Lisbon at Last
This vacation will be extraordinary!
Surfacing from the metro station, I’m relieved to be here at last. The flight was brutal, eight hours from Toronto filled with wailing babies, squabbling kids, screaming mothers and cranky flight attendants.
The breeze brings the whiff of Jacaranda trees that rim the largo with their light clouds of violet blossoms. Wave patterns undulate across the calçada1 and a big M in granite marks the commuter railroad depot. At the top of the Rossio circle, the National Theater, with its colossal columns, faces a seventy-five foot high monolith with a statue on top of Pedro IV, the 19th century King of Brazil and Portugal. I soak up the feeling of being in Lisbon.
My dad met me at the airport, he lives in Portugal now. It’s warm and bright out on this June day and cafés, pastelarias2 and shops line the streets. We stop for a Portuguese pastel de nata3 pastries and coffee at the Nicola. Dad gets a bica4 and I have my beloved meia leite5.
Rossio is bustling with life. A Gypsy girl begs next to a café where Lisboans are taking their afternoon lanche6. West African men hawking knock-offs of Dolce Gabbana glasses and Louis Vuitton bags. One man hisses ′Polícia.′7 Each of them hauls up the corners of the sheets on which their wares sat and sling their “flash” shops onto their shoulders and make a hasty escape.
A middle-aged man dressed in a shabby blue blazer and wrinkled cream pants turns toward me as we’re wandering by. He’s bigger than me, but smaller than Dad and has a square face with wide cheekbones, sallow skin, narrow dark eyes, and black straight hair flecked with grey. The guy doesn’t appear Portuguese although he might be. He gestures me over.
Dad shouts, “What are you doing?”