The photos below were taken on an unforgettable day. This was from one of the shorter trips I was fortunate enough to take to the Algarve, Portugal, at the beginning of December 2017. The mornings were crisp, yet still a firm few degrees warmer than the Cornish shores around this time of year.
We had a couple days of rain and strong winds as a large swell hit the West coast...
... Later in the week, the rain clouds travelled further north and the sun reappeared. The wind still present, still strong, but now blowing offshore for the beaches surrounding Lagos. We drove around and sought out the sheltered spots; discovering a little slice of paradise.
We had been here the day before, but the grey skies and cold cross-shore winds churning up 3-4ft walls of white water was a completely different scene.
The crowds of summer and autumn had dispersed. Despite these perfect conditions there were only a handful of others out. We were graced with a rich blue sky, a strong winter sun and perfect, glassy surf.
We surfed for hours. Revelling in every second of this purest of joys. Smiles beaming. Grinning from ear to ear. Eyes squinting in that delicious winter sun. Each wave just as much fun as the last.
The novelty of the warm sun on my face completely failed to wear off. I didn't want to get out. Pushing myself further with steeper take offs, pulling in to whatever came my way. Even the wipeouts on those waves I underestimated filled me with more joy than I thought was possible.
The only thing that stopped us from surfing all day was the growing heaviness in our arms, and perhaps the rumbling in our bellies too; the call for another Pastel de Nata?
We changed out of our wetsuits in the dusty car park, hiding behind the van to shelter ourselves from the colder northerly wind. With the sun still shining, I leaned back against the van with my towel around me. Savouring the sensation of the sun's rays on my face, my shoulders, my feet.
We dressed, shielding ourselves from the wind and made tracks for a short walk up the rocky path to the sandstone cliffs. I wanted to see the ocean from high upon the cliff's verge and watch the waves we were surfing only minutes earlier.
This was one of the most memorable days I spent here. The surf was perfect. But it wasn't only the surf. It was the landscape, the scenery, the sheer joy I felt being here, and the people I shared it all with.
I would be lying if I said it wasn't the people I met here who made me want to continue returning to this place. It is so rare that you can find yourself feeling a connection to not only the places you visit, but also the people you meet. I feel so fortunate to have met those that I have along the way. I feel so incredibly lucky to have met those who brought me to this special spot. To those who made me fall so completely in love with this place. It is to those who I am eternally grateful.
I hope this new year will bring me all the luck to allow me to travel back to this beautiful part of the world... Even if it were for only one more day like this.