Category: Travel

My Holiday with Stan – in Beautiful Albufeira

I have wanted to travel more for a long time.  Most of my ‘holidays’ for the past 20 years have been about visiting family and friends and exploring Ireland prior to our big move.

Now, don’t get me wrong I am not complaining.  I love my regular trips back to South Africa (of course stopping off in Dubai as often as I can), but I longed for a holiday that was simply that.  A trip where my choices included exploring, resting and simply being present –in a beautiful place.

This January I escaped the cold and wet in Ireland and travelled to Albufeira in the Algarve along the stunning Portuguese coast.  It was a package deal from Love Holidays and I can honestly say that it was money well spent.

So who is Stan?

Well you might be thinking he is a real life man, but he isn’t.  Stan is my walking stick.  I had to start using a stick last year after having a terrible fall which resulted in concussion as well as some other complications.  I actually fell twice.  It seemed that I didn’t understand concussion and went out a couple of days later and simply crumpled like a crisp packet on the pavement.

I suffer from quite severe arthritis which affects my hands, knees and feet.  This is complicated by other auto-immune diseases that affect my fatigue levels and my balance.  Hence the addition of Stan to my life.  Stan is sexy, or so my Mom tells me.  I have chosen a beautiful paisley design and tried to inject some personality into my stick.

Onwards to Albufeira

We flew from Dublin, and chose to drive up from Galway early in the morning and park at the long-term parking.  Note to self – book this in advance it is much cheaper!   I most often fly using the passenger assist option.  As I had a companion (as well as Stan), I tried the regular way and managed fine.  I think it helped that the airports were not that busy.   Soon we were on the Aer Lingus plane drinking a cup of Barry’s tea and chatting away about all the adventures to be had in the Algarve.

Our transfer was easy enough to find and soon we were whizzing through orange groves on the way to Albufeira.  The sky was bright blue which was a stark contrast to the Irish grey we had left behind.

I was not expecting a luxury hotel, that isn’t what we booked.  What I was looking for was clean and comfortable.  At the Eirasol apartments we got exactly that.  A really friendly welcome and a sparkling clean apartment which was so well located, but more about that later.

Pain and Portugal

I am in pain most of the time.  My arthritis means that life is a game where you get different pills and potions and try them to relieve the pain.  I had heard that the weather could make a difference, but I was sceptical.  Very hot weather makes my joints swell.

The Portuguese winter was just right.  Like Goldilocks I felt that I had found a temperature that worked for me.  Within 12 hours I could feel a difference and within 24 I realised that I hadn’t taken a pain-killer for a whole day!

Simply having lower pain levels gave me more energy and also made me feel brave enough to get out and do things.

The simple things – travel on a budget

Our trip was a budget trip.  We didn’t have the funds for expensive tours or lots of eating out, but we were determined to enjoy ourselves.

The beach was a top priority so we set out to find our way to the see walking though cobbled streets (with Stan to ensure that there was no chance of falling).  The beach when we found it was sublime.  Blue sky, a long stretch of golden sand as far as the eye could see and turquoise glistening sea with frothy white waves.  As I was a bit tired from the walk, we simply sat and gazed.  Eventually the call of the sand and sea was enough and we started walking.

Dodging in and out of the surf, with my dress hitched up into my knickers we ambled along.  Picking up shells to admire, we chatted with other fellow beach walkers.  If you told me when we set off that I would be able to walk from our starting point to the old town I would have laughed.  I did though, I plodded along and was very grateful to Stan for his help.

Albufeira is very hilly, but the clever people who have developed this town have taken everything into account.  There are escalators that take you up or down to the beach!  How cool is that?

After our long walk we treated ourselves to and ice-cold beer at the seafront.  We then wandered through the old town before taking the escalators up the hill and taking a tuk tuk ride back to the apartment.  I felt giddy speeding down hills with my hair tangled behind me.

Taking time to be present and enjoy the special moments in Albufeira

Every day was special.  I like the idea of the open-topped buses as I think it is a great way of getting to know a place.  Our tour was two hours long, but definitely gave us a sense of what we wanted to see for the rest of the week.

This included some great foody moments, a visit to the local market, shopping in the old town, breakfast on ‘the strip’, and of course many more walks along the beach.  We found a fabulous restaurant where the young man kissing me below promised that if we sat down we would be happy!  His natural exuberance was contagious.

The apartment we had chosen was really conveniently located and in easy walking distance to bus stops (great service at a great price).  The beaches and the local supermarket – Pingo Doce, where you could get everything and at really good prices were an easy walk.  Self-catering certainly helped on the budget side.  It was also fun as we explored new foods and figured out that butter was the block with a cow on it – not the other one!

