My Air Transat Expat Expert Video: The Layers of Porto, Portugal

My Porto video for Air Transat is online!

If you’re travelling to Porto, get the inside track from a local: me. I’ll take you across the Douro River to a fishing village in a small boat with a fantastic view, I’ll show you where the fish is fresh and grilled to order, and even where to buy fish if you want to grill it yourself. I’ll also give you the scoop on where to wind down after a day of sightseeing and exploring: a tea house with a menu so large the teas are sorted by region.

July 29, 2015: I’m A Transat Expat Expert For Porto

Video description:

Published on Aug 3, 2015

Follow Gail Aguiar, a Canadian expat in Portugal, as she takes you on a virtual tour of her favourite places in Porto. Experience an authentic Portuguese meal at Casa do Pescador, a family-owned grill house where fish is the specialty, visit Mercado de Matosinhos, a traditional market featuring a variety of restaurants, fresh vegetables and plants, and take a tea break at the cozy and relaxed Rota do Chá, an artsy tea house offering a wide selection of teas from around the world.

Casa do Pescador: Rua Vasco da Gama, 18, Afurada, Vila Nova de Gaia 4400, Portugal

Mercado de Matosinhos: Av. D. Afonso Henriques, 4454-510 Matosinhos, Porto, Portugal

Rota do Chá: Rua Miguel Bombarda 457, Porto, Porto 4050-382, Portugal

For more information visit the Experience Transat blog:

You can find my bio here:

My articles for Air Transat (there’s one more to be published):

Portugal’s Best Kept Sandwich Secret: the Bifana
Miramar’s Breathtaking Miracle Chapel in Porto, Portugal

I’m A Transat Expat Expert For Porto

I’m very excited to share with you my participation in a new series for the Experience Transat website by Air Transat, a holiday travel airline based in Canada, where I get to talk about my new home base: Porto!

As an expat Canadian living in one of Air Transat’s European destination cities, I was invited to share my insider knowledge of Porto with other Canadians. They asked me to choose my three favourite spots here and write about them, and another three spots which we could film — these are places which you won’t find in most (if any) guidebooks. The biggest challenge was to decide which spots to show — I have so many, and by publishing time I will have more! How on earth do I narrow down my list??

I managed to complete everything just a few days before our anniversary trip, and my first article was published on the website last week. Click on the image to head straight to the article:

Miramar's Breathtaking Miracle Chapel in Porto, Portugal

My first article as a #TransatExpertExpat is up!

More of my articles will be rolling out over the next weeks, PLUS the video interview that was filmed last month in Porto. I’ve seen the first draft, and once the shock of seeing myself on a screen wore off, I was able to relax and enjoy it… :) As someone who is always behind the camera, I can tell you only my passion for Porto could get me in front of the camera!

You can find my bio here, and under that the links to my articles (and upcoming video):

Stay tuned for more!

Filming Day Around Porto

behind the scenes with Lightbox Films in Porto

Some behind-the-scenes shots from a full day of filming… yes, the one who’s always behind the camera was in front of the camera this time! (A major role reversal and lots of fun for a day, but I still prefer to be on the other side of the lens.)

Regardless, I’d like to give a BIG shout-out to the wonderful folks at Lightbox Film & Advertising in Porto, who I worked with for more than six hours shooting around Gaia, Matosinhos, and Porto for Air Transat based in Montreal. Luis (Director), Tiago (Camera), Vitor (Camera), and Alex (Assistant) were a fantastic, extremely professional yet easygoing crew who put up with my sketchy Portuguese and some pretty oppressive heat and humidity. These guys work hard!

Thanks also to Notch Video in Canada, who co-ordinated the project from Toronto and now have the unenviable task of editing a digital mountain of footage of me talking and holding fish and rabbits and eating and drinking and taking a boat…

… and last but DEFINITELY not least, all the vendors who put up with us taking over their space with equipment: Restaurante Casa do Pescador in Afurada, Menino do Douro (Porto-Afurada ferry), the merchants of Mercado de Matosinhos, especially Comida De Rua, and Rota do Chá in Porto.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day with better people!

behind the scenes with Lightbox Films in Porto

behind the scenes with Lightbox Films in Porto

behind the scenes with Lightbox Films in Porto

June 9, 2015
Album: Portugal [Spring 2015]

Down The Rabbit Hole

Miss Kyra shared her bunny with me

December 2004 (not my bunny — it’s too pink!)

