unallersimple: (hectopus)
My second day in Portugal was much like the first: the weather hadn't improved.

I was woken at first light by a man shouting the same thing over and over again. A quick squint out the window showed someone flogging umbrellas by the exit from the subway. Time to get out and explore the city before I ended up storming outside and jabbing him with pointy bits of his own merchandise.

After travelling for thirty minutes to Belém (an area of Lisbon) to learn the hard way that all the museums close on Mondays, I sat in the foyer of the Fundação Centro Cultural de Belém with my head against the wall. I cursed the rain for preventing me from sitting and reading outside. I cursed myself for being an idiot and not doing any proper travel research beforehand. Cue massive sulking session. I plodded back up to central Lisbon and sat on a train in the subway (still sulking) whilst I figured out what to do.

The aquarium (Oceanário de Lisboa) was pretty much the only thing that was open, however I was sold the moment I saw it. It was like Finding Nemo combined with The Crystal Maze. What a crossover! The building totally looks like somewhere you have to swim to from the Medieval Zone.

IMG_5795


First up was a wonderful exhibition on sea turtles which totally enthralled me. I spent 30-40 minutes peering through the glass watching them twist and turn and glide effortlessly through the water. I like that no matter what their age, sea turtles always seem to look old and wise and move at their own unhurried pace. Just leisurely making their way from chillin' over there to chillin' over here.

Next I saw the main tank which was so large it spanned the central area of both floors of the building. Visitors could walk all the way around it at the top and at the bottom, as well as seeing smaller exhibits around the edges of the interior of the building. The warm, dark interiors of the Oceanário provided the perfect respite from the weather outside, as well as highlighting the vivid colours of the wildlife and water. It all added to the Crystal Maze effect. I often had the urge to jog from section to section seeking out the next challenge.

mazeMap_zone_2_379x229
^ Even the maps inside looked like something from the TV show!

I couldn't tear myself away from the main tank. It was so huge, and I loved watching all the different creatures to see how they moved and behaved and interacted with each other.

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IMG_5884
Challenge! How many fish can you see in the above photo?
Highlight the text to find out how many there are! --> Answer = 2)

Finally my heart completely melted when I saw the sea otters (sooo cute) and I couldn't stop laughing when I saw rock hopper penguins for the first time; they all look like relatives of Patrick Moore!

rockhopmooreSir Patrick Moore
unallersimple: (hectopus)



Someone in Faro showing the world that it doesn't matter
if you don't have your own private washing line.



IMG_5775

Potugal - 1

Jul. 8th, 2014 10:18 pm
unallersimple: (hectopus)
It was the day before my flight to Portugal. I was so excited. Finally a new country after all this time. Everything was packed and ready. I just had one last thing to do before bed; check the weather to see whether I needed to take my coat or not.



Coat.
Definitely coat.
And umbrella.
And poncho.
And spare plastic bags to line my backpack and help keep everything dry.
The weather report made for a depressing sight. It was going to piss it down every single day. All day. All I wanted to do was cancel my holiday.

Still I was determined to make the most of the situation so I packed some extra items to help keep me dry and taped up my languishing boots Keanu style.

You can see from the photo below that the landing in Faro very much set the tone. Grey. Water, water everywhere. It rained and blew a storm all afternoon; turning my umbrella inside out repeatedly and soaking all my clothes. I was very relieved when it was finally time to catch my coach to Lisbon a few hours later.

IMG_5761

That evening I found my lovely, lovely youth hostel (ironically called Sunshine Paradise) without any problems. It’s one of the nicest yet oddest places I’ve ever stayed in as it’s located on the upper floors of one of Portugal's busiest train stations and has swimming pool on the roof! Getting to my room involved walking across a balcony that overlooked the main entrance to the station. I found great amusement in making the journey to and from the kitchen in my pyjamas and observing all the Lisboans rushing to the platforms whenever I went to get a late evening cup of tea.

IMG_6235

A few things I loved about the hostel:

1 - A beautiful map of the world chipped out of the plaster in the wall in the dining room.

2 – The table in the dining room which didn’t have any legs and was suspended from wire cables attached to the ceiling. Completely impractical for eating off but very funny trying to eat from a constantly wobbling surface!

IMG_5937

IMG_5938
unallersimple: (hectopus)
Whilst so many amazing and wonderful things happened in 2013 it was also a very sad and difficult time. I was hurting so much after my relationship ended. Life without them was unbearable. I was devastated. Distraught. SAD had hit me hard, winter just wouldn't end and I was in a job I hated so much I used to cry on the way to work. I was constantly being picked on. I'd lost all confidence and self esteem. I didn't know what to do with my life. I felt like I hadn't achieved anything since coming back from Japan. I was so depressed I could barely function. My mental health had deteriorated to the point where I could no longer hold down a job, so I worked out my notice and just tried to get through one day at a time from there. I self harmed. Sometimes I felt suicidal, but most of the time I felt like I could live but I'd never be well enough to work again or function like a normal human being. I felt sick all the time. There was no rest or relief. Just grief.

I was determined to do everything I could to help myself though. I had several months of counselling. I treated myself. I did things I'd always wanted to but never had the time for. I surrounded myself with wonderful people and had some amazing, life changing experiences with them. I explored all of Manchester. Travelled to places I'd never been to before in the UK. Went to BiCon again. Marched in the Manchester Pride Parade. I got articles and book reviews I'd written published. I taught workshops both in England and in Denmark. (A country I'd already been to in 2006.) What a year!

Isn't it weird how all these amazing things happened despite being so ill? I think losing everything is so liberating because you have the freedom to do anything. No job, relationship or fear of going outside your comfort zone is stopping you. You have nothing left to lose. No mortgage to pay off. No one to stay in one city for. In the end I managed to work really hard to get the job that I'd always wanted. It happened to be in Nottingham, but I didn't mind moving somewhere new because I knew it would be a great chance for me to start over.

I've been here about 3 months and I'm so much happier now. I function fine. I eat normally. I haven't self harmed in months. I do so much volunteer work. I go to roller derby practice on a regular basis and am getting stronger and fitter in ways I never thought possible. I skate well! I love my new house and my new job and I love the adventure of living in a place I don't know yet. I love my new life!

I've been saving really hard since I started earning again and I've finally been able to think about my poor, neglected Mission 101. (The last time I went to a new country was in December 2012.) I've just spent hours looking at flight prices and times and found a return to Faro for £50! I'll fly out at the end of March. Buying the tickets felt amazing. I've worked so hard to recover and get to where I am now and that makes the trip feel more rewarding. I feel so proud. I've stuck a copy of the tickets on my wall. I'd forgotten what the excitement of planning a new trip felt like. Such an adrenaline rush. My hands are shaking. Country 22 here I come. :D

x

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