Inspiring reading (8)

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Here I publish some of my favourite articles over the past weeks:

Is there an upside to having no social life? – I’ve been less social than usual this year and I like the balance suggested by the author.

Is mindfulness safe? – Last month I did a crash course in mindfulness and the first article is this one. Interesting to learn more about the practice and avoid dishonest schools and instructors.

90-Year-Old Czech Grandma Turns Small Village Into Her Art Gallery By Hand-Painting Flowers On Its Houses – That’s so stimulating to help us discover the artists we might be.

Why should you read James Joyce’s “Ulysses”? – I haven’t plucked enough courage to read my edition of Ulysses bought in Dublin. This video made more courageous (or not).

25 illustrations that perfectly capture the joy of living alone as an introvert – These illustrations made my day. They’re just adorable 🙂

Why I’m boycotting travel bloggers and you should too – A necessary article about the increasing (and usually disguised) relation between travel blogging and fashion.

And, as you see on this post, more people are fed up with the dominium of “fancy pictures” on Instagram

On Influence, and Using It Wisely – Still about blogs, I’m a big fan of articles that shed light on political issues related to travelling

Dear backpackers, stop calling yourselves poor – Such an important discussion that, unfortunately, some people prefer to ignore and keep thinking they’re the centre of the universe

 

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What mature women can teach us about life and travelling

Last Sunday, the weather was as gloomy as it is today in Sao Paulo, drizzling and almost cold, so I took the opportunity to read this long article about women in their 50, 60, 70 and even 80s who are travelling around the world.

I had decided to include it on my next “Inspiring Reading” on the blog, but the whole idea is so marvellous that I couldn’t help writing about it.

To say the least, the article made my day. In simple words, many women share their fears and ask questions about travelling solo when you’re not exactly a spring chicken. That pretty much means you don’t you don’t fit the stereotype of “fresh” female traveller, who necessarily should be under 30 somethings (and white, slim and a lot of characteristics that can be a theme for another post).

Following the questions, senior travellers from all walks of life share their experiences, encouraging the novices to pursue their dreams and set off as soon as they can. Amazingly, many of them are still backpackers, who stay in hostels, interact with their temporary roommates and even hike regularly!

It’s difficult to explain how much their stories have impacted me. I felt so ALIVE. My first desire was to print the whole article and stick the pages on the wall to read them that every single day.

What I truly believe is that it made me such a strong impression because, unconsciously, I’ve had own prejudices about hitting the road when you’re older. No wonder I had more than once the thought “I need to travel like crazy till I’m 40, then I’ll settle down”, whatever settling down really means. Now I ask myself: What’s the urgency? Why do I really need to change everything, even myself, when I turn 40? Am I supposed to live life to the full only until my 40s? Do I have to visit every fucking country on the planet while I’m young? Why the hell?

I do love the idea of long trips and adventures and, to tell the truth, I don’t really know if I want to reach the point of saying “enough of excitement, now let’s have a predictable and fixed routine”. I might wish a stable life in the future, but the idea of obligating myself to “feel old” for the sake of it, because people expect some sort of behaviour from you… Sorry, it doesn’t work for me.

 

 

Ageing still freaks me out because of physical issues, not so much regarding appearance, but especially when it comes to mobility. How can I stroll around if my body doesn’t follow me? However, as many women pointed out when you’re older you might have other interests. Perhaps you aren’t able to visit loads of tourist attractions on the same day (as I did in Amsterdam, for instance, going back to the hostel dead on my feet). Or even you just don’t feel compelled to rush. Instead, you enjoy sitting comfortably in a café sipping your cappuccino or discovering a hidden and gorgeous neighbourhood. Not to mention you can come back to your favourite places and revisit your own memories (I particularly love this idea).

In fact, there are various ways of travelling and people surely can find their own way to do it. What makes your trip unique is not the amount of things you do (or the insane events you attend), but the intensity we put in each moment.

Such an eye-opener this article was for me. I hope it can make a difference for every woman who had the chance to read it, particularly when they’re in their 30s (like me).  It seems that, during this decade, women are pushed to get married, have children, consolidate their careers and adapt to social conventions that seem just pointless.

From now on, I promise myself I’ll revisit this link every time I realize I’m fearful and unsure about crazy and audacious plans for the future, especially when involving multiple destinations. Can you imagine how awesome must be to carry a backpack and be the centre of attention of your shared bedroom in a stylish and busy hostel? All the 20 something’s shattered and you’re there, full of beans for the next day of the walking tour.

I discovered the magic of travelling only when I was 29 in Europe and, thank goodness, these energetic women showed me that I have decades of trips, fun, and discoveries waiting for me. It depends more on our spirits than bodies, and I’ll promise to take care of both as much as I can.

Backpacking life (12) – Barcelona, arts and an unforgettable ending

My trip in Barcelona officially started when I got off the overnight from Madrid. Still a bit sleepy, I looked around as to make sure I was really there. Barcelona! It’d be the final stop of that debut-trip in Europe, which had started in Scotland on November 1st.

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I was wax euphoric and, therefore, everything around me looked fantastic – even though the train station was just ok, a train station. I had breakfast in a McCafe to use the Internet and find out how to reach my hostel by underground. It was near Las Ramblas (what an elegant name for an avenue). Different from other places, at this time I had a ticket, a gift from the Australian guy I met in Wales (such a shame I don’t remember his name).

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I took the underground, still amazed, and got off where I was supposed to find the hostel quite easily. I’d booked a bed in that place with some difficulty, just one day before travelling, as it seems that party hostels are more common than normal hostels in Barcelona. No, I was in no mood for noise during the night and bloody drank guys.

