August 23, 2017

Camping on the Portuguese Coast


Both of us have been trying to take credit for who had the idea first, while simultaneously blaming each other for putting us through this very unique* experience.

*Unique: so far outside our comfort zones, this territory will not be reached again.

Let's breakdown the title of this post.


I am die-hard about camping. SPORTS camping. I thought spending time in a cute camper van would be a good stepping stone toward real camping, like, sleeping outside. Instead of a stepping stone, I hit a wall, turned around, and will never attempt to be cute with my ideas again.

Here are some of the reasons life in a camper van just didn't work for me:

1. Bathroom.
The camper van was advertised for four to six persons. Can you name three to five other people you are able to seriously use the toilet in front of?

2. Oregon-Trail-like stress.
Do we have enough water? How long will our food supply last? How many pounds of buffalo meat can we carry back to the wagon? Will Christy survive typhoid fever?

3. Cramped sleeping quarters.
If I roll over, then you roll over, does that mean the camper van will roll over, too? The unused bunk bed ceiling over our head served two purposes: clothing display and forehead bruiser.

4. Bathroom.
The "outdoor shower" was really just the extendable kitchen sink faucet that sprayed cold water at you through the window. Obviously, one of the cleanest vacations I've ever taken.

5. Level sensitivity.
There are a lot of reasons most humans live in houses without wheels. The time needed to find a flat place to park is reason enough.

6. At the mercy of the weather.
Portuguese wind is no joke. Camper van insulation is definitely a joke.

7. Bathroom.
Must. Find. Legitimate. Private. Clean. Toilet. Daily.
No way we were going to grace the chemical toilet resting underneath our bed with anything more than pee.

8. It didn't actually save us any money.
I could have overlooked so much more if bumming in a camper van had cost us even up to 75% of our normal trip costs. But it was more like 130% of our normal budget, and I am not interested in paying extra to be uncomfortable.

Call me a cranky, spoiled complainer all you want: I don't care, because I don't have to ever sleep in a camper van on purpose again! Not every style of travel is meant for everyone. There were a few great things about it, but I know how to get these things without a camper van. See below.

"On the Portuguese Coast."

THIS part of the idea really, really worked out nicely. The place where we parked ourselves for four nights in Nazaré was across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. We walked onto the beach in thirty seconds. The whole city stretched from where we were parked up to the cliffs, with beach along the whole way.

Our scruffy, unkept camper looks fit in with the beachy, surfer vibe. I didn't brush my hair for six days (started in Barcelona). We left our razors in our bags. We pretended to understand Portuguese legends and gossip. We ate a lot of fish and drank coffee and chocolate and snacked on churros everyday.

We braved the crazy Nazaré waves for a full ten seconds. Marc wiped out on said waves. But he was okay because he had a hot pink hat souvenir to make him feel better. We did whatever we wanted to do everyday. And, yes, it was l-a-z-y.

Nazaré is a totally rad miniature city on a beach, complete with another city on the cliffs way up above. It's also apparently a haven for insane surfers who want to ride some of the biggest waves in the world. We will stick to the city part, and leave the ocean to the experts.

We are actually looking forward to returning to Nazaré, albeit via rental car and staying in an up-to-date plumbing facility.

As for those camper van survival excursions, I am glad to put it to rest. I will not be a retired RV trekker, nor will I drift in a VW van from beach to beach. I can accept this reality because:

I can retire and drive my own vintage Vespa all over Spain and Portugal.