Spain, Portugal, and an Enneagram Conference

When I found out Melanie and I were accepted to present together at the 2014 European Enneagram Conference in Carcavelos, Portugal, I was excited for multiple reasons! It’s an honor to be invited to present at an Enneagram conference, and I was looking forward to meeting new people and sharing my presentation with a European audience. I also hadn’t been to Europe in several years, and had never been to Portugal, so wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity the conference gave me to go on a European adventure. My trip took place in April 2014, and I spent 10 days in Spain and Portugal: 3.5 days in Madrid, 2 days in Lisbon, and 4.5 days in Carcavelos at the conference.


Madrid, Spain

I decided to do additional traveling prior to going to Portugal. I wanted to enjoy Europe for a few extra days and recover from jetlag before the conference. Choosing Madrid as the additional city to visit was an easy choice – it’s the closest major city to Lisbon and a place full of history, culture, and vibrant, youthful energy. I was lucky to arrive in Madrid in the evening, so I only had a few hours before I could sleep off the jetlag. I checked into my hostel in Malasaña and headed to a nearby trendy tapas restaurant before getting my first night of sleep. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, I highly recommend staying in Malasaña. It’s a young, hip, and exciting neighborhood with lots of trendy restaurants and bars that’s full of locals. Malasaña is just a 15-20 minute walk, or a very fast metro ride, to the main tourist attractions.

The next morning, I took a bus tour of Madrid that I signed up for prior to the trip. Sitting down on a bus for a few hours was perfect for someone tired and jetlagged, and the guide pointed out numerous neighborhoods in Madrid as we drove around – we even saw the local University. Our bus made three stops: The Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple rebuilt in Spain, Hard Rock Cafe, and the Palacio Real, Madrid’s Royal Palace. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first two stops – the Temple of Debod was nowhere near as impressive as I imagine the actual temples are in Egypt, and Hard Rock Cafe made me feel like I was back in the United States. I don’t think I would repeat the bus tour again because I didn’t like those two stops. However, I loved going on the tour of the Palace! Majestic can only begin to describe this place, and the tour generously showcased the beauty of every single room. The Palace is a must-do attraction in Madrid.


Palacio Real

Later that day, I went to the Mercado de San Miguel, a busy market with endless options and cooks selling delicious, exotic food. I took the opportunity to try some mystery food concoctions (they were all excellent!) before going to a Flamenco show that evening at Tablao Villa Rosa. I highly recommend a Flamenco show; they are dramatic and fun! The show itself was a little over an hour, featuring two men and a woman telling a somber story of a love triangle.

I spent the next day getting to know the historical part of Madrid, beginning with a free tour through the older parts of the region. Our group’s guide was lively and entertaining, using theater and acting to teach of the history of their Kings. We hit Madrid’s major historical tourist highlights, such as Plaza de Mayor and the statue at Puerto del Sol. I highly recommend this tour if you go to Madrid – just make sure to tip your guide, as otherwise they aren’t paid for their hard work! After the tour, I was lucky enough to have a lunch reservation at Botín, the world’s oldest restaurant (founded in 1725!). The restaurant is distinguished, yet quirky in feel and has an atmosphere that’s both stately and romantic. I ordered the pig, their specialty, and was impressed at the flavorful preparation. It was definitely worth a splurge!


Botín Restaurant

The Museo del Prado Art Museum is free in the evenings, so I made sure to head over there later in the day and immerse myself in numerous dark Goya paintings. Various other famous Spanish artists were featured as well. My only disappointment was that the museum didn’t allow photography.

I spent my last day in Madrid exploring some of its more modern areas. I went to a contemporary museum in the morning and spent much of the afternoon amidst locals at Retiro Park, a large, attractive park with trees and a lake in the center. Retiro Park gave me a perfect opportunity to relax and practice my upcoming Enneagram Conference Presentation. My time in Spain running out, I made my way over to Madrid’s Atocha Train Station, famous for its tropical gardens, and awaited my overnight train to Lisbon.


