Aeroporto da Portela- Lisbon, Portugal

I wanted to really quickly touch on the Lisbon airport because I think an airport experience can really make or break your trip. So knowing what you are in for can help alleviate some of the travel pains.

Airports in general are inherently stressful, thousands of people of various back ground and cultures all desperately trying to get somewhere. On a schedule they have no control over, while they are quite likely under-slept, under-washed and underfed. I think it is safe to say that the actual getting there is often the least fun part of any trip.

I do a lot of research when planning a trip and try my best to make sure our flights are convenient and touching down on airport that I know will make our trip more pleasant.  In researching for our trip to Lisbon last year, I found a lot of negative opinions about the Lisbon airport but since there is no other viable options in getting to Lisbon on the timeline we were looking at we had no choice but to fly to it.


All in all I was fairly impressed with the airport, granted that might in part be due to my low expectations. But it was a lot better than people seem to have claimed. Landing, disembarking, locating the baggage claim and exiting customs was all clearly communicated and easily understood. Locating the rental car counter was just as easy and before we knew it we were on our way. My husband even left his sweatshirt on the plane and when we went back to retrieve it the flight attendant rushed back and got it for us without any hassle.

When we returned the rental car halfway through the trip, again it was all hassle free. We studied the signs heavily before returning the car since they aren’t in English and we knew going in that it would be confusing. But since we had done that pre-work we knew exactly where to go and the return was simple. The attendant was kind, the process was easy and we walked away cheaper than we were quoted originally. This was point a concern of mine as a lot of the reviews said they got hassled for more money upon returning the car. Maybe because we paid for the insurance a head of time, or maybe because we chose a well known world wide rental agency rather than a cheap local one I cannot say. Whatever the reason, it was quick, simple and pleasant.

The only trouble we had with the airport was when we left. We had a VERY early flight, and even though all the travel advice on the planet says to be at your international flight three hours early most ticket counters don’t open until 6am. So if you have a 6am flight (like we did) no one will be there until about an hour before your flight. I am not saying don’t show up early for your morning flights, because you never know who will open when. I am just saying chances are if you show up early for your early morning flight out of Lisbon don’t be surprised if the TV monitors don’t show your flight, and that there isn’t anyone to help you until slightly before your boarding time.

Since we didn’t know this, we didn’t know the airport and none of the signs were in English it took us a while to figure out what to do. So I will tell you, when you enter the airport go up the small flight of stairs to the right, and go back until you see the ticket counters, you cannot see them from the front doors and that was confusing. Once you get checked in you will have to go back into the airport even further to go through security, which is very strict for how unassuming it looks. Again we were confused but we followed the crowds and we wound up in the right place in the end. Last but not least the airport itself looks like it was built in two era’s, one part in a 1970’s sci-fi movie and another part recently renovated. All of the shops, food and bathrooms are located in the recently renovated part to the right of the security stop, and the older part of the airport is to the left where most of the boarding gates are. So now you know! Enjoy and happy traveling.


An Ode to the Amsterdam Airport

Traveling is a funny thing, for me it is the height of joy but it is also challenging. I start off my travel day in a frenzy, furiously driving to the airport, high on the excitement of starting out my vacation. Then about 10 hours later reality hits (at least for trans-Atlantic trips) that I have been surrounded by people in tight spaces with no fresh air and I am on the verge of a total meltdown. Tired, uncomfortable, overwhelmed, lacking a shower and so very ready to get to my destination, stopping yet again for another layover is often the worst part of the whole trip. I am not a shopper of luxury goods or terribly interested in paperback romances. So airport shops hold little drawn for me. After hours of sitting and consuming overly starchy airplane foods sitting in an airport restaurant consuming MORE food I don’t actually need is certainly not the answer. And as much as I love walking, walking a busy airport full of stressed out travelers often stresses me out more.

So imagine my surprise and delight while walking around the Amsterdam with my parents on our last trip overseas I found a small space where I could actually step outside and get some fresh air. Without warning I headed to the door and forced them outside. It may have existed for the purpose of smoking but lucky me there was no one else there. So while it was freezing cold (it was December after all) we sat outside in the sun and watched the planes move around the tarmac for a while. It is the little things, the small breaks back to normalcy that helps relieve the stresses of travel and for me something like this small outdoor rest area made all the difference to me. So thank you Luchthaven Schiphol for creating this space. I will always try to layover through Amsterdam when possible for this reason alone.

