Meeting myself – unexpected guests

“Ah! ‘ello! Mon Dieu, está aqui una pessoa. Afortunadamente!”

I’m used to people who are happy that they are there, and used to unexpected guests, but it is rare that an unexpected guest is so relieved to be there. And then in four different languages.

“Hi, welcome”, I choose the easiest language of the four, “my name is Ellen, or Helena in portuguese.” I hold out my hand which she shakes warmly. “Bonsoir, I am Martine. Do you have a room for me?” Sure, we do! A nice room with a view, a painting and a blue blanket on the bed.

Martine tells me that the past few days she hadn’t had trouble finding a place to sleep, but she is now very happy to arrive at the Termas-da-Azenha. While she just drove passed the huge neon-lit HOTEL – TERMAS **** next door.

Four stars is apparently not intended

Perfect. We only provide stars in the clear night sky. This accommodation cannot be expressed in stars.

“The room is ready, but I have to make the bed.” I say, and we agree that she drives the car to the garden of the room and installs itself, while I organize further details. “And yes, of course you can eat, but I only have a pizza, I made some last week.”

After half an hour there is a nice bottle of wine on the table and a pizza in the oven. Luckily I recently made a batch. We’re in the kitchen, much cozier.

Martine is française

She recently sold her B&B in Les Landes. “Close to La Rochelle.” she explains, and that sounds familiar. Isn’t that the place where once the protestants left for America? “Exactly, close to the beach, only 10 minutes.”

The B&B was a difficult and lonely struggle. “All guests always ask the same things” (well, recognizable), they want the same things (yes, usually that is why they’re there for) – it was a lot of work for little money. Jep. I hear what you say. But it also has a lot of advantages. You are your own boss, you meet a lot of nice people, and that there’s a routine involved …. well, that’s actually in any kind of work.

We get along fine

She is now on the way to Lisbon to meet up with some old collegues after 20 years. Before the B&B she was an engineer and designed lighting plans. And that is what she did 20 years ago, in Lisbon, next to the Castelo São Jorge. The most beautiful place in the city.

Gazing over the river

It can easily be already 20 years ago that I spent an afternoon in Castelo São Jorge. Lovely.

Stroll a bit. Sit on a bench and look around. Watch people go by. Fantasize about what it must have been like three centuries ago. Read a little. There even was a terrace just outside the castle, under old trees with a view over the Tagus. Which at that time was something very special, because Portuguese certainly are not commercial. Very different from us northerners, we try to make some money everywhere.

Martine has not been in Portugal for 20 years and considers the country has changed a lot. Yes, that’s absolutely true. Progress has certainly struck. There are no donkey carts anymore, not even shining old Toyota pickups.

We become a bit nostalgic, but you have to stay reasonable in this.

It is nice to look at, at those donkey carts, but when you are driving one, that’s a different story. Then you’re talking about a very different way of life.

And that is no more

But there are not only things lost, there are also new possibilities.

“Look at yourself,” our conversation continues at breakfast, “you started a new life yourself! A hundred years ago it would not have been possible, a woman alone on your age!”

Last night I met myself. I think. When I’m 72.