Chapter 1 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 square with their light clouds of violet blossoms. Wave patterns undulate across the calçada[1] 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, pastelarias[2] and shops line the streets. We stop for a Portuguese pastel de nata[3] pastries and coffee at the Nicola. Dad gets a bica[4] and I have my beloved meia leite[5].

Rossio is bustling with life. A Gypsy girl begs next to a café where Lisboans are taking their afternoon lanche[6]. 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.

Rossio square also known as Praça de D. Pedro IV

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 straight black hair flecked with grey. The guy doesn’t appear Portuguese although he might be. He gestures me over.

Dad shouts, “What are you doing?”

Pedro IV
Statue of Pedro IV in the middle of the square


[1] calçada – Cobble stone street for pedestrians

[2] pastelarias – Portuguese café that serves pastries

[3] pastel de nata – Specialty custard pastry of Portugal

[4] bica – Small bitter coffee similar to an Italian espresso

[5] meia leite – Coffee mixed with frothy milk

[6] lanche – Mid-afternoon snack

[7] Policia – Police

Read Chapter 2 The Glasses

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