Travel liturature 

I listen to a lot of podcasts, one of which is Gretchen Rubin’s Happier. It’s a lovely little bit of media, all positive and well, happy. A while back before heading off to Portugal there was an episode about recovering from vacation let down, those inevitable few weeks after a great trip where a person is forced to adjust back to real life. What a drag. One suggestion offered was to find books about the places you just went and read them while adjusting back to reality, in theory this lessens the blow of having to go back to work, the gym, the schedule, what ever it is that you are dreading etc.

I have pulled together a few suggestions and plan on working my way through some more as I remember them and as I read more (I read a lot).


-For a fun historical fiction look for books by Indu Sundaresan these include the Taj Trilogy:

  • Twentieth Wife
  • The Feast of Roses
  • Shadow Princess

– If you have a lot of time on your hands:

  • Shantoram – By Gregory David Roberts
  • Red Earth and Pouring Rain – By Vikram Chandra
  • Sacred Games – Also by VIkram Chandra

– For a more literate heavy read try:

  • The Enchantress of Florence – By Salman Rushdie

Or for the non readers out there watch Johda Akbar a Bollywood film about the relationship between the Mughal ruler Akbar the great and his Rajput princess Johda. There is a really interesting connection between this film and the Salman Rushdie book. Two sides of a historical debate about the truth behind Akbar and his relationship with the Rajput princess. Though if you love the story in Johda Akbar you may not want to read the Rushdie book.

Switzerland and Italy:

  • Night Letters – By Robert Dessaix

It’s funny, I was gifted this book back in college and remember loving it. I remember getting a sense of riding on trains at night, and rambling through ancient streets on a path to discovery. But I cannot for the life of me remember what the book was about. When I looked it up again I had no memory of the story itself. But the impressions still haunt me, when ever I am on train or traveling through Italy I think of this book.

Spain, all books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon but in particular the three (the fourth is set to publish this year) listed below. They are a set but the first in particular was published in some editions with a walking tour of Barcelona and should not be missed.

  • The Shadow of the Wind
  • The Angels Game
  • The Prisoner of Heaven
  • The Labyrinth of Sprits

Spain, Morocco and Portugal:

  • The Time In Between – By Maria Duenas

There is also an excellent Spanish language mini series on Netflix right now of the book also titled The Time in Between. Everything was filmed on location and it is truly a work of art. I cannot recommend the show or the novel enough.


Alan Brennert wrote a couple really lovely novels that take place in Hawaii.

  • Molokai
  • Honolulu

If you are looking for something a lot more serious try:

  • Hawaii –  By James A. Michener

Michener wrote 26 novels in the course of his career, each terribly comprehensive and rich in the locations they are set. He also wrote 30ish non-fiction pieces and had his very first novel adapted into the Rodger and Hammerstein’s Broadway epic South Pacific.


There are so very many books I have read that take place in France but I think the most important is probably Paris by Edward Rutherford. The book is huge, not just in page number of the amount of material is covered. It follows six families starting at the Belle Epoc period but sweeps back and fourth throughout history giving one of the most singular overviews of French history I have ever read. Rutherford himself much like Michener has had a terribly successful career and has published eight epic novels about locations around the world. I was reading New York prior to loosing my Kindle (doh) and plan on tackling Dublin and Ireland Awakening prior to my 2018 trip with my mom.  Stay tuned for reviews on those.

I hope these suggestions either help motivate you to travel somewhere new or help cushion the return to post vacation reality. As I mentioned I will post more as I come across them. Read on and happy adventuring!



Sintra, Portugal

Despite all my research into the area I was expecting Sintra to be a flat dry small town. It is certainly in no way flat. It is a beautiful charming semi-Mediterranean hamlet living on a hill. A town which I instantly fell in love with and will dream of until I can somehow weasel my way into living there for good.

We very purposely split our 10 day trip into two locations. We wanted a chance to experience both the country side and the city atmosphere of Portugal a country that was a first for all of us. We rented a house and a rental car, and after a 48 hour travel day, my husband very bravely hoped behind the wheel of our Ford Focus and instantly experienced the horrors of Lisbon freeway traffic. That may have been a mistake. But after only missing one exit we made it safe and sound to our house, in the country and promptly drank two bottles of wine and fell asleep.