It should be a piece of cake to get to the hostel, but guess what? To and fro for ages without not even finding the fucking street. I saw some policemen and I thought “oh those guys know every corner around here, they’ll help me”. They hadn’t heard of the street before. That shocked me a little (officers are supposed to get around effortlessly in case of chasing someone or something like this), but I was more worried about my hostel than local issues. It’s just unbelievable how hard it takes to me to find my accommodation wherever I go. Out of the blue, a good soul appeared and gave clear and correct instructions. What a godsend.

The hostel was huge, with a big kitchen for the guests and a lobby with many tables and sofas. The receptionists were nice, and quickly I took the lift to see my bedroom. It had plenty of space and it didn’t seem fully occupied. Thank goodness the enormous locker was inside it, and I even managed to keep my backpack in there.

Down to the reception again, I grabbed a map and went for a walk. I was hungry, so I first stopped at a restaurant. I found a reasonable one not far from the station, fair prices, and I used their Internet to tell my friends that not only was I safe and sound, but also in one of the most stunning cities in Europe.

Las Ramblas is definitely the most famous place in Barcelona, and it was pleasant to walk up and down, observing shops, local people mingled with tourists and, of course, its marvellous architecture. The idea of La Sagrada Familia and other precious buildings made me cheerful. I’d just arrived and it was still day number one!

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I was impressed by the number of Catalonian flags in town. I don’t know many things about the political stuff in the region, and I imagine that it must be very enriching to live for a while in Barcelona to understand more of the matter.

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There’s something very impressive about Barcelona, almost difficult to define, what turns it into an experience, more than an awesome touristic spot. I pretty much love cities which make me feel small compared to its magnitude. And that was the case. The kind of awesome environment to host the Olympic Games, as well as Rio, for instance, where no matter you look you see some sort of beauty and grandiosity.

In the Gothic Quarter, there are medieval churches, charming squares and narrow and crooked streets. I love markets, so I visited the two ones I came across near there, including La Boqueria. I was enchanted by all those colours of food, drink, and cultures.

Even with a map, I was confused about my way, and I ended up at the beach. It was cold, cloudy and, empty, with just a few people around. I still remember my feeling there, a feeling of gratitude. The world was my oyster!

After lying around, I went back to Las Ramblas because I wanted to walk around in the evening too. Amazing. Monuments and fountains are illuminated with different colours, and it’s even more impressive than in daylight.

I met a Brazilian girl in the hostel, who had come from… Dublin! With those thousands of Brazilians there, I was not surprised at all. She was from Minas and spent some weeks in Ireland studying English. On a tight budget, she managed to travel to Barcelona thank to his godfather, who gave her some money before her trip.

So, at this time, I became trilingual again, speaking Portuguese with my new “roomie”, English in the rest of the hostel and Spanish in the street. Yeah, I decided that I was perfectly able to order my food in the local language. My only effort was to read the menu and say that in a loud voice. Not very challenging, honestly, but better than nothing.

Day 2: Football and architecture

The following day was time to visit the attraction I expected the most: Camp Nou! I was excited even in the underground, before seeing the stadium. It’s indescribable the feeling of approaching a place which is very familiar to you but only on TV, radio, internet, newspapers. However, on a certain day, it’s there, in front of your eyes. I entered the area of the stadium and, on the left, there were the ticket offices. If I had more time and money, I would certainly buy one to watch a match. It must be thrilling!

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Inside, I bought my pass to access the arena and quickly bumped into a group of Brazilians. Noisy and full of enthusiasm, which is not a surprise, given we were in one of the most important temples of football in the world. Different from museums, churches and art galleries, I believe stadiums are places where you are expected to shout, take selfies and go crazy and it seems pointless to go there and remain even-tempered.

To get started, you visit the museum, where you know more about more than one century. Two things caught my attention, even though they’re not unknown: the strong relation between the club and its community, especially when it comes to the political situation; and the great importance that Brazilian players have had along Barcelona’s history. There are so many references to Ronaldinho, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Romário, Rivaldo, Neymar that you can’t help feeling a certain pride while there, among those priceless trophies. You almost want to tug someone beside you and say, “Hey, I’m Brazilian, I’m special too” haha.

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On the whole, I enjoyed the visit, but the general atmosphere of the huge room disappointed me somehow. Indeed, Barcelona became a powerful and marketable brand last years, and, in a certain way, I felt the museum too commercial, as the sponsors and their logos want to share attention with visitors. In a corner, there was a space with some advertisement about Qatar Airlines. Honestly, football clubs are way bigger than any sponsorship, so it annoys me that companies occupy such an important place. It’s unavoidable to have them around the stadiums and on the shirts, but is that so necessary to let them near football boots and photographs?

Anyway, we moved on and it was time to see the pitch. Finally! From the chairs (we weren’t allowed to get closer), I saw the grass and chairs and all its colours. And I was speechless. It’s so beautiful. When a teenager, I was a huge fan of Barcelona because of some Dutch (and handsome players) who joined the club at that time. I watched so many matches at home on Sunday, struggling to tune the channel that broadcasted them. Sometimes the image was terrible and I could hardly see the players. I didn’t have a computer and Internet wasn’t accessible in the 90’s, so that was my only chance of following the team. Twenty years later, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was there.

So, Barcelona or Real Madrid? I try not to make comparisons between experiences, but generally speaking, the arena in Madrid seemed less “business-driven”, and the result is an environment where you feel more the passion that comes from the sport. It’s just my perception, though, and of course, both stadiums are unmissable.

