another day in paradise

This morning I woke up following what felt like the best sleep I have had in weeks. Coffee with Phil, chatting about this and that, making vague plans for the day but no swift movement to actualize them. Eventually I would meet my all housemates: Steffen and Kasia next door to me, and Marie across the way.

Marie and I had lunch together before embarking on a coastal path that was meant to take us to Praia de Luz. Phil boasted a round trip time of 1.5 hours, which of course we surpassed before even making it to our intended destination. We were forced to defend ourselves over beers and futbol, which we all gathered to watch in the late afternoon. Halftime (or was it a "cooling break"?) took us to the other local bar where a band was playing covers and Cuban music as a strange but fun background to the second half of the match. I tuned just in time to watch Holland win in the midst of hamming it up with the local ex-pat community, like I am known to do. We walked together down the highway towards a rumored Indian restaurant called Spice Cottage. It was in fact where Phil said it would be, and it was in fact as delicious as everyone claimed. We rounded out the evening with a final Sagres on the patio. Another perfect night in Portugal.

All I could think of as I drifted off to sleep was how, yet again, I am in an incredible place, with incredible people and that there is no shortage of gratitude or amazement that I have found myself here. I have already extended my stay in Burgau a couple of days and my vivid imagination regarding just staying in this beautiful country forever continues to wander free. Thank you and goodnight, Portugal. See you again tomorrow.


burgau, an introduction

The ocean has been calling me for weeks and I finally decided to answer. I had it in my mind to return to the Algarve no matter what in the coming days, I wasn't sure where exactly, or to what extent. Long stories forever shortened will lead me to Burgau, a tiny fishing village already revealing itself to be full of kind souls and that familiar feeling like fate alone has led me here.



Wouldn't you know, I finally made it for a proper tour about the Castelo de São Jorge, after how many attempts?

In spite of having my share of archeological discovery as of late, this did not disappoint for fail to delight. The views alone from the castle walls make this well worth anyone's while. I happened to pick a perfect time to be perched above the city, the sun just beginning it's descent, Lisbon glowing below like I have never seen.

I of course rounded out my evening with another visit to my terrace, another order of olives, another Super Bock. I'm not sure how much time I'll be able to devote again to this city before leaving this country so this very well might be my last time being able to do so, so I soaked in every minute of that sunset before heading back.

I strolled home the long way, taking all the typical side streets and twists and turns. Whether it's the obvious slope of the streets that orients a person, or the general good vibes of Lisbon for me, I always manage to find my way home.

Of course I am tempted to tiptoe around the metaphor here for my life or love of Portugal, but I'll let you fill in the blanks.

For now, so long, and on to the next. The adventure continues to continue.


lisbon my love

And then I was back in Lisbon.

As is so often the case when one travels, suddenly being dropped in a new location is both exhilarating and disorienting. Of course, I have already been to this beautiful city a few times, and more than generally speaking, I am so happy to be back. This time I decided to say in a new area of town, the Graça, adjacent to the Alfama which I already know and love. After a truly harrowing journey from France (trust me, it takes a lot for me to say this, I am a notoriously relaxed flyer at this point) and up the steep, steep hills and steps to my apartment for the evening, to say it was good to finally arrive remains an understatement.

After sufficient minutes were passed after having dramatically - for my eyes only - collapsed on the bed in a sweaty heap, I collected myself and ventured back out to re-greet the city. It looked better than ever in the golden hour; I had a map in my pocket but didn't bother to use it. I headed vaguely west, thinking I'd go at least as far as I could backtrack easily. Soon I decide to take various streets and foot paths, stairs between buildings going up and down, getting a bit riskier. I know this place, right? Remnants of the Santo Antonio festival still festooned the buildings and streets, the sounds of the night were starting to pick up; music and sizzling grills, glasses clinking, the murmer of chatter. I had the vague thought to head to the water to catch a glimpse of the late setting sun, but as luck would have it, I turned out of a small side street and found myself at the very terrace that I had spent night after night when I first got to Portugal. It felt like I had come full circle.

Home again.


my river overfloweth

A follow up google this morning on Aigueze led me as though by destiny to two interconnected spectacles of the natural and architectural beauty.

Also know as the other most beautiful village in the Gard region, La Roque-sur-Cèze boasts quaintness, castles and ....waterfalls?!

My uncle Jan was feeling adventuresome as well and so we all made a plan to head in that direction after lunch. Not five minutes beyond Bidon (or so it seemed) we were suddenly in the midst of a lushly forested, truly scenic drive. Signs soon pointed the way towards the Cascades du Sautadet, and.... wow. Waterfalls pouring into bubbling pools flowing through carved limestone pockets and cliffs carved by the river Cèze. Truly beautiful, at parts forceful and also serene. My greatest regret until the day I die, or am taken back to these falls, will be that I didn't have the foresight to bring my bathing suit.

