Europe 2010: Figueira da Foz – October 10

We really needed a break from the big city this morning and so with light hearts, we packed up, left our Bairro Alto apartment, and took a taxi to the car rental place. Our plan was to drive north to Figueira da Foz (near Coimbra) for a two-day R & R at a hotel on the beach and a visit with some of Gregg’s artist friends.

I had carefully chosen a car rental outlet that was as close as possible to a highway out of the city so as to minimize any driving in the congested downtown area. Everything went beautifully. We found the car rental outlet, completed the paperwork in record time, and faster than I’d ever experienced with car rentals, we found ourselves on an almost totally empty highway heading out of Lisbon! Since it was a Sunday morning, everyone in the city seemed to be staying away from the roads. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such wide, empty highways anywhere.

As a result, the two-hour drive up to Figueira da Foz went extremely well. The scenery on the way up was lovely with a bit of excitement thrown on from yet another violent rain storm. In fact at one point we drove through alternating rain and brilliant sunshine with rainbows practically coming through the windscreen. Lovely!

View of the rainstorm from the car

We easily found our hotel right across the road from an amazing sandy beach that seems to stretch forever. Next stop the New World! The day was very windy so the waves were crashing into shore. I’d chosen a Mercure hotel – a chain to be sure, but a posh chain and I must say it’s very nice! We have a large balcony overlooking the ocean and all the comforts. At about 80 euros a night, it’s a bargain.

View from our balcony of the Atlantic Ocean

After getting settled, we walked to the town’s art center — an amazing complex built about ten years ago. There is obviously lots of interest in the arts in Figueira da Foz, which we understand is primarily a summer resort. Gregg’s artist friend Rik Lina, with whom he’s been collaborating these past several months, has a one-man show at the center.

Gorgeous show in a stunning space! I managed to snap off quite a few photos before the security guard rushed in and wagged his finger at me! Here are some of the illegally obtained pictures of Rik’s exhibition. The works are just amazing.

Feeling suitably chastened after being admonished by the security guard, we had the best cappuccinos of our trip (which is saying something) in the elegant cafe. The young man serving us must have spent five minutes carefully decorating the top of each cup with a complicated spiderweb pattern. So the coffees not only tasted amazing, they looked amazing!

In the evening, we were honored to attend a reception at Miguel’s home high on the hill overlooking the Atlantic. He is a friend of Gregg’s and very active with the Portuguese surrealists. Several artists including Rik Lina (who lives half the year in Figuiera) were there along with Miguel’s charming parents (who live part of each year in Edmonton!). Here are shots of a spectacular sunset over the Atlantic Ocean taken from Miguel’s balcony.


We enjoyed a sumptuous spread of prawns, tiny squid that apparently come only from the area, cheeses, meets, breads and desserts (a feast!) along with wine and conversation with the people there. It was a magical evening!

At Miguel’s reception – Miguel to the left of Gregg


Rik Lina, Miguel de Cavalho, Gregg Simpson

Home to the hotel and to bed. This is the life!