After the tour in the stadium and in the shop (with a gift to my father), it was time to visit the second great attraction in Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia. It that kind of place from where you heard so many praises that you imagine it won’t be that surprising. However, I was mistaken. Gaudí’s most famous work is more than impressive, it’s extraordinary. Enormous. The aspect of melting gives it an aspect of mystery, added the fact that it’s still under construction.

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I was in two minds about paying to go into the cathedral as I had little money, but, again, I’d heard that its interior was as splendid as the outside, so I bought a ticket. At that time you had to be under 27 or something to get a student discount in Europe. When selling my ticket, a man just asked “Are you a student” and I said “yes”, what was true (I had a student visa). As he didn’t ask to see my ID and I looked younger than my 30’s, I paid only half the price. Not bad.

I had the chance to confirm the rumours about the temple: inside it’s marvellous. It was built in a way that the light can penetrate, coming from many colourful mosaics. The bad part of the visit was the tourists without any respect for a sacred place. They shout, they run, the touch everywhere. What the hell!

 

La Sagrada Familia is so astonishing that you don’t want to leave it, but there were more things to see, so here we go. From there, I went to La Pedrera, another Gaudí’s work. Barcelona is sort of an amusement park if you like architecture and art.

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From the pavement, I had a look at Casa Battló, known as House of Bones because it resembles a cranium. I didn’t visit inside, as the money and the crowds around put me off. It was nice from my where I was anyway.

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I kept walking to see all the statues and fountains along the way, as well as crossing again the alleys in the Gothic Quarter. My second day was over, and what a day!

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Day 3: history and some hidden treasures

On my third day, I walked around the Arc de Triomf, one of the most famous attractions in Barcelona. The beautiful square was almost empty (low season, the best thing in the world). When you have almost all the place for you, you can relax more and do your silly things, such as taking as many selfies as you can until the time you perfectly frame you and the arch on the camera.

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Strolling, I found a cultural centre, which had been a convent, a school or something like that. A treasure that you don’t even notice if you are in a hurry. Not far from there, El Born CC, another arts centre located in the old market of Born. When reforming the building to turn it into a library, the workers discovered archaeological vestiges: the market had been built over a medieval city! The ruins are still there to impress you. Besides, you can learn a lot from Catalonia’s history. I tried to read many texts in Catalan and for me, the language is a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and French. I was able to get the gist of the panels and that was a huge surprise. I’d say that it’s easier to understand Catalan than French (at least when it comes to reading). Travelling and learning, marvellous!

Next stop, Parc de Ciutadella. One of my favourite spots there. It’s a park with some remarkable buildings, statues, and a gorgeous fountain. According to this description, it just seems a typical park, but nothing is exactly commonplace in Barcelona. Everything is fantastic. I was struck by the “naked trees”, without leaves, so organized as if in a “ballet”.

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The best part about being in a town for five days is that you can while the hours away and try new streets, the ordinary ones, where you can find graffiti, derelict buildings and even shopping centres which are different from the ones you got used to.

Day 4: Parc del Laberint, more Gaudí and

Labyrinth Park (Parc del Laberint) was recommended by one of my “roommates” in Porto. I met the Spanish girl in the hostel and, after chatting away, she told me about this place. She was not from Barcelona, but had lived enough to discover “secret treasures”. Reachable by the underground, the park was the “main attraction” on my fourth day. Perhaps there is more movement there in the high season but in November… there were no more than five visitors including me. And what a park! It’s not exactly abandoned but visibly doesn’t get as much attention as other places in Barcelona.

I’m not complaining. On the contrary: strangely I like empty and intriguing places. They’re sort of spooky, but I feel highly connected to buildings and areas which seem “forgotten”. They fascinate me. So far, Parc del Laberint remains as one of my strongest memories from my first trip around Europe. I particularly fell in love with the leaves on the ground, so brown, so much Autumn 🙂

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I took the underground again, this time to go to Park Güell. It was a change. If the previous park was almost deserted, this one was jam-packed with tourists. And those crazy ones who take one hundred selfies together and don’t mind running over you from time to time. Price-conscious and not willing to face those crowds, I decided it wouldn’t be worth. Also because you can see everything from the top, as the area is open. In fact, the only thing I would miss out were the visitors. The surroundings seemed as much or even more sensational as the park itself, so it was a good deal.

If you hike a little, you reach the top of the hill, so I did it. I sat for a moment to admire the view and express my gratitude to life, besides resting, as I was tired. The problem was that I didn’t find a way to go back to the park, so I walked a lot until I gave up and went down through another path. It was a residential area and not very welcoming, but eventually, I was out of the park.

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To save some euros, I went back to the hostel on foot. The distance was quite enormous. One of the advantages of travelling solo: no one can bother you about insane choices. Walk more, see more, feel more.

Day 5: the last one. Why?

It was Saturday and I woke up a little sad. It was the last day of my trip. In the evening, I’d be flying back to Dublin. Actually, that was awesome, because I missed my friends. On the other hand, I enjoyed so much the experience of backpacking by myself that it was quite painful to stop. Besides, Ireland had become “home” and I had things to sort out there, what made even more difficult to say goodbye to Barcelona.

I’d think about sadness later, I told myself, so I went to visit Palau Nacional, which wasn’t far from the hostel. It was drizzling, so, wearing my blue and beloved raincoat, I went on foot to have a look at that palace. It’s so beautiful! The sides of the stairs are decorated with fountains and plaid tiles, blue and yellow. The surroundings are well-wooded, and not even the poor weather dampened my enthusiasm.