Our first full day was spent touring Pena National Palace and The Castle of the Moors, both of which you could see from our bedroom. What a way to wake up! Well, I was actually so horribly jet lagged that I woke up at 4am and couldn’t sleep so I laid on the couch watching some pretty horrifying BBC children’s shows and some sort of Antiques Road Show game show type thing until the sun came up and I could make coffee without seriously damaging my sleep schedule.

But! Once the sun came up the views were breath taking and I vowed I would someday live here. Or at least in Sintra, there is no way I could afford to live in the house we rented.

Sintra is both a small town and a municipality within the Lisbon state. The city area is where we concentrated all of our time, but the area is general is quite large and makes up several small town areas that total in a population of around 300 thousand. So while our house was in Sintra, we were not in the city center, and still needed to walk or drive a few miles to get to the actual town of Sintra. When making plans be sure to check maps for exact locations and transportation options. Also remembering that while things may be walkable by distance that doesn’t mean it is walkable when considering your safety. European town are quite old, side walks are rare.

We chose Sintra specifically instead of the hundreds of other pictures small towns in Portugal because of the concentration of things to see and do. There were a lot of sites claiming Sintra is a perfect day trip out of Lisbon, which I suppose if you picked two or so things you HAD to see and took the train out it would be a great day trip, but there was an inexhaustible list of things we wanted to see. Even at three full days (not including our first day settling in) and we still missed over half the sites. You could really spend a week or two just in the area. In fact when we go back this is exactly what I plan to do.


Sintra on it’s own is a UNESCO world heritage site, it has a large concentration of romantic architecture due do it’s long history of being a sort of playground for royalty and the uber wealthy. In fact there wasn’t a single view I found that didn’t have some sort of palatial house sitting in the middle.

And of course amidst all the wealth and splendor are broken buildings waiting for someone to come along and love. Which I love, and very much wish I had the funds to do something about.

Due to the narrow streets and small amount of parking navigating the area can be difficult. While we didn’t have too much trouble finding places, we were also there at the low season and always got into the town area in the morning. I would not recommend driving here during the high season.


Could you imagine trying to move a couch into here? Images of the infamous Friends episode “PIVOT” come time mind. We wound up eating at our apartment a lot but we did have one quite nice diner at a place whose name I have inexcusably forgotten. We went in for tapas but wound up having burgers. Calf burgers to be exact, which means veal, you have been warned. The food was great, the service impeccable, we shared a dining room with a bunny and a staff who kept apologizing every time the power went out. We didn’t mind, we loved the whole experience.

The second full day we spent wandering around the gardens of Quinta Da Regaleira a mansion and gardens turned museum as recently as the 1990’s. On our walk up to the entrance I came across what I think may have been coffee trees. Hot cuppa anyone?! They didn’t look ready to pick.

We also spent a good portion of our days just wandering around the town. Drinking coffee, sampling pastries and getting a feel for the area. I couldn’t get enough of the sun or the details on all the buildings. The tile work is incredible.

Above a panel of glazed tiles on the upper balcony of a typical apartment building in the area. Below the entire façade of a house covered in blue patterned tiles. I plan on writing an entire post dedicated to Portuguese tiles.

The third day we were planning on going to the Sintra National Palace, a building that is now dedicate to art and specifically tile work. However both my husband and my mom had gotten the flu on the flight over and we chose to take the third day as a bit of a rest. We woke up late, packed up the apartment, and moved up our timeline to get into Lisbon. It would up being a blessing really. We hit the airport and car rental return without traffic and without incident. Our shuttle driver showed up bounding across the pickup area with a sign and a giant grin on his face. More on that in my later posts about Lisbon.

Additional information:

Yoga and Travel – Part 6 – Non Comparison

One of the main messages of a yoga practice is the idea of non comparison. Yoga teaches you to look inward, concentrate on your own abilities in the moment and to not compare where you are at to where others are at.

As I have mentioned travel has a way of making everything seem more stark, the highs feel higher and the lows feel lower.

