Image from Estudo-V, a blog which is, against all odds, Lithuanian.
Lisboa is as beautiful as ever: weather very much like Sydney’s, but with a history and a society and a certain gravitas only Portugal has. It has become more popular with tourists, which makes me happy, because it’s finally being recognised as a fine, fine city. Children and old people on the street until the very wee hours, and the abundance of tascas, small restaurants with the wife in the kitchen and the husband on the floor.
“Chorizo is the sundried tomatoes of the last few years in Australia”, I said to my friends, who looked a bit annoyed:
“But there are so many different kinds…”
Vanda and Cisco’s apartment overlooks Tejo, the bridge and the gigantic Christ on the other bank, and being here is wall-to-wall joy. Not good for my smoking habit (the Portuguese smoke like they all have a stash of spare lungs somewhere safe). Not good for my sleeping routine (going to bed before 3am is something I’ve yet to experience in this country of insomniacs). But so good for the soul.
And it’s home. Frankfurt was home already – the familiar taste of bad German coffee and excellent German croissants. (Jet-lagged as I was, I had one croissant but two coffees.) As I move and move around, more places become home, and home becomes larger. The world becomes more familiar, less scary. As I’m putting together my stay in Berlin – populated with strangers artists, urbanists and adventurers – it all looks so easy. (I like to travel. It’s my pirate aspirations. I can bum around for a very long time before I need the reassurance of a bed and a breakfast.)
Most importantly, I’ve found all my niches. The cross-tabulations of interests that look suspiciously outre’ in Melbourne, Victoria, are here legitimate areas of expertise. In Zagreb, I spoke with Sonja, who runs UrbanFestival, a festival of theatre that poses questions about space. Why?
“There was a group of us theatrologists,” says Sonja, “and we figured out that theatre had moved out of the black box, and the most interesting work was all investigating geography, especially urban geography, all over again.”
Initiatives in sustainable urbanism are cropping up all over Europe too, and I see no reason why I wouldn’t be able to find much to do in the years to come. This breadth of creative thinking, of innovation, and the radical reappraisal of the importance of my discipline, are a beautiful thing to trip over at Christmas time.
Add the fact of clothes-shopping (Coco Chanel tops, Italian boots), of abundant superhero movies (the new Sherlock Holmes is my perfect film, and Robert Downey Jr. my unlikely perfect man), of good food and spirits, and wonderful friendships revisited, and it’s something of a perfect time away. I’m being every inch the international woman of mystery and intrigue I’ve always aspired to be. And I am serious. Irony is so 1997.
Oy, Tinseltown has only slightly less culture than yogurt. Although it does have frangipanies and the Boy Charlton pool and a tropical humidity like living in a warm cloud. All this lying around in the sun is doing damage to my intellect but wonders for my tan.
Am torn between envy of your perfect time away (my international woman of mystery) and worrying that you’re not going to come back, I miss you. Melbourne – Australia – needs people like you, to show them what lies beyond their horizons. I just need you to stop me trying on beige clothes in shops.
Are you still trying to wear beige, you disgrace?
I’m always coming back, you know. I am a responsible person, and I do need to live in that new house.
But I’ve found the best presents for you. You will see.
I am still picking up beige clothes in shops, hearing your voice in my head telling me no, and putting them back again. It’s okay, imaginary you has three long black skirts over her arm.
I’ve restrained myself from buying you horrifying Australiana, but only just. I hope you’ll like what I’ve found (neither a snowglobe nor a shirt proclaiming you to be a Bondi lifesaver).