The Portuguese Coast: Lessons in Self Care
By Latham Thomas
Self-care is a part of our wellness ritual that often falls by the wayside in an over-scheduled, hyper-connected world. We are often too busy taking care of everything and everyone around us that we forget to take time for ourselves. That’s where travel comes in: it punctuates our experience with the visceral world, offering perspective and granting us much-needed time to unwind. Ritualista retreats take it one step further and allow us to travel, while incorporating rituals and culture.
For a relaxing getaway to maximize your time by the countryside, fly into Lisbon, Portugal. Portugal, located on the Iberian Peninsula and bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, is pure coastline. In a mere 6 hours, I can fly from New York City to Lisbon, the same time it would take me to fly from New York to Los Angeles. There, you can land in the city during the morning and settle into the countryside shortly after. Once you arrive, fully hydrate with a restorative green juice or fresh smoothie at made-to-order smoothie bars throughout Lisbon, and prepare yourself for a ritualista retreat.
And as you embrace your ritualista retreat for an authentically blissful experience, take a look at some of my top Portuguese recommendations for mindful and restorative travel.
Areias Do Seixo
As someone who revels in discovery and is deeply inspired by the temporal and spiritual, I am guided by inspiration and celebrate moments of magic wherever I go. And that’s why Areias Do Seixo is truly a gem. Tucked away in Torres Vedras, Santa Cruz (a mere 45-minute drive from Lisbon), Areias Do Seixo is set against the stunning backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. The once abandoned chicken farm is now an architectural gem and beautiful retreat destination.
The owner’s Cape Verdean roots and whimsical touches are woven throughout the property. Curated finds from North Africa, the Savana, and India pepper individual dwellings. The property boasts polished cement floors and pebble walls, exposed wood beams, soft quilts, and wood-burning stoves. Each room is scented with natural incense and oils on deck: perfect for rituals. From the rooms’ private decks, travelers can gaze at the deep blue ocean. And since the property is set behind sand dunes, it is an easy 15 minute hike to hear the rhythmic tide at the break of dawn.
My favorite room, “Mi Ma Bo,” is adorned with North African motifs, lanterns, goddess bibs and wood paneling. The bathtub located near the bed serves a constant reminder to rest and rejuvenate. Mi Ma Bo is perfect for travelers that want to relish in the decor and opulence, but leave with grounded feeling of being swaddled in self-care.
The hotel’s commitment to environmental awareness is not only reflected in the superior interior design, but within the property’s sustainable restaurant. The evanescent warmth is reflected in the farm-to-table cuisine prepared artfully by its award winning chefs, hailing from Copenhagen, Tokyo, and even Toronto. The restaurant’s garden also supplements the menu with local and seasonal delights. Within their local greenhouse, herbs like lemongrass, red clover, and fresh mint are often used for home-brewed tea. The chef de cuisine uses all local produce found in the hotel’s own permaculture garden, and it was not rare to find bits of edible flowers and bulbs also integrated into meals. The attention and luminous detail makes for a transformative experience.
Spiritual Grounding in Nature
While one could be completely content with lounging on the beach all day long, there is so much to do and see on site. In the permaculture garden, visit the chickens that feed on rotating crops and the lone white horse that lives on the property. Permaculture, a system of agricultural design principles grounded in the rhythms of nature and patterns observed in natural ecosystems, fosters healthy communities and ecosystems.
The garden at Areias do Seixo may appear to be unkempt by the naked eye, but when one spends the day harvesting and getting to know the plant systems it’s obvious that there’s a method and magic to everything they do. Daily sunrise yoga sessions, taught by local teacher from town, marked the start of each day. However, I often delighted in my own personal practice in solitude inside the greenhouse. I spent mornings picking fresh fruits and veggies, which were later prepared into a beautiful vegan lunches.
Self Care & The Spa
Venture over to the spa twice for treatments, as I did. Each time, therapists, dressed in white linen uniforms, were especially warm and attentive. There, offerings vary from traditional Turkish baths to herbal body scrub and massage. I indulged in a 75 minute full body massage culminating in a Shirodhara oil treatment, a traditional Ayurvedic treatment that consists of constant dripping of warm oil on the forehead at the third-eye center, between the eyebrows, aimed at harmonizing the mind and body. This 5,000 year old Ayurvedic practice hailing from India, will surely ground you in an ancient self care ritual that rebooted me instantly. I made a point of steaming on days when I didn’t partake in treatments as part of my embrace of “the siesta” and you should too!
Siesta- Artful Relaxation
Siesta, which is ultimately the art of relaxation and leisure, is traditionally taken in the afternoon following lunch. Although Europeans take their relaxation seriously, I believe this is a ritual we all could use a little more of in our lives. Relaxation is associated with a reduction in stress hormones, a deeper sense of wellbeing, and has numerous health benefits. While traveling, taking time for siesta can be a rewarding way to experience a new place while making a deeper connection with local people, and reducing the stress associated with packed itineraries allowing one to live in the present moment, celebrating the magic in the mundane.
Noah’s Surf School + Restaurant
A quick 10 minute bike ride from Areias do Seixo, I stumbled upon Noah Surf House. Located right on the beach, it is both a surf school and a restaurant. The school offers lessons for first timers but is also great for experienced surfers, as you can rent or purchase a surfboard on site. Although Noah’s recently opened in June, it is the perfect place to socialize and listen to live music: think summer in Montauk, NY. While sunbathing and sunset gazing, I was greeted with the Brazilian reggae sounds of Natiruts tantalizing customers from the surf-shack. You can also find a variety of local tapas on the menu and fruit smoothies. Whether lounging on the deck catching the sunset or in a cabana on the beach feeling the ocean spray Noah’s is a perfect backdrop.
A Ritualista retreat is about mindful travel. Sometimes it takes a quick retreat to get us away from the everyday experiences and the mind set that dulls and dims our lives, to learn to appreciate and celebrate these moments. Every aspect of life is punctuated with ritual. This outlook allows one to amplify the sanctity of rituals through the vessel of health and wellbeing: to indulge in self care, connect with the ambient landscape, surround oneself with beauty, and experiment with new healthy lifestyle practices that would enhance the quality of our lives if continued at home. When we attune ourselves to what I call, the magic of the mundane, wherever we might be, gratitude allows us to honor each moment as sacred and show up with grace.
Latham Thomas is a celebrity wellness and lifestyle maven, and a self proclaimed ritualista. Ritualistas transform the ordinary routines of every day life into something sacred. Whether travel, dining, self care, style, or wellbeing, Latham is guided by inspiration and celebrates moments of magic in the mundane. Find her on Instagram @GlowMaven and delve into her world online www.LathamThomas.com