Day 17: a sense of an ending
It’s the last day, and the last capital. We’re in Lisbon, where all the statues face the sea (which means, I noticed, that the horses the statues are sitting on are showing their backsides to the land, which might say something about the rulers of Portugal, or it might not).
Yesterday we went from Barcelona to Madrid to here. In Barca we ate paella and drank white Rioja down by the seafront at Barceloneta, while the beach thrummed with locals soaking up rays. In Madrid we barely had time for some tapas and beers before getting on the sleeper to here. We had raced through an enormous thunderstorm on the plains north-west of Madrid, and while we ate it caught up with us, bringing rain which was so unfamiliar as to be distinctly odd.
The penultimate sleeper of our trip brought us here, to Lisbon, where I have spent most of the day alone. My father was cremated here in 2008 and at the time my head was a mess of grief and organisation and I had no time to take in the place, so today I honoured his memory by visiting the glorious Cemiterio de Alto San Jao where his funeral ceremony took place. It is high on the hill to the north-west of the town with views over the Tagus and out to sea, and it is a beautiful place. I sat for a while and wandered the magnificent mausoleums and felt a little elegiac, here at the end of our journey with the memory of Dad in the shadows of the trees. The funny thing is I can see myself telling him about this trip, and see him shaking his head with a serious smile and questioning the mental state of his eldest son.
After the cemetery I made it my business to get some hold on the topography of Lisbon, in the style of other cities we have visited on this trip. That meant a bus then a metro then a walk and then, wondrously, one of the old Lisbon trams which clattered me down narrow backstreets which showed, poignantly, the economic stress now being put on this ancient country. One other thing I noticed was how many women were doing municipal jobs here in the Portuguese capital: notably driving dustcarts and trams.
Now I am enjoying a final indulgence. I’ve booked myself into a cheap hotel for a few hours for a shower and a siesta and a blogpost. I’m writing this in reception, and tonight I’ll be on the final sleeper to Hendaye, followed by a train to Paris and then the Eurostar. Tomorrow night we’ll be back in London, brains too full to think and legs too tired to walk.
A final post tomorrow, I think. Until France, then.