Walking along Lisbon's tree-and-poo-lined streets, in deliciously sweltering days that make you sweat when you think, with warm nights, stunning sights, carnivourous meals, sangria and incredibly hospitable hosts... I am reminded again why I travel.

And in my first experience as a Couchsurfer - I have hosted a few times, never before guested - I can certainly recommend it. For those who aren't familiar, is an international site where users can either stay or host for free in their own homes. Of course, a bottle of wine or a dinner or a gift is a basic courtesy to extend to the host.

The daunting idea of having a complete stranger in your home (or you in theirs) is made much less daunting by having users complete extensive profiles of themselves, along with references from people they've met via their travels.

You can also filter your preferences when searching for a place to stay (i.e. age range, gender, etc) and make explicit guidelines for people looking to surf at your place (i.e. no smokers, female/male only, no Republicans, etc.). It's also a great way to see a city outside of the normal tourist-greased conveyor belts.

And so it is that I have to mention Rita and Raquel, two Portuguese sisters who are my first ever hosts (and I am their first guest).

I normally have a strict rule to not mention details of my personal encounters on this blog, but these girls deserve special mention. I didn't know people like this still existed. Sweet, polite, charming, fun, incredibly helpful... If all couchsurfing experiences are like this, hotels will go out of business.

They have quickly helped make Lisbon one of my favourite cities. More as the week progresses...

More Peniche


"Surfing's the source, man... swear to God" - Point Break, 1991

Images and impressions from the past week as 7 straight days of surfing comes to an end, both mercifully (for the old body) and unfortunately (for everything else).

  • Sitting at Bar do Bruno, the perfectly situated beach bar and restaurant that sits overlooking Baleal Beach at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, overlooking stunning waves under a massive and cloudless sky.
  • The sun is warm but the constant breeze keeps things cool. The coffee is a mellow roast, and my skin is roasting mellowly.
  • The iPod is paused occasionally to hear the sound of the waves; in-between, "Cuatro" by Cafe Fuego, "Release the Pressure" by Leftfield, "Goodbye" by Junior Boys, "Straight to the Bank" by 50 Cent and 20 more tracks shuffle me into the weekend.
  • Across the deck, a girl of about 5 years old raises her Princess Barbie camera (yes, I have nieces) and takes pictures of her parents, quickly showing them her handiwork afterwards.
  • Next to me, a group of four late teenage girls chatter on happily in Portuguese, which to me still sounds like drunk Russian.
  • The beach is very busy, but not overcrowded. People and shapes are easily identifiable nearby, and further out they are moving silhouettes with the sun behind them.
  • Surfers of all levels are tackling waves of all sizes. The good ones make it look so easy; my body screams that it is not.
It's easy to see the romanticism of the surfing lifestyle - wake up, wetsuit, waves, eat, repeat.

The week was excellent; come here if you want to learn to surf and learn to chill out. The service in the cafes and at the camp could not have been friendlier; the level of instruction (as mentioned in a previous post) is very high. So am I (naturally, of course) as I'm off to Lisbon for the week.

From bed to beach - could get used to this...

Instructors Gabi and Turko - beautiful people who teach by season in Argentina, Brazil, and Portugal

Bar do Bruno; it is also the surf camp base, where you wetsuit up and wax (eloquently)

Video review and a lesson on the history of surfing