How many palaces have you been to today?
And what about castles? And chapels? And monasteries?
In Sintra -- you get to see so many of them, you find yourself imagining fairies on the side of the road, and wizards and unicorn and whatever floats your imagination boat.
Sintra is dreamy and takes me right into my alter-ego inner queen.
We spend the day in a palace. What else.
Inside the palace, the halls are magnificent, as expected, and we enjoy it almost completely alone. One of the perks of traveling in this tricky era. But when we walk through the palace's gardens, is when we see the true royalty of this place: the fern gardens, indigenous trees, roses, oak trees, moss EVERYWHERE, even unusual kinds of Mexican cacti. I start thinking that the palace is actually the sidekick to this majestic natural beauty. Just then - I notice a grand tree. One that is split into several seating areas. I climb right up and sit on it. This tree is embracing and elegant. For a moment, sitting on this tree, I am wearing an invisible crown and sitting on a throne. The structure nearby, the "palace" is not needed as much as I am concerned. If I was the queen here, I will let nature be my ruler.
Reluctant to leave, we take the longer route out the palace, to enjoy the gardens some more. We conveniently get 'lost' in the gardens. Being in their presence is nearly a mystical experience. At least to an atheist such as moi.
Out of the palace, at nightfall -- I am a civilian again. Simply one of the people.
And the surrounding forest is still my guide, my ruler, my queen. We are often mistaken in who runs things. We think it's us. With our advancements, our technology, our brains... but it's not us at all. It's her. Mother earth.
She rules here.
So take a walk in a forest - find yourself in a palace. :)
Here we go.
This is when I synch in with the journey.
This is when I and the journey are one of the same.
This is when there is no beginning or end: the explorer in me has woken up. She has risen!
The day starts with sleep. A well earned sleep. We then tip our sweet hotel concierge Carlos and he tells how every day he wakes up at 5:30am in the other side of the river, and goes to work in the boutique hotel by sailing on a boat for half an hour...
I suddenly feel incredibly spoiled sleeping in. I am even reminded at how I greeted Carols with a 'Good morning' at 12:20 in the afternoon. I imagine for Carlos - it is midday already. But Carlos seems happy waking up in 5:30am, and I am happy with absolutely NOT waking up that early. So all is good.
The day continues with breakfast at a hipster cafe down the street, and then we go pick up a rental car that will be our sweet ride for the week. We get aquainted with the sweet ride. She is sweet indeed and her name is Matilda - Don't ask why - and we make our way to our first stop in the road: the ethereal magical whimsical poetic town of Sintra.
I could write an entire BLOG on Sintra -- a blog post will be hardly giving it justice.
I could paint Sintra -- but my hands will bleed attempting to capture its beauty with paint.
I could sing about Sintra but my voice will choke up with emotion because she's so goddam pretty.
I could all those things but I'm not gonna. Because no words will do it solid. No art will reveal its beauty. And no melodies will sing its praise.
In plain words: I fucking love Sintra.
We park at our home for the night, and begin walking on hidden curvy pathway towards the center of town. We walk through moss, cobblestones, centuries old villas and churches, all decorated with the same pastel tone Portugal tend to dress its buildings in. We synch deeper with Sintra with every step we make. She's captivating, this Sintra. She is imagination in a real form. She's a dream. She's unexplainable. And yet - here I am, trying to explain her.
We explore the tastes of Sintra: almond pastries, ginja liquer served in a chocolate cup, bras; a dish combining cod fish, eggs and onions, and local farmer's cheese and port wine. What is Portugal without port wine?
But the real taste we get from Sintra today, is our spontaneous walk to a nearby villa, through its gardens which took us to a two mile unplanned hike up the mountain, right up to the Moors Castle; a castle built by the moors in the 8th century. It's on top of a mountain, overlooking the town of Sintra, and it is glorious with its two circles of a wall surrounding it. The light of the sunset shines on it and on the entire town it looks down at.
