Stories from A Week in Portugal, starting with musings from the Alcântara Gardens in Lisbon, to a morning surfing in Albufeira, thoughts on defining our own path to sharing a first look at something super special for wedding photographers that’s coming so soon. Plus, I’ve shared a little list of where I stayed in Lisbon and Faro, and where I ate as well (but only the good places!).
From A Terrace in Milan to Lisbon’s Alcântara Garden
Yesterday I was sitting on a friend’s terrace in Milan, their barbecue sending smoke to wash over us. The wind whipped through the city in a way it rarely does in Milan, but we all stayed outside waiting on the tasty morsels of picanha that were sizzling away.
I snuggled up next to a friend to keep warm and we both stared up at the moon that punctuated the bright blue sky.
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
“È bellissima davvero.”
Today, I sit on a bench in Lisbon’s Alcântara Garden, a freshly minted tourist. I rest a cup of sangria on my lap and watch the other tourists pass by, oohing and ahhing and laughing. The afternoon sun makes the colourful buildings in the distance seem even brighter and the buskers bring a beautiful atmosphere to this already gorgeous place with their folksy, nostalgic violin and acoustic guitar.
A flash of green draws my gaze to the sky. Fresh April foliage blusters in the wind and I notice the same half moon, punctuating the bright blue sky.
I smile. Isn’t it beautiful? I think to no one but myself.
È bellissima, davvero.
Faro Travel Journal
Through the Eyes of a Traveller
13 April 2022
When we travel, it’s easy to be present. To pause and enjoy moments of beauty. To relish every delicious second of freedom and exploration.
But these few days exploring the Algarve with two beautiful souls has me wondering why life can’t always be a little more like this…
Finding immense joy in fields of flowers lining a muddy supermarket car park. Dancing in the street. Deep, honest conversations without pretense or judgment or expectation. Laughing so loudly people make fun. Not minding when 15-minute walks take an hour because there are too many beautiful scenes unfolding before us…
Of course, we have to work. We have to knuckle through the hard moments. We have to allow ourselves time to get bored, to occasionally feel the peace & frustration & comfort of monotony.
But I don’t want to forget the beauty & the joy & the power of honesty in those everyday moments.
I’m still processing these magical few days, but I know for sure that if there’s one thing I plan to take away from my time in Portugal it’s this…
If there’s one thing I want to share with you from these days it’s this…
Even if you’re moving from one day to the next in your hometown, on the streets you grew up, try to see the world through the eyes of a traveller.
Laugh loudly. Speak honestly. Don’t not dance because you’re worried someone might think you’re weird. Exclaim out loud when you spy something beautiful – that unquantifiable feeling that sparks joy in your heart – even if just for a moment, even if that thing is a small patch of flowers lining a muddy supermarket car park.
A Morning Surf Lesson in Albufeira
My hands push through the water, arms taking the longest strokes they can. Behind me, I hear the wave coming so I set my eyes forward, arms still paddling with intention, making movements I know I shouldn’t be doing…
Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a friends hospital room. I felt a familiar sense of dread walking into those halls, but I wanted to see her. To hug her. To somehow take some of the pain away.
I sat on the uncomfortable small chair and the pain that had been shooting down my arm all day suddenly got worse. My fingers prickled and my wrist felt limp.
We have the same disease, her & I, but I thought maybe if I just massage the muscle in my forearm – which felt like it was about to burst – she wouldn’t notice.
Of course, she did. Ironically, she’s also the only person I know who can understand. I just wish she didn’t have to.
I pretended it was okay, as much as I could, and an hour later, once I’d walked outside the hospital doors, gingerly swung my arm over and around. Clunk.
My eyes filled with tears as I calmed my breath that was threatening panic.
I was stressed about everything I had to do in the next days. I was stressed about the long-haul flight I had to take. I was stunned by the pain. But mostly, I just kept thinking, “there’s no fucking way I’m not going surfing.”
Two weeks have passed and even though I shouldn’t be, I’m paddling. Paddle paddle paddle! Pain radiates from my shoulder but I don’t even care. For all I know it’s dislocated again but it can stay that way. All I can think about is feeling that rush, and suddenly, my board and I are surging forward, pulled along by the power of ocean.
I pause for a moment before jumping up but it’s too soon and I slide right off.
The ocean swirls around me for a moment before I emerge, spluttering and laughing. I pull my board back to me and lift the nose over more white wash, straight back into the waves.
