The blog has been quiet for a while (I promise I have great reasons and I’ll tell you all about it very soon) but today I want to share with you a moment of clarity. And it came in the strangest place and from a person I don’t know and probably will never meet again. The only thing I’m sure of is that it came at the exact right time. Like all moments of clarity do.
I’ve been in Lisbon for about one week now. The beginning of the school year and the completion of my next project made me take a break from London. And I don’t miss London, yet. I did miss Lisbon. I even missed the crowded buses on rush hour, filled with annoyed locals and clueless tourists who don’t know they can take the 714 as an alternative to the 728 from Belem to the city’s downtown.
This morning I had planned a one-hour tour of the Ajuda Palace and ended up spending two and a half hours. It was just me and empty rooms. Well, me, empty rooms and the employees who pointed the right direction from one room to the other. The palace gets stuffy, and it smells like dusty velvet and old people’s home, but I still love it. Because this time I was a lot more attentive to other details (but I will be forever in love with the porcelain door knobs of the Pink Room, the Queen’s antechamber), my heart clenched at the sight of shredded silk and the signs of water damage on the ceiling of one of the rooms.
When the employee whispered “miss…” I thought I had accidentally wandered into a room where I wasn’t supposed to be. “It breaks my heart too…” – he had caught me looking up in disbelief and wanted to share with me how a place like this needed extra care. After he told me how much careful they had to be to prepare the feast room for official functions, I asked him “do you like what you do?”. He smiled and said “yes, I do. I get to work here every day.” And then he turned on the lights in the throne room so I could take a better look – something, he assured me, he doesn’t do for just anyone.
As I was returning home (in the stuffed and overcrowded 728 instead of the 714 because I was too lazy to wait), the memories of Rome in 2013 came back, and I couldn’t help to smile. When I visited Italy two years ago with my son, my life was about to turn upside down (and inside out) but I didn’t know it yet. Somewhere on one of the bridges over the river Tiber, Diogo had asked me, out of the blue, if all the pain and hassle I had at work was worth it, and I didn’t have an answer. And for years, before this moment of clarity today, I couldn’t remember our trip properly. And I don’t mean what we saw, or missed, or liked, or didn’t like. I mean the trip, the little moments, the memories beyond the souvenirs (like I remember “our” Barcelona).
And the things I started to remember were “our” Rome, and we remembered them together before dinner, and we laughed until our bellies ached – because the episodes were so absurd that they could’ve only happened to us, because I finally broke free of remembering that time as a toxic moment of my life.
My son joking at my attempt at speaking Italian with the taxi driver from the Fiumicino airport (apparently I sounded like Luigi from The Simpsons, and that hasn’t improved since).
I remembered not listening to Paolo, our host when he explained to me how the coffee machine worked. The next morning, desperate for coffee as soon as I got out of bed, I couldn’t get the thing to work, and I started to resemble one of the apes on “2001 A Space Odyssey”… Then my son rolled his eyes and flipped a switch.
We both remember (and miss) the pizza place down the street, “Ai Marmi”. And the cheese and sausage shop around the corner (where my son wouldn’t go in because he said it smelled too much like feet. Therefore, I never bought that Pecorino Romano I meant to buy).
Neither of us remembers the name of the restaurant that had Brian from Family Guy on the bill. We can’t remember where it was either. We just remember Brian holding a tray with a martini glass on it.
I remember how I told Dhanish I had “negotiated like an Indian” outside the Pantheon for a couple of umbrellas that we needed in an emergency — he still thinks I could’ve gotten a better price (and the damn umbrellas fell apart the next day. Fortunately it never rained again). Shortly after we stumbled on a beautiful (and deserted) square with a gorgeous fountain (it was not Trevi, that much I know) but none of us remembered to take photos… We just loved that it was deserted.
By far the best (and most hilarious) memory is due to my lack of orientation when I walked through the middle of Circo Massimo complaining that the map was wrong because we couldn’t find the Circo Massimo! (you know how it ends… my son “flipped a switch”…)
Have you had a moment of clarity in your life while traveling?