded with boxes and bags full of groceries around us when we started cooking, I soon learned that you also have to get the basic stuff done first before thinking of preparing more extravagant food.
A worthwhile stop on the way between Ericeira and Nazré is Óbidos – a little town surrounded with a wall that you can climb and just go for a walk on around town observing life from above.
If you want to avoid the crowds head directly to the North Beach. We grabbed our cooking equipment and the first thing we did after reaching the beach was to prepare our first hot vanlife meal – pasta with pesto. The waves where hollow breaking directly at the beach but if you made it through the first line it was a really good surf.
Buying the catch of the day directly from the fisherman’s boat on the beach – Tocha is famous for its refurbished fisherman’s houses on stilts, it was the only place along the coast where this was possible, like it was in the old days.
(Av. 25 de Abril, 4300-201 Porto, Portugal; every Saturday)
Very authentic flea market that attracts locals and visitors alike every Saturday: From old boat engines that are tested by the potential new owners surround by other shoppers to doll arms, coffee bean grinders and tiles everything that can be carried under your arm is for sale.
Tv. de Cedofeita 28, 4050-157 Porto, Portugal, +351 938 111 152
My favourite shop in Portugal ever since I found it two years ago. It’s the perfect mixture of vintage stuff, local craftsmanship and designers in a well curated setting sprinkled with personal style. If I would have my own little shop it would look very similar to this one.
Villa Nova de Gaia (GPS: 41.071067,-8.655837) south of Porto
(Next Intermarché supermarket open from 8.30 -21.00 with toilets was only a ten minutes drive away; GPS: 41.076481,-8.601554)
A city is a city and thus we did not want to sleep in our van on a random side street in town but by the sea. Luckily we had an app downloaded that showed us all free overnight parking places. The one we chose was just a few kilometres down south at the beach of Villa Nova de Gaia. Well, I still felt strange when we parked our car after sunset in the middle of a neighbourhood as I still wasn’t used to park just somewhere on the street and go to sleep. But the next morning was just perfect. We parked behind the dunes and in only two minutes we could have our hot chai tea and oats with fresh fruits and yoghurt on the beach by ourselves – energy we needed for the visit to the fleamarket.
Home turf and still big love
My favourite spot for surfing at the West Algarve is Odeceixce. The best waves are at low tide, the longer rides but more paddling are at high tide. I prefer the access via the nudist beach and walk at the perfect spot on the left end of the beach on low tide. At high tide the best spot is to enter via the river mouth on the right end of the beach.
8670-325 Odeceixe, Portugal; 9.00 am-21.00 pm
Whether it is for a juicy cheese burger, an Alentejo plate full of regional flavours such as sweet potato, cheeses, octopus salad and sausages or for a gin tonic sundowner, Agapito is my choice. You can’t miss it on the left side above the beach.
If you want to stay directly at Odeceixce beach over night, Nelson, the owner of Agapito also rents out holiday homes with a rooftop terrace.
(Herdade do Serrão, 8670-121 Aljezur, Portugal, +351 282 990 220)
The campsite lies between Rogil and Aljezur, about a 15 min drive with the car from Odeceixe Beach. Amoreira Beach is only 2 km from the camping ground. It’s also a good surf spot although it can get pretty crowded with beginner surfers. But for sunset it’s pretty nice as well.