About King Lizard

21 year old artist with the soul of Jim Morrison infatuated with oil paint and red wine

São Luís

Hey, it’s me again. It’s been a whirlwind these past few days- the second we got off the bus in Milfontes (fresh off of a 3 hour trip through the wonderfully scenic country that is Portugal), our host Marta de Menezes picked us up, accompanied by three other artists who were staying at Cultivamos Cultra as well; Manuel Fertado, a Portugese intellectual who can talk for hours about art and philosophy and just life in general (and refuses to go to bed until every pot in the kitchen is scrubbed cleaner than when it was first manufactured), Maja Smrekar, a Slovenian artist with an infectious laugh and two adorable dogs who I have come to adore (Byron, a border collie who has mastered the art of forcing fetch upon all of humankind and Ada, an Icelandic angel of a puffball who looks like an arctic fox and who’s likeness I must secure for my own some day- Lord Byron and Lady Lovelace), and Alan Tod, a mustachioed, red and white striped shirt wearing, rolls-his-own-ciagrettes French artist “working for Love” with an impressive green thumb and understanding of the world (seriously, look up “French Artist” and I guarantee Alan will pop up grinning ear to ear). After a brief introduction, we all agreed that it was time for lunch. I, of course, hopped into the car that had the dogs in the back and we zipped off to the restaurant (almost all the cars in Portugal are tiny and efficient, probably because the roads are so small). Of course, the first restaurant that we dine in is located right on the coast of Southern Portugal, and the view from our table consisted of high, treacherous looking cliffs that fell down to kiss the frothy, tumultuous waves that stretched out into sparkling oblivion as far as the eye could see. Unreal. Once again, I opted for an an authentic Portuguese meal; roasted squid with sweet potatoes (the sweet potatoes in Portugal are much different; they’re yellow instead of orange and far sweeter- they tasted almost like maple). After we finished eating we ordered every single dessert on the menu (when you do this in Portugal it is called “the pajama”, which I had to explain meant “pjs” or “sleep clothes” to me). After inhaling the fantastic false pjs and slurping down some much needed espresso, Maja, Ellen, Katie and I decided to simultaneously stretch our legs and take the dogs for a walk whilst also exploring the coastline (I found it pretty amusing that I would still be wading into the waters of the Atlantic- would it still be considered coast to coast if its the same coast? These are the thoughts that keep me up at night- that, and the jet lag that I still can’t seem to shake). After a lengthy exploration, we somehow managed to climb back up the cliff face without falling, packed into Maja’s tiny blue car and sped off to the Portuguese version of a supermarket. Under Marta’s instruction, we collected a few things for dinner and *finally* we left Milfontes and headed towards the village where we would be spending the majority of our time; São Luís (of course the road there was through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen; rolling hills, fantastic smelling flora, rivers, farm animals- all against a seemingly always clear, perfectly blue sky. The air was so delicious I toyed with the idea of sticking the entire upper half of my body out the window and opening my mouth just to inhale more of it, but the road was so twisty I fear I would have been flung from the car and my trip would have been cut much too short. So I stayed seated, unwillingly). São Luis is a small village with a lot of character and beautifully colored houses, and you could probably walk from one side of the village to the other in only 30 minutes time. We pulled into Marta’s farmhouse and it was gorgeous- so old and rustic, like something out of a fairytale or a vintage foreign film. We got the grand tour, of course, before finally settling all of our things into our room (Katie and I would be sharing one- the beds were so tiny and low to the ground but I loved it. We even had our own view of the street.) For dinner, Marta prepared an incredible fresh vegetable soup, which was accompanied by bread both baked and picked up from the town market that morning (so soft and sweet it didn’t need any butter at all for taste) and sautéd sausage and chorizo on the side (holy shit. That is all.) And, of course, a refreshing glass (or two) of Portuguese Vinho Verde. If dinner is going to be like every night, I will be coming back to the States quite a bit larger than when I left. No matter- one can always jog or something right? Right. Anyway- after hilarious dinner conversation about life and love and European vs American politics (you know its bad when people from other countries are even shitting on Trump…) followed by our “dessert” (acorn liqueur.. surprisingly sweet and addicting. Squirrls might know what they’re doing after all), we all said our goodnights and I hit my bed harder than my pup Maverick hit his head off the wall at the bottom of the stairs when he sneezed and lost his balance (don’t worry, he has a hard head and he was fine). Damn, I miss that goof of a creature. Mav, if you’re reading this, I love you and I miss you and you better not be making out with anyone else while I’m gone.. because I will find out. 

