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Archive for June, 2013

I need to start writing my morning pages again. My thoughts are crowding in, they need to be exercised/exorcised on “paper”. So here’s a quick walk around the block…

I was just walking up the hill on my way home from work (11 hours straight in the office today) and I looked right into one of my fabulous open sprawling park spaces. Here I saw a lady who I’ve seen a couple times. She had a baseball bat, was wearing a baseball cap and some kind of glove. A tiny black pug with a hot pink collar sat at her feet. She was throwing the ball up and swinging the bat. And she missed. She did this a few times, quite dramatically and then finally made contact. The ball flew a little way. There was no one with her. She ran after the ball, picked it up and repeated. Her pug dog scampered alongside her. I couldn’t take my eyes off this bizarre scene. And I thought…

I can’t wait until I get old, I’ll go and sit in the park and watch mad people. Wonderfully mad and eccentric people.

Then I looked to my left into another park, this one overgrown, and I saw two girls running along dressed up like fairies pulling a dog on a lead.
There’s something about parks and dogs and liberation. And I thought…

I want a dog so badly.

Then I came to the end of my lane. Earlier in the week we found a dead badger. It was 100% intact. No mauling, not run over. I guess it just died of old age. It was scuttling along one day and then just stopped. Poof. And it was gone. At least that’s what I hope. It looked beautiful. I wanted to stroke it. I wanted to perhaps give it a fitting send off. But I’m not sure what that would be. Today I was kind of hoping to see him again, but he was gone. And I thought…

I wonder if the council came took him away.

Then I was thinking back to an hour ago when I walked out of my office after 11 hours in the office. I called a pal who also works crazy hours to see if she was still at work (yes) and wanted to escape, get together, have some wine and continue making plans together to start our own company and stop working 11 hours a day for someone else. Whilst on my first round of “hello how are you, are you still at work?” My phone battery died. So I took my second phine, my work Blackberry out of my handbag, checked the battery – half left – redialled and just as it was ringing that phone shut down as well. Completely dead. No way to arrange that drink. I was tired and I can feel myself coming down with a sore throat, so I thought…

Divine intervention, go home and rest.

So I did. And I feel much better now 🙂

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It was meant to be a secret. I’d requested that my ‘away leg’ hen do would be a secret. I’d turn up at the airport with my little case and passport and have no idea whether I was heading North, East, South, or West. But secrets like Lisbon can’t stay hidden for long and it slipped out in an early morning sleepy conversation on a power walk to brunch in Brighton.

So I had a chance to get plenty excited about this trip. And I have wanted to go to Lisbon for literally ten years plus. I can barely believe that I have been all around the world, but never made it to Portugal. It was time.

So, the plane went south.

Three hours later the plane curved in to land skimming the terracotta roof tops with a bright blue sky backdrop. Stepping off the plane into that beautiful heat, we all had big smiles on our faces. Lovely lovely Lisbon lay in wait.

We reunited with our cases, packed with dresses, hair-straighteners and cobble-friendly shoes (we were pre-warned – no high heels on those cobbles), we jumped in a taxi and were whisked off to the center to find our pad for the weekend. The excitement was building on the taxi ride as we started tile-spotting through the taxi window – beautiful multi-coloured patterned tiles covering old crumbling building facades, bright flowers tumbled down from roofs, old men stood in shop windows, old women walked their tiny dogs in the street. And jazz played on the radio…

Our guesthouse was on a picture perfect street. A stereotypical old Lisbon calcada. My bridesmaids had organized 4 rooms including the penthouse, which was an entire apartment with outside deck which had a sweeping panorama of the city – the rooftops and cathedrals bells sweeping all the way down to the sea. Magnificent.

