alentejo, portugal - on the road, down the coast

All of Europe takes a month-long August holiday, cramming elbow to elbow on beaches and clogging roads and restaurants with overpriced 'tourist menus'. Just when everyone goes back to work in September, Alex and I head out on holiday.

We celebrated my twenty-eighth birthday this September by renting a 1973 Volkswagen van in Lisbon and road tripping down the Western coast of Portugal to Lagos. We had an old wrinkled road map and not much of an itinerary, and spent nearly two weeks living like dirtbags on the road.

We parked the van at beaches and slept listening to the waves, went for sunset dips in lieu of showers, ate a lot of canned sardines and pasta, played Italian card games every night before falling asleep at nine, and took a lot of naps on sand dunes.

Road trip Volkswagen van, Portugal

Roadtrip Portugal
We stopped off to stretch our legs around tiny, sleepy colorful towns we spotted from the road.

Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Vintage Volkswagen van roadtrip, Portugal

Beach near Sines, Portugal

Alex, fearless driver -- man do I ever need to learn how to drive stick.

Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal

Roadtrip Alentejo, Portugal

Roadtrip Alentejo, Portugal

Roadtrip Volkswagen van Alentejo, Portugal

Beach near Sines, Portugal

Sunbathing in Portugal


Architecture streets in Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal

Surfing at sunset, Lagos, Portugal
Alex surfing at sunset near Lagos.

Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal

Mercado Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal

Grilled octopus, stuffed squid restaurant in Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal
A fancy meal of fresh-caught octopus, stuffed squid and ice cold rosé was heaven after endless days of canned sardines and spaghetti in the van.

Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal

Santiago do Cacem, Portugal
"Do you want to come live in a van, little buddy? Do you? Huh?"

Portugal architecture

Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Beach at sunset in Alentejo, Portugal

Volkswagen van roadtrip Alentejo, Portugal

Volkswagen van roadtrip Alentejo, Portugal

Beach in Alentejo, Portugal


Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Vintage Volkswagen van, Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Traditional Portuguese paint house, Santiago do Cacem

Road trip map Portugal

Beach at sunset in Portugal

Beach at sunset in Portugal

Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Boardwalk to the beach in Portugal

Roadtrip in Portugal

Portugal landscape


Landscape in Portugal

Roadtrip in Portugal

Colorful buildings in Portugal

Streets of Silves, Portugal

Silves, Portugal


Wetsuits drying on the rocks.

Volkswagen roadtrip, Portugal
Pure chaos inside the van at all times.

Alex and a hard-earned gelato after a long day of surfing.

Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal

Cascais beach near Lisbon, Portugal

Cascais beach near Lisbon, Portugal
Very early, eerie mornings waking up at the beach.

Cascais beach near Lisbon, Portugal

Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal

Standard van lunch: sardines and rosé for me, frankfurters and beer for Alessandro.

Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal







Dinner with a foggy view.





Beach near Sines, Portugal

My birthday dinner, on the first night of our trip.


Beach near Sines, Portugal

Alex pulls our 'dining room table' off the roof of our van for supper.


Silves, Portugal

Silves, Portugal
Cold, veggie-filled gazpacho and fresh chopped salads.

Bull ring in Portugal

Villanueva de Milfontes, Portugal



Taking a break in the shade of a bull ring at high noon.


Silves, Portugal




Silves, Portugal

Silves, Portugal

Santiago do Cacem, Portugal

Cascais, Portugal

Sines, Portugal


Beach in Portugal
Alex coming in from a sundown dip.

Beach in Portugal


More photos to come from our Portugal road trip in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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