Hello, dear reader.
I'm writing to you from spectacularly sunny Porto, where the glazed azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles) on the building across from me are glinting in the day’s fading light.
This is remarkable because much of the country has been experiencing torrential downpours, but not Porto. Porto is the place that's typically rainy and grey, but I'm not complaining because it's been glorious the past few days.
Everything seems upside-down and backward right now. We can't count on anything being the way it's supposed to be—including the weather.
Even I've been upended by this little foray to the north of Portugal.
I JUST LIKE THE WORD SQUALOR
As I mentioned last week, I temporarily moved to Porto with the plan to stay through the end of May, checking out the different neighborhoods and digging in deeper to discover if this could be a second place for me. I also told you about my entry to the apartment I rented. Squalor is too harsh; although I love that word, dirty definitely fits. Oh, and other people's hair. I shudder every time I think about it.
Starting this adventure with a cleaning marathon, alone without Milo, and out of my comfort zone during a pandemic, well, it's taken me a week to get grounded and replace the frantic disorientation. Although I thought about packing up and leaving many times, I talked myself down from that ledge. I prefer to go to a place long enough to settle in and go deeper, rather than just skimming the surface in a weekend, so I’m glad I hung in long enough for that settling in to start happening.
A GOOD DAY
Yesterday was the first good day. By good day, I don't mean perfect; no, that's not the point or the goal, but a good day in the sense that I wasn't fighting reality. I finally felt all my molecules calm down and come back together to form a cohesive whole.
Does that make sense?
It's a feeling of fragmentation. The idea that stress beyond one's coping skills causes one to dissociate, and only when the stressor starts to abate can the person begin to come back to themselves. Anyway, that's how I see it.
I'm no longer in that state (trumpets, please).
And guess what? I like Porto! I get it—I thought I would. It just took clearing a few hurdles to notice her magic. Porto is a small city. Walkable and knowable. Compact with distinct neighborhoods that climb the hill away from the Ribeira.
The Ribeira, a waterfront neighborhood of colorful houses, cafés, and bars, seems to nearly tumble into the Douro river. You've seen the photos everywhere; it's iconic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a location I've yet to visit on this trip. I went to the waterfront last year during my brief stay in the city, and although beautiful, it's very touristy in non-COVID times. With non-existent crowds, now is the time to check out, I suppose.
A SLOW & LAZY WANDERER
Although barely a week into my adventure, this trip has emphasized my travel style, which is definitely slow, with little to no traditional tourist activity orientation, and honestly quite lazy. I've no desire to check off things to see or do on some arbitrary list of my own making or someone else's top ten must-sees. I just can't be bothered.
But a wanderer I definitely am.
I enjoy walking, looking at people, buildings, and storefronts with cats in the windows. I like to watch dogs playing in the park (sorry, Milo) and old Portuguese women gossiping in doorways while giving me the once over as I pass by.
Now was not the best time to come here, I realize. Travel and pandemic really do not go together. But I'm here, so I'm taking care to minimize exposure to all things viral while trying to be out in the world as I reintroduce myself to what it will/might be like to be a social creature coming in contact with other humans. I'm not an A student in this subject right now—I think we'll all need a bit of time to get used to one another once the world opens up for commingling again.
But, Porto, I see you—I get it.
There are more layers of you to uncover, and yes, I've found a neighborhood that speaks to me, but I have more time to get to know you—slowly—taking each day as it comes, just the way any good relationship unfolds.
Up next: a Saturday in Braga. Stay tuned, sign up, and share!
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