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The rain became heavier, however, so I had to protect myself under a shelter. There weren’t many people at that time, and we had plenty of room in front of the palace, which houses The National Museum of Art of Catalonia. It’d be open for visits only later, but unfortunately, I had to move on.

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Back to my “expedition” and photographs, I went down the stairs to see the entire building, and it was fantastic. One of the places that shows why Barcelona is so popular among travellers. There’s an impressive waterfall, and a huge fountain in the middle of the square. I almost could hear a voice saying “Hi, I’m Barcelona, I’m fucking beautiful, amn’t I?” Oh, yeah. Definitely.

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Very close to the palace you can visit the structure built and used for the Olympic Games in 1992. Just a few tourists there, but I made an effort to visualize the same place full of teams, flags and fans twenty-two years before.

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Five days seems to be a reasonable time to visit a city, but Barcelona has so many features that I believe you need months (or even years) to explore all its details. An example was Montjuïc Castle, an old military fortress dating from the fifteen century that must be great, but I didn’t have time to visit it. The consolation: mentally planning another trip.

In the historic centre again, another stroll, including a stop to eat a paella in a restaurant. I’m not keen on seafood (it doesn’t look nice, no matter how much I try), so I preferred the vegetarian one. Twelve euros (sitting outside), a fair price.

I still had time to visit the docks and pop into a shopping centre in front of it. It was over L I went to the hostel just to take my backpack and take the plane back to Dublin.

At the airport, as I saw Irish people waiting for the flight, I remembered the good things about “my place” in Europe. Mixed feelings: I wanted to stay and I wanted to go “home”.

Those 29 days travelling solo changed me completely. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, London, Porto, Lisbon, Seville, Granada, Madrid, and Barcelona. During my life, I’d seen people crossing borders and I thought that I wouldn’t be as courageous and smart as they were. Well, I proved myself. I was. And I was pretty sure I wanted more. Always more.

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Inspiring reading (7)

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I’ve been reading some interesting articles lately, here they are:

Why paper is the real “killer app” – An article from BBC about the benefits of using pen and paper instead of tons of apps

Can’t unplug? Here’s how to navigate your digital anxiety – Another piece from BBC about technology, now the dangers of spending too much time on smartphones

Don’t hate me because I take travel selfies – Actually, I like all her articles (she came to Brazil a couple of weeks ago :))

You don’t have to be everything right now – Sometimes I feel as if everyone is doing loads of important and exciting things, except me, Good to know I’m not alone in this madness

Try This 30-Day Challenge to Improve Your Spanish! – A nice game to boost everyone’s Spanish 😀

Spanish: some (happy) updates from my studies

One of my most important goals in 2017 was to boost my Spanish and, after nine months of study and hard work, I’d finally say I feel I’m on the right path.

As I mentioned before, I’ve struggling to find the best method for me. I can’t afford classes or a private teacher now, so I’d have to get by with the alternatives on hand.

I heard tons of people’s opinions about their experiences, listened to their advice, created huge lists of links and websites. I tried to be more open-minded regarding learning techniques (based on my own perception as a language instructor as well).

However, at the end of the day, I came to the conclusion that I just learn by books. Physical ones. If people think it’s boring, sorry for them because I love it.

I have only a grammar book (Spanish Grammar and Practice for Brazilians) and I wanted something more complete. I considered buying one still last year, but I was a) short of money and b) unable to find something that caught my attention. I’m very methodical, quite meticulous, so it’s not that easy to pick up one that I really like. It might be a problem to many people, but the more traditional they are, the more I enjoy it. That’s me.

I don’t mind paying more for a good book from a highly-recommended editor unless I feel it’s comprehensive, helpful and contains what I need to reach a proficient level in the future (C2, yeah, in this matter I’m ambitious). That means I’ll hardly reach that point just watching videos on Youtube, no matter how engaging they might be.

Three or four seemed interesting, but they don’t have Key Answers. You only find it in its Teacher’s edition, what makes impracticable to correct my own exercises (Spend more money only to have the answers? No way).

Without knowing what to do after completing the courses on Future Learn (corresponding to level A1), I decided to become a member of the library of Cervantes Institute in Sao Paulo. I had been there months before and I was fascinated by the space: clean, neat, colourful, with a wide range of books, dictionaries, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Not to mention wifi, digital material and other equipment you can use.

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In my first visit, exploring the spot more carefully, I realized that it was possible to borrow exactly the books I’ve seen in the book shops! Old editions, but who cares? The language didn’t change so much in the last ten years. I picked up two, related to my current level of work (A2) and I committed myself to study at least one in less than five weeks (the period they allow you to keep them). Aula Internacional 2 seemed more suitable to my challenge, as it was a bit shorter than the other one. It seemed well-organized and easy to follow its 12 units, so let’s give it a try!

I’m glad to write that the mission was achieved in less than four weeks, so I studied three units a week, even at the weekends. Spending some days in my parents’ house in the south helped me complete it, as there’s almost nothing to do in town regularly (the opposite of Sao Paulo). Basically, I copied the most important parts of the lessons, listened to the audios and did the exercises. My level is considerably better than A2, so it wasn’t difficult to understand any content in particular.

At this point, I’m doing the exercises regarding A2 (I took some copies) and it’s working marvellously as a revision.

