Starbucks. 11:40 a.m. Orly International Airport, Paris, France.
Haley runs in, a giddy grin on her face as she stops and searches the packed coffee shop for me. I can see her mouthing the word “blonde, blonde, blonde…” I’m about to call her name when she spots me and yells in my general direction:
“Sure!” I respond. I scramble to pack up my laptop, but Haley’s already gone, sprinting across the airport like a madwoman. Everyone around her is staring as she disappears into the mass of travelers. Barely a minute passes before Morgan sprints in, the same crazy smile spread across her face, and spots me, yelling: “I need our passports!”
- OHMYGOODNESS WE’RE GOING TO LISBON!
I pull the passports from my bag and run after her as she sprints out of Starbucks. I’m barely keeping up with her, as she runs ahead of me, her brunette curls whipping around behind her. We’re both laughing hysterically, dragging suitcases, and attracting far too much attention to ourselves. I skid to a stop behind Haley as Morgan joins her at a small ticket counter. She thrusts the passports into the hands of the woman across the counter, and we all look at one another, still giggling.
“Okay, you’re all set. Here are your boarding passes. Make sure you check in at least an hour and a half early. Enjoy your flight,” says the woman behind the counter.
“Have you ever had someone do this?” Morgan says, her eyes bright, “You know, just buy the first ticket out?”
“Yes, actually,” responds the woman. Morgan’s face falls a bit. ”But usually they’re not as excited as you three.” And with that, we glance at one another and burst into another fit of uncontrollable giggles.
- About to to get on a plane to Lisbon!
In what seems like no time at all, we’re boarding a plane to Lisbon–a place none of us has any background knowledge of–and after what feels like a very short plane ride, we’re stepping off the plane in Lisbon.
- All smiles (In Lisbon).
Now I’m not totally sure whether it’s the excitement or the adrenaline or the spontaneity or if maybe we’re just sleep deprived, but suddenly everything about Portugal is hilarious. We make the decision to add “In Lisbon” to the end of every sentence we utter. We find this hilarious. The rest of Lisbon is less than thrilled.
- Silly, funny, happy times (In Lisbon).
We find a bus (in Lisbon) and take blurry cell phone pictures out the window on the way to our hostel (in Lisbon). Morgan points out that there’s a church (in Lisbon) and also some cool houses (in Lisbon). After a half hour we reach our drop-off point (in Lisbon) and proceed to wander the streets for a bit (in Lisbon). After getting lost for a few highly amusing moments, we manage to find our hostel (in Lisbon). Luckily, the hostel owners are wonderful, the hostel is clean and beautiful, and one of the employees makes us sangria and sausage (in Lisbon).
- Sangria at the hostel (In Lisbon).
We spend the evening booking our flight home. We quickly discover that flying from Lisbon to Naples is not really an option, so we begin to search other ways of getting home with stopovers in other cities. Morgan finds a flight from Paris to Naples that’s only 60 euro. But are we really going to go back to Paris just to fly home?
Yes, yes we are, because there’s a flight to Orly tomorrow night and then we can take the flight from Charles De Gaulle Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. That leaves us with about eight hours in the airport. Are we really going to sleep in the airport?
Yes, yes we are, because we’re young and broke and stupid and who doesn’t want to say that they slept in the Paris airport when they were twenty?
After being responsible and booking our flights home, we headed out for the evening, and went to an outdoor bar. Unfortunately, the owners were quite rude, but we got some dessert and walked around Lisbon a bit. After about six hours in Lisbon, we finally realized that Lisbon is in a different time zone. Who knew? With that knowledge, we head back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep before our one and only day in Lisbon the next morning.
The next morning is rainy and dreary as we drink our coffee and plan our day. We decide to catch the tram that runs through Lisbon and go see the castle that we spotted the night before. We stuff ourselves full of bread and jam and then walk around the streets trying to find the tram. After a good fifteen minutes of wandering around the main square in the rain, we find the stop and hop on the tram.
- Displeased with the rain (In Lisbon).
The woman at our hostel told us that it was a half hour tram ride to the castle. She lied. Apparently, it only takes about ten minutes, but lucky for us we are in Lisbon, not Paris, which is severely directionally challenged, and the tram driver calls out “Didn’t you girls want to go to the castle?”
We thank him profusely, and head up the street to the castle. Despite the rain, despite the cold, despite the fact that my boots are broken so I’m wearing sandals, despite all this, the view of Lisbon from above is unbelievable. We take far more selfies than is socially acceptable, because, after all, we’re IN LISBON. We duck out of the rain into a museum and wander around until the rain lets up a bit, and then proceed to the castle.
- The beautiful old castle (In Lisbon).
- On top of a castle (In Lisbon)!
This castle is unlike the cathedrals we’ve seen in Italy or Paris or Madrid or Barcelona. It’s a true castle, stone with parapets and giant gates, and we wander around it in the rain, simultaneously joyous and miserable. After we decide we can’t take the cold any longer, we pop into a cafe for some lunch. Meanwhile, the sky clears, the sun comes out, and Lisbon becomes even more beautiful.
We walk around in the sunshine and buy some gelato, enjoying the sun and sea and the feeling of freedom. Before long, we head back to our hostel to pack up and head out. We literally spent less than 24 hours in the actual city of Lisbon, but nonetheless, we all fell in love. Not only is it a beautiful, amazing city, but it holds for us special meaning. It was the place we went when we decided to be crazy, to be wild, to be twenty and happy and free. It means independence and irresponsibility, joy and escape. Lisbon will always be for us something more that just Lisbon. Lisbon is everything we’ve ever wanted, we just never knew it.
- A beautiful view (In Lisbon).
A plane ride and a 115 euro cab ride, we were in the Charles de Gaulle airport, watching Frozen on an iPad, curled up together on plastic chairs. We ate cookie dough out of a just-add-water package, laughed about things we’ll never remember, and solidified a bond that we can’t really explain. Taking off from Paris at 6 a.m., I watched the sunrise turn the clouds bright pink as Morgan and Haley slept beside me. I looked out across the sky and realized that I didn’t recognize myself anymore; but I really like the girl that I saw staring back at me in the tiny airplane window. Her hair was greasy and unwashed, her shirt smelled from twelve days of travel. Her eyes were shadowed from sleepless nights and endless adventures. Her nails were ragged and her nail polish was chipped. Her smile was tired, but she looked happy. Really, truly, completely happy. I don’t know if I know how to be that girl yet, but I know that I have to try.