Portugal was never really on my radar for a holiday. I knew it was there of course but Majorca, Ibiza, or any number of Greek islands always trumped it as a sunny summer short haul destination for me.
That was until one particularly dreary January day this year when I read about Surfers Lodge Peniche, a hotel and surf school just outside of Peniche, a sleepy town about a 45-minute drive north of Lisbon. From what I could see the Lodge was a stylish gaff with an inviting vibe and a rooftop pool, which offered surf, food and yoga packages – I filed it away in my head under places I’d like to stay one day.
Just a few months later and desperate to get out of a London for a week or so, I remembered the Lodge and dropped them an email, y’know, just to see if they had any availability during May. They did. I checked flight prices for the only week in May I could realistically get away. They were cheap. Less than half an hour later I’d booked flights to Lisbon and a surf-and-food package at the hotel.
In the style stakes the Lodge didn’t disappoint – a glass and timber building with a casual restaurant, open kitchen and lounging area on the ground floor and vintage surf photographs throughout. The bedrooms, a mix of doubles, twins and dorms are chic, simple and cosy and the beds are super-comfy. Up on the roof are more lounging areas, perfect for soaking up the sun between surf lessons, plus a pool and a jacuzzi, just the thing for soaking surf-battered bodies.
You don’t have to surf here but with some of the best waves in Europe down the road it would be a shame not to. I loved my twice-daily surf lessons with endlessly-encouraging instructor Marlene. We met every morning at 9am, pulled on our wetsuits, then headed to the beach. Beware the wetsuit tan – I’ve returned home with a brown face, hands and feet, the rest of me not so much, despite slathering myself in factor 50 at all times! After warming up with a beach run and some yoga-type stretches it was time to get wet. I was lucky enough to have mostly private lessons (a major advantage of going early in the season) and I’ve never known an hour to whizz by so quickly, I had so much fun. After a break for lunch we’d do it all again in the afternoon.
I have no idea how many calories you burn when you’re surfing but I was ravenous after every lesson. Fortunately the food at the lodge is great. Breakfast is a buffet-style pick and mix of fresh fruit, yoghurt, muesli, freshly-baked bread, cheese and meat with the option of your choice of eggs. The lunch and dinner menu consists of the kind of food you need to refuel after a day’s surfing such as pasta, burgers (the Surfer’s Lodge fries are highly addictive) and hearty salads. The desserts are delicious (I tried them all!) and include a melting chocolate fondant, burned butter ice cream and an immense selection of local cheeses.
In the evening I ate dinner at the Lodge, did a yoga class at the yoga studio down the road, or headed to a beach bar to watch the sunset. Tired but happy at the end of every day I slept soundly, waking up ready to do it all again the next morning. I don’t often say this (there’s always somewhere new to discover) but I would totally go back. The waves are calling me!
Surfers Lodge Peniche is a stylish place to eat, sleep, surf. Repeat.
For a post-surf yoga class Yoga Center Peniche offers a variety of classes for around 12 Euros.
Bar Do Bruno was my go-to lunch spot for tasty food and ocean views (so you can check out the surfers, er, I mean, pick up pointers).
For sunset drinks
I’m a sunset junkie and one of the best places to watch it is Bar Da Praia, a glass-fronted bar with a very drinkable house white for a budget-friendly 2 Euros a glass.