When I moved out here to Vila Franca de Xira yesterday, it occured to me that it was effectively the end of my Uber driver series because from here on, it will be mostly Train Frog Adventures. Oh I will miss my daily chats and interviews, but if a blissfully peaceful train ride is the price to pay, then so be it.
I wasn’t sure about the whole timing of the new routine this morning, so I erred on the side of caution. In order to catch my 06:13 train (yes folks, that is definitely early, giving new meaning to the abbreviation AM… Aaaaaargh Morning!), I was up at 04:45 and stumbled through the morning routine. Breakfast was absolutely out of the question, who can bloody eat that hour anyway? When I stepped out of the building it was still dark and as I walked through the quaint streets towards the train station, I was struck by how time seems to have stood here, a place poetically caught between the dawn of modernity and the dusk of history. It wasn’t eerie or anything, on the contrary. It reminded me very much of my Camino days, walking through villages when everyone was still fast asleep, including the baker. But in doing so, I discovered how incredibly fortunate I am to have so much within reach. Again, Portugal has a penchant for squeezing in something gastronmy-related after every third shop or so, and Villa Franca is no different.
The little train station looked like something straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. I got completely caught up with the beautiful tile work on the walls, that it took me a few minutes to realise I standing on the wrong platform, so I quickly moved over and was surprised at the sheer amount of commuters to Lisbon a that hour, and was in good company.
The trip between Vila Franca and Sete Rios takes 41 minutes, with 13 stops (well, this train in particular, which only comes every hour, so if I miss it… well nevermind). I may not have anymore Uber drivers to interview, but I get to people watch again! I chased the dawn and watched the sunrise as we pulled into Lisbon. Oh bestill my heart, this is a writer’s haven and heaven.
Going home was equally adventurous, as I again had to figure out which track to catch the train from. The atmosphere reminded me very much of Paris for some reason, and I had to grin to myself, thinking I really am living the European dream – alone in a brilliantly historic city, surrounded by people from all walks of life and cultures, hearing at least five different languages around me, and waiting for my train. I had my headphones in my bag with every intention to relax and chill out to some music on the way home, but once again, people watching had me enthralled, as well as the gorgeous landscape that I couldn’t appreciate in the darkness of the morning.
As I walked out of the station, I stopped by one of the small supermarkets along the way. I began my Portuguese adventure at the end of February with a friendly Bangladeshi who had his store across the hostel, and once again I begin this phase with another friendly Asian. The mandarines and ginger drew me in, and it turns out I had wandered into a Nepali store and walked out with the most bizarre cookies. I honestly don’t know whether to be thrilled or insulted. It was more of a WTF moment… I mean, I always knew Filipinos were sweet but this takes things to a whole new level.
As I mentioned yesterday, this new place is a completely different calibre from where I stayed in the beginning. Tonight, I almost had tears in my eyes when I cooked my dinner. It has been six weeks since I cooked and stood over a stove stirring a pot. Do you know how painful that is for someone who loves to cook and finds the process meditative? There was nothing fancy about my dinner, but the mere fact of being able to chop vegetables again and put a proper dish together. My days of instant noodles and sandwiches are practically over. I have proper packed lunch for tomorrow!