As the plane neared it’s landing in Lisbon, it occurred to me that I had spent so much time planning out Morocco and Croatia before I left, I hadn’t even considered really what I wanted to get from my time in Portugal. I had forgotten what I had even booked in terms of accommodation. I’ll just take a cab to the room and figure it all out , I thought.
Wrong. Taxis were on strike today. I’d have to haul the albatross through the veins of the metro which was even more congested than usual. I stood in line for a ticket, trying to figure out the routes..lucky for me a young polish girl asked if I needed help. “Why yes..yes I do”. She was going in a similar direction into lisbon so I followed her. We exited at the first stop, then climbed three landings of stairs then back down to the next terminal. At this point I was having to carry the albatross, along with two other hand bags. The polish girl,watching my struggle, threw her hands up and declared “much respect!!”. If only respect would lighten this load. On the metro a man passed by playing the accordion with a chihuahua on his shoulder carrying a cup for change. “odd. everything just feels odd”.
I exit the terminal and realize I am in a busy metropolis of hills and stone walkways. I had no wifi-and I am as useless as they get with a city map. A lady took pity on me. “You look lost” “why yes I most certainly am”. By this time I had hauled the albatross up four more sets of stone stairs. She let me use her phone to call the air b&b. He came to fetch me. “wow you really went the wrong way” “yes I’m aware of that”. We hauled the albatross up the steep roads until it came to a sudden jerking hault. The albatross lost a wheel. Man down. The albatross finally broke!!! We carried her to his apartment…and up four landings to his flat. He showed me to the room and left. I collapsed, cursed, contemplated then finally got my ass up to figure out where I was. My door wouldn’t lock. I text him. “oh sorry, yes no, the lock doesn’t work anymore”. Right. Ok.
On I venture. It’s hot, it’s busy, i’m not happy. I walk down the hills towards the water. That didn’t help. Then I reminded myself that my general modus operandi for travelling has always been to first understand the vicinity I dwell in. So I walked back towards my district. Inner thoughts- “this sucks..dammit..maybe I should go to the coast..maybe I should get a new room..maybe it’s time to go home..i’m tired..i’m confused. I want wine. Maybe I don’t, i dont know what I want..god damn hills god damn broken suitcase..just..god dammit. Then I was immediately flooded with guilt for indulging in such a pathetic display of self-pity. I need to get off the main road. Do I turn right or left. I turn right and start walking.
Then something happened. It was as though a door closed behind me and the buzz and clatter of the hub faded. Down converging cobblestone roads I strolled, amongst the ecclectic shops and cafes. I didn’t understand it but it captivated me.
I slip into a small cafe and order a wine tasting flight and ask the waiter to pair it with whatever authentic portugese tapas he suggests.
His name is Hugo. As i’m sipping my ‘green wine’ also known as young wine, Hugo chats a bit. I start to ask questions about life here in Lisbon. Before you know it, i’m being briefed on the entire political history of portugal and one mans account of the after math. From being homeless for an entire month in the village he lived in-the economy was so poor -moving to lisbon-getting on socal assistance and lining up 10 interviews in one day-“that’s too many” they told him “you will never complete them” and he says, “I made everyone of them..and by foot” he says proudly. “Now I have two jobs and a home and a girlfriend-she yells and leaves sometimes but she comes back when she calms down” he laughs.