Oh, castles. What is Portugal without its castles?
When the night falls we are deep in the forest, and we start hearing the sounds of night. The animals wake up at sunset, and make themselves heard. We hear them, and lastly we also see some: A large frog greets us from the side of the trail, and in one of the arches surrounding the castle - giant three spiders and hanging above our heads.
I meet feat there. I meet fear there on a few occasions, and with the love of my partner I am able to breathe the fear away. And it goes away, as swiftly as it comes. Because that is what I am learning here: that things swiftly change from one moment to the next.
If you blink, or close your eyes for too long - you might miss the change.
But a change is gonna come. A change is always one moment away.
The landing is rough.
Feels like the pilot has cataract and couldn't quite see the pathway. It snuck on him, and the rest of us, a few seconds too early. People clapped regardless. It'sn odd tradition but a sweet one... Makes one appreciate the incredible achievement us humans have done of traveling via air. We take it for granted mostly, but moments like this help us remember: 'Wow. I am literally in a container that is FLYING IN THE AIR RIGHT NOW.' But I digress.
So the landing is rough, but in a journey - nothing ends as it starts, and every moment brings in something new. In a journey to the unknown, one must be open to changes. And to how swiftly things change, and how they all still stay the same.
And Lisbon, my darling Lisbon, I can see she was hurting since I last saw her.
She was missing its people. She was missing its night life.
It is waking after a long isolated sleep.
She is waking up cautiously and gently.
She is not rushing to be what she once was.
But her beauty hasn't changed.
She has changed, but also - she has stayed the same. Such is life, and such is the journey. It's the unknown that somehow, somewhere inside of me - I KNOW.
A photo has a thousand faces.
A person has a million personalities.
And a journey has infinte possibilities.
Today began a journey with so many uncertainties, it can only be described as a leap to the unknown. Not an enormous leap -- I am only making my way to yet another western type society, but with Covid era affecting travel -- it is a leap nonetheless.
So here I am, moments before landing in my beloved land of Portugal.
The last time I was in this neck of the woods - it was a month or so BEFORE I had heard about the corona virus and shortly after, the world was never the same. I’ve been longing to be back to Portugal since. But with shut downs, lockdown and restricted travels - it was just not in the cards. Some will argue that it is still shouldn't be in the cards nowadays, but a journey to the unknown requires courage and willingness to take risks. And I am willing, VACCINATED, and ready. I don’t want my life to wait for an end of an era that may never arrive. Growing up in a conflict zone I learned then that anything can happen ALWAYS, safety is never guaranteed no matter how much the illusion persists, and if there is something I want to do - I ought to DO IT TODAY. Tomorrow? Tomorrow never comes.
So there. Journey - it's you, me and a lot of unknowns.
HEART: Boom boom. Boom Boom. Boom Boom! BOOM BOOM!!!
SOUL: All right, all right, gotcha.... chill out...
BRAIN: I am detecting stress levels at a higher rate.
HEART: No kidding, Sherlock!!! Boom boom!
BRAIN: ...And rage level has gone up as well.
SOUL: Yeah, girl, you gotta chill yo...
HEART: Easy for you to say. Boom boom. You are not an organ that rattles like a maniac! You are not an organ at all. Boom boom boom. What are you? AIR??!?
SOUL: Oooohh. If I had an ego, I would be offended right now.
EGO: Yoohoo! Did someone say my name?
BRAIN: It was said in theoretical language.
HEART: This is chaos. Pure chaos! Boom boom BOOM!
SOUL: Yeah, but what IS chaos? Or shall I say... what is chaos if not order reversed...
BRAIN: Chaos is complete disorder and confusion.
HEART: YUP! Like I said, this is chaos! I am chaos right now! You feel me? BOOM BOOM BOOM!
SOUL: Aw girllllll, It's always dark before the light comes on.
