Part 2: Three days in Porto

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon. It’s known for its bridges and port wine production.

Last month, we spent three days in Porto. My research said this would be enough to explore the city and it was spot on.

Due to the size of the city, we managed to see all the tourist attractions in two days. We walked for hours. Taking in all that the city has to offer.

The Ribeira was one of my favourite spots. It’s colourful. Lots of restaurants and tourists.

The Torre dos Clerigos which has 240 steps that lead to a balcony with a panoramic view of the city and the Douro River was magnificent.

There was a lot of street entertainment. From musicians to dancers. Spotted this guy playing music from a very interesting instrument.

We had to check out the nearest beach. Pity it wasn’t sunny that day so we couldn’t stay long.

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We really enjoyed our time in Porto. We also did a bit of shopping:)The shops were quite affordable.

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It was easy to get around and there were more locals who spoke English as compared to Lisbon; which was really surprising.

If you’re planning a trip to Portugal, make sure to include Porto. It’s charming.

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Part 1: Travel itch scratched

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Andersen

I am fresh from holiday. I feel revitalised ready to work so that I can save for another holiday. The #weworktotravel resonates with me. Travel is the best teacher and I’m eager to learn.

I chose Portugal because it made sense in terms of my budget, things to do and safety. When doing my research, I came across pictures of a beautiful and vibrant country.

I must say that the travel blogs were spot on. In fact, Lisbon surpassed all my expectations.

I haven’t travelled much, but I can say, it’s the most beautiful city that I’ve been to. I was mesmerised by the historic and colourful buildings.

The tiny streets with colourful tiles and stunning doors had me twirling around because I wanted to take it all in.

The city has so much charm. It’s amazing how structures from the 12th century are still standing and we get to experience and explore them to this day.

Their castles had me feeling like I was in a series or movie. I just needed someone to say ‘action’ and I would have attempted a scene as a c-rated actress.

The 25 de Abril Bridge bridge had me striking poses that I won’t be sharing here. I am not a poser so I won’t subject myself to your judgment!

The entire trip left me feeling grateful because it’s a privilege to be able to travel, especially for someone who lives in a country with an unemployment rate of 27.6 percent.

A memorable mini getaway

The majority of South Africans are travelling locally, according to latest travel trends. This does not surprise me as there’s so much to see in this beautiful country. We also have to admit that due to our ailing economy, international holidays will remain a distant dream for most, unless you have Bosasa as your blesser.

Anyway, in December we planned a mini getaway for the end on January. We chose the time because it would not be busy. Most people would have just returned from their festive holidays.

I was in charge of planning. I wanted a rustic stay. I did a bit of homework and settled for Otters Bend Lodge in Franscchoek.

We left on Friday morning 25 January. It was a nice drive with beautiful weather. Our first stop in Franschhoek was the Belgian chocolate factory. For just R50 per person they took us through the making of chocolate while tasting everything. We were simply in chocolate heaven. They also gave us a little takeaway!

Huguenot Fine Chocolates

We then made our way to the lodge. It was rustic alright. It was in the woods. No TV. No sounds of cars or city life. Just birds chirping and water because the place is next to a creek.

Otters Bend Lodge

We decided to explore a bit. This friendly host decided to show us around.
cof The owner’s dog

We were surrounded by vineyards so we took walks. South Africa being the way it is, we can only afford to walk and take pictures because only a minority own large pieces of beautiful land while the rest… That’s a topic for another day.

On Saturday, we woke up early to go hiking at Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. There are various trails and the views are breathtaking.

Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve

We came back and just chilled. The aim was to strike a balance between sightseeing and relaxation.
cof Grapes season!

On our last day, we decided to check out the local church because it was beautiful from the outside. We didn’t stay for the sermon because it was in Afrikaans.
dav Dutch Reformed Church

We then went to the Franschhoek Motor Museum. I am a fan of vintage cars so that had to be included in the itinerary. The museum did not disappoint. We enjoyed learning about classic cars.

Franschhoek Motor Museum

Shooting my shot

Last year I wrote about the challenge of making new friends especially when you are an introvert. There’s nothing as scary as coming across someone that you think is your tribe, but you just cannot bring yourself to talking to them!

