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Arlanda - Lisbon - Ota


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I arrived at the train station in Falun shortly after 9 am. The train hadn’t arrived yet, so I had a few minutes over for some philosophizing. The sun was shining and did warm up a little even though the temperature was modest - 4° Centigrade. It is now you start second guess yourself. “Did I remember the passport? The tickets?” After checking my bag like three times the train finally came in at the station. Well onboard I surprisingly discovered my pre-booked seat was an aisle-seat and not a window seat which I had booked. Hmm… shame on you SJ! I had paid for that! And while I’m still talking about SJ… my ticket said this was a fast train. What does that mean, exactly? Looking closer in the train schedule this “fast train” took just as many hours as a regular intercity train at the same distance Falun C to Arlanda C. Misleading marketing?!? Seems like it!
So even though it was a fast train (SJ3000) it took just as long as an inter city train to get to Arlanda.

Even though I arrived hours before my flight departed I placed myself in line to the check-in. I could easily stand for a while since I soon had to be sitting on the flight for several hours. Quickly I realized I was lucky to get in line early because the line went up to 40 meters long pretty fast. I felt pretty lost in line surrounded by middle aged people and their golf bags. I bet they were pretty curious why I didn’t have a golf bag too. I checked in my baggage, passed security check and felt it was time for some lunch. The food offering was limited and still they wanted 159 SEK but it was one of the greatest fried pieced potatoes I’ve ever eaten :) Time went by pretty fast and soon I boarded the flight. Delayed with a few minutes the flight took off for a total of 4 hour and 25 minutes long flight. I plugged my ears trying to listen to my mp3-player and tried to get some rest when I suddenly heard all this noise… what now? Oh right! Meals were included! I had forgotten that. Since I already had eaten at Arlanda I wasn’t really hungry but I ate some of it. I was impressed that they used real silverware forks and knifes and not those in plastic… it’s the small details that makes the difference! And the lavatory onboard was one on the cleanest lavatories I have ever used, no sanitary inconvenience at all! A big plus to TAP – the flight company!

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During the very last hour of the flight I was sick and tired of flying that I almost died but eventually I arrived at Lisbon Portela Airport. I got off the plane as fast as I could and hurried up to pick up my baggage. The cab driver and my Norwegian friend were already waiting for me at the Official Meeting Point. Oscar, the cab driver, didn’t speak much of English. He spoke French better though and lucky me that my Norwegian friend (who lived in France for a while) spoke French and could act translator. So we started on our 40 minute drive to Quinta do Archino where we would stay for the entire week.

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Quinta do Archino overlooks the city Ota in Alenquer and has been passed on for generations in over 300 years. The manor is beautifully situated in a calm and unspoiled countryside of cork oaks, eucalyptus and Pine trees surrounded by quiet watercourses lined with bamboo. For over 30 years D. Francisco de Bragança has been breeding and educating Lusitano horses and did practice classic dressage for the master Nuno Oliveira. Since 2003 Francisco has received riders back home at his manor Quinta do Archino and teaching classic dressage for the experienced and the un-experienced rider.

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We arrived at the manor by 7.30 pm and got a warm welcoming by Maria (Francisco’s wife) and their female cook. They showed us the guesthouse where all the guests stays and later walked towards the stable. We found out that the other four guests had already arrived and that they were also from Sweden. A nice surprise! The stable aisle was covered by a plastic rug and was well cleansed. We saw this small man, Fernando, the stable keeper and groomer. The stallions (and a few geldings) stood in their loose-boxes along the aisle and ate their hay. Each loose-box had its own window so they could overlook the nature outside. We walked into the tack room and Francisco spoke warm-hearted about the Portuguese saddle and how easily you would learn the correct seat by using it. Maybe we were able try it out during the week?

We got out in the stable aisle again and Francisco introduced the horses one by one and told us about their strengths and weaknesses. He finished the tour by saying it’s so important for us to believe in ourselves and have an open mind. Suddenly Francisco asked us if we believed he was fully skilled. I thought immediately “Of course not”. He then explained learning is like a pyramid that gets narrower and narrower but never really ends… because nobody is totally skilled! Not even him. All six riders got back to the guesthouse and we waited for dinner that was served at 8.30 pm. During dinner we all riders got to know each other more and it felt like we would get along great during this week :) A three-dish course and a locally produced wine were served by the cook. My friend and I went to bed at 10.30 pm.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Quinta do Archino


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Woke up in time for breakfast at 8 am. Many kinds of white bread, fruits, cheese, ham, marmalade, coffee, tea, yoghurt and milk were served. A steady breakfast in other words. At 9 am it was time for our first riding lesson. We gathered in the stable all excited about whom was riding first.

