Welcome to #traveltuesday, which will temporarily replace #truckingtuesday during the time I am in Europe. Yes, I am back to traveling overseas. Why? Well, because I got invited to the European Society of Oncology’s Advanced Breast Cancer Conference as a patient advocate. So I flew to Lisbon, Portugal for the conference and am now spending two weeks in Poland visiting Younes’ friends (who are now my friends).
The first time I was in Lisbon was September 2011. I was flying from Dakar, Senegal to Casablanca. It was right before I met my husband. The cheapest flights had a layover in Lisbon, so I picked the one with the longest one and decided to make a day of it.
That day was a hot, sunny late summer day. I took a bus to the Praco do Comercio and sat by the river and dozed in the warm sun as musicians played in the background. I wandered the hilly cobbled streets with no specific plan or destination in mind. I didn’t know where I was, but it was charming in a rustic, gritty sort of way – the narrow, winding streets, the laundry flapping out of open windows, the houses mixed with small shops.
After walking uphill for quite awhile, I stumbled upon a terrace with great views of the neighborhood below, a small chapel, Moorish tiles adorning the buildings, and trees with bright purple flowers. Best of all, except for maybe five other people who wandered in and out, I had the place to myself. It was too beautiful not to photograph. I took my little point and shoot and started taking pictures. They were beautiful pictures and some of the only ones I took on the whole six-months backpacking trip. A few weeks later, my camera stopped working, lost to the sands of Morocco and Spain that embedded themselves into the camera’s inner workings. But at least I still had the pictures on my memory card.
So of course, what did I do? Go back to the US and NOT download the pictures. Like, for years. Three years later, my budding photographer husband took the memory card from my camera and put it in his. Don’t know if he still has the card or if he possibly accidentally deleted my pictures.
My trip to Lisbon was a chance to recreate those pictures and also recapture a beautiful memory, harking back to a more innocent time of my life. I had a little trouble tracking the place down since I wasn’t paying attention the first time. But internet research gave me the name of the neighborhood (Alfama, a historic district with a gritty past – why I liked it) and the terrace (Miradouro de Santa Luzia, “miradouro” being the Portuguese name for “viewpoint”). So on my one free day from the conference, I set out.
The Alfama district was just like I had remembered at first – narrow streets, flapping laundry. As I climbed higher, I noticed more tourists wandering around than I had remembered in the past. Then I noticed the Tuk Tuk cars. The gift shops. The snack bars advertising in English. And the tour groups. I had an ominous feeling that, within the past six years, Alfama had been discovered by the masses. Had my private terrace been too?
Indeed it had. Cafes with English signs surrounded the place. Street musicians played Top 40. And the backpack wearing, selfie-stick wielding tourists were everywhere. The view was the same. So were the tiles and the purple-flowered trees. But it was hard to find my old serenity when someone else’s iPhone was in every view and someone with an accordion was playing “My Heart Will Go On.”
So I pouted a bit. Tried to find someone to ask “WTF happened to this place?” Then joined in with the selfie-taking…hey, I clearly wasn’t going to beat ’em, so I might as well join ’em. Proceeded successfully to take at least a few of the same pictures I had taken before. And accepted that hidden gems never remain hidden.
P.S: Younes, if you ever find the original pictures, I would really appreciate having them back!