Untapped Portugal

A few years back I was on a trip with an amazing person that came and went through my life like a hurricane. A Russian girl I was dating a few years, eventually married and unmarried.  One day I get a call from a good friend Johnny-O, we worked together in Nagasaki at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as contractors years ago,  about his impending marriage and how ‘…[I] am not invited…’ I was torn between being mad or stoked because he knew how many weddings I get invited to and how I feel about them (not a fan possibly due to lack of success…ha!). Luckily he followed up with,  “I figured you’d rather house sit the place in Cadiz (Spain).”(!!!!) Um, YES!

I learned a valuable lesson that day. A truly good friend will not just invite (or not invite) you to their wedding to wish them well on their new adventure. They will give you an opportunity to find some adventure of your own!


The Russian and I hatched our plan to fly into Madrid, take the train to Cadiz, do a little work from Johnny-O’s house and use it as a launch pad for exploring Southern Spain and Portugal. Miles paid for our flights. As a freelance graphics designer she was easily able to rearrange work and work from the road. I dropped vacation and billed for a few hours a day to put out fires back at the office. Too Easy! The game was afoot….

We explored Cadiz by night and some early morning. Lamenting the shop closings at 1130am and the little bit of work completed hiding indoors during the sweltering 48 C heat of ‘mid-day Cadiz’. We hatched the plan to escape the heat up the coast to Portugal for the weekend.

A few hours drive North and we were in Lagos, Portugal. A beautiful coastal town with a cooler, more temperate, climate like San Diego. Even though this is billed as a very touristy town there were very few people. The economic down turn had taken its toll on European vacations. Bonus for being able to wander around without throngs of people!

Even though there were no crowds to see it on this trip Lagos has been popular for a long time. As a major center for maritime trade for more than 2000 years slaves and spices poured into Europe through the ports and helped to fund the building of a wealthy Portuguese aristocrat class. Wars and earthquakes destroyed some of the 16th century buildings but the port was valuable and buildings continued to be built in the 17th century. Many artifacts and buildings still remain for tourists to ogle or stay in. (I’m no expert so hopefully my understanding is close enough… 🙂 You can always go for yourself to find out!)

We were staying in an old manor that was converted to a hotel with a view and pool. Porta de Vila was the best cheap option for our budget at the time and exceeded all expectation! The room looked out onto a very nice modern pool. Which in turn looked out onto the port. Porta de Vila was only a few blocks from the historic district of Lagos. There were even white tiles that inebriated people kept mistaking for dropped napkins. Ha, silly drunks.

We walked the town sampling wines and food. There are many little side streets and fantastic stores to explore.

One last trip around town and local beaches to scavenge some breakfast before heading back South into the heat.

It was a fantastic break from the humidity and heat. I cannot wait to return for a longer trip to explore the coastal towns of Portugal with more time. Rather than a side trip this would have made a fantastic primary destination… this will be corrected someday.  It definitely takes more than a weekend to untap the riches of Portugal.



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