“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” – Vincent Van Gogh.
Falling in love with a city…
I love to wander the streets of a city and imagine myself living there; in an apartment with a view of the city rooftops. My day consists of going out for breakfast, coffee and croissants. Then at dusk, I head to a local bar for a glass of wine and a dish of olives. In-between times I write, keyboards clicking, replicating Hemingway at his peak.
Paris is the city that tugs at my heart. Under a cerulean sky, the streets are vibrant, buzzing with life. And on those dull days, which strip out a city’s colour, Paris becomes sultry and inspiring.
As we walked through Lisbon’s city streets, with raindrops falling gently on the cobbled streets, I was surprised how this city was weaving its own spell on me. There was a lightness in my step, my mind was filled with wonder, and just as I do in Paris, I started to feel as though I belonged.
Shrugging off the jet lag…
The journey from New Zealand to Lisbon takes twenty-two hours. By the time we arrived, we were shattered. It was a long trek to get to immigration. We joined the long queues in the hall. Then made our way out of the terminal.
Thankfully, we pre-booked transport to take us to our hotel. The temperature dial tipped over the 30 mark, the azure sky was cloudless as we got our first sighting of Lisbon. Like Auckland CBD, the area of the city we were staying in was under construction, a maze of narrow one-way streets.
We arrived Friday mid-day at our apartment building. Due to issues on a construction site opposite the building, there had been a power cut. Our room, of course, was on the top floor. The main stairwell stopped on the last floor. The last part of the journey was narrow steel steps. I was grateful we’d left our luggage in the office. The view from our apartment, though, was worth the effort.
Before discovering Lisbon, we had to shrug off the jet lag and find a Correios (Post Office). We needed to send our post-Camino clothing off to Ivar Rekve; he runs a luggage storage service in Santiago de Compostela.
With lack of sleep, minimal Portuguese and the soaring afternoon heat finding the Correios, purchasing packing boxes, filling out Customs forms required the combined brainpower of both Chrissy and myself. Finally, the parcels got handed directly to the courier driver. We both made utterances about ever seeing those boxes again.
We sat outside in the nearby square to recover some energy, eating our first Pastel De Nata (Portuguese Tart) – light, crisp pastry – custard not too sweet and oh so creamy – we are in food heaven and ready to explore the hillside streets of Lisboa.
Thirty-six hours in Lisbon…
We had initially planned to start the Camino Portugués on Monday morning; however, our friend’s itinerary had changed, pushing our start date to Sunday morning. Thus, reducing our tourist time to thirty-six hours.
We did, though, have two items on our must-do list. First was getting our Crediencial Del Peregrino’s at Cathedral Sé. Next was, Belem home to the world’s best Nata’s or Portuguese tarts.
As Mike and Lisa were not arriving until Saturday midday, Chrissy and I had an afternoon to explore the streets, find Cathedral Sé and pick a lovely restaurant to go to dinner.
After a few hours of roaming the fashion shopping quarter, we both wished we had not bought any clothes with us. Not only did we think the range of clothing was fantastic, but the cost was a fraction of the price we pay here in NZ and Australia. So, so cruel that we could not purchase.
The hilly streets, with the tram cars, yelled San Francisco.
While the mustard buildings with crisp white trim and the drifting sounds of Fado music whispered Cuba. It was as though Lisbon wanted its travellers to savour her atmosphere, slow down their gait and match the local’s non-harried pace. We did.
That is until on Saturday when the four of us took a tuk-tuk to get our Credencial’s from Basílica dos Mártires in Chiado, as Cathedral Sé had run out of stock. The tuk-tuk sped up and down the steep, narrow roads, almost leaning into corners. I hung on to the side, trying not to scream. Suffice to say, we returned in a taxi.
At night Lisbon comes alive, the cooler air making it pleasant to walk the narrow cobbled streets. Although people eat late in Spain, the laneways were busy, outdoor cafes were full of people eating, drinking, and talking. Music wafted from bars and Fado clubs and mingled with the warm air.
On Sunday morning, we headed off to start the Camino Portuguese, bypassing partygoers who were going home.