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The ring was 15 x 30 meters and was just across the aisle. The white-colored stonewalls and the bright light made the ring looked bigger than it actually was. Along the long side the opened windows let the sunlight in during the afternoons. At one of the short sides was the gallery and on the opposite side were three big mirrors for the riders to look at themselves.

I was one on the first riders for the day. A brown Lusitano gelding named Zip was chosen for me. Zip’s energetic eyes revealed to me he was full of energy. So a little nervous I mounted him and discovered they had bridled him with Pelham bit. When I booked this trip the travel agency stated that all riders would start riding with a regular snaffle bit and later during the week switching to double bridle. So I really had a hard time controlling the double reins in the beginning, working the horse and working my own seat at the same time. And I felt Zip and I didn’t really get along either. Since it was my first real dressage lessons in a while my seat was anything but great. That’s really why I had chosen this trip to learn from Francisco and improve my bad seat. Also I probably was a little tense and Zip picked up on that and got tense as well. Francisco noticed that and asked me to dismount Zip.

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He also told me a few home truths to me and maybe I needed that… because a while later I got to try out another horse, Ramalhete a bay Lusitano stallion that by a first look looked a lot more calmer than Zip. And he was! Now I could relax more and focus on me and my seat. Francisco also realized Ramalhete was the horse for me. After trotting for a while, doing schools like shoulder-in, half-pass and leg-yielding I finished by trying out the piaffe and passage. And with a little help from Francisco on the ground I managed to do a great passage. Later when walking Ramalhete I felt how much energy I actually had used.

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When we all had ridden our first lesson Francisco mounted a beautiful grey Lusitano stallion and showed us some of his skills. The stallion obeyed his slightest wish and you could barely see Francisco move at all. Collected canter, piaffe and passage… it all looked so easy. Now afterwards I wish I had seen him ride first.

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A well-needed lunch was served at 1.30 pm. To me (who don’t like fish) they served fried vegetables and rice with apples and oranges for dessert. I wished they had boiled the rice a little longer since it was too un-boiled for me. After lunch we relaxed by the pool for a while before it was time for the afternoon riding lessons. The sun was shining and the temperature was slightly above +20° Centigrade and not a single cloud in sight. I felt the chilly water temperature in the pool and I only dipped my toes in it… the water was too cold for me. But one of the other riders did take a swim and that was very brave of her! We also took a walk out on the manor. The leafy cork oaks lined the trails and in the bushes you could spot a lizard run off every now and then. With huge respect of snakes we only followed the trail. The trail went by the hen house and the plot of vegetables before we got back to the guesthouse again.

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At 4.30 pm we gathered in the stable for the afternoon riding lessons. My Norwegian friend and I were riding together. Francisco asked if we wanted to ride in the ring or out in the paddock. We both agreed that we wanted to be outside. The paddock was just next to the stable and measured the international standard 60 x 20 meters. More space to use and we neither had to watch out for each other all the time. I got Ramalhete again and it felt much better. I could work with my seat in different way now. Francisco asked us to improvise our riding. To ride along a whole side in the paddock doing nothing was something Francisco disliked. Serpentines, leg-yielding, half-pass or shoulder-in on the circle or something just to keep the horses alert, sharp and wanting to move forward on their own. Beside my seat he also commented my hands that I sometimes turn towards the horse’s neck – “turkey neck” as Francisco called it… “No turkey neck!” was a frequent phrase he said to me during the lesson. The afternoon riding went great though. I did improvise (as Francisco’s orders were) and I tried out a lot of fun movements like lateral work across the center line. Ramalhete was so sharp and sensitive for my leg-aids and seat and getting him to flex from left to right was easy. All riders should have the opportunity to once in a life time ride a sensitive and sharp horse like him. And I also finished this lesson with several piaffes and passages. Both my friend and I got praised by Francisco and he wanted us riding together tomorrow as well.

When all riding lessons were done the time was almost 7.30 pm and we all went upstairs and showered before dinner. Dinner was served at 8.30 pm with soup, then French fries and chicken for main course and oven-baked apples for dessert. And none of us had trouble sleeping after all hard work today.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Quinta do Archino – jeep safari


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I slept a little better this night. After yesterdays two tough dressage lessons I started to feel my abs and that I had worked with my seat, which by the way was the goal for this trip :) Breakfast was served at 8 pm.

