Elizabeth “Eenie” Bernard ’18
Majors: English-Creative Writing; French Studies
Wellesley-in-Aix in Aix-en-Provence, France
In February, I spent a weekend in Lisbon, Portugal with four of my gal pals, and it was honestly one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. Our airbnb host told us that in 1775 a huge earthquake struck the city and almost the entirety of Lisbon had to be rebuilt; countless masons from all across Europe joined in the process of reconstructing the city, resulting in the wonderful amalgamation of buildings that delighted me from street to street. They’re all small apartment buildings that are either painted colors that widely range across the possibilities of the rainbow or are tiled on theoutside, lending an incredible character to the city and giving us a vibrant sense of the life there on our first expedition out. The city genuinely enthralled me, with it’s steep hills and tiny roads, the blocks with buildings on one side of the street that varied from light yellow to tiled in blue and white to bright pink with turquoise shutters, and the other side of the road revealed an open vista of the city sprawling towards the sea beyond.
The first evening was magnificent in its unknown magic, but our second day was absolutely stunning in every way. We woke up early to take the train to Sintra, a town about 15 miles north of the center city of Lisbon, and I’ve never been more enchanted in my life. My time spent in India last year was enrapturing in a different way, a way that touched me spiritually, but it did so in a way that I was anticipating. For Sintra (and Lisbon itself), however, I had zero expectations, and thus was completely overwhelmed by the charm and mystery that was around every corner. The day was deeply overcast and although the rain stopped shortly after we arrived in Sintra, the clouds remained, shrouding the castles at the top of the mountains in mist and making the whole day feel like a dream. We climbed up to the castles through a thick man-made forest, one that is full of trees and plants from all over the world planted over a hundred years ago, when the plans for the castles were first drawn up. When we finally got to the top, after climbing ever upwards through clouds and steps of stone or enormous tree roots, the Pena Palace suddenly emerged from the mist, a castle that felt to me like the grand embodiment of all I loved about Lisbon: the bright colors, the different tiles, and a touch of a fairy-tale feeling. It was absolutely breathtaking, and unlike any castle I’ve ever seen before. We walked from room to room with our mouths open, gasping throughout the entire thing. Because we were so high up, the wind shrieked around the turrets and nearly pulled our very stylish plastic ponchos (which we bought and wore in purposefully in ROYGBIV formation) out of our hands. It was awe-inducing.
When we finally took stock of the time quickly slipping away, we descended the mountain and took a bus to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe, and one of the most incredible coasts I’ve ever seen. The wind was howling and the clouds to the east were quickly darkening and growing closer, which made being on the edge of the continent that much more thrilling. For a few minutes though, the sun shone through the mist and our faces were warm despite the wind. The cliffs were steep and drastic, the water slowly crashing in huge waves down below, but somehow the ferocity of the weather and the sea transformed into this kind of delicacy; the waves were so far below us that they seemed gentle, the wind that whipped across the sea grass moved it in rustling undulations, the sun warmed the rocks we pranced across and I had a smile plastered on my face.
It was such a wonderful weekend, with such incredible friends. We laughed so hard I nearly threw up on more than one occasion, and had so much genuine fun together that just thinking about it makes me smile. My heart is full to the brim.