On Tuesday, I gave the books back to the library and borrowed others, but leisure and literature at this time (cartoons and Gabriel García Marquez). I’ll try to read them very quickly and, next time I’ll go to the institute, I intend to take the same collection, but then B1. Yeah, I’ll be an intermediate student with fewer grammar mistakes, what cheers me up. We’re finally moving on!

If all goes well, I’ll finish studying all the content related to B1 (obviously tougher than the previous level) by the end of the year. I don’t know exactly if I can keep this strong rhythm next months because some changes might come up, but at least I’m doing my best to master my third foreign language.

Backpacking life (11) – Lively Madrid

Madrid was the third city I visited in Spain and it was probably the one which made more enthusiastic about. It’s such a famous city, you know, everyone has heard of it (Real Madrid is one of the causes, surely, as well as Barcelona as the team named after represents way more than an institution nowadays).

I get to Madrid very early in the morning and, still at the bus station, I tried to connect to the internet. Inside me, I repeated “Madrid” countless times. Such a dream to be there!

Instead of a hostel, this time I had a house to go directly. A friend’s sister was waiting for me. I met Maria in Dublin, a sweet girl from Andaluzia, who managed to put me up in her sister’s house in Madrid when she knew I was going there. I wouldn’t refuse as, apart from saving precious euros, I would have the chance to stay with local people and learn more from the culture.

Quickly I got to Susana’s house, close to Reina Sofia museum. Madrid seemed pleasant and beautiful, many trees decorating the streets and well-preserved buildings.
I ate calamares in a restaurant. I did not like them, but I gave it a try. What an adventurous traveller I am, you know.

I walked so much. Madrid is really beautiful. Trees everywhere, historic and well-preserved buildings, enthusiastic people. I got really impressed in one of the main squares in the evening when loads of people were socializing there. You see people in the streets in Brazil, but not literally occupying the space for the sake of it. Some monuments were illuminated with different colours. It was a pleasant moment for an outsider for sure and perhaps one of the most memorable images that I carried from there.

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Stroll in the centre in the afternoon. Dead on my feet in the evening, so I turned invitation’s Susana for dinner with her friends. Such a pity, as it’d have been nice to meet local people, but seriously, I was shattered. This day I learned that you need to be careful with fast trips because they might exhaust you and fuck your health – at the end of the day, you might not enjoy the places.

I liked Madrid very much, however, it seemed to be a city of extrovert people who go out for tapas, chatting and having fun together. Party-driven people, in other words. It seems that wouldn’t match with me somehow. Just for a comparison, in Sao Paulo people also are to and fro and speak loudly, but it makes me more comfortable because it doesn’t seem people are in an animated get-together.

I don’t know why, but I was curious about the old book shops, and I wish I’d had more time to explore them and buy some stuff.

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Next day, in the morning, I went walking to a famous market, where I bought two hair bands. I was short of money, but it cost only five euro each. I have to say I started to enjoy Madrid way more after visiting that lively and remarkable market with so many different faces, cultures, and styles.

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In a court, not very far from there, a different festival with young and high-spirited people. I didn’t stop to talk to them (I’m shy!), but at least I took some pics.

I had lunch in a simple, but a fancy bar, quite empty, where I ate tortilla de patatas and a beer – a caña, as they call a small glass. I felt quite a madrilleña at that time and I realized that little by little, Madrid involves you in its atmosphere.

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By underground, I reached “Museo de América” (America Museum), sort of a place to remember the history of Spaniards in America. I couldn’t help having mixed feelings about a gorgeous country which explored part of my continent centuries ago and had terrible consequences for our first inhabitants. Honestly, I don’t know how to cope with these feelings and thank goodness I went to live in a European country which is not so related to my own national history.

Later, I went to Reina Sofia, but I spent just a few moments there. Partly because some but some rooms were closed to the public, but also due to the essence of the museum. Contemporaneous art. Modern stuff. Very modern. Too modern for me. There were some works about education and they were quite interesting, but it was not my taste. Guernica was not accessible those days (I don’t remember if in another exhibition or being restored), so I couldn’t see it. That was a pity, but Madrid is not exactly a remote city where you have a chance in a lifetime to go there. Next time, for sure.

The best thing in Reina Sofia, in consequence, was the garden. Green benches, lovely plants, and some sculptures. I love landscape gardening (that would be a good profession were I more artistic) and I took several pictures. It wasn’t crowned, what made my work easier.

In the end of the afternoon, time to go Prado Museum. I faced a long queue with Brazilian saying rubbish close to me, which was way worse than any wait. Sunday has free entrance. I usually prefer to pay instead of sharing the place with so many annoying and noisy people, but it was preferable to save some euros. Apart from the flocks, I enjoyed very much. That’s the kind of attraction to visit again when you go back. Huge paintings, careful work, that’s the sort of art I’m keen on, not weird inventions that need a manual to be minimally understood.

Monday came and then what I expected THE MOST: my visit to Santiago Bernabeu. It was the first stadium I visited in Europe, what might explain why I was so thrilled. I didn’t know what to think when I really saw the pitch. I guess only people who love football understand the sense of magnitude that comes from these sacred places. I’ve never taken so many pictures from a place as at Real Madrid’s house. I went nuts. I was close to tears when I visited the rooms with its main trophies with the anthem playing loudly. It reminded me the time when I visited Olimpico, former Gremio’s stadium in Porto Alegre when I was 14. Santiago Bernabeu made me a 14-year-old girl again and I’ll never forget that feeling. You live to live this sort of moment. I just wanted my dad with me there and I took those dozens of pictures to show him.

