Lisbon: A Perfect Portuguese Stopover

Praça do Comércio square in Lisbon

Praça do Comércio square in Lisbon

I often find, when planning a trip, that deciding on a destination is my biggest challenge. There are so many incredible locations that I have yet to see, and my wish-list only seems to get longer with each passing year.  So when I learned about TAP Air Portugal's Stopover Program, where you can spend up to 5 days in Lisbon or Porto on the way to a final destination (150+ to choose from), it felt as though my travel prayers had been answered.  I would finally have the chance to explore Lisbon, a city that’s been on my list forever, as a complimentary stopover on my way to Paris.

Aerial view of Portugal's western coast

Aerial view of Portugal's western coast

Getting to Lisbon was easier than I anticipated, thanks to TAP Air Portugal.  I took a non-stop overnight flight that seemed to go much faster than its 7 hours.  The crew was accommodating and friendly, and dinner on board was delicious (I ordered a yummy vegetarian meal).  There was also plenty of in-flight entertainment options to choose from, I decided on this year's blockbuster 'Wonder Woman’ before falling asleep for a few hours. I woke up just in time to catch a gorgeous sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean right as we began our descent into Portugal.

Pink Street in Lisbon

Pink Street in Lisbon

My Lisbon adventure began moments after checking into my hotel, the posh Pestana CR7.   The hotel is a perfect blend of old & new, in a beautiful historic building that’s been renovated with every modern amenity. It’s conveniently located just around the corner from the the Praça do Comércio, where I sampled some snacks at the festive Christmas Market.  Also within walking distance was the colorful Pink Street in Cais do Sodré, which was even prettier in person (so much so that I couldn’t resist taking a quick yoga photo right in middle of the street!)  From there I made my way to the popular shopping boulevard Avenida da Liberdade, (I always seem to make my way to the shopping area!) and enjoyed a tasty Pastéis de Nata - a popular Portuguese pastry - at a local bakery. Afterward, I went for a stroll through the narrow, cobbled streets of Alfama.  This is really where I began to fall in love with Lisbon, its charm and beauty so apparent in this historic district.  A friendly local suggested I head over to Cacilhas, on the other side of the bridge, for dinner and sunset.  I don't think I could have asked for a more perfect way to end my first day in Lisbon.

Admiring Lisbon 

Admiring Lisbon 

The next couple of days included more exploration of the city as well as a road trip out west to the delightful town of Sintra.  Getting lost in Sintra's scenic roads was the ideal way to discover some of the renowned landmarks that lie in this region.  Nestled among lush hills were extravagant mansions, hidden towns, and Disney-style castles; it’s no surprise that this is where Portuguese nobility would spend their summers.  It would be hard to choose a favorite spot in Sintra, but some serious highlights of my visit there include the  Pena Palance, the Quinta da Regalaria, the Palace of Monserrate, and the Centro Historico (just outside of the Sintra National Palace).  Each place was truly more beautiful than then next, but one magical moment that will forever stay etched in my mind was watching the sunset from high above the oceanside cliffs of Cabo da Roca.

From the pastry shops of Lisbon to the Sintra mountain range, my heart is full from this incredible adventure.  Many thanks to TAP Air Portugal for the opportunity to explore this beautiful part of the world before heading to Paris, my final destination.  It feels as though I've only just begun to discover all that Portugal has to offer, but I know in my heart that I will be back again.