Paddle paddle paddle!
Take it slow, you have time, I remind myself.
The sea spray and the blue sky and the way the salt burns my lips has taken over. An all-encompassing joy. A freedom like nothing else I’ve ever known.
If you’re keen to try out surfing as well during your Week in Portugal, we booked our lessons with Albufeira Surf SUP and we had the best time! Definitely check them out if you’re in the area.
A Week in Portugal: On Travelling Solo
15 April 2022
The cold water rushes around me – a quick rinse before I dive into the hotel pool. I had the space to myself but when I turn around, another guest is crouched by the pool’s edge, running her fingers through the water.
“Is it cold?” I ask
“It’s fresh!” she says, “but in a good way! It’s healthy you know.”
I step onto the first step and shiver. “Oh yep, that’s cold!” We both laugh.
She’s wearing a bright yellow shirt, hair dyed red, and a smile behind her surgical mask. Remnants of a pandemic that’s still very much alive.
I know nothing about her but I think I wouldn’t mind sharing a glass of wine together.
I laugh as I dive into the water from the last step and say, “well, I’m going to be in Vienna in a couple days so I better make the most of the sunshine!”
She says she’s going back to Copenhagen, so she understands. We smile and wish each other a lovely day and that’s that.
Isn’t it funny how someone can enter into our lives for just the briefest of moments? A person made up of oh so many stories but who’ll share with you just the tiniest interaction.
How many people who could be our very best of friends or our very worst enemy. How many people we could plan trips with or share meals with or laugh with or love with.
Travelling solo can be a lonely business, but there’s comfort in knowing there are kind souls all around. Souls with their own stories and problems and dreams, each of us doing our best to find purpose in this world.
Breaking Away: Following My Own Path
For a long time, I felt stressed by timing. I thought I needed to establish my business so I could have a house and a family. I thought I needed to meet someone or stay in a relationship so that I could check it off my list – career, partner, babies.
I’ve stopped worrying about that checklist though – the one society tells me I need to fill with ticks – and started worrying about my own.
In these past months, I’ve slowly been building up to making my own version of happiness and fulfillment and purpose my focus – even when that confounds people.
I’ve been working my butt off, imagining the kind of life I would like to create for myself. Part in Australia, part in Italy, part on the road.
I realised if I want to spend more time photographing weddings in the south of Italy, that’s what I should share on my site. If I crave connection with like-minded souls, I should create opportunities to spend time with them.
I realised instead of dreaming of learning to surf for real, I should make it possible to spend more time by the ocean – somewhere with waves instead of calm pebble beaches. Instead of following stories and photos of freedivers enviously, I should find a course and save to make it happen.
It’s like something has just clicked and I realised I don’t need to worry about all the things I was never sure I even wanted, the things that are also ironically outside of my control.
If I meet someone and fall in love, then that’s cool. But if I don’t? I’m having so much fun right now, I don’t even care!
If I decide to start a family one day, however that looks, I’m sure it will bring joys & struggles of its own, but there’s no way I’m ready for that yet.
Instead, I’m more determined than ever to take life at my own pace. More sure than ever that following my own path is the right way to go.
Dreaming Big: A Wedding Photographers’ Retreat in Portugal
Being a wedding photographer can be a lonely business.
Most of us – or at least, the ones I know & love – are driven by love & community & joy & the very real moments & stories of perfect strangers.
Photographing your weddings gives us hope. It gives us purpose. It gives us joy.
But for a job that revolves around love, it is so often so solitary – especially when you photograph destination weddings.
At home in Perth, a wedding day usually starts and ends at home. I could even get breakfast with friends beforehand depending on the day!
But in Italy, you can find yourself on Lake Garda one week and in Puglia the next. It’s a dream come true, but it can get lonely at times.
That’s why spending these few days with people who get it – with fellow photographers who live their life on the road in pursuit of documenting real-life love stories – was so indescribably precious.
A moment to reflect. A moment to feel seen & understood. A moment when we can joke about how our job is effectively being a professional third wheel and not weird people out.
We spent these few days together in Portugal because we realised we needed a moment to pause. While we were there, we realised it’s impossible that we’re the only ones.
That’s why we’re taking interest now in a pre-season retreat for wedding photographers in April 2023.
5 nights to relax, explore, take photos (only if you want to). To let go of everything else through yoga & surfing, to share delicious food and split bottles of wine (or jugs of sangria).
