Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Portugal with Grace Dubery

Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery
Apiece Apart Travels: Returning to Lisbon with Grace Dubery

“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here..” — Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Yogi, traveler, and teacher Grace Dubery is a woman we've known and admired since first meeting her in New York. A true cultivator of presence and self-practice, what shines through vividly in Grace is the open, adaptive lens through which she views the world, an ability to move fluidly in and out of experience and place. Born in Lisbon to an English father and Portuguese mother, raised in both Portugal and Toronto, Grace considers themes of uprooting and transience to be cornerstones in how she sees herself in the world today; that is, always moving, always observing, connecting with who she is rather than where she is. "I try to lead a completely integrated life with all the pieces that I’ve been given," she explains. Earlier this summer Grace traveled home to to teach a yoga retreat in rural Portugal at her family's farm in Alentejo, and while there documented her time on the road, gathering snapshots both in the countryside and while on a day trip to Lisbon. Below, a travelogue and conversation on grounding in, wherever you are (as well as some practical tips and advice on how to be a better traveler).

Photos by De Alma e Coracao (plus select images courtesy Grace Dubery); interview by Leigh Patterson

Apiece Apart Grace Dubery

Can you share more about yourself, your background, and upbringing. How have ideas surrounding place, travel, and movement played roles in who you are today? 
I was born in Lisbon, to an English father and a Portuguese mother. I’ve always identified myself as Portuguese, though while in Portugal, I was seen as “the English kid." My parents separated when I was little and when I turned 17 my mom moved us to Toronto so she could take on a diplomatic post. Those years leading up to our move in 1997 were equally difficult and astounding. While I was forming an identity and becoming a young woman, my mom was redefining herself against all odds. Those were some of the most enduring lessons of my life. I learned about work ethic, compromise, sacrifice, and always pushing forward.
 
I’ve spent my life between places, uprooted by chance, fulfilling the life of an immigrant at invariable times. However, Portugal remains my home. I also strongly define myself as an immigrant for that’s what I’ve been the great majority of my life. It’s an odd identity, one without place, and with a strong longing for what was. I’ve now been in New York for 2 years and I haven’t stopped traveling. Because of my background, I’ve never identified myself under one label. Instead, I try to lead a completely integrated life with all the pieces that I’ve been given. I try not to be defined solely by any one of my numerous roles or identities: sister, daughter, friend, yogi, producer, stylist, storyteller, humanitarian, Portuguese, Canadian, English, New Yorker. Instead they are all part of me and I try to share that with the world as is. I work to maintain a sense of clarity on an unclear identity.
 

Apiece Apart Grace Dubery


What is one thing you do daily to connect with yourself? How do you disconnect and set personal boundaries? 
I practice yoga daily, and that brings me down to earth. It sharpens my attention to what’s important and what isn’t. I also make a point of leaving my cell phone at home while walking my dog. It seems little but it has a big impact. That way, I am solely focused on my walk and my dog, taking in the nature surrounding me. As insignificant as it can seem, it allows me to foster greater attention and awareness around those moments. Similarly, I am turning off my phone when I am home with family, and I make it a point of setting it aside in the evenings so that I can be present with myself and with others. This practice is profound.
 
Disconnecting from technology is a practice like any other. My boundaries around it are well defined and even though it can be a challenge to put into practice, time away from my phone has to be and is enforced. Truthfully, I go through waves, but I am much quicker at catching myself when off balance in my approach to technology or social media. 
  
Describe a moment in your recent past that filled you with wonder.

My mother always fills me with wonder and her own sense of wonder at little things inspires me. We travel together often, and I am always mesmerized at how keen she is at wanting to try everything. She never says no and I find that incredibly inspiring. She’s adventurous and full of life, and wonderfully curious about everything.

 

Apiece Apart Grace Dubery

What does an ideal day in Lisbon look like for you? 
Start the day in Príncipe Real, with breakfast at any corner café, preferably at the counter. There’s always lots of options and they’ll make you just about anything. Brunch is becoming increasingly trendy in Lisbon and if you want to sit down, head over to Deli or Footprints. After walking around the area and checking out curio shops inside the iconic building Embaixada (Ribeiro da Cunha Palace), walk down to Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara belvedere for a view of the city and its castle.
 
Meander the streets of Bairro Alto, and from Largo de Camões, head down Chiado. If you need a coffee fix (again), head in to Brasileira and order yourself a café at the counter or sit outside for some people watching. Walk down Chiado toward Rossio, Praça da Figueira and Largo São Domingos where you can check out the historical open-fronted bar A Ginjinha for a midday sour cherry liqueur apéritif. Enjoy a seafood lunch at Pinóquio nearby in Resturadores. Walk down Rua Augusta toward Praça do Comércio to take in some views of the majestic commerce square and its Tagus shoreline from Cais das Colunas.
 
Head up toward the Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral and the oldest church in the city) toward Castelo and the Miradouro da Graça for a rest, an afternoon coffee/water, and yet another magnificent view of the city. Head down toward Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district for an authentic feel of what the city is about. Enjoy its medieval alleys and outstanding views. If you have energy left, take the tram to Belém to savor the ubiquitous Pastel de Nata. There you can visit the Jerónimos Monastery and the nearby Torre de Belém. Further ahead  you can visit the newly renovated Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum).
 
Head back to city center to catch the sunset at Park Bar, or at Less in the Miradouro dos Terraços do Carmo, or at hotel Chiado. Either option will offer splendid end of day views of the city. If you’re ready for dinner, stay at Less or head back to Príncipe Real for dinner at Cevicheria or at Atalho Real (meat lovers). Alternatively, head over to 100 Maneiras, or enjoy (more) seafood at the one and only Ramiro (be prepared for some long lines).

What do you always pack with you when you travel?
When I travel, I always have essential oils (thieves, peppermint, lavender are indispensible), facial mist, a reusable water bottle, and a blanket shawl and straw hat, which I wear on the plane for packing efficiency! I always pack fresh cut veggies to keep me hydrated and keep me away from processed airport foods, and I travel with a liter and a half of water for every three hours of flight time. Flying is literally meditative for me: I use noise-cancelling headphones and play white noise, make sure to keep my lower back propped with a pillow, and I cover my shoulders with my shawl to protect me from drafts. It’s an exercise in blocking out as many external distractions as possible. 
 
After a flight, I spend some time with my legs up-the-wall, and practicing some mild supine hip openers and twists.

Apiece Apart Grace Dubery

What’s your mantra or a favorite quotation?
"This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play." – Alan Watts
 
My mantras adapt to my need at keeping balance. Currently, don’t take anything for granted, carries a strong resonance in my life.
 
What books are currently on your nightstand? 
Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar
A Path with Heart, Jack Kornfield
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Harris
 
And what books do you find yourself repeatedly recommending to others? Perhaps some that have been the most impactful for you...
I am often asked for yoga book recommendations. There are so many wonderful sources out there but I always recommend Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar and The Mirror of Yoga, Richard Freeman, and How to Meditate, Pema Chödrön.