Skydiving in Algarve – Portugal

With the time and with gathering more and more travels under your belt, you discover not just the world, but also yourself and your wishes, desires. You find out that the location becomes less important, but the way you feel there, the people you meet and most of all: the memories you make, those are that you will always attach to the spot. 

My whole Portugal trip was based on the idea of going with the flow: booked my accomodation last minute, decided where to go the day before, did what I felt when I did feel it. I had one single plan: to do skydiving in Algarve. I booked it quite in advance and I knew that is going to be the highlight of my trip. I was enjoying and making the most of every single day spent in this wonderful country and I didn’t focus much on my only plan, but when that Saturday was approaching I felt the excitement more and more intensely. So intensely that I didn’t even realize that on that specific morning outside was raining so badly that there was no chance of jumping out of a plane if you are sane. Obviously you can’t be completely sane, however, to do such a thing in the perfect weather conditions either, but in rain no chance. Weather is one thing you definitely can’t control, you have no choice than to accept and live with it. Still the positive me calls the people from Skydive Algarve, who are extremely friendly by the way, and we postpone the big event for the next day. Sunday: I start the day with the usual jog on the seaside, some me time on the shore while waiting for the sunrise and the best breakfast at the nearby cafe. The day looks promising if we ignore the strong wind, which we can’t put aside since it has a vital role today: if it’s calm enough I can go ahead with my plan, if he continues showing his power I got all the chances to be literally blown away. At this stage he, the wind, is messing with me and my hair, proving that he’s the boss and might not be a good idea trying to confront him.

  
Again I talk with the skydive staff, considering that it’s my last day in the Algarve, we discuss the details of the refund, but before hanging up the phone I say: ” You know what? Let’s not do the refund just yet…Tomorrow I need to leave to Lisbon since the day after, early morning I’m flying  home from there, but if by any chance the weather miraculously changes I could still squeeze in a little skydiving before I leave.” We agreed on that, but on one side I though: well, it’s just not meant to happen this time in this spot, on the other hand: tomorrow is the last try – anything can happen. That being said, my day went on great and in the morning I woke up as usual, before the sunrise, ’cause that I watched from the shore, of course. The jog, the sunrise watching, the breakfast at the cafe – all of them were happening for the last time… I was expecting a sad day with hard moments because I had to go and say goodbye to all the wonderful people I met in Lagos, people that made me feel truly at home and people that I shared beautiful conversations with at dinners, at drinks or just while passing by next each on the corridors of the hostels.

While watching the sunrise I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the most mesmerizing sunrise I experienced in Lagos, like a last gift from the universe for me.

   
    
    
 
It filled my heart with so much happiness that I smile now when I remember how I felt back then. It was simply beautiful. Just after I realized how calm it is: no wind, not even a single raindrop… My hopes were realistic than ever and in that moment I received the email from Skydive Algarve confirming me that the jumping is likely and I should get to the aerodrome Portimao as soon as possible, the weather can change any moment unexpectedly. I call them, we are all happy, I quickly say goodbye to everyone, even have a short hairdresser session and off I go.

As I mentioned you earlier, the staff from Skydive Algarve is very friendly, absolutely amazing. As I get there I am welcomed by honest smiles and joy, they express their positive emotions as if we were all friends there. It feels good and I believe it’s quite important also in building up the trust level. Luckily that happens instantly, my instructor, Bruno is funny but in the same time transmits seriousity and jumping out of the plane attached to him doesn’t seem as crazy as it is actually. What did I just say? Hahaha! It is absolutely insane what I’m doing but I totally enjoy it!

We do the preparations on the ground, I try to understand all the instructions Bruno explains me, they all sound like pervert scenarios from another story, but you need to know the right position if you expect a positive experience. I look like I’m dressed up for an amateur trip to the Mars, to my outfit being attached also a very not good looking cap, which has a benefic role though. At least for the health of my ears, can’t guarantee for my companions because since my ears are basically plugged I talk much louder than usually and they don’t have a cap on.

  
If you believe ( I believed at that point too) that I’m prepared, just have a look later. You are actually never completely prepared and that’s the whole magic. You need to feel the fear, the excitement, the adrenalin, the trust and all of them in the same time at a very high level. As confusing as it may seem, it’s the greatest feeling ever and it touches the highest peak at the moment when you are just about to jump out.

