The New York Times is accepting submissions for a series they are running in their Travel Section, entitled Your Travel Misadventures. Seeing this, I immediately started sifting through my mental archives of setbacks and tribulations, recounting the times I’ve fallen into harm’s way, either by chance or by my own hand. I have found that a Travel Mishap can add a shot of adrenaline to your experience; when those well-laid plans go awry, the real fun begins! My ‘near miss’ stories have proven to be the best fodder and the subject of many a Lulu book.
Here is one of my personal Faves:
When I lived in Germany, my sister and I would plan annual summer ‘Euro-vacations.’ We would pick a locale, make the arrangements online, and agree to meet there. Having decided our next meet-up would be in Portugal, I scoured the Web for lodging options. After very little effort, found a fantastic beachfront apartment online, located in Portugal’s Algarve region, the gorgeous seaside village of Praia da Luz. According to their website the complex was located in the heart of the beachfront pedestrian zone, with an unobstructed beach and ocean view. We took a chance and booked it for 2 weeks.
It was Heaven! The split-level apartments were built into a slope – the main living area boasted huge European shutter style windows that opened right onto the beach. We spent our afternoons here, partaking in the sun and fun from the shady vantage point of our little casinha. We became familiar with the routines of the beach regulars, and I enjoyed sketching them from that big window.
The bedrooms were down a flight of stairs, on street level, with a private adjoining courtyard. At night, we would sit outside under blankets, drinking Port into the wee hours of the morning.
In an effort to stave off our impending vacation coma, we booked a Grotto Tour leaving from the nearby town of Lagos. Bom Dia Boat Trips is a small tour company that offers a wide array of nautical tours of the Algarve region. This family-owned business has been in operation since 1980; they take great pride in their environmentally friendly and historically faithful fleet of Portuguese tall ships.
Our Schooner set sail from Marina de Lagos en route to Ponta da Piedade, a promontory of caves, grottos, and sea arches, located 2 km (1.2 mi) from Lagos on the Costa d’Oiro. We departed through the marina’s narrow channel and headed west toward the peninsula. As we hit open water, we saw two windjammers racing in the distance. They were heading in our direction, but still far from us, so as not to be a cause for concern. We assumed they would catch sight of our little ship meandering along the coast and dispense with the horseplay. They drew nearer and showed no sign of slowing down or changing course. As the distance closed in it became clear that if someone did not alter their course we would be broadsided by at least one of these vessels.
Those few seconds prior to the collision felt unreal, like when you are having a nightmare and trying to will your self awake. Facing out on the port side, my sister and I were sitting directly at the point of impact. Seconds before the collision, and without consulting one another, my sister and I dropped our bags and cameras, rolled under the mainmast and landed on the starboard side, our fall broken by nonplussed fellow passengers. One of the windjammers slammed into our port side, causing a massive jolt and an earsplitting “CRACK!” Obscenities and insults from both parties fouled the air. Miraculously, no one was injured, and the damage to our ship was negligible. The Captain and crew appeared to be bracing themselves for a mutinous tirade from the passengers, but that never came. The hearty mix of Germans, Brits, and Americans unanimously elected to continue with the tour!
When we reached Ponta da Piedade, we dropped anchor and climbed into smaller boats to explore the grottos. Our “near-death” experience created a special camaraderie amongst the passengers and crew and made for a sensational afternoon! To commemorate the day I bought their BomDia sweatshirt for 25 Euros.
I still wear that sweatshirt! And whenever I recount our visit to Portugal, it is the first story that comes to mind. That…and the wine.
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