costa nova: you ran out of money, lucas ran out of breath, and we ran into annabelle

16 Oct

costa nova: the land of no money but lots of memories!

Portugal is incredible. You know what’s really incredible? Credit cards. You know what doesn’t always go hand-in-hand? Portugal and credit cards.


The day after Fernando and Carla’s beautiful family party, we got to the beach. What. A. Beach.  After swimming, suntanning and thanking whatever higher power we believe in (I’m still feeling this one out), we went for a walk and found ourselves sitting on a patio munching on some cheap eats. It was cheap! What’s the worry? They will take credit card. No? Ah, shoot, it’s all good, the ATM is attached to the restaurant we are eating at. Oh wait, what do you mean there is “no money left” in the ATM? Ah, right, there’s one down three blocks. Ok, good. Wait, excuse me? That one is empty too? Uh, how does that happen? All the money is just gone? Ok, ok, can you tell me where the next ATM is…? FOURTY MINUTE WALK. OUT. OF. TOWN?

This was at this point in the conversation that Lucas was having with a server that people, English speaking tourists, were starting to listen. This might be because they just happen to notice us or, oh, I don’t know, because Lucas was visibly and audibly annoyed. It happens. One sweet, younger couple offered to “lend us the money” to pay our bill. How would the logistics of that even work? We had to catch the bus back to where we came from whether we owed him and his honey or the restaurant, the money. We politely said “no thank you” like good little Canadians and I started to hide my total embarrassment behind a polite smile. Was I embarrassed of us? I don’t think so, we are sort of a crazy couple in public to begin with; we dance, we’re loud, we love out loud. I think I wasn’t comfortable with the language barrier we were facing and I do want people to know that we plan on paying for our food. I’m a planner. I have post-its. I plan. A-type. What?

Looking at the time we know that we 22 minutes until the last bus leaves Casa Nova to where we are staying. After discussing our various options (Hey! what a great place for our first dine-n-dash!), we speak to the people running the restaurant and they allowed us to leave  and go to the next ATM that might or might not have money and come back with the cash. Here is what happened:

We walked very quickly to the bus stop where we would need to catch our bus and I held the bags we had brought with us for the beach. Lucas then started running. And I mean running. He is gone in seconds and I can’t see him. I sit there basking in the sun trying not to look at my watch and concentrate on this woman who is standing at the pay phone with beautiful, curly hair and a sweet looking chocolate lab. Ah, I can’t handle it any longer! What does the watch say? Oh fuck. Ok, 15 minutes isn’t bad. He”ll be back.


So I started into a full sprint knowing that I only had 22 minutes which means I had 10 min to get to an ATM, 2 to get money out, and 10 to get back and that’s not even allowing  time to pay for the bill but that’s something I would worry about later by convincing the bus driver to wait for us while I pay the bill.

It is at this point that I realize that I’m grossly out of shape. I have been running for 30 seconds.

I am also realizing that flip flops are not an ideal choice for running shoes.

I stop, take off the flip flops and proceed to start running as fast as I can on the grass. What seems like eternity goes by. It’s been 3 minutes. I’m exhausted, my feet are sore, and I am now realizing that even if I were Ben Johnson I wouldn’t make this run. Plan B. I start throwing my thumb out while running in a full sprint. I am actually running along the side of the high way, no longer on the grass, while cars honk at me in aggravation. I’m a leaky, sweaty mess and no one is pulling over. Watch check: 15 minutes.

While sprinting, I contemplate that it is time to turn around, give up, and stiff the waiter. Fuck karma. Fuck the waiter. Then I think, that won’t fly, Tana is all about Karma. Time for plan C. That’s when I see a pair of hazard lights, a sweet Audi wagon, and a pretty, curvy Portuguese woman frantically waving at me to come to her car, “Hurry up and get in; we’re on the highway!” I learn that her name is Annabelle.

My first worlds are “I’m soaked in sweat. Should I get in the back?” Annabelle laughs, and says no, get in. I’m clearly going to like this woman. Over the next two minutes, she communicates that there are not enough nice Portuguese people and assumed that since I was running at such a frantic pace, I must be in need of something. I tell her the situation and that my girlfriend is waiting for me. She asked how much time we have left and off she goes at breakneck speed towards the nearest bank.

Time check: 13 minutes.

We arrived at the bank. I run across the street, almost getting run over excited that the mission might actually happen only to find that I need a bank card from that institution to get into the bank.

I look around, the streets are empty. Annabelle now gets out of her car and asked “What’s the problem Lucas?? I told her. “Ah fuck,” she says “we’ll get this.”

Between the two of us, we verbally harass the next 10 people who passed by, frantically asking in a combination is English, Portuguese and Spanish, if they are members of this bank and will they let us in?

A woman, who was more stunned than agreeable, hesitantly opens the door for us with her bank card and pretty much runs away once she does.

In and out money is had. Back in the car and off we race. Five to go.

While Annabelle is driving towards Tana, she explains her story of her very recent divorce, her lovely three children and her longing to travel. I explain where we are off to and how we have met such amazing Portuguese people not to be outdone by our host Fernando and Carla, she offers to drive us to their home.


Ok, we will have to just swallow this one and take a cab. It will be expensive but we are screwe…. why is Lucas in that car? With a Portuguese lady? Slowly waving to me? He just passed me. Am I missing something?

Alright. That was Lucas. He must have gotten a ride back to the restaurant. We might even make it ba… and there they are again.

“Get in! Hurry!”

I picked up our bags and I ran to the car. I would normally think this was much stranger than I did in this moment, but this has Lucas written all over it. I hear Annabelle as I run to the car, “You are indeed a lucky man.” This tells me that he wasn’t just picked up; they have been talking for a while.  I say hello and Lucas does the introductions the same way he did when I met his oldest friends.

I smile. “Annabelle, you must be sent from heaven because if you hadn’t picked him up, our day would look very, very different.” Listening to Annabelle, I too learned about her recent divorce, her new love, her children, her garden and her kittens. She found her kittens in the wild and brought them into her home. She said “I found my kittens the same way I found you.” I thought that was the best sentence I have ever heard. I also learned of the faith she has in God which is why she picked Lucas up. “God trusted people, so I do too.”

Annabelle drove us back to the place we were staying, got out to share hugs and good-byes and went on her way. I hope she realizes what a difference in our day she made.

“I found you the same way I found my kittens.” Cutest. sentence. ever. I adore you, Annabelle.


3 Responses to “costa nova: you ran out of money, lucas ran out of breath, and we ran into annabelle”

  1. ddcleve October 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    And it doesn’t get any better than that. What a lovely story about two beautiful people in a strange village meeting an angel….wait this could be a fairy tale and I need to write it into a children’s book.

    • lutanatravel October 16, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

      You bet your sweet mother-in-love, busy woman’s salad that there’s going to be childrens’ books written after this year! ❤

  2. Rocky October 16, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    Great story, scary,funny,wonderful, restorative of human spirit & humanity love ya both.

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