Driving in Europe has always intimidated me. If I have time to get to know the roads and signs as a passenger first, then it's not a problem (we all know how directionally challenged I am...). But just getting behind the wheel with no knowledge of what anything means when people are overtaking you on a country road at 160km/hr (okay, a bit of hyperbole there) can be a tad bit stressful. I was thankful that my German friend had no problem driving, especially since I had not slept for nearly twenty-seven hours. Another thing that I was grateful for was my Sprint service, which is not something I've ever said in the States. In Europe, I have free data (yes, it's only 2G but it works!) and free text messaging. Yes, there is no charge for this outside of my regular service. Google maps worked like a charm and after a few roundabout mishaps, we were on our way to Nazaré!
The first stop was to see Erica at a site around 15km south of Nazaré: Gralha. Erica is the reason I'm in Portugal and why this adventure began. She's my paragliding buddy who called me three months ago asking me if I wanted to come to be a part of a paragliding clinic that she had just conceptualized; mental and body training and advanced ground handling. I was to teach yoga specifically for paragliding pilots. In typical Aries fashion, I agreed without much thought. There were definitely bumps along the road and I'm sure I had to cash in karma points to get here but I somehow made it fairly unscathed, hugging my friend in Portugal whom I hadn't seen in three years.
I hadn't paraglided in nearly a month and was craving to get in the sky. Unfortunately, I said to Nina on the drive there that I wasn't planning on actually flying because I was far too tired and jet lagged. When we arrived, all I wanted to do was get my glider out and fly! When your BFF is terrified that you fly to begin with and she's German, your comment about not flying comes back to haunt you. As you've already figured out, Nina was adamant about me not pulling my glider out and I abided. It was the wiser choice. One of the many reasons that friends are priceless. I did, however, get to see the site and realize that I was watching pilots fly the Portugal coastline. I was still stuck in the surreal, feeling like I had just tripped on mushrooms for three days and was only beginning to coming down.
We drove to the local market to grab some bread, wine and cheese (these were to become my staples for the entire month) and I debated about going to sleep when we made it to the beach house. I felt like a five-year old child that has just stepped foot into the Magic Kingdom for the first time after an anticipation-fueled sleepless night, paralyzed from the excitement. The fatigue was losing. I had gotten my second wind. After settling in with our things, we had our midday European meal, watching and listening to the fierceness of the Atlantic just an unobstructed 100m in front of us.
We later went for a beach walk and I discovered that these beaches are very much like the East Coast of the States, with coarse and pebbled sand and powerful waves. Sunset is at 9pm here. I stayed awake until nearly midnight local time, catching up with my dear friend. After nearly thirty-eight hours of no sleep, the ocean lulled me to sleep in my temporary home by the sea.
Portugal stole my heart at first sight. The irony is that from leaving the airport in Lisbon, to the paragliding site at Gralha, to the beach house in Praia do Norte, it all reminded me of another place that I know so well and couldn't wait to leave: Lalaland. The Universe always gets the loudest and last laugh. I felt oddly at home in this foreign place where I didn't understand a word of the language. I learned "obrigada" immediately. Thank you is a necessity wherever you go.
Next up...playing on the dunes in Portugal and the girls arrive in Lisbon!