An office trip takes me to Paris, Rotterdam and Lisbon. During one of the coldest Februaries Europe has seen in a long time.
Paris is white when I land. A quick trip to the Louvre tells me snow can be beautiful. It can also be colder than anything I have quite experienced before. That coupled with intense jet lag forces me to abort my Sunday afternoon musings over the Mona Lisa.
Rotterdam is a day trip by train. Gare Nord and Rotterdam station are cold in ways that my bones can feel. But the sun is out in Rotterdam and there is little in the world more crisp and exhilarating than bright sunshine over snow.
Lisbon is warmer. Just about. But Lisboa has a Goa-ness to it that I can’t help but feel good about. And I realize India does play a big part in the country’s historical imagination. Vasco De Gama after all did discover India for the West. But I need to keep correcting people who insist on telling me Vasco touched land first in Goa.
The waterfront is lovely. The Discoveries Monument and the Belam Tower are to Lisbon what The Gateway is to Mumbai – monuments that look out into the sea waving ships outward and inward.
And I discover Lisboa is small. Everything of major note is around the waterfront. The Jeronimo Monastery is calm and serene and the Sunday morning Mass is absolutely lovely. The Maritime Museum is big… but I cannot help but compare it to the Viking Museum in Norway and be disappointed.
St. George’s Castle is my last stop. It has some terrific views over the city and it reminds me of Prague – red-tiled roofs, narrow cobbled streets, unexpected squares.
I take a flight back to Paris and my European sojourn is over. It has been nice enough, but leaves me wishing myself back among the smells, crowds and bustle of Mumbai. I land in the chaos that is Mumbai international airport and begin to re-think my wish.