Archive for the ‘Portugal’ Category

Update from Porto

In Au Pair, Portugal on October 30, 2011 at 7:11 am

My goodness I’ve slacked in the blog writing department lately. Can’t promise this one will be much of a creative masterpiece, not that my other posts are, but it will certainly be an update since I’ve got the time while in Porto, on my way back to Paris.

First of all, luckily for me, though not bouncing around from place to place, living in Europe still offers the convenience of quick and cheap travel. I headed over to London at the beginning of October to celebrate my best friend, Kelsey’s, birthday. Loads of fun with her, her loving boyfriend and a bunch of other friends, the majority of who all lived in Paris last year.

This week, I had the fabulous opportunity to head back to Portugal to visit some beloved friends from my previous travel adventures. I volunteered on their farm back in March, and they’re now accepting yoga students for retreat. I had the privilege of studying with Vonny for the week: such an enjoyable and enlightening experience. Also, as typically goes with retreats, I had lots of time to reflect and write. Read the rest of this entry »

Catch-up #1 – Lisbon

In Photo, Portugal, Travel 2011 on April 1, 2011 at 3:54 am

My goodness I have been a bit slack lately! So as not overwhelm in one gigantic post, I think I’ll break it up bit by bit with the things you missed.

Starting with my brief trip back in Lisbon.

After leaving Stones and Roses, the Winter family and the new WWOOFers,
Julie and Damien (check out their Morocco pictures here, text is still coming but their shots are great!) you may say I was a little blue. Actually quite a bit blue, to be honest. For those of you who understand this analogy: think Montreat Blues, but on crack.

See, in addition to leaving such a comforting and nurturing environment, my first few days back in Lisbon were really my first few days as a truly solo traveller. Thus far, I’d had the comfort of friends all along the way.

I did alright, but I must admit, I’m still getting used to being on my own more often than not:

Down-sides: I’m a talker (duh), which means I’m developing a habit of talking to myself. It’s hard to take pictures of yourself all the time, without feeling a bit weird. When something is awesome or awful or really anything worth sharing, there’s no one to share it with straight away.

Up-sides: Every trip has it’s awkward/embarrassing moments, which, since I’m on my own, I get to share at my own discretion. I can make my own plan as I go. Being on my own means I meet people much more easily. And not to be too Eat, Pray, Love about it, but traveling on my own is teaching me quite a bit about myself and where I am in my life right now.

Anyway, we’ve had enough of my reflective attitude lately – I know if I feel like I’m droning on, you certainly must be sick of it!

So, back to the good bits. Arriving in Lisbon, a bit tired, sad and dusty, I must admit I was a bit of a hermit on my first evening. I didn’t feel too bad about it: washed a few clothes, did a bit of Morocco planning, edited a few pictures and attempted a good night’s rest (snoring boy on the top bunk, I still don’t forgive you for robbing me of my sleep). Read the rest of this entry »

Catch-up #2 – Lagos

In Photo, Portugal, Travel 2011 on April 1, 2011 at 2:20 am

Remember when you used to count down to Spring Break (TYTO!) and get all excited about going to Gulf Shores for the week and then when you got there it was like 50 degrees and cloudy?

Welcome to my 4 days in Lagos, except instead of MTVs Spring Break, I used iTunes and the thank god good Internet connection to rent Out of Africa.

Now, by no means was I after SB ’11, but I had looked forward to a few days on the Mediterranean beach. I miss the beach and really just wanted to brush up on my tan while tucking into a good book.

No fear, though, Lagos was not a total loss.

It is a cute little town on the edge of the country in the Algarve. First of all the drive (on bus) from Lisbon is really pretty. It is still amazing to me how different Portugal looks from one region to another: piney mountains lined with old terraces in the middle, with metropolitan coastal cities on the east, and then crystal blue Mediterranean coast on the south. Read the rest of this entry »

Soaking and Sharing a Little at a Time

In Portugal, Travel 2011 on March 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

There are things in this world that just aren’t meant to be shared. It doesn’t take a lot to figure out what they are. They’re those things that no matter how hard you try you simply can’t capture them in a picture or find the words to describe them.

Leaving Stones & Roses, tears in my eyes, my bus drove through the hills of central Portugal and under the most perfect rainbow . . . Perfect not only because of it’s impeccable timing but because I think it’s the first rainbow I’ve ever seen where I swear I could have walked from beginning to end if I wanted to. A rainbow: a promise of love and hope.