  
That’s when you realize what you are doing but there’s no way back even if you wanted to, you just go ahead and enjoy the ride. You smile but it’s not your real smile and it’s frozen on your face, but somehow it did freeze because the extreme feelings you experience are in a way positive even if we deal with fear as well. I mean, come on!, of course you are freaked out, you are just about to jump out of a plane! Bizarre, no?  At that point there was no time to think so much though, in a second I just felt that I’m flying, the wind is strongly hitting my face but I love it and all my fear is transformed into pure joy experienced on a very intense level.
   
   
It’s happening very fast, it will make you feel the both extremes of fear and joy, you will land and get back to your normal rhythm, but you will never forget your first skydive experience! 

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Digging in the history of Coimbra – Portugal

From Braga my trip continued to Coimbra, the third largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto. Coimbra is split in two parts by the river Mondego, which gives an extra charm to the city.  The central area is very complex and rather small but very diverse. Basically you can walk on the riverside and when you feel like, you just cross the street and you are in the old town, where plenty of cafes,restaurants,shops and the most important buildings of the town are all together just a few steps from each other. 

  
The main shopping street is wide and well circulated at any time of the day and evening, but the narrow side streets give the city actually the real bohemian style. What I noticed immediately is the cultural aspect of the place. As you wander from one narrow street to another you can’t miss the big number of art galleries and rustic style shops. It’s an enriching experience walking around in this city. 

The highlight however is of course the worldwide famous Coimbra University, dating from 1290 and being one of the oldest universities in the whole world and the oldest in Portugal.

  
Parts of the university can be visited and if you are lucky you may enter by coincidence with an organized group and find out interesting info from the guide who speaks perfect German with a very pleasant Portuguese accent. Her German is perfect, but mine isn’t even close, but I definitely understand the part when she says the library was built in the 18th century, contains aprox 250 thousand volumes from fields such as medicine, law, history or science.  She also mentiones no photo, ups, to late for that, this view is priceless…

  
History is an interesting topic for who’s passionate about it, for me a little of it’s enough and I had my portion for the day. Coimbra has more to offer and what really satisfies my taste, litterally, is bifana. Bifana is the Portuguese version of the simple McDonalds hamburger, but way more tasty and I like to believe that also much healthier. It is pork steak on bread with the optional addition of cheese and bacon. Simple as that, but I guarantee you will lick your fingers after it. Tip: get it take away and chill in the park on the riverside and not only your stomach will be happy but your eyes will brighten up while watching the sunrise or sunset or just the birds flying above the river Mondego.

  

Discovering the deepest treasures of Portugal – Peneda Geres National Park

Once discovering the existence of Peneda Geres, I knew I need to check it out. That’s why I included Braga in the first place in my itinerary. Braga is relatively close and it’s a good place as a base if you want to visit the national park, though if you have more time on your hand, better spend a few days in Geres itself. Let’s see how did it all happened…

I didn’t feel my trip rushed at all because I did it all in my own rythm,  which can be at times really intense and exhausting for other – hence traveling solo works so well for me – and just spontaneously decided spending only half day in Geres. Basically the day started very early in Braga, where I had my bus at 7:15 am. It was still dark and just a couple more people on the streets when I was trying to figure out my way to the bus station.

  
Obviously I never have a map, I don’t need it and frankly, I’m not even good with it, it makes me more confused then I am. Relying on locals suits me much more and surprisingly even with all the language barriers you could imagine it works out perfectly eventually. So it happened that early morning too, when I picked a random public bus driver and asked him directions. He spoke a few words in German but the information didn’t help me much because apparently the bus station was too far to make it in time there by walking. I was like: oh,no!!! I’m gonna miss the bus! That’s when I discovered the genuine Portuguese good will. The bus driver literally drove the bus with a few more passengers in it on a different route all the way to the bus station I needed and I catched my bus in the last minute. It was the most impressive thing I experienced! Nobody complained about the change and his face was all brightened when he saw I’m in time for my bus. Wow!

The day continues with other surprises, this time from our beautiful nature: it’s sunrise time.

  
In approximately one hour Geres is reached and I’m all energized to discover it. At the supermarket where I buy my water and food provision, they speak great English and point me to the trails. Hiking goes well until I reach a point that leads through the forest and I continue my way very brave, though it’s like a jungle and the trail is hard to follow cause all kind of plants with pointy leaves stick to me and I start to don’t see the path anymore. For a minute I become the prisoner of the naughty plants and getting rid of them is quite a work. I decide returning before I completely lose my way, here there’s nobody to ask for directions, and my whole body feels like I had some kind of Chinese massage with those sticks they sting you with. Funny feeling – those naughty plants!

My hiking adventure failed, but instead I found a cute park, which was not a bad replacement.