Just down the road, the well deserving of its "Les Plus Beaux Villages" title, La Roque-sur-Cèze exists, like so many of these towns, on a steep hillside. Once again I will be denied entrance to the castle upon reaching the top (who are these bazillionaires that privately own these landmarks, I ask you?) but was I did see of "La Roque" was sufficient enough to completely dazzle.

It's clear I could spend the rest of my days uncovering more and more examples of the south of France's points of splendor and never tire.

.....but it really is time for me to pack my bags and go. Out with a bang.




last but not

I woke up this morning to the incredible smell of fresh strawberry jam being made by my aunt from the remainder of our solstice bounty. What pairs best? Fresh baguette and croissants. This is easy to accomplish. My mother and I drove the short distance to the nearby town of Saint-Remèze where both the local baker and butcher occupy a space seemingly no larger than my New York City bathroom (not large). Two cereal baguettes, two plain. Three croissants, two pain chocolat. Back home, around the breakfast table. Hot coffee, warm jam, bread baked hours before. I am in France and I am going to eat like I am for as long as I can.

We are employing "second to last" in front of everything. I am leaving soon. This is my second to last full day, my second to last lunch with my family, my second to last (or is it my last?) slice of bread. I am not anxious to leave here, all this, the good life. But I am anxious about "my future" so I am heading back to Portugal in a couple of days to tackle some needed administrative tasks and simultaneous, inevitable, soul searching that will go along with it as I plan my next steps. It's been lovely here, a break from reality, but the time has all-too-quickly come.

In the meantime we headed to my (probably) second to last medieval town, Aigueze.

Vaulted passageways, fortified walls and towers. A beautiful 11th century church plus a so-called curiosity shop (!) that stole my touristic heart. Beautiful pottery, delightful bric a brac, local honey, pâté, and lavender oil. Aigueze seems designed to charm and mission: fully accomplished.

The only letdown? Being denied access to the tiniest of castles atop the hill, what I would imagine to otherwise be the main draw of such a village yet blocked off at every entrance. But the watchpath surrounding at least provided some of the best views of the Ardèche yet.

Back home and we all gave in to one of the most pleasant second to last afternoons of the week. The weather was perfect, the winds not too strong. A lunch on the terrace turned into leisurely sitting around talking eating drinking for hours. The best. Eventually another dinner by Jan, another walk. For now all the second to last simple pleasures I can soak in.




night moves

It didn't take long for me to settle into routines here. Wake up, make a coffee from the Melitta, check my email, have that perfect plain yogurt that seemingly only Europeans know how to create. Maybe someone will have gone to the local bakery for a fresh baguette.

Some sort of activity after that, or leisurely layabout until lunch on the terrace, followed by another Melitta, followed by another activity followed by dinner, then a sunset that's almost always pink and then....a walk.

The air this time of night, the way all the animals and noises are changing, the light is shifting, the calmness overtaking. On the heels of the solstice I can still venture out well after 9 and have enough time to make the full loop and back before the sun fully sets. It's one of the best, recurring, parts of my days here.

Lost in my thoughts, but seeing and hearing all the things I never hear during the day. The temperature shifting when you go from high to low. The landmarks. The menagerie of dogs (golden retriever, shar pei, French bulldog) barking as you pass by. Check in on the goats. Take a right at the vineyard entrance, see the grapes growing, slow progress of new vacation homes on the hill, someone is building what appears to be a stable on the other side. Up the hill, to your right again, the old blue wagon next to the house where they eat outside most of the time, next to the house building a bocce (excuse me, boules) court which will inspire our own. Turn through the town or bypass it. See the church and the old lady who feeds the cats. Keep going, past the olive trees, and if you're lucky, stumble upon a full family of wild boars - mother father six babies (at least) - the likes of which you'll always be too stunned to photograph. Past "the commune" where someone will invariably be cooking or staring out the window. Eventually up up up the hill I'm still not brave enough to bicycle.

Finally, home.

Already ready to do it all again tomorrow.






bon solstice

Who knew the south of France would turn around and offer me one of the best summer solstices ever?

A little superstitiously, I never let this night pass me by and it's never let me down. I have celebrated in Swedish fields, Los Angeles backyards, New York rooftops. This year, in the hills of France, like so many years before it, the plan was largely unclear.

My solstice wishes centered around being able to swim peacefully in a natural body of water, creating a seasonal feast, and lighting a fire - however small. My family was kind and spirited enough to oblige me on all of the above.

Mid afternoon, sun shining bright, I was driven to and bid adieu at one of the lovelier river access points in the area, the Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche. They dropped me off on the way to town, picking me up after I had ample time swim and float and read and bask in the day.

