Summer 2013 was supposed to be a quiet one for me. After spending all the year following my impulses and traveling like a madman around Europe, my travel budget was practically non existent. I was happy to peacefully enjoy my summer in Porto and commit to my eternal love for Maceda beach and all its simple pleasures. However, being temperate it's clearly not in my nature. So I used my tiny 2014 south american trip savings, went "all-in" and followed my vision: grabbing a car, driving south along the portuguese coast, exploring new beaches, meeting old friends and discover a bit of Andalusia in Spain. I was joined in this adventure by a russian friend of mine.
For those who don't know, the coast of Portugal is incredibly beautiful and diverse. It has around 900km and the only common thing is the presence of the endless Atlantic Ocean. The more southwest we go, the more beautiful becomes the landscape. Peniche and its surroundings are just breathtaking. Alentejo's coastline (and the west coast of Algarve), a well kept secret from all the turists that flood Algarve yearly, is probably one of the most beautiful in the world. The cliffs in Lagos and its green quiet waters are like paradise, albeit the city has become some kind of british/german colony. More east, close to the border with Spain, lies Tavira, a peaceful haven where a long stretch of white sand stands in between a river (Ria Formosa) and the ocean.
Now that I indulged the readers with some pictures, it's time to introspect about several moments of the trip. Pictures of Granada will follow, so stay tuned!
One of the best things that happened to me during the trip was that I ended up meeting 3 good old friends that I haven't seen in ages, one by one and in different moments. And it felt so good to revisit the past with them, to see them as they are today and more importantly, to feel like real friendships remain untouchable over time. The passage of time and growing up has this incredible side where we can sit, reminisce about distant memories and still feel some kind of proximity to them. And at least to me, that's such an amazing sensation. To look back and feel like I've lived already so much, makes me want to look forward and live even more, but keeping the important ties (people) that will connect my entire life through a chain of love, true friendship and honesty.
I love these guys!
I also realized that the last time I was in southern Algarve was in 2003 with some friends and the first time I remember being there was in 1993, with my family. As I was driving along the N125, the two lane road that crosses the entire region, passing in familiar places and towns, a turmoil of images and memories was invading my mind. Suddenly I was transported to my childhood, to visions of my young parents and my syblings as kids. As if by magic, driving through that road made be closer to a reality that was somehow forgotten in some " mental drawer" and will never exist again, creating a bittersweet feeling in me. Going back to the 90's, to another era, to another life, all the lost innocence. For a while, 20 years of my life unfolded in front of my eyes as I was driving. 20 years is a f*cking long time indeed. But looking back, it seems like it passed in a blink of an eye.
These moments I have in my normal life or during travels make me think of "Aparição", the book from the portuguese existencialist author, Vergílio Ferreira. The book is about the notion of "aparição", which is that precise instant when we reveal us to ourselves and all seems clear and right. I really fascinate about this concept and these moments of epiphany. Like that day when I was riding a bike in the desert fields of Tavira, glowing with that end of the afternoon colour and feeling the breeze in my face. The peace and relaxation I felt in that moment was a true moment of "aparição".
Going back to the trip itself, next destination was Granada, in Spain. Everyone told me great things about the city and it clearly didn't disappoint me. The Alhambra is indeed fascinating, the andalusian lifestyle is vibrant, the narrow streets are a delight. It seemed like a perfect city for a romantic getaway. Or for random encounters of strangers. I surely want to go there again. However, as it's so famous and touristy, there's no need to talk much about my impressions of it. These are two pictures of things I found special: the view of the city from the Alhambra and the night atmosphere.
Back to moments of epiphany and if you are still reading this, here comes the moment that I will never forget. Saturday, August 31, dusk. After a long drive back from Granada, we stopped in Estremoz, Alentejo. While looking at the map, that name echoed in my head and it went back almost 20 years to a time where i was reading those book collections for kids. And one of those books was passed in Évoramonte, a small village which belongs to Estremoz. I didn't know anything about it, besides some memory from the book and I knew I had to see it. So after finding a nice place to sleep in Estremoz, I drove alone to that village. I shiver just to remember the moments that anticipated my arrival. The typical Alentejo plain scenery around me, the end of another warm day and suddenly, the first visions of a castle on a hill. Évoramonte on the horizon, getting closer and closer. I was really getting excited as I drove up the hill. When I got up and left the car the first thing that hit me was the singularity of the castle and the absolute silence all around. From there, I had a 360º view of endless plains and tiny houses. Plus, I had the sun right in front of me, descending on the horizon and painting the castle with an orangy tone. I was running around like a little kid, wanting to explore every angle, every hidden spot. The castle was closed and there was no one around, it was all mine. Somewhere in this world, there I was once again, filled with joy and appreciation for my life. After many days with revolving thoughts in my head about many things, I truly found peace there. I found all the answers I was somehow seeking. I felt complete and thankful. There I didn't fear anything. Amongst all the uncertainty in my life, there I worried not. I lived and relived a thousand lives, a thousand dreams.
As the sun vanished behind one distant hill in the horizon, I went to the only restaurant in town and had a feast of great food and talked with the few people that was there. it felt so special. That's what I like, simple and special. Real. Yes, real things that I can touch or understand. That's what I need.
When I finally left the restaurant, the night had invaded the landscape. Driving back with rolled down windows under a sky filled with millions of stars, feeling the smell of the trees and the fields on a warm summer night and listening to "Rembihnútur" from Sigur Ros and "Catastrophe and the Cure" from Explosions in the Sky (love when my ipod's shuffle mode guesses exactly what I need) was the perfect end for my trip.