One Hundred Five

IMG_5040A Year of Yoga: April 16, 2014

Pose: Warrior 1

Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana 1

Location: Gaia, Portugal. I’m actually staying in Porto which is the city you see across the river. I wanted the photo to show how beautiful this town is. Of course a photo can never do it justice. For now I’m going to say that Porto is my favorite European city I’ve visited. Portugal has been full of surprises. We are staying in an adorable flat located just around the corner from the tower in the top right hand side of the photo. The people here are friendly and the food is to die for. (Side note: Don’t go to Spain for the food unless you really really love pork). Today we started our morning with amazing french toast at the Cafe Majestic. A little pricy but so good. After breakfast we wandered around looking at the outsides of beautiful churches, the train station, and the Bolhao Market. We ate lunch on the river front before jumping on a boat to tour the city from the river. The afternoon plan was to go port tasting….because it’s Porto; they have a lot of port here. We took Momo and Lulu on the sky tram and then Brandon walked them back to the apartment while Doug and I relaxed at a cafe. We started our Port tasting at a place I can’t remember the name of. It was kind of touristy and crowded with a lady singing Fado a little overly affectacious , but we got free tastes there so we decided to stay. Brandon and I each ordered 3 tastes (so 6 total) and they proceeded to bring out full pours…6 of them…at 4 in the afternoon. We were a little flabbergasted. There is no way you can drink 3 full pours of port and leave the room standing up straight. So we just laughed and took very small sips of each. Although there are many port wine tasting cellars in Porto, one of the most famous and historic ones is Taylor’s. So we decided to skip all the others and head straight there. It’s up a hill and off the main road with a nice quiet garden and tasting room. Doug actually ordered a 40  year old port. Brandon and I went a little more low class but we all tasted the 40 year. Wow. Ridiculous. One bottle of it cost €180. They also had “very old” port that was €100 just for a taste and something like €2500 for a bottle. You could really get crazy here if you have the means. We stuck to a 10 year old port and even ended up buying a bottle. After the port tasting we wandered back to our apartment for a nap before dinner. Dinner was at an incredible little fish place where we all had whole fish served to us for the first time….heads, fins, eyes, bones, scales…. the whole thing. Being a now former vegetarian (which I plan to revert to when I return to the states), I was a little trepidatious at the thought of a whole fish. However, I dealt with my emotions and thanked the fish for providing me with nutrition and then ate the whole thing. It really was delicious. Don’t think I need to do it again, but it was a lovely meal. Brandon had a different kind of fish that he says was life changing. We also enjoyed amazing dessert with another glass of port and walked home completely satisfied and already missing Portugal. Tomorrow we say goodbye to Doug and drive home to Sevilla where the craziness of Semana Santa awaits.

Photography Credit: Momo

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One Hundred Four

IMG_4966A Year of Yoga: April 15, 2014

Pose: Forward Fold

Sanskrit: Uttanasana

Location: Outside an unknown (but beautiful) building in Porto, Portugal. I love the random guy in the background. It depicts how there are constantly people around when I “stop, drop, and yoga” in public. I am by no means completely comfortable just popping into a pose wherever, but it is getting easier. Yoga is not just physical of course, but mental (and emotional & spiritual) as well. The mental part of this year long challenge has evolved into overcoming how much I allow what others think to control me; especially strangers. Of course, we can never fully overcome this. It’s a constant struggle. Sometimes I’m able to completely block out my surroundings when I try a pose in public. Other times I’m hyper aware of how insane I must look and I let it stop me from getting the photo I want. But what I love most about yoga; what attracted me to yoga in the first place, is the focus on practice as opposed to perfection. The focus on being accepting of where I’m at. The focus on not judging myself (or others). The focus on not allowing other people’s judgments of me to dictate my decisions. Hard stuff. I’m still an infant at some of this. But I accept that, knowing that growth is inevitable even if it’s slow.

We arrived in Porto this afternoon. Our apartment is amazing. The city is beautiful. We walked to a lovely pizza place for dinner and enjoyed the dessert and port as well. Had to stop for a quick yoga photo on the walk home! Looking forward to exploring Porto over the next couple of days.

Photography Credit: Brandon

One Hundred Three

IMG_3669

A Year of Yoga: April 14, 2014

Pose: Infinity Pose

Sanskrit: Anantasana

Location: Serra de Estrela National Park, Portugal. Today we drove outside the city of Coimbra to the mountains; the glorious mountains. After a little bit of confusion getting out of the city and laughing our asses off at the GPS trying to pronounce Portuguese street names, we were heading up. It was a longish drive and we were glad to arrive at the mountain village which is the hub of the park. We stopped in the village and ate our packed lunch on a grassy area with some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. The office for the National Park gave us some directions about how to drive into the park. I had no idea how incredible this day would turn out. The first part of the drive is along a ridge overlooking a gorge with a little river and some rustic looking farms. We made several stops along the side of the road just to get out and breath the mountain air and enjoy the scenery. We parked the car outside a camping area and did a short hike along the river. Brandon accidentally stepped in the river and Momo actually fell. I rock hopped into the middle of the river and did a little yoga. After we finished exploring this beautiful area of the park, we got back in the car and continued driving. As it turned out, this road leads all the way up to the highest elevation peak in the country of Portugal. We had no idea. We continued getting out to admire the views, throw some snow at each other, and marvel at some crazy Catholic icon carved into the side of the mountain. When we arrived at the very top, we got out and ended up buying some Portuguese wool panchos. I will be rocking mine whenever I camp from now on. The whole day was beautiful.

