Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Having blagged our way on board our flight from London Gatwick to Faro with 12 over sized and overweight bags, we relaxed on the 3 hour journey, enjoying a vodka and tea, the best marzipan in the world, giggling about old shared memories ... and talking of grief and loss. Cliff ... and my old friend's grief over her father, best friend ... and more recently yet another extremely close friend.

The flight went quickly and we saw the Algarve coastline, beautiful and clear even in February.

After squeezing the luggage and ourselves into Maria's car ... she treated us to an hour of her raleigh driving (having 30 years experience of being a raleigh driver) along the sea road from Faro to Monchique. We stopped for dinner at the bottom of the private dirt road that leads up to Nicky's new home for dinner, meeting the locals, and I was relieved to find that my Spanish allowed me to pick up a few words of Portuguese, as well as comprehension of the menu. After topping up on food, nicotine and vodka, we walked up the dark road to look round the villa.

I loved Nicky's new home immediately, and started taking photos to share with old friends on Facebook, as well as capturing the property as it was, before she starts cleaning, decorating and updating it.

The views, even on a cloudy rainy February day were stunning. Mountains. The Atlantic.

But when I stepped into the lounge - a solitary room at the top of this house ... the magic of the place hit me. I could sense the elderly Canadian couple who once lived and loved there ... and felt like crying ... but with empathy. The lady of the house had lived there as a widow for 20 years, and kept loving her home, leaving behind her so many exquisite touches around the place ... and it felt good that my old school-friend would be taking over this home and loving it just as they did.

The chandelier comes from the Palais de Versailles apparently, and there was evidence left behind everywhere of a long life together - signed menu's from Monaco, a portrait of their beloved dachshunds, a paperweight from Harvard, decorated matchboxes - from halycon days spent entertaining on the amazing terrace that encircles the property. I could imagine my parents befriending these people. I could empathize with the lady living there for 20 years after losing her soulmate. And I could imagine my friend living there too, keeping some of the features, completing this life's work with taste, care and respect.

I could also imagine long weekends yet to come .... and of us enjoying this home, browsing through the books left on the shelves, enjoying the sun and views along with the food that this region produces - lemons, oranges, fresh fish, olives, salads ....

I so missed Cliff. I so mourned the loss of our future. The villa of our own in Spain that would never be. I missed his exuberance ... the excitement and pleasure he would have felt exploring this home. Little memories left .... the books, records, artwork and silverware left from a life now over. I missed that he could have renovated this place for Nicky.

My sadness evaporated upon returning outside into the sunshine, and my eyes drank in the beautiful gardens, the trees and the incredible views. A sense of space. We ran around like children imagining how Nicky could decorate and enhance the living spaces. A circular room. Retaining the beautiful hand-painted Portuguese ceramic tiles, along with the flooring, the simplicity of the silk curtains, the white-washed walls, the ironwork, the old cast iron lighting throughout. The nooks, crannies and secret hideaways.

After two relaxing days, spent talking, sharing and reminiscing ... as well as excitement over Nicky's move to Portugal, snoozing, music and laughter as well as some moments of poignant nostalgia, sadness too .... her three dogs joined us, and then even the rented villa - her temporary residence until contracts are signed - felt like home. I realized how tired I was - and am thankful to Nicky for letting me nap when exhaustion swept over me from time to time.

Home. And now time for me to return to my own dogs and home. I didn't want to leave for I knew that I would half expect Cliff to be waiting for me there.

And en route to the airport, I had to take a big gulp when I realized how near to Andalucia I was. How close I was to another life. Another time. A fifteen year old who knew not what life held in store for her. A wonderful magical man. Then losing him. How obliviously happy she was. Naive. Full of hope and joy.
And Maria may have sensed my thoughts. For she turned to me and said, "you two girls. You were so spoiled living in different countries, going to the school you attended. It left you trusting the world, when you cannot and should not."
Wise words indeed. For I have learned that there is nothing certain or guaranteed in this lifetime. In the hardest way imaginable.
But we boarding school children - we are resilient. We may trust when we should not. But I'll take that over being bitter and cynical any day. It was one of the qualities that he most loved about me. And I will not allow this grief to destroy that.


  1. Beautiful post and wise words. I'm glad you had a nice weekend in Portugal. The house is beautiful! I found it so sweet and poignant that you sensed the elderly couple who lived there before. Heightened awareness and sensitivity to all...that's our Boo! Love you!

  2. Boo.. this was an incredibly beautiful post. truly touched my heart.. your words described the magic and elegance of your visit and the missing him as well. Truely and adventure, always a memory.. and isnt that what life is all about.. the memories.. hugs to you..

  3. thanks Deb and Barbara :-)

    It was a good trip and I feel rested. I'm so happy my friend will be taking over this villa ... she has asked the realtor to find out where the couple is buried so we can take flowers next time I visit ...

  4. Lovely post, lovely photos. I'm glad you had this weekend. The sadness always seeps through, doesn't it? Love, TZ