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.
A photo.

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


But there's no point getting ahead of myself.

So the plan was to take the morning train to Sintra. We dutifully followed the plan. Now, I don't remember why, but  Mawii and I were very irritated with each other by the time we were on our way there. I think it started when I made her wait with me while I smoked a cigarette outside the station when we boarded 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. You are wrong, we did not miss the train.)


So she started to get annoyed with me (because I'm, well, annoying) and I started to get annoyed with her (because she can be very anal sometimes, though not many people know this) and 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 be because we were slightly late getting on the train, or rather, we weren't one of the first, and there was no fixed seating so we had to make do with what we could get.

Either way, it doesn't change the fact that Mawii can be anal. And was being anal.

Sintra was packed with tourists. There were so many people milling around when we got out of the station, that it was like being back in India again. Mawii marched on ahead, ignoring me. I lost her in the crowd and sulked near one of the bus stations.

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

But she didn't.

I soon 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 long queue at one of the bus stands.

And when we got on the bus?

She took the window-seat without apology or explanation.

That meant Mawii was Seriously Pissed Off.

Except so was I, so for once I wasn't afraid of her.

The castle is set on a small mountain, surrounded by forest. Both are open to tourists. You can't 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.

Now this is when I realised that I didn't have enough money on me to enter. Not if I wanted to get home. I can't remember what happened, I think I'd left some notes behind in Lisbon.

"I can't go in." I said to Mawii, expecting her to lend me the money.

"Okay," she said. "I'll meet you here in an hour."

And off she went.

I swore under my breath and walked to a cafe that was set a little way down the path. I bought an Americano even though I loathe them because I couldn't afford the cappuccino. I sat at a little table outside 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 passed.

A tiny robin - robins are the only birds, in my opinion, that can be more or less okay - landed on my table and cocked its head a me enquiringly.

I did not let any more Time pass - I hurriedly got up and left.

Robins might be okay, but I, evidently, am not.

It was nearly time to meet up with Mawii, so I headed back towards the entrance. I saw her looking around for me, but 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. 

There was no bus that we could take from the drop-off point, so we started walking down the hill towards the town below. It was a good 2 km walk and during it, we obviously made up. This is how.

Me: Mawii, you really pissed me off.

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

Me: Probably. All good now?

Mawii: All good now.

If the world communicated as well as we do, it really would be a better place.

My memory is a little hazy - I basically 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. I saw about five hundred things I wanted to buy - naturally, I had no money. If I had, I would have turned up my nose 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. Here's a rough summary.

- We walked for a really long time.

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

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

- We got on a bus that took us to the train station.

- We got on a train that took us back to Lisbon.

- Mawii's map failed her, and we got lost on the walk back from the Lisbon station to our B&B.

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

- We reached the B&B, crawled into bed, and collapsed.

I am very tempted to be all, fuck the rest of the holiday, I'm ending it here, 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 is.


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.


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.