Our readers share tales of their ramblings around the world.
Who: Rose Spaziani of Bellmore, N.Y.
Where, when, why: I traveled solo in Lisbon for one week in August. Traveling has helped me to rebuild my self-confidence and heal after a divorce. Since then, I’ve traveled solo in Italy, Germany, Austria, California and now Portugal. Before my latest trip, I knew little about my destination beyond what I had learned in grammar school on the Age of Discovery and Portuguese explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan. I wanted to meet a place that would surprise me, and Lisbon was it.
Highlights and high points: Lisbon is a city of highs and lows spread across seven hills. Electric wires slung between pastel and tile buildings link to trams that rattle on tracks curling up and down cobbled streets. I eschewed the trams and climbed on foot to historic sites such as São Jorge Castle perched above the Alfama neighborhood, or ascended to the next “miradouro,” the Portuguese word for viewpoint. One of the best panoramas in Lisbon is reached by the Elevador de Santa Justa, a cast-iron lift with filigree latticework designed by Portuguese engineer Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel. This lift rises to a landing that has corkscrew stairwells to a terraced miradouro. I saw the sun set there one evening and took some of the best photographs of my trip.
Cultural connection or disconnect: One night, I went to Adega Machado, a fado club in Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s go-to neighborhood for nightlife. “Fado” means fate, and is Portugal’s soulful style of national music. Fado clubs serve dinner, and musicians perform up close in the dining room; the typical setup is a singer accompanied by at least two guitarists. I was the only person seated alone at the club until travelers Karen and Bronwyn, from Australia, invited me to join them. Spending time with them was a welcome reprieve from my solitude.
Biggest laugh or cry: I felt like the luckiest time thief to have so many moments to unlock small pleasures. This freedom was joyful and also a little sad because it would end upon returning to the 24/7 demands of my “real life.” I indulged in these moments by writing in my journal, sipping a glass of orange juice in Jardim do Principe Real, sitting on the balcony of my hotel room at night and listening to the clink-clink of silverware on plates and accordion music wafting up from Largo do Carmo and eating a piece of bittersweet cake while reading poetry at Landeau Chocolate on Rua das Flores.
How unexpected: Fado moved me with its drama and wistful melodies. I needed to hear its music to imagine the history of this seafaring city and the hopes and dreams of its sentimental people. Even without knowing Portuguese, I was awash in happy and sad emotions, flowing and ebbing in tune with fado’s rhythms.
Fondest memento or memory: I bought a book of poems by Fernando Pessoa as a souvenir from Livraria Bertrand, which claims to be the oldest bookstore in the world still in operation (it opened in 1732). Pessoa was born in Lisbon in 1888 and wrote poetry in his own name and under the names Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos and Ricardo Reis. He spent a lifetime exploring the multiplicity of his inner self this way, using a literary idea he called heteronym to write in many styles as different people with rich backstories. I’ve also struggled with my identity since the divorce, so his approach resonated. Pessoa’s poem “In the Great Oscillation” includes the phrase “being aware is faith.” That’s why I traveled to Lisbon — to pique my senses and feel how the mystery of a place affirms the beauty of life.
To tell us about your own trip, go to washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.