A perfect holiday

If I could describe a perfect holiday for me it would have to be great weather, good company, yummy food and lots of rest, not in any particular order.  In Albufeira I certainly had that.

Although I was a bit embarrassed at taking my walking stick Stan, I realised that many people have sticks.  Truthfully Stan allowed me to do so much more, to walk with confidence.  I am simply content as I am, a 53-year-old fabulous woman who walks with a stick!

Thank you for reading about my trip.  Lots more travel to come on the blog this year.

Kerry xx

Life is Fragile, and we need to treasure it.

Life is so fragile.  It may seem robust when we look at the hurley burly of traffic, deadlines and positive goal setting.  The truth is it is extremely fragile and although it is trite to say, we really only have today promised.

After returning from my adventure in South Africa, I found myself sitting on my sofa on a wet Saturday afternoon wondering.  I had such a wonderful time spending time in the country of my birth.  It was simply an awesome adventure in the sunshine.  And yet here I was in my living room, feeling a little sorry for myself.  I was surrounded by laundry drying indoors and contemplating the choices I have made in my life.

I think we all know this feeling.  The what ifs, and what could be if only something would change or was different.

Life is fragile

I then got news that a dear friend in South Africa had her life completely altered between going to bed and facing the new day.  Her husband was shot and killed.  This was a man in the prime of his life, father to two young men and husband to my friend.  His life was literally snatched and he no longer has any tomorrows.

The friends and family that are left behind have had their lives altered to such a degree that their tomorrows are dramatically altered.  A complete act of violence has created a fork in the road, and placed a road block on the original path.

This is just a huge reminder to me that life is fragile.  When I hear of tragedy and loss I am always reminded that we have an obligation to live each day with joy, remembering to be kind to others and to embrace possibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think it is very important to have dreams and visions and to strive to be a better person every day.  I constantly dream and plan for a future where I am living a life that is filled with all that I desire.  I work towards this too and practice journaling every day making plans for travel, work and creative pursuits.

I also continue with writing my book (almost complete now) where I share how I have changed my own life.  But, truthfully as we are reminded so often life is fragile.  It is delicate and should be nurtured and appreciated every day, and every minute of every day.

Cherishing my Adventure

I had so many wonderful experiences on my trip and I have the pleasure of being able to look back and remember them.  A bit like the song from the Sound of Music, these are a few of my favourite things.  Memories of moments, memories of people and reminders that living each day like it is your last is the only way to live this fragile life.

  • The bitter sweet taste of creamy cappuccino shared with my Mom and Dad.  Spooning the foamy froth from the bottom of the cup and relishing the bubbles popping on my tongue.
  • Sitting in my parents living room watching my son graduate with tears in my eyes because I wasn’t there, but joyful ones because I got to watch.
  • The prickle of heat sitting outside having breakfast and watching whales frolic in the ocean with my wonderful friends in Port Elizabeth.
  • Watching ice cream melt in front of me because I was so absorbed in chatting to a client in person that I had only ever met on Skype.
  • Waking up to freshly prepared fruit including African paw paw (papaya) prepared by my Dad.
  • Meeting my Facebook friends in real life.
  • Presenting my Deep Dive events and getting to know such wonderful woman, and understanding the value of woman who support woman.
  • Taking my joy of craft to a new audience.
  • I know I ate far too much cake, but I have no regrets.  The cake that was served with two forks for sharing was always the best.
  • I felt so connected to my African roots in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve watching and photographing my favourite zebras and then laughing so much when it was pointed out that the Zebra in front of my lens was excited and showing off his private parts!
  • I had really special times that were not traditionally high points.  Spending time working alongside my old friends, and simply chatting.
  • I drank many cups of tea and spent many hours just being with the people who are special and the richness of my life.
  • I saw old friends and met new friends.  I had a princess birthday party in October when my birthday is actually in June.  Thank you to my special mom and dad for making this happen for me.

Life is a fragile vessel

I could go on and on sharing little memories, and although I won’t bore you, I am making a mental promise to myself to life me my life as though it is a precious and fragile, but valuable vessel.

A vessel filled with memories and lessons learnt and lots of capacity of future dreams.  But most of all I am going to life my life relishing every single moment of every day and know that when I lay my head to sleep at night that I have lived and added to the lives around me.

Life is fragile and tomorrow isn’t promised for any of us.

Thank you for reading

Kerry xx

I am dedicating this blog post my friend Nikki Bush and her family.  Her late husband  no longer has any tomorrows as a result of senseless violence.

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