   
   
In Geres you can do shopping, relax at the spa, eat and drink in the few restaurants they have there. But if you really want to see something nice, aprox 5 km away there is a gorgeous lake. Transportation can be problematic if you rely on the buses and your time is limited. So I took a long long walk, which didn’t seem as long thanks to the breathtaking view along the way.

   
    
 
I reached the lake much earlier than I expected, so I guess I walked aprox 5 km?! It was worth it! In the sunny day the water reflected the blue sky and was so inviting that my feet tried it but brrr too cold! Surely I good chilling place though. Quiet and beautiful, great location to connect with nature. 

   
   
Silence is enjoyable, but if it’s too long it’s not my piece of cake and anyways it’s time to catch the bus back to Braga… See you later beautiful lake!

A town full of warmhearted people and hidden beauties: Braga

Braga is located approximately 1 h from Porto, it’s much smaller, calmer, less impressive sights, but much more authentic than any other I visited so far. The first person I got in contact with, Nelson, the hostel owner, welcomed me with the typical Portuguese hospitality coming straight from the bottom of his heart, I could feel that. InBraga hostel, the result of his hard work and ambitious dream,  is one of the cutest, cleanest and definitely the most homely I’ve ever been to.

   
 
Due to the fact that it’s off peak season I get the luxury of having the whole room just for me and myself. However, the weather is friendly once again with me, 23 degrees – wow – and I roll to discover the town with no map, of course, just following the streets in a random order.

 Braga is a small town, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t get lost, though it’s adventurous being lost in an unknown place. As everything is just around the corner, after less than 10 minutes of wandering around in a slow rhythm, I realize I made it to the center cause I see lots of shops, cafes, buildings and people around.

   
    
   
Nelson recommended me to check out the Bom Jesus do Monte, promising me a fantastic view over the city. I have to admit he didn’t let me down! Following the stairs up on the hill under the shadows of the trees, surrounded of the beautiful colors of fall, it’s a pleasure going up to this amazing viewing point.

   
 
The church itself is impressive, a real piece of art, reminds me of a similar version of it I visited a few

 years back in Montreal…Nice times…
But in the meantime we are still in Braga, where after you completed your route up on the stairs you have the option of resting your legs on the lakeside or rowing a boat on the lake itself.

   
 

   There’s a lot to enjoy up there, starting from the view and ending with the artificial caves.

   
   
Braga may not have the reputation of an exciting city, but in my view it has the qualities of a town that worth discovering.

 

 

Porto – Portugal

Arriving to the second biggest city of Portugal was from the first moment a positive experience. I was welcomed by a very generous sunshine and an even more impressive Portuguese hospitality, together with honest smiles and kind words of the locals I met on the bus from the airport to the city center. Though English is only briefly or not at all spoken by the big majority, I found it extremely easy to get around using some Spanish and a lot of sign language. In Porto wine is impossible to avoid, not that I would want to do that, and once tried it’s hard to stop drinking it. A huge variety of local and regional wines are served for as less as 2 euros per glass. No wonder that in the company of my girls on the riverside we made unforgettable memories from the very first evening already.

  
Though it’s the second half of October, while the rest of Europe prepares the winter gear, Portugal still enjoys a short taste of summer: 14 degrees at 10 pm. The view is fabulous, wine is divine, food is great for those who are not too picky?!

   
 
Speaking of food…well…Franzesinha, or Franciska – as I liked to call it, look like this:

  
and tastes like… hmm… cheesy ! It’s an absolute local dish, luckily comes with some fries – in this way I didn’t leave the restaurant as hungry. However, for who likes a toast with meat covered with a lot of cheese, might be tasty. For me: no thanks ! On the other hand, batata de carne – potato with meat- serve me, please, warm is the best! 

  
Yes, it’s 1 euro, nothing fancy but simply delicious and good before and after a wine tasting event. Wine had an important role in my two days Porto adventure and I still think about it with pleasure. Quevedo Port Wine tasting event is just one of the many going on every day in the romantic city of Porto.

   
 
Wine is not the only delicatese you bump into though. We managed to find things that I didn’t except. Fancy some cannabis chocolate?

  
Or your love life needs some inspiration? 

  
I definitely declare this shop my favorite in Porto! 

  
I was distracted several times by the great wine and the variety of chocolates, but a visit at the local market brought me back to reality, thanks to the big bunch of garlic.

  
Porto has the positive vibe, the romantic atmosphere, a convenient climate, over decorated churches and very pretty sights.

   
    
    
  
It’s the city where all you need to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Even cats do that…