Estonia, once again!
When your soulmate abducts you from your daily life and takes you on a journey into the middle of the Atlantic. A birthday present hard to beat.
The Azorean archipelago might just be my favourite spot in Portugal. Nine islands of unparalleled beauty and where humans have found a way to be in a symbiotic relation with nature, without disrupting it.
We had a car and 4 days to make the best of our time in Terceira island. Nothing much had been planned ahead (it was a surprise getaway for me, after all…) so we decided things as we explored it.
- Algar do Carvão: right in the epicentre of the island we can find a 2000 year-old nature-made hole that you can explore up to 100 meteres deep; careful not to set an eruption!
- Miradouro da Serra do Cume: great for those inspirational Instagram photos.
- Serra de Santa Bárbara: you can’t get any higher in Terceira than this; make sure you bring a coat with you, it might surprise you on how windy it is.
- Piscinas Naturais de Biscoitos: if you fancy a swim without putting yourself at risk, this is a great place. Plus, the dark volcanic rocks give it a great atmosphere.
- Alto da Memória: the tropical garden that leads you to it is a great place to unwind; climb up to one of the best views of Angra.
- Monte Brasil: no, you haven’t reached South America just yet; right next to the city of Angra do Heroísmo you can find this green site: perfect for a hike or a picnic under the trees;
- Caneta: if you want to try some local delicacies, this is it; go for the Alcatra dos Açores (if you are a meat kind-of-person), the most local dish you can have on Terceira island.
- Pip’s: surprisingly, one of the best memories I will have of this stay in Terceira is having breakfast in our cute little cottage while sipping on some tasty apple juice from a local brand named Pip’s. It felt surprisingly refreshing, even for someone (me) who is not very keen on apple juice. Highly recommended!
Every day we were certain of two things: feasting our eyes on all the green and blue we could take in and resting our souls in a beautiful and secluded place called Pico da Vigia.
A simple, yet incredibly thoughtful house on the foothills of Serra de Santa Bárbara, overlooking the Atlantic, was our home. The green door led to an oasis of tranquillity, where you could find both modern and antique furtinute that gave the space a unique atmosphere. No detail was left undone.
In the morning the ritual included opening the window shutters to take inside the house all the green and blue it could. And then picking up a small woonden basket with fresh bread to prepare our breakfast…
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People ask me why I come back to Lithuania…
It is quite easy to answer such question, as everything can be summed up in one word: people. Cliché… but clichés exist because they can be true.
After losing the bus that would take me from Rīga to Biržai, my backup plan was hopping in a mini-bus that left me on the outskirts of the Latvian capital and then sticking my thumb up, hoping that someone would be kind enough to give me a lift. Sooner than I expected, I got a ride from a Lithuanian guy that left me close to my destination. My confidence was quite high and in no time another car stopped and Biržai soon became a reality, one hour ahead of the bus I was supposed to take.
Rita was waiting for me outside
her palace the museum where she is working as an EVS volunteer. I had never been in Biržai before, so Rita managed to be my local guide until the freezing cold weather forced us to find warmth in the apartment she shares with other savanoris. Tasty, intercultural food and drinks kept us chatting until I couldn’t keep my eyelids open. I got some sleep and early in the morning a bus awaited me. And this time I couldn’t afford to miss it.
As I was crossing the flatlands of Lithuania, I was getting more and more anxious. Plungė was soon becoming a reality. The town that I had made my home for 10 months was receiving me for a few days once again.
Kristina was the key to make it all happen. She did everything in her power to make me feel part of her family. She was waiting for me at the bus station. An emotional moment soon unravelled.
I small meeting was held at her home. Familiar faces that I had kept in my mind since the day I left. Familiar faces led to familiar moments. I felt incredibly welcomed.
However familiar, things had changed a bit as well: the children’s library no longer felt like the neglected son; cool new venues where to go for a meal or grab a cup of coffee had opened downtown; many buildings had received a fresh coat of paint; Kristina was now working at the children’s library; a new EVS volunteer, Ekaterina from Russia was now taking the place that Anastasia and I had left in September 2016.
I was happy. Those few days spent there were over in a blink of an eye.
March gave me the chance to be once again in Latvia! This time to take part in a youth exchange as team-leader of the Portuguese entourage.
Responsibilities aside, I genuinely had a great time. There were moments to have fun, to learn, to hear, to play, to discuss and above all to feel like there are no barriers between different human beings. This project, funded by Erasmus+, aimed at bringing youngsters together in Latvia to set aside their differences and work together in what makes them equal.
Never before had I gotten the chance to explore Riga’s seaside resort town, Jūrmala. Beautiful Art-Noveau wooden villas sandwiched between the Baltic sea and a river, it was the perfect fairy-tale-ish venue for a week of bliss. I even got to wander around the frozen beach that stretched for more than 30 kilometres.
My time in Latvia would not be done without a little trip to its beautiful capital, Riga! However, the freezing cold temperatures and wind forced me to find shelter up high in the sky – meaning that I finally got to enjoy the view from the top bar at the Radisson hotel alongside a tall glass of beer.
The first thing I faced upon reaching the Scottish capital was how to correctly pronounce its name. One would think that given the ending – burgh – it would be articulated as in Pittsburgh. Wrong. English wouldn’t be complete without its quirks… Ask a local how to correctly say it: ED-IN-BRUH. Yes, bruh!
The second was the freezing cold temperatures that made it pretty unbearable to spend some quality time outside. Truth be told, when I packed, I took as if I was going to expect mild, rainy weather. Mistakes do happen and I paid the price – a runny nose along with a tenebrous cough.
The third ordeal I had to go through was the accommodation. I thought about doing Couchsurfing due to the fairly steep prices, but a few days before coming to the city I was able to snag a pretty good deal: $13 for 2 nights at a fairly central hostel with average ratings. I knew beforehand I was not in for anything spectacular and it managed to be even worse: dirty floors, uncomfortable mattress, Arctic cold room due to bad isolation, one single toilet for a 12-bedroom and staff that was nowhere to be seen (I waited for about 20 minutes outside the hostel because no one was at the reception). Avoid staying at City Stay Hostel Edinburgh. The price you pay doesn’t make up for all the hassle.
In spite of all this ranting, Edinburgh really found its way to my heart. Inspiring architecture everywhere I looked (from the medieval Old Town to the neo-classical of the New Town), a state-of-the-art museum where spending a full day might not be enough, striking hiking trails that offer great panoramas and at last but not least, affordable prices on food, shopping… (at least when comparing with London!).