2018 travels and what’s planned for 2019…Starting from Lisbon:)

Usually after the New Year I make a bit of a statistic post just to realise how was the last year..This time it comes with a bit of a delay and actually after almost 6 months since the last post about my travels in Spain. Apart from my long trip to Spain in the summer I have also travelled to Berlin in May and Paris in July, as well as twice to Poland in September and December, so travel wise it was rather an eventful year. Also personally it was a year that changed everything for the better:) And professionally, I was involved in many productions this time as an alto in a KorMalta as well as in performance of Orfeo and Majnun for Valletta 2018 which was quite a different experience for me-being a part of the chorus in an opera production.

So you can say that in all aspects everything turned out even better than I imagined or expected:)

This year I am planning to focus more on the solo piano apart from my usual accompaniment engagements. I find that is very important to continue developing my skills as a solo pianist otherwise I end up in a comfortable zone of collaborative piano which I love but sometimes I feel I need to be challenged more. This year I will be presenting 3 recitals with a focus on Polish piano compositions less known in Malta and it all starts on 3rd April, so not much time left;)

Travelling will be important as usual but maybe this year I won’t venture on very long trips as financially I have to be a bit wiser, I need time to practise piano more and maybe it would be good to spend whole summer in Malta with that special someone, for a change;)

2019 started with a short trip to Gozo and a lovely time accompanying at the masterclasses of renowned soprano Miriam Gauci and great time spent in Xagħra.

And then in late February a short city break in Lisbon. I’ve visited Portugal’s capital long time ago when I was working on the cruise ships but I’ve never had enough time to visit the city properly and even now, those 5 days seemed not enough to soak all the atmosphere that this city has to offer. We stayed in a lovely neighbourhood of Chiado, very conveniently located in a centre even though when approached from the wrong side it meant almost 6 floors to climb – Lisbon is very hilly at times.

First day was spent on general orientation and getting the vibe of the city, wandering on the steep streets of Alfama, admiring all the colourful trams and tuk-tuks and enjoying warm weather in the end of February. We actually escaped one of the worst storm with strong winds and hail in Malta and enjoyed sunny almost summer weather in Portugal, how great.

The next two days were spent on visiting the Castelo de Sao Jorge and Jeronimos Monastery in Belem. The castle offered beautiful views of Lisbon but even from the metro station there is a rather steep climb to it and the monastery is a perfect example of Manueline style in architecture. Just be aware that you might have to queue for the entry to the latter. We visited on Sunday and had to wait a bit to get tickets.

Last day was spent in Sintra– 40 minutes train ride from Lisbon where on the hills there are palaces, castles, you name it, with the beautifully preserved ruins of Moorish castle as well as crazy, colorful Palace de Pena. Here we opted for the tuk-tuk which take to the top of the hill where you still need to walk a bit more to visit the Palace de Pena and then not far away there are ruins of Moorish castle. Actually half a day is not even enough to visit everything that Palace de Pena and surroundings have to offer and also be aware to be quite fit for all the walking up and down. I have to admit that half way on the site of the Moorish castle I refused to go higher up as I was exhausted. As you can see from this post -climbing is not a passion of mine;)

The overall atmosphere in Lisbon was great, full of cafes, great food in cosy restaurants in moderate prices, house wine which is top notch , not to mention porto and pastel de nata- the traditional custard sweet which we got quite addicted over the few days we spent there. Also what struck me in Lisbon was the amount of bookshops be it new or second- hand, all situated quite close to each other. Rarely nowadays you see so many bookshops in cities which means in their country tradition of reading is not gone, how wonderful. We even visited the longest working bookshop-Livraria Bertrand in Europe or maybe the whole world:) I just wished my Portuguese would be up to reading standards which obviously is not. Although I have to admit, as I am a bit of a language afficionado, I took few lessons of Portuguese on italki before this trip to be able to at least order food, buy tickets and etc. and I really enjoyed it immensely. Thanks to my Spanish, generally I could understand most of the grammar and even vocabulary when written down, but listening and speaking is a different matter. The sounds are completely distinct- full of nasal vowels and “sh” sounds. Really interesting and I am tempted to later on take this language a bit more seriously. Definitely I would need to work on pronunciation and speaking skills, I even got one book from Portugal to help me with that.

But back to Lisbon, we tasted some fantastic local food and even found a lunch place- Carmo for 12 EUR 3 course lunch with wine, amazing. Also they have really nice bread and plenty of small bakeries around and coffee, well I got quite addicted to galao which is type of latte. Our favourite breakfast spot – Mesa com Pao was situated close to our flat and we enjoyed sweet and savoury snacks from there every morning. Also 2 small restaurants on the steps next to Rossio station are worth mentioning- the little wine bar with great selection of wine, tapas ( grilled chorizo is a must) and porto and a very knowledgeable owner and another not assuming El-Rei restaurant where we saw people lining up in the evening and managed to have late lunch there. Amazing quality food as well.

To sum up, I would definitely go back to Lisbon as I what I missed was a day or two to just relax and observe the world passing by. We were quite busy visiting and walking and even though it was a great break and mentally we definitely got more relaxed, it was quite intense. Next on the travelling list is Easter in Poland which should be more relaxing. But before that a lot of focus towards my solo concert:)

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