Portugal Memories… Porto

After attending the Manchester USK symposium, needless to say I’ve got the bug and wanted to do it every year! Alas the next year was in Chicago which meant on the other side of the globe involving lots of logistics that could not be overcome.

Luckily for me the following year the year of 2018 was in Porto! My best friend and colleague was from Portugal! Over the years I have been watching her amazing holiday photos, listening to her stories soaking up the culture and traditions of this beautiful country through her narrations. It was meant to be. I had to go. At least this time I had someone to meet while I’m there. Destiny. So, over the course of few months between the announcement of the new USK symposium destination and the actual trip. I’ve spent the time dreaming, planning and writing lists for my trip. Having a Portuguese friend meant I got all the tips on what to eat, what not to miss and of course where to shop for best art supplies. This time I was lucky to even extend the trip for little longer and visit Lisbon to meet my friend.

This is the part about urban sketching that I wanted to share. This post is not about me teaching you how to sketch, telling you about all the wonderful workshops I have attended and the things I’ve learned. It is about how it changed me, my journey and how I finally woke up and started dreaming of wanting more things in life rather than just living it. Before me stumbling upon USK community and finding out about the symposiums, I have never even thought about travel in that way, or Portugal for that matter. I might have even never ended up there in the first place! Which is sad and disturbing to the new me now. I guess what I am trying to say is that if it wasn’t for me trying to connect with my creativity, to do more of what I love, dig a little bit deeper into soul searching. I would have ended up like many of us out there stuck in the everyday, running around in circles trying to keep up with this crazy pace of life letting it get in the way. I know that there are lots of factors involved, one cannot simply pack a bag and leave not to mention the expenses side of it. But if one has a passion and can pin point what that passion is. Then one could work towards it. When I travelled previously, it was always to go back home, to visit places as a family on a holiday (which I love and enjoy) but now I also get to travel to grow, learn, see new places, meet likeminded people and visit places that where never on my radar before only because family destinations might differ depending on the stage of life you are in at that moment.

I could write pages and pages about Porto. I will refrain myself to the most important ones.

What I want to remember the most is the hospitality of its people. The way they get engaged with you and become for a moment a part of your day. From the moment I stepped my foot at the Porto airport and the passport officer said to me in an almost singing tone:

O Dina… Dina! Croatia, we are all sad, we wanted Croatia to win. On the eve of my travel I was in Dubai in a hotel room watching the last match Croatia played in the world cup of that year. I never watch football; nor am I fan but that day I cried; for we got out of the finals. The next morning I arrived to Porto and had that little encounter which I will never forget.

I want to remember the hundred many steps I had to go up and down every day after the workshops and the funny man who one day through hand gestures started pulling me with an imaginary rope. Saying something in Portuguese I did not understand but from his face expressions knew it must have been funny or he was just making fun of me, either way I did not mind. It made me smile. I was gasping for air, carrying my heavy gear and looked tad bit out of place! It never ceased to amaze me every single day seeing the locals going up and down those same stairs with a breeze as if it was a walk in the park. Perhaps for them it was!

Porto is an amazing city; one I hope to visit again and get to soak more of its beauty. It is filled with houses adorned by beautiful azulejo tiles mimicking the pattern of a mish mash one would find in a beautiful patchwork quilt. The little restaurants stacked with people at any given time of the day during summer. Tables closely joined you could handshake a person at the table next to you. That’s how close nevertheless, less charming.

The sardines! Taste of my childhood and a dish I could never find here in Kuwait. I have had sardines on almost every day of my stay and it just brought up so many memories of home.

Livraria Lello Porto. You are not officially there if you haven’t been to Lello Library. The famous inspiration behind Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts. Harry Potter aside, this little gem needs to be on the map due its own rights. It amazes me how this tiny space was cleverly filled with shelves from top to bottom and adorned with its crown glory the jewel of shop, its stair case! The amount of details and craftsmanship in every corner is mesmerizing. In fact, what I treasure from this city is their strong sense and respect of heritage. Many shops had original cabinetry from olden days which they kept and made work in today’s setup. One shop Case Oriental that I have visited was previously a pharmacy. The owner kept all the cabinetry intact only revamped the colour scheme. So, with a bit of paint and lots of other interior design hacks gave it a new life without discarding the old. How precious is that? This shop sells canned fish today in a very artisanal, touristy themed way.

By now this was my second symposium and I had been practicing sketching for a while, so what made this whole experience even better was the fact that I gained confidence and started feeling good about my sketches. This time I came home with a sketchbook that was little bit fuller than the Manchester’s one and with sketches that were tad bit better and still a suitcase full of art supplies!

Posted in