Owning Our Stories in Portugal

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Casa do Rolapipas

Each year, since 2012, Deborah has participated in or conducted an annual international Wisdom Quest. This year, the location was the beautiful Douro Valley in Portugal. Our personal development focus was “owning your story.” It was an epic adventure.

Our Risk Blossoming – Wisdom Quests are travel masterminds where participants remove themselves from their day-to-day responsibilities and travel with a group of peers to focus on themselves and their personal growth. It is unlike anything most people have experienced. Our Wisdom Quest 2019 to Portugal, as those before it, again opened doors for participants that many didn’t realize were closed.

Deborah’s Story

Deborah and JLein prepare for Wisdom Quest 2019

Deborah and JLein

I left Tim and BAM the week before and this chapter picks up at the Phoenix Airport, where I was meeting my Wisdom Quest partner J’Lein Liese, to start our Wisdom Quest 2019 to Portugal. We were catching a flight for a pre-trip to Lisbon, Portugal for a few days before traveling to Porto.

In Porto, all of our Wisdom Quest participants would be meeting us and we would be traveling to Rolapipas. There on the Douro River in the heart of the Douro Valley, our own private villas were waiting for us. An area rich in history, the Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. Above all, we were looking forward to leading our mastermind sessions there, specific to “owning your story.”

Lisbon, Portugal – Day One

Our home in Lisbon was the hospitable Altis Avenida Hotel, located in the heart of the city. The hotel was top-notch in every sense: plush guest rooms, retro-style décor, outstanding service, and a 7th-floor restaurant and bar with killer views of Lisbon’s historic downtown. J’Lein and I arrived at midnight, and the streets were vibrant with activity and nightlife. When we asked about the activity, we were told that things usually slow down around 4 am.

First stop on Wisdom Quest 2019: Altis Avenida Hotel, Lisbon, Portugal

Altis Avenida Hotel, Lisbon, Portugal

The next morning, we enjoyed a wonderful roof-top breakfast and then walked toward the shops and activities by the river. Later that day, we met up with our very charming Portuguese guide, Diego, who led us on a 5-mile walking tour of Lisbon. He introduced himself and affirmed that the best way to enjoy Lisbon was to walk among the locals, taste the same food they eat, visit the same sightseeing spots they bring their friends to. During this fun and casual cultural and food tour, there was the perfect balance of sightseeing, cultural context, and of course, the food and wine tastings. I loved it, and it set a standard of expectations for the balance of the trip. The ladies adored Diego, and he reciprocated with charm and patience.

The participants in Wisdom Quest 2019

Eating where the locals eat in Lisbon, Portugal

Day Two in Lisbon, Portugal

The next morning, we met our guide, Monica, and headed to Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. On the way, we stopped and toured the National Palace of Queluz. This palace is Portugal’s version of Versailles. Portugal is a country very proud of its history and background, and rightly so!

Next, we progressed to Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, where history, archaeology, architecture, and natural beauty combine to create a compelling and enduring centerpiece. In the enchanted Village of Sintra, we saw the Village Palace and strolled the narrow streets and beautiful parks.

Lastly, we also took time to visit Cascais, also known as the Portuguese Riviera. This upscale village intrigued me and is someplace that I would love to return.

Fado – Portugal in Sound

musicians playing Fado

Fado: the music of Portugal

When we returned to Lisbon, it was time for dinner and Fado! We headed to the very popular and highly rated “Clube do Fado” to experience this uniquely Portuguese genre. Fado is a performance incorporating music and poetry. Fado’s songs are performed by a solo (male or female) singer and accompanied by a wire-strung acoustic guitar and the Portuguese Guitarra: a pear-shaped guitar with 12 wire strings. We were told they sing of lost loves or life of the poor. Whatever they were singing about, it was mournful and infused with lots of passion and emotion. Our group met it with mixed reviews. Personally, I loved the sound of the Guitarra and was mesmerized by the artist’s skill and expression on his 12-string instrument. BEAUTIFUL.

Lisbon to Porto

Restaurant Lanterna Do FadoThe next morning, we met our driver, loaded our luggage, and headed to Porto. The road from Lisbon to Porto is a world-class highway with wonderful and expansive views of the countryside.

As we neared the holy city of Fatima, we asked our driver about stopping for lunch. He recommended a small family restaurant tucked away in a little neighborhood on the outskirts of Fatima, Lanterna do Fado.

