There are some places you never leave. You may not be there physically, but a piece of you stays behind forever to be with the place that stole so much of your heart. It lives there, reliving those initial memories and waiting for new ones to be made.
Last week, I returned to the city and it was as though I never left. Lisbon and I just fit. I walked new streets with that feeling I had been there before. I navigated the subway with ease. I felt at home in unknown restaurants. I sat around sharing jokes with Portuguese shop owners though neither understood each other’s native tongue.
Mostly, I wandered the city dumbstruck as I marveled at just how crazy beautiful the city is – filled with beautifully tiled houses with red roofs and winding cobblestone streets that snake between multi-story homes draped with Portuguese flags and hanging laundry.
At every turn, I remarked to my friend, “Damn, how beautiful and amazing is Lisbon?”
I worry a lot about going back to cities I fall in love with the first time around. What if I am just chasing ghosts? What if it won’t be the same? What if I go back and hate it? Will I just compare the present to the past?
So, I touched down in Lisbon with a mix of excitement and trepidation, but as I stepped out onto the streets, I knew in my bones that we are soul mates. And when you are just meant to be with someone, all the change in the world doesn’t matter.
On this visit, I relaxed at the nearby beach in the town of Cascais, where my ghost-like appearance become a bit more human-like after some time in the sun. I dined on fabulous fish at Santa Rita, a delicious and cheap (21 Euros for fish, a liter of wine, bread, and seafood rice) restaurant located downtown. I ticked off touristy sites like the city history museum and the castle. I stayed out so late in the Barrio Alto (an area known for wild nightlife) that I slept most of the next day away. (I still mostly blame the jetlag.)
There are moments when you travel where the stars seem to align and you think, as you sip wine from a cafe while watching neighborhood kids play soccer in the street and grandmothers hang the laundry from the windows, that somehow you got lucky enough for a destination to reveal itself to you in all its glory and that life couldn’t get better.
Lisbon is filled with wonderful architecture, history, charisma, nightlife, people, and such incredible budget value that I can’t help but daydream of renting a quiet little apartment on one of those cobblestoned streets.
Some places wow you.
Some places take your breath away.
And then there are places like Lisbon that capture your soul and you are never the same again.