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One of the pleasures of slow travel is stumbling upon small gems – unique, local enclaves like Vila Nova de Misfontes, located on the coast of Portugal, midway between Lisboa and the Algarves. The town caters to Portuguese and European tourists in the summer and transforms to a relaxed, sleepy pace from October to May, which suits me perfectly.

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A small mercado with stalls of fresh seafood and local produce, along with a super market, several pasterlias, and coffee houses supply all my needs, including the light, low alcohol content, and inexpensive vino verde, which I have developed a fondness for. Vino verde is specialty of Portugal, best served chilled, like Prosecco, and a nice bottle is purchased for a mere 3.25E.

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A lending library is set up in the decommissioned telephone booth. Leave a book-take a book.

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A natural inlet from the Atlantic Ocean, provides safe harbor for small boats in the rio Mira. Sandy beaches expand at low tide, lining each side of the rio and coastline with swim areas, tide pools, surf, caves, rock, sand, and beach art, surrounded by rugged, monolithic cliffs.

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A small ferry, captained by Maria and her dog, shuttle lazy beach combers and trekkers hiking the Rota Vicentina, across the rio.

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The Rota Vincentina, a 120k coastal trail, provides exquisite hiking both north and south of town. Stunning vistas, unique coastal vegetation, hidden coves, local fishing ports, rugged cliffs, pounding surf, and desolate stretches of soft, fine sand beaches bombard the senses and offer space for invigorating hiking, naked frolicking, sun bathing, time for solitude and reflection, and leaving footprints in virgin sand.

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Upon renting a comfortable patio apartment for a week I searched about and found a cozy attic apartment in a family villa in the old town with a captivating view of the bay and ocean for a second week.

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Ahhhhh….the life of slow, unplanned travel.

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The conversation at my hostel was the coastal Camino route from Porto to Vigo, Spain was
stunning and easy to cycle. With winds constantly blowing from the north/northwest, “Why ride north into the wind”. Instead train to Vigo and ride south with a tail wind.

Weather looked good. On a whim, I rented a 40lb. steel stallion, adjusted the handlebars and seat, strapped my small waterproof backpack on the rack and headed to the train station and north to Vigo, Spain. No cycling-specific gear, only flat pedals, trail shoes, one ratty pair of bike shorts I tossed in at the last moment when leaving home. Once I found the route out of Vigo with the help of a local cyclist, a large industrial port city, a perfect bike path hugging the sea cliffs provided spectacular views. Small beach cabinas located in campismos complete with comfy amenities: showers, kitchens and a bedroom, became home for the next several nights.

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Fueling on cappicino, fresh pastries, cheese, hard sausage, bread, fresh seafood, and of course the cyclists staple- cerveja (beer).

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Extemporaneous exploration, riding cobblestone pathways, seaside boulevards, pathways hugging the ocean cliffs, ferrying across channels, through small villages, port towns, and cities. Getting lost, finding my way, asking local directions in Portuguese, I returned safely to Porto four days later.

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Sheer joy!

Thanks Joao for your encouragement, suggestions, and bike rental!

Thanks Joao for your encouragement, suggestions, and bike rental!

Another way to go shopping – the theme of a contest Of local shops to promote shopping by bike instead of car in Averio, Portugal.

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Wandering the town of Averio I noticed numerous store fronts incorporating a bicycle in their window display. Conversing with a store owner, she told me of the initiative in Averio to promote commuting and recreational cycling. The shop owners were invited to participate in a contest using bicycles in the window displays.

Here is a sampling of creative designs:

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Check out these websites to see the many ways Portugal is promoting cycling for everyone:

http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/04/aveiro-portugal-promotes-cycling.html

https://ecf.com/news-and-events/news/portugals-silent-pedal-revolution

https://www.cyclingfestivaleurope.eu/images/Portugal—Ciclaveiro-contribution-to-the-Cycling-Promotion-Toolbox_v2.pdf

https://www.facebook.com/ciclaveiro/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1624625851156204

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Azulejos are everywhere in Portugal. They decorate everything from walls of churches and monasteries, to palaces, ordinary houses, park seats, fountains, shops, and railway stations. They often portray scenes from the history of the country, ravishing sights, or simply serve as street signs, nameplates, or house numbers.

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The first tiles used in Portugal came from the neighbouring Kingdom of Castile in Spain but influences from the Moors, Italians, and Dutch all contributed to the Portuguese tile work. The original motifs were mainly geometrical using blue, white, yellow, and greens.

