My Airbnb stay in Nazaré, Portugal
The “Rose of the winds,” or “Rosa dos Ventos,” in Portuguese, is the geometric symbol on the face of a compass. It’s also found on maps, nautical charts, marine equipment and even monuments. We’ve all seen it, but I think most land-lovers, myself included, probably don’t even know there is a name for it, other than, that star thingie. But, in the small fishing village of Nazaré, Portugal, it has as second meaning. Something everyone can relate to. It means great food!
Restaurante Rosa dos Ventos, at Rua Gil Vicente 88, has been serving up the catch of the day since 1992. It was pure luck, or fate, or whatever you want to call it, that brought me to this quaint, traditional, Portuguese restaurant.
Nazaré has been on my bucket list for a long time. A small town, or really, a large fishing village, on Portugal’s “Silver Coast,” known among the surfing community for the largest waves in the world. International surfing pros, the media, fans, all flock to the quiet town during peak season, November through February, when the waves swell to giants between 80 and 100 feet high!
I started a standard Airbnb search, as I have done several times in the past. I knew very little about the town, so my main goal was to find a place that was located in the center, with easy walking access to great restaurants and close to the beach. Several different options came up and I narrowed the list down to 3. Within 10 minutes of my inquiry, I got a response to the very first listing that caught my eye. HERE is the link to that info.
Through the Airbnb website, I contacted Nelly, who is the host for the apartment. I asked her for a little more detail about the location, access to the beach and the famous fortress/light house that I’ve seen so many times in photos, Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo (Fort of St. Michael the Archangel).
In her response, I learned that she and husband, Vitor, own and manage the ground floor restaurant, Rosa dos Ventos, and two vacation apartments above it. Nelly answered all my questions and assured me that the 16th century fort was still there! From everything that she described, it sounded like the ideal place for me to stay, so I booked it.
From the time of my arrival, I was made to feel at home. Vitor greeted me on the street and showed me upstairs to my new home away from home for the next week.
In the bedroom, the balcony looking out over the street is an awesome feature. The two sets of double glass doors that lead to it, allow plenty of natural light to fill the room. They also have steel, roll-down, hurricane shutters that block out 100% of the light, if you like sleeping late! The queen-size bed was very comfortable; I slept like a baby every night. Opposite the bed is a large sleeper couch. A TV mounted on the wall between the balcony doors, swivels so it can be viewed from either the bed or couch.
The kitchen is fully equipped with everything one could expect. Fridge, stove, microwave, toaster, espresso machine… ESPRESSO MACHINE! YES!!! Vitor somehow picked up on my love of coffee and immediately taught me how to use it. An espresso machine! The week is starting off good.
The bathroom, like the entire apartment, was exceptionally clean and in order. It included a washing machine and laundry detergent.
I was extremely pleased with the accommodation. It has a very high rating on the Airbnb site, and now I totally understand why.
Between my walks and normal touristic obligations, I sat for either lunch or dinner everyday at Restaurante Rosa dos Ventos. I really enjoyed my meals on the sidewalk tables outside the front door. Vitor would bring out a platter with the fresh catch of the day, for me to choose from, usually, red snapper, sea bass, and various types of sea bream. The day I had the sea bream, I was in heaven! Although, every meal they prepared for me truly was amazing, the memory of this one will linger for a long, long time. The flavor was just incredible! Each bite of the delicious, flakey, grilled bream seemed to melt in my mouth! It was accompanied by a healthy portion of boiled potatoes and fresh salad from their garden. Add a plate of remarkable, Portuguese style clams and a nice glass of wine – perfection! I have lived in Portugal now for over 5 months, and have dined at several of the top restaurants in Lisbon and Cascais. Without a doubt, this was the best meal I’ve had, to date!!
One day, I bought a T-bone steak and a green pepper at the Mercado and I asked them if I could use their restaurant grill to cook them. Not only did they agree, they took over the entire cooking process and delivery of my meal! Nelly showed me how to grill the green pepper such that the skin would fall completely off and then could be sliced and served with olive oil. They added some boiled potatoes from their restaurant and served me… in my apartment! This was an unexpected service and pleasure that they took such pride in. Everyday, I am reconfirmed that the Portuguese people are among the most friendly, kind, open and hospitable in the world.
Over the course of my 7-days, Vitor and Nelly treated me like a king. They are genuinely sincere, good, hard working people that take a lot of pride in their restaurant, and it shows.
They both speak excellent English and they are super easy to talk with. In our conversations, I learned that they met while taking their driver’s exams, and have now been married for 22 years. Both were born in Nazaré, but interestingly, Nelly spent much of her early life in North America. In fact, I was surprised to hear that for 5 plus years, her family actually lived in Vermilion, Ohio, less than 2 hours from my hometown of Youngstown! It really is a small world! For another 20 years, they lived in Leamington, Ontario, Canada, a town located on the northern shore of Lake Erie, about an hour southeast of the Detroit-Windsor area. So, yes, perfect English.
For me, one of the things that will remain a vivid memory of Nazaré is the ubiquitous smell of the wonderfully cooked seafood that permeates through the narrow cobblestone streets and alleys of this unique fishing village/surfing resort.
I loved my week above Restaurante Rosa dos Ventos in Nazaré. Nelly and Vitor are the ideal hosts and are such a joy to be around! I’ve always planned on coming back during the peak season to see the giant waves, but the next time, I’ll be looking forward to visiting my new friends, first, and then the waves!
If you’re looking for an awesome Airbnb experience, stay here! And tell Vitor and Nelly I said, hello!