Though this is labeled as TTT, we’re only doing five because that’s all I wanted to come up with and didn’t feel like trying to pull more out for no reason. And ICYMI, I’m headed to Portugal in–holy shit–three days! My flight leaves Friday evening, and I’ll be abroad for sixteen days. Since this is my first time abroad, and the start of a big new adventure in solo traveling, I thought it’d be fun to dig into why I’m going to Portugal first.

It’s where I’m from!

My great-grandfather, José, is from a small parish on the western side of Madeira, Calheta. When he came over, he was considered the richest person on the boat with something like $16 to his name. He was so terrified of being seen as different, though, that he changed his name to Joseph, refused to speak Portuguese to his children, and let the culture of Calheta die in my family. And this is not meant to talk ill of the dead at all because I completely understand why he did that. Not only was he leaving everything he knew in search of a better life, he was going somewhere that he’d never been, that he didn’t know anyone, and he needed the place that he was going to accept him so that he could build a new life.

But it does make me immeasurably sad that he felt like he had to do that, so I’m going back to where he lived to see all that I came from and to hopefully start to reignite the Portuguese culture in my family.

Several of my books have been set there.

Originally, it was just Freddie, but it’s so much more now. After sister witches & Madhouse, I’ve really been enjoying setting my books in countries other than the US, and Portugal was an obvious first for me. Well, technically, Greece is the first since that’s where Andrew takes place, and he’s my oldest character, but I’ve actually written Freddie’s duology, so he counts more. Freddie is Britain-born, but he escapes to Portugal after a disastrous disowning from his father, and the majority of the duology takes place in Coimbra.

And somehow, it’s not just him anymore. Though most of Thornwood takes place in Scotland, two of its primary characters are from Portugal, and we get to see them in Lisbon at the beginning of the story, and I think we’ll get to see it in the second book, as well. And, of course, there’s always going to be Rafael, born and raised in the Monastery of Batalha, spending most of his early life in various palaces with several different kings, and eventually settling in the islands with Andrew.

Madeira is home to Europe’s only tea plantation.

I didn’t know this until recently! I didn’t even know that there were tea plantations outside of Asia, and it’s pretty damn cool that my island is where the only two in Europe are. I stumbled across this entirely by accident, as well, while I was just Googling some possible ideas for an afternoon adventure while on Madeira, and now I’m definitely going to try to make my way to something with tea during my afternoon off there. Because me + tea = the happiest possible version of myself.

The Açores aren’t a regular destination for Americans.

My uncle recently visited Portugal, and he said that, while on Madeira, he saw one other American during his entire trip. He didn’t go to the Açores, but not only have I seen several blogs that have said something similar, my French friend said that Portugal was a rare destination for Americans, and an infrequent one for other Europeans. I really don’t understand it, either, because pictures of the Açores look absolutely incredible, and I can’t imagine not wanting to go there. I will admit that I’m really excited to be one of the few Americans on the island, though, and especially because I can speak Portuguese. It’ll be such a return to the history that sits so deeply in my family, a full circle of returning after leaving, and I can’t wait to be able to experience this gorgeous landscape that so many Americans aren’t paying attention to.

It’s both similar & very different.

This feels kind of redundant after the rest of this list. I’ve never gone abroad, so obviously Portugal is going to be hugely different for me than the life that I live in the US. But it’s also somewhere that I have a lot of history, and that I’ve spent a lot of time researching for my books, and I think that, regardless of what Coimbra’s library actually looks like, it’s going to feel familiar because I spent months mentally inside of it while writing Freddie’s duology. It’s going to be a place that feels different under my feet, but that feels similar inside my heart, and I’m really excited to experience that duality.

Posted by:Mary Drover

she/her | yoga teacher | Tibetan Buddhism | part-time witch | full-time author | astronaut in a previous life

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