26.9.17

Summer 2016: Part 7

One of my favourite memories from the trip is a day visit we made to go to a seaside town (naturally, I can't remember the name), a short train ride from Lisbon.

It was a long strip by the beach, filled with outdoor cafes and bars, all overlooking the sea.

And what a sea it was.

Seas are as different as people really.

Some are prettier than others. Some are mysterious and forbidding. Some are inviting, waiting for you to get to know them. Some are calm, nothing ruffles them. Some are volatile and unpredictable. Some don't give a shit. Some are full of shit.

This sea?

Well, why don't you see (haha) for yourself.







I know, right?

There really isn't much to write about this day, nothing particularly entertaining, but it stands out in my memory.

We plonked ourselves down at one of the cafes, facing the sea, and we drank wine and ate crisp salads and crusty baguettes. We sat there leisurely for nearly four hours, chatting, people-watching, just being.

Oh here's something.

To get to the ladies' room (which was also the men's room), you had to go into the cafe, climb the stairs, cross a sort of terrace passageway, and open a big industrial door with a key given to you by the landlord. The room was HUGE with loads of stalls, and lots of space in the window, and large windows, and white sinks lined up against the wall. Despite the light, there was something sinister about it. Large spaces are often sinister.

It was the perfect setting for a tourist to be murdered in.

I went into one of the stalls, freaking out because my imagination is truly weird sometimes and goes completely beyond my control, and though I'm perfectly aware of my irrationality, it doesn't make it any less real. So I sort of positioned myself with my phone as a weapon to hit someone if they were waiting outside the door, and with the key as a shameful substitute for a knife. I figured I could poke my potential murderer in the eye with it at the very least.

I didn't see any murderers, but I did see a drunk tourist brushing his teeth at one of the sinks. Even my imagination didn't allow me to picture him trying to kill me, so I placed the key next to him, avoided eye contact, and left.

I will skim over the rest of the day, because it won't interest you particularly.

Here's a funny incident that occurred once we were back in Lisbon though.

I really needed to go to the loo, so I went into one of the cafes by the station. I looked around and a man - presumably the owner - came up to me and said something in Portuguese.

"Um. Could I use the bathroom?" I asked.

He looked puzzled.

"The Ladies'?"

He continued to look puzzled.

And then I made that universal gesture, the one that nearly all humans understand, and showed him my little finger.

"Ah," he said, comprehension dawning. "You want to do this..."

And then he crouched slightly and made that other universal sound, that sssssing sound, but I took it in my stride and said, "yes, ssssss," and he pointed the way.

After that, I think we strolled around Lisbon for a bit. It's one of those places meant for strolling. We went back to our favourite cafe - you know, the one with the pigeons and the dogs - and had a glass of wine.

Yeah, that's about it.

Oh, but that's the thing about days like that.

'That's about it' is more than enough to satisfy.


14.6.17

Summer 2016: Part 6

I think it was the following day [i.e. more than a year ago] that we took a trip to Sintra to see Pena Palace.
Here it is.
Finally.
A photo.


















Wait, but this is a google photo! Why on earth would I put that up?

I'LL TELL YOU WHY.

(Eventually.)

So the plan was to take the morning train to Sintra. We dutifully followed the plan. But Mawii and I were very irritated with each other by the time we were on our way. I think it started when I made her wait while I smoked a cigarette outside the station before boarding the train. She was worried we'd miss it or something and I was all, Mawii, relax, we won't miss it.

I know what you're thinking and you are wrong. We did not miss the train.

Anyway.

So she starting getting annoyed with me (in all fairness, I'm fairly annoying) and I started getting annoyed with her (because, if one is going to be equally fair, she can be goddamn anal sometimes). We got so annoyed with each other, we didn't even sit next to each other on the train.

Although, come to think of it, that might have been because we may have been just slightly late boarding. And there was no fixed seating - and it was a bank holiday weekend - so we had to make do with what we could get which wasn't much.

Sintra was packed with tourists. There were so many people milling around when we got out of the station, it felt like being back in India again. Minus the colour scheme.

Mawii marched on ahead, ignoring me.

I shuffled along, ignoring her, and eventually lost her in the crowd and ended up sulking near one of the bus stops.

Let her come and find me, I thought to myself.

But she didn't. And I know Mawii's moods,  I realised that she was capable of boarding the bus and leaving me behind, so I pushed my way through the crowd, muttering pardons and sorrys, and I finally found her standing in a queue at one of the bus stands.

We still didn't say anything to each other and when we got on the bus, that girl took the window-seat without apology or explanation.

That meant Mawii was Seriously Pissed Off, but so was I (the wordless occupation of the window-seat was the Last Straw) so I didn't care.

The castle is set on something that is too large to call a hill and too small to claim to be a mountain. It is surrounded by thick, dense forest. Both the castle and the forest are open to tourists. You can't, however, glimpse the castle from the drop-off point (which is a mountain path). You need to go into the forest to see it.

