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Our Magical Location for Lockdown

This is from the intial lockdown in 2020 - at the very start of the pandemic... had no idea that it would carry on as long as it has. Was just thumbing through photos and remembered that I had never actually published this. There were just too many good photos to choose from during this little period in our lives - but finally decided that I needed to just hit publish.

When March 1st rolled around - we were moving into the home that was meant to be our long-term place in the Algarve, or at least for the coming year. It was in the little village of Alvor, where we had spent a romantic night on our first ever trip to Portugal. The village itself was lovely, but we were a bit on the outskirts, and even worse - we were a good 45 minutes from where we had spent the last month putting down roots. While our kids were used to sitting in the car, I didn't want to have to make that drive each week to meet up weekly playdates - but I was also thriving off of the friendships that I was starting to make, and the routine these playgroups brought to our week. Tommy was originally supposed to be based in a town about 20 minutes from Alvor, but it seemed that he would instead be working out of Albufeira indefinitely - and his daily commute of 45 minutes each way meant he spent an extra 90 minutes away from us.

Nevertheless, we were happy to have found something within our budget, near beaches, room to explore outside, and in a village we knew we liked. It also put our base closer to the Western Algarve, which is where our favorite little towns are. We figured that in time, I would also find more mothers nearby, play groups, and local hangs for families - but on the day we moved in, I was still lacking enthusiasm for the place. The apartment met all of our needs, but still felt like it wasn't meant for me. Maybe I was being picky, but I even said to a friend, 'its hard for me to imagine celebrating holidays here with my family'... it just didn't feel right. Little did I know that it wasn't meant for the holiday season, or long term at all. We had no idea that Tommy's long commute would only last for 2 weeks, and that by June we would even be resettled in Lisbon...

Instead, this apartment was seriously the best place that we could be for the lockdown that was just about to take place. Usually the Algarve would start its tourist season from April 1st, and people would begin descending on the area until early fall. We were just 600 meters away from a lovely local beach, and a short drive from many others. Already when we moved in, the local beach was filling up on the weekend, and we were nervous to see what would become of our area as the season started - but it never happened... instead it was the opposite. The beach bars closed down a few weeks later, the parking lots were closed to cars, and besides our little daily walks to get some energy out, we were on stay at home orders.

We had several hotels around us that were completely shut - they gave us the feeling as if walking through the "I am Legend" movie set, with free range of their parking lots and lifeless facilities. It left us with only one good option for walks outside - and that was beachside. We started watching the tides - because at low tide we could walk farther east along the shore. Sometimes we made it out in the day, tuckering the kids out before lunch, and giving us a good dose of vitamin D. Somtimes we only made it out for our early evening/sunset walks. We never brought beach toys with us, or towels - just usually a spare diaper for each babe. We would take our shoes off and leave them at the end of the boardwalk, and take advantage of setting our toes loose in the sand for the next hour.

What amazed me was watching the patterns of the ocean - and at some point I had really wished that I had started documenting the changes we saw each day. Of course there were the changing tides, but what really amazed me was what was scattered on the beach when we had our walks. Some days the beach was filled with shells, other days it was empty - some days I saw a particular type of shell, or rather broken pieces of a particular shell up and down the beach, then I wouldn't see the same type again for weeks. There were days that the beach was full of algae and seaweed, or following a storm we even found a washed up carcas of a whale one day. When we were there at low tide, we could find the crabs who lived in the rocks along the coast. At high tide, we were always surprised at just how high up it came - completely erasing the sand shelf that we had spent the previous day sliding down.

We watched Francesco ride his balance bike on every part of that boardwalk - the entire length of Alvor. We passed the same handful of people each day, giving each other friendly knods, or a wave, but politely keeping all social distance. We picked wildflowers along the road on our walks down and back, and filled little vases when we got home. We walked to even more isolated corners of the beach, and found larger shells.

If you have been a beach dweller, then these things must be nothing new to you - but as it was my first time to watch the daily cycles of the beach, I was amazed by the changes that slowly took place each day. It was even easier to observe these changes because there were so few people visiting the beach inbetween our daily walks. There was no one to interfere with nature's way on the beach, other than the few locals we also saw out walking. We had so much space to observe... Did the shells that arrived each day correlate with the moon, the tide, the time of month? Did changes correlate merely with the weather? I felt like I had so many questions and curiosities that crept in during those months and I was eager to see what the beach had waiting for us each visit.

I cannot say that it was not a hard time - because it absoultely was. We were in a new place, in a new country - while we brought a lot of things with us, there was alot we had left behind that would help make our places feel like home - and I was defintely wishing I had brought more of my crafting stockpile along to keep the kids busy with little art projects. We didnt know where to find particular things in the shops around us - there is no Amazon Portugal, and online shopping in general is not too popular. Even once the lockdowns lifted, we had no leads on a babysitter who would come to relieve us for an evening. We wanted to plan visits from friends, but when would flights resume? Even the people we had begun to build relationships with wre 45 minutes away, and it left us feeling at the drawing board again. But I am so so thankful we had the beach!

As the time came closer for us to actually move on again to Lisbon, I was afraid to leave our beach haven... I already knew I would miss this routine of ours. But by mid-May the beaches began to see more and more people coming for some beach play and evening walks. Already the peace was being disturbed, and I was quickly reminded that the beach would not be the same as it was for those months whether we stayed or not. In fact, I imagine it will be hard to recreate such a serene time at any beach again in my life. I am so thankful for the collection of memories, of endless photos of the rocks and sunsets, and of the shoebox full of seashells I have hidden away - they will always be my treasures from such a surreal time in our lives.

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