We’ll organise talks starting with how to become a destination wedding photographer and ending with self-care during wedding season, and because we’re all hilariously passionate about our work (aka definite workaholics), there’ll be a styled shoot as well.
And we’re taking interest now! Just reach out to let me know you’re interested at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll fill you in on some details and make sure you get first dibs on tickets.
A Week in Portugal: Where to Sleep & What to Eat
To say that Portugal stole my heart would be an understatement. The casual friendliness of the people. The simplicity of the food. The coastal walks and tiled walls.
Before going, I’d only ever heard good things. The people. The food. The cost of living. The landscape. The colour.
I have a vivid imagination, but the small part I saw during just A Week in Portugal was even better than I’d imagined.
I hadn’t pictured wild storks and spoonbills digging for food in an endless wetland, or distant flamingos standing calmly on salt flats (a scene I’m determined to go back and photograph!). I hadn’t pictured sandstone cliffs or a coastline littered with caves.
That said, I wanted to share with you where I stayed, what I ate and how I travelled so that you can make the best of your time there, as well!
A Week in Portugal: Where to Stay in Lisbon & Faro
I stayed in a mix of airbnbs, hostels, and hotels – yes, all that in just a week! The hostel in Lisbon (in a private room) and the hotel in Faro were perfect for solo travelling, while the airbnb was a beautiful space to share with my friends and travel-partners-in-crime, Silvia & Sydney.
Where to Stay in Lisbon: Rodamon Hostel Lisbon
Like most of my hostel/hotel stays, I found the Rodamon Hostel in Lisbon through booking.com. I stayed in a private room which was really beautiful, staff were friendly, and the breakfast was great. My only issue was some rowdy guests running through the halls around 2am, but that’s hardly their fault – just the joys of staying in a hostel!
Where to Stay in Faro: ABDB Airbnb
We immediately fell in love with the Baixa de Faro Rooftop airbnb and its minimal, coastal interior, as well as the spacious terrace. It inspired us so much and we loved soaking up the last of the sun on the terrace with a glass of wine. It’s not that well-equipped though – there was no coffee, oil, salt or pepper in the kitchen, and virtually no toilet paper (things you would assume an airbnb would have).
Where to Stay in Faro: Roots Hotel
If you’re looking for a place to chill out, get some work done, and soak in the sun in Faro, I can’t recommend Roots Hotel enough. I chose it because the rooms are basically small studio apartments, with fully-equipped kitchens and light-filled rooms. The pool and calm & quiet courtyard were an added bonus, perfect for sitting and working (or relaxing).
A Week in Portugal: Where to Eat in Faro
We hired a car for our few days in Faro, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. It took us from surf lessons in Albufeira to the Ponta da Piedade, and for a day exploring small towns along the coast like Tavira (an absolute dream!). I didn’t have any really amazing food in Lisbon (I was only there for a night!), so here are my recommendations for where to eat in Faro and Tavira.
Where to Eat in Faro: Taberna Portas de São Pedro
We went to the Taberna Portas de São Pedro on the recommendation of our Airbnb host. We had to wait a little for a table, but it was well worth it. We had a seafood feast with octopus, prawns, mackerel spread, clams, and more. I loved it so much that I even went back when I was staying in Faro alone, and they didn’t mind at all that I asked for a table for one on a Friday night (unlike some restaurants in Italy…). I’d definitely recommend visiting!
Where to Eat in Tavira: Ti Maria Tapas & Garrafeira
We found Ti Maria through a quick google search while on the drive there, and boy were we glad we didn’t just walk into a random restaurant. This place is worth the walk up the hill. Every single plate was delicious, with the standout being a savoury pastry filled with cheese and honey. I was too busy eating to write the name down, but hopefully that’s enough for you to figure it out!
Where to Eat in Faro: Chelsea
Okay, so this might be a little touristy, but I have a thing for smoothie bowls and the smoothie bowls at Chelsea were so good!! Plus, the service was super friendly and there’s plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy the morning sun – something I was especially keen to do before ending my Week in Portugal and heading to windy Vienna.
I hope you enjoyed my stories from A Week in Portugal! I’ll be sharing more travel adventures as time goes by, and I’d love to hear from you about what you find useful and what you’d love to hear more about – just leave your thoughts, questions & ideas in the comments below!
And if you want to follow the adventures in real time, you can do that by following me on Instagram, @rhiannamay_ 🙂