And, it goes without saying, you have to pay to enter the goddamn forest.

This is when I realised I didn't have enough money on me to enter. Not if I wanted to get back to Lisbon. I can't remember what happened, I think I'd left some notes behind at the B&B.

"I can't go in," I said to Mawii. "I think I left my cash behind at the B&B."

Obviously this is the point I expected her to lend me the money - feud or no feud - but instead she said, "okay, I'll meet you here in an hour."

And off she went.

In Mawii's defence, I found out later that she wasn't carrying enough cash for the both of us, but she was too annoyed with me to tell me then, so I called her many colourful names under my breath as I strolled down the path the bus had just brought me up on.

There was a cafe about a ten minutes away, tucked in on the side of the mountain. (Or hill.) I bought an Americano (even though I loathe them) because I couldn't afford the cappuccino. There was a little stoned-paved courtyard outside. I sat there and rolled a cigarette grumpily.

Time passed.

I took out a notebook and pen because it felt like the Right Time to Write Something.

Time passed.

It was not the Right Time to Write Something after all. I put the notebook back and rolled another cigarette.

Time continued to pass, as it tends to do.

A tiny robin - robins are the only birds, in my opinion, that are more or less okay - landed on my table and cocked its head at me enquiringly. I love the roundness of the robin, and the scarlet patch its chest.

Regardless, I hurriedly got up and left.

Robins might be more or less okay but I, evidently, am not.

It was more or less time to meet up with Mawii, so I headed back towards the entrance. I saw her looking for me, but - because I am extraordinarily childish and petty when I'm pissed off - I didn't go up to her.

Let her make more of an effort to find me, I thought.

Three minutes passed and the moron still hadn't managed to spot me, so I gave up and went across to her.

"It was beautiful," she said, in response to the obvious how-was-it.

"But I didn't go inside the palace," she said after a pause. "It was too expensive. I only saw the outside from the forest."

Boo fucking hoo. 

It turned out that the drop-off point was only a drop-off point, and not a pick-up point as most drop-off points are, so we started walking down the mountain (or hill) towards the town below. It was a good 2 km walk and we obviously made up along the way.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Mawii, you really pissed me off.

Mawii: I think you may have pissed me off more.

Me: Probably. I'm sorry. I don't want to be pissed off.

Mawii: Same here.

Me: Cool.

And then we were back to normal. That's what I love about my friendship with Mawii. There's so much affection, but no fuss. 

My memory is a little hazy, but I remember us walking around trying to find a place to drink and eat at. We found our way to a winding lane where there were plenty of shops selling all sorts of things for tourists to take back home, and I saw about five hundred things I wanted to pick up for my family and friends, but I didn't have the money. To be fair, if I did have the money, I would've probably turned my nose up at everything.

I could go on about the rest of the day, but the thing is, I've been going on about this trip for more than a year, and I'm quite fed up. I want to get to the end now. Here's a rough summary though.

- We walked a lot.

- We had a couple of drinks and a meal at a cheap pub.

- We found a grassy and abandoned park and spent a very peaceful half-an-hour there.

- We found a bus that took us to the station.

- We found the train that took us back to Lisbon.

- We found that Mawii's map wasn't as trustworthy as we thought, and we got lost on our way home.

- A twenty minute walk, therefore, turned into a ninety minute walk.

- We reached home and collapsed.

I am very tempted to be all, fuck the rest of the holiday, maybe I should write about something that is happening now, but I won't. I will continue to document this goddamn trip for the next three years if I have to.

Because, though the posts don't do it justice, it's one of those things you want to keep with you, however abysmal your manner of keeping it.




26.4.17

It's been almost a year since I went to goddamn Portugal.

Things I do not regret: the trip.

Things I regret: deciding to write about the trip.



12.1.17

Summer 2016: Part 5

Lisbon is three hours away from Porto by train. Mawii and I were pleasantly surprised to find that we got a discount on our tickets (applicable to anyone below 26…oh youth, you are slipping by, and I have such little time to take advantage of the discounts you have to offer). 

Predictably, I slept through the train journey, although I’d fully intended on keeping awake so I could see more of Portugal: nothing like trains for discovering a country. But it was not to be. 

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to Lisbon. Porto had been small, quaint, and colourful. I didn’t expect Lisbon to be like that. How wrong I was. Because I have never fallen in love with a city as quickly as I did with the Portuguese capital. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

We got off at the station and took a bus to where our Air B&B was. Mawii had her trusty map as usual, and she’d spoken to the owner.

“Look for a red church,” she said to me. 

I dutifully looked around for the red church. 

“I can’t see it,” I said. “Are you sure we’re in the right place?” 

“It’s next to you,” said Mawii patiently. 

And it was. 

We turned the corner and walked up a narrow cobbled street. The houses were just like the ones in Porto: bright, picturesque, with old-world charm and flower-baskets at the windows. The sun was warm, the wind was not, and it was all quite perfect. I’d been off the bus for just a few minutes, and the love affair was already taking root. 