Once upon a time, more than 20 years ago, I was in Melbourne, Australia, working for a company that sold books door-to-door. I was living in a flat in St. Kilda with my workmates, a motley mix of foreigners — mostly Brits — and young, itinerant Australians. At 19, I was usually the youngest and the only Canadian on my teams (I did meet one other Canadian from Victoria, but he didn’t last long). I’d just met them but was expected to spend all my waking hours with them in a hyper-communal living arrangement. Not only were we sharing expenses via a kitty, buying groceries together and divvying up the housework, we were on a company mandate to spend all of our free time together to “bond” as salespeople. Those first six months in Australia working for two rival companies with nearly identical employee training programs and policies turned out to be some of the most absurd yet strangely rewarding months of my life, where I made friends I still have to this day. It’s also where I learned a great deal about myself, human nature, and more about Australian people than I could ever, ever want to know…

Even though all this time has passed, I still don’t talk much about the first six months in Australia because it was such a weird time, based in these isolated quasi-communes and living like we were in some kind of transient work cult. Today, we would be a reality show and we’d be making money from the weirdness. But back then it was a way of life, a situation that could only be possible in the pre-internet days on the gigantic island that is Australia, cut off from the rest of the world and where news came by traditional media like TV, radio, and print. We lived in a bubble. A fun bubble in a Willie Wonka sort of way, but a bubble nonetheless.

Due to the nature of the work, the places where we lived became a revolving door of people. Many of us were on short-term visas, mostly Working Holiday category, living out of bags and going where the wind took us. Teams were changing constantly. We’d basically given up our freedom in exchange for accommodation, being continuously on the road in the company of other young people, and the promise of well-paid commissions for hard work. We had few responsibilities like finding places to live, but we made a deal with the devil and had to abide by a slew of rules. We were associated with cults because communication with “outsiders” was virtually impossible: nobody had mobile phones, pay phone calls were expensive, and we were monitored to a degree that still disturbs me a bit when I think about it. Later, when I was still in Australia but working elsewhere, someone told me there was an exposé on television about these companies and their dodgy practices and I was in it, portrayed as a “victim”, but I never got to see it. Probably a good thing!

The terms of employment were such that the companies dictated our social lives. We were strongly discouraged — nay, forbidden — to make friends apart from our workmates who were already living with us, but at the same time it was verboten to sleep with each other because that would “fracture” the team. Which of course, as you can imagine, invited a lot of clandestine rule-breaking. As if that wasn’t enough drama, the learning curve for our jobs was very steep and not everyone in the teams got along. There were personality conflicts, sexual tension, and the type of behaviour you’d expect when a bunch of strangers are thrown together in close quarters. Everyone was far from home, we only had each other, and this compression bubble turned us into a de facto family — a very dysfunctional one at times. We ate together, worked together, went clubbing together, did everything together. Between the two companies, around Canberra and Melbourne, I spent six months in these roving bands of sales teams.  It was like a portable, real-life version of Big Brother, with jobs but without the prize money.

I still think about some of those people from time to time, because of what we experienced together. I’ve reconnected with some later, in particular one friend who returned to England and set up in London. I’d met up with her a number of times over the years between living in Scotland and passing through London. Some people leave a strong impression, either for their personality or from something that happened. One individual I remember from those days was one of the funniest people I’d ever met, one of the few from that team whose name stuck in my head. I’ve often wondered over the years what he’d done since then and if he’d returned to Wales. I don’t know what possessed me to plug his name into the search bar today, but to my great surprise I found his name (a common one) in Amazon — by some crazy coincidence he’d just published a book about those very days in Australia!

Now, if you’d met anyone who’d worked for either of those two companies in Australia, you’d likely hear some variation of “I could write a book about those crazy times” passing their lips within five minutes. Because it’s true — even six months to a year of this nomadic and intense lifestyle could easily fill a book with outrageous stories, names changed of course. But here we are 20 years later and finally someone DID actually write a book about it, and it happens to be a guy I’d been wondering about all along. My curiosity got the better of me. I started reading some chapters of the book and indeed, he’s changed people’s names, but the stories are not exaggerated…

… and down the rabbit hole I went.

The Bohemian Has Left The Building

From my boss. #LastDayAtWork

From my boss. #LastDayAtWork

My corporate life is officially over. Today was a little surreal. I can’t remember the last time I was hugged this much in one afternoon.

It’s bizarre because this is the investment industry, where everyone shakes hands and makes elevator talk (god help you if you work in the top section of a skyscraper, that’s a lot of elevator talk!). Bay Street is not a touchy-feely environment by any stretch of the imagination. A lot of people come and go. I wasn’t expecting the outpouring of affection, even after bringing in a boatload of Portuguese food for lunch to share with the entire floor. But considering I only worked there part-time for four years, it was the warmest send-off I could have imagined. Take THAT, Friday the 13th!

I am also relieved I made it through to my last day without someone pranking me. (That probably speaks more about my experience there than the goodbye hugs.)

I’m 41 and life just gets better and better. Let’s drink to that! *clink*