Before that, an early morning market excursion. Depending on where you live in France you will always have a market at least one day a week offering stall upon stall of the freshest of everything. No matter the day, early morning arrival is key. It's bustling, fascinating, tiring, and energizing. We let ourselves be inspired, our kitchen countertops soon overflowed with ingredients for the perfect solstice dinner and then some.

Back home, doors open. The strong mistral winds giving us an atypical pause from their gusty power. Cold pilsner, hot shower. I made a solstice cake in Scandinavian (and my own) tradition with a little French sentiment thrown in in honor of this year's surroundings. Bright yellow eggs added to the airiest base, two crisp meringue tops sprinkled with slivered almonds; both layers baked carefully, cooled, and assembled with freshly whipped cream, vanilla bean, and the contents of a wooden box of perfect strawberries we'd bought that morning.

Dinner was on the terrace with blackened fish from the grill, sweet green beans, fresh tomatoes, and buttered new potatoes. Following the perfect pink sunset, Jan built a fire with old juniper wood from the surrounding property. We wrapped lavender and Queen Ann's lace around tobacco and new intentions. The stars shown bright and a slight breeze blew the faintest sounds of a nearby music festival intermittently through. I sat on the ground next to the fire, watching the logs and glowing embers until it, and everything we'd burnt with it, all but disappeared. One final steam infused offering courtesy of the garden hose and it was finally time for bed. Another beautiful solstice. I felt so thankful.

I thought a lot yesterday and last night about my own good fortune as of late, as well as the admitted resistance I have felt in the in between. It's undeniable that patience has recently and repeatedly given me the sweetest of rewards when I am open enough to relax and let things reveal themselves, to trust myself, and to truly open my eyes to see what's possible. You can't wait for lighting to strike, but you can pause long enough to see it when it does.

So much uncertainty exists for me in the midst of this particular solstice, but with a night so perfect it makes me think I must be doing something right.

Happy solstice everyone.


"may the long time sun,

shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you,

guide your way on."





float forever

Another morning in Southern France. Fresh bread from the tiniest bakery, another coffee refill.

The main draw of this particular area, especially where holiday enthusiasts are concerned, is the Gorges de l'Ardèche. Families, cyclists, kayakers, luxuriators all flock here to enjoy this roughly 30km stretch of natural splendor. Rolling hills and cave laden cliffs dropping off into the River Ardèche. It's midweek and mid-June but the beach at the noteable Pont d'Arc was crowded today. We found a spot, laid out our towels. I beelined for the river, so happy to be swimming again, so strange to suddenly be in still, fresh water versus the salty Portuguese seas.

Swim across, swim back again, float awhile, take a break. A nap in the late afternoon sun. Sit in the shade again to cool down.

It's all good, life is really good. But I have felt for days that I am floating, I need to make some decisions. At this present moment, my near future is unclear. Anxiety has crept in. Plans need to be made. Visas, timeframes, logistics, the ticking clock. Portugal, reality, the future. I woke up this morning with a renewed sense that it will all work out no matter what, but I also feel so suspended at the moment, like if I don't do something I am just going to float in the gorges and seas forever. What's next, what do you want.

And when do I decide to stop floating and get my feet back on the ground?



en français

The past two days in the Ardèche have passed slowly as though in a recuperative dream, in complete contrast to my last month and a half. Part of me feels like I am being kind to myself, part of me fears I have fully descended into the holiday-within-a-holiday spirit and might never be able to return to a day to day filled with physical labor.

So far: the best of everything. Apricots, rosé, cheese, and croissants. Sunny skies, vineyards, bike rides, and lavender fields. Yesterday I began to make an actual list of things I want to see and do while I'm here. For now, another cup of coffee on the windy terrace, another hour before I get properly dressed to greet the day.

reunion tour

I woke up this morning in another time warp of my own making.

In the serviced apartment of one of my oldest friends, my handsome and brilliant dance partner in crime from yesteryear, the one and only Joao. We have known each other for something like 15 years; through jobs, relationships, haircuts, and moves. Ritualistically spending countless late New York nights at restaurants and bars, talking about who knows what, more often than not seeing the sunrise. We did this for years and have since always been able to pick up where we left off, no matter how much time has passed. Incredibly and unbelievably we found ourselves now, beyond coincidence, in the city of Porto. He for work, me for whatever this is. He now holds an impressive director position at a museum, I've just been happy to be along for the ride these past days. Espressos, eclairs, tostas, cervejas. Museums, galleries, slick bars, dance clubs, taxied, VIP. Out like the old days, now in our older days; dancing and drinking, not young but newly carefree. We greeted the dawn again together both nights, once more forever talking and walking and doing what we do.

