Cinque Terre

17 July, 2018: From Florence we hopped a bus to the train station, then a train to La Spezia, where we changed to a small local train to our next destination. Cinque Terre is a long-famous (it inspired Dante, among many others) tourist hotspot on the Italian Riviera; five extraordinarily picturesque villages set among steeply terraced vineyards on rocky hills along a very pretty coastline. It’s accessible almost exclusively by train (though some of the villages have ferries and there’s very limited road access). We stayed in the third of the five villages, right in the middle. Continue reading “Cinque Terre”

Florence, part 1: Welcome to the City of Narrative

07 July, 2018: Florence! I landed fairly late, and took a taxi to the address of my Airbnb. It was a proper Italian taxi ride, complete with wild acceleration, sudden stops and turns, and the driver gesturing wildly from time to time. He was very nice, but he had a little trouble finding the address — we got fairly close, though, and I had already downloaded the map to my phone so I was happy to walk the rest of the way.

My host lives in Spain, so the process of getting the keys was a little bit worrisome, particularly since I didn’t have cellphone service in Italy when I arrived. I messaged my host from the airport wifi, and told him I was about to hail a taxi. He then called the person who takes care of his apartment, to tell her about when to expect me, and the plan was that I would meet her there. Continue reading “Florence, part 1: Welcome to the City of Narrative”

The Softest Sand Yet

06 July, 2018: I mentioned two days trips from Lisbon; the first was to Sintra, and for the second (a week later), I went to the beach. I wasn’t quite well enough to go surfing, so I was aiming for a nice big beach, with a pleasant town or boardwalk to get my walking in, and lots of sand to stretch out on. I was hoping for a spot that wasn’t too crowded, but was in easy reach of the city center by public transit. I found all that and more in Costa da Caparica. Continue reading “The Softest Sand Yet”

A Fine Day for Castling

I didn’t spend my entire time in Lisbon having pneumonia and eating pastry; I also left the city twice on day trips, once I was well enough to walk more than a block without having to take a nap immediately afterward.

30 June, 2018: What do you do after you’ve been basically laid up for two weeks and haven’t managed to eat more than one small meal a day for most of that time? Head to a mountain town and spend the whole day walking up and down steep hills and stairs looking at castles, obviously. My doctor had encouraged me to try to take deep breaths and work to get my lung capacity back (probably only partly with the ulterior motive of gaining a vocal new fan for Portugal in the world cup, as previously mentioned), so as soon as I felt somewhat recovered I hopped on a train and went to Sintra. Continue reading “A Fine Day for Castling”

The healing power of music and art (oh and also modern medicine): two weeks in Lisbon

23 June, 2018: After the week at the seaside with Debbie as my very kind nurse, and after a hellish day-long journey to Lisbon, I met my host and her cats and collapsed into bed. I had planned to visit the doctor the following Monday (I arrived on Saturday), and my host had offered to help me find one.

When I woke up late in the morning on Sunday, my host was out for the day, and I had the place to myself (well, me and the two lovely cats — more about them soon). I got up and took a shower…. and then was so completely exhausted and out of breath that I had to take a nap. When I woke up an hour or so later, I had had enough; I picked myself up, Googled “expat walk-in clinic Lisbon” and ordered an Uber. Continue reading “The healing power of music and art (oh and also modern medicine): two weeks in Lisbon”

They used to send sick people to the seaside for a reason, right?

15 June, 2018: After an early-morning flight from Zagreb to Lisbon, I took the metro to the train station and then hopped on a train south to Faro. I had purchased my ticket online in advance, and as a result had found a special advance-purchase fare in first class that was cheaper than the normal fare in second class. Score! Continue reading “They used to send sick people to the seaside for a reason, right?”

The Albanian Alps, Part 3: Meeting Horses On Their Way to Church

02 June, 2018: When I woke up I was slightly sore, but eager to start the day. It was beautiful and sunny and I had several hours to kill before my ride back to Shkodër, so I started off with a walk.  Continue reading “The Albanian Alps, Part 3: Meeting Horses On Their Way to Church”

The Albanian Alps, Part 2: Up and Up and Up

Up to the neck

01 June, 2018: I woke up early and headed over to the dining room for breakfast, which consisted of eggs, hot dog links, and bread with butter, homemade jam, and cheese. Having skipped a proper dinner the night before, and with a long day of hiking ahead, I enjoyed it very much. Skender made me a perfect cup of coffee, lamenting that he hadn’t yet managed to train the village boys as proper baristas, and then got out a full-size topographic map to direct me on my hike for the day. He also offered to drive me through the valley to the trailhead, which I accepted gratefully as my leg had been bothering me the day before and this would shave nearly two (fairly uneventful) hours off my overall hiking time. I waited for him to finish up his morning tasks to get the guesthouse running smoothly for the day, and then we hopped into his old pickup and were off.

Continue reading “The Albanian Alps, Part 2: Up and Up and Up”