This inability to approach people has been bothering me for a while so I decided to challenge myself to make a friend. The task was daunting. How do I approach the person? What if I make a complete fool of myself? What if I approach someone who’s not interested in making new friends?

Anyway, I motivated myself to go through with the challenge. I wanted to prove to myself that I can overcome this inability. I did not know how or where I was going to meet this person.
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A couple of weeks later, an opportunity presented itself. There was a stranger meant to attend a music festival that I was also going to. I had a light bulb moment! But they ended up not going. I was disappointed because I had decided that I would use this opportunity to strike a friendship. When that fell through, I was ready to let the whole thing go, but I decided not to.

I asked a mutual contact to ask if it was OK if I got her number. She agreed so I had her contact. It was time to make my move. My palms were sweaty. The fear of rejection was on top of my mind, but still I sent the text introducing myself and stating my case. I just told myself that if they are not keen, I won’t die. I will be disappointed, but at least I will walk away knowing that I tried.

She actually responded and was open to the idea! Who would have thought? The relief! I had not made a complete fool of myself!

Anyway, few days later, I took the next step. I asked if we could meet. This was in December. She said she was going away, but was willing to meet when she returned. She came back. I reached out again and asked if she still wanted to meet. She said she was still game and we arranged a date and time.

The meeting happened over the weekend. It was absolutely nothing like I had imagined. The was no need for fake emergency calls to rescue me from the situation. No awkward moments. Conversation flowed and she was happy we actually did it despite our fears. It turns out we are two introverts, who took a leap of faith, and got out of our comfort zones.

The play date went well. By the looks of things, there will be more. I am so happy I did it. I now know that I can initiate a friendship. I know to some people making friends is very easy. But for socially awkward people, that’s not the case. To fellow introverts out there, go on and shoot your friendship shot!

In those jeans

Late last year I wrote about being ready to start wearing pants again. I was not sure whether I would actually go through with it because dresses have my heart.

After a bit of procrastination, yesterday I finally decided to go jeans shopping. I wanted boyfriend jeans. When I got to the store, they did not have the make that I wanted. But had carrot fit and wide leg jeans on sale. I tried them on. They felt comfortable and the fact that they were on sale did not hurt. Their prices were a steal. So I bought two pairs!

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Well today, for the first time in over eight years, I am wearing jeans! I am wearing the carrot fit pair. They are made of soft denim and are very comfortable. I am not ready for anything that’s too tight. Blame it on the years of only wearing dresses and skirts.

I feel comfortable. I can move easily and I like that I can put my hands in the pockets!

So I am back to wearing pants. However, I think once every other week will be enough. Dresses still have that thing.

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Festive fun on a budget

Some of you, blessed people, will be getting your 13th cheque soon. Once that happens; you will be on a vur vai. You will live large for three weeks. Partying at places where you have to pay entrance fees and sipping champagne dahling.

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Yup, after 11 months of getting up to go to work even when you didn’t feel like it, splurging in December feels justified. You’ve worked hard for your money. So what if you choose to be a moreki in Dezemba, right?

Well the problem is come January, you will be lamenting about how long the month is. Our timelines will be flooded by Januworry this, Januworry that. I know this because this happens every year. Workers are balling in December; only to take out loans in January.

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So if you want to do things a little different this year, I’m here to give you some pointers. Obviously ifestive mayifane nenye. Just because you don’t want to spend a lot of money, doesn’t mean you want to be locked indoors, dying of boredom either.

There are many free concerts around the city at this time of the year. There is a series of free live concerts at the Amphitheatre at the V&A Waterfront this summer until February next year.

If you are into art, there are exhibitions all over the place. Go out there and check out upcoming and established visual artists who are exhibiting at the various galleries.

Getting together with friends doesn’t have to be expensive. Eat at home, only carry cash that’s enough for snacks and drinks. You can go to the various picnic spots around the city for #picnicvibes.

