After experiencing the nightmare of dealing with a jet-lagged baby, we resolved not to travel across time zones until it was time for us to leave Moldova. So when S’s parents suggested taking a winter trip together, there was no question as to who would have to cross the Atlantic. We considered various destinations, but given the difficulty of flying out of Chisinau, and the fact that we wanted to escape Moldova’s sub-zero temperatures for somewhere both warm and close, our choices were rather limited. We settled on Lisbon because it was about as close to a midway point between Moldova and Maine as we could find and, more importantly, because it is one of Europe’s pleasantest cities to visit in winter.
What started out as a small family vacation quickly mushroomed into a pretty sizable reunion of international friends. Starting with S’s sophomore year in high school, her parents hosted half a dozen foreign exchange students, with many of whom they’ve maintained contact. S’s exchange sister from France came for the week, bringing her husband and two-year-old son. Luis, a Portuguese exchange student whom S’s family hosted when she was already in college, drove up from southern Portugal to spend a day with us. And S’s host sister from Costa Rica, who is now finishing her graduate studies in Spain, joined us for the bulk of our stay in Lisbon.
Because we planned to spend the whole week in Lisbon and only venture out of the capital for day trips, we decided to book an apartment through AirBnB in lieu of staying in a hotel. S’s mom found a great 3-bedroom in the heart of downtown that promised to sleep 11 people. Of course, the owners must have been counting on 11 single college students on a tight budget. Even before the various last-minute additions to our travel party, the apartment was going to be a tight fit. Given the number of friends and family who ultimately wound up meeting us in Lisbon, and throwing two small children into the mix, having everybody stay in one apartment was simply not tenable.
Our flight was late Saturday evening, and we split the morning and early afternoon between packing and frantically searching for a second apartment to rent close by. There was nothing available for the full week on such short notice, but we did eventually cobble together two rentals that allowed us to spend most of the week in the same apartment building. This gave us the flexibility to alternate baby caring duties so that everyone had a bit of a break and felt on vacation.
Of course, as with any trip involving last-minute logistical challenges, late-night flights, and screaming babies, we had our fair share of mishaps, stress, and frustrations. Fortunately, our brains our wired in such a way that negative emotions fade far faster than positive memories, and we formed more than enough of the latter to significantly outweigh the former. When we look back on this week in Lisbon, we’ll remember it as a city of music, blue skies, and great food, where we managed to reconnect with many people near and dear to us.