January 5, 2020
In all the years I was single I traveled alone a lot and was used to it. For the past four years, however, I was with someone on all my adventures and got used to having a companion. There are many things that are much easier when you’ve got a traveling buddy. Going to the rest room, for instance. It’s a pain to have to drag all your stuff into the stall. And it’s definitely fun, when you’re both enjoying the experience, to have someone to share observations and musings. Since leaving Jordan in Sicily I’m on my own and it’s taking a bit to get my sea legs again. First of all, I’d gotten very used to following him around. I was lazy and didn’t even pay attention to directions, just let him lead me. And his data worked and mine doesn’t, despite the guy in Netherlands promising me it would work all over Europe. So I was a teeny bit anxious about landing in Madrid at 9 pm on New Years Eve and having to find the room I rented in the middle of the city. I got the metro figured out but my stop was closed because of celebrations and I had to go to the next stop. I emerged from the subway with absolutely no idea where to go. I had two hours to make sure the new year started out good and I didn’t end up sleeping (or not sleeping) on a park bench. I tried in vain to pull up the map I’d downloaded. I couldn’t read any of the road signs on the ten roads radiating out from the square I was in. But there were loads of police around so I unabashedly started asking where the address was I was looking for. I had it written on a piece of paper and just showed them. The first policeman actually got out his phone and found it on google maps. Then pointed me in the right direction and said, “Go straight.” So I walked up the road he told me to and came to another square with ten more roads heading in different directions and had no idea where “straight” was. I showed the paper to another policeman who pointed me up another road. I had to do this one more time and actually found the apartment! Then I stood outside and had no idea how to get in. Jordan always called the host but my cellular data would not work (and believe me, lots of people tried to fix it). So I was standing outside with my suitcase about to panic when three young women walked toward me. I lost all shame and said, “excuse me, do any of you have a cell phone that works?” A ridiculous question since I was probably the only one in the city with one that didn’t. I explained my situation and one of them used her phone to call the hostess and ask, in Spanish, how I was supposed to get in. I got buzzed in, thanked the woman profusely, and got welcomed into a cozy quiet space where I collapsed into dead sleep before midnight.
I’ve made a few improvements in my navigation tactics to compensate for the absence of GPS. I feel like Magellan. Madrid was very confusing to me. Seville was as well. But now I am in Lisbon and find this city very easy to explore. I haven’t gotten lost at all. I think I’m getting my mojo back! The layout is just as convoluted as the others but the city rises up from the river ( I always thought Lisbon was on the ocean not a river…learning so much) and my apartment is on a tiny alley near the river, so all I have to do is walk downhill and I come to the river and follow it. And it feels super safe here. I usually don’t stay out at night when I’m alone but here it’s not a problem at all. I just got back from the most beautiful evening mass at the cathedral and the walk through the winding tiled streets wasn’t the least bit daunting. People are all out walking, restaurateurs are standing in doorways, kids are playing in the squares; I see why so many people have raved about this city. Glad I finally made it here.
Tuesday I’ll take a bus north to Porto for a few days full of hope for 2020.
Love to all,