Until next time, Portugal...  Xx

Cabo Da Roca, at sunset

Cabo Da Roca, at sunset

Yoga in Sintra

Yoga in Sintra

Exploring the beautiful Palace of Monserrate

Exploring the beautiful Palace of Monserrate

Pena Palace

Pena Palace

Praça do Comércio Plazain Lisbon

Praça do Comércio Plazain Lisbon

Handstanding in Sitra

Handstanding in Sitra

* In cooperation with TAP Air Portugal

All photography by Nathan Rose Photography

Fall-ing for Yoga, 4 Poses To Help Balance Your Autumn Practice

The leaves have started to change color, the days have grown shorter and cooler, and pumpkin spice lattes are now back on the menu... fall is officially here.  My personal favorite way to welcome autumn includes cozy sweaters and a new pair of booties (not to mention a little extra Netflix time).  But there is one additional thing I've added to this year's list, and that is to balance out my yoga practice with a few key poses for fall. The ones I've listed below really help my body transition through the season more gracefully.  Oh, and there is one more thing I forgot to mention - a cute new yoga outfit always makes coming to the mat a lot more exciting.  The one I'm wearing in all of the photos here is by Sam Edelman, and it couldn't be more perfect for this fall!

1. Get Grounded

It turns out that along with the change in weather, it's also quite common to experience some extra nervous energy during this transitional season.  Practicing grounding poses, including this Chair Pose Variation can help the body feel stronger and more centered. 

 

Chair Pose Variation

Chair Pose Variation

  • Separate your feet about the width of your mat, with your toes turned outward.
  • Ground your feet firmly into the floor as squat down, lowering your torso onto your thighs and keeping your hips in line with your knees.
  • Extend your arms forward.  Reach them all the way toward the front of the room as you reach your hips all the way back.
  • Keep your core engaged and your belly lifting up.
  • Squeeze your triceps inward toward your ears and press your palms away. 
  • Hold for five breaths, then release and repeat 3 more times.

2. Build Heat & Feel Energized

Though its tempting to just stay in and hibernate as the weather cools down, it's important to get the body warmed up to combat the stiffness that often accompanies the cold.  Incorporating energizing poses, such as Bridge Pose (or any heart-opening pose) is a great way to build heat in the body.

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose

  • Begin lying on your back, with the knees bent, with your feet flat on the floor and arms by your sides.
  • Raise the hips up toward the ceiling and either interlace the hands together or leave the arms down by the sides of the body. 
  • Keep the neck in neutral as you continue to life the hips higher.  
  • Hold for five breaths, then lower and repeat 2 more times.

 

3. Cleanse & Detox

Fall time is, unfortunately, often accompanied by cold & flu season. Spending extra time indoors only helps germs to spread faster.  Yoga twists, such as Revolved Triangle Pose are a great way to boost the body’s natural detoxification process by helping to flush the toxins from the body and promote cleansing on a cellular level.

Revolved Triangle Pose

Revolved Triangle Pose

  • Begin with your feet about 2-3 feet apart, and align the right heel with the left heel.  Pivot your right foot out 90 degrees and turn your left  foot slightly inward.
  • Reach your left arm up toward the ceiling,  Hinge forward from your hips, keeping length in the spine and open your torso to the right as you place your left hand to the outside of your right foot.  Use your right hand, if necessary, to draw your left hip back so it stays in line with your right hip.
  • Lengthen your spine and roll your right  shoulder back as you extend your right arm upward. Reach the left fingertips toward the ceiling.  If possible, turn your head to gaze at your right thumb. 
  • Hold for five breaths, then slowly release and repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time

4. Rest & Restore

Restorative yoga poses help us disconnect from the frenzied pace of daily life.  The slow pace and deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which has a calming effect on our minds and bodies.  Studies have shown that this type of relaxation, including poses like Legs Up the Wall, can help fend off depression, provide higher quality sleep, and improve mental health.

Legs Up the Wall pose

Legs Up the Wall pose

  • Begin by sitting with the right side  of your body against the wall.  Using your hands to balance, gently swivel your body to the right as you lower your torso to the floor and bring your legs up onto the wall. 
  • Rest your shoulders and head on the floor.  Wiggle your body from side-to-side to scoot your sitting bones closer to the wall. Let your arms gently rest at your sides, or place your left hand on your heart center, and your right hand on your belly.
  • Close your eyes and stay here for 5-10 minutes.  Notice your breath as you lie here.
  • Slowly release by pushing yourself gently away from the wall as you slide your legs down and return to a seated position.

