There’s probably too much to tell, so I won’t bore you with too many details. Seven weeks, seven hundred thousand steps, seventy mosquitoes, seventeen art galleries, seven churches, eight countries, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Make it nine countries, if you count the smallest country in the world, Vatican City. We rode in seven planes, ten trains, eleven buses and one tram, the 28 tram of Lisbon. It was yellow and magical like in the movie, Spirited Away.
We got back home and fell into the arms of spring. Melbourne. It was seven degrees centigrade. My cat scratched me when I got back home. I thought about London and how it was cold and a little lonely and how the tube is like a Turkish bathhouse. I thought about the Louvre, overrated. I thought about Paris, no high-rises and living on pillows of croissants from quaint boulangeries. I remember smoking on the sidewalks of Café De Flore, with the ghosts of Jean Paul Satre and Simone De Beauvoir.
I thought about Venice, those canals, imagine living there, so much temptation. I thought about Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. I felt like Dicky Greenleaf, jazz music and vespers. I thought about Florence and how we stumbled upon Carlo Lorenzini’s grave, Pinocchio’s author. I thought about Rome and the Vatican and all the nuns and ministers and the homeless and the beggars. It was all sort of strange and sad.
But then I forgot I had been to Germany the week before and how our Berlin friends drove us to this abandoned mansion, which the Nazis used for entertaining during the 30s. And there was a lake with ducks and water snakes and swinging vines and a crumbling bowling alley, where Himmler would shoot down the bowling pins with his Lugar, apparently. I thought about Berlin, techno-music and drugs, artists and musicians everywhere. Australian’s everywhere, dropped out, like the shoe-gaze music of the 90s. Berlin was punk I thought. But punk, what is punk these days? I thought about all the counter culture punks of the day. I thought about how they all own picket fences and Range Rovers, now. I liked Berlin though, she was sort of mean and edgy and it reminded me of Sydney, when Sydney had character.
I missed Amsterdam. I met “S” for a drink in the North. He was working in the kitchens, losing himself to the moon and music, and it all sort of made sense. Amsterdam is the antithesis of Australia. Amsterdam lets you be wild and free, so you can work the world out for yourself. I remember we almost jumped on the wrong jet plane, a small private plane that was heading to the Red Sea, to a place called Jeddah. I was wearing a yellow beanie, so I sort of fit in. We ended up in Barcelona, nevertheless. Our Airbnb host, Giovanna, now she was a dandy. She was an Iris Apfel sort of character. She did yoga and went for 6am bike rides. She was once a legendary interior designer back in her day, designer to the stars. I told her I loved Fellini. But Barcelona is Gaudi. His architecture is ridiculously beautiful, just heaven.
Remember how I was telling you about this magical little tramcar, the 28 tramcar? That’s in Alfama, Portugal. That’s where we end our journey. You have to ride it. Boy, Sintra and Lisbon: the food, the people, Fado (crestfallen music), tiles and beaches, those beaches, heaven. I saw a man and his black kelpie dog paddle-board all the way out to sea. I remember thinking, if this were happening in Australia, there’d be a stupid reporter from The Project or Sunrise with a dumb microphone stuck in the poor dogs face. But no-one cared here. There was no Instagramm-ing or Snapchatting and this old man and his black dog, they just drifted quietly along the shoreline, before disappearing behind the waves. It was sort of a neat ending to all the madness that Europe offered.
We would like to thank all the people / organizations who invited The Riparian Times to be their VIP guests.
Sketch London, Tate Modern, Van Gogh Museum, Four Seasons Hotel Paris, Anne Frank House, Fundació Joan Miró in Spain and finally apologies to the team at Museumstraat in Brussels, after our train decided to retire itself in the French countryside.
If you would like to purchase our full recommendations on all things Europe, reach out to JD via the proper avenues.