quarta-feira, 21 de dezembro de 2011

TOSCANY... my love

I didn't foresee this one. The plan was to attend Vito's wedding in Salerno, and then head North Italy to my Number 1 in Travel Wishes List: FLORENCE. The rest would go as it would come. And so it went, in June 2011.

What I didn't expect was to be striked by Italy's beauty in natural and cultural heritage in every city... Yes, I should have known better from History classes and common sense.
Rome had already surprised me in 2007 and hey! - we all have heard of the wonders of Venice or Florence or even Pisa... But little did I know when I thought that apart from Milan's fashion and some other historical cities like Genova... there weren't that many other ex-libris in The Boot.

Well I was really wrong. I got that impression already when I was asking around about what cities I should visit around Florence...
When I left Lisbon the plan was to do Salerno - some town close to it with Marcela and Riquita - Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Cinque Terre.
The weather made me change plans and I ended up doing the following path:

- SALERNO, or to be more precise: Battiplaglia for the wedding. It was great to see Vito happy. He's an example to me. Salerno, in the end, was left without a proper visit.

- The plan to go to Pompei with the girls was ruined by the train schedules (and the unfriendly ticket-sellers :) ) and became a half-a-day trip to NAPOLI, in my eyes unworthy of a tourist visit, at least if payed on purpose.

- That train trip led to us to meet Arthur though. And that made me meet the beautiful CAPRI. The romantic Island definitely has its enchantments: a lot of quality of living is hidden amongst the houses that proudly scroll down the mountains while the luxury of the shops exhibits how expensive and posh it is to stay there... The trip around the island is worth it because of the "Blue Cave", where the under-cave ocean meets the most intensive cristal blue as the sunlight enters the massive hanging rocks from underneath... Unforgettable!

- From the Island, Napoli train brought me to the most expected FLORENCE. I had been wanting to go there since I missed it in 2007 due to fever... I expected a lot, I knew I would meet the origins of humanistic thought and arts. I knew I would stand in front of the major paintings that I studied for 6 months in Madrid... but I couldn't believe when I actually found myself in front of those masterpieces: Boticcelli's "The Birth of Venus" and "Spring"; the ancient realism of Masaccio's, Lippi's and Masolino's frescos depicting St. Peter's life at Capella Brancacci; the Duomo is a-ma-zing especially on the outside... But I was surprised with the concentration of architectural beauty, massive buildings that leave you out of breath... at every corner.

This was all I managed to write close after return. I also remember Luana with whom I shared a 6 people-room in Firenze - a Brazilian medical intern that I want to go back in touch with, who knows to share "El Camino de Santiago"... For now I shall add to my own Italian Impressionism that:

- LUCA left a mark on me for the welcoming of the owner of the guest house that I took 1 "lost" hour to find; the gentleness of the restaurant girls who had me eat gnocchi and a glass of wine toped with a typical warm drink and cookies... in a perfectly romantic yet alone outside evening dinner. The wall that surrounds the city leaves a unique space for walking and gave me the guts to ride a bike on my own: indeed so simple, I just need to let go! Finally the view from the tree-decorated top of one of the towers also touched my senses as so-like grown-up and kids carried on with their lives in the midst of the brown city right below my feet.

- The TOSCANY natural landscape, its green mountains bottomed by shy-flowing rivers, the calmness of the wooden houses... all of it and more would have been strange to me if only I hadn't taken the wrong train from Luca to Pizza. When 1h30 later I finally realized it (as all my travelling was a bit improvised and went as it came), I had the luck to be allowed into a return train while it moved in departure already... where I traveled alone with the humble driver and the windy opened windows with its flowing curtains making a spectacle inside the cabine! I FELT SO FREE as I put my head out to the Toscany sun! I felt so happy for getting lost and being blessed with such sights and sense of adventure!! (happy for feeling lost just as last week I was happy for falling down when playing basketball... I think I'm missing the adventure I didn't live as a child :) ).
A lot more of marvellous Toscany is left to see: for example, its lemon fields I was told in the meantime. It's for sure a place to come back to. Who knows San Gimignano?

