Seeking Beauty in Portugal

by Jamila Willis

Admiring Monserrate Palace

One year ago, I promised myself that I would live a life adorned. I didn't mean I wanted to surround myself with beautiful things. Instead, I meant I wanted to make an effort to find beauty in everything. It's been quite a task, this version of optimism and interest. But when I travel to Portugal for a week in August with about a year of practice, I had no trouble finding beauty everywhere. 

The Wall of  Óbidos

The Wall of Óbidos

Below, my list of the most beautiful Portugal moments, memories and places: 

1872 River House (photo courtesy of 1872 River House)

1872 River House (photo courtesy of 1872 River House)

Hotel: 1872 River House - An eight-room boutique hotel located at the Ribera, directly in front of the Douro River in Porto, Portugal. The friendly staff, simple decor, delicious breakfast and convenient location made staying at 1872 River House an enjoyable hotel experience and the best I had in Portugal.

Monserrate Palace

Sight: Sintra, Portugal - Though you will find mosaic tiles and interesting Romantic-era architecture throughout Portugal, the sheer concentration in Sintra was enough to make it a UNESCO world heritage site. Sintra attracts a lot of visitors, so you won't be the only one admiring the palaces. But, if you have an interest in history, interiors or architectures, it is well worth it. Take care to arrive early or take the train as parking can be difficult when the small town gets crowded. 

Praia da Comporta

Praia da Comporta

Beach: Praia da Comporta - One hour outside of Lisbon, there is an enormous sandy beach with clear blue water called Praia da Comporta. We inquired about availability at Cabanas No Rio and Casas Na Areia too late (one month in advance) to stay overnight in Comporta, so we made it a day trip. It was well worth it, definitely the best beach we visited in Portugal. 

Sintra on a cloudy day

Restaurant: Tasca do Xico - Full disclosure: in terms of decor, Tasca do Xico was not the most beautiful restaurant I went to in Portugal. That award would probably go to Comporta Cafe on Praia da Comporta or Forno Velho in Porto, Portugal. However, there was beauty in the grace with which they treated customers and care with which they prepared their food. At Tasca do Xico, I had the best meal and fondest dining experience that I've had in a while. Thoughtfulness and ease are a thing of beauty, and for being truly thoughtful in their craft and making me feel like I was at a family meal, Tasca do Xico was excellent.

Back to Reality: Mindfulness vs. Multitasking

by Jamila Willis

It's September again. I'm back in the office, home from my summer vacation in Portugal and Switzerland, and back to the realities of my life: deadlines and emails and meetings.

My natural reaction to the obligations September brings is to multitask. But, earlier this year, I promised myself to multitask less - it interrupts my focus and takes me out of the moment. I was reminded of how ineffective multitasking can be this morning at the gym when I tried to take an app-based French lesson, respond to emails and create a playlist while running. Nothing was done effectively and I almost tripped myself in the process. 

Incorporating travel into life can be difficult. Everyone has a busy schedule, a demanding job, a life that needs tending to. I used to think that the only way to take vacation was to be constantly available and to work while away. Then I realized that I wasn't productive, producing quality work or enjoying my vacation. So, really, what was the point? 

Estoril Beach

Of course on this vacation, the office contacted me. But this time, I was honest with myself and everyone else, both before and during my vacation, about how much availability I had and when assignments could be expected. I left few projects open and gave instructions to my assistant on where to find everything. So instead of working throughout my vacation, I worked for a few hours after dinner on one day, which coincided with the downtime of my travel companions and local friends. I wanted to respect their time as well as my own. 

Otherwise, I got back to the business of being away. Being present on my vacation meant, for me, taking time away from the details and distractions of my daily life; taking long walks, long drives and deep breaths; taking moments to reflect and admire; and taking a true break from work. This vacation was successful - rejuvenating and inspiring - and now...back to work.