I could not sleep well on that night train, I actually never sleep comfortably on a train. I try many positions like just the best contortionist could do but when I try to lean my head against the window to find some support I end up always with a broken neck bone.
With a half eye open I could hear the train stopping and welcoming strangers with big suitcases in the middle of the night.
Shadows of people walking through the corridor.
When we got close to Lisbon I got up, rub my eyes and set my body in a normal position for my own sake and for the girl sitting next to me.
It was early in the morning, people were already moving around to get their luggage and disappear at the right moment.
Desculpa, desce se aqui para ir ao centro de Lisboa?
A woman dressed with pois trousers just reminded me that here we do not speak English, nor German, Spanish or Portugnol. I needed to get back to my Portuguese and it is a mind shift it needs a bit of time to be rolled out.
We stopped at the Oriente station, known to be designed by the Spanish architect Calatrava, and then reached Santa Apolonia.
When I first came to Lisbon, this station was abandoned under a never-ending work in progress, now it is a beautiful and inspiring point for all travelers.
I clearly remember the moment I got out of the train, walked trough the hall watching the shadows coming from other traveler´s trolley and the light passing through the old main doors.
The light here is different. I could feel it again. Even at this time of the day.
Lisbon is light.
Light, wind and ocean.
I stopped for a while outside the station and had a deep breath.
It was just like coming back home after a very long trip.
When I first moved here eleven years ago I was a young girl full of ideas and love for life.
Even if many things had changed, I feel the same.
The same thing happened to Lisbon I guess.
It is breathtaking as usual but the mystery, decadence and improvisation I loved so much are slowly fading. Or at least that is the feeling and concern of many Portuguese like my friend Tomas, the most Italian Portuguese in Lisbon.
During the time I spent here I stayed at his well known place, a crossroads for many people.
There is always someone to meet and something to drink when I spend time with him.
He is a great companion and an amazing friend.
If you come to Lisbon you have to meet him, he speaks plenty of languages, Italian, English, French and I guess a bit of German and you can rent one of his apartments in Alfama (click here for more info), one of the oldest and fascinating quarters of the city.
Alfama is exactly where we went the first day I arrived. I remember celebrating Santo Antonio until early in the morning quite some time ago.
Life here was an adventure not just every single day, but every minute and seconds, it was at its full here & now potential. But well, it is a state of mind.
Before leaving the quarter, we had to stop at a special place, special because there I could have met another old friend of mine, Helen, one of the most generous and strong person I know who is my friend since almost ten years now. She is not just a great friend but also an extraordinary cook. Some people can just make miracles with food (I am not talking about multiplication of bread and fishes..nope) and others like me who despite the fact they are not talented they do not give up. I love eating, as well as cooking but let´s be honest, I can make a great pasta al pesto (handmade of course) in Germany. I won´t give up, no matter what, sooner or later I am going to make it.
Or maybe I will get some private lessons from my talented friend, yeah this might be a solution.
Anyway, when you go to Alfama then visit the Pois café and order a Tarte de Limão.
Do not ask more questions, just order it and say hello to Helen for me.
Tomas and I guarantee for it.
Handmade by Helen.
It is funny how memories work… now that I am writing and remembering this event I do not see just what happened that day, Helen, me, Tomas, a coffee, hugs and smiles, our talking, now I feel the taste of the cake. I can really remember it.
And this is very frustrating when one of your favorite sweet is miles away from where you are sitting at the moment.
At the beginning I planned to stay in Lisbon just no more than five days but I know the city wanted me to stay longer, I am sure it all happened because she loves me ;-). Exactly the second day when I was walking on the street looking at my city like you do when you meet an old friend again, a guy grabbed my mobile phone and run away. Damn! I was not so polite. I also run but I never caught him.
It was a strange experience which shaped all the crazy coincidences in my trip as I had to postpone everything because of that.
During the following weeks I got back to my tascas, to old fashion bars and music, I met new and old friends, as well as Tasca Mastai the perfect meeting point for Italians inside the Bairro Alto.
I got back to my beaches, to my ocean, to small hours and to memories.
Even if the city changed a lot during the last years, it is really touristic now, they make tostas mistas with baguette bread (that was so disappointing!!!), it is more clean and perfect (my goodness this is so sad, I do not need perfection), more pinterest like style and less representing the unique character I love so much, you can still find some glimpse of it in the chaos of some quarters, corners and miradouro. I felt nostalgic, and like a little old woman I just thought how lucky I was to live in this amazing city more than ten years ago, when she was truly wild and few tourists were walking down the streets.
Days were passing by like I never left this city.
Lisbon can pamper you until you forget the reason why you came here, hugging you so intensely that it is really hard to leave her grip.