HEART: Not helping! Some stupid affirmation is NOT helping me right now.
BRAIN: Affirmations are designed to encourage an optimistic mindset.
SOUL: For once, you and I agree.
HEART: Well you two can get a room or whatever! Boom boom boom! Don't you worry about me, I'll just keep rattling in here, at this rate maybe I'll get an ATTACK. Why should you care about ME??
BRAIN: I detect sarcasm.
HEART: You are correct!
SOUL: And I sense you need our help.
HEART: Ya think? Air and Sherlock have done it again. What a duo, huh! Boom!
SOUL: So why don't you take a breathe inward... one, two...five. HOLD it...
BRAIN: ... And exhale.. two, three...HOLD. Better?
HEART: Woah, that actually... is. I feel better. I AM better.
SOUL: Works every time. (to Brain) 'team work makes the....'
BRAIN: '...BODY work.'
When I feel low,
The world is too high to reach
Even on my tippy toes
I cannot see beyond the feet
Of those who walk fearlessly, boldly, freely
The ones who are part of the world.
My tiny voice shrieks
But it's too small for anyone to hear
Other than the ants by my side.
Even the ants are too busy
making the world their oyster
With their tenacity and efficiency.
If I was the queen of the ants,
being low wouldn't be so bad.
If I lower my head down
I shall see what's underneath:
There is a world here -
And it's fearless and bold and free
And it welcomes even the smallest of us.
It's the world of the ground --
Where roots need to be planted
For trees to be born.
Here they go again: the days before an adventure.
The sorting, packing, stressing, browsing, wondering 'what will it be like?' and 'what will it not be like?' building expectations, figuring out logistics.
It's experiencing excitement one moment -- and bewilderment the next.
We all have heard about that one research study that showed people are happier in the days LEADING to a vacation than the days of the actual vacation. Well, that study would look differently if I was one of its subjects. I spend so much time trying to be EFFICIENT in my preparation, that I forget to sit with open arms embracing the likelihood that things will go wrong. Because, you see, things always go wrong when there is a plan. Us planners tell ourselves that the plan is a structure that can give enormous freedom, but we forget to breathe and actually experience the freedom of the road. The freedom of travel. The magic of getting lost in faraway lands. The power in embracing that very notion.
Truth is, if you travel with me - you will not think I plan. I do it subtly, efficiently, discreetly. I am so discreet I forget how much I plan. I fool myself as being the free spirited traveler that I'd like to think I am, but in truth - I try to put all the pieces together so when my puzzle collapses -- I will still be able to see the image hiding underneath the chaos. Oh, the things we do to regulate our inner madness....
And the plan? Oh, the vicious teasing plan. It sticks its tongue out in arrogance, reminding me of my addiction to it. Of my obsession to it. Of its hold on me. The plan will ditch me in a second, for a better planner. The plan is a lying cheating tease and even though I know that... it's SO HARD to let go of it. It's hard to laugh at its sadistic nature and let go of my need for a plan.
But if I can learn to hone in on the plan so I can DITCH THE PLAN -- then I can master my own journey, with open arms, with openness, and venture into the open skies.
It's time to ditch the plan.
Some words originate as grandiose and dramatic in nature, but gradually they begin to be used more casually. Society adopts, or accepts new (and more polite) meanings to those words. They become slang words in the modern pop-culture western world in North America. They lose some of their original meaning along the way, but the definition - at least according to the gods of google - persists.
This is one of those words:
*An act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.
^^^ That definition doesn't quite suit the ole' saying 'We all make sacrifices sometimes', right?
I mean, do we ALL slaughter animals or people as an offering to God?!?
I very much hope not.
I am no linguist, but as an able-bodied human who uses words verbally and in writing - l appreciate dictionaries, and wish we all used them more often!
In April 2020, while experiencing her first ever global pandemic, Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog to keep her creative writing wheels rolling.
Header Art: Daniel Landerman