Lisbon, Portugal

I arrived in Lisbon on slightly shaky legs! I’d heard trains in Europe were efficient and luxurious, so I’d really been looking forward to my train trip from Madrid to Lisbon. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment. The slow, 12-hour trip was so lurchy that the only time I didn’t feel queasy from motion sickness was when I was lying down in my bunk bed and sleeping. Thankfully, I did manage to sleep. If I travel from Madrid to Lisbon again, I’ll stick with the bus or plane.

I could immediately feel the calm, tranquil atmosphere in Lisbon, a contrast to Madrid’s more fiery and electric energy. It was exactly what I needed after the train ride, and the hostel I checked into was not only beautiful, it had a generously-sized breakfast for me to feast on while I recovered.

After getting my bearings back under me, I was ready to do a couple of days of sightseeing before going to Carcavelos for the Enneagram conference. This first day was the only full day I had in Lisbon, so I took a long tram ride out to the ocean, to the neighborhood Belém. The environment in Belém was even more tranquil than central Lisbon and a great chance for me to catch my breath. Along with the succulent seafood I had for lunch, the highlight of Belem was Jerónimos Monastery, a large, gothic monument full of hidden gems.

Inside Jeronimos Monastery

Inside Jerónimos Monastery

That night, I experienced a treat – Fado music! don’t remember any of the food I ate because I was so busy taking in the lyrical, haunting music that is a Portuguese specialty. The following morning I went on a walking tour of the neighborhood Alfama, through windy, historical streets that don’t allow cars. They were filled with medieval buildings, cobblestones, and even a brightly decorated mural.

Alfama, Lisbon

Alfama, Lisbon

Our group rode a historical tram, and the guide brought us custard tarts, sausage, bread, and Portuguese wine – all specialties in Portugal. Later in the tour, we went up a tower designed by the same person who created the Eiffel tower and heard more Fado in the shopping district. I highly recommend the walking tour, as it offered a number of interesting things at a great value.

My time in Lisbon was coming to a close, so I had a quick lunch and made a stop at Sé de Lisboa, Lisbon’s famous Cathedral with sections full of gold. I found a cab and was swiftly on my way to Carcavelos, where the conference and beach both awaited me!


Carcavelos, Portugal

Carcavelos is only a 20-minute cab ride from Lisbon, but it feels like a whole different world. A cozy beach town, it seems like a perfect weekend getaway for locals. With the European Enneagram conference the next day, my focus shifted from the Portuguese scenery to getting ready to present. The conference attendees were well taken care of by the conference organizers and the hotel, with delicious breakfasts and lunches included. At the opening conference remarks, a professional Fado singer serenaded us all.

I always get a bit nervous before presenting, so I was glad Melanie and I were in the first group of presentations. Luckily, our advance preparation and practice paid off, and we had a fun and well-attended conference presentation, with lots of great questions from attendees! Susana, our Portuguese translator, is an Enneagram coach and was a wonderful addition to the presentation.

Melanie and me with Susana after our presentation

Melanie and me with Susana after our presentation

With our session finished early in the conference, I was able to spend the remainder of the event attending other presentations, connecting with Enneagram Professionals from Portugal and other European destinations, and sampling the seafood restaurants surrounding the hotel.

Conferences are fun but draining, and as is usual for me I was exhausted by the time it finished! The conference finished at noon, and I had a few hours to enjoy the beach with some friends before packing to go home. Even though we were in Portugal a bit early in the year for summer weather, it was a nice, warm, sunny day where we could comfortably enjoy the beach in regular clothes.

The beach in Carcavelos

The beach in Carcavelos

This concluded my trip, and I flew back to the US the next morning. I was ready to see my familiar bed but thrilled at the wonderful time I had! I explored two beautiful, culturally rich cities in Europe, got to spend some time at the beach, had a successful conference presentation, and made some great new European contacts in the Enneagram field.

Learn more about Kacie’s work with the Enneagram at Berghoef & Bell Innovations.

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