You can also spend an afternoon at the beach. To save money, go to your local supermarket to buy snacks. Remember, drinking at the beach is not allowed. Alcohol will be confiscated. Don’t forget to pack water so that you can stay hydrated. You don’t have to buy water. Our tap water is good enough to drink. If you are all about healthy eating, make a salad at home and smoothies. Just make sure to have a bit of cash for ice cream. What’s a visit to the beach without ice cream? If you’re an impulsive buyer, leave your card at home!

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By now you are wondering where are these so-called free concerts, right? Make sure that you check out your community newspaper for what’s on. There are so many activities that are free of charge in and around the city. You just pack a basket, great company and voilà fun times.

It doesn’t matter which city you are in; municipalities have budget for public entertainment during the festive season.

Another thing, braais are always a good idea, provided everyone contributes, if they are in a position to do so. Buying a ready made braai is also an option. Food, friends and good music – make sure Banomoya is on the playlist, then you are guaranteed to have a good time.

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So that’s December on a budget. If you’re a penny-pincher or just want to try something different this Dezemba – knock yourself out. Whatever you do, do it responsibly. January is only four weeks away. The salary that you will be getting mid-December needs to last you until end January. Happy holidays!

Rediscovering pants

Yesterday I wore pants. For the whole day and I was comfortable. I think I’m actually going to get myself a new pair of pants & boyfriend jeans just for control.

You must be wondering so what if I wore pants? Womxn wear them all the time. Well, not me. I stopped wearing pants over seven years ago. In my teens, I mostly wore pants. I’d only put on a dress on Sunday for church.

I felt uncomfortable on Sundays because all of a sudden I’d need to be conscious of how I sat and would rush home after church so that I could change into pants. Ma would buy me a skirt now and again and I’d refuse to wear them. I just didn’t want to. I also didn’t like my legs:( That’s a story for another day.

Anyway, fast forward to varsity. One day out of the blue, I felt like wearing a skirt. I had to have a conversation with myself about my issues with my legs. I did and I made peace with ingcondo zam. I tried on a skirt that I’d had for years. By now, I was no longer going to church because I had a weekend job and that meant I no longer wore dresses at all.

I put on the skirt. I was expecting discomfort to follow soon after. But it never came. Instead I enjoyed the airiness of the skirt. There was something feminine about it and I quite enjoyed it.

So I decided to wear a dress/skirt at least once a week. I was still on a trial run. Ma was excited. She started buying me dresses. I fell in love with them. Months later, I stopped wearing pants altogether. I was also tired of the struggle of finding pants that fit just right. I have a tiny waist with a bit of a bum. So jeans would fit around the hip area but be big on my waist. Finding the perfect fit was a mission.

I had just discovered how comfortable dresses were and I loved how they made me feel. I guess I was also making up for all those years of only wearing pants. I gave away my pants. I only kept three because one was brand new and the other two were for just in case I changed my mind about the wardrobe transition.

About two years later, I moved out of home and left the pants behind because I knew I had lost interest in them. I had to contend with the question of why don’t you wear pants? Is it a religious decision? It was none of those. I just didn’t feel like wearing pants.

I continued my fabulous relationship with dresses. When shopping, I wouldn’t even look at the pants section. As a results, my wardrobe space is mostly taken up by dresses. I have a stunning dress collection, though I say it myself:)

For years I never had the urge to buy or wear pants, but that changed earlier this year. I started thinking about owning at least a pair. I quite like the sneakers and pants look on Fridays. I decided to wait and see how long this feeling would last.

It persisted so I decided to give pants a try. I didn’t want to buy pants just in case it was a fleeting feeling. I went home to get the old pants I’d left behind.pants

They still fit so I wore one about three weeks ago. I was a bit uncomfortable, but I tried again the following week. They were OK, except for the fact that when I go to the loo, I have to deal with the belt, button and zip. It’s such a process! Dresses are easy. Or they’ve made me lazy.

Anyway, yesterday, I wore them for the third time. I quite enjoyed walking around with my hands in my pockets and I think I’m ready to wear them again. Baby steps though as I’ve been out of the game for so long that the thought of shopping for pants is a bit intimidating.