Before that: back in Lisbon, waking up in Teresa's blue room. My former airbnb host turned friend, now reunited. We beached the day away before she and her friends took me into the belly of the celebratory beast for one the craziest nights in Lisbon and of my life. The Santo Antonino Festival, Lisbon's annual city celebration, happened to be this week. The streets are festooned with lights and colorful garlands. We ate and we drank and my mind was blown. Pork, sardines, sausages, snails. Grilled on the streets, piled on our plates. Endless mini Sagres beers, endless streams of people walking by. Circa 2am: delirious, walking upstream in the direction of the old town, the streets were packed such that you could barely move. I'm laughing and clutching my new friend Luis's arm to stay afloat, upright, together. The music is coming from a parade of drums marching in the opposite direction, it feels like it's inside all of us, there's literally no space, you can barely see beyond what's right in front of you. Everyone is laughing, everyone is smiling, everyone is out. Four in the morning still sitting on steps. They're trying to teach me Portuguese, we're still laughing, we're still on the street. No more drinks, just happy to enjoy the night. And everyone seemed to have the same idea.

Before that: waking up in the Alentejo hills, my farm and my family having received me for a brief but beautiful hello. Full circle with Juliana and Filipa picking me up at the bus stop. My poetic solo walk from the top of the road, arriving to David's open arms. Soon Clara and the carpenter will appear and its like no time has passed at all. The Saloon is still being called a saloon, impressively far along in a short but busy week and a half I've been gone. We crammed in the updates over dinner, I slept in my bottom bunk. I woke up as early as I could to enjoy as much as possible before my next bus. Another solar shower, another cup of tea with Clara, another new view from the new terrace. My ongoing dreamy state in that beyond beautiful place.

And before that: the briefest, perfectly timed stopover to tiny Aljezur. Back to Señor Service with Laurie. Eating lightly fried and perfectly prepared sardinhas, drinking midday red wine, espresso, with some overly sweet Portuguese dessert. Ronan stops by to say hello. They drive me the walkable block to the bus.

Now I'm packed again. Joao is still sleeping. He'll head to Vienna tomorrow and I'll make a trip today to the south of France. My mother, aunt, and uncle happen to be living at the moment; a pause within a pause for me. I'm looking forward to seeing more familiar faces within a new place and I'm looking forward to unpacking for more than a day. But after all these crazy days and the months preceding, it's hard to imagine this prescheduled break from Portugal. But I'll be back to this beautiful country soon enough. They know it and I do too.

For now: The Reunion Tour must go on.





and stranger landscapes still

I have spent these past two days somewhat indescribably. I'm still on the southern coast of the Algarve, currently in Lagos. Admittedly I have little reason to be here. Modern conveniences, sleep deprivation, mixed up plans, and time to kill became the main draw ....but being in a touristy town like this is a bit of a culture shock. Suddenly I am surrounded by English speakers and everything I could ever need or want to buy is at my fingertips. But it all feels slightly exhausting, even finding food is little more than a task.

Today, after excessive hours spent with this hotel's complimentary breakfast, I finally ventured out. Sagres became my eventual destination, however half heartedly as we are apparently in the midst of a regional holiday and therefore the bus schedule is reduced to a fraction of its normal service. In spite of these limitations, I made it and the sunny seaside did me well. If one has a car or has rented a bike, there is plenty to see and do there. Awe inspiring coastal scenery, the most southwestern point of mainland Europe. For my part I continued to do only what I do best, which is to wander around for hours. A high point of the day for me would be the Fortaleza and Ponta de Sagres. I wouldn't want to oversell these particular landmarks but something about this place surprised me: it was both soothing and uplifting, hard to describe now and eventually hard at the time for me to rip myself away from. An old chapel, a lighthouse, its own grotto. A wind compass and curtain walls. Documented flora and fauna including names like sea fennel, ice plants, and spicy thrift. The birds called kittiwake, alcatraz, and stonechat. Old men fished off the cliffs, couples on holiday strolled in slow motion, bracing themselves against the strong winds so loud it almost felt like silence. It was an unusual place to discover here, I started to think of it as its own mini Marfa, but without the sense of irony.

Upon my return to Lagos, I continued to stroll its now familiar historic streets. I was too uninspired and tired to go inside anywhere, but happy enough to enjoy the evening. The night eventually wound down peacefully and outside, sitting for a couple of hours on one of the many beautiful, nearby beaches. It's not as though I should ask for more.

But it can feel strange to observe just how strange it feels to all of the sudden have nothing in particular to do. My plans continue to shift and I'm suddenly not due to see anyone for yet another additional day. Chores, errands, tasks; all the little things I've let slip with limited time and internet to devote to them, Maybe they'll get done tomorrow, but then again maybe not. In the meantime, more aimlessness, more hours on shady benches, sunny beaches; more café wifi, early to bed, and all the good things.