Over the past few days, my journey has had a bit of emotional turmoil – to be expected spending a year on my own. Most of it I haven’t really decided if I’m ready to share; to be honest, I’m not sure I could share, even if I tried. Feelings: another one of those indescribable things, difficult to capture with words.

But now, now I’m sitting in Lagos, on the beach, under a vast blue sky, stretching to where it meets the Mediterranean. An image that living in
Sydney made a comfort, another one of those vistas that pushes you to stretch out your arms and take a deep breath, hoping that maybe by making yourself big enough, you’ll be able to soak in just a little more, another one of those vistas that you just can’t capture in a picture.

Egészségedre to Peter – 19 March

In Photo, Portugal, Travel 2011, WWOOF on March 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Another week has come to an end, and with a fishing trip to the river, a few drinks at Laurinda’s, and many more drinks at home, we bid Peter the, at the time very drunken, Hungarian farewell. Such a solid individual I’m glad to have known and hope to stay in touch with, at least a bit.

Vonny commented that when people leave this place, they also tend to leave a bit behind – a presence that remains here as well as physical reminders of what they accomplished, be it a pile of pine trunks to line the vegetable gardens or a row of trees that will eventually be Andrew’s valiant hedge.

I’ve only got a few days left before I myself am on my way. It’s a comforting thought to know that even though I’ll leave, a bit of me will stay behind.

Oh, and by the way “Egészségedre” in the title, is the Hungarian word for “Cheers”. Read the rest of this entry »

Stop, Breathe – 14 March

In Photo, Portugal, Travel 2011, WWOOF on March 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I have officially been traveling (for lack of a better word at this time) for one month.

Though I agree with the sentiment that it shouldn’t be necessary to retreat from everyday life in order to commune with yourself and reflect on different ideas and beliefs, I do think that it occasionally helps the process to spend some time of your own, leaning back toward your basic instincts and ways of life as a way to grasp your most basic needs, wants, beliefs, ideas, and all the other things that make you you.

To say that I have retreated from my everyday life is becoming more and more of an understatement.

Deciding to leave Australia, as I have probably mentioned before, was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my so far short life – a decision that meant giving up the first lifestyle that I had built all for myself: my job, my apartment, my bank accounts, my Sydney restaurants and days at beaches, my nights at the Golden Sheaf and Sunday brunches at Baffi and Mo’s. Leaving my friends, my family there was even harder – knowing I will see them again, but not knowing when. My first voyage into this post-college adult life – calling it that but not really knowing what that means – cut abruptly short by my own hand.

Admittedly, everything since then has moved quickly. The holiday season whipped past, starting with a bit of jet lag and ending as each of my friends headed back to work – a friendly reminder that I was unemployed. January was consumed by a bit of work with a few friends and faded into February, with my birthday and finally my departure. Read the rest of this entry »

Rainy Days – 14 March

In Portugal, Travel 2011, WWOOF on March 19, 2011 at 10:31 am

In a place with a dry climate where there is always something to be done, a rainy day can be quite a blessing – not only a time for the surrounding environment to renew itself, but a time to turn your attention to tasks often deserted for sunny, hardworking days outside.

Looking at this beautiful house, it is impossible not to wonder how Vonny and Andrew manage it all with the smile and sense of calm that seems to surround them both. I know they are both so thankful to have Vonny’s mother Arlene nearby for both her good company and the help she is able to give them, and I like to think that we as the faithful WWOOFers are doing our part and earning our keep, at least while we’re here.

That being said, I know from my own parents and from my own personal experience that moving is always an ordeal of unpacking and decorating and refurbishing. This family not only moved, but they restored and built their houses with their own hands, only moving into this main house a year ago. The work that it takes to do that, coupled with the constant work that the surrounding farm and forest, means that there are little things here and there laying on their minds – the little every day tasks that help to make a house a home. Read the rest of this entry »

Week’s End – 12-13 March

In Photo, Portugal, Travel 2011, WWOOF on March 14, 2011 at 2:23 am

Even in a place where we rely on our own hard work to provide, we enjoy the weekend, tucking into a Friday night around a table with wine, Aquardente, the wicked Portuguese spirit made from a local fruit, and a bottle of port – all to accompany Arlene’s most recent masterpiece from the kitchen.