- From PISA I only expected a picture. You do get half-marvelled half déjà-vu feeling from being in front of the only monumental area, but I still thought it was worth it for the delight of my touristic journey. But what made Pizza a definitely good bet was "my no such thing as a" coincidence... meeting Sonja in the Jazz Concert by the river. It all started because I wanted some art: I was craving for music or some sort of collective happening even as I saw political demonstrations for the national voting that was about to happen in June. 10 minutes after installing myself in a 6 people bedroom, I left to speak to tourism office and learned what I would do after. I decided to attend that supposedly political.party supporting concert. And as Sonja subtly joined me in the table while we ate the food that Italians often offer with your drink - and repeated!!, the next 7 hours went by flying and the harmonic voice of the old jazz-lady, the lights in the canal and the passing youth in that cosy Pizza night... became a breakfast to say goodbye the next morning. Sonja is an easy-going philosopher from Frankfurt, with whom I found so fast so many things in common! I miss her, I'll soon go back to being in touch.

- SIENA, oh Siena! Siena was the most surprising place, and although Firenze as explained overwhelms you insistingly, Siena unexpected as it is... strikes you even more. It ended up being my favourite site in Toscany. Its central leaning Piaza del Campo that is showered by sun until late and is rulled by the municipal building... relaxes me; its up and down medieval rocky roads, all leading to this central oracle where horses run in July (a pitty I didn't witness it this time)... inspire me; the city overseeing arch that you reach through one of dozens of "hiden" wonders of architecture dazzles me (and also gives me vertigo); the circular giant vitral, which if I remember well lies among statues in the caves of the central church... makes all my aesthetical senses ring; and the diversity of the City Cathedral made me meditate at the INFINITE ARTS AND CRAFTS OF THOSE WALLS AND CEILING, the wonders of the constant music, the surprising "frescos" of the Ancient Library Room, and the details of the "starled sky", overlooking popes, and handy-crafted wood embelishing the walls... Oh my God, all of that made me dream, sit there for around 2 hours and even sleep over a SUBLIME "perfectness" feeling... that no historical memory of oppression or massive dogma would ever make me overlook.

- ROME was a nice one-day return where I allowed myself just to walk and feel the city. It's grandious, that's for sure, and the cheap accommodation next to central train-station resulted quite handy. So has the roaming on my mobile as I could give my granny a phone-call just next to an image a St. John Paul the II right at the Vatican, as the celebration of his sanctification was displayed in all of St. Peter's Piazza walls. I knew that as in 2007 ('06?) it would make her happy, and I'm far from having given back all she has done for me since I was born. Eating the "Posioned Apple-like ice-cream", buying Limoncelo (great discovery by the way), watching street artists and watching a Russian Culture fantastic show in plain Piazza Navona, being walked "home" by the charming 19 year-old argentinian with whom I ended up throwing the "hope coins" into the touristic Fontana di Trevi... these are some of the memories I won't leave from short 2011 Rome.

Again traveling alone did its tricks: I do live well by myself, I do meet people, I do finally feel healthy "Saudades", I do get to know the spots, I do get adventurous, I do try new stuff like sleeping in shared rooms (from whom I end up meeting no-one as I enter such late night all the time), holding my all-purposes bag between my limbs, I do stutter at the beautiful of nature and man construction... not lacking the possibility to share it with a co-traveller.
Don't I have friends and family to travel with? "Porsupuesto!" But indeed my availability to renew myself, stand for hours in front of paintings if I want, change plans, be touched by unexpected details but not notice or just pass by major ex-libris, my openess to get to know the places as I feel like... is incomparable.
And then there's the shared travelling. I love it too. There's space for all.

My Maia, my fate


I'm writing from Reykjavik, in Iceland, right as my dear Maia packs her bag to leave this cold graceful island with me.
With Maia it's forever like this, ever natural, ever sister-like.
It had been 4 years since we had met and I know you know what I mean when I say that really no time has passed: just stories, knowledge, maturing, relationships, trips, discoveries, experiences... all of that adding up to our closeness and mutual admiration... And which we easily share around subsequent home-cooked meals prepared by her with the most important ingredient: tenderness, love (tal y como con Tita - "Como agua para chocolate").