I think it is really easy to fall into the trap of comparison when you are outside of your own life and comfort zone.  When you travel you are experiencing the fringes of another possible life. You see different types of dwellings, clothing, shopping, cars, roads, towns, etc. It is so easy to compare this possible life to the one you have.

You can wind up associating the natural feelings of freedom and adventure that come with being on vacation with these different possible lives. Which can in turn make you feel envious or jealous of the people leading their actual lives in these places. Or on the flip side, you can have a bad experience and associate those negative feelings with the lives of the people living in this new place. Which can lead to feelings of judgment and superiority.

It is okay to have these feelings, but it is important to remember where they are coming from and bring yourself back to that place of non comparison. The steps to bring yourself back are the same as they are in yoga practice. Recognize that you have these feelings, look inward at where you are at, take a deep breath and refocus on allowing yourself to enjoy the experiences from your own place and reality.

Or for example, recognize that you are on vacation and things are naturally going to feel differently. Look at yourself, where you are at and be okay with this. Take a deep breath and refocus on what you are seeing or experiencing without added judgment. It is okay to enjoy things that you don’t have, and it is okay for people to do things that you don’t understand. Everyone is different, and everyone is allowed to be themselves. These different lives that you covet or judge are not yours to have.

Enjoy these experiences for what they are. They are beautiful and magical, crazy and different, wild and scary. Take them all for what they are, don’t let your own biases and judgments get in the way of loving every min of them.

Love every moment, for all the good and the bad. For they will be short lived and soon you will be back home.



  1. Have you ever found yourself judging or being jealousy of the lives you experience while you travel?
  2. Have you found a good way to recognize them for what they are so you can fully enjoy your travel without being clouded by feelings of comparison.

Thoughts on Money Belts

The first couple times I went oversees I was utterly terrified of having my money stolen. So I was one of those people, with the giant money belt, holding onto all my important documents and money in a giant sweaty mess under my clothes. It is true I never once got pickpocketed. Hooooray!

To be honest with you it was widely uncomfortable and I kept thinking the whole time, about the locals. They aren’t wearing money belts they all just have wallets and purses. So why do I have this monstrous pocket strapped to me?

Pros of Money Belts:

  • They are great for keeping your passport safe.
  •  If you are traveling with travelers checks  it is a good way to ensure you have your funds are safe.
  • These are also great if you happen to be traveling to a lot of heavy tourist areas. Tourist areas = lots of pick pockets. That doesn’t mean avoid seeing the things you want to see, just be vigilant.

Cons of Money Belts:

  • They are uncomfortable no matter which way you look at it. Especially if its hot out.
  • If it is hot out all your documents and money get soupy, so you are quite possibly going to be handing over a very sweaty 10 euro note to your barista.
  • You have to practically flash people to get your money out.
  • Wearing a money belt does tend to flag you as a tourist, which can often mean lesser treatment and or targeting for theft.

My solutions are pretty simple. I tend to travel off season, so most tourists areas I am visiting aren’t all that crowded and I am very careful about protecting my passport. I also always have several photo copies saved in various parts of where ever I am staying. This doesn’t mean if your passport gets stolen you will be able to get back on that plane and go home. This just means you have some proof of having held a US Passport and the reissue process in a foreign country will be easier. Not easy, but easier.

I also don’t tend to carry a lot of cash on me. I know that I could probably save money by being careful about where I exchange my money. But the hassle isn’t worth it to me, I know this about myself and for me it works. So instead I just carry my debit and credit card and pull out cash at local ATM’s a few times over the course of the trip. Then put larger purchases like lodging costs, and rental cars on my credit card.


Do you use a money belt? Have you ever had a run in with a pickpocket?


Planning for Customs Lines

Flying into and out of the country means that you will at some point go through at least two customs lines. The weight time is important to factor in while booking flights. I have know a lot of people that just jump on a site, book their flights and go without thinking through the actual time needed to get from Plane A to Plane B let alone Plane A to Plane B with a customs line in between.

Every airport is different and if you are really concerned about making sure you get it right you can research airport layouts and average wait times at customs. But I thought I would throw some of my own musing on the topic together for you, just to get you thinking about planning for them.

Knowing where your customs points are going to be are important when planning your flights. The customs check will occur on the first landing in a foreign country.

