It’s been a few weeks since we arrived from our glorious week in Portugal and hence a few weeks since my last entry. I tried to get to my computer and let my inner blogger-goddess take over creating witty and thoughtful entries that will touch the (maybe) 10s of people reading it, but alas. It was not to be. I’m not going to be too hard on myself though. Almost immediately after returning from our little getaway, we had find an apartment. And when you don’t have a job or a wad of Euros to slap down, it can be problematic. All of my “the universe has got our back” stuff was wearing thin to say the least and of reality of being without an home was something too scary to mess around with. It was the source of all our tension and arguments. Sure, we could always go to live in the country with Aurelien’s parents (who would welcome us with open arms and a bucket load of love), but we didn’t feel that this would be an option. Although looking for an apartment was a daunting process, it was fairly painless and hopeful. Maybe because after living in New York (being a European citizen married to someone from the country you are living in), everything is easier. The quality of apartments were pretty decent too. Spacious and quaint and filled to the brim with Art Nouveau features and space-saving nooks and crannies. It was a more proper process too. People responded to emails and kept their appointments and what was described in the ads was actually in the apartment. MIND BLOWING! Everything just seemed less dodgy than New York. It was easy and exactly what we needed in our state of fragility.
And just in the nick of time (5 days before we had to move out of our AirBnB apartment), when we thought we would never find an apartment and thanks to Aurelien’s divine parents,we found it. We were able to rent our first Parisian apartment! We spent all our money on the first month and deposit and moved into the charming 14th (a 10 minute walk from our previous stay). When we closed the heavy old door, we stood in our new home for what seemed to be hours, collapsed on the couch provided and cried. They were tears of pure joy and relief. It felt like we were finally catching a break! And I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with 1/2 a bath, 1/2 a kitchen with a whole lot of charm. We also had to find work like yesterday. I was burning through these vibrant notes too nonchalantly and although we had achieved a massive feat on our To-do-list of life, without work this apartment would be a mere footnote in my French odyssey. But before I delve into the kind-of boring day-to-days of settling into a new city, indulge mea little while longer while I tell you of our final days in Portugal.
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Our trip up to Porto and Duoro Valley was short-lived only by our perennial desire to sleep in.* We knew that the journey would take three hours there and back, but didn’t calculate all the stops we would make along the way to take photos of the beautiful scenery and eat more Portuguese treats. And I think coming from Australia gives you this engrained notion that everywhere else doesn’t really take that long at all. A three hour drive will be over in a jiffy because everything other than a ten hour dive to the nearest big city is completely manageable. That’s what happened on our ambitious day trip. After waking up at our usual productive time of 10am, we languidly moseyed on over to the train station to hire a car. It was a fairly painless process and very reasonably priced (compared to France – according to Aurelien – everything in Portugal is cheaper!). By the time it was all done and dusted, we left Lisbon at around 12 noon. Not the best time to embark on a six hour wine tasting extravaganza, so we decided to leave that for our last day in Portugal and vowed to go to bed earlier so we could wake up at the appropriate time of 7am to be in Porto by 10am ready and at the waiting of a local wine dispensary.
We set our sights on something less ambitious. Sintra was only an hour away and a far more sensible decision considering the lazy holiday mode we were in. And the journey did not disappoint. The scenery was lusciously green with terracotta roofed villas dotted in and around the winding hills. Usually the twists and turns get the better of me, but I was so distracted by the fairytale-like mise en scene that surrounded me that it didn’t bother me in the slightest.
It was the perfect day for a leisurely drive through the Portuguese countryside. We chose not to go into the castle (there are only so many beautiful ancient structures one can take ;)) and to head to the coast. Aurelien was desperate to find some cellar doors for tasting so after a brief consult with le Google, we put our best foot forward in search for wine. Unfortunately, the cellar doors we had hoped to find were closed and some closed down completely. It’s not like in Australia where you can just follow the vine-laden countryside and discover wineries along the way, open to sharing their wares with you from the convenient hours of 10am to 5pm seven days a week. Not satisfied with just heading home after our non-eventful adventure, we picked some random seaside town and set the proverbial sails. We winded our way through to Ericeira; 35 km north-west of Lisbon and absolutely gorgeous. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast unless you count the packets of chips and a bananas we brought so our first mission was to find somewhere fabulous, cheap and not too touristic or too far away from our car preferably with a view of the ocean so we could watch the sunset. Surprisingly, our demands were met quite easily! I couldn’t walk past the first place I saw. It was incredibly inviting; the fragrant smell of fish and chips combined with those spectacular sea vistas were something I could not pass up. There is something about being by the beach that is so relaxing and therapeutic. Although we had been on holidays for a solid few weeks, it was the first time where we felt we could just sit back without a care in the world and just be. No forms to fill out; no jobs to apply for; nothing except us, those vibrant blue and white villas and a perfect ocean view.
The restaurant which provided such glorious ambience was Tasquinha do Joy – Largo das Ribas 34 and everything was perfection. We ordered a terra cotta pichet of Vinho Verde (which I could not get enough of), fish soup, mussels with onions, fried prawns with salad and of course those delectable hand cut chips. As I sipped on my crisp white wine and breathed in that nourishing salty breeze, it finally made sense to me how important this trip was. How necessary it was for me to heal; how my soul had craved time way from the highly addictive self-indulgent social media forums I thought was so crucial to my existence as an artist – and away from dangerous temptations that nearly swallowed me whole. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t face your demons head on and escape to the first Portuguese beach that takes your fancy. Escaping without dealing with what was truly going on in my life was my downfall in the first place. But to recognise what is truly important and unapologetically discard the rest of the bullshit is something that ought to be celebrated. Cheers to that.
This trip was strangely nostalgic; reminding me of the stunning endless coastline of South Australia where I spent most of my childhood chasing the waves and building misshapen sandcastles. The salty wind was refreshing and satisfying and the thought of driving back to Lisbon was a sad one. I could have happily camped out on that beach; under the Atlantic Ocean sky with bottles of Sagres beer poking up out of the sand ready to be plucked and enjoyed and some sort of cured meat and fresh bread as our dinner. It was of course way too cold for any of that and completely impractical, so before my romantic fanciful ideals got the better of me, we begrudgingly hopped back into our sporty Renault with it’s new car smell and headed back to Lisbon; planning our trip back when the weather will be warmer and our bank accounts chock-full of cash.
Now back in Paris, completely rejuvenated and in a dreamy post-holiday haze, I am becoming more at ease at the prospect of making a new life here and less sentimental about my previous one in New York. And as I madly type away on the penultimate floor of the stunning Printemps building; watching the blue grey sky turn orange and purple and pink with a spectacular view of this inviting city (Eiffel Tower and Opera Garnier included) – I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be in this alluring place and am overcome with a sense of accomplishment. There is still a lot of work to be done (repair my marriage, restart my career and make new friends) but I am entirely optimistic about the remarkable opportunities that are waiting for only me. And that feels fucking fantastic.
*We never really got to see Porto or much of the Douro Valley due to our lazy morning rituals but the drive was lovely. The sun setting on the patch-work coloured hills, the wild lemon trees and the flowing conversation. It is somewhere I would love to revisit with more advanced planning needed and a slightly less lethargic approach.