The riding lessons started at 9 pm and my friend and I rode first. We rode outside in the paddock and even though the sun was high up it was chilly and a sweater was needed. Once again I rode Ramalhete and even though my abs was hurting I improved today as well. I improvised according to Francisco’s instructions and practiced a lot of half-passes, leg-yielding, shoulders-in and diagonal work on straight and flexed tracks. The schools were mixed with collected gaits, piaffe and passages. We got a lot of credits from Francisco both during and after the lesson. Together with Ramalhete I felt I had improved already in this short matter of time here at Quinta do Archino.

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When the last two riders were riding Francisco didn’t want anyone else to watch them. So my friend and I decided to walk to the pasture where Francisco had the Lusitano mares for breeding. One of the mares was highly pregnant and was expected foaling any day now. Francisco wanted us to check if the mare had foaled, so we went a little excited inside the pasture to look. But the she grazed calmly with the other mares. Later we went back to the manor and chilled by the pool.

Lunch was served at 1.30 pm and Francisco joined us at the table today. Vegetables and chicken for me (who doesn’t like fish) and tuna fish salad for the others. After dinner we had coffee out in the yard at the terrace by the pool. Francisco joined us and entertained us with many of his stories and talked the best of the master Nuno Oliveira known as the master of classic dressage. Francisco had been riding for the master Nuno Oliveira for three years, only a few years before he passed away. Francisco had since then adopted the classic dressage and opened up a dressage school at his manor Quinta do Archino and as he told us: “I don’t do it for the riders. I do it to save the horses.” A very thoughtful saying.

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The afternoon lessons started at 4.30 pm and my friend and I rode first outside in the paddock. Francisco was a little more passive with instructions and critiques and after a while Valentina (groomer) came with a horse for Francisco. He mounted the horse and started to ride himself. I got a little insulted when he just ignored us! Were we that boring? Or were we that great that we could ride on our own? I had actually paid him for giving me critique and help and the way he did it… if he only had told us before?! But it was kind of nice to ride around all alone. I actually managed to collect Ramalhete for passage and even piaffe on my own. So I felt my confidence grew :)

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One of the other riders had paid for another arrangement of riding where dressage lessons were included in the mornings and out trailing in the afternoons. She was riding with Valentina today, but since Valentina didn’t know the surroundings Francisco took the jeep to show her the way. The rest of us rode on the jeep platform. We drove by the mares, followed a road along a forest of eucalyptus trees and finally got to an abandoned but beautiful manor surrounded by old cork oaks and leafy forests. We tiptoed to a nearby lake in hope of seeing the birds nesting there. We saw ducks and storks and a few fishes swimming just underneath the water surface. We jumped up on the jeep again passed the abandoned manor and drove uphill a sandy road. You could tell it had rained a lot during the spring since the road was lined with deep furrows where the rainwater had ran and partially destroyed the road, so lucky us we had the jeep. But as Francisco passed a fallen tree the jeep got too close to a furrow and the jeep got stuck. One wheel wasn’t touching the ground at all and Francisco quickly realized he had to get back to the manor and get the tractor and pull the jeep up out of the furrow. Francisco mounted Valentina’s horse and rode back. The rest of us were standing next to the jeep until Francisco and Fernando (the groomer) came back and pulled up the jeep. Fernando then drove us back to the manor on the jeep. We were all a little dazed after the adventure and did feel sorry for Francisco since he apparently didn’t do this jeep safari with the guests too often.

Dinner was at 8.30 pm. First we got soup, then some kind of gratin dish and a super-duper delicious chocolate mousse for dessert. After the dinner two of the riders went out on their own frog safari. We had all heard the frogs croak during the evenings and nights so now they wanted to see them. It was dark when they left and they had a hard time seeing any. But they had seen fireflies at least.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Trip to Óbidos


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Breakfast at 8 am as usual. Today we had riding lesson in the morning and the afternoon was free for other activities. Yesterday we had decided to order a taxi to Óbidos and later a trip to the Atlantic Ocean near Óbidos.

