Balconies In Lisbon


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The coloured buildings remind me of Regensburg and the faltering trams remind me of Prague. The sloping streets recall Croatia, and the essential blue of water kissing sky.

But to compare this city is to diminish its particular peculiarity. One charming heap of hopeless romance and the very first moment I beheld it, my heart was irrevocably gone.*

Let’s live here when we are still young. We will have an apartment on a hilltop, on a street yawning out to sea. We can have lemon trees outside our window and a staircase spiralling into sky. Let’s drink strong coffee on our balcony and eat custard tarts for breakfast, lunch and tea.

I was so touched by the way everybody in Lisbon asks questions. There are no secrets here, just as the underwear is hung out in the street to dry. And even the questions not meant to be questions sound like questions.

Don’t remember to turn off the heater, si? says Bernard. (No matter that he means forget. Don’t forget to turn off the heater.) Perhaps it is simply the intonation of their native language, of Portuguese: this inclination to end every sentence on an upward slope. To ask questions even when there are none. Every fact dotted with the suffix of a polite and smiling si?

But oh! If I didn’t fall in love with all of it, with all of you. With your endless questions and upward slopes. With your bougainvillea and your balconies. With your orange trees and lemon trees and your people swimming out to a February sea.

Oh my. My heart; irrevocably gone.

* thanks, Jane Austen, for that line.