I wake up to the horn of the vintage train. It’s 9:30 a.m. and the first train of the day rambles along the rails connecting the string of beaches making up Costa da Caparica. As it passes by, our tiny house shakes slightly. I wasn’t expecting that! In the blink of an eye, the house is still again except for the sound of sleep all around me.
I get up and wander to a window at the front of the house facing the beach. It is completely dark inside except for the few rays of daylight peeking in through the imperfect wooden walls. I am eager to see what is happening on the beach and I open up a window and the shutters. Instantly, I am blinded by the bright summer sun as it pores in through the open window. As my eyes adjust I start to hear the rhythmic sound of Portuguese nearby.
I look out the window and I see pre-schoolers sprawled out across the sand. They are wearing matching red sun hats and their teachers are busy applying sunscreen. Their voices rise and fall with chatter, laughter, and screams. I watch the spectacle unfold in front of me. Snack is next; and, soon they all get up and wander to the shore for some fun in the water.
How unexpected and sweet it is to wake up to this sight of children spending the day at the beach! I wonder what it must be like to take a field trip to the sea as a child? We never lived next to a coastal town so I don’t know how this would feel. I watch for a few minutes more and I realize that I think it would feel a lot like what I am feeling now – excited to spend time at the beach with my family and my friends.
Everyone is fast asleep so I head out for a coffee at the nearby restaurant. This place is packed as well, but, not with school-aged children. Instead, the restaurant is packed with seniors! They have taken up the majority of the tables and chairs and they too are sporting matching hats. Much to my surprise, the similarities don’t end there. Like the kids, these friends are chatting away, applying sunscreen, and enjoying a snack before their fun in the water!
I suddenly remember a conversation last night with the owner of the restaurant. At the end of our meal, she said to us very seriously, “Do not be afraid! They are lots of old people and lots of kids in the morning. Sometimes, tourists are scared.” We laughed but we did not understand what she meant when she shared this with us.
It all makes sense now as I look out at everyone around me. We might be surrounded but I’m not afraid. I’m a little bit in love with this place. Costa da Caparica is pulsing with life that we don’t typically encounter back home in the Midwest. What I’m seeing around me is a reminder, a sharp reminder, that living in the moment and sharing experiences is one of the most important things in life.
Dorothy Hoffman is the creator of the travel blog, Squirts and Seniors. She is a Gen X-er who writes about traveling at home and abroad with her young son and aging parents.