Wondering what I’ve been up to the past three months? Well, I decided to take a little blogging break. I had to take some time for myself and process everything that has happened. If you’ve read my last article ‘Cycle of Life’, I hope you understand why. I needed time to mourn, recover and heal from the harshness of life.
Experiencing sickness and death so close gave me a new perspective in life. It made me reflect on my past goals and set new ones. So I decided to make a bucket list, have you ever heard of it? Let me explain, it’s a list of things you want to do before breathing your last breath here on earth! Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson portray this beautifully in the movie ‘The Bucket List’ (2007). Personally, I’ve always wanted to do an ‘Eat, Pray & Love’ trip. Have you ever seen the movie featuring Julia Roberts? If not, it’s a must see movie on Netflix! It is such an inspiring movie about the journey towards: self-love, experiencing true love and enjoying life in the mean time!
At the age of 37, I am very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish up to this moment. Still, I can’t help but feel a certain void when I see my family and friends settling down. I am sincerely happy for them but sometimes it saddens my heart that I haven’t experienced pure love and the joy of motherhood yet. At the same time, I immensely enjoy the emancipated side of the coin! I have been so busy lately that I haven’t been writing my ‘spoken word poetry’. I would search for new inspiration to write, but all these emotions of life just made me want to escape: from all the sadness, from all the madness, from all the daily busyness and just find inner peace!
Preparation – In the summer of 2019, I decided to plan an adventurous city trip in the autumn vacation. I’ve travelled to various continents with numerous different people, but never alone! This was one of my greatest challenges as I am a social animal. How does one start planning such a trip? I started off by browsing through my feed on Facebook and Instagram and stumbled across this cute city named Porto in Portugal. I’ve always been curious about the language and culture in this country. I did some research and discovered that it’s a city full of history, architecture and street art. Exactly the perfect ingredients I needed for a little European getaway!
Departure – While being abroad, I usually stay in luxurious hotels but this time I wanted to try a cosy apartment. So, I found this adorable and affordable flat at ‘Ribeira Historic Apartments’ via ‘Booking.com’! The next step, was to find a cheap flight for 5 days. As I was hunting for a good deal, I came across ‘TAP Air Portugal’. I never heard of this airline but figured why not go for the total Portuguese experience and booked my airplane ticket via ‘www.vliegwinkel.nl’. I also found out that they provide an international taxi service called ‘Mozio’, which made my transfer from the airport to my apartment super easy!
To be fully prepared, I bought a traveller guide named ‘Time to Momo’ for all the hotspots in the city. I also downloaded the iTranslate app on my iPhone, just incase they didn’t speak any English. My credit card was ready for some serious ‘shop until you drop’ action! So, I pulled out my sexy red ‘Samsonite’ trolley and packed my most fashionable clothes! As soon as I entered the halls of Schiphol airport with my fancy ‘Given’ passport case, I always get excited because it triggers this inner energy that’s indescribable!
Arrival – After a 2 hour delay in Amsterdam and a pleasant 3 hour flight, I finally arrived in Oporto, Portugal. I didn’t have any extra luggage, so I could walk straight to the exit! My taxi driver was waiting for me in the parking lot and was so friendly. This gentleman was a former teacher in journalism, who worked for 25 years as a chef on cruise ships, was married 4 times and has two children. I was pretty tiered during the drive to my apartment, but enjoyed the pleasant conversation with him.
While driving into ‘Ribeira’, the oldest part of Porto, my heart started beating faster as I saw the ‘Duoro River’ and all the city lights in a flash. Everything was within walking distance of my apartment, various shops and restaurants were around the corner. I don’t know what it is, but I just love new places! It stirs this sense of curiosity in my very core to discover the new surroundings. I felt anxious while entering the gate code of my apartment because I wasn’t sure what was behind the door. As soon as I stepped in, I was immediately fascinated with the historic building’s hall. My apartment was on the 3rd floor, so I had to climb 6 stairs since there wasn’t a lift! Apparently, it was safe enough to leave my key under the doormat for me to find. Opening the door to apartment 32, I was pleased to see that each space had its own character. The interior of the flat had modern elements combined with its authentic walls. Normally, I would check out the night scene but after a long day of traveling, I decided to stay in and get a good night sleep for the upcoming days!
Adventures – As you can see, I’ve selected a couple of shots I made during my ‘Eat, Pray and Love’ journey in Porto. Let me share some of my stories with you!
On the first day, I felt like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in search of ‘The Rabbit’. While eating my breakfast at a a bakery around the corner. As any other tourist, I naturally asked the locals for some directions! So with a back pack filled with Portugese pastries, I walked downhill towards the ‘Duoro River’ and crossed the bridge which was made by Gustave Eiffel to enter the city of Gaia. Local market owners were displaying their goodies, street artists playing ‘Portuguese Fado’ and international tourists listening to the traditional music. As I was traveling alone, I felt surprisingly safe and enjoyed the easy going atmosphere. After looking for a while, finally there it was! The half rabbit made out of trash, which I was eyeballing on the internet for months. In astonishment I admired this well known Porto street art made by Bordalo II at the back of the yellow ‘Vila de Nova Gaia’.