MAIA is hence not part of this blog's memory, but she for sure deserves a significant paragraph of this bible of trip registers. This "Mexican-looking" ;) small girl from the Basc Country is the best result of all my so said "lonely" trips I've been doing since I was 15 years old.
Maia and I happened something like my last night in long-gone Paris, back when "la grand canicule" (? - as she just put it) happened: the warmest summer, 2003.
Hours of night talk resulted in a timeless spaceless friendship, that has joined us in Lisbon, Donosti/San Sebastian, Ondarroa, Helsinki and now Reikjavik.
Maia is the example for me of an accomplished thinker, still living to the fullest ¡t her life, femininity and artistry, always going beyond the surface of peoples and their "arts", always finding the smallest reason to laugh, always strong-willed and defending justice; traveling, studying and singing her way through life in spite of all the learnings that she simply wouldn't let bitter her, not ever!
Maia, here's one of our hugs!


Can't believe it's been more than one year since I last shared thoughts here. No doubt about it: it reflects the speed in which I've been living. Well the new year's resolution, I've been anticipating it for 2 months now - it's quite hard on me as it counters my forever pattern: running from "home" by over-scheduling, being a workaholic, resting on what I'm successful at and not leaving space for resting or simply "being"...
I share it here as this year I decided I need to make it public: something needs to change and I'm not sure I'll be able to inforce it on my own. Year after year I reach the "too tired", the "too far from living, from my health, from sleep, from boyfriend, from friends".... And being in love, loving tremendously what I do at Jason... can't be and excuse. It's in me.
That having been said, 2012, even with rising responsibility, must be the WORK-LIFE BALANCE finding year.


Reykjavik was short in time and full in sharing. It is little and, all covered in white, what astonished me the most is the short time of light in Winter, the rain-dear soup in round opened bread at "Svarta... Caffee", the hot hot tubs, the Blue Lagoon, the dried lava that changed the landscape, how easy you are in -3 degrees if only you wear the proper clothes; the permanent whiteness of everything snow touches, and the home-like cafeterias where Iceland proudly exhibits the happiness and good life-quality of its people.
Even more: the Christmas feeling expressed in lights and decoration which miss no window, no building, no bridge, no airplane.
I now understand when Johan says he gets no Christmas feeling in Lisbon: truthfully the female chorus singing in the street while the smoke from street-cooked sweets embraces you and red christmas lights create the scenario, only further completed by lightly falling snow while you're in your cosy clothes... that's indeed a Christmas setting.

The most ZEN moment(s)?... For sure bathing in 40 degrees celsius waters in external spa pools while it snows and winds in your shy uncovered head, definitely the mysterious look of the hot smoking water while you indulge in the pleasure and relaxation of feeling no body weight and no cold against the open sky in plain ICEland.
Curious findings about this place?... So much natality!; in an Island bigger than Great Britain live 300.000 people; the surnames here are substituted by the father's name to which they add "son" or "daughter"; they're totally not environmentally-conscious: they waste energy, they waste water, they have no consciousness of the limitedness of the resources: privileges (and blindness) of who has the blessing of having enough to waste.

Taking it easy... Next to see upon return: well geysers, volcanos, auroras borealis... All that I had managed not to expect too much but still had the illusion of being in the presence of. It definitelly suited us better as it was: calm for me, Maia and Gunnar.

segunda-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2010

Let go. Let God.

A while has gone since my visit to India (Sept. 18th to Oct. 2nd + 3 days in London).
With a clear conscience in my head that I haven't exactly met the goals I dared to publicize here beforehand, I prefer to report my travel for itself and not by comparison to expectations.
It's a good thing to let go of frameworks when they no longer fit your reality or your purposes; on the contrary, 'pre-concepts' may make you linger in a sense of frustration if you hang on to them for too long.

