Love at First Light: Lisbon
I arrived at 6am, jumped in a cab, showed the driver the Airbnb address, which he struggled to locate, but reached a reasonable idea of where, and took off. He stopped outside the correct number of a building located on a tiny alleyway, of which to me, appeared more suitable as a sidewalk. I had clear instruction that a woman would be awaiting my arrival, but no one answered as I buzzed the 4th floor. The sweet cab driver did not want to leave until I was safely inside. I was so touched, and frankly taken aback by his genuine concern. He waited with me until a car needed through, and then circled back! I assured him that he could go, that I would figure it all out and be okay, but he insisted. I had a giant suitcase (something I planned against but in the end caved to my attachments) and a backpack that probably weighed more than the suitcase. I told him I just needed a cafe with wifi and I could contact the hosts. He pointed me in the direction and gave me his card, telling me if I needed anything, even a place to stay, to call him. I walked to the corner and looked right, where I saw his car, and heard him honk, alerting me of the location. Angel #1. I stuffed myself and my belongings through the door to find a smiling woman behind the counter. She saw my distress and helped me in. I ordered a coffee in my severely jet-lagged state, connected to wifi, wrote my host, and figured it out. We were on the wrong street, and the woman was in fact waiting for me, and I made my way to her. This lovely, older English woman helped me carry all my shit up the narrow staircase and into the most perfect apartment that I had all to myself. I had arrived.
My temporary home was a two-bedroom (I was hoping for joiners at the time of booking) apartment with two balconies that overlooked the sweetest, cobblestoned streets, nestled in the most charming corner of the Bairro Alto neighborhood. Birds were chirping as the day's first light began to reveal the beauty of Lisbon. In that moment, on that terrace, I actually felt my heart begin to dance. However, I knew that a nap was necessary before I began to completely fall head over heels.
The days went like this. I'd wake very early, sometimes without really sleeping. I had a hard time adjusting, and was honestly too excited. I'd make coffee and sit on the terrace to write and watch the city slowly wake up. I'd head out after to explore, walking all day long aimlessly, but somehow finding all the the things one is not to miss while in Lisboa. I had no agenda, no checklist of sights, I just wanted to be. It was my Disneyland. The streets were the most beautiful I'd ever seen (something I never say and you'll never hear again about any other place ;). The buildings were so old and ornately tiled or painted in vibrant colors of pink, yellow, green, or blue. Lisbon was the perfect background for this blogger's new brand, made for my craft of capturing myself. The streets weren't crowded and there was alway a nook for my device - organic tripods everywhere! I had so much fun telling these stories in colorful alleys, on hillsides with astounding views, in quaint cafes and outdoor bars. I had a map that I never used, and a phone that only worked connected to wifi, so I just got lost in the adventure and the art of it.
The nights I kept for myself. Vowing to leave my phone in my bag, and keep present. I took myself to dinner and ate the most delicious food, drank the most delicious wine, and met the most delightful people. I wasn't sure if they felt sorry for me for being alone, as they always expressed this worried look on their face when I told them I was by myself, or that they were just beautiful angels placed upon my path to keep me company. Either way I was grateful. I would walk home at night alone and in love, under the most romantic glow of street lamps, guiding me back to my little corner of Portugal.
On my last day I took the train 45 minutes outside of the city to Sintra, a magical medieval city. I spent most of my day exploring the grounds of the castle I was most enchanted by, Quinta da Regaleira. I felt like a little girl again, playing in the woods, except now the imagined fairytale was real. I spent a good amount of time in the Chapel that I had all to myself. It was heartbreakingly beautiful. I said a long prayer within its sacred walls where one was witness to the history of love.
I made it back after missing my stop and ending up miles away from the city, and took myself to my favorite sunset spot, Museu da Farmacia. It was closed but there are two outdoor bars just below it upon the hill, overlooking the river and a bridge that reminded me of the Verrazano. I sat with my last glass of Porto, listening to a live reggae band, among all of the cool kids of Lisbon. With tears rolling down my cheeks I said my goodbye. It was literally breaking my heart knowing that I had to leave. What an unforgettable courtship.
Twilight came and I walked home, still in tears, and thanked the city streets for allowing me their journey, and access to their art, their essence. I truly could feel so much of that city inside of my soul - the history, the romance, the heartache, the triumph, the music, the magic, the color, the kindest eyes. I could never say enough about the people. It certainly was love at first light. Thank you dear Lisboa, from the bottom of my full heart.
If you've never been to Lisbon, go. You must not allow your lifetime to pass without witnessing this dream. Eat as many pastries as you can, drink the wine, listen to Fado, and make the most beautiful friends.