I am thrilled to have my post shared on Allyson Latta’s site! Have a look and explore her site – she’s a writer, editor, instructor, and coach. Allyson is also the one who organized and led our fabulous writer’s retreat to Portugal.
Friday in Sintra is kind of a blur. I got off the plane in Lisbon at 9:15ish, which was about an hour and a half earlier than I had expected – apparently this pilot had his foot to the floor.
I had met Nancy and Richard while waiting for the plane – Nancy was brave enough to approach me – and they were also heading to the retreat, so it was delightful to have found travelling companions. We also found Jenn – another retreat goer – after we boarded the plane so the four of us would be heading to the retreat together. It felt good and to have people I could stick with as we made our way from Lisbon to Sintra.
It was not a restful flight, the plane was freezing and while the seats were excellent for sitting in, they were less excellent for sleeping in. After 7 hours of almost falling asleep, we finally got to Portugal. We breezed through customs but were about an hour and a half earlier than we expected to be so we found a little cafe inside the airport and kept a look out for the shuttle driver. Allyson had told us he would be holding a sign that said ‘Latta Retreat’ so should be easy to spot. He wasn’t there when we arrived, and we hadn’t counted on the fact that there were about 20 drivers holding up various signs… so every once in a while Nancy would jump up and zip through the crowd to see if anyone was holding up our sign. We got a message from Allyson that Greg and Mary’s flight from Germany had been delayed and they would get there in time (we hoped) to catch the shuttle with us.
Mary and Greg got to Lisbon and met up with the shuttle driver before we found any of them, but luckily we managed to find them before they left without us. We all piled into the SUV and off we went to Sintra. The driving in Lisbon was… interesting. The drivers didn’t seem compelled to stay in their lanes or even signal a change, or really, be committed to any sort of rules of the road. At one point a motorized scooter made a right hand turn across two lanes in the round about, cutting off traffic. But other than a few honks, no one seemed alarmed. Well. Except me. Did I mention I ended up sitting in the front? Yeah.
Anyway, soon we were on the picturesque winding roads and hills on our way to Sintra. This area of Portugal is just beautiful. Combined with the old architecture, narrow winding streets, tile roof houses, cobblestone sidewalks – it is magical. Spring is here and many of the trees and bushes are blooming, everything is green and lush. And through the greenery castles peek, like the backdrop to some sort of fairy tail.
We were met in the lobby by a handsome young man who handed us each a rose as part of International Women’s day celebration. We checked in, then he took us one by one up to our rooms – showed us how to work the lights, the air conditioning, etc. And then he was gone… And here I was in Portugal.
I had been awake for 32 hours. I was tired. I was smelly. My feet hurt. I didn’t know what to do first. So on autopilot I opened my suitcase, started to unpack. I couldn’t do it. I turned, shucked off my clothes and fell onto my bed. I had the presence of mind to set an alarm for 5:00 – our arrival reception – and then that was it. I was out like a light.
At 4:30 pm I woke up, slightly disoriented – where was I again? Then showered, changed and headed to the reception on the first floor. After a brief introduction and an outline of what the next 6 days would be like, we all headed downstairs for supper.
The supper was amazing. It lasted for 2 hours. Along with some excellent wine, we had a charcuterie board of cheeses, sausages, crackers, a paté of fish, fresh crusty rolls, pan fried pork, and some large prawns. It was delicious. The main course was a seafood risotto dish with chunks of fish, smoked oysters and giant prawns in delicate creamy risotto. After supper they brought out fruit plates and glass cups filled with what seemed like a mascarpone mousse with fresh fruit on top. I’m not certain it was mascarpone, but it certainly had the taste and texture. It was so good. Tiny cups of espresso rounded out the meal. I was full, happy, and had met other writers. All my anxiety about the trip was for nothing. I knew I was going to enjoy myself.
Finally, with a full belly and a happy heart, I bid goodnight to my fellow travellers and headed back to my room. What a great first day!
Tomorrow – Saturday – is our first workshop, and the afternoon is our first reading salon. I can’t wait!