Portugal’s National Pastime

Previously, I had been informed by our tour operator that the national pastime of Portugal is “eating and drinking.” I wasn’t ready for another “epic” meal, but what I was or wasn’t ready for didn’t matter because Lanterna do Fado serves family-style. When we entered, they welcomed us and immediately began to serve Portuguese wine paired with beautiful Portuguese dishes of cod, cow’s cheeks, and chicken. And then, when I thought they were done, they would bring another new dish. At some point, we cried “enough” and requested our bill. The total for our amazing Portuguese feast was 25 Euros per person. Note: Dining out in Portugal is very, very reasonable.


We arrived in Porto and checked-in to the five-star Le Monumental Palace Hotel. As we registered, we were immediately impressed with the staff’s efficiency and hospitality. Upon entering my room, I found a personally addressed, handwritten note next to a fresh fruit plate. When I returned after dinner, turn-down service had left macaroons in a small box by my pillow and slippers by my bed. I found this hotel to be absolutely fabulous. The service and luxurious surroundings had me feeling very spoiled and very special!

The Monumental Palace, Porto, Portugal

The Monumental Palace, Porto, Portugal

Porto is a beautiful and romantic city. Plus, the historic center of Porto is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. As the second-largest city in Portugal, its hardworking citizens are noted for their commercial enterprise, historically standing firm against outside impositions and foreign invaders. This explains why Porto is known as the “unvanquished” city.

Porto, Portugal on Wisdom Quest 2019

Porto, Portugal

A beautiful, charming, and hospitable city, Porto offered us a lovely guided walking tour, incredible dinner at the Michelin-rated “Cantinho do Avillez,” and the amazing five-star accommodations at the Monumental Palace. To say Porto was special would be an understatement!!

Finding Casa do Rolapipas

Our villa in the Douro Valley, Rolapipas was located about two hours from Lisbon. Traveling with 12 ladies requires frequent rest stops. Sitting shotgun, it was my job to “communicate” with the driver when the “urge” to rest was imminent. My strategic position also allowed me to observe that he was reliant on his iPhone GPS app as we traveled toward Rolapipas. Two hours into the trip, we turned in to a small village and entered what appeared to be a very narrow alley. As our driver looked back and forth from his iPhone app to the road, I wanted to ask, “Do you know where you are going?” I didn’t. Eventually, the alley opened up onto a narrow dirt road in the countryside. I peered at his GPS app. He was tracking. I kept quiet.

The narrow dirt road turned into a downhill road surrounded by vineyards. Then came the first hairpin curve, and suddenly, we were going in the opposite direction. We continued traveling on this narrow, switch-backing road down into the valley. Then we spotted the river. Aha! This was the Douro River Valley! However, nowhere was signage or a directional indication that we were headed to Rolapipas. Then we saw it: Down by the river, there was a group of stone buildings. Rolapipas!

Casa do Rolapipas

Casa do Rolapipas is a modern villa home in an old-world shell. In my opinion, the best part of Rolapipas is its remote and hidden location. It is a true getaway. The two villas have been carefully restored to maintain an old-world splendor with new-world comforts. The interiors are modern and inviting. The open floor plan enabled our Wisdom Quest 2019 group to commune, and the individual en suites provided our travelers with their personal space and privacy.

Casa do Rolapipas, Wisdom Quest 2019

Casa do Rolapipas

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the house staff and immediately escorted to the larger of the two villas. There, we were welcomed with Rolapipas wine and a beautiful lunch. After lunch, we explored the two villas and found our rooms, where our luggage was waiting for us. The setting, the views, and the accommodations were so unique and special. We had arrived in the Douro Valley, and the amazing Casa do Rolapipas was all ours for the next several days.

Douro River Cruise / Quinta do Crasto

Douro River

Ready for our trip down to Douro River

The next morning after yoga and breakfast, we met at the Rolopipas pier and boarded a vintage motor yacht and boated two hours downriver to the Ferrao pier. Debarking the yacht, we climbed into the back of a 1950 pickup truck and took a ride up the hill to the Quinta do Crasto Winery, where harvest was in full swing. After a wonderful tour of their 2019 renovated, modern facility, we gathered for a flighted lunch featuring the Quinta do Crasto wines. Epic.

The Wisdom Quest 2019 crew on the back of a pickup truck

Our ride to Quinta do Crasto

When it was time to return to the yacht for our trip back to Rolapipas, we were transported, once again, in the back of the pickup truck. Being on the Douro River, visiting the beautiful winery, and enjoying the company of and conversation with these powerful women made this day a very special and memorable one.

Four Wheeling in the Douro Valley of Portugal

The next day, three young, charming Portuguese drivers and their Land Rovers came to take us off-roading in the Douro Valley. My driver was a young man named Kevin who spoke fluent English. When we asked him where he had learned the language, he shared that he had taught himself. As a young boy, he had played video games and watched YouTube and American movies. (Have I mentioned how charming the Portuguese men are?)

