A Luz De Lisboa
THE LIGHT OF LISBON
It would be easy to draw comparisons between my hometown of San Francisco and Lisbon. It's true they share Mediterranean climates, a relaxed people and vibrant music scene, spectacular bays with fraternal twin bridges in gold and a fleet of vintage trolleys whipping around hills, but the similarities stop there, I think. In Lisbon, an ocean of light reaches into every cobblestone crevice and sloping hillside, something subtle and extraordinary that shifts almost as tides shift.
When the Museu de Lisboa debuted an exhibition devoted to nothing else earlier this year, it called this light "the immaterial icon of the city" and named it A Luz de Lisboa, or The Light of Lisbon. It's easy to imagine aching for it, if for some reason one had to leave it. I'm sure it's unbearable.
Three minutes with this will do Lisboa more justice than I could with mere words; I almost feel that I haven't earned the right to speak of it at all!
Go on, see for yourselves.
BABES IN THE BAIRRO (ALTO)
We threw a bit of caution to the wind when we booked and left our last night to chance. We knew we'd fall in love with a neighborhood or want to explore another part of the city, and that's how we ended up at the 9Mercy, a modern boutique hotel hugging the edge of the Bairro Alto/Chiado districts on Rua da Misericórdia.
We arrived by train ahead of schedule after a four-hour trek from Sagres, and tossed our bags into a taxi. As we pulled up, we recognized exactly where we were and knew we'd chosen well. There were half a dozen shops flanking the hotel for last-minute souvenirs, and we were within walking distance of the best drinking, dining and nightlife the city had to offer, with a clear view down Misericórdia to the Tagus River from our little balcony.
We hadn't used HotelTonight outside of the states before, and it could have been a disaster, but it all went so smoothly.
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
THE CITY OF SEVEN HILLS
That's a Pascal Mercier quote from Night Train to Lisbon, isn't it beautiful? I like to think there's a lot of truth to it.
That last night in Lisbon we were making our way uphill over a tiled footbridge and hanging onto each other for dear life, laughing and searching for someplace to hear a little fado and have a drink, when an older man stopped us. He said something in Portuguese, animated and smiling, but that we barely understood, and he tried again in halting English. He thought we were newlyweds, he said, and he told my wife she was lucky. It wasn't leering or intrusive; he was warm and sincere, we thanked him through our surprise (and amusement) and walked on.
This weekend marks the tenth year of hearing my wife say she loves me, and if after all this time perfect strangers halfway across the world stop us and transcend language and cultural barriers to congratulate us because we seem like newlyweds, well, who's the lucky one?
Anyway, that quote makes me think of that night, and that moment, and I love the silly, romantic idea that whenever we want to feel like newlyweds again, we can just take our pick — head to Lisbon or to San Francisco, where it all began.
Something else that could've been a disaster...I'm sure we had every intention of making our last meal in Portugal a traditional one, but an ATM detour led us past this hot pink neon sign, we took one look at each other, and more or less hopped through the doors in excitement. The decor was incredible, the fare was impressive all around, and the vibe was buzzing and fun. It was perfect!