Ericeira – a Hidden Gem of the Portugal Western Coast
January 1, 1970
by Alexandra Vasilyeva
There are countries in the world that sink into your heart so deeply that you travel there again and again. For me such country became Portugal. I remember perfectly the moment when I got hit by the beauty of this land – on some hectic office day I glanced at my facebook feed and saw the photo made by my friend, a prominent travel photographer. It was a picture of Lisbon bathing in the golden sunset rays where the pile of bright, almost red oranges merged with the tile roofs of the same colour.
By the coincidence, at that moment I was dreaming of learning to surf, and after this life-changing photo, I decided to spend my next vacation in Portugal. When I arrived the reality was even more astonishing than digital pics. I fell in love with endless ocean views, sincere people’s smiles and the history that was hiding literally under each stone. On the farewell surfer party, when we were eating grilled sardines and drinking green wine, I’ve promised my surf coach that when I return I’d speak Portuguese.
I fulfilled my promise. The next year and several years afterwards I regularly came to this blessed country and every visit was even more eye-opening for me. Being keen on the language of melancholic fado singers and legendary poet Luis Camões I discovered places usually unseen by regular tourists, heard amazing stories told by local people, tried delicacies I had no idea they exist – in other words, I experienced the country to the fullest.
Where to Surf at Ericeira
Although I visited Lisbon many times, I hadn’t put much attention on the beaches and settlements around the city. I preferred to have beach time in Algarve – the southern province more suitable for recreational swimming and sunbathing in October (my favourite time for vacations). But I had no much time for travels, that’s why I asked my Portuguese friend about the best and closest place where I could swim and surf. Thus, after the 40 minutes drive, I was in Ericeira.
South: Foz do Lizandro and São Juliaõ
The same friend told me that Ericeira was considered a European surf capital competing for this title only with Hossegor in France. The reason for that is the constant year-round swells with the variety of waves suitable both for beginners and pro surfers. But in my opinion, the main treasure of this place is the astonishingly beautiful coastline, especially to the South of the city. When I was surfing at the Foz do Lizandro and São Julião beaches, which are considered newbie-friendly, my heart was soaring. The picturesque emerald hills with the tiny white houses scattered over them, the sand-coloured cliffs surrounded by the turquoise waves with snow-white foamy splashes – all that created the unforgettable palette that could be seen only on the Atlantic coast of Portugal.
North: São Lourenço and Coxos
Northern spots are more attractive for real pros, thus, they are more known among world surfing community. The most famous places here are São Lourenço, which is the top-of-mind big wave (up to 18 ft) destination in Portugal, and the rocky Coxos beach, the homeland of the Europe best waves – long, powerful and tremendously fast. But being an amateur I could just watch the strong and courageous guys surfing there, and admire their perfect technique.
What to Be Ready For When Surfing at Ericeira?
My first surf coach gave me an invaluable advice – when start surfing at a new spot, always touch base with the locals. Only those guys who regularly ride there will provide you with the proper tips about specific conditions and features of the place. Every spot is unique and even if you are a pro, you cannot know about all the currents and underwater rocks around the world.
I was lucky to meet Gonçalo – his deep knowledge and love to the ocean reminded me about passionate Portuguese mariners Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan fearlessly leaving their homeland for unknown lands. And there is no wonder why tough guys love Ericeira coast that much – even at the amateur spots tides are fast, waves are frequent, water is cold (12-18 Celsius), and everything pushes you to be focused and forceful. “Paddle stronger, there’s a beer waiting for you on the shore”, Gonçalo screamed cheering me up. When I went out of the water after 1,5 hours surfing I could barely move.
What to Eat and Drink in Ericeira
After a good surf session, any food is delicious. Right after the beach, I rushed to the first eatery I saw on the map. It was Tasquinha de Joy, a cosy family-owned place with plastic chairs but astonishing sea view. “Tasquinha” means “a small piece” in Portuguese, so it could be translated as a “snack-house of someone named Joy”. Gonçalo warned me that “Tasquinha” maybe doesn’t deserve the Michelin star, but it is a decent place for simple and nutritious lunch – perfect for hungry surfers.
Surfer’s Lunch in Tasquinha de Joy
We ordered the baked potato with bacalhau (codfish), grilled octopus with fries, a basket of rustic bread and the bottle of green wine – famous Portuguese vinho verde, crispy light new wine with delicate bubbles making your heart sing. Although the vinho verde region is located in the Northern part of Portugal, you can try this refreshing beverage all over the country. The combination of the delicate sparks with seafood protein made my gastronomic experience so intense that I decided to have a nap on the welcoming sandy Praia dos Pescadeiros – the fishermen’s beach. But in the next 15 minutes, I was washed by the cold wave – the tide was coming so fast that I hadn’t noticed the approaching water.
Sushi Experience in Izakaya Japanese Restaurant
The next meal was more experimental. The kind and smiley Portuguese people are glad to see newcomers from all over the world, thus international cuisine there is excellent too. This time I decided to give a try to Izakaya sushi restaurant owned by the native Japanese family. To complement the fresh fish dishes I chose Mateus – a legendary rosé wine brand. This medium-sweet fizzy drink was created in 1942 and literally conquered the world – the Mateus was stockpiled even in the palace of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Traditional Portuguese Pastry in Pao de Vila bakery
The next day I was leaving. To have a shot of black espresso (Portuguese call it “bica”) with my beloved “pasties do nata” (traditional egg tart pastry) I went to the Pao de Vila bakery at the Praça de Republica – the Ericeira central square. Some say the best pasteis are produced at the Belem district in Lisbon, but in my humble opinion, every Portuguese bakery makes awesome pasteis do nata. After my modest breakfast, I helped the British girl who wanted pasteis for to go. “Could you please pack your delicious pasteis so the lady could bring them to London”, I translated her request. ” With pleasure! There are a lot of people who want to bring our sweets to their homeland”, replied the waiter.
I followed the girl’s example. After putting the box of pasties into the backpack I departed for Obidos – a magic ancient town famous for its cherry liquor and ancient castle. But this trip deserves the whole new story that I’ll write next time.