• Theresa Fersch

Made it To Peniche

It’s finally here!! Today’s the day we left for Portugal! I awoke this morning feeling pretty pumped. I was comfortable with where I had left things in my personal and work life and was ready to put all that on hold for a bit while I explore more of Europe!

Last night, a bunch of friends met Brian and I for dinner in town to celebrate before we left and it was was great to see everyone. 

In the morning, the first thing I thought when I awoke was that this will be the last time I awake in my own bed for a month. I did a quick calculation in my head and realized I’ll probably be sleeping in just over 20 beds over the next four weeks. I’d become accustomed to living like a vagabond on my last Camino fairly quickly, not because I enjoyed it but because I didn’t have a choice. So while I don’t mind doing it again, I took a few extra minutes this morning to be thankful for the safety and comfort of my own space. 

I spent the morning doing last minute things like packing the little items I needed to use before I left (cell phone charger, sunglasses, etc). I also sprayed my sleeping bag and liner with permethrin the night before so I had to repack my whole bag, adding the sleeping bag to the bottom. 

Technology has advanced so much since my last Camino four years ago. You can now download google translate to your phone and use it offline which was not an option for me last time. So this morning I downloaded Gaelic, Portuguese, Galician, Spanish, French, and German. I’ll be entering regions that speak all these languages except German. I added that because on my last experience, the overwhelming number of Germans on the Camino made me wish I could communicate better with them.

After lots of running around this morning, Kris arrived at my house around 1pm and Brian drove us to the airport. Things started out quite smoothly. We checked our bags, and were happy to find out our bags will be flown to Lisbon which means we don’t have to pick them up in Dublin and check them again during our three hour layover. We also got tickets for both legs of our trip. So all we’ll have to worry about when we arrive in Dublin is getting through EU customs and finding our gate. Should be easy enough! I also weighed my pack while at the counter; only 7 pounds! Woohoo! I carried my pack with all my camino stuff on board with me and I checked my equally heavy bag for my time in Peniche. Before I begin the camino, I’ll have to mail that bag home.

Boarding the plane was a tad uncomfortable and I was quickly reminded that customer service is an American sentiment not shared by most other countries. It’s not to say the flight attendants weren’t professional, they just lacked a friendliness and patience I’m accustomed to. Long story short, the plane which had three seating sections across were not in numerical order and because the seat numbers were very high and blocked by a ledge jetting out from under them, I couldn’t see them from my angle. I made an educated guess assuming Seat C was the third seat but apparently the seats went across the row as A,C, and D. No B. So I was first in the wrong seat. Then I couldn’t reach the overhead compartment to store my bag. A friendly man offered to help before I even tried so that was a relief. The bag didn’t fit though and the flight attendants weren’t thrilled with me by then and they weren’t super nice to the gentleman who was trying to help so he sat back down. I was told I’d have to store my bag way back in the plane. So while everyone sat waiting for me to find a place to fit my bag, I walked down the aisle wondering how the heck I’d get my bag up there even if I did find space. Fortunately, I found a free compartment and a really nice man placed my bag overhead for me. I thanked him and returned to my seat remembering that traveling is always a bit more difficult for me simply because I’m smaller than average. And it is only when I travel in fact that I know I’m small. Something I rarely think about in my normal day to day life. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the people I sat with just assumed I’m a moron.  

Although it was only 6pm by my body’s natural clock, after some light reading, I managed to sleep a solid 3 hours which would be great for adjusting to the 6 hour difference in Portugal.

When we landed in Dublin at 4:15am local time, it was cool, rainy, and dark. I waited for Kris just as I exited the plane so we could go through customs together. I purchased my tickets to Portugal months before we even met so we weren’t seated together. 

There was no customs! A few airport employees directed us past a bunch of passport checkpoints, both the automated stands that take your picture and scan you passports, and the small booths where normally an agent would question you. We blew through all of that without breaking stride. I assume they were closed since it was so early. Note to self, if you ever want to start a ruckus in Ireland, just arrive before the agents do. 

When we entered the connecting gates, it felt like a ghost town. It was literally just the two of us and our flight to Lisbon didn’t board for 3 hours so the gate info wasn’t available yet. So we ambled around trying to get feeling back in our extremities after sitting for 5 hours. I also played with my google translator and learned you do in fact need WiFi for the sign translator to work. How convenient though?! You point your camera at a sign and it translates it automatically! It’s not necessary here though as all the signs are in Gaelic and English. 