You can visit the pitch and the bench, which is a privilege you don’t have in other stadiums, as I found out later. Awesome! From my point of view is by far the best attraction in town.

I still have some time before going to Susana’s house to take my backpack and leave her the keys, so I wandered more, as impressed as I was in the beginning with the charm, cleanliness, and beauty of Madrid.

Time was over, and I left a message thanking Susana for everything and I headed for the train station – yeah, in Dublin my friend Maria helped me buy a ticket to travel to Barcelona by train, like in the films! I would go there overland as well, but now in a different style. I was quite afraid of being seen as a “bumpkin” so amazed I was there, so I tried to make up. Inside of me, though, I could feel fireworks. That would be so exciting!

Later I told Kyunga, my best friend in Dublin, that I really felt as I was in a movie. She answered the Facebook message as sweetly as always. “It is a film, and you’re the main character”. In some simple words, she described my whole year in Europe.

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Welcome, 33

Birthday. Again. Thirty-third one. Some weeks ago, perhaps for the first time in life, I was quite excited about the fact, not giving a shit for being older.

However, in the middle of July, I’ve become more depressed than usual and my previous excitement simply disappeared.

Thank goodness I don’t feel melancholic today, not even sad or thoughtful. I feel ok. I feel normal and that makes sense.

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I’ve never been the kind of person who’s keen on parties. Any kind of party, to be honest, and even less regarding my birthdays. So much that I only had parties when I was a child and didn’t have an alternative. As an adult, I usually spend my birthdays alone or with the less excitement possible.

I just loathe the idea of hosting people, talking to loads of acquaintances, booking places, telling about my life and so on.

That’s why, about two years ago, I decided to spend this day the way I want, and that involves being on my own and doing what makes me comfortable.

Years ago, I used to travel to be in my hometown with my parents, grandma and uncle. I’d be awesome to be with them only, but then the drama starts: “we need a cake”. We don’t need it, but that’s fine. Sometimes not the cake I’d like to eat, but let’s go. “We need some snacks too”. We don’t need them either, but ok. By the time they invite more relatives, “why not friends?” And then I had to spend all day/night long entertaining people, telling about Sao Paulo and my stuff, boyfriends (and why the hell I don’t have one), if I have a well-paid job (really, this sort of question).

Honestly? That’s not my idea of happiness. If I’m there, I’d prefer to read a book, write something or watch rubbish on TV.

In 2015, I convinced everyone to leave me quiet. I’d been back from Ireland and I was visibly down, so at the end of the day, we had a quiet dinner – only my mom, my dad, my grandma and my uncle. It was good.

Last year I didn’t manage to travel and I stayed in Sao Paulo. It turned out to be my best birthday ever, perfect in my introvert style. I went to Botanic Garden, where I had a mini and solo picnic. I walked around and, when I got a bit tired, sat by the lake to listen to music and reflect on many necessary things. No small talk, intimate conversations with myself.

This year I also preferred to live it according to my expectations. It’s Monday, so I woke up in the morning, had a lie-in and talked to my parents on the phone. I had breakfast, watched some videos on Youtube and sorted my accessories out. I had lunch and went to work (I had a class at 1 pm). I came home because the second class starts only at 7 30 pm and I’m here, writing. Before, I studied English a bit and had some delicious cake (Red Velvet, my favourite one) with coffee. I didn’t access Facebook and I’ve got only an SMS message from a housemate.

At the weekend, I was wondering if I’d feel lonely spending the day almost isolated. You know what? I feel good. Peaceful. Especially today I’m the most special person in the world for me and I deserve a tranquil day, the way I love.

I still feel a bit bad for not staying with my family today, but I guess that at some point we need to stand for our wishes. I realised I very much think about people’s feelings, but I hardly ever pay attention to mine.

At least one day I want to be what I am without any disguise. Despite my feelings, I believe my family understands me and loves me anyway.

Happy birthday for me, welcome 33.

Backpacking life (10) – The uniqueness of Granada

Granada!! Finally!! I decided to include Granada in my travel plan after discovering how popular the town was among people who go to Andaluzia. Alhambra seemed to be an unmissable attraction, with all that heritage connected to the Arabs, Islam and medieval times. I had to go there, definitely.

To reach Granada, I took a bus from Seville on a sunny morning, and from my window, I could appreciate the picturesque landscape and understand why people enjoy the south of Spain so much.

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Already in town, I had to take another bus to get to the centre. The problem: to ask that in Spanish. My solution to avoid that: find someone who speaks English. Yeah, I was lazy. Shame on me. In a shop, searching for English speakers, a woman made a frown and replied she couldn’t use English well. Oh, goodbye comfort zone. I gave it a try and, to my own surprise, I asked my simple question in Spanish with no mistake. Perfectly. She stared at me, almost amazed, and said: “Your Spanish is much better than my English”. In other words, she wanted to know what was wrong with me looking for English speakers but being able to speak Spanish. Weird, I know that.

Anyway, I followed her directions and quickly I was in the centre. I found my hostel easily, as the accommodation is close to one of the main squares. I left my stuff in my room, which would be shared with three nice (and messy) French girls, and headed to have a look at the town. First I had to eat something because I was starving, though. I stopped in a restaurant, a simple one, and order a dish called “cocido de garbanzos a la española”, made with meat and chickpeas. It was tasty and a promising beginning. From the restaurant, I began to stroll around with my camera to take as many pics as I can (I swear I look at all the photos I’ve taken from time to time).

