Last Friday morning, Stefje and I bade farewell to the grey skies and perpetual cold of December in Amsterdam, transporting ourselves both mentally and physically to sunnier locales.
Just a few hours later, we were walking on the beach outside the town of Albufeira in Portugal, happily reunited with our friends Diana and Luca a few months removed from their last sighting in Europe.
A long crescent of golden sand wrapped around the edges of the town, populated by just a few low-season tourists and locals. Albufeira has the capacity to hold and entertain thousands of tourists in the high season, making it feel like a ghost town as we strolled along the empty beach.
Ultimately, we came upon a series of beachside cliffs with a striking view overlooking the town, the perfect spot to soak in the sun after not seeing warm blue skies for weeks on end.
In the distance, huge stretches of undiscovered beach opened up before us, each one with dramatic cliffs framing the views. We spent plenty of time at our beautiful vantage point, mesmerized by the endless parade of waves coming in to shore.
Back in town, adobe roofs and slight touches of yellow trim were the only touches of color, as almost every house was white-washed in order to ward off the heat of the sun and stay cool during the peak summer months.
Eventually, we retired to the apartment for a Portugese special: the long afternoon lunch. Over a bottle of wine, we enjoyed plenty of fresh local food and spent our time soaking up some more warmth on the balcony with a view overlooking the town.
Afterwards it was time for exploring, so we piled into a rental car and began curving through the back country roads, where Orange groves and cliffside beach houses ruled the day. Our destination was Praia de Roca, which offered gorgeous and calming views of the evening sunlight while we traversed a series of cliffs overlooking the ocean. The views offered impressive angles staring down into clear deep blue waters and a multitude of natural caves and arches whittled away by years of erosion.
On Saturday we drove East along the coast into a national park, coming to stop at a beach largely uninhabited except for a long line of van-dwelling surfers who had made the parking lot their home for the day. While an endless line of surfers trotted out into the waves, we dug our toes into the magically smooth sand and explored the beauty of the natural surroundings with curiosity.
Our second stop of the day was in the beachside town of Sagres, where we silenced our growling stomachs with an extravagant lunch of Indian curries and naan bread. It was not exactly a good sampling of the local fare, but delicious nonetheless. As the afternoon light began streaming across the horizon, Luca rented a surfboard and we reclined on the beach outside of Sagres to watch him take on the turbulent current.
The rock formations on this beach were also prominent, with one geological specimen in particular that inspired the mind with its crevices and patterns.
Sunday morning meant it was time for another long and enjoyable meal: this time brunch on the balcony while the morning light came across the town to warm things up. We spent the rest of the day doing particularly lazy things, like sitting around in front of our computers to work on projects and going for a long walk through the town in the afternoon before retiring for an evening of playing cards and drinking wine.
That evening Stefje and I were supposed to depart for Amsterdam, but forces outside of our control conspired to leave us in Portugal for a few extra days. While a snowstorm attacked Holland, we were "trapped" in our oceanside paradise, forced to work for a few extra days accompanied by views like this.
By the time we finally departed it was Wednesday, meaning we had turned a weekend trip into almost a week-long vacation, with sun and sand serving as the perfect antidote to a cold winter back home.