The place where we were staying was wonderful too. It was an old house, tall and narrow, with a bright green door. Our host was a woman called Claudia. She was blonde hair and blue eyed and tall and well-built. She didn’t look Portuguese, she looked like she was from a Nordic country. 

“She’s from a Nordic country,” I whispered to Mawii.

“How do you know?”

“It’s obvious,” I said condescendingly. “Her ancestors were Vikings, I guarantee it. I know all about Vikings.”

It turned out she was from Brazil, and I don’t think the Vikings ever got there, but much of history is still unwritten and unknown. I pointed this out to Mawii, Mawii called me a fool, and we let it rest there. 

Anyway, we freshened up and decided to see what waited for us outside. 

I've already described the cobbled streets, the picturesque houses, the warm sun, so I'm just going to skip ahead to a little bar/cafe - more like a food truck with alcohol really - that stood in the middle of a big patch of garden. There were steep steps that led down to it directly from the pavement. There was a two-year-old trying to pull herself up those steps.

We avoided the child, and got ourselves two huge glasses of wine and a table.

Picture contentment, peacefulness, and a deep, slow sense of enjoyment. I could have had all these things.

But, as always, there is one obstacle that, more than anything else, prevents me from having what I deserve.

The fucking birds.

There were all these obese pigeons (had they recently migrated from America? Wouldn't put it past them) hopping around. And there was one that insisted on hopping around under the table. But not Mawii's side of the table, oh no. My side. Near my feet.

"Why don't you kick out at it?" said Mawii, after ten minutes of my squirming around and saying shoo and go away and leave me alone, in my most authoritative voice.

"Have you seen all the pigeons here? It's a goddamn army, Mawii," I said incredulously. "They'll all peck me to death."

Mawii sighed (I know I keep saying it, but she keeps doing it, and I'm being a mostly faithful narrator), and bent down.

"Shoo," she said.

The pigeon shooed.

Can all the various scientists who have uncovered at least some of the Universe's secrets explain that?

I think not.

We left after two glasses of wine, and I will once again skip the part where we walked around a lot, and get to The Square.

The Square was basically this, uh, square, that overlooked the river. It was teeming over with young people. They were all sitting around. Some of them were smoking what was definitely marijuana (I looked longingly at Mawii who shook her head very sternly), most of them were drinking beer (there was another food/beverage truck at the edge of the square). A couple of them were skate-boarding. Some of them were playing the guitar. It was, to use a phrase I despise, a chill scene, man. Mawii and I got ourselves a beer each and found a patch to sit on.

Now comes the good part.

The men.

Maybe I'm being politically incorrect, but I live in India, and your average man is rarely part of anything good.

I've never seen so many good looking men gathered in one spot. I put on my sunglasses and leched.

That's right. I leched at a crowd of good looking foreign men. It was amazing. It crossed my mind that I was doing what shady Indian men in Goa do (except they lech at the women - mostly), but I pushed that thought out of my mind, because it was so liberating, being the gazer instead of the object.

Naturally, none of them gazed back. (The girls equaled them in gorgeousness.)

One particularly beautiful man did come up to me, and I tried tossing my hair before realising it was too short to toss.

"May I have your lighter?" He said in a delicious accent that was either Spanish or Italian or Greek or...who cares, it was delicious.

I handed him the lighter and batted my eyelashes at him.

His lit his cigarette, said thank you, and went off, without a backward glance, to a girl who'd probably be a good candidate for a Wonder Woman audition. (I know there's already a Wonder Woman, but you know what I mean.)

Oh well. You can't have everything.

Half-an-hour passed. I was very comfortable, but my bladder wasn't.

I communicated my bladder's discomfort to Mawii, and we both looked around, but there wasn't any bathroom.

"Where are these people putting their beer?" I said to her incredulously.

Mawii very sensibly told me to go to the street and find a cafe, so I heaved myself up and went off. Lisbon is full of cafes. Some would say it has nothing but cafes. And I'd never needed a cafe so badly.

Naturally, I didn't find one.

What I did find was a tall house with an open door. Various signs informed me it was the home of a few small offices. Offices have bathrooms, I told myself. I crept up the carpeted stairs - if anyone asked me what I was doing there, I'd pretend I needed a travel agent (one of the offices). But no one did. I found the Ladies' Room, and my bladder found comfort, and it was all good.

Mawii told me I was a nut-job and I could have been arrested for trespassing, but when her bladder started feeling not-all-that-good, she decided to risk an arrest too. But no one caught her either. Which was fortunate for us, but not really for this blog post.

We had dinner at a restaurant, in a narrow alley. Its chairs and tables - like many eating places there - spilled out on the pavement and that is where we sat.

A leisurely meal, and then home.

Mawii, of course, followed the map and I followed Mawii. We didn't get lost even once.

Getting lost was going to come a few days later, and instead of leaving you with a cliff-hanger, I may as well tell you now that it destroyed our friendship.

Okay, just for a night. But still.