After a short nap in the ghost town on some uncomfortable metal chairs, the gate info updated. We walked a solid ten minutes and found all the people. We walked past rows and rows of airport security and through duty free stores and restaurants before we found our gate. 

When we arrived, there was a cute pub next door. I’m sure it’s really touristy but considering this was the closest I would get to spending any time in Ireland, I asked Kris if she wanted to get a drink. We ordered what we thought was a one ounce shot of hot whiskey. So when the bartender brought us full steaming glasses of alcohol with a slice of lemon in it, I knew the next few hours of my life would be interesting. So there we were at 6am (1am East Coast time) getting shit faced. I joked with Kris that the only time I’m ever drunk in an airport is when I travel with her. We went to Vegas together last month and she bought a big bottle of gray goose for our hotel room. But neither of us are big drinkers and she didn’t want to throw it away when we checked out a week later. So right before we headed for the airport to head home, we polished it off. I always wondered who’s dumb enough to shop in an airport. Now I know That day, they saw me coming. 

Anyway, boarding the second much smaller plane was easier because I could handle my own bag and actually see the seat numbers overheard. It would be a two hour flight to Lisbon and we’d land at 10am Lisbon time. 

Flying into Lisbon was exciting. The buildings reminded me slightly of Spain with the chalky red roofs but with a city twist to it all. As we were all standing to exit the plane, a somewhat shady looking fella pushed his way to the front and argued with the flight attendant about needing to get off the plane. She wouldn’t open the door so he burst past her and into the bathroom. I hoped he was just sick but it looked suspicious. Well, he was sick because on the shuttle from the plane to the terminal, he heaved the entire way. The whole bus sat silently as this man puked for five minutes. It was quite awful and everyone rushed off the bus as soon as possible. 

Most signs were in Portuguese and English so we didn’t have too difficult a time finding our luggage, an ATM, and other things. We had to ask for help a lot finding where to catch an Uber to the bus station and we debated a bit about which bus station we should go to. In the end, we got on the right bus at the right station without trouble. Our Uber driver who was a very kind older gentlemen, eager to practice English, told us that we must return to spend time in Lisbon because there’s so much to see and do. He made us promise we would eat fish and drink wine while here because they are “5 star”! He also told us the waves in Peniche are fierce so to be careful on the beach. I’ll say more about that later. 

We found a bus to Peniche and despite my true efforts to acclimate to the time change by staying in Portugal time, I could not stay awake on that bus to save my life. When we arrived in Peniche, there were two stops. We didn’t know which was ours so we got off the first one, ambled around for a while until we found a restaurant that is open on Sunday and asked them if they would call a cab for us. There are no Ubers in this town.

Finally! We made it to our rental. It’s a cute little hostel one minute from the beach. This entire town is a beach town. Surfers, surf boards, seafood restaurants, sand dunes. Without having ever been here before, I could tell this is a destination for sure!

Our house wasn’t ready yet and surfer dudes and dudettes were coming in and out with their boards. The hostess suggested we go find something to eat and said the place would be ready for us when we returned. More than 20 hours into our travel time, we were starving so we were ok with that plan. The lovely Juliana recommended the tuna steak at a famous restaurant right on the water. It was just what I needed. We sat on the cloudy day watching the surfers while we enjoyed our $2 bottle of red wine and the largest and tastiest tune I’ve ever had. I’m not a big seafood eater but I thoroughly enjoyed the food in Galicia when I was on the Camino so I was thrilled to try the fresh seafood here in Portugal. 

On the 15 minute walk back to our house we bumped into a grocery store and popped in for some goodies for the week. I took a nice hot shower once home, unpacked and am now enjoying the tranquility of this living room. There are doors on both sides of the room and of course they don’t really have bugs here so all the doors and windows are wide open and the slightest ocean breeze is keeping me cool. I’ll probably force myself to stay awake at least until 830on but that will be tough as it’s only 6 and I’m fading fast. Poor Kris didn’t make it. She’s passed out in bed and I’m debating if I should wake her. 

Goodnight!



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