January. It can be a funny old time. Both the hope and excitement of a new year and the come down from Christmas. For me, usually it’s when things finally quiet down after a busy wedding season. A time to take stock and spring clean both my business and my home. I love nothing better than pulling everything out and getting rid of the crap, so therapeutic. I have noticed over the last couple of years that I find myself getting what I have affectionately coined- ‘the Instagram Blues’ each January. I have more time than usual on my hands and I get sucked into the rabbit warren of Instagram stories, looking at the highlight reels of everyone’s life forgetting this is their ‘best bits’ and feeling generally a bit rubbish.
We all know by now that social media can have a big impact on our mental health so after a couple of years of recognising this pattern I knew I needed something in January for me. Something to stop me looking sidewise and live my own life rather than vicariously looking at others through a rose tinted instagram filter. Having busy summers for wedding season I’m always forced to take trips I’d like to in the Spring and doing a January break with my best mate was one of the best ideas I’ve had in ages. If you can budget for it after the inevitable Christmas spending splurge it’s the best prevention (rather than cure!) for the January blues.
So sod dry January, stop the new year dieting and have a holiday. We threw it all to the wind and decided to just enjoy ourselves. One bottle of champagne down at Heathrow and an impulse spending splurge at Mulberry duty free later, we boarded the easy two and a half hour flight to Lisbon and arrived at the beautiful H10 Duque De Loule Hotel a mere half hour after that feeling fabulous. The H10 is brilliantly located for the airport and town and taxis in Lisbon are super affordable and easy to come by. The hotel it’s self has a boutiquey feel to it with lovely décor and a really fabulous bar and restaurant where we tried some of the most delicious local ten year old tawny port I have ever tasted. Of course being locally made Port tasting in Portugal is a must if you’re visiting. All the local wines we sampled were also excellent. As I say, sod dry January.
On our first day we mooched the beautiful Alfama back streets, wandered the castle walls, lunched the Time Out Market and did visited historic Belem- site of both ancient and beautiful architecture as well as the famed Pasteis de Belem– famed as the best custard tarts in the city. Obviously an essential sampling for any visitor and numer one on my priority list as I’m a bit of a (pastel de) nata nut! After a lot of walking we finished the day with a wonderful dinner at Cantinho do Avillez. Anywhere filled with locals is a good tip in my book and this restaurant is cosy and elegant but relaxed. In fact I found that Lisbon was a very relaxed and unpretentious city, much more so than Paris or Rome.
On day two we took a half day trip to Sintra, though the train journey is an easy 35 minutes I’d recommend only doing Sintra if you have several days in the Lisbon area as really it was a lot to cram into such a short time. We came back to Lisbon in the afternoon and were transported back in time riding the famous number twenty eight tram. Do watch out for pick pockets as Tripadvisor says, a kindly old man gave us a nod and a knowing look towards a suspicious looking character so those of us less in the local know where able to remain vigilant. After hoping off the tram we skipped over to the LX factory, a hub for creative shops, restaurants and bars and enjoyed a few cocktails and some tapas on our final evening in the city.
In two days we scratched the surface and while January was not perhaps the best month to visit (I’d love to pop back in April or May when it’s warmer and the roof top bars open and the city comes alive) it did just the trick of delaying the return to the office and reality. And gave me the extended break I really needed after such a busy 2017. I’m now back at my desk, rested, re-energised and excited for more adventures and memories to come in twenty eighteen. Right, where’s my to do list….
Boundless thank yous to my dear friend the talented writer Amber Massie-Blomfield for being endlessly patient while I asked her to pose for portraits around Lisbon. And for always listening.