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A Summer Birthday in Portugal

Any summer lovers out there? Well, I’m definitely one of those! And identifying myself as such, the fact that my birthday is in the middle of winter leaves me with a bitter taste. So, I decided to put on my bucket list to spend that special day near a sunny and warm beach. Here’s the story of how I was able to fulfill that longed-for wish.

By Cathy Ruiz


I was born at the end of June in Chile, in the southern hemisphere, which means that the day of my birthday has always been very cold and most of the time rainy. This made me grow up with limited birthday celebration options. They always has to be indoors, and I didn’t have a large space to invite whoever I wanted or to have big parties. It always meant searching for other spaces. Also, some people didn’t show up at the last minute because it was too cold to go out or because heavy rain made traffic impossible. That’s why I always longed to have a birthday celebration in summertime.

The first failed attempt

My first attempt to accomplish that dream was when I lived in London in 2017. I was looking forward to celebrating my first birthday in another hemisphere and that it was indeed in summer. But, as you may know, London weather is totally unpredictable!

In fact, the day of my birthday, it rained during the morning, and I was afraid I would have to cancel the celebration which was a picnic in a park next to my house. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and I gathered with my friends at Grovelands Park and we enjoyed a summer afternoon under the trees.

But, even though I could experience a celebration until late in the day, the picture I had in my mind of spending my birthday in summertime was different to this experience.

Creating my dream birthday

My dream birthday celebration has always been in the middle of summer, but in a warm, very sunny place and next to the sea.

I didn’t want to have another regular birthday celebration like all the years before. I wanted something very special that I would remember my whole life.

Also, I wanted to have my solar return chart read in a different place. For those who are wondering what this is all about, it is an astrology tool that helps you assess and predict the themes that will arise for you during your next “solar year”. It is a guide of the challenges you might face during the next 12 months. The calculation is made with your time of birth, the date of your birthday in the current year and the location you are in, the latter being the most important! Because the chart will change according to the place you are! And so to do the challenges you may face.

Portugal came to my mind before 2020 and from there I began to sketch out the idea of how I would make it. As soon as the world began to open up again, I activated my plans.

I wanted a fresh start for my last birthday in my 30s, so I booked my flight ticket to arrive in Lisbon before June 30th.

Beloved by strangers

Since I had only arrived a few days before my birthday, I didn't really know many people. In fact, I was afraid of the idea of how I might feel spending my birthday all by myself, even though I’m very used to traveling solo. But I gave up those fears and just trusted that the day would unfold the best for me. And… Wow! It definitely did!

The blessing came from the very beginning. At 12:01 am, starting my birthday, I was surprised by Alzira, a Portuguese lady with whom I was staying in Lisbon, who made for me a mini homemade birthday cake with raspberries at the top. She also gave me a balloon with the words written: “Parabens Cathy. Be happy”. And, she emphasized: “This is your first day of your happiness”.

To treat myself I decided to book an Airbnb Experience to have a full day excursion. I chose “The secret paradise of Arrabida”. The pictures were promising with outstanding views of a turquoise sea, cliffs and beaches. It was all I had dreamt of!

I went there timidly thinking whether I should tell the rest of the group that it was my birthday. Soon the opportunity came, and suddenly a bunch of strangers became my friends to spend my birthday celebration with. The group was formed by 6 people coming from the US, the Portuguese guide and me.

That’s what I love about traveling. There’s so many people you can meet along the way, and if you have your heart as open as possible magic occurs: even people you haven’t ever seen before in your life can make your day special.

All what I dreamt of!

I was already excited just by crossing the longest suspension bridge in Europeto head to Parque Natural Arrabida to the south from Lisbon.

Before arriving in Arrabida we made a stop at Mercado do Livramento in Setúbal, one of the best markets in the world according to USA Today. Then the journey continued and with Bob Marley's "Could it be Love'' playing in the background, the most awe inspiring and breathtaking landscapes appeared along the way: endless intense blue and turquoise ocean colour under a shiny sky.

I was having the most empowering and liberating sensation that only the sea can give me. We were at the top of the hill with the wind blowing on my face and I had the feeling that in front of me there is a new life waiting for me and I am ready to live all new adventures.

After hiking to a hidden cave, my group of new friends invited me to have lunch in a restaurant in Portinho da Arrabida beach. And also, they managed to have Muscatel wine samples to make a toast. I couldn’t feel more grateful.

The excursion continued with a visit to Jose María de Fonseca winery in Azeitão. One of the oldest wine producers in Portugal with almost 200 hundred years of history.

Blowing the candles in Lisboa

I ended my birthday celebration with two other solo travelers I met through the Facebook page “Host a sister”. We went to Foxtrot bar in Barrio Alto, the bohemian district in Lisbon and enjoyed dinner in a Persian restaurant “Cafe Teheran”.

The funny fact about this is that Anmol who came from England has her birthday one day before mine, and Des who came from Hawaii her birthday was on the 23rd. So it turns out to be a celebration of our Cancer Season.

So, there we were sitting on a table outside, just beside the cobblestone street, under a warm but a little windy night. I couldn’t believe it. That scenery was where I was making my birthday wishes!

Turning years for me marks an opportunity to set new intentions and project my life in the upcoming cycle. In fact, it's even more important than New Year’s day. This year I felt that starting “my new year” in this atmosphere will bring me only good omens.

Muito Obrigada Portugal for this unforgettable birthday.


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