Okay... I’m just going to come right out and say this: I didn’t like Lisbon.
I know, I know; I’m sorry.
I can actually hear the sharp intake of breath from the fierce Lisbon lovers out there, which admittedly does seem to be everyone but me.
I wanted to love Lisbon. It would have been nice if I’d even liked Lisbon... But I didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my trip, but I didn’t enjoy the city.
I just didn’t think it was very friendly.
I didn’t get a good vibe from it at all.
You know how people say that London is a metaphorically ‘cold’ place? Well that’s how I felt about Lisbon. It lacked atmosphere and societal warmth.
Maybe I was spoiled by Malta, which passionately captured my heart at first glance with its humble charm and staggeringly welcoming locals.
I visited Lisbon as a solo female traveller, and unfortunately, I did have a negative experience at Sete Rios train station on the morning of the half marathon.
I was standing in the foyer looking up at the boards and felt someone behind me place one hand on my waist and another on my backside.
I whipped round, and to put it politely, asked what the F he thought he was doing.
The man pulled his face-mask down, said something in what I presumed to be Portuguese, and then walked off.
Annoyingly, I was too stunned to even retaliate. To be honest, I wish I’d punched him in the face.
Something like that just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It makes you feel vulnerable, and that in itself is maddening.
There were two policemen on my train, so I reported the incident. The police didn’t speak a lot of English, and I speak no Portuguese so it took a few attempts to explain the circumstances.
I mean, it’s not what you want at quarter to 8 in the morning really is it? To stand on a packed train and have to act out being groped by squeezing your own arse at two policemen...
One of the policemen spoke more English than his colleague, and translated the situation to him. He too then squeezed his own backside at his mate.
God. What had I started?!
The police advised me to make a report, and assured me that CCTV footage at the station would be reviewed.
Apart from that, I didn’t encounter any trouble, and I would still declare that Lisbon is relatively safe for solo female travellers. Sadly, groping isn’t uncommon, and it’s happened to me in Manchester before, so I can’t really hold it against the city.
I walked/ ran 60k in three days, exploring an array of Lisbon’s neighbourhoods on foot, and I didn’t feel unsafe at any point.
Despite the fact that Lisbon is quite possibly in my bottom three cities (alongside Rome and Amsterdam), I really did have a brilliant time!
Perhaps sometimes, it’s not so much about the location of our holidays, but how they make us feel. It’s all about shaking off the shackles of life and rediscovering you.
Now that I’ve got the bug for solo travel again, I don’t think I’ll ever look back. Even if Richard Madden does suddenly realise his love for me, I will still always opt to holiday alone. Soz, Richard.
There were many beautifully memorable moments from my time shared with Lisbon.
For example, one night I just randomly got the giggles and sat in the apartment in my pants just absolutely laughing my head off. God only knows what tickled me (probably a meme showing a piece of pasta with ears or something). I must have looked like a right nutter, but it felt so good!
My apartment was absolutely DIVINE! I mean, would you just LOOK at that private garden and pool?! There’s an actual hammock!!! It’s a writer’s paradise!
Lisbon was an absolute whirlwind, and I desperately tried to cram in everything I wanted to do. Belem, the Old Town (Alfama), the Time Out Market... I did not stop during the days, but the evenings were dedicated to a state of bliss out in that garden.
I wrote until the breeze rustled the blanket of leaves shrouding my shoulders and the light kissed the city goodnight.
To be alone with my thoughts like that, the world balancing on the nib of my pen... It was just perfect.
I still swear by a good old fashioned notebook and pen combo’. While I do most of my writing on a laptop, there is something quite raw about the physical art of writing. On a laptop, you can delete words, sentences, whole paragraphs, and it’s like they were never there. But you can’t do that on paper. You can cross out, you can Tipex... But the words are still there underneath – the truth, a true depiction of how you really felt as you clutched that pen between your fingers, driven by elation, fear, or grief.
I love that about writing. It’s a moment in time captured with such honesty.
On my last morning in Lisbon, I got up early, walked to the nearby supermarket and bought myself whatever I fancied for breakfast. I came back with a bag of 3D Bugle crisps (OBSESSED!!), some chocolate covered cornflake bites, and a baguette. (... There is literally no logic when it comes to your body’s cravings during and after a big run!)
I headed straight out into the garden to savour every second.
The apartment above had their balcony doors flung open, and sensual classical music pirouetted out into the balmy morning; the perfect ensemble to the birdsong.
I lay in the hammock surrounded by my notepad and pens, reading book, and snacks. My loves.
I’ll never forget those heavenly few hours. It was an almost out of body experience; a spell cast from the drug of life.
So when I look back on my time in Lisbon, I won’t feel bitter towards the city that failed to enchant me. I’ll remember how I felt in Lisbon – awakened again, alive - miles and miles away from the conformity of day-to-day existence.
I’ll remember the laughter.
I’ll remember the one-woman, bikini-clad disco I had in the apartment on the first night, and I’ll remember the sense of wild freedom it summoned. (Because if you can’t twerk to Danza Kuduro in a gorgeous Portuguese apartment, then when can you?!)
I’ll remember the songs sung [very badly] at the top of my voice. (The Way I Are by Timberland is a timeless tune, and I don’t want to brag, but I can do both the Timbs’ and Keri Hilson parts.)
I’ll remember the taste of blueberry cheesecake ice-cream.
I’ll remember the tranquillity of the garden I was lucky enough to spend time in, soothing my soul.
I’ll remember my first sip of lemonade after a ferociously hot 13 mile run.
I’ll remember the words written in my journal, straight from my heart and onto the paper.
I’ll remember the overwhelming emotion I felt upon opening my Half Marathon results email.
I’ll remember feeling as though I could take off, fuelled by fire-burning happiness.
I might not have liked Lisbon, but then again, I like Marmite, so what do I know about taste?
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©