Travel: Living, working and surfing in this Lisbon village

A laid-back surf village along Portugal’s rugged coast gets a makeover. Once mainly frequented by Lisboetas looking to escape the city, the historic village of Ericeira has become the latest Portuguese seaside village to be recently discovered by foreigners who have come to the country in search of the best place to live. , working remotely or going on vacation.

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Before the pandemic, tourism in Portugal was steadily increasing, with more than 27 million visitors in 2019, according to Turismo de Portugal. Now, a whole new wave of Americans and others able to work from anywhere are moving to Portugal, taking advantage of its golden visa program and driving up real estate prices. A new digital nomad visa starting this month will give remote workers even more flexibility.

Located 45 minutes north of Lisbon, Ericeira, a fishing village with just over 12,000 inhabitants in 2021, resembles many seaside hamlets in Portugal: rocky cliffs, quiet bays, low whitewashed houses and a square main street with cobbled streets and walls scalloped with azulejos.

With eight kilometers of shoreline, Ericeira has long been a place where surfers find a variety of breaks suitable for all skill levels. In 2011, the destination itself had its big break. It has been named a World Surfing Reserve by Save the Waves, which aims to preserve beach destinations with particularly spectacular surf areas. What followed was a decade of content development that grew alongside the increase in surfers heading to the destination. It now hosts surfing competitions, including the Quiksilver Pro Portugal, a major competition on the pro circuit.

The village has become home to a handful of surf schools and camps, juice bars, yoga studios, and stores like Billabong, as well as oceanfront hostels for nomadic surfers. Residents and investors have turned local houses into long-term villas.

What it didn’t have, until now, were luxury places to stay. These days, everyone from Barack Obama and Richard Branson to Kendall Jenner is surfing. They want their long 10 days of hanging to end with a night out at a fancy hotel with luxury amenities. “People who surf today are like me: they have families, they have jobs, and they have money to invest in a great surf vacation,” said Gonçalo Menezes, Creative Art Director at Inspire Capital. , a Lisbon-based investment company that in June opened a luxury hotel in Ericeira. The hotel, Immerso, has 37 rooms spread across three discreetly storied buildings in a valley about a mile from the powerful waves that hit Coxos Beach and 2 kilometers from the heart of downtown Ericeira.

“I surfed Ericeira for a long time, and thought it had the potential to be the next Biarritz,” said Menezes, who used to live in Lisbon but moved to the village. Menezes says he recognized this opportunity to open Ericeira’s first five-star hotel because he saw how the demographics that make up the surf community have evolved over time. In places like France and the Maldives, he watched his fellow surfers book the most expensive hotels in the area. Immerso — with its avant-garde interiors, intimate spa, organic vegetable garden, and dining concepts consulted by chef Alexandre Silva of Lisbon’s Michelin-starred Loco — isn’t just about attracting surfers. This is for anyone who can appreciate nature and the outdoors.

Another hotel, Aethos Ericeira, opened on September 1, about 5 km north of Immerso, on a 130-foot-high limestone cliff, near the family beach of Calada. Benjamin Habbel, co-founder of Munich-based Aethos Hotels, said he and his partners originally sought to plant their flag in Lisbon, hoping to capitalize on the buzz that has surrounded the capital over the past decade. But the discovery of an almost finished and abandoned project in Ericeira changed their minds. “You have this property on a cliff with a 180 degree view of the ocean – that’s something you won’t really be allowed to build here anymore,” he says of the perch Aethos now calls home. .

Originally planned for a rehabilitation center in the village of Encarnação, the plan of the building was perfectly suited to a hotel. There were already rooms and common areas. Habbel said they just needed to do the hard work of fine-tuning everything to fit the specific plans they had for Aethos: a double-height lobby, 50 rooms, a heated saltwater pool, a steam room. , a yoga and meditation terrace, and an indoor-outdoor restaurant overseen by Afonso Blazquez, a Portuguese chef who honed his skills in the star-studded kitchens of Fortaleza do Guincho in Cascais and El Celler de Can Roca in Girona.

The long list of amenities is a major improvement over the more limited options offered at the city’s surf hostels. But Habbel says it’s exactly what the modern surfer was looking for, echoing Menezes’ earlier sentiments. “The surfing community is now attracting segments that may not have been part of this world before. What we have seen is that surfers are not just beach nomads traveling in Volkswagen vans,” adds Habbel.

Joana Andrade, Portugal’s first big wave surfer, is the hotel’s partner for surf lessons. They cost €56 ($55) for a three-hour class. “We certainly have the amenities, design and service that would put us in a more luxurious lifestyle category, but we liked the idea of ​​bringing together the diversity of the surfing community in one place,” Habbel said. about the hotel, done in a mashup of mid-century, art deco, and beach-chic design. “We have bunk rooms for surfers who might be on a budget up to larger suites with balconies that overlook the most incredible views.”

The opening of these two hotels adds a layer of high-end hospitality that this surf town has long lacked.

Their restaurant concepts have the potential to become destination restaurants. They join a growing group of high-quality outfits that have recently appeared in Ericeira and the surrounding area. Ūmmi, an organic, gluten-free hard kombucha outfit, was just founded here. 5 e Meio is a new tavern that brews craft beer with a unique Portuguese flavor. There’s Indigo, a beachside hangout that’s become the go-to spot for sunset cocktails. And Terço do Meio is a vegan sourdough bakery.

Most of them would have been unknown in Ericeira five years ago. So while these hotel openings might speed up travel, the direction Ericeira was slowly heading was written in the sand almost as soon as this World Surfing Reserve designation was announced. And we are already talking about other developments to come. With each new opening, Menezes says, “Ericeira writes a new story.”

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