Well, that's probably one of the biggest learnings from my second visit to The Incredible:
Accept what comes.
Living the most out of an experience doesn't necessarily have to mean over-scheduling, running from one place to the other, meeting the most people or visiting the most places, finding a deep significance in everything, or even feeling that your deeper purpose is met and put into practice at every minute of the trip you planned with so much love and money.
Let go. Let God.
As long as you are open to the signs and available to act upon them, what comes is exactly what you need the most at that moment.

Well, there were many plans for my trip.
But my biggest mission was to be with my mentor. As my mentor needed me by her bed, reading to her or just giving medication, as I wanted to visit her in the hospital, as her needs and my need just for her presence were what mattered the most ; as she was operated while I was there ; my stay happened around her operation and recovery.

I did have the chance to travel, to do my yoga retreat, but I knew my priorities. I did have the chance to travel around town at least...
But two attempts were enough to realize that I am no longer the brave all-resisting Raquel from 1,5 year ago. I didn't bear the feeling of chaos, pollution, noise, complication, negotiation, cheating, being lost in slums, being stuck in traffic...
I didn't bear them psychologically or physically. I didn't bear nor did I want to bear. I literally rejected all the urban surroundings that I lived with for almost a year before.
Some aspects may have contributed for it: I was in an emotional state which was not as stable + My mind knew I was there temporarily, as a tourist, so it didn't find the need to actually adapt, to find excuses or bright sides to crude realities + I didn't have companions there, friends as before + I got there with a cold caught at the airplane that evolved into some sort of growing respiratory allergy.

What was my "Indian experience" this time then?
I read quite a lot, I rested more then ever, I slept whenever my body asked me, I was inspired by my Mentor even as She slept, I went deeper into Indian culture (as in a 2nd time I could ask questions after having stoped to think from afar), I lived life with them again, ever closer to my Indian family...
As my soul made me relax rather than go out, stay in rather then adventure, delay rather then try it out... As it insisted on having me just "be" and chill... After struggling, feeling like I was wasting such an expensive trip and thinking of the ridiculous of not visiting new places, living new experiences... After struggling, I finally let go: if that's what I was wanting, that's what was meant then.
And then I realized for how long I hadn't allowed myself that: that rest, that naturality, that spontaneous happening, that feeling of home...
And living that was more precious than having added more landscapes, meditations our colourful pictures to my portfolio.

That probably says it all: I TOOK NO PICTURES but of the home, to remember it. That's the house that I have ever felt more at home in.

Mr. U is no longer (here) and I missed him there. Sivnandan is a light in the house, the new-born.
I did find me a new family, and the feeling of blessing that both me and Mrs. U feel for having met and having each other overcomes any connection.

I feel like in a movie or a book when I say it, but it's a fact: I found my mentor, my inspiration in life. She inspires me even as she sleeps. Her simple presence fills me with joy and sense of priviledge and learning.

Having said that, of course I'll return. And again, "every now and then" won't do it. Hopefully in less than 2 years. What's money or 2 weeks of vacation to feel at home?*

* A post-scriptum is imperative though: after this "reality-check", I understood that while that corner of Palace Road is an island of "home-feeling", Bangalore and India are not. This time I reinforced my certainty that I wouldn't chose to live there again. That I prefer to visit, go to help, go to travel, go to fill my heart up, go to be challenged, disturbed, marvelled, what-so-EVER - NOT to live.

* P.S. 2 - In the end I went to London to be with my Mariana. Fast and lazy again, but great to reconnect to my sister, more and more sister.

terça-feira, 14 de setembro de 2010

Count-down for yet another Indian experience

Well, I decided to do a short post here because again I'm in count-down to visit India.
I am actually visiting my mentor.
This trip makes sense to me in so many ways in this moment of my life, and the only reason I am doing the half-public exercise of writing down my expectations is so I can cross-check them with the outcomes, which I believe will as usual overcome those.

