“Ein bier, bitte.”

Friday morning, October 2nd – Writing to you all from the Intercidades that is taking me from Lisbon to Faro this morning. After walking to the Campanha station in Porto I caught the regional train that brought me to Lisbon, though at first I got on the wrong one- but it wasn’t just me! I did, however, sit in the wrong seat- I thought “Lugar” meant “Line” and that the number on my ticket was merely what train I was on. The ticket guy didn’t make me move though, and no one got on board to claim the seat. It was better than the one I had been assigned, anyway. 

Lisboa Oriente Station

The last few days have been busy, emotionally and logistically. I’ve been getting up early and going to bed late. I can’t remember the last time I experienced a week that didn’t just fly by, rather, each day has felt like a full and complete cycle, a full belly to be digested with sleep and reflection- I’ve found myself thinking about what I’ll write down as each moment unfolds. 

By now I’ve truly settled into ‘travel eva’ mode- it took a couple days to fully set in, though I’m proud of myself for rolling along with it all. These last few days have given me time to figure out my preferred rhythm, as well as a renowned comfort in speaking to almost everyone I meet. The first few days I was hit by an unexpected loneliness and I actually became a bit homesick- something I haven’t felt in years. It was immediately remedied by the presence of the people I spent time with at the first hostel, though it resurfaced again when we went our separate ways and I found myself in a different part of town, in a new bed, alone once again. However this second wind was brief, albeit necessary- not only did it force me to walk my own walk but also to expose myself to new connections. My resting state has become one of casual openness rather than clamped and prone only to the circumstantial interactions that suit me. For example, over the last 48 hours I had more conversations with people I had never met than I can remember having in my life! Or, at least since going to a new school, or camp, or something of the sort.

I began the day (Thursday, October 1st) by missing my 10am wine tour (I know, I know- wine at 10 in the morning! Well supposedly that was the only tour left available in English) because I got on the wrong bus, and then that one was late, and traffic was sticky, and I forgot to press the button that would let me off at the stop nearest to the bridge…and it was raining. So instead, I got off and walked to a cafe to get coffee and a muffin. There, I spent the next two hours changing most of my travel plans (I wasn’t supposed to head to Faro until next week 😉 ). That missed bus became a blessing, because when I went to the winery around midday, they got me in another tour within 15 minutes AND I sat next to three people at the tasting who, having got along so well with, invited me to lunch and we walked around Gaia for a while afterward, until I decided to climb to the view at the top and they headed back across the bridge. Their English names were Vanessa, Anna, and SJ- all from Singapore, and here to hike part of the Camino trail. Vanessa- transitioning from architecture (worked in industry for about 10 years) to something new, hopefully in communications/working with people. Anna- pediatrician for 15 years, very content and never regretted a day of it. Her personality was really warm and silly- I could easily see her being good with kids. SJ- Occupational therapist but freelancing his service now, rather than be bound to any particular hospital – more people moving to private practice post covid; lived in Seville for a year, meant to go to South America after 8 months but then covid happened; first trip alone was to San Francisco, then NEBRASKA for a week (visiting a friend) then to NYC. Vanessa and Anna were very excited to meet a Jewish person, and we spoke briefly of Rosh Hashana and how I didn’t go to a service in Porto because the only Synagogue there was highly orthodox. They asked me if I had every heard of Bethel Church in California and when I said no, they explained that a guy named Will Johnson came to speak in Singapore and it was there that they experienced miracles and evidence of the love of God, so now they are almost done with their 2-year online course on how to love Jesus. Funny how that happens! Anna said that many people think it is a cult (can’t imagine why) but that she experienced the presence of faith and miracle, and she said this in such a thoughtful way that I was more inclined to listen rather than object. I just hope that if one day I realize that I’d also like to find my way back to God, I won’t have to pay $2000 to a guy named Will. Anyway, before we all went our separate ways, we did a little huddle and Anna said a quick prayer for me that I am surprised to say did move me, so that I was smiling from ear to ear when I finally walked away. That whole afternoon became a testament to the lovely interactions you can have with people just by going alone to a wine tasting! Indeed, we had talked so much that by the time we left the tasting room everyone else had already gone!

The winery I went to is called Caves Calem. It was recommended to me by another friend I made, who I mentioned last time, Anika (from Germany). We’ve been talking since she left for Lisbon the other day and even bonded over how proud we were of ourselves for eating dinner alone and navigating the public transit system in a language neither of us know! She was staying in the room across from Jun, Till, and I. Turns out she went to school in the US for a year, first in Cincinatti, though she had to transfer after 3 months to Illinois because the Dad from her first family turned out to be an alcoholic. Anika and Till taught me some basic German, just a couple phrases anyone would need to visit the motherland: “Einzatzeiben!” Which, roughly, is the code used for “murder”, and “Ein beer, bitte.” One beer please.

Till, me, Anika, Jun

*side note* My neighbors Carmen and Andre warned me that Faro tended to attract the British, and they were not wrong. This train is full of them, mostly older, barking at each other as only British people can. I suppose they were right in recommending not to linger!

I made friends with a cat who was hanging out by a little cafe where I went after visiting Palaca de Bispo (Bishop’s Castle) – an old 12th century building with rows of stone wall on the edge of a cliff by the river. It is surrounded by ancient stone alleys lined with apartments and a few shops, which is where I found the cafe. I believe the neighborhood is called Sé. I offered him my hand to sniff, which he ignored, preferring my lap instead. I named him chip, like the cup, because one of his ears was torn a little. He was very sweet.

There were also people dressed in black cloaks which I saw periodically throughout the city. Sometimes they were chanting or singing, which confused many people, but I believe they were students from an old university in Coimbra I had read about, sining school cheers, and who are known to dub the traditional wear of their predecessors. 

(This is an image from google)

It is now Saturday and I am writing from a hostel on the beach outside of Faro. The location is amazing. There is a barrier island that runs across the bay from town, which you can get to by ferry or bus (I took the ferry). Its quieter than the touristy poshy area on the mainland. The back of the hostel opens up to a padio on the bay, which a beach lined with seashells steps from the door. When I first got here, I made to walk in barefoot, but soon decided my chacos were necessary after spotting several large crabs and innumerable little hermit crabs scuttling around in the shallow sand. I feel like I’m back on the outer banks! Just a smaller and scruffier version 🙂 Last night I saw a toenail moon illuminating a thick strand of ocean and I knew I was in the right place. 

I hiked Ludo’s trail this morning and saw FLAMINGOS!! Though I did curse myself for not having binoculars. I might buy some. We’ll see. There was lots of other birds too, and the whole damn island is coated in crabs. They are so iconic here that they have a statue erected in their honor smack dab in the middle of a roundabout going from the mainland to the island.

Notice the little claw and the very large not-so-little spearclaw; I watched these guys coming out of their holes looking ready for a duel

Thats all for now, gonna head to the beach or maybe take a nap. I nearly fell asleep on a rock earlier…

Update: I did neither of those things and walked halway across the island in search of snacks instead. Classic.


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