Therefore, when the April trip to Ericeira was announced I instantly started wondering whether it was time again to run away from the minuses. With COVID-19 hitting Hungary hard and vaccination being very uncertain I was still weighing my options and was quite unsure whether it would be the right decision. Then one day a miracle happened, I got vaccinated and suddenly the choice became obvious, it was time for me to pack and leave the April snow showers behind. There I was, four days prior to the trip, with no plane ticket, no accommodation and nothing planned ready to sign up for my first trip with Go Beyond. Two phone calls later with Janó everything was settled as if it was the most natural thing to decide to leave for a month and have everything organized last minute. Two days of last-minute packing, PCR-tests and tying up loose ends at work followed and on a still dark Friday 5am morning I found myself sitting in a mini-van heading to Vienna for our flight to Lisbon with three strangers. Strangers who have become my second family during the four weeks we lived together.
Having been a Lisbonaire in the past for a short while, seeing the Cristo Rei from the plane window always hits me with a wave of memories and sparks a feeling of arriving home. It wasn’t different this time, little did I know that this time the house will feel more homey than ever. We arrived at the house where the fireplace was already crackling and a few early birds having arrived earlier, had the vino verde chilling in the fridge. Our villa for the month was the first one up from the beach with direct ocean view from its rooftop terrace that soon became the hot spot for the evening chats. Sitting outside the house, sipping on a very much deserved gin tonic, hearing the crashing sound of the waves against the beach-side cliffs I instantly knew that this would be a trip of a lifetime.
Our team of travellers came from versatile backgrounds and professions but somehow, we still managed to synchronize our days and ended up building up a routine for those hard-working weekdays. Depending on the conditions we either started our day with a first-light surf session or a hearty breakfast, most enjoyed on the terrace of O Pãozinho das Marias – a traditional Portuguese bakery offering everything one can dream of, pastéis de nata hot out of the oven, grilled croissant sandwiches, or the wildest – but heavenly – combination of pão de Deus (a coconut crusted bun) with ham and cheese along with freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee. During the day, everyone set their office up in various locations, whichever worked best for their profession; let it be the sun lounges in the garden, the quiet office room, or the nearby surf store with an outside porch offering daily juices and delicious lunch menus. Depending on the tides, either right after work or at sunset we would finally hit the ocean leaving behind all stress from work.
The Atlantic coast of Portugal is the most scenic you will ever see with a landscape of cliffs covered in luscious green succulents and fields of pink, yellow and lilac flowers overlooking golden sandy beaches being washed by the azure waves. The beach in front of our house was only a few minutes walk away, giving the opportunity to only hit the water when the waves were pumping at their best. Ericeira has been named Europe’s only World Surfing Reserve providing countless perfect surf breaks to all levels with quality waves all year round. April being one of the top months for surfing, we were lucky enough to be able to catch waves every day of our month-long stay. If you have never tried it before I am not sure if words can describe the feeling of those first few moments when you hit the water, paddle the first strokes towards the line-up, the ocean spray hitting your face, and the scent of crystal-clear ocean flooding your head. At that moment the rush of endorphin fills your body and all your troubles suddenly seem miles away.
Some of the many spots we surfed were the reef break of Matadouro, Praia do Norte and Praia do Sul at the two ends of the village, Praia dos Pescadores with a unique view of the traditional blue and white cottages of Ericeira in the middle of the town, the beach break of Foz do Lizandro and the endless sandy beach of Foz do Sizandro, all providing consistent waves at the right time and providing the opportunity to improve our skills step by step. Despite of signing up for free-surf only, I was coached throughout the trip by Janó and never felt alone or in danger in the water. One of the memorable sessions was at the world famous and always busy Ribeira d’Ilhas on a day when most wouldn’t even think about leaving the house, let alone jumping in the stormy waves of the Atlantic. All the locals were heading out from the water cursing at the weather, but our resilience knew no bounds we were adamant on taking our chance at catching a wave. After a bumpy ride of getting to the line-up – which was completely empty by that time – it turned out to be one of the most fun sessions where all of us managed to score some waves. Another unforgettable session was when we literally surfed till dark, long after sunset and there really isn’t a more beautiful sight than the last rays of sun glistening on the turquoise water and the orange horizon slowly turning pink as you are sitting on your board waiting for the perfect wave.
My love for food, especially seafood is unquestionable, so when living oceanside I take every opportunity to eat fresh fish and crustaceans. Luckily all the fellow travellers were very experienced chefs too and our surf and work trip quickly turned into a gastro feast. Starting with simple garlic shrimp and grilled dourada, we quickly evolved to cooking and grilling all types of fish, shells, mussels and prawns available at the local fish market including local delicacies like barnacles, caught by one of the surf instructors. Our gastro adventure continued through our day-trips, Saturdays being pizza day at the local artisan spot serving delicious sour-dough pizza from a wood-fired oven on the hills of Carvoeira, mandatory stops at the food truck serving pão com chouriço (bun filled with Portuguese sausage) and an entire day of feasting through the streets of Lisbon, making all the mandatory stops for cod pastries from Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau, pastéis de nata from Manteigaria and ice cream from Santini.
Surf, sleep, work, repeat is one thing, but doing it together with the most amazing group of people is what makes it extra special. I am grateful for friends old and new and am ready for the next adventure with GoBeyond!