Side note: Initially, I planned to include a picture of myself wearing pants from yesterday:) However, as an awkward person, taking pictures can be daunting. I don’t know how to pose and I get annoyed with myself so I don’t take lots of pictures. Anyway, I took three pictures, but I wasn’t happy with them. I asked my neighbour’s six-year-old to take pictures of me. He obliged. The pictures were OK, but my awkwardness came through. So I decided to delete them. Yup, that’s me. The struggle is real.

Confessions of an awkward person

I think of myself as a good friend. I’m a good listener, loyal but honest with my friends. I have a small group of friends because I believe in quality over quantity. And being an introvert means large groups drain me. I’m also a very private person. All of my friendships are over 10 years old. Actually, since I started working I haven’t made any friends. I’m not talking about acquaintances.
  
I mean friends that you meet up with over weekends. People that you play 30 Seconds with. You hang out at each others houses. Do picnics together and all that stuff.
Before you judge me, let me explain. I’m an awkward individual. I don’t know how to make friends. Where do I start? What if I come across as a freak or end up embarrassing myself?
  
So when it comes to friendships it’s always been the other person that makes the first move. I suss them out. If they’re my people – I slowly open up to them. The people in my life understand me. However, lately it’s been bothering me that since I became an adult, I haven’t really made friends. I cherish my old friends, but I’d like to have at least two more new people in my life. Preferably womxn [I have nothing against male friends] who are from a different culture because I want to be exposed to new experiences. Obviously, I won’t shun my tribe because we have the spice. Who can say no to that?
  
Earlier this year, I met this girl at a music festival. We were introduced by a mutual friend. I didn’t think much of her. I bumped into her the next day. She asked for my number. It hit me that we could become friends. I, who never gives away her number, exchanged contacts with her.
  
I went home. I told S that I’ve met someone who’s going to be a new friend. Obviously, S laughed at me asking what do I know about making friends? I admitted that it’s not my strong point, but for this girl I’m willing to put myself out there. Few days later, I reached out via Whatsapp. She seemed happy to hear from me. I mentioned that we should hang out sometime and she agreed. Weeks later, I sent a message proposing a tea date. I didn’t say I wanted to be friends because I wanted to suss her out properly first. She told me she was going through stuff and declined. 
My awkward self was ready to retreat back into her shell, but I decided to try again a month later. I really liked her. It seemed like we belonged to the same Whatsapp group – so to speak. This time she had someone visiting from another province so she was playing tour guide. I understood and told her to get back to me when it’s convenient to her. She never did. That was in June. 

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That was my last attempt at becoming friends. I stopped because it felt like I was forcing things. Maybe she wasn’t interested even though she was new in town – assuming she hadn’t made friends yet. So since that failed attempt, I haven’t tried to make friends again. I meet people that seem to be my people, but I don’t do anything about it. What do I say to them? Not forgetting that some people are content with their childhood & varsity friends. How do I make new friends as an awkward adult? 

National Wills Week

Death. It’s not something we like to talk or think about. We all know that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, ultimately our journeys end with us six feet underground. But our fear of mortality often leads us to not preparing for it. 
Last month, I went to a women’s summit on financial wellness.The main speaker gave us six steps to achieve financial wellness. But she also spoke about the importance of having a will. She said it doesn’t matter what you own, but everyone should have a will. This stayed with me. I’ve been meaning to have one drafted for a couple of years now, but procrastination always gets the better of me.
Two weeks after the summit, I read in the newspaper that it’s almost time for the National Wills Week. It happens annually for one week in September; where you can visit an attorney and have a will drafted for you for free. I quickly went online to search for one closest to me because I wanted to have it done during lunchtime.
There were a few because I work in the CBD. I chose one that’s a street away. I emailed booking an appointment. Two hours later, there was a response confirming date and time. I made a list of my possessions and what should happen to them should I pass.
Yesterday at 1pm I went to the attorney’s office. She was friendly. The whole process was simple. She explained the legal terms and then drafted my will! Forty five minutes later, I left their offices will my will in hand.

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I walked away relieved knowing that I’ve done the responsible thing. I know that in the event of my passing, my books which are very dear to me, will have a home where they will be appreciated. The NGOs that are close to my heart will get a little something from me. I went back to the office feeling like I’ve clocked adulting!