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Today my friend and I rode last of all riders. We had to choose between riding in the paddock or in the ring. We quickly agreed to ride outside in the paddock, now when the sun had warmed up the outside temperature to a nice temperature. I once again got to ride Ramalhete and we did great today. Collected in piaffes and passages, schools and today even canter and tried half-pass in canter. Since Ramalhete was so sharp and well-ridden he really listened to my small aids there wasn’t any problems. By now I had learned to see on Ramalhete’s ears when my seat was wrong. I do crumple my back very easy and as soon as I did Ramalhete twisted his ears as if he was wondering “What are you doing?!?” After our lesson I told Francisco: “I can see on Ramalhete’s ears now when my seat is wrong…” Francisco threw his arms about and said: “Now I believe!” and embraced me.

The cab arrived at the manor at 12.30 and picked us up. I felt pretty safe it was Oscar, the same cab driver who had picked us up at the Airport a few days earlier. We drove for about an hour, passed pear cultures and vineyards and the closer we got to Óbidos the wavier the landscape became.

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The Middle Age town Óbidos (capitol of chocolate) is protected by UNESCO and is one of Portugal’s 7 wonders and most interesting settlements. Óbidos Castle is built upon a hill and its high castle wall surrounds the city and consists of many churches, Saint Peter’s Church and Saint Mary’s Church among others, belonging to their own parish. We got out of the cab and passed the huge main gate that was built in 1380 which was ornamented with beautifully painted tiles. We found a restaurant nearby and bought something to eat. The sun was broiling and the big sunshades gave us well-needed shadow. Then we started walking along the cobbled streets through steep narrow alleys and paid Saint Peter’s Church a visit before splitting up into smaller groups walking on our own.

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My friend and I walked to Óbidos Castle while the others visited more churches. The Castle was historically functioned both as a military and royal castle whilst during 1950ies it became the first historical building in Portugal to change into a restaurant/inn. My friend and I climbed up onto the castle wall and walked on it for a while. The view was fantastic and you got a great view from up here. The main street in Óbidos is narrow and the souvenir shops are mixed with chocolate and wine stores. I bought a delicious chocolate bar. We also bought chocolate for Francisco as we had promised him. Before we left the town we gathered and bought refreshing ice cream.

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Oscar was waiting for us in the cab. We got into the cab and drove to Foz do Arelho, a small town at the Atlantic Coast. Foz do Arelho has always been an ideal holiday resort for wealthy families and you could tell by all the luxury villas lining up. We got out of the cab and a fresh ocean wind came against us. It was barely a beach for tourists. The sand was coarse-grained and the sea ran high. A brave surfer was out looking for the perfect wave and in the bay we noticed a guy kite-surfing. But the majority of us thought it was a nice walk on the beach and to clear your head. I went down to the water and felt the water temperature and it was cold. After an hour we gathered at the cab and drove back to Quinta do Archino. Dinner was served as usual at 8.30 pm. First soup and then lasagna and oven marinated apples for dessert. None of us had a hard time falling to sleep this evening.

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Quinta do Archino


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Breakfast was ready at 8 am as all the other days. Different kind of bread but otherwise the same. According to the weather forecast the temperature would get up to +25 centigrade and basically cloud free – great!

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The riding lessons started at 9 am and everyone rode in the ring in the morning. I rode as the second last rider and got to ride all alone for Francisco. Once again I rode the lovely Ramalhete and this time I didn’t get away easily. Not only did I have Francisco's undivided attention overlooking both my seat and my hands, but also advanced movements like half-pass in trot along the first ¾ line and diagonally towards the long side again. You don’t have many meters to prepare the horse for that turn and getting that diagonal work before you reached back out on the long side again… but I did it over and over. And finally I nailed it! Also some more side steps and piaffes and passages.

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Lunch was served at 1.30 pm and the table outside was set out on the patio under the tendrils of vine. Francisco joined us today. Chicken with salad and potato chips and for drinks we had Sangria. This Sangria was really great and one of the other riders tried to get the homemade recipe out of Francisco without success. For dessert we had strawberry ice cream (looked homemade) and fresh strawberries. So sweet!

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After lunch we chilled by the pool until the riding lessons started again at 4.30 pm. We all had to ride in the ring again. One of the other riders rode Ramalhete a few minutes before me. Then it was my turn riding Ramalhete again. Once again I rode a private lesson for Francisco and I had to work just as much as earlier that day. Piaffe, passage and diagonal works had become general now and new for this lesson were the flying changes. Well-ridden and schooled as Ramalhete was, it was absolutely no problems executing the flying changes or the collected canter in the small circles. Now I could really feel how exhausted my body was. I haven’t had so many intense dressage lessons in ages and now I was really physically tired.