Also because the expectations are realistic, and that's probably why I dare to state them... Or aren't they: am I being optimistic even in my realism?
  1. Be with my mentor, really be with her, listen to her wisdom, be there for what she needs, share our thoughts on philosophy, spirituality, sociology and "emotionality";
  2. Be with myself and rediscover the inner peace that that place once instigated in me;
  3. Find strength, self-preservation strategies and compromises with myself in order to keep the balance in this moment of my life;
  4. Work on an exciting idea that I had in August 4th, 2010;
  5. Try again some yoga hoping that the habit sticks to me;
  6. Do Isha's Bhava Spandana retreat, another if this one is not possible and/or hopefully some travelling;
  7. Rediscovering Bangalore with the Indian friends that stayed back;
  8. Meet the new member in Ubhayaker Bijur family;
  9. Have the time to actually get to know Archisman;
  10. Do some reading and some diary writing, and hopefuly some reporting here in the blog too.

Cute Girl Has a Catchy Dance

Guess who that one reminds me of? If only my parents read my blog... :P Do you?

The "cute girl": A true happy free soul influencer!
Apparently the story goes that they taught the little girl that dance, then she went to dance it having no idea that the others would join her... but that changed nothing: she kept happily doing her thing... and the clip came out.

Guys, let's all go for it!!!

domingo, 1 de agosto de 2010

I met Sweden in Sevilla

Well I started Summer in Sweden and for the first 2 days I actually thought that, not only Could I live there, as I Wanted to.
So much perfectness!... - naturally speaking and civilization-wise...
Everything is thought for you which makes it easier to enjoy life.
Even if you do it with your own hands - be it painting the house or fixing the fence (which is their custom), the system, the tools, the common knowledge... is ready for that too.
Life-quality is incomparable to any I have witnessed before: I mentioned here before the freshness of the water and the air... But then there's the fact that you ride a bike to and from work, that you arrive at 4 or 5 pm from your job, do no unpaid extra-hours, still manage to have a full life outside work; that the simplest and cheapest supermarket is to the level of a gourmet here in Portugal, that they have the habit of eating early dinner and still go for [what we call here] "hygienic walk" along never ending beautiful -tree-paths and lakes... Furthermore, every car trip seems like a succession of paintings as the roads are paths which were stolen from forests.

... But then the weekend went by and the so common rain came to bless the Summer... and then for a moment it stopped feeling like vacation. Can you believe in some places in Sweden they get something like 3 weeks of sun per year?
I enjoyed getting to know Johan's family better, trying to understand Chess better... Taking it easy and resting...
And I can't forget the yet again amazing Sauna and Lake experience in Tolg with John's family... And this time my first experience of taking a bath in a peer, and taking the soap out of me in pure night, in cold lake water, to the light of stars and a set 1 am sun. UAU!
I loved watching a Speedway contest in Vetlanda. Apparently that small city where Anna, Olle, Karin and Mikael live has one of the World top teams in this sport.
It was fun Bowling with the family, other family get-togethers, going to that Island with Johan (what was the name again?), watching them cook candy, watching Granpa dance in National Day celebrations, trying to fish with Kent...
But we did want some better weather for more barbequeing, more fishing, more lake-bathing, more biking, more walking-around, more country-side activities...

So in the end, yes, I'd like to try living in Sweden because it is becoming such a big reference for me in what regards life-quality, in anything that doesn't depend from "Saint Peter".
Although I have to confess I know I would struggle with the little Sun and the certain rain... But I would especially miss the sun - I feel more and more my connection to it, my dependence of it.

Then in July, the chance came to go back to Sevillha, where me and Johan met exactly 5 years ago (we disagree on whether it was the 31st of July night or the 1st of August 2005 morning that we met - the last is my version). There the Sun is definitely not missing.
The door in this picture used to be the entrance to Don Quijote, the Spanish school that is ultimately responsible for us being together. Yes, 'coz it was them who put us in the same apartment... Well and the rest is just details... :P
Anyway, Marta and Bruno were spending their sabbatical moth there doing Flamenco training, and it was a great opportunity to re-visit that city full of salero...

