Thursday, October 08, 2015

Arrived in Lisbon

Lisbon in the late afternoon
It was morning in Lisbon, when I arrived. Not morning by my clock. I'm still on North American time. But morning nonetheless.

I'd bid farewell to my beloved wife at the Newark airport some 8 hours previous and made the trans-Atlantic flight feeling bereft and lonely. But also determined, also eager.

I no sooner landed and passed through customs than the adventure began.

Some miscommunication between myself and my English-as-a-second-language host resulted in some confusion as to the address of the place where I'd be staying. The taxi driver, eager to be on to his next fare, dropped me off at the corner of Rua da Lapa and Rua da Lapa Santa Ana, which was the general neighborhood of my accommodations, but as I watched the taxi disappear into the labyrinth of narrow Lisbon streets, I really didn't know where to go.

Narrow streets, colorful buildings
So I wandered, backpack cinched up tight to my shoulder blades, wheeling my suitcase on the uneven stone sidewalks. I started up one street then decided to backtrack and go another way. I turned many corners and walked down many narrow streets until I could not find my way back, even, to the place where the taxi had unceremoniously dumped me.

I intended to use my Smartphone to contact my host for assistance, but I lacked a wifi signal and my phone battery was in the red zone.

I was dog tired. And I was hungry and thirsty. And I really didn't need this hassle.

And why in the hell did I want to do this anyway? Why did I want to go trekking all over Europe without any arrangements or plans? What the hell was I doing?

Field trip
I could feel the frustration and despair welling up, but then another voice arose inside my head. For the life of me, it sounded like my dad, 14 years gone. "Think this through, Dade," it said. "Get yourself something to eat. Get a wifi connection. And work this thing out."

Narrow streets, colorful buildings
Which I did. I found a small panderia that advertised "American breakfasts." I entered a small, quiet dining area to be greeted by a kindly middle-aged woman who served me a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast, plus orange juice and coffee, and a cup of ripe melons squares. She also provided me with the password for the wifi network. The breakfast was delicious and I praised her to the heavens, which made her smile. She spoke no English.

Duas senhoras idosas
My phone battery was practically dead, but it had enough juice for me to locate the address online and plot a walking route with Google maps. Howsoever I had managed it, I had wandered to about 2 kilometers away from the place. But now I knew.

I paid for my meal and thanked my hostess, then hailed a taxi which took me straight to 14 Rua da Lapa. At long last, I made it.
On the road again
My accommodations are a single room on a 6th floor apartment, with a shared bathroom and kitchen. Meager, but adequate. The other people staying here are all considerably younger than me, but friendly enough. Germans, mostly.

I took a nap to try to catch up on my jet lag and then set out with a freshly charged phone battery and a confidence that had been absent in the morning.

I wandered through the Bairro Alto neighborhood and wound my way to the Castel San Jorge where I was treated to spectacular views of Lisbon laid out all about me. Vague memories of my previous visit to Lisbon, in 1999 with sister Mia, rose up out of the murky past.

On the way back to the hostel, I stopped for paella. A Dutchman named Timon was at the table next and asked if he might join me. It turns out he had just moved to Lisbon and was looking for a little company. We chatted while I ate and he told me of his hair-raising adventures on a recent trip to Tijuana, Mexico.

"It's a rough place, from what I hear," I said.

"Believe it," he said.
After dinner, I walked back to the hostel.

I snapped a lot of photos on my outing, some of which you see here. And now, I'm lying in my bed, typing away, and, were it not for missing my wife, my heart would be content.

Traveling solo again. The last time I did this was in 2004, when I went to Chile and Argentina. Before that, in 1999, I made my Grand European tour.

The questions that had plagued me during my morning crisis were so easily answered, now that I had it all sorted. It's really quite obvious.

When I'm on the road, traveling anonymously in a foreign country --that's when I'm most sure that I'm doing something worthwhile, something that I will remember with pride at the final curtain. That's when I most believe in myself.