Dinner was served at 8.30 pm. Started with soup. Now we had got the same soup all week and it had really been the same, they had just changed the vegetables in it. Main dish was some kind of pie and aubergine (a.k.a. Eggplant). An exotic fruit salad was served as dessert.

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Birthday at Quinta do Archino


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Breakfast at 8 am. By now we knew the breakfast buffet by heart and we also had learned how to manage the toaster which threw the toasts straight up in the air when the toasts were ready. Not that it was something wrong with the breakfast but some variation would have been nice.

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We all rode the lessons out in the paddock today. Since Ramalhete wasn’t tacked I automatically wasn’t ready for my turn as the first rider. I saw that Zip was tacked, the gelding I rode the first lesson. I guess Francisco thought I was ready for Zip now. When walking towards the paddock Zip refused to take even one step. It was a wagon with branches on that we had to pass and that wagon had never been there before (silly horse)… so after some assistance we passed by the wagon. Hmm, that didn’t start so well… But today I had decided to have an open mind and believe and nothing could destroy the last day here. And it went a lot better today. My seat was way better and I could handle Zip in a totally different way now. Zip was just as energetic but I could deal with it now though. During canter he got a little strong and since the wind blew I guess he got a little extra excited. Zip had a big canter and I had a lot more of a horse to work with. Zip was very stiff at his near side and you clearly notice that when flexing him on the circle or during diagonal work. His foreside was no problem but the near side… oh boy! But I was still satisfied after the lesson. It was some kind of revenge after the first ride which I now handled successfully.

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We relaxed by the pool for a while. The warmest day of this week and the sun was shining. A little windy but sheltered it got really warm. At 1.30 pm lunch was served and since everyone else had fish I got some leftover from yesterday. It was pie from yesterday with meat and chicken. Later they served coffee outside in the shadow. We had a siesta before we walked down to the pregnant mare to check if he had got any foal yet. But she hadn’t and was gazing along with the other mares. Such a shame. It would have been fun to see a newborn foal.

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In the afternoon we rode our lessons outside in the paddock. Francisco said we were all going to ride on our own, without him giving instructions. He would only give a few comments. I rode second last and got Zip again. Same story this time, he refused to pass by the wagon but with some help we managed to pass. It was kind of nice to ride on your own and try things. In the end of my lesson Francisco wanted me to try flying changes on Zip. Oh dear, was my first thought. Zip was very energetic in canter and I would have to work really hard to pull that off. On the diagonal I managed the flying changes in every second step a few times. When my lesson was over they all gathered inside the paddock and sang Happy Birthday for me, since it was my birthday. Thanks! Nice gesture. So after finishing off it felt sad knowing I just had been riding my last lesson.

When all riding lessons were over we went back to the guesthouse and started to pack our things. At 8.30 pm we had our farewell dinner. It was soup, vegetable pot and fruit salad. Both red and white wine were served to drink. After all food they put out the light and Francisco’s wife Maria came in with a birthday cake lit with candles. Once again they all sang Happy Birthday and I blew out the candles. They had made a lovely chocolate cake and offered champagne for everyone. The rest of the riders had bought a bottle of white wine and some chocolate as my birthday gift. A big thank you! We gathered around the open fire place and uncorked the champagne. We sat there like forever talking and Francisco even handed out our diplomas for participating in his school of classic dressage at his manor Quinta do Archino. I really appreciated that and I’ll frame the diploma and hang it on the wall.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Ota - Lisbon - Arlanda


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Last breakfast. Many of us had early flights to catch so we ate at 7 am already. We wrote in the guestbook and paid our depts for water and the cab ride to Óbidos. We finished packing our baggage and the transfer back to Lisbon Portela Airport came at 8.30 am. But before we said goodbye we gathered for a group photo and some pictures of Francisco and Maria together with their three yellow Labradors. Once again Oscar was our cab driver and drove us to the airport.

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My flight did not departure until 1.10 pm so I had plenty of time for food. The flight did departure as scheduled and since I flew with TAP back to Arlanda food was included during the flight. I don’t know what they had refueled the airplane with but it flew fast. We arrived at Arlanda 30 minutes earlier than expected but unfortunately all baggage got delayed. After 30 minutes the announced that they had problems with the baggage ramp… wasn’t that just great?! So the 30 minutes we had arrived earlier were gone and we all stood there waiting for our baggage. Lucky me I didn’t have any train to catch today since I had booked a room at a hotel in Arlanda Hotellby and taking the train tomorrow instead.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged traveling Comments (0)

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