As I walked through Praca Dom Pedro this morning upon the waves of mosaic tile, licking a strawberry and mango ice cream cone from Sartini on Rua do Carmo, I felt as ridiculously giddy as the woman in Under The Tuscan Sun, laughing as she splashes around in a fountain in her dress and floppy hat. I thought about taking the plunge but decided sopping clothes aren’t the best for an eight-hour flight home.
After three perfect days in Lisbon, my spirit feels light and free. Vacation will do this, yes- but there is something very special about this city. It’s magical without pretensions, thoughtful without caring too much, reverent yet relaxed. Portuguese rolls off the tongue, sounding to my novice ear as a mix of Spanish, Italian and Russian. With words like Obrigado (O-brie-gaa-doe), the word for thank you, I was ‘obrigado-ing’ locals with a wide smile with every opportunity I had.
I gave myself time to wander and get lost in Lisbon’s narrow cobblestone alleyways that wind up and down its many hills, a matrix of these stone walkways and brightly-colored tiled buildings. Lisbon is a city of art; while it is not known for its museums like Paris or Rome, its streets are covered with works of art around each bend, displaying the creativity and freedom of its people and showing Lisbon’s laid-back vibe.
The history of this city is interwoven into its everyday being. Lisboans have managed to beautifully preserve their past, a rich history that pre-dates Roman and Moorish eras from the 700’s. Sao Jorge Castle perches atop Lisbon’s highest point and acts as a loving god-parent over the city, watching her with tender care over the past six hundred years. I felt a deep sense of pride and purpose within the spirit of the Lisboan people. They are confident in where they have come from and cautious to preserve their past, yet also future-minded.
Yesterday, I sat inside the walls of a palace in Sintra, surrounded by mystical gardens, fountains and 100 foot-deep wells, reflecting in the sunshine.
Why do we travel, and why do so many of us take pictures to mark that we were there, in that place? I believe we are all working to connect to our own humanity. When I experience a place of beauty, its culture and its people, it connects with the deeper places in my soul. I take pictures both for myself and for others in an effort to say I was here. I did this in my life. We all have pictures of our grandparents and great-grandparents when they were younger, wide-eyed and full of hope for their future. Because this life is so fleeting, I want those who come after me to know who I was in my lifetime, what I was about, what I held important and the things that I did and experienced. That is the same reason why I write: to touch a place deeper within myself and within others.
I recently read that the gift of being a writer is that we are constantly studying and absorbing our surroundings, as if to preserve them in our minds so we can pour forth all of the beauty that we see, the suffering, the sound of the birds chirping, the way the sun reflects gloriously upon the red-roof sea.
I challenge you to see more deeply in your everyday life, and to see with beauty. It is all around us.