Lawyer gal spreading her apolitical wings in Canberra. Blogger. Traveller. Federer tragic.
Living deep and sucking out all the marrow of life.
(Traveling has come to an end already, but for the sake of completeness, here are some final backdated entries to cover what happened in January and February.)
When I arrived in Porto, it appeared that everyone else was there for the same reason as I was: RyanAir.
The presence of the airline in Portugal has made Porto one of the cheapest cities in the country to fly in and out of from Belgium, so I guess I have RyanAir to thank for bringing me to a city I probably would not have visited otherwise.
It was a Tuesday morning when my train pulled into the main station in the city - one of the more beautiful train stations I’ve seen in my life time - and the entire town seemed to be swarmed by seagulls, crying softly over the river.
I spent the next day and a half climbing up and down the narrow, hilly streets of the city, marvelling at the blue and white ceramic tiling that seems to cover the city on every corner you turn (one of the more curious connections between Portuguese and Chinese culture), and of course, drinking port on the banks of the river Douro.
It amazed me that we were only 3 hours by train from Lisbon, but the culture and vibe of the place felt so different, and yet marvellous and underrated in every way.
Told you the train station was beautiful.
Hills, hills and more hills…
Seagulls, masses and masses of them, singing, crying, flying in the evening sun. It was beautiful.
Strangely enough, I don’t have as many photos from Lisbon. Not that it wasn’t a photogenic city - quite the opposite: there’s something about the combination of blue skies, shiny (shiny!) pavements and hilly topography that lends itself well to being captured on camera.
But perhaps because I was a little over my own excessive photowhoring towards the tail-end of my month away from Belgium; perhaps because Lisbon marked some farewells to my travel buddies as they head off back to the UK, leaving me with a lot of “me time”; or perhaps because it was simply that kind of a city, I spent most of my time in Lisbon just aimlessly chillin’.
Wandering around, navigating my way through the sales crowds, drinking excessive amounts of coffee and wine, eating giant copper pots of miscellaneous seafood …
In between this wander-eat-shop routine, I did a lot of thinking, about this trip coming to an end, about the people I met, about what it has all meant - if anything. But more on that another day.
As far as my list of ‘Top Cities to Chill’ goes, you can do a lot worse than fine weather, great coffee, cheap wine and a city (and country) full of warm, generous people.
Monastery of Jeronimos (below).
Let the record show that I did also do some hardcore touristin’ in Lisbon. Although admittedly I was mostly motivated to go to Belem because of its proximity to the GREATEST TARTS OF ALL TIME.
Tarts of excellence.
Manueline architecture inside the monastery.
Tower of Belem
Henry and his navigator minions …
One afternoon, I walked through the Alfama all the way up to the Castle São Jorge to watch the sunset - a surprisingly un-gentrified and residential part of town, to the point where I felt like I was inadvertently peering into people’s living rooms and bedrooms when the streets got too narrow.
But what views once you emerge from the labyrinth …
Sunset from the castle.
And still West we headed, through the Algarve, passing by Lagos, driving through the tiny town of Sagres, all the way to Cape St Vincent, the most Southwestern point of Europe.
Henry “the Navigator” (who incidentally was never a navigator) called it “the end of the world”. It was once thought that if you sailed too far from the coast, you eventually fall off the edges of the earth.
Yet many centuries ago, men left the safety of these shores and headed for the Great Unknown. In doing so, they started the Age of Discoveries, which both brought the world together and tore it apart.
Still, it must’ve taken courage leave, for Cape St Vincent is a truly desolate place: cold, windy, bare, with nothing but red cliff faces and the deafening sound of waves crashing against them.
Many centuries later, we headed to Cape St Vincent to watch the sun set over the Old World (given the economic and political outlook these days - in more ways than one).
We got there 10 minutes before sunset. There were plenty of people standing around already, waiting to see a phenomenon that happens on a daily basis. The lighthouse - strongest in Europe - was open. I wondered if the lighthouse keeper was in there, waiting just like us for the right moment to turn it on.
And so we stood on the cliffs, facing West, watching the sun inch slowly towards the horizon, and the colour of the sky burn and darken like embers. The light in the lighthouse had begun to spin, and one by one, we got back in our cars and buses and drove away, the lighthouse flickering in our rear view windows.
Lagos in the afternoon sun
I’m going to take a guess and say this is a statue of Henry the Navigator … or some poet. It’s always a navigator or a poet in Portugal.
Grilled salmon. Delicious, but unfortunately a bitch to eat.
Reminds me of Australia …
Crystal clear waters, the finest of sand, giant sedimentary rock formations, blue skies, warm sunny days and chilly, windy nights.
Southern Portugal or Coastal Victoria? YOU DECIDE.
We pulled into Albufeira, in the Algarve region of Portugal, shortly after New Years. The grand Christmas/New Years trip was winding down to its last leg, and we were treading that fine line beween exhaustion and exhilaration.
I typically don’t take “beach holidays” when I travel overseas because - well, coming from Australia - if I have to fly anywhere between 10 to 24 hours to reach a beach, it better be a pretty fucking good beach.
But 5 months away from home had me missing the sound of waves crashing against the shore. And luckily, in Albufeira, our apartment was situated right on a quiet stretch of the beach, which we had mostly to ourselves. For a week, we read novels, soaked in the sun, ate Portuguese tarts by the dozen, and took day trips in the surrounding areas.
It occurred to me that I was ever so far from home, and yet everything there, the sights, the sounds and the smell of the ocean reminded me of home, of having been here too many times before.
Welcome intruder on “our” beach.
Unwelcome intruder on our beach!
Portugal is like the hilliest country ever. Every town and city we visited involved a lot of climbing and descending.
I WISH MY LEGS WERE THIS LONG (and don’t look like sponge fingers).
Sunsetting over Albufeira.
The kitty/mini tiger I made friends with walking back to the apartment one evening.
Albufeira at sunset.