Photography Credit: Brandon

One Hundred Two

IMG_3627A Year of Yoga: April 13, 2014

Pose: Seated Twist Pose

Sanskrit: Ardha Matsyendrasana

Location: Grandma’s House; Coimbra, Portugal. Alright, my actual grandmother lives in Washington, not Portugal. We jokingly called our accommodations in Coimbra “grandma’s house” though. The home belongs to the kindest older lady who apparently makes some extra money by posting her home on airbnb. She actually lives there and it felt like we were staying with grandma. To clarify, she didn’t actually stay with us in the house. She must have a friend or family member she stays with when her home gets booked. She made us fromage, cookies, cake, and left a bottle of sweet wine that her family makes; serious grandma status.

Photography Credit: Brandon

One Hundred One

IMG_3501A Year of Yoga: April 12, 2014

Pose: Hand to Big Toe Pose

Sanskrit: Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

Location: Sintra, Portugal. This quaint village is located just a short train ride west of Lisbon. Sintra was described to me as a “magical” forest with beautiful castles. This description immediately conjured up ideas of Disney princess movies; you know the ones with gentle ladies singing with the friendly animals who prefer the company of the woods to whatever evil lurks behind the turreted walls of their prison/castle.  I admit, although I was intrigued, I set my expectations low based on the hype. I mean, a place like that can’t be what you imagine. The actuality of this place is really incredible though…and not far off from the Disney description. We stepped off the train and I immediately felt the energy of the surrounding nature; lush greenery and beautiful views everywhere. We started our day at the Sintra National Palace. We toured through many of the rooms and courtyards of the palace in awe of the incredible Moorish architecture, tile work, tapestries, and other antiquities you can’t believe. I’ve been in Europe for over a month now and I have seen some palaces and castles. They never get old and they’re all very distinct. My favorite room in the palace was the kitchen…seriously crazy huge kitchen and pots that could fit a couple of grown humans inside. (Of course lets hope that wasn’t what they were cooking inside them). After the palace, we ate a lovely lunch before hiking up to the castle. There are two ways to arrive to the Castle of the Moors. The first is by the main road….just a boring old trudge. The second, which we discovered in a travel book, was to hike through the forest….clearly the right choice. The start point wasn’t immediately clear, but after asking around a bit we found the trail and headed up. It was definitely a hike and we were tired by the time we arrived at the top; but it was worth it! Just at the bottom of the entrance we took a short break and just enjoyed being in a place with centuries old stone crawling with moss and ferns. Eventually we climbed up towards the entrance and started exploring. We spent about an hour walking and staring wistfully over the turreted walls (Disney princess style). We had gotten warm exerting ourselves on the hike and it was exhilarating to sit high up on a castle wall with the cool breeze. It’s the kind of experience where you get lost in your own thoughts instead of interacting a lot with the people you’re with.

Photography Credit: Lulu

One Hundred

photoA Year of Yoga: April 11, 2014

Pose: Kneeling Crescent Variation

Sanskrit: Anjaneyasana

Location: Balcony of Igreja de Santa Engracia. Today was our first full day in Lisbon. We started the day with breakfast at a cute cafe by our apartment and then embarked on a walking tour of the city. After wandering a bit down by the water and visiting a tourist information center, we took a trolley up to a high point in the city and then leisurely strolled down past many beautiful churches, plazas, and view points. This church/chapel building was one of our first stops. It was a few euros per person to enter, but it was certainly worth it for the view alone. I feel like I’m in a painting in this photo. We wandered to S. Jorge Castelo and had some lunch before exploring the castle. After the castle we wandered into Barrio Alto and found a pizza restaurant our travel book recommended. It didn’t disappoint. It was a long day of walking up and down the hills of Lisbon but it is a beautiful city and I could easily spend an entire week here.

Photography Credit: Brandon

 

 

Ninety Nine

IMG_3364A Year of Yoga: April 10, 2014

Pose: Pigeon

Sanskrit: Kapotasana

Location: A rest stop somewhere in the Portuguese countryside. Today our spring break started. Technically it’s next week, but since B finished this teaching week today at noon, we are getting a head start. Our spring break plans are to spend a week traveling through Portugal with our friend and B’s colleague D. D has traveled extensively and invited us to tour through Portugal with him. It was great not having to do the planning! Flying to Portugal from Spain isn’t as easy as one would think. Everything goes through Madrid and flight prices weren’t that inexpensive and when you multiply it by 4 people, renting a car and making the 4 1/2 hour drive seemed better (and more adventurous). The drive over the border was uneventful. There wasn’t even a sign that said “Welcome to Portugal”. We figured we were there when we weren’t able to understand the road signs anymore. We did make a stop to consume our picnic lunch, fill up the gas tank, and use a toilet. I must say, Portugal has got the rest stop thing down. They are every 30 – 40 kilometers along the highways and they have everything you might need; gas, convenient store full of snacks and caffeine, a restaurant in case you want to buy a sit down meal, a picnic area in case you packed your own, lots of places for running around if you have kids or dogs, a playground, and bathrooms with toilet paper and soap! (This is not a given in Spain). I took my first turn at driving through Europe today. Driving out on the highway through the countryside is easy and not at all stressful. I let B have a nap so he would be alert and awake by the time we made it to Lisbon, which we’ve heard is a nightmare to drive in. We easily made it to Lisbon and into the thick of the city. Our GPS got a little confused with all the one way streets, but eventually we made it close to our apartment and parked and walked the rest of the way. My first impression of Lisbon is that it is beautiful and reminiscent of San Francisco. The streets are very hilly, there are trolleys, and we drove on a giant red bridge over a huge bay to get into the city. Looking forward to exploring here the next few days.

Photography Credit: Brandon