I had one more day before the girls would arrive and my body and mind were still trying to catch up to the nearly 6,000 miles I had traveled. Nina and I just relaxed in Nazare for the day and left first thing the following morning for Lisbon. I’ve been told that it takes one day of recovery for every hour of time difference. Whether there is science behind this, I am unaware, but it seems to be accurate for me. Portugal is eight hours ahead of Los Angeles. To my surprise, I was completely on Portugal time in three days. This has never happened before. Perhaps staying up for an inhumane amount of hours and sleeping local time the first night you arrive is the formula. It could also be that I knew I soon needed to work for the next two weeks with only the smallest break and my brain forced me to acclimate quickly. Whatever the case, I was ready to party in Lisbon with the girls!
Going from the calm of a seaside village to the spicy energy of a southern European city was a welcome shift. Lisbon is filled with life. The people are loud and friendly, speaking in what looks similar to Spanish on the page but sounds more like an Eastern European language; the polar opposite timbre of a romance language. Traffic rivals downtown LA during rush hour, one difference being that there aren’t real markers between the street and sidewalk in many places and driving close to pedestrians and cyclists (within a foot) seems to be the norm (eeeeek!!!). Porto is abound, being served at the local cafes and even some pastelería (pastry shop) early in the day. It's worth coming to Portugal for the port alone.
Our airbnb was right in the heart of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto district. We were greeted at the apartment by the warmest smile and hugs from the loveliest woman, who was there to introduce us to the space. Being a hugger, I realized that this is my kind of country. Our hostess gave a thorough tour and breakdown of the local area and departed with more hugs and cheek kisses.
Four of the ladies had arrived in Lisbon the night before. Assal, our retreat expert neuroscientist (and the baby sister I never had), thankfully decided upon the restaurant for our first lunch together: Bairro do Avillez, owned by famed Portuguese, Michelin star chef, José Avillez. It did not disappoint. Nor did we if you were sitting at a table nearby. Our poor waiter had seven strong women to answer to…in English, no less. Every menu item had a question, punctuated with a flirtatious smile by some of the ladies (I’m not naming names!) that didn’t seem to be working considering the exhausted expression on this beautiful man’s face every time he came to our table.
After lunch, Nina and I headed back to the apartment and waited for my cousin Louisa, who had just arrived from Boston. If you don’t know the story of my cousin, the short version is that we met through DNA testing and she is the only Korean relative I have ever met outside of my immediate family. From the moment we met, we knew we were family. And the family that you really like. There will likely be a blogpost about this incredible meeting one day. The three of us explored the beauty of Lisbon while trying to keep from sliding down the slippery cobblestone streets. Hours later, fatigue dictated our return and we rested before getting ready to meet up for dinner.
Our lunchtime theme of "keep your waiter on his toes" continued into the night, with the addition of Jackie now, as we brought our effusive enthusiasm to tapas dinner. The evening waiter was more accommodating, grinning like the Cheshire cat to his captive audience of porto and wine drinkers. Several of us met up at a local Fado bar; the soulful, melancholic sounds bringing balance back to the frenetic energy that we left at the restaurant. I was blissed out being with these incredible women that I adore in one of the most magical places in the world. If this was a precursor to the coming five days, we were going to have a wonderful time.
And finally, the retreat is to begin.