From Here You Can Almost See the Sea

The Italian cover of Fire, published by De Agostini. Click to enbiggen. The text means something along the lines of, “Her mystique is a gift as sharp as a blade.” 😀 ————>

My subject heading is a David Gray song (click here to listen) that popped into my head the instant I walked into my hotel room in Lisbon and saw the view of the river. (Lisbon is situated on the Atlantic, and on the Tagus River, which flows into the Atlantic, as per this map.)

I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of this city. I’ve heard San Francisco compared to Sydney, but why have I never heard it compared to Lisbon? I can see the Sydney/San Francisco connection, which has to do both with attractiveness and with the progressive culture, but LISBON is a city of extreme hills and close knit buildings and colorful rowhouses like San Francisco’s (though the buildings are older and more European in feel, naturally), not to mention a gorgeous reddish-gold bridge that made me blink when I saw it because it looked so much like the Golden Gate bridge. (You can see Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge, and read about its history, here.)

I’m not a travel writer and I don’t have the touch for it — or the time. I’ll just say that careening through the cobbled streets of Lisbon today, up and around hills that require crazy and skilled driving, then walking on the handmade stone sidewalks, surrounded by buildings with pink and green and blue and yellow tile facades, trees and parks, views of the water from all the high places… I was stunned. So stunned that I’m giving Barcelona short shrift in this post, but I promise, it was beautiful, too. (The paella was also beautiful!)

Have I mentioned lately that book people are the world’s best people?

On the train from Madrid to Barcelona yesterday morning, I saw teeny little towns built into steep hills — beautiful old dust-colored buildings clinging to rock, the sort you enter at street level and then need to climb down three flight of stairs if you want to exit through the back door. The landscape reminded me of parts of California — young, rocky hills that people who grew up in the old, gentle hills of the Appalachians (like I did) would call mountains.

This post feels all over the place, I’m trying to describe too many things too fast, but it’ll have to do, because it’s either this or nothing.

The Portuguese edition of Graceling should be released in late May.