In 2016 I thought I’d be living in Berlin, hanging out at hip bars and derelict clubs and reporting from the city that pulled at my heartstrings the year before. But life has a funny way of turning out. Instead, after reading an article on Margate, my head was spun in a very different direction. “I’m going to move to Margate,” were the words I found myself unexpectedly announcing to those around me. I might have been almost welded to London and other major cities, but my gut screamed Margate. A couple of weeks later, deposit and mortgage broker hastily arranged, I arrived armed with a notepad and pen for a day of viewings. I saw my flat (and knew it was the one as soon as I walked in and caught the high ceilings and skylights), had a glass of wine at a lovely pub down the road, caught a mesmerizing sunset, and I knew this would be my new home.
So Berlin was out the window, and instead six to eight months of my life was spent waiting for my flat to go through (I encountered a few bumpy curveballs like gazumping but hey that’s the rocky road of buying a place, I soon discovered). But it also meant I could wangle a stint in Lisbon towards the end of that maddening wait. The infamous Web Summit was on, I felt the lure of getting my teeth stuck into a new city and digging out some new stories, and so I packed up the contents of my flat, put my stuff in storage and flew to Lisbon. On the same day. Even for the most laid back person, that doesn’t come highly recommended.
But Lisbon was just what the soul needed. The sun on my face, trips to the beach, new neighbourhoods to explore, thighs like steel from climbing 1,452 stairs back to my Airbnb, and new people to hang out with. It was exciting, as any stint abroad usually is. I stayed in a co-living place which I wrote for the Guardian, reported from Web Summit, met entrepreneurs for other features, bought beautiful ceramics, hung out at far too many miradors and rooftop bars – Lisbon will give any city a run for its money when it comes to killer views – and knocked back as many caipirinhas as you can when they’re selling for several euros a pop.
The passion of those living in Lisbon also rubbed off a little. Everyone there – from taxi drivers to small business owners – were excited by the ripple of tourism the city is currently experiencing. My taxi driver from the airport slowed down his car and pointed out his favourite restaurants, a government official guided me around a new space for entrepreneurs. You could almost feel it in the air that something special was happening – and perhaps because of the crazy level of road works, you were never far away from seeing the cusp of the change. And at a time when so many countries are closing their borders, Lisbon is very much welcoming everyone in. That in itself is worth raising a caipirinha for.