Striped Houses and Ribboned Bridges: Bright Spots in a Blue Stay

After a much-needed jolt of social interaction and city energy in Porto, we went a little ways south for a two-night stay at the beach in Gafanha da Encarnacao. The stop was a last minute addition that Dan magicked in Sande, when we decided we needed a little more oomph in our itinerary—we accomplished it by trimming a day each off both our first and last stays to accommodate a fourth Portugal destination.

A side note: Something we didn’t anticipate before this trip is that we’d prefer more short stays in various destinations than fewer long ones. We’d thought keeping Fi happy might mean more consistency, but as it turns out, if we aren’t staying long enough to enroll her in some kind of childcare or, like, befriend the local kids, anything over about six nights has us all feeling restless. The excitement of arriving somewhere new, scoping out the nooks and crannies of whatever house/apartment/room we’re staying in and plotting what to do around town has mostly kept the homesickness at bay.

Increasing our number of destinations in this case was a mixed bag, but largely kept our momentum going in positive ways. The apartment we rented at the beach was lovely, with a killer view and a be-hammocked deck that (mostly) made up for the musty smell places that close to the ocean tend to have. Fiona was delighted that her bedroom was up a precariously narrow spiral staircase and through a hobbit door that I hit my head trying to duck through more than once.

But the weather was largely gray and we were all a bit irritable/short-tempered/emotional, likely feeling some Porto letdown and knowing it’d be another week before our next social/city shakeup. Honestly, it’s probably the most brittle our little trio has been since the start of the trip.

All of that said, there were some bright spots in our short stay, starting with our proximity to the beach, views of said beach and a little beach bar called Bronze. In high season, Bronze was likely a douchey disaster, but on the dreary stretch of days we were there, it was a welcoming (and so convenient!) port in the storm, serving up comforting ham-and-cheese toasties and large glasses of white wine for overtired parents.

The town of Gafanha da Encarnacao was also charming, if a bit deserted and chilly while we were there. It was a short-ish walk along the beach to get to the main part of town from our apartment, and once there, we were greeted along the waterfront by rows of candy-striped houses. We haven’t been able to figure out how or why these building became a thing, but they’re darn cute and defs Insta-worthy—we certainly weren’t the only ones there snapping photos. We also availed ourselves the town’s other claim to fame: the tripa, a doughy, Nutella-filled, crepe-waffle mashup that you can apparently only enjoy in this one place on earth. It’s bellyache waiting to happen and yes, also just as yummy as it sounds.

On our way out of town, we spent a few agreeable hours in nearby Aveiro, a little city full of bright boats floating along lazy canals, which earned it the nickname “the Venice of Portugal.” I should note here that I’m a sucker for places that call themselves “the Venice of [insert country name here]” (see also: Otaru, the Venice of Japan), and I love me a little tourist town, so I was all in on Aveiro. We oohed and ahhed over the ribboned bridges (the city’s festive alternative to padlocks, also meant to signify love and/or friendship), took a touristy canal cruise and found ourselves a more-delicious-than-it-had-any-right-to-be lunch on the main square. A little souvenir shopping and a pirate-ship-themed playground later, our spirits were officially lifted as we hit the road for our last stop in Portugal: Guimaraes!

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