Starting on Wednesday through Friday, artists piled into the shared house Julia and I were staying in so that they could set up for the festival (which officially began on Thursday but really truly started on Friday). In the end, I think we housed more than 16 people in the house, and 7 in our room! It was really packed and we had to take shifts in the kitchen. The festival, called Elementos à Solta (Art Meets Nature), took place throughout the village from Thursday through Sunday and involved ceramics as well as fiber arts, wooden pieces, motion-sensing installations, and more. There were additionally workshops for art novices in the mornings and scheduled theatre and music performances in the evening. I really enjoyed a stage performance by eight ceramic artists; it was the first theatre piece I've seen that was really nevertheless as much a studio art performance piece.
Many of the displaying artists come to the festival every year (and this was the festival's twelfth year) so they all knew each other very well, but they were also extremely welcoming to Julia and me. I found a mix of Spanish and English tends to be decently understood by most Portuguese speakers, which was helpful. We were provided meals during the festival (usually on the residencies I attend you make your own food) and the cooks very kindly made vegetarian fare available each time, which I found very thoughtful.
The festival wound down on Sunday, and Julia left early that afternoon (her installation will remain up until nature has its way with it - perhaps through the winter!) after we finished our scheduled artist presentation. I grew very close to Julia during our time there, and it was very sad to have her leave. It also meant my own time to leave was drawing near; I had decided to take a bus from Coimbra to Madrid the following morning. I had planned to try to use a sort-of legitimized hitchhiking (car-sharing) service, but no one was making the trip the day I needed to go. I then considered flying, but within-Europe flights don't provide any free checked or carry-on luggage beyond a small bag, and I have two big suitcases with me so it would have been too costly. The bus was only a few hours longer and was significantly cheaper.
Packing my sculptures took about two hours; I actually packed them about three times trying to get the packing materials to support and protect the pieces. I have no idea if the sculptures' fragile branches will be in fragments by the time they reach the US; I tried my best, though! I needed to mail them from Portugal because since I had two suitcases and a backpack already, I didn't have the hands to also carry a large box along. On Monday morning, Nuno and I went to the post office and mailed my box out (fingers crossed!) before he dropped me off at the bus station. The trip from Coimbra to Madrid was thankfully uneventful, and the bus driver of the second bus (we had to change buses very early into the trip to connect with the Spanish line) stopped several times such that we could avoid using the bus toilet - I was very appreciative of that! We did stop at the Spanish border and police came aboard and checked passports; I was a little surprised about this because one of my international students said the borders are not really controlled for ground traffic between EU countries.