Got my tablet back, life is good. I can have all the apostrophes I want!
Lisbon was basically the most wonderful place. I was sick and stressed out and exhausted most of the time I was there, and I still adored everything about it. The azulejo tiles, the warm crispy buttery custard tarts, the fado music that rips your heart out right through your guts and you love it. In a half hour train ride, you can get to these gorgeous beaches covered with bright umbrellas and happy people hanging out with the Atlantic Ocean. Which is cold, and glitters. In 45 minutes on a train, you can get to Sintra, which is about the closest I’ve ever gotten to being in a fairy tale. The woods are so green and they cover the hills that are partly hidden by clouds. And if you want to explore an ancient castle or an elaborate palace or a mansion with network of secret tunnels in the gardens, you can do all of that.
In the gardens of the City Museum there are these huge ceramic animals—monkeys and lizards and frogs and lobsters. There’s also a bunch of not at all ceramic peacocks and peahens wandering around who were very agreeable about having their pictures taken. The Calouste Gulbenkian museum also has amazing gardens where I got very lost. The museum itself is small but has all these beautiful little objects, amber jewelry from ancient Rome, ornate silver soup tureens and samovars, a velvet parasol. They also have what is now one of my favorite statues ever. At first it looks like one of the standard “Venus crouching as she bathes” things that I’ve seen probably a half-dozen examples of so far on this trip, but it’s not really Venus. It’s Flora, and her hair is entwined with flowers and her hands are graceful and she has this amazing wicked grin. And dimples! I’m in love.
Fado was an overturning, shattering kind of experience. I went to this small, underground restaurant, with brick pillars and arches supporting the ceiling and candlesticks as long as my arm on the tables. About half the place was taken up by this one huge Portuguese family and their friends and associates. They loved the music, they gasped and cheered in all the right places, and even sang along to a couple of numbers. It was a privilege to share the room with them. My experience with the music was a little complicated. I’m someone who tends to get bored at symphonies and concerts, anything where the music is supposed to be the star of the show and there’s not really anything interesting to look at. But fado was different. I was riveted and adoring and when it was over, it felt a little like being abandoned. There may or may not have been tears (there were definitely tears).
I stayed at the Living Lounge hostel, which was lovely and highly recommended. The decorations were so fun and there were crepes for breakfast every morning. I also met some great people, like the German brother and sister I went out to dinner with the first night, and the Brazilian girl who didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Portuguese so everything we had to say we typed into Google Translate on our phones and showed them to each other. She tried to take me out clubbing, but after we’d been to a couple places and the metro was about to stop running and I realized she was planning to stay out until it started up again at 6am, I bailed. Politely.
Earlier that evening, I discovered the best bar in the world, the Pavilhão Chines. The walls are covered with oddities and Victoriana like helmets and beer steins and model airplanes. Lots of red and chandeliers. The menu is illustrated and so thick it’s actually heavy, full of cocktails that are both classic and hard to find. The bartenders wear bow ties. The music was super cheesy American pop from the 80’s, and my drink came with a little paper chick in an egg on a toothpick. The guy next to me got a clown head. The whole experience was gloriously absurd and delightful. I ordered a Singapore Sling, and it was flawless.
Another fun thing to drink in Lisbon is ginjinha, sour cherry liqueur. It is soooo good. Sometimes they serve it in a shot glass made of chocolate. I feel like these people really understand me.