Where to go on vacation? I’m probably not the one you should ask. I had simultaneous reservations in three hotels in two cities in Switzerland, plus reservations in two hotels in London before realizing that where I really felt like visiting was Lisbon. I canceled the five hotel reservations in the two cities and began my search for a Lisbon hotel.
I liked the recently opened Pousada de Lisboa. It looked gorgeous, and I had read that the location was great. I made a reservation and was happy about it until further research revealed that the bathrooms are glass boxes partially covered with a curtain, and though not necessarily a deal-breaker, given a choice I would prefer privacy in my bathroom. You know, just for the heck of it. I also began to rethink the location. The Pousada is in an enormous, magnificent square, near the river and transportation, but it looked un-neighborhoody, and I like neighborhoods. I know there are people out there who get what I’m saying.
You guessed right: I canceled the Pousada. We now had airline tickets and no place to stay, until I found the Avenida Palace Hotel. It was love at first sight. It felt right, and it was: stunning, gracious, and the large bathroom had a door, a window, a view, and a bidet. Immediately next door to the hotel was the gorgeous Rossio train station. There used to be a secret door from our fourth floor of the hotel into the station, so people could escape via train during World War II. Also, there was no third floor button in the elevator, but there was a third floor. Hmmm, you might wonder. We sure did.
We wanted to go to Chiado for a special pastry shop, but that district is a long walk up a steep hill. We discovered that the Baixa-Chiado metro station, close to our hotel, was the easiest way to get there without the climb. The way to avoid walking up, up, up to Chiado was to enter the station, ride down the escalator, walk through the station and then go up four steep escalators and voila! There we were.
Chiado has the oldest bookstore in the world, and we knew that because there was a sign right in front of us that said so. Of course we went in. We bought Jose Saramago’s The History of the Siege of Lisbon.
Chiado also had a store that sold nothing but dolls. If I hadn’t become a grandmother five years ago, I never would have entered. Never ever in a zillion years, because as a child and also as a young woman I never liked dolls, though several decades ago I began to collect only ethnic dolls because I loved the textures of their clothing. There’s another reason, but that’s a story for a future post. We found the doll store by bumping into a stroller pushed by a young mother accompanied by her own mother, the grandmother of the little girl in the stroller. I knew she was the grandmother because she had the same look of insane adoration toward the strollee as I do whenever I’m around my granddaughter.
The girl was holding a doll, and I asked, in my fluent English, where to buy one. They walked us a few blocks to a small store and bid us bom dia. I said obrigada and we ended up buying Celia, who had brown hair. Most of the other Celia dolls were blonde – probably dyed. I bought an extra outfit for her. My husband, recently retired from a career in aerospace where he worked with atoms and molecules and other small stuff, asked for an extra pair of doll shoes. Just in case the first tiny pair, anchored firmly on Celia’s miniscule feet, became lost during our granddaughter’s characteristic play methodology.
This endeavor had built up quite an appetite, so Bob and I had lunch at Sacolinha, followed by a few incredible pastries. Celia didn't order anything. We assumed she was on a diet.
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