It's been one full week post-retreat and I am finally sitting down to write about it.
- Renting a van was AWESOME. I drove a manual 9 passenger Renault Trafic and it was a breeze. In fact, I loved the van so much that I manifested us missing our bus so I could get it back and drive the crew from Lagos to Lisbon. We had intended to take the 13:30 bus from Lagos, but I accidentally purchased (or the Universe changed the time) 01:30. After waiting 90 mins for Luz Car (awesome company) to return from siesta, I asked for the van back and we left Lagos. I then had the van for an additional 2 days. Fortunately, parking in Lisbon is free on weekends, so I put the van (named him Alma, which means Soul) near the hotel and explored by foot. The next day I drove south out of Lisbon towards Sines and Milfontes to meet my new travel partner, Benni/Ragnar. Spent the night on the beach and then returned the van to Lagos the following day. Took a bus back to Sines and then proceeded to live the van life for another 5 days. Epic (and
deserving of its own full blog post).
- Cooking for the retreat was an undertaking I won't be doing again. Originally, Nicole was going to handle meals while I taught yoga and handled travel logistics. I severely underestimated the energy and time needed to feed everyone. I'd wake up at 06:00 to make coffee and hot water. Teach yoga, then immediately prepare breakfast, clean breakfast and move on to the next activity. I'm so grateful for the few days that Clarissa at the Living Lodge prepared our meals (pancakes, French toast, baked cod, sardines, caldo verde). Groceries were pretty cheap and we ultimately had a ton of extra food. Anticipating what and when people would enjoy eating was also a bit of a challenge. In the future, I'll need to restructure how/if I offer meals.
- We had 2 dinners in Lisbon: Sala Thai near Areeiro and a traditional restaurant catering to tourists in Bairro Alto. Both were quite good, and the pricing was decent. In the future, I need to budget high for meals out. It's nearly impossible to find a restaurant in Bairro Alto that everyone will enjoy AND that has enough seats.
at the miradour at the top of the famous trolleycar line is a must-do. The graffiti on the walls as you walk up the tram's hill makes it worth it, and then you are rewarded at the top (to your right) with a vista, shops, and a biergarten style park. Pastries, sangra, beer, tile/cork souveniers, meats, cheese...it's lovely. From there, cross the street and head down into the tiny alleys for Bairro Alto. Restaurants fill the streets with outside seating (there really is no space inside). Dinner starts no earlier than 7pm, and by 10:00, the streets are filled with young folks drinking outside of bars. In a different phase of life, it would have been a blast, but I really wasn't up to speed with the party.
- Living Lodge in Arrifana was beautiful - like more luxurious than I had anticipated. We were on the top floor (which is kind of the middle floor) in 4 rooms with 2 shared bathrooms and one ensuite. I stayed in the apartment penthouse above, which included a full living space, bed, stocked kitchen, bathroom and access to the roof deck and an indoor exercise space. In the future, this was
Arrifana to Monte Clerigo
Photo: Jodie Snyder Kitchens
a life saver as it not only gave me space to cook meals without distraction, but also to have personal space. The apartment was even big enough that we all gathered up there for wine and dessert one night.
- The location of our accommodations in Lisbon was perfect, in my opinion. We were located on Avenida Almirante Ruiz near a big traffic circle. It connected to the Alameda station (red/green line) and was one block from the Areeiro station on the green line. Street noise was a bit much and the walls were thin, but I took it as part of the experience of living in the classic old charm of Lisbon.
- Lagos was amazing. We stopped at Ponta De Piedada on our way in, though it would have been a pleasant walk from town. The rock formations coming out of the teal blue water were unreal. It would have been impossible to take an unflattering photo of it. We scrambled around there for awhile (there are a lot of stairs and steep walkways, in addition to flat overlooks). Though we had been considering a kayak or boat tour to see the caves, none of us
went for it at that time. When we got into Lagos, I parked the van in a garage (4 EUR for the day) near Parque a Cidada de Lagos and we went our own ways for the day. Most of us had lunch at Beats & Burritos. Lagos is filled with pastel alleyways, pastelerias, and shops selling postwards and cork wares. I learned from a coffee shop (Tiger something) that an Americano is ordered as Abetanado. Had a ginja in a chocolate cup with a pasteis de nata, and wrote out postcards while listening to a man playing some beautiful guitar in a plaza near the marina. His sign read "Art is the love that you put into the things you do". Lagos was a definite must-do, and I'd even consider taking another daytrip there for dinner or a night out. From the Lodge, it was an easy 40 minute drive.
- Our wine tasting and tour was at Monte Casteleja not fat from Lagos and led by Guillerme, the owner/producer. The farm produces organic wines and generates solar power to be sold for extra income. The operation is run by only 3 people and utilizes WOOF volunteers for
Blue Central Apartment, Lisbon
extra help. Everyone loved the tour and many of us purchased wine or the chocolate fig cakes they served. We were even allowed to purchase his white wine without the labels on it! 20 EUR for the tour + tasting + tapas. Extremely informative.
- Arrifana Beach is filled with surfers and surf schools. When the tide is out, the beach has plenty of space. At high tide, the water comes quite close to the rocks and backing cliffs, but it's still possible to lounge. I didn't have any time to even consider surfing, but the water was so cold and it was too windy anyway. Instead, I trekked away from everything and found a little valley that led out to the ocean. Walking along the cliffs, I made it to the beach and then walked back to the Lodge via the switchback road that winds up. I passed a few cafes, but didn't stop in any of them. Arrifana seems like a slow, beach town.
- Praia da Monte Clerigo about 13 minutes north of Arrifana had a much longer, protected beach with a stretch of sand that met a spattering of cafes and restaurants. On a
Ponta de Piedada, Lagos
day off, a group decided to visit that beach instead of Arrifana, so I drove them and then wandered through the nearby "forest" and dunes. Amidst the succulents, I found a very sparse pine forest where someone had set a wooden chair in a clearing just under a stream of sunlight coming in through the thin canopy. It was the perfect spot for some silence and resetting.
- We hiked from Arrifana to Monte Clerigo (I had dropped the van off at our destination). I'd say the hike was shy of 7 miles, but it took our group 3 hours and 15 minutes with all the stops for photos and wondering how much farther we had to go. It's true, Colin's opinion of "easy" or "steep" weren't quite on point, but I found it to be a pleasant moderate hike. Even with a few challenging valleys, the trail provided a magnificent view of the coastline. We walked past pieces of mountain that had slipped into the sea and the massive stork nests atop windy peaks. Our trail led us to Monte Clerigo (there was a parking lot about 45 minutes before there). Before heading back to the Lodge, we
had coverts (cheese, bread, butter, olives) and espressos.
Next time, I'll add at least 1 extra day to the itinerary so there's more time to explore Lisbon and Sintra.
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