Hello and welcome to another post from your fave. It’s been a minute. I wanted to give you guys a break from going through the trenches with me all the time, so I decided to wait until I could write something fun and refreshing. Well, here we are, so let’s give a very warm welcome back to our old friends, the section-break-gifs:
It’s still winter here in the Northern hemisphere and most days I do nothing but envy my friends and family back home who are enjoying the last drops of the Summer. When I came back from South Africa in January, I felt so refreshed and energised, I knew it had to do with the sunshine I had not been getting in Germany leading up to Christmas time. In mid-January when my energies took another dip after 2 straight weeks of grey clouds, I knew what I had to do. Book another flight and get the hell out!
In the spirit of being more spontaneous, I booked a trip down to Portugal. I’m an EU resident now so I am no longer blocked out of travel by things such as visas (one day we need to talk about the classist construct that is the visa system). Since I am still a solo traveller, I googled “Top places to visit alone in Portugal” and 3 cities kept coming up. Porto, Lisbon and Lagos. I hadn’t heard of Porto and the write-ups didn’t entice me so I quickly scratched it off the list. Lisbon, the capital city, gave me big city vibes but since I’m not really a city girl, something you might have picked up on if you’ve been following my journey, it also got the thumbs-down. All that was left was Lagos. First, I can’t lie and say that name didn’t shock me. Lagos in Europe? You must be joking. But it’s no joke. It turns out this place has a history that goes back over 2000 years.
According to the internet, Lagos was once the centre of the Portugues Age of Discovery; housed an ancient shipyard; and was the centre of the slave trade at some point too. That last bit is irksome, but we move. It’s thought that Nigeria’s Lagos may have got its name from this Lagos due to its mark on history.
On my first day, I was going to land at around 10 in the morning in Faro. I still needed to take a bus and a train to get to Lagos, so I planned to hit the ground running. This was super easy to do since I didn’t have any luggage to collect and Faro airport was relatively small. The airport looked like the empty husk of a warehouse inside, but the outside was beautiful, modern, and slick. I only waited a few minutes for the bus, and when I finally stepped onto it, I knew Portugal was going to be great. The driver was blasting English pop music, and it just took me back to the good old days of driving in my car on the highway, playing 947 and listening to Anele and team on the afternoon drive show.
The ride was insane though. I’ve never been on a bus that moved that fast. With the music blaring in the back, the bus swaying from side to side in the small streets of the Faro suburbs, and the driver greeting newcomers too jovially, it felt like my life insurance was at risk of being claimed early. When we finally arrived in Faro city centre, I made my way to the train station. I bought a ticket for the next train to Lagos and took a walk around the block to kill time. When I say those buildings felt eerily familiar, yal. It’s like the Portuguese never really left South Africa all those years ago because so many buildings look replicated, new and old.
The train was nice because not only was it super cheap for an almost 2-hour ride(7,5 €), it also had a cool view of all the cities. The shock for me was how much of the view was rural. When I think about European countries, I never think of people living in run-down farmhouses or shacks. The vegetation also reminded me of that KwaZulu Natal type landscape. When I reached Lagos it was around 2 pm, so I explored the town a little before heading to my accommodation. A European thing I’ve noticed is the existence of an “Old Town”. These are usually old city centres or old city limits within the current city. They usually have some official government buildings or some historic sites in them. Some Old towns even have walls around them because people in the olden days used to build huge walls around their small towns to avoid being killed by their enemies. I’m a culture and history nerd, so I was enjoying all these sights around this town, but if I’m honest, I chose Lagos mostly for the beach.
On day 2, I took a long walk, aka I went on a hike. It wasn’t my intention. I really wanted to hire a bicycle and explore the shoreline but, I love being alive yal, those paths were hectic. You can walk along the limestone cliffs which have a dramatic 20 m drop to the ocean. As you walk along the edge you can see some of the rock formations in the ocean. They used to be part of the cliffs at some point, but now that they’ve gone through some water erosion, they look like spears sticking out of the blue water. It was breathtaking. This was possibly the first time I could appreciate something in Portugal without thinking about its similarity to SA. On those cliffs, the only thing that was on my mind was the fact that I was just a girl overcoming her fear of heights one narrow path at a time.
Eating out was delicious, but lonely. It’s the first solo trip that’s made me feel this way. It might have been the fact that things are very couple oriented in Lagos – such as some traditional meals on the menu that are meant for sharing; or activities that you can only book if you are a minimum of two people. It’s been a week since my trip and I’ve had some time to digest the feeling and try to explain it. I think I haven’t been alone much since I moved to Germany. I’m hanging out with humans more and my trips home have also injected a lot of human activity into my life. I guess in a way I’ve forgotten how to be alone.
I’m no travel blogger so you know my conclusion won’t be about Lagos, not really anyway. On my first solo journey in Japan, I discovered new words to describe myself. I don’t want the word that Portugal gives me to be “lonely”, so I’ll tell you about the word that it has redefined for me. Visiting Portugal has given new meaning to the phrase “The motherland”. It’s a troubling new meaning when I think too much about it. But the artist in me feels like it is a new meaning that might be worth exploring.