Kevin told us that we would be traversing back roads through the hills of the Douro Valley vineyards. Our destination was the highest point in the Douro Valley, where spectacular views and a picnic lunch with Douro Valley wines would be waiting.

highest point in the Douro Valley

picnic lunch

our picnic lunch at the highest point in the Douro Valley.

But before lunch, we would experience some port wine and olive oil tastings at two of the local Douro “Quintas” (wine estates). Our first stop was Quintas do D’Origem.

Quintas do D’Origem

Later, we visited Quintas do Seara D’Ordens. I came to Portugal thinking that I didn’t care for port. I returned home with the US Custom’s limit of two bottles of Port from these Quintas.

Quintas do Seara D’Ordens

Lamego – The Culture of Portugal

At this point, we fully understood that food and wine in Portugal is a serious affair! Therefore, it was not surprising that our next activity on our Wisdom Quest was a food and culture tour in Lamego. Lamego is a very ancient city, having been raised to a bishopric by the Visigoths, under the name of Laecum, as early as the seventh century. It is also a very beautiful city. Our guide, MaryAnna, a native of Lamego, took us on a journey of discovery through the small streets of Lamego and the beautiful church on top of the hill. There were 638 steps that led from the street up to the plaza of the church. Five members of our Wisdom Quest 2019 group successfully conquered the climb!!

five members of our group completed the climb of 638 steps to the church


Back to Porto, Portugal

Our last morning at Rolapipas! Autumn arrived while we were here, and I have fallen in love with this beautiful country and its amazing history, kind and charming people and their love of food and wine. I feel sad that I am leaving, but know that I will carry the love and beauty of this country and experience in my heart. I Love Portugal 🇵🇹. Explore. Discover. Grow.#wisdomquest #riskblossoming #portugal #travelistransformational

Posted by Risk Blossoming on Saturday, September 21, 2019

On our last morning, I woke, went to my small balcony, and took in the incredible environs. There was something magic about the morning songs of the birds and the low clouds that caressed the hills above the Douro River. I felt melancholy. The time spent at this beautiful place had been special. I didn’t want to leave. But after yoga and breakfast, we met as a group and concluded with our final Wisdom Quest 2019 session. My heart was full of joy and gratitude. It was a wonderful Wisdom Quest with a very special group of women.

the women of Wisdom Quest 2019: Portugal


We returned to Porto. There, we enjoyed this beautiful city once again. We shopped, dined by the river, and lingered until we knew it was time to go.


“Owning Your Story”—Wisdom Quest 2019

Throughout our busy schedule, we met each day to work on our curriculum, “owning your story.” It was a process, and I believe that we all left renewed and focused.

Through our curriculum, we learned to:

  • Identify and own our own unique story and to be in the driver’s seat—so we never again have to justify or defend who we are.
  • Update our story so what we are doing today will also be aligned with the story we want to live.
  • Use our courage of vulnerability so that sharing our story will serve as a vehicle to connect ourself and others and cultivate community.
  • Leverage our story as part of our personal brand, using mirror neurons to attract relationships and the business that we want, on our terms, because we will be driving our own story.

“When we deny the story, it defines us.
When we OWN OUR STORIES, we get to write a brave new ending.”
– Brene Brown

New Best Friends

Prior to this journey, some of our travelers knew each other, some had been on previous Wisdom Quests, some were newbies, and some joined us not knowing anyone. At our conclusion, the camaraderie, coupled with the trust, support, and open sharing, created a caring and supportive group. We said our good-byes with promises to stay connected or get together soon. So much more happened that is not noted in this blog. Some of those things were the non-stop laughter and the spontaneous times we shared.

But our commitment to each other at the beginning of this journey was “what happens in Portugal, stays in Portugal,” so I am not at liberty to share. However, when I speak about our Wisdom Quests, I like to suggest that you will leave with lifelong friendships. And I believe that to be the case of our enchanting encounter with Portugal!

Douro Valley, Portugal

Douro Valley, Portugal

What’s Next?

In conclusion, if you are a woman who desires to share this type of experience,
please plan to join on our next Wisdom Quest.
We’ve announced our Wisdom Quest 2020: Morocco.
Check it out and let Deborah know what questions you have.

Post Script:

Special thanks to our tour operator, Miguel at Tripwix.
His expertise and support in putting this experience together is so appreciated.
Further, I am particularly grateful for his patience, cooperation, attention to detail, and charm.
(Did I mention that Miguel is Portuguese?)
Thank you, Miguel! 

Explore. Discover. Grow.


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