The casco antiguo (the way people call old centre in Spain, as I recently discovered) is marvellous. Exactly the small towns you expect in Europe, full of historic buildings, churches, fountains, narrow passages, shops, walls much older than the official history of my own country.

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I was particularly struck by a market beside the central cathedral, Alcaicería. There was little movement in the morning, some tiendas still opening, and I wandered through the place thinking how many things happened there along centuries. The place was not original, though, as I discovered later, but a wonderful replica – the first was destroyed by fire in 1843. I could imagine people buying flavours, clothes, accessories and objects for countless reasons, and each reason would contain a story.

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I also loved the channel by the centre, which transports you to other times as the town is so well-preserved.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to visit Morocco while in Europe, but at least I went to Granada and somehow you can envisage how awesome must be the Arabic countries. There’s a whole Arab district, Albayzín. I walked to and fro during all that afternoon, trying to absorb the unique atmosphere.

From a belvedere, San Nicolas, you can have a look at Alhambra (at that time I had bought my ticket for the next day, as some rumours indicated that they run out quickly). Additionally, some shops have their names in Arabic to turn Albayzín into the second best quarter I visited in Europe (Alfama is still number one in my heart). Really, what a place.

I had dinner at around five o’clock – these delicious churros con chocolate that you see in the picture below and for THREE euros. I barely can afford a sandwich in Sao Paulo for a similar price these days. And it goes without saying that it was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had. To tell the truth, I was quite embarrassed in the café because I didn’t see anyone else alone eating that much, but who cares?

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After treating myself and my stomach, I went to the hostel. I was shattered, and I stayed there just lazing around and talking to some friends on Facebook.

In the morning, after my sacred breakfast, I joined a walking tour in the centre. I still remember the guide’s name, Maria, a friendly and chatty local girl who knows a lot of her hometown.  We basically walked around the old town and headed for Albayzín to finish our stroll. Looking at her and the work of her company, “Feel Granada”, I wondered that being a tour guide must a fulfilling experience. A tough one, as some travellers make an effort to be annoying and picky, but pleasant at the end of the day.

I had lunch in a Turkish bar while waiting for my Alhambra tour in the afternoon, Everyone I knew talked so much about that I was already excited. I went up the hill to access the property and, little by little, I felt I was in one of those TV programmes where the guys travel around the world to show you unbelievable spots to make you envious and quite quit your job and house and everything else.

Alhambra is one of these pieces of marvel that somehow remained untouched. Civilisation changed, but the palace is there.

A bad aspect? Flocks of tourists, and precisely those unbearable kinds who want selfies in front of any vase they come across. They don’t read anything, but they want pictures. If I were rich, surely I would book that place during a whole day just to study it. Read inscriptions, observe details, all the ins and outs of architecture. Perhaps to invite a historian and an architect to point out hidden secrets and curiosities, you know, this sort of stuff. As I don’t live in the lap of luxury, the remedy was to breathe and try to appreciate that wonderful construction ignoring awkward people.

I loved everything, but the garden, my gosh ❤

Back to the hostel to take my backpack, I wandered around for a while more and stopped at a bar for tapas and beer. Then I decided it was time for tea. With so many Arab houses on those streets, it would be ridiculous leave Granada without popping in one of those mysterious cafés. I saw many young people with huge narghilés, almost hidden behind tons of smoke, laughing among themselves. I ended up in a dark and decorated tea house. I ordered Egyptian tea for three euros. I wouldn’t drink a decent coffee in Dublin for that amount of money and in Granada, I got a jar of delightful tea.

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The place made me a bit sleepy, so I should move on and say goodbye to Granada.  My next destination? Madrid!

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Alhambra in the evening 🙂

I took a bus to reach the bus station and I had some trouble to find the right stop to get off, but eventually, someone helped me and I found it. My sense of direction is really terrible and I wonder how I can travel alone without getting lost forever.

My bus would depart at one o’clock and there was nothing to do apart from waiting, so I grabbed my backpack and I leant my head on it. Some guys were sleeping sound, but I barely can doze off in public spaces, so I just closed my eyes. Next day would be full of new things, as all days in that November.

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These are the most interesting links I’ve come across recently (or not that recently, as I haven’t posted links for ages).

I “travel fast” and don’t care what you think about it. Here’s why – I love her blogs, I love her pics on Instagram and this article is precious. A little treasure in times where people who bang on about  “real travellers” and “real travels”. Bullshit and Oneika explains why brilliantly.

10+ People Who Turned Log Piling Into An Art Form – This is just awesome, have a look to understand what I’m talking about.

The 20 Most Stunning Fairytale Castles in Winter – Castles are gorgeous, and they can be even more in winter. I visited Trakai Castle, in Lithuania, in January. The ground was covered with snow and that’s one of the most vivid memories from Europe. I paid a visit to Prague Castle too, but the weather was warmer.

5 Affirmations for Asexual People Struggling with Self-Acceptance – Asexual people have to put up a fight on a daily basis in order to live the way they want, and this article shows some of our struggles.

The Original “All Natural” Remedy For Burnout? Nature. I intend to write about the benefits of outside activities on our mental health. I strongly believe that nature can act as a remedy for many problems we face in modernity.

21 European cities you never thought to visit – but definitely should – Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to these contents nowadays because, if I do it, I pack some stuff in my backpack and go to the airport immediately. All these cities seem so fucking great!

I Love Doing Things Alone & People Should Stop Worrying About It – I just love doing things by myself, I can make myself extremely happy taking me out to restaurants and cafés, art galleries, parks and all sorts of trips. People very much annoy me when asking me about companions for everything I mention to do.