We loved it, Johan could almost picture himself living there... But with so much heat (we think it reached 50 dregrees during the day!!)... and no beach... Ufff! And how do you even have the energy to move around in such a warm environment? Plus there's no horizon as I'm getting used to again... : the Atlantic Ocean... And it's VERY touristic.
In the end, it's a nice town to visit every couple of years - exactly - as a tourist. It has a great spirit, it breathes Flamenco which I like more and more - the guitar, the singing, the dancing... there's something really transeunic about it... I realized this time (watching a breathtaking performance in Casa de la Memoria) that it probably is because it is so intense and that the music so often resembles the ORIGINAL SOUND, the tantric, the budhist, the hinduist "AUM" - or "OM", as trend tends to call it.
Of course it carries me to a level of vibration that is unexplainable...
But again: nothing to repeat too much so that it doesn't lose the uniqueness I still feel when I experience Flamenco.
Ready for more travelling? Yes! Preparing the next one. :)

segunda-feira, 15 de fevereiro de 2010

Alentejo_Travelling my own Country

Ir para fora cá dentro.
That's how the Portuguese expression goes for when you travel inside your own country. And if my memory recalls well that became an idiomatic expression after a national tourism TV add some 10 years ago (or so I think - - how long does it statistically take to integrate a slogan in a language?).

PORTUGAL. My country. And exactly the one I learned to appreciate the lesser. I am ashamed of that, of not taking interest for it, of always looking at the less brighter side when it comes to Portugal:
- Melancholic; - Nostalgic; - Pessimistic ... and many inevitably negative "-ic-ending" words.
Ashamed of always looking at it exactly in the way I criticize "the Portuguese" for.

Well I feel I'm for the first time really willing to know the country I've always felt like mine only in one third - along with CAPE VERDE and BRAZIL.
This is after having come from India (in which I found so many worse - not even comparable - conditions)... And after that Johan came. And now I have a Swede to introduce my large home to, great loving company for tourism!

So this time we went to High Alentejo, interior Portugal.
Our base was Portel, a small village in the district of Évora, which is litteraly the centre of a star when it comes to road access.
This is a quiet place where people stare at you (and still keep looking when you've given in and taken your eyes away... :) ) 'coz everyone knows each other and you're not from there. And they're curious: that's simply it. A simple place.
It is amazingly silent all day long, hardly any cars, small white-painted houses ('coz the sun heat is so strong in the summer), real darkness at night; cows, sheeps, goats... just near by; breakfast with home-made cookies . . . And here cold is cold, homes have an inheritance of hunting prizes hanging form the walls, bread is "alentejano" and comes in special colourful coton bags, and you greet everyone in the street. A van passes by in the morning issuing the sound of folk music and offering home delivery of bathrobs, pijamas and other housewear. Somewhere in the village pigs scream, chickens run, horses grass (so silent it is that you can feel Portel's heart-beat if you simply keep quiet). Plus the view from the castle is amazing, a mixture of plain greens, and you almost feel the smell of olives and grapes.

We ate well and fat, and in the meantime we visited the biggest artificial lake in Europe - Alqueva Dam, ate at Amieira Marina, drove to Reguengos de Monsaraz hoping to buy wine only to find a beautiful modern-shaped church, and enjoyed a great wintery sunny day where the sun insisted on touching the waters beautifully.
On Sunday, Valentine's Day, time for the ditrict capital: Évora. The place for lunch was tough to find but in the end "Almedina" surprised us with a cosy family environment. We had time for a stop at Arraiolos as the car this weekend seemed to drive itself while I didn't dare or felt like harming the calmness with any speed higher than 80Km/h.
We liked the pace in Évora and the fact that the centre of the city is inside ancient walls: it makes finding your ways a bit of an adventure, and being inside the walls have something of mysterious and tale-like. We finally bought the so-expected Alentejano wine, and after long walks, some sight-seing and visiting Roman Temple at dawn, we drove back to Lisbon with a feeling of calm, rest and peaceful-mindedness.

Johan ended the day pleasantly surprising me with great spontaneous generosity when we met our building's night guard (a man from Cape Verde who has switched nights for days for 10 years now) and offered him one of the bottles we had brought from Alentejo. A nice man of few words, Mr. Zé Manel.