17 Jul 2018 3133
Sandra Nobre {storyteller} www.shortstories.pt

A day at the PortoBay Liberdade

When we go to a hotel, do we make it a place to simply come and go among everything else we want to see at our destination, or do we make ourselves at home and enjoy what it has to offer, regardless of the cultural offerings and city novelties? Sometimes, a hotel can be like an island you don't want to leave. Such is the case of PortoBay Liberdade . ..

1:15 PM . Executive lunch

Men in suits discuss politics, lay out strategies and business plans, and close contracts at the table of the Bistrô4, between the recommendation of the day and a glass of wine – there are also female executives who mix business with pleasure, and who are sure not to miss dessert or a chocolate with their coffee to sweeten up the day. Then there are the others, the "casual Fridays" , regardless of the day of the week, planning cultural itineraries without forgetting stops for shopping, while exchanging likes for the pictures they publish on social networks, sharing with the whole world what they are eating, where they are at, and who they are with. From this standpoint, solitary travellers have become an endangered species because of Wi-Fi. We are never alone.

2:00 PM . Going around the block and a few more streets

Simply cross the street, and the Medeiros Ferreira House-Museum is on the opposite corner. Re-creating the experience of its founder, it houses an unequalled art collection with more than 2,000 works on display, from furniture to ceramics, watches and paintings. Two streets down is the Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museum of Cinema, founded in the 1950s, promoting the conservation and knowledge of film heritage. The exhibits take us through shadow plays and magic lantern shows, revisiting developments in cinema, with backstage glimpses of films in temporary exhibitions. On display are directors' film cycles, reviews of works and classics to be remembered. I go down to Avenida da Liberdade, once a 'Public Promenade', and stroll past the window displays as if on a catwalk for international fashion brands – Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Zadig & Voltaire, Miu Miu, Prada, Emporio Armani, Carolina Herrera, Hugo Boss, Ermenegildo Zegna, the Stivali multi-brands or Fashion Clinic. When I get to Restauradores, I take the Glória lift up to the São Pedro de Alcântara viewpoint to admire the "true" Lisbon of the Mouraria, Alfama, Graça and Castelo. Oops... almost 5 o'clock, tea time, as dictated by Queen Catherine of Bragança, accompanied by scones, and a good reason to go back to the hotel.

6:00 PM . A pause to breathe: the spa

People often forget how therapeutic a smile can be. Here at the SPA, they make us feel good from the moment we arrive. Let's move on to the ritual. The treatment rooms are named after exotic plants: ylang ylang, frangipani, rosewood. The light is subdued, which has a calming effect. For 55 minutes I indulge in a 'Desktop Recovery', ideal for those who suffer from tension and contractures after long hours spent on the computer. A massage to alleviate muscle pain is combined with stretches to help improve flexibility and correct posture. The Ayurvedic face and scalp massage, with the aroma of ginger, lavender, rosemary and black pepper, clears our heads. The sound of Tibetan bowls brings me back to reality. It's time for a mint and lemon tea in the relaxation room to prolong the experience. I feel like staying there for the rest of my trip. What if there was a room inside the spa? Can you imagine what it would be like? An island within an island, and I could be its only inhabitant... In no hurry whatsoever, I take my time between the sauna and the Turkish bath before going for a swim in the indoor pool. It doesn't matter if it's summer or winter, if it's a windy day... in here, the temperature is perfect. 

7:45 PM . The flight between the Rooftop and the Aviator6

"The hills under the wing of the aircraft had embedded their black shadows in the gold of the advancing evening. The plains grew luminous with long-enduring light; in this country they do not completely give up their gold (...)” (Night Flight, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). The light is reflected in the windows of the surrounding buildings. On the seventh floor, you see the city peeking out between the treetops and the roofs. There are lounge chairs for those who want to sit and meditate, and a jacuzzi for a different type of water experience. The bar is serving cocktails with music to chill out, despite the rather uninviting wind. "You can hear organ music: the plane.” (Night Flight, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). Next, I arrive on the ground floor. The Aviator6 bar is the perfect excuse for the welcome drink I had reserved for before dinner. A flute of sparkling wine, and I go into autopilot.

8:30 PM . Paris-Lisbon-Funchal

There's a French couple two tables over – I didn't hear them speaking for a good part of the night, but it's the cinematographic elegance that gives away their origins . Another less obvious couple, a blonde man of ample physique and a black woman of exotic beauty, speaking to each other in German. In front is an English couple, a woman with a clip for her dishevelled hair, shopping bags by the table, and an equally informal man. Sometimes, I forget where I am. The seat before me is empty, with a glass of wine accompanying the meal. Then comes dessert, the apex of a culinary journey combining three cities on one plate: choux pastry from Paris, "pastel de nata" filling from Lisbon and honey cake from Funchal. There are so many ways we can travel. 

10:00 PM . Counting stars on the balcony

" – How is it possible for one to own the stars?

– To whom do they belong? the businessman retorted, peevishly. 

– I don't know. To nobody.

– Then they belong to me, because I was the first person to think of it.

– Is that all that is necessary?

– Certainly! When you find a diamond that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you discover an island that belongs to nobody, it is yours. When you get an idea before any one else, you take out a patent on it: it is yours. So with me: I own the stars, because nobody else before me ever thought of owning them.

– Yes, that is true! –said the little prince. – And what do you do with them?

– I administer them. replied the businessman. "I count them and recount them. It is difficult. But I am a man who is naturally interested in matters of consequence." (The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

The night has now set in. It's difficult to see the stars among the city lights, but the brightest ones reveal themselves. I never get tired of this show. I don't count them, but I administer them in my thoughts, as if I were close to them. When I go into the room, I read on the pillow menu: "Feel like you're in the clouds." And that's where I go when I lay my head down on a visco-elastic pillow, with memory foam inside which gives a floating sensation and, among other things, reduces insomnia. I let myself be lulled to sleep, headed toward asteroid B612... maybe I'll find the little prince somewhere out there.

10:10 AM . Late breakfast

It would have felt good to say that I had spent an hour in the gym, or that I had put on my tennis shoes for a morning run, but if there's one word that goes well with the first hours of the morning, it's "laziness”. Let's add up as many calories as we can between getting out of bed, going to the coffee maker, six steps away near the TV, another four steps until getting up the courage to draw the curtains and greet the sun on the balcony, a few more, eight more steps to the shower and another ten between the indecision of what clothes to wear. It's just a matter of making the calculations... It's 10:10 AM, and judging by the hustle and bustle of the Bistrô 4, the PortoBay Liberdade's dining room par excellence at various times of the day, almost everyone has already left for a stroll through the city. I spend the morning on the patio, letting the cool breeze wake me up, with detox juice, fresh fruit, gluten-free bread, scrambled eggs, fresh cheese and coffee. Now it's time: "good morning". With so much to do in the city, it makes you want to leave the island. Or maybe not.

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