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In the seventeen century the Portuguese painters moved their art to tiles to create the Portuguese Azulejos (tiles). They are distinctively blue and white, graphical, and depict religious scenes, rural landscapes, and prominent local edifices and neighborhoods.

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Today tile continues to cover the exterior walls of homes as it weathers the sea air, salt, and wind.

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In Lisboa don’t miss the wonderful Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum).

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Ahhhh – Portugal’s most famous and emblematic pastry – the pastel de nata, a small egg-tart pastry originating with 18th century monks at Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon’s Belem district. As in most cities of the world I seek out the best pastelaria (bakery/panderia) and specifically in Lisboa I searched for the crème de la crème pastel de nata.

Every street in Lisboa has a pastelaria and they all make pastel de nata. With only a week in Lisboa I have been taste testing a lot of these little delicacies. My barometer for goodness is based on the custard, crust, camelization, and over delicacy of flavor.

Today was the day – while touring Barrio Alto I stumbled on Sede Da pastelaria, footsteps from the Praca Luis de Camoes.

Rolling out the crust

Rolling out the crust

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What ecstasy!

Perfecto

Perfecto

jinjinha

Ginjinha or ginja is the famous Portuguese sweet cherry liqueur made from infusing ginja berries (sour cherries) with alcohol, sugar, and cinnamon and served with a piece of fruit (often a sour cherry) in the bottom of the glass. The recipe originated when Cistern monks mixed the all natural ingredients with aguardente (a Portuguese brandy) in the 15th century. The success was immediate!

There is no specific time for drinking ginja. The Portuguese tend to drink it any time of day. It’s like hitting a café bar for a quick shot of espresso. Lore has it that elder women who drink 5 ginjinha per day and elder men who drink 7 ginjinha per day maintain a strong physical constitution and good health. Perfecto! E uma gingjnha, por favor. Salude!

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Pleasure Yourself

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An important aspect of taking care of yourself
Manifesting your well-being
Physical activity, nutritious and lite food, relaxation
And surrounding yourself in nature
All indulgences that create balance
Nurture good health, a strong body, and clear mind

Massaje en la playa

Massaje en la playa

Soak en la piscina caliente

Soak en la piscina caliente

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Attend to healthy pleasures
A rare and pure form of generosity for oneself

Small roller bag and hyper lite backpack

Small roller bag and hyper
lite backpack


When traveling
I own only what I can carry
And I am carrying too much
So I shed – a warm fleece and tights
Hace mucho calor para estas ropas
I shed a dress, skirt and top
That I foolishly tucked in my bag
At the last moment
My mojo is to blend in
Be local, look local

When traveling
I own only what I can carry
Not interested in transporting
Emotional and acculturated baggage
Labels, barriers, rules, and restrictions
To-do lists, boundaries, and decorum
These all confine creativity and the ability to wander

You only need what you can carry
No need to own more
So keep it lite and minimal

Never leave home without swim stuff

Never leave home without swim stuff

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I have crossed the border from Nicaragua to Costa Rica and feel I have time warped from a third world to a first world country. In Costa Rica there are mucho gringos, rental cars, roller bags, pricey hotels, screened windows, hospitality workers who speak english, and actual bus stations. I have hot water, an indoor shower, AC, ice, cold water, and you can toss the toilet paper down the toilet – convenient, boring stuff. The electricity or water has not stopped working once, a daily occurrence in Nicaragua.

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There is less dust, wind, trash, and minimal ants, fewer hot crowded buses, not many horse-pulled carts, less constant Spanish, no dogs under the table at dinner or pigs and cattle in the roadway, nor motorcycles pulling through the restaurant and into the attached casita with no doors, not as many chicken buses, and scant backpackers and hostels – most likely due to the higher cost of travel in Costa Rica. Life is tame.

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I am missing the adventure and flavor of Nicaragua.

Faces of Nicaragua

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As I reflect on my Nicaraguan adventure multiple images come into focus:
Colorfully painted houses, extreme poverty, rocking chairs, young backpackers, surf beaches, crazy crowded local buses, Congo (howler ) monkeys with their deep throated and communications, outdoor showers, costal beaches, nica food, and the faces of the friendly Nicaraguans we met on the journey.

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The maestra of the cacao and chocolate processing

The maestra of the cacao and chocolate processing

Our familia

Our familia

chef and juancito

donut lady

Gerry

helado

panga

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