We’re going to take a left turn from our usual posts this week. We’ve written for awhile now about our dreams for moving, and our plans, and the actual journey, and our new home here in Braga. We’ve taken you on our first few Rambles (what we call the trips before we came up with our clever name for the blog is a mystery – proto-Rambles? OMG PRE(r)AMBLES! I should blog at 2 in the morning more often that’s amazing) and tried to be honest about the ups and downs. So, while we don’t have enough data for a comprehensive study, we’ve got enough anecdotes now to at least start to answer the question: how’s it going?
The short answer is that we’re fortunate beyond words for how well it has turned out. This isn’t actually obvious at first glance. The apartment we’ve moved in to, which we were smitten with at first glance, has turned out to have a couple of almost-literally fatal flaws, to the point where we are moving out early to get to a new place. That story will probably come in more detail later, but the fact that we are packing up everything we own, again, slightly less than 4 months after we did it the last time, is certainly not optimal. Our first trip out of the country was not a resounding success. I mean let’s not kid ourselves, we saw and did some really amazing things, but we were overwhelmed at times in Barcelona and the chaos in the middle of our trip to France left us off-balance even as we tried to salvage the experience (which we did by and large). Certain goals that we set for ourselves and our health are more work-in-progress than mission-accomplished; as anybody’s therapist will tell them, the one thing you are certain to take with you wherever you go is yourself. I remember as a kid I heard “wherever you go, there you are” and thought “well that’s dumb.” Hang on, younger me, it’ll make sense one day. How exactly is it so amazing then?
Shockingly, we’ll explain by telling you a long story. Way back when we were in the planning stages of uprooting our lives and moving to a foreign country, we’d talk about why exactly we wanted to do it. For my (John’s) part, there was this hypothetical story I’d keep going back to. “Whenever we’re in a big city like New York or London or … wherever, you read the paper or Time Out Istanbul or or or … and read about all sorts of amazing cultural events that don’t even make the news. Like, when Lisa surprised me with a trip to New York to see Hamilton while the original cast was still there (<—brag), we dug around in the papers and found a little play that you never heard of outside of the city, called “The Woodsman”, and by golly if it wasn’t one of our most favorite theatrical experiences ever. These things are happening, all the time. We’re always seeing reviews of gallery exhibitions or plays or concerts that are taking place in far-flung corners of the world, and they might as well be in Narnia. How amazing would it be if we could actually go to these things?” Side note: whenever we travel to an English-speaking destination we make a point of rooting around for local theater options; we’ve had fantastic experiences in places like Dublin and London. More stories for another time. Anyway.
A couple weeks ago my news feed brought up a review of an exhibition going on at the British Museum in London, The World of Stonehenge. It sounds absolutely fascinating. Interesting. I mention it to Lisa and we both think it sounds neat. Then, a couple days later, another review pops up: A Century of the Artist’s Studio. It looks really fascinating, if maybe a little brief. The mental tea kettle starts to rattle. Then the dominoes start to teeter: in Oxford at this same time is Pissarro: Father of Impressionism. Now the kettle is whistling. We do some quick checks of the calendar, fiddle with a half-dozen websites and, just like that, we’ve got three days at the end of May where we fly to London, see a couple of amazing exhibitions, hop on the train for a day trip to Oxford to see the Pissarro and just sight-see one of the great universities of the world, then back to London to chomp on a Raphael exhibition at the National Gallery that we didn’t even know was there when we planned the trip. Do you see what I mean? Even now that we’re paying closer attention, a pretty fantastic event was going on that is aligned perfectly with our interests and we’d never have heard about it, but here we are seeing it.
Another story. Lisa likes the beach. Waaaaay more than I do, although I’m coming around. Back in the States we would occasionally try to work out a trip every couple of years to somewhere with decent beaches so we could sun ourselves and splash around a bit. This year, she says she’d like some beach time for her birthday. No problem. Plan A is to head to the Greek islands to hit the Mediterranean, but the truth is we were just there a couple years ago and that trip left a mark (another story for another time) so maybe give that a rest. So instead, right now we’re in the middle of planning a few weeks in the south of France and the Loire valley. We’ll splash around in Nice for awhile, then head up into the center of the country and take a gander at a dozen gorgeously-restored castles and their magnificent gardens.
Oh, and in October we’re taking the Orient Express to Venice to spend a week, and we’re trying to sort out which cities’ Christmas markets we want to visit this year. And when we aren’t hitting the road, we live in a charming European city complete with cobblestone streets and an easy pace to life. Whatever travails we’re going through, bumps in the road or whatever you’d like to call it, the truth of the matter is that we are living exactly the life we’d hoped to be living; we know it, and we’re so so grateful for it.