Walking back, I eventually noticed a cable car going up and down the hill. They say curiosity killed the cat right? I followed the crowd and found out that it brings you uphill from ‘Ribereira’ to another part of Porto called ‘Batalha’. I had no clue, where I was going but the ride was an experience by itself because if you don’t have a fear of heights, you also get an amazing panoramic view of the city! While orientating in this new area, I discovered this beautiful tiled Catholic church and took a look inside. It was nostalgic to see the elderly, sprinkle Holy water while entering the building and light one of the candles. Leaving this sanctuary, I made a right turn and found ‘Rua de Santa Catarina’ by accident. My friends tipped me that this was the street to shop until you drop! I love finding unique fashion items abroad. Next to traveling, fashion is one of my most expensive hobbies ever! I ended the day, by unwinding with a drink and a fresh shrimp salad along the Duoro River while absorbing autumn’s last sun rays!
On the second day, I decided to use the ‘Hop On Hop Off’ buses from ‘Sightseeing Porto’ to get around the city with ease. I bought a ticket for three days, which allowed me to travel by bus, boat and experience a Port Wine Cellar Tour including tasting. I made sure, I selected the most important sights I wanted to see and off I went. My main goal was to find ‘Library Lello’, which is the famous bookstore with its beautiful architecture. It is said that J.K.Rowling, the author of Harry Potter got inspired by these particular stairs. Eventhough, the waiting line was massive I must admit that once inside I was in awe standing between all these books and international tourists making pictures every time I turned my back. As a memory of my visit to this monument, I bought my favorite poetry book ever ‘Romeo and Juliet’ written by William Shakespeare. I ended the day by treating myself to a typical Portuguese cod-fish dinner at a fancy restaurant along the Duoro River while enjoying Porto’s magic at night. I still can’t get used to the phrase: “Table for one?” So in your face!
On the third day, I decided to do some last shopping and sight seeing! At the beginning of my vacation, I discovered this fantastic fashion boutique named ‘DL’ around the corner of my apartment. They display different designer items such as Lollipops from Paris. A brand, I never heard of! I found three pearls, I have been searching for awhile but just couldn’t find the right one. You can see one of the treasures in the picture: the vintage hat and later on I bought the most feminine gloves and fabulous bag that goes with it! For all the fashionistas reading, I hope you can identify with the feeling of a dream coming true! It probably sounds super superficial, but fashion is an art form to express my identity!
So here is the last plot twist of this trip, as I was traveling with the ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus. I brought my shopping treasures of the day along with me. This sounds very materialistic, but I was so happy to have found the gloves of my dreams and my Shakespeare poetry books! Unexpectedly, we drove by the beach and I was so happy to see the sea, that I ran out of the bus. As I was taking a stroll on the promenade and ready to eat my lunch, I came to the realization that I was missing something! Can you imagine that I forgot my shopping bag? I was so mad and sad, that it actually right then and there ruined my whole vacation! I tried to stay positive and decided to go back to the shops to buy new gloves and books.
You won’t believe it! As soon as I entered the ‘DL’ boutique to share my devastating story with this passionate fashionista, she explained to me that another lady found my bag in the bus and called the shop to return it! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! My eyes filled with tears, because not only was I happy that I was getting my ‘treasure’ back. It was also such an act of kindness and a sign from heaven to show me that good people still exist here on earth. I met the newly wed Brazilian, who was also visiting Porto with her German mother-in-law. I couldn’t find the words to express my gratitude, so I called her an angel and gave her a tight hug. She responded: “You must’ve been pissed losing these gorgeous gloves. It was the right thing to do and return them!” I have so much admiration in my heart for these ladies!
On my way to The Sea Aquarium, I was so excited about this story and shared it with the bus drivers of the ‘Porto Sight Seeing Tour’. They explained to me that this wasn’t a once in a lifetime miracle but just ‘The Way Of Life In Porto’! This made me fall in love even more with this city. The last piece of advice they gave me, was for me to end my trip by having dinner at the Majestic Cafe in Batalha and have a Portugese dish called ‘Francesinha’ with a ‘Stock Beer’. The reason why? I told them about the poetry books I lost, which led to the conversation of my love for poetry. They told me that all the famous Portuguese poets went there to write their poetry and that it’s one of the oldest cafe’s in Porto with beautiful architecture! If I got inspired to write my spoken word poetry there? To be honest, it didn’t but this article is the fruit of all my ‘Eat, Love and Pray’ adventures. Personally, this was ‘the cherry on top’ of my amazing vacation in Portugal!
As I flew back to Amsterdam, I felt recharged and filled with so much positive energy! I am proud to say that this wish can be scratched off of ‘My Bucket List’. My advice to every single lady or guy out there would be, plan your very own ‘Eat, Love and Pray’ journey! I hope this article has given you some tips and tricks how to go about it. Don’t wait, but just like Nike says: “Just do it!”
Wishing all my readers ‘Blessed Holidays’ and praying that 2020 will blow your mind with miracles like the ones I experienced in this special city!