We even crowd comfortably into the living room to watch a film before heading to bed for some well-earned sleep, only to wake the next morning ready to enjoy the environment and opportunities that will greet us.

Eager to introduce us to the land around us, Andrew led us on an adventure up painters path, one of the roads wrapping around their valley. With his guidance and the company of Eloise and Josh, Peter and I gained a bit of perspective on our temporary home and the mysterious history it holds.

Climbing over terraces built with stone walls from centuries ago and crossing rivers to find ancient houses in ruins, Andrew tells us of generations of families who lay claim to the land. Most of them far from here now, some of them still living in the village.

In the afternoon we visit the village to meet Laurinda, the woman who owns the local cafe and shop, and the woman who Andrew claims can get you anything you could possibly need. This is the woman who sat in her house during a forest fire, debilitated by a broken leg, accepting the possibility of death only to have the fire avoid her entirely – the woman who in the past year has lost both her husband and her mother, both 20 years her senior. The woman who, as Andrew says, seems to exist on both sides of the thin veil between life and death. Read the rest of this entry »

Tis a Gift to be Simple – 10-11 March 2011

In Portugal, Travel 2011, WWOOF on March 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Waking up in the guest room at Stone and Roses starts with the welcome sounds of Eloise and Josh shuffling about on the top floor, hurrying to get ready for school and out the door before the bus comes.

Out the window of my door, I look over the yoga patio to the mountains across the valley, marred only by a few roads and terraces from another age. The shower next door is a tempting warm start to the cold morning but something for later, a treat earned after a productive days work. Sounds of breakfast with English tea, regularly supplied by grandparents still in England, drift up to me from the lower level of the main house; and from the window in the living room, music fills the air. This morning it’s a light acoustic version of Here Comes the Sun, the cheerful Beatles tune that matches Vonny’s desired mood for this particular morning. She is already in her gardens, dancing lightly as she ties knots to hold posts that will support her growing vegetables.

After filling our tummies with cereal, bread, cheese and a morning cup of tea, Vonny directs us all to our tasks for the day. Some days the phases of the moon bring a good environment for digging down into the soil to prepare it for planting, a task that brings comfort in the way my hands move, getting covered in the dark soil that has been carefully nurtured to the nutrient rich earth that will bring carrots, beet root and potatoes. On other days, it is a day full of energy, a day to be high on the mountain to balance our time spent in the dirt. I spend this time with Peter, a volunteer from Hungary, stripping branches from pine trees that have been cut down. The slow process of deforestation will protect this haven from the threat of forest fires as well as supply wood for fires, mulch and borders in the vegetable gardens. Read the rest of this entry »

London to Lisbon to Stone and Roses – 9 March 2011

In Photo, Portugal, Travel 2011 on March 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Just a note before I share the next few entries: I’m happily in the middle of Portugal, working and staying at Stones and Roses at Moses. Limited internet, I’m writing as I go, probably wont be able to post for you to see except for on weekends. So, here are a few that I’ve stockpiled, dates at the top.

Whirlwind of a day, and hard to believe that on 24 hours ago I was walking out of a West End theatre. Now I’m tucking myself into bed, excited to see what my surroundings look like in daylight.

After a very early morning flight, which had the happy little extra umph due to a free upgrade to business class (another point for London), I arrive in Lisbon and made my way to the city via public transport.

Despite the obvious language barrier, I didn’t have any troubles finding the hostel that I will be staying at near the end of March. They were so nice, letting my leave my bag in their store room so that I could explore Lisbon without the burden of my backpack.

I must admit, I took it quite easy. I’ve spent most of my trip so far jaunting from place to place, taking in icons while sipping tea in between. So I was more than happy to simply stroll down to the harbor, find a spot in the sun and sit.

Lisbon is absolutely beautiful; the picture of what you would expect – white buildings with red roofs, built into the side of the hills and cliffs, with white stone sidewalks and streets – a place I can’t wait to explore when I’m back here in a couple weeks.

But now, now I’m in the middle of Portugal, the nearest city a few hours away.

I took the bus from Lisbon to Oleiros where, to my relief, I was welcomed by two smiling faces of Andrew and Vonny, the leaders of the beautiful household at Stone and Roses at Moses. Read the rest of this entry »