One Last, Deep Breath!

At the end of January, just as the world was changing, I took one last, deep breath before it became clear that we couldn’t take breathing for granted any longer. On the flight home from Lisbon some passengers were already wearing face masks. China had just begun its quarantine.

Since January, I have been holding my breath, trying to hold the warm, Portuguese air in my lungs that tastes like the sea and cinnamon, as I may not get another chance to travel for a long time still.

The hillside neighborhood of Alfama,
in Lisbon

I love where I live, especially now as May is at the door and April has been filled with white apple blossoms, but I live for traveling and exploring new places, hearing new music and tasting new flavors. It would not surprise me to learn that the checkpoints at the Belgian border were put there to make sure that I stay at home.

My stay in Lisbon was designed to experience as many of the different layers of the city as possible so that I could reproduce it in words. The sensory experience was tremendous. The city’s architecture and history;

imaginative and delicious food; a rich, unique language and (Ooooh!), the music, all created deep and lasting impressions that continue to call me back months later.

I cannot remember another city being as well-rounded, subtle, yet so giving as I look back on Lisbon. I truly savor what I brought home in my heart from Portugal. Would you let me share a little bit with you?

I have also created a public playlist on Spotify: Fate and Longing in Lisbon. I invite you to sample it and taste the sweet sadness that is sung in Lisbon’s traditional music called ‘Fado.’

I have also written a short story set in Lisbon, with the same title as the playlist, that will be released into the world at the end of May 2020. As there are no travel restrictions on books and music, let them come to you!

The narrow streets of Alfama in Lisbon

Although I cannot travel right now, and maybe not again until the autumn, I have been able to walk the streets of Lisbon each night through my writing process…

Travessa da Madalena in Alfama

visit the crowded Fado taverns through my headphones…

A Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto, Lisbon

and sample the sharp, sweet flavors of the cafes by ordering food from a Portuguese web shop, that supplied me with a sweet and zesty pumpkin jelly (yes, pumpkin jelly!) to go on the goat cheese.

If I concentrate and hold my breath, I can be in Lisbon again every night.

If you’re feeling closed-in and getting restless, reengage your imagination with new descriptions by reading a book set in places you’ve never been; stimulate your senses by listening to music you’ve never listened to before; or try some zesty pumpkin jelly! If it works to keep me from going stir crazy, it will work for (almost!) anybody.

But I promise you, as soon as those barricades on the Belgian border are taken down, I am going to go Get Lost! as soon as possible. Until then, enjoy the music and the new book (coming soon), and I’ll see you in Lisbon.

– Val

Discover Lisbon through the cultural short story, Fate and Longing in Lisbon by V M Karren (click on book image to read a sample). Available as an ebook or in the print collection Armchair Travel: Cultural Fiction for the Restless Wanderer.

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