* Outfit worn throughout is by Sam Edelman

Mykonos and Santorini, a Magical Summer Getaway

Although it had been on my bucket list for a few years, this summer was the first time I had the opportunity to visit the gorgeous Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini.  My excitement to finally travel to this picturesque part of the world was high.  Of course I'd seen photos of these stunning locations online, and while I was a bit skeptical about whether they'd be as beautiful in person, they in fact, did not dissapoint. 

San Marco Luxury Hotel & Villas in Mykonos

San Marco Luxury Hotel & Villas in Mykonos

Our trip began in Mykonos, where we stayed at the photogenic San Marco Hotel.  Our room - a Junior Suite with a sea view - was open, light, airy, and very comfortable.  We even had a small balcony with a seating area facing the beautiful blue Aegean waters.  The hotel also had a relaxing seawater pool, two restaurants, and a complimentary shuttle service to and from town numerous times a day.

We took one of these shuttles to town, where we walked around the charming cobbled streets with its pretty shops, watched the sunset with the famous Chora Windmills, and enjoyed drinks and a delicious dinner by the water. 

Sunset by the Chora Windmills

Sunset by the Chora Windmills

Moonrise in Mykonos

Moonrise in Mykonos

After an incredible time in Mykonos, we headed to Santorini, just a short stop away by high-speed ferry.  With almost 2 million visitors annually, Santorini is Greece's most popular island, and for good reason.  Its beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, stunning sunsets, and delicious food, make it one of the top vacation spots in the world. 

The Red Beach, Santorini 

The Red Beach, Santorini 

One of our favorite places in Santorini was The Red Beach, located in Akrotiri village.  It is truly an eye-catching sight, with its red volcanic rocks overlooking the blue sea, and shores made of colorful sand and pebbles.  Another favorite (though very crowded) area was the picturesque village of Oia.  Situated at the top of an impressive cliff, it offers a spectacular view of the island, with it's charming pastel-colored houses and famous blue-domes.  There are plenty of shops and restaurants there, though if you're looking for a more lively crowd, head to Fira where you can find the island nightlife.

From their sapphire waters and whitewashed houses to their colorful sunsets and charming neighborhoods, the Greek Islands of Mykonos and Santorini are two of the most beautiful locations in the world.  A visit to either of these islands is sure to be an incredible, memorable, and very rewarding experience.

Sunset over Oia, Santorini

Sunset over Oia, Santorini

Santorini's magical sunset (photography by Kimonas Ptiniotis)

Santorini's magical sunset (photography by Kimonas Ptiniotis)

5 Poses to Help Prepare for Ardha Chandra Chapasana

Ardha Chandra Chapasana, or 'Sugar Cane' pose, is a standing balancing with an asymmetrical backbend.  This variation of Half Moon Pose opens the psoas and hips, and lengthens the spine with a gentle twist.  The key to finding more ease in this challenging posture lies in properly warming up the body, and of course having a consistent practice.  After flowing through a few rounds of Sun Salutations, I like to deepen my warm-up with the following poses before moving into Chapasana.

 

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1. Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog

1. Come onto all fours, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees.  Tuck your toes and straighten your legs, coming into Downward Facing Dog.

2. Step both feet together so that your big toes are touching.  Shift your weight into your hands and your left foot, and with an inhale raise your right leg up to the ceiling. Try to keep your hips squared, and your shoulders parallel with the ground.  Your ears should be in line with your arms, as you reach the crown of  your head toward the ground.

3. Hold for five breaths, then lower your right leg down, and repeat on the opposite side.

2. Uttanasana

1. Begin in Tadasana, with your hands on your hips.  Exhale and lengthen the front of your torso as you bend forward at the hips.

2. Press your heels down toward the floor as you reach your sit bones upward. Spin the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Don't lock your knees.  

3.  Keep your hips aligned over our ankles as you shift the weight of your body to the balls of your feet.  With each inhale lift and lengthen your torso.

4.  Hold the pose for 10 breaths.  To exit, place your hands on your hips and return to Tadasana with a straight spine.

3Extended Side Angle Pose

1. Begin in Warrior II pose, with left knee bent.  Lower the left elbow down to the left knee. Inhale the right arm up towards the ceiling and then exhale the arm over the right ear, creating a straight line with the right side of your body.

2.  Make sure the left knee stays bent directly over the left ankle.  Slowly sink the hips down towards the floor, and actively reach the right hand in the opposite direction of the right foot.

3. Hold for five breaths. To release, inhale reach the right fingers up and back into Warrior II. Repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.

4. Runner's Stretch (Ardha Hanumanasana )

1. From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower your left knee down onto your the ground, and un-tuck the top of the left foot.

2. Align your left hip over your left knee. Flex your right foot, pushing you heel away from you and reaching your toes back toward you.  Straighten your right leg as much as you comfortably can.

3.  Inhale and lengthen your spine.  Keeping your hips square, slowly begin to fold over your right leg while reaching your chest forward.

4.  Hold for 6 breaths.  To exit, tuck the left toes under, place the palms on the floor, and step back into Downward-Facing Dog.  Repeat on the opposite side for the same length of time.

5. Ardha Chandra Chapasana

1. From Warrior II pose, exhale and bring the left hand down in front of your left foot.  If you can't comfortably reach the floor, place a block under the hand.

2. Bring your right hand to your right hip, and begin to open your chest.  Slowly shift your weight into your left foot as you keep the toes spread wide.

3. With an inhale, lift the right leg up so that the inner thigh and inner arch of the foot are parallel with the floor. Find your stability here.

4. Open your right hip so it's stacked on top of your left, and open your torso toward your right.  Bend your right knee, and take a hold of your right foot with your right hand.  

5.  Ground down through your left leg.  Feel your ribcage expand as it lifts toward the sky.  Kick your foot into your hand so that your heel moves away from your seat while lifting your chest forward and up.  Once you find balance here, turn your gaze toward the sky. 

6.  Hold  for 3-5 deep breaths.  Slowly release and repeat on the other side.

Rediscovering the Beauty of Montreal

The Streets of Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)

The Streets of Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal)

I'll never forget my first visit to Montreal years ago, and how enchanted I was with it's perfect mix of old world charm and modern day luxury. Any opportunity I have to go back is always welcomed, and I was excited to have the chance to visit again for a weekend in March. Admittedly, one takes their chances when travelling to Canada in the winter months - we almost had to reschedule due to a large snowstorm that took place days before - but luckily all roads were cleared by the time we were scheduled to arrive.

Hotel William Gray

Hotel William Gray

Our hotel, William Gray, was located in the heart of my favorite neighborhood, Old Montreal (or Vieux-Montréalas as called by the French speaking locals).  The cobblestone roads and old romantic architecture has you feeling as if you are taking a peak at Montreal centuries ago.  It's narrow streets are filled with cafés and restaurants, museums and art galleries, as well as the Old Port, which is packed with history.  

If you prefer a more modern vibe, you don't have to look too far. Downtown Montreal is just a short drive away, and there you will find shopping malls and art galleries nestled in between its modern skyscrapers.  Montreal also has its own Chinatown, as well as a Latin Quarter, Entertainment District, and trendy neighborhood, Plateau Mont-Royal.

Between it's beautiful parks and gardens, historic streets, modern city, and numerous neighborhoods, Montreal is truly an incredible city with something special to offer everyone.  

Bath with a view at Hotel William Gray

Bath with a view at Hotel William Gray

View of Old Montreal at Sunset

View of Old Montreal at Sunset

Live Herb Wall at Maggie Oakes Restaraunt

Live Herb Wall at Maggie Oakes Restaraunt

Yoga in the lobby of William Gray Hotel

Yoga in the lobby of William Gray Hotel