How to practice emotional hygiene – A beautiful and touching talk. I might write something about it and my perceptions about depression, anxiety and how we can deal with these issues.

Backpacking life (9) – Charming Seville

Spain was the next country to visit during my first European trip in 2014 (wow, almost three years ago). There are so many reasons to go there that I couldn’t list all, honestly. Football (Real Madrid x Barcelona to say the least), music, dance (flamenco fascinates me), history and several promises of good food and drink. So here we go!

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With some help, suggestions and lots of advice from Spanish fellows I met along the way in Dublin, little by little I mapped out a plan: to access the country on the road from Lisbon, then Granada (highly recommended), Madrid (exciting just to hear its name) and Barcelona (a dream of almost all beginner travellers).

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I reached Seville in the morning, very early – so early that I considered taking a nap on any corner at the bus station before moving on. However, I had to find my hostel and, of course, that would take some time as I hardly ever find my accommodation painlessly. Quite an hour later (yes, that much to find it), I came across the house, an old and impressive building in a historic part of the city (everything seems is historic there, though). Quickly I met the owner, who told me about a flamenco show in the evening. As the attraction was a must-see for me, I booked my ticket right away. According to him, that presentation would be the best in town. I don’t know if I trusted him very much, but it seemed a good deal. Twenty euro or something like that, but that was fine. I’m quite tight-fisted when I travel (I’m joking, I am a bit stingy all the time), but I do believe it’s morally wrong to set foot in Seville and don’t see people dancing flamenco, as the dance appeared exactly in that town.

 

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Sevilla Dream Hostel, my ‘house’ during two days in town 

 

Evening plans were scheduled, so it was time to explore the city. Seville is colourful and full of picturesque buildings. You breathe history there.


The trip would also be an opportunity to use my Spanish, as I was able to speak it fairly well (fairly well = broken Spanish, but still useful). In a bakery, I did my best to order my breakfast in that language, you know, somehow you want to feel a local for a while. I opened my mouth and… no Spanish. I was struggling to utter something, but only English came up, and eventually, the girl behind the counter asked me in English if I wanted something. Of course, a blonde girl having tremendous trouble to pronounce a couple of simple words… un café y un bocadillo… I felt quite embarrassed not because of the fact itself, as workers there must be too busy to notice someone’s effort to speak their language, but bloody hell I had studied Spanish for months. I had travelled to Colombia, interviewed people on the phone in the middle of protests in Paraguay and translated loads of articles. How come you can’t order a fucking coffee?

I put the frustration behind, though, as I didn’t have time for language failures. I should focus on exploring the town and all its precious buildings. Churches, old houses, small shops and beautiful balconies which seem to be a mark in Spanish architecture. The Cathedral of Sevilla is obviously fantastic, but even more was the chance to see many people, locals and tourists, up and down around the marvellous construction and its medieval walls.

 

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Have a look at THIS place – the famous cathedral in Seville and one of the biggest in the world

 

Although my Spanish was poor, at least it was enough to understand signs and inscriptions in monuments, what enriched my experience there. I noticed that tables and chairs are placed outside bars, which reminded me of our Brazilian bars. After ages feeling “locked” in Irish pubs (usually with their doors closed) was way pleasant to be in a “Latin” environment.

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Dead on my feet, in the evening I went to the hostel to have a shower and rest a little, and afterwards, I headed for the flamenco show. It paid off, certainly. Great dancers, enchanting music. Some people were also having dinner during the attraction, drinking wine and so on, but I couldn’t spend money like water, so watching the stuff was more than satisfying.

 

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I just love going window shopping when I travel to see what each town has in particular

 

Next morning, I went downstairs for breakfast (I NEVER skip breakfast in hostels as it’s usually free and it can support you for hours during the day) and, having eaten a lot of bread and milk and cereal, I went for a tour at “El Patio Sevillano”, a place where toradas still take place. I pretty much know that the practice is loathsome and shameful, but I couldn’t help myself visiting one of those arenas which were scenarios for Hemingway’s stories.

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You learn a lot about Spanish culture there and I do hope that this “sport” can be prohibited, so as to people can enter the building to know more about horrible events which inflicted pain to so many innocent animals.

I kept strolling around Seville (certainly my feet hated me at that time) trying to absorb all that history, its colours and details that tell so many stories that couldn’t be learned in only forty-eight hours.

Surely Plaza de España was one of the places that impressed me most in Spain. It’s hard to believe that the construction is new, as it really seems from centuries ago.

In my second (and last) evening, I hung out with Raquel and Valle, who I had met in Dublin during a Couchsurfing event months before. They helped me preparing the trip and it was such a pleasure to chat with them. I’m against the idea that your travels are only worth if you spend time with locals (sometimes you can’t do that), but when you can, gosh, your trip become so special. Not only did the girls meet me in a weekly evening, but also paid the whole bill. No words to thank them!

After our meal (diverse types of tapas and beers), they wished me a good trip to Granada, my next destination. I went back to the hostel (only men in the mixed room, but it turned out well) to get some sleep and be grateful to the universe for all my good moments.

The most surprising thing about Seville, though, I found out only when I was back to Brazil. Popping in one of my aunt’s house in my hometown, she told me something I didn’t know: that I had a Spanish background from Seville. I surely knew about my Italian roots and I had heard something about Spanish from my mom’s ancestors, but I didn’t know that it was from Andaluzia. I guess the information would have been important during the trip, as to establish even more connection with the place. But I don’t complain, as those days were unforgettable the way they were.