Friday evening I treated myself to a hefty piece of fish, served with chips and a half bottle of vinho verde, on a gorgeous terrace in Lisbon. Living in a small village made even quieter by the off season, things like taking the subway or traversing the high street seemed foreign. As if I’ve been on a boat for months and just docked. I like this feeling.
Back at the hostel I dove under the covers. Around 2am pain in my tummy pulled me from bed to bathroom, where I hurled my guts up, and did so another four times before dawn. The goddamn fish.
Somehow, horrible food poisoning turned into a good thing. Saturday I rested, gave up plans for a run and a busy morning to let my body recover. When the cleaner came at 2pm I tried to explain what had happened in Portuguese/graphic sign language; she smiling said “stay in bed! It’s pouring outside”. The thought was tempting but my affixation with salon hair colour prevented.
After dragging myself under the shower, I nibbled a banana and two crackers, grabbed a brolly and headed out into the rain. My destination was Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s coolest quarter full of 24 hour bars and tattoo joints and tapas holes-in-the-wall and vintage gear all in a rambling hillside sprawl of alleyways, for my first hair appointment anywhere other than Amsterdam’s Oh You Pretty Things since 2011.
I was nervous – I only go twice a year so it’s gotta be good. My fears were quickly assuaged. Facto was loud, packed and supremely atmospheric. Its owner and icon is total rock dude and hair guru Antony, a chatty English guy in floral shirt and leather pants channelling Iggy Pop and Bowie simultaneously. About 10 other stylists danced around the 16th century stone floor as if choreographed, cutting, colouring, washing, drying, styling, and all the while striking the perfect balance of professional and party.
The stereo pumped, peeps floated in feeling meh and sauntered out looking fabulous. My colourist Ana was not into chitchat. “Ta bom?” “Talvez.” “Um momento” was about all I extracted from her. But she did awesome work. Three hours later, well after dusk, I trotted back out into the drizzly dark, admiring the array of Christmas lights strung on buildings and across the bustling streets of central Lisbon. Grateful for Europe and travel, for coming and going. Ready for my next adventure.