For example if you are flying from San Francisco, to New York and then on to London. London your destination will be your customs check. This is really the idea situation. But if you are like me flying out of a smaller airport and trying to get to a smaller location, you have a bit more scheduling to contend with. In which case it might be common to have a flight from Portland to Toronto to Munich, where you will go through customs in Canada and German at your destination. Or Portland to Chicago to Paris to Vienna. Paris would be where you go through customs and you will wind up doing so between catching your next flight.

When I got on to book our flights to Portugal I was given an hour layover in Munich to land, get our bags, go through customs, and catch our next flight. Some people may be okay with this, the airlines obviously think its reasonable and that is okay. But even knowing the Munich airport well, I knew I would not be comfortable with only having an hour between flights.

I kept shopping around, until I managed to find flights that allowed for three hours at our European Union Customs entry point (Amsterdam) before catching our final flight to Portugal. This affords us two hours to account for delays in Portland or Chicago for weather, long customs lines in Amsterdam, and any number of other things that could delay us. If we happen to get there and get through customs quickly and on time, then we have a couple hours after flying all night to change, freshen up and get some food before our final flight into Portugal.

Coming back we will fly though Paris, but since both Portugal and Paris on a part of the EU we don’t go through customs until we hit Minneapolis. Meaning I am okay with only having an hour layover in Paris, but I want a few hours in Minneapolis just in case.

These kinds of fail safes don’t guarantee anything but I would much rather wind up waiting a couple hours in an airport because we got through customs so quickly, than several days because I missed my connecting flight by 20 min.  But that is me. It is always important to know yourself well enough that you can pinpoint and understand the things you are and aren’t willing to put up with when traveling.


Have you ever missed a flight due to long customs lines or not a long enough lay over? What did you do to reach your destination?

Yoga and Travel Part 2 – Dealing with Discomfort

Last week on Part 1 of this Yoga and Travel series we talked about the importance of breathing to reduce the occasional stresses of travel. This week I would like to discuss the uncomfortable situations we can get our selves into while out of our comfort zone and how a regular yoga practice can help you learn to deal with them more easily.

If you have ever attempted to take a single yoga class you will know it is uncomfortable. I say attempted because there is no shame in trying and feeling like it wasn’t for you. At least you tried, that is a huge step for many people.

Attempting yoga can be uncomfortable for many reasons. It might be uncomfortable because you see it as a ridiculous hippy-dippy practice that has no real use. It may be uncomfortable because you made it all the way through the class and realized it is REALLY hard. Or it might have been uncomfortable because you realized laying still in a dark room for several minutes (the final position of any class) oddly brings up a lot of emotions you aren’t quite ready to deal with. I do not discount any of these, they are all valid feelings and I have at one point thought them all.

The one I am discussing here is actually gaining the emotional ability to deal with  discomfort. Yoga is hard, it is just a fact. No matter how strong or flexible you are it will in fact always be uncomfortable because your practice and the poses that you can do evolve as you get better. You will always be holding a pose slightly out of your comfort zone for a length of time that feels like you might collapse but then the instructor tells you to move to the next pose. You didn’t collapse, you keep going, despite how hard it was.

The lessons I took from dealing with discomfort in yoga and have applied to travel is the patience with the discomfort that you feel during class. If standing in a one legged extended side warrior pose with my hands over my head for several minutes taught me anything, it was that I can endure a lot.

There will be situations that just make you want to loose it when you are traveling. But the more you put yourself in uncomfortable situations the more you will learn your extreme capacity to handle it.

Traveling is an amazing experience but no matter what there is going to be a moment where you wonder why you did it. It can be something small like a long line at customers. Maybe you missed your train, maybe the hotel lost your reservations. Or maybe you just find yourself intensely homesick. What ever it may be, you can turn these moments around by remembering that they don’t last forever.

You will probably wind up somewhere trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t understand you while you are actively missing your train. But at least you aren’t doing it while holding plank the whole time. You can do this, and so much more! Don’t ever let a brief moment of discomfort stop you from doing something amazing. Take a deep breath, find that patience and forge ahead.


What experience did you have where you thought your whole trip was ruined and what did you do to help bring yourself out of the funk and still enjoy it.

Bank Travel Notifications

These days most credit and banking institutions are extremely vigilant about monitoring card transactions. One of the things they tend to do is watch for unusual activity on cards and then will call the owner or shut down the card. Or both.

