Beautiful buildings in Lisbon

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One of my favorite things about wandering around Lisbon is looking up at the amazing buildings.  This blue one above with its corrugated-iron roof and azulejos is my favorite from this trip. It overlooked a tiny beco (alley) where an improbable banana tree was growing in the city center.

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The colours of the walls are individually beautiful, and placed one next to the other they create the perfect colour palette, like the pastel-coloured trio above (not to mention the gorgeous lanterns!!!:)

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As I explored the winding alleys, I loved seeing how the buildings were placed on small uneven plots on steep hills, their curves or straight edges squeezing into the space in sometimes surprising angles.

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Also the run-down facades are fascinating.  Each has its very own style with wrought-iron balconies, details in the shapes of the windows and doors and a certain charm in the way the paint peels off in the sunshine.

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Finally I love how alive the buildings are, with plants on balconies, hammacs and deck chairs wherever possible, people watching what’s going on in the street and clean laundry billowing in the breeze.

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Tiny theater

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #87

So happy to have accepted a friend’s last-minute invitation to go to the theater yesterday evening. It was a great way to celebrate the end of my work week!  The show took place in what turned out to be a tiny place tucked away in a narrow alley of the busy center of Amsterdam.  As we entered the room, with its pretty balcony and bright green and red walls, a pianist was filling the air with calming music.

Throughout the performance, the actor casually wove a bond with the audience, an equal mix of typical Amsterdammers, tourists and expats, creating an intimate atmosphere.  I particularly enjoyed how the story unravelled with its creative connections and loops, and I even learned quite a lot of fun (and not-so-fun) facts about Amsterdam.

That post-holiday feeling

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Our trip to Lisbon was great! It was wonderful to have 9 days to explore the city slowly, having the time to head out without a real plan and just discover new places or return to ones we particularly liked, soaking up the atmospheres of different neighbourhoods.

Now that we’re back in Amsterdam, I can feel the benefits of having had some time off, I feel lighter and in a better mood. Also in a way the trip is not entirely over since I now have the joy of quietly letting all the impressions of the past days sink in: the tastes, colours, smells, conversations, laughs… It always takes me some time to process all the experiences from when I travel, to reflect on them in my journal and see what inspiration and ideas come up.

Books I enjoyed lately

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #86

At the beginning of the year, I looked back at the books I had read in 2017 and the statistics about how many of those books were written by men and how many by women. I aimed to read more books by women in 2018 to counterbalance that number.

As we are half-way through the year (already!) I thought I’d check my progress. So far I have read 22 books, of all sorts of genres (novels, crimes, non-fiction, self-help…).  Of those books 12 were written by women, 8 by men and 1 by a woman/man couple (Nicci French). Some books were favorites that I re-read just for the pleasure and others were new discoveries.  I thought I’d recommend the books I preferred for anyone looking for some holiday reading:

Carpentaria – Alexis Wright

A dear Australian friend recommended me Carpentaria when I told her I was looking to read more works written by women and wanted discover some new voices.  Though it took me a little while to get into the book, pretty soon I was captured by the story and characters. It reads like a mix between ‘A hundred years of solitude’ and ‘Life of Pi’, with changes of rhythm as the author portrays the Aboriginal reality of a small town in Northern Queensland. A great read!

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff

I found this book discounted in a local book shop and though I’d never heard it, I was tempted by the cover. It was a flowing read and I love a good peek into people’s lives (even if they are entirely fictional!). I won’t say much more as I don’t want to spoil it for you (something the cashier at the book shop couldn’t help doing when I bought it… luckily I enjoyed it all the same:).

The Monk of Mokha – Dave Eggers

If you like coffee and adventures, this is one for you! It’s the true story of a Yemeni American importing coffee from Yemen, the birthplace of coffee. An incredible and gripping true story of how far following your dreams will take you.

Happy reading!!

I’m off to Lisbon!

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #85

Time for a holiday:) Last time we were in Lisbon was in 2014 for a few days only, so this time I’m glad we have 9 full days to get to know the city better and explore the surrounding area.  I’m looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere during long walks in the narrow streets that bring you to breathtaking views and I can’t wait for the delicious portuguese breakfasts and amazing pasteis de nata!

Bright yellow

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Yellow is a colour that lifts my heart up. I painted one of my kitchen walls bright yellow wall to brighten up the long Dutch winter evenings by reminding me of the sun.

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Lately I’m really enjoying how yellow flowers are popping up all over the place in gardens and along the streets of Amsterdam.

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On a recent walk in the Kennemerduinen, the pastel landscape was peppered with splashes of yellow, gorgeous gatherings of tiny flowers asking for their beauty to be seen.

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Also the bees and the caterpillars were also showing off how colour coordinated they were with their beautiful surroundings:)

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Showing up, quirks and all

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #84

I’ve been enjoying the longest days of the year to go on after-dinner walks and the neighbourhood is more and more beautiful with a multitude of different flowers blossoming all over the place.

I am grateful to the imperfect flowers who show up in all their splendour despite the fact that their petals are slightly wonky and uneven. These are the flowers I like best, they seem like a kind reminder to forget wondering ‘what will people think’ and just show yourself as the unique beauty you are.

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More imperfect beauty from a mindful stroll and a winter walk.

Solo cinema

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I like going to the cinema with other people and though that’s what I do most of the time, going by myself from time to time feels like a treat.

Firstly, it means that I can go see whatever film I want at exactly the moment that suits me, deciding at the last minute based on my mood (I’m lucky that in Amsterdam there are tens of movies on at anytime).  I love sitting quietly alone in the theater, waiting for the room to go dark and movie to start, watching the other movie-goers coming in or just lost in my thoughts.

Most of the time I choose those arthouse and coming-of-age movies that are beautifully shot and quite slow. At some point I often have tears rolling down my face and being alone I can unabashedly cry at the tough situations the characters are in, completely taken by the story, without worrying about whether anyone else is enjoying the film.

Afterwards, I can let the movie sink in and reflect on it without talking about it immediately with others and hearing their thoughts. The whole experience leaves me feeling recharged, like I’ve lived a sliver of another life for a couple of hours and opened to new horizons.

In celebration of free Fridays

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #83

I am deeply grateful for having every Friday off.  Today I am alone at home, the appartment is completely quiet, there is nowhere I need to be. I am enjoying a cup of coffee and I can slowly come back to myself and process the many experiences that string together to form every ordinary week.

Usually in the morning on my day off my thoughts are a-flurry, then little by little they calm down and new channels seem to open in mind, unrelated topics start to come together and ideas that hadn’t properly been worked through take on a new meaning.

Working 4 days in a busy office and then being off for 3 days is for me a much better balance and I can really feel the difference. I feel like I have much more time to recharge as an introvert and that gives me space to do things that are important to me, and in the end that is what life is all about!

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Fun things to do on a day off: