Three days to refresh and revive last week. I promise I was working, but a trip to Portugal in January to escape the Belgian winter is a real bonus.
Even better was the location for two of the days – a workshop based in the Arrabida Convent, a medieval convent set high on the hills of the Arrabida Natural Park 50km south of Lisbon.
The combination of stunning sea views and glorious weather was uplifting.
My trip started with a day in Lisbon. Courtesy of a late flight the previous day I was able to get up and about before my string of meetings for the day and have a quick walk down to the River Tagus waterside. Everybody else seemed to be in overcoats, including the cyclists but I thought it was springtime.
Most of the rest of the day was whizzing around from place to place so I didn’t get many more photos, but the next day made up for it.
Early in the morning my colleague Marco and I were collected and driven for an hour south to the Arrabida Convent, a route that involved a final seven kilometre climb winding high along the hillsides above the sea. Almost by surprise we turned into a secluded gateway which dipped down through a treelined road to the convent and a villa that had belonged to the wealthy family who owned the site and built the monastery for a sect of Franciscan monks in the 16th Century.
It is now owned by a foundation who are recovering it from the decay it fell into in the 19th Century. They allow small groups to rent it for professional workshops and retreats, which worked well for our special sessions with a group of experts discussing future trends in mobility.
Our pleasure at the setting was a complete contrast to the history of site. It may have had rich medieval patrons, but to buy their salvation the owners built a monastery for a group of Franciscan monks who practised the most intense regime of hardship.
Almost starving, living in dark unheated cells and practicing self-flagellation the small group did little except pray and suffer.
Coffee break anyone?