Uruguay: Paz e Tranquilidade no Cabo Polonio

Personal, Travel

Two years ago I was on the road in the Southern Brazil. This was when, by default, I decided to visit some parts of Uruguay and Argentina. I always wanted to visit the ‘Southern Cone’ as they call the region of the southernmost countries of America, given the magical realism literature I was into, people I met in Barcelona coming from there and simply: curiosity to discover the most distant and remote places of this continent. This post gathers some memories full of sun, ocean breeze and laughter of a few days I spent with my friend Jimena in the Eastern Uruguay.

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I met Jimena years ago in Barcelona and she was one of these people I instantly felt that I can get along with easily, so I was very sad when I learnt she was leaving town. I promised her the visit in her home country Uruguay though and – sooner than expected: I kept it. I was lucky enough to visit Jimena in a very remote, and charming location some 300 km east from Montevideo: Paloma, near Cabo Polonio.

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Cabo Polonio is a peninsula where the colourful, wooden architecture is preserved, and you can’t get there by the land road, only via natural park and beach, where access is limited. People live there in peaceful surrounding of the Atlantic Ocean, endless remote beaches famous for spotting whales passing by this latitude regularly. In the wintertime sea lions and seals are also quite often seen guests.

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I would like to dedicate this post to Jimena thanks to whom I could live the perfect ‘local authentic’ experience of a few days so close to the nature, living in a settlement which looked like a moon valley (see above), eat delicious fresh & sea food, and most importantly share precious moments together. As Jimena loves Portuguese much as I do, I’ll only say: muito obrigada, amiga!

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Trojan Horse was a Unicorn and lived in Troia

Travel

What is the connection between a remote peninsula in Alentejo and a well-known digital art conference? Well, both relate to the Trojan Horse. The conference and collective are named after a Trojan Horse (who) was a Unicorn, and its anual venue takes place in this remote, peninsular location of Troia in Portugal.

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I was invited there last week to meet a bunch of concept artist, illustrators and animators from the film, entertainment and gaming world. It took me only two days to interview about 70 people and see their portfolios, some of them presenting pretty interesting (or at least: quirky) stuff.

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The place itself is also specific, to put it this way. Three years ago there was nothing more than a fishermen village on this enchanting peninsula South of Lisboa Metropolitan and Setubal anyway, surrounded by the Sado river estuary and Atlantic Ocean. Then, the luxury resort was built and although architectonically it’s not that much of a disaster, it has a strange feeling.

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This is what happens often in places that offer great climate and nature sights all year round: it attracts greedy real estate investors. Hopefully Troia was not entirely covered in concrete and glass, and the National Park of Sado River Estuary was preserved carefully.

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Being a complete sucker for Portuguese landscape, cuisine, language and what-not, I enjoyed my stay in the luxury village of Troia. Thanks to some tiny cafés and restaurants that remained there, as well as great companion of those who participated in the Trojan conference.

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Bem-vindas em Lisboa

Personal, Travel

In June I re-visited Lisbon on my way to Azores and spend there two weekends. I was lucky enough to live the last days of the Santo Antonio festivities and visit my favourite beaches: Guincho and Caparica. The city shined in the light of the sun, or yellow lanterns during the night.

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It changed greatly as well. The infrastructure is much better since the airport connects the city centre with a metro line. The Tagus river bank has now a boulevard to enjoy the sunsets while listening to the urban beat (often: Brazilian, Angolan combo of sounds – so good…). There are, however, more tourists than before. Lisbon became one of the ‘hottest European destinations’, and it is perfectly understandable. Fascinating history, quirky architecture, sunny weather, best beaches in Europe within 1 hour drive reach, great cuisine, English-speaking services and affordable prices. Sounds great, but too familiar for someone who lived 4 years in Barcelona, where ‘normal life’ has become unbearable due to the massive tourism.

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That’s why I am worried that the authenticity of Lisbon is at risk. My Lisbon friends no longer visit Alfama, as it is mostly invaded by tourists on segways, or worse: tuk-tuks creating serious traffic jams (!) on the little cobblestone streets.

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I don’t want to rant about tourism in general. This is what we all do if we want to discover new places, don’t we? But then let’s call it travelling. Lisbon is one of its kind, special location and I always love to come back there, but when I do, I try to respect the locals, and their everyday lives and customs.

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I always feel so welcome on the tiny streets, bars and pastelerias where time stopped years ago. I look at the faces that have seen different times, and now staring at the unconscious or intoxicated tourists passing by with the same indifference. Yet if you try to live the spirit of the traveller living the night and day of Lisbon, you will notice the difference.

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Bem-vinda seja, Lisbon seems to tell me anytime I land there. And soon I’ll be there again, on a my way to a very interesting art conference!