The weekend was a wonderful whirlwind of food and drink and culture and fun. Lunches ranged from a stunning local secret – the hip Darwin Cafe in the science museum, to a historic spot for sardines and sangria off the main square. We dined in the most famous custard tart cafe in Belem, and bought more in boxes to take away and pack into our cases for our trip home. We stopped at Ginjinger kiosks every night and sometimes in the day to get our hit of the local firewater with its bitter cherry at the bottom of the shot glass. We drank almost as much of the potent expresses to keep us going, just as the ginjinger was wearing off. And suppers were magnificent, from the modern Portuguese in the heart of the action – I had black swordfish with flambéed banana to the original Nando’s, sitting on stools in the street watching locals dancing to a random street musician.

And we walked those cobbled streets. Up and up and down and down. Precariously slipping and wobbling as our flip flops got accustomed to the cobbles. After the first day of walking we all discovered our calf muscles, quivering after taking a pounding on those cobbled hills! We walked along wide avenues boasting shoe shops and waffle cafes and egg custard tart bakeries. Through squares with fountains and statues and giant inflatable ducks… Over tram tracks, ducking out of the way of speeding taxis, past hissing men and shouting women. Down to the sea to join locals and tourists gazing out into the blue to get some peace from the city and a sea breeze to take the edge off the heat.

We took a train along the coast, getting a good view of the tribute to the Golden Gate Bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril) and the Christ the Redeemer. Past the Fort and memorial statues at Belem. We rode to the end of the line to get to Cascais and the beach. Here 10 of us found our small patch of sand (it was Sunday, the beach was busy), laid out our sarongs and soaked up those rays.
We did swim as well, the water was icy.

Our nights were fun. We quickly got onto Portuguese time, dining late, exploring the bars, free shots, more ginjinger, some dancing, some promenading. Folks here stay out late. We went to a huge club ‘Lux’. Where you go to be seen. We danced and ended up on the roof, under the moon, singing at the top of our voices (much to the bemusement of those people who were there to be seen, not heard I guess…). Finally we decided to call it a night and left the club just after 4am. People were still queuing to get in.

We went to the castle, walked down the hill, past the tile shops and the painters and the cafes serving more sardines and sangria. We stopped to enjoy a view out to sea over those terracotta rooves, a couple of guys were playing electric mandolin. Beautiful beautiful music. The warmth, the scenery, the scent of flowers, the trickling of a nearby fountain. Surrounded by my best friends in the whole world. It was one of those moments. I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie.

It was a time warp weekend. We did so much in such a short time. Experienced what I think was an authentic slice of Lisbon. Had a full gastronomic tour whilst having time to party, relax on the beach, and all that AND spend some serious quality time hanging out, spinning about on our rooftop, chilling, laughing and catching up with my amigas.

Lisbon was worth the wait.

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Our street, Lisbon

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Flags

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The Elevator

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Tram lines

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Lisbon Tram

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Train view, Golden Gate and Christ the Redeemer!

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Hitting the beach

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Outer space at the science museum

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Monument

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Custard tarts

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Riding the tram

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Tiles

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Sardines and sangria

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Sardine shopping

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Penthouse panorama

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I have a little ritual. Everytime I head out on a new adventure I roll my rainbow case down the hill to the airport bus stop. I don’t know if it’s the sweet haze of memory but in my mind it’s always at that blissful moment early in the morning where you share the company of songbirds and dog walkers. It’s always sunny as well, I watch my shadow rolling its shadow case down the hill in a parallel universe. And I’m filled with joy.

It’s a unique kind of happiness; excitement, expectation, intrepidation, peace, gratitude. It’s one of my favourite moments (or rather 3 minutes) and often my mind will pan out way up into the sky and spin round the globe to my next destination, just like those flight trackers you get on airplanes, and I’ll tingle with adrenalin at the thought of travelling and all that distance passing beneath me.

This morning is one of those beautiful mornings. I’m off to Lisbon with 13 of my closest girlfriends for a dose of sunshine and custard tarts. I’ve completed the trundle and am now sitting at the bus stop, a big smile on my face, looking forward to my next adventure…

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