Convento do Carmo, Seafood, and Slipping on the Sidewalks of Lisbon

After a nap at our hotel, my friend and I ventured out to visit the ruins of Convento do Carmo, which dates from the fourteenth century. Artifacts from different time periods were scattered in abundance outside and inside. We were amazed to see ancient pieces were exposed to the elements.

Our self-guided tour concluded, we wandered nearby in search of dinner and were pleasantly surprised that the restaurant right on the square in front of the convento was reasonably priced. People who told me Portugal would be inexpensive weren’t kidding. I began my seafood spree of Lisbon.

Next we meandered in direction of the Rio Tejo, or Tagus River. On the way, we saw quiet streets and rumbling trams.

To our surprise, a number of tiled sidewalks were exceedingly slippery, not to mention sloping. In my chunky sandals in which I have easily walked for miles in urban environments, I held onto building walls and metal fences several times while gingerly inching down a sidewalk. After that first evening, I wore sneakers and was fine, so I don’t know if that particular neighborhood just happened to have extra polished sidewalks, but I wouldn’t take my chances.

The tiles on the ground were nice to look at. We even saw this sidewalk with curving steps around a building (in the background is the barrier that I gripped as I walked down that incline).

The blue evening sky by the rio was strikingly beautiful. We saw people sitting on the steps by the water, which reminded me of similar scenes by the Seine in Paris.

Close to our hotel, I marveled at the golden tiles under the streetlights. Truly a magical city for a first-time visitor.

Back in our room, we leaned out the window and enjoyed the view before getting ready for an actual slumber.

Portugal

Around this time last year a friend and I were preparing to go to Portugal. We had travelled together once before, seven years earlier, and had been bringing up the idea from time to time ever since. The stars finally aligned, and we compared our travel wish lists. She was interested in some northern European countries. I was interested in South America. We both wanted to go somewhere new to us. We settled on Portugal and agreed to travel for one and a half weeks.

Leading up to our trip, my friend read Rick Steves, and I asked a work acquaintance of Portuguese descent what he recommended.

I flew from New York to Boston to meet my friend, and we took the next leg to Lisbon. I remember little of the plane ride. Was it then or another trip that I watched the “2 Dope Queens” HBO specials?

At the Lisbon airport, we first headed to a phone boutique to buy Portuguese sim cards. There was a panicked moment when we thought the sim card had caused her phone to malfunction, but fortunately that was not the case. We hadn’t even gotten out of the airport yet, and already the adventure was beginning.

On the way to the subway, which is connected to the airport, my friend started snapping photos. The subway art was fun and funky.

As we stepped out of the metro and into the neighborhood where we would be staying, our enchantment with Portugal started. The sloping street with colorful buildings told us that we were truly on a trip.

We navigated to the hotel where my friend had scored us a good deal. We couldn’t check in yet, so we sat in the lobby and transferred some of our items into our purses and took turns changing in the bathroom. I accidentally used the men’s room, not realizing that one door led to common sinks and then there were two separate individual bathrooms, one for men and one for women. This usually wouldn’t have mattered, but if I remember correctly, the men’s room had a toilet in a small room with a door and then a urinal right outside it. That meant that when a man came in and used the urinal, I would have had to walk right past him to get to the sinks. By the time I realize this, it was too late. I waited until he was finished to exit. When traveling, I find that bathrooms are always a source of cultural surprises.

We went back out and found an eating place with outdoor seating on a pedestrian street. I ordered a bit randomly, not knowing what the various pastries were. I had studied coffee drinks in Portuguese and knew to order a galão, which is a café crème, which is a latte (I mention the French name first because I knew what a café crème long before I knew what a latte was). With more time to kill, we walked around the area and came upon a plaza and a tuna store with a carnival theme. It was hot outside.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to check out a nearby church, the first of many we would visit. It was not representative of the gilded churches we would see.

Upon going up to our room, which was a few floors up and had a nice view of the street, we lay down to take a nap after the fiddling with the thermostat’s Celsius reading, another sign that we were far from home.

Spring to Spring

It’s been five weeks of living under semi-quarantine. In my state we can make essential trips to places like the supermarket and go out for exercise. Contact between people from different households is to be limited to necessary activities like caregiving.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and thought about how I danced in the street in Portugal last summer. A friend and I happened upon some people dancing to music in an outdoor plaza in Lisbon, and I was drawn in by the beckon of a lovely woman to join her for a few moments in the evening sun. It wasn’t a wistful thought, more of a “how lucky was I to have that experience.” Which led me to revisiting other travel moments in the past year:

Briskly walking at night in Montreal with a friend while she huddled over our takeout poutine to keep it warm until we reached our hotel.

Sharing a gyro sandwich from a food truck in chilly Washington, D.C. with my beau before we went back to our hotel to order dinner.

Taking photos of murals with family in hot Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lounging on an airbed in my sister’s new apartment in Massachusetts.

Camping for the first time with friends in Washington state.

Taking the tram in Portland, Oregon.

Walking a quiet woodsy path with a friend and her baby and dogs in Connecticut.

Standing under a waterfall with a friend in New York state.

Running through Epcot with a friend to catch a ride ten minutes before it closed.

And to think all those trips were done with different family and friends whom are near and dear to me, so to speak! Not to mention all the local outings with other friends (you know who you are). Now that most of us are apart, these experiences are all the richer as I dig into them.

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