This is a fantastic feature, unless you are unable to take calls on your cell phone and you go to use your only debit card to realize you are in Rome for the next two weeks with no money.

This is obviously a very extreme case, and luckily hasn’t happened to me, overseas. But it has happened to me in the US, which was difficult enough to remedy without dealing with time zones and complicated phone situations.

To avoid this possible mishap, I suggest getting in touch with your card companies and alerting them to your travel plans. Every institution has a different process for accepting these.

My bank for example, I have to call customer service and have them put a notification on my account stating dates and locations where “unexpected” expenses should not trigger account holds. My credit card company even has an application on their site, where I can login and set future trips complete with locations and dates.

My advice when traveling anywhere even within your home country, is to alert the organization that holds each of the cards you plan on using on your trip. If you are unsure of how to do this, contacting customer support is usually a good place to start. They will probably be able to help you themselves, and direct you to the quickest way to make these updates in the future.

Additionally it never hurts to have a backup card and extra emergency cash stashed away somewhere in your suitcase. As well as having a “buddy” back home who has all your travel info and is prepared to wire you money in case of emergencies.

Yoga and Travel Part 1 – Breathing

Travel I have noticed tends to bring out our extremes. When a person is pulled out of their comfort zone everything becomes more vibrant. The food tastes so much better, the crowds are more frenetic, the mornings are more beautiful, the highs are higher, the lows are lower. As such we are often left reeling from the joy of all the new and wonderful sights but also the stress of everything being so new. Even the most practiced and adventurous of us are susceptible to these extremes. It is  a vignette of real life. A smaller more concentrated snapshot  of the larger picture, compacted into a moment. Intense and wonderful at the same time.

I started practicing yoga in college because a friend asked me to join, she was scared to go alone and I didn’t want to study. On that first day, I realized how much I needed a practice that helped slow me, ground me, feel everything that I was trying to tamp down so that I could process and move on. I started practicing regularly soon after and have stuck with it ever since.  This week I would like to cover the first breathing technique I learned in that very first class and how it has helped me during the stresses of travel.

I have been told by countless instructors that most people don’t breath correctly. I don’t know this for scientific fact, though I know from my own experience that many people I know, my self included, fall into this category.

Without changing anything, notice briefly how you are breathing. Is your upper chest expanding, are your shoulders moving up and down?  For simplicity I am going to call this chest breathing, though technically since your lungs reside in your chest cavity all breathing is chest breathing.

This type of short tightening breaths causes constriction in your body. If you have every had a panic attack you know that these tiny little breaths can easily escalate.

To ease yourself out of a panic attack you were probably told to take slow measured breaths. Try this now for a moment, take a slow deep breath in, feel how it pushes the stomach muscles out, now slowly push the air out and notice how the muscles in your stomach tighten and pull in. Your shoulders probably didn’t move and your upper chest likely expanded very little in comparison to your lower chest and your belly area.

This slow breathing is allowing more oxygen to enter your body and your brain, it slows your heart rate and helps relax the tension you may be feeling. As the body physically relaxes, hormone production decreases, panic subsides and you are more able to make rational decisions.

Now I am a creature of habit, and I was in my 20’s when I first started practicing yoga, so to say that I  breath like this every second of the day would be a bald faced lie. But I do make a conscious effort to implement this technique when I am feeling anxious, overwhelmed or stressed. It has helped me off the edge when I missed my trains, had to deal with several day accidental layovers, lost travel documents, long customs lines, stressful flights, cranky hotel staff, rude waiters and the list could go on forever.

So while the technique doesn’t actually make all of those annoying hiccups that are bound to occur go away, they certainly help me calm down, reground myself and attack the problem with logic and intention, rather than emotion and panic.

Breathing is incredibly important we sort of die if we don’t do it often enough. Give it a try sometime this week, if something stressful comes up and you feel like you might act out with anger or frustration. Instead take a couple deep breaths, concentrate on your body. Feel how it reacts as you concentrate on taking the deepest slowest breaths you possibly can. Then think through the problem again, and see if you react differently, smarter, nicer.


What is your favorite breathing technique or calming trick? What sort of situations have you gotten yourself out of more gracefully by taking a step back and re-grounding yourself before reacting.