How amazing are film photos? It’s so nice to get them back from the developers and see what you’ve taken. It takes me right back to my childhood. We’ll just ignore that I’ve had to crop my thumb out of the majority of these…
On to the matter at hand.
The one problem with taking photos of your holiday on only your film camera is that it will, at least if you’re me, take you about a year to get them developed. I went on this holiday in May last year. I went with what can only be described as a ragtag bunch of friends – so much so it would almost be impossible to describe the relationship between us all – my ex-best friends University housemate and his current housemate would be a good start. Isn’t it funny who you make friends with as you get older?
We’d had loose plans to go to Portugal for a while and finally made the decision to go to Lisbon for two days before getting the bus to Peniche, an area of Portugal well known for its surfing and beaches – as an aside, can I just say how wonderful the Portuguese version of National Express is? Honestly. You can read about my trip to Lisbon here – but be prepared for a few more film photographs.
We didn’t stay in Peniche, but on a small island called Baleal about 2 miles away from Peniche. Baleal used to be completely separate from the mainland, but over time a small causeway has emerged which means you have to walk between two beaches to get there. We were never cut off at any point, but it always felt quite remote.
The main reason we ended up in Baleal is because it’s well known for its surfing. One of the first surfing camps in Portugal was set up in Baleal. There are loads of different types of waves for each type of surfer, whether you’re an expert or a beginner. It’s pretty much the main reason everyone was staying in Baleal, each morning you’d see small groups of people disappear off with a guide into the sea to try and learn.
Now, I’d only been surfing once, when I was a teenager staying with my Aunt in Devon. Although I was bloody crap at it, I quite enjoyed it. Not this time, however. I was still bloody crap at it. Only this time, I also hated every single minute of it. I have been put off surfing for life. It’s not very helpful when you’re on what is essentially a surfing break. You know, to surf all day. All day! The waves were utterly relentless, the teacher annoyed the crap out of me and to be quite honest, I was being a bit of a stroppy cow who hated being rubbish at things.
Having said that, the other guys I was with on the holiday really enjoyed it. They even went out for a few more extra lessons than we’d originally booked. I imagine if you can get your head around all the steps you have to do to actually stand up on the bloody board, and well, aren’t as unfit as I am then you probably can’t go too wrong with surfing in somewhere like Baleal.
Honestly, we spent a lot of our time eating at home with bits and bobs picked up from the supermarket. When you have a patio overlooking the sea, it would be wrong not to crack out the BBQ every so often, right?
Luckily, however, there were a couple of great restaurants nearby. We were lucky to be staying close to Taberna do Ganhão, an old fisherman’s tavern which served great Portuguese food on red and white checked tables. Friends braved some hardcore looking octopus, but I had to stick with some mussels. We had less good food at Bar Do Bruno, definitely somewhere to head for cocktails instead of food unless you fancy something quick and easy to eat.
One day, we rented bikes and cycled into Peniche. It was slightly easier said than done without the amount of wind kicking about. I know my legs got one hell of a work out that day. It was still low season which meant the town itself was very quiet. Our AirBnb host said that things are quite different in the summer. We walked around the port town, picked up ice cream and beer and cycled back home again. Even though there was a lot of wind which made it a bit hardercycling between Peniche and Baleal is pretty easy to do. The roads were quiet, there were cycle lanes and it was pretty flat. Once you get to Peniche then the hills appear which makes things harder still, but not completely impossible.
For the majority of the time, we didn’t do a hell of a lot. That was just what I needed. We drank very strong Caipirinhas in beach bars, ate sea food and burgers, had BBQs on the patio of our beach side house. I spent a lot of my time reading books, something I rarely ever manage to find the time to do, listening to the sea which was right outside our window.
If you’re not like me and you actually like surfing, then Baleal might just be the place for you. Especially if you want to get away, drink cheap cocktails, eat seafood and go to sleep at night to the sound of the sea. I came away having read a few more books and a hint of a tan on my arms and a little bit more relaxed to face the rest of the year. You can’t complain too much with a holiday like that.
What does everyone else think about surfing? Hate it or love it? Would you ever consider a trip to Baleal?