I’ve just got back from my latest trip to Lisbon so have plenty to talk about for the next few months. My visit seemed like a whirlwind of places to see, experience, photograph and write about. I had a huge list of ‘things to do’ and whilst I only had 4 days I did manage to cram in a huge amount.
It was raining when I arrive. Raining in Lisbon? Yes rain: torrential rain in fact and my face fell as the plane landed. The last two summers in England have been horrendous and much as I adore Lisbon I was seriously needing some sunshine! The baggage took an age to arrive (this happened when I arrived back in England for some reason too) so the taxi queue was long and looked like it could be a wet wait. I opted instead to grab the bus and make my own way to the hotel.
The bus was hot and stuffy but as we weaved our way towards Rossio I could feel the heat and realised this wasn’t the sulking drizzle of England but a proper summer storm that clears the air ready for the sunshine again. Despite the rain I began to feel excited and happy to see the familiar streets. It’s like meeting a lover in the rain; you worry about your hair or what you are wearing but once you look in their eyes everything else is forgotten.
I stayed at the same hotel as last time (Residencial Princesa). Whilst I know that staying elsewhere would have given me something else to write about here I decided to stick with somewhere I felt happy with. This time I was given a bigger room with a little balcony that looked out onto the main street. I loved the room and my stay at there was once again a good experience. As a budget hotel of course there are other places with a lot more bells and whistles but this hotel suits my budget and provides exactly what a need. Most importantly the staff are very friendly.
It had been a whole year since my last visit and in that time I took and passed a GCSE in Portuguese. I achieved an A grade which put me on a high for about 3 weeks, I was so delighted. I did work hard but I never expected such a good result.
Of course this doesn’t mean I speak Portuguese. I am nowhere near fluent but my ear is far more finely tuned and my pronounciation very good. The latter can also be a challenge when someone replies quickly thinking I’m Portuguese! This happened a few times before a woman at Ask Me Lisboa said she thought I was Portuguese from how I spoke (I should say here I had only asked a quick question!). Speaking more conversationally I am still slow and have to think about my verb conjugations which will no doubt immediately mark me out as not being a native speaker!
Of course I was seriously flattered and when learning a language this is part of the holy grail but it needs to be seriously matched with the ability to comprehend what is being said! However with all my studying and listening to Portuguese Radio and Lingq my listening skills have dramatically improved. Whereas last year replies could seem just a jumble of sound, this year I could hear the words and after a bit of a delay (or repetition) I understood. So the words are there, it’s just a matter of increasing my vocabulary now and reading widely to improve my recall of words and phrases.
It’s funny but despite my deep need to spend time in beautiful Lisbon I often find myself quite anxious, especially before leaving home and usually for the first day or so whilst I’m there. Perhaps it is being away from everyone I know, being completely alone and away from things that take me away from that aloneness (like the internet). I pondered this one evening whilst sat on my little balcony staring out at the city as crickets sung to the moon. Naturally I am quite comfortable in my own company which suits me as I spend a great deal of time writing and studying. However something about travelling heightens my sense of vulnerability and forces my soul to reveal to me those places that are normally hidden by everyday life. This is perhaps why we travel to find ourselves. It is a journey inward and outward.
Whilst in Lisbon I met Cynthia from Journey Juju. Although Cynthia has now moved on from her stay in Lisbon I strongly encourage you to take a look at her blog as she has written some wonderful posts on the time she spent living there. At the end of our meeting she gave me a little Journey Juju talisman as a parting gift. On it it said ‘Your journey takes you beyond your expectations’.
I try not to have expectations. I do have goals and plans such as ‘photograph Elevador da Gloria’ or ‘write down the direction to the Sé for In Love With Lisbon’ but expectations are kept strongly at bay. Perhaps some of that is anxiety but some of it is also that I want Lisbon to unveil herself to me rather than me drag the veil from her face. However I feel that if I had expectations Lisbon would exceed them everytime 🙂
Each time I return to Lisbon it is though I discover another layer both to it and to myself. At the beginning of my journey I feel very foreign, by the end Lisbon feels like home. Of course these are all the hallmarks of a long distance love affair, the wondering if things will feel the same when you meet, the initial shyness. But then suddenly your heart is opened again and everything feels right.