The Land of the Lotus Eaters

After being thoroughly hassled by the much too big for his own britches man at the Portugal customs (I honestly thought he was going to send us right on back to the States), Katie and I finally found ouriselves in Lisbon. We met up with the raddest of rad Professors, Ellen Wetmore, and quickly found ourselves in a quaint little Lisbon apartment owned by artist/our host, Marta de Menezes. Marta, who was supposed to be meeting us there, unfortunately could not make it (she injured her knee from dancing too hard at her birthday party a few days ago- I liked her already). No matter, we would be seeing her the very next day at her gorgeous farm/house down São Luis, which is where we will be spending most of our time and doing all of our artwork. Despite being in desperate need of a hot shower and a soft bed after such a long trip, we all decided that hunger and wanderlust far outweighed our not-so-primal need for comfort, and after a quick change and brushing of the teeth, we set off into the cool Lisbon night. Luckily, Ellen knew just where to go and we easily navigated our way through the city’s subway system and in just around fifteen minutes found ourselves on the coast in a section of Lisbon called Cais do Sodré. As beautiful as it all was, we only had one thing on our mind at the time- FOOD. Ellen led us through the streets to this place called the Time Out Eatery, and it was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my entire life, which honestly turned out to be the theme for the rest of the night (and I’m hoping the entire trip as well). I will attach a picture of Time Out to this post, but just for kicks I’ll try to literally explain it as well. Picture a huge, rectangular space. In the middle of this space, there are countless tables- high tops and low tops, and almost every single table is filled with people hanging out, eating, drinking, whatever gives them pleasure (and is allowed in public). Think school cafeteria/University dining hall, but with much more class and far better food. And all along the borders of this space, instead of walls there were these little mini kitchens with take-away counters. They had it all- pork, fish, pizza, sushi, authentic Portuguese cuisine, even dessert and yes, a very large bar. It was glorious, and I had absolutely no idea where to start or what to get. Ellen and Katie quickly decided to go for the fresh pork roast, and although it was incredibly tempting I held back and instead set off to explore my options (and find an ATM because I was fresh out of Euros). Desperate to start immediately immersing myself within the culture, I made a beeline for any place advertising “Authentic Portuguese food”. There were quite a few, and believe you me the decision was not an easy (or quick) one, but eventually I chose to get what I saw almost everyone around me eating- the “special of the day”, which was a seafood tomato risotto garnished with two full prawns (or “shrimpys with their heads still on”, a direct response from my dad after I sent him a picture of my first meal in Portugal). I patiently waited for the chef to make my meal and then happily carried it back to the bar to join Ellen and Katie. They had already finished their food, so I just plopped myself down at the bar and stuffed my face full of the delicious, mouthwatering risotto. Ever seen a girl peel and eat prawns at a bar? No? Don’t worry, I made it look hot. Since I was already sitting at the bar, I decided to help myself to some wine as well. Ellen recommended I try Vinho Verde (yes, that does in fact mean “green wine” for all you bilingual fellas out there). I was a little skeptical at first, since I generally do not enjoy chilled/clear wine, but this, folks, was a game changer. I downed it much quicker that I expected to and immediately ordered another. Kind of like champagne (but not as fizzy), Vinho Verde is native to Northern Portugal and apparently quite difficult to find in the US (and the ones that you do find, according to Ellen, are awful)… which means I will more than likely be bringing a few bottles home with me. After I finished my dinner (and we indulged in a few desserts), we once again took to the streets of Lisbon. Ellen led us through some back alleyway that opened up onto the “Pink Street” (yes, it was literally a pink street), which, she informed us, is Lisbon’s most prominent gay district. Very cool. There was a strip club immediately to our left and countless bars and restaurants lined the street, which was filled with people boasting some of the best style I had ever seen. I must have looked so tragically American, staring doe-eyed at everything and everyone with my head on a permanent swivel, but I just couldn’t help myself. The buildings in Lisbon are all very tall, and to our right there was one that had this incredible street art/sculpture running up the entirety of the wall that was so alluring it made us stop in our tracks to look, and what we came to notice was that at the bottom of this sculpture there was a door. This door was open, but inside it was very dark. We could see people going in, but nobody was coming out. Immediately, our curiosity was piqued. Ellen, Katie and I exchanged an excited glance and we made our way towards the door. Something was pulling us in, we just didn’t know what. As we climbed up the two flights of stairs, provocative artwork that was painted directly on the walls greeted us at every turn. With me in the lead, we finally reached the top of the stairs… and entered into the most psychedelic party/lounge/bar/gathering of people I have ever seen. I could feel Jim Morrison’s soul inside me screaming as we made our way through each room- I can’t explain the feeling, but it was almost as if I had been there before, or at least some place like it (which only reinforces my claim as the Lizard King reincarnated). It was dark and hazy with smoke, and the sound of music heavy with bass carefully intermingled with the different voices/accents that floated through the air. Each room was different- some were washed in a harsh red light, some in the bright purple glow of a black light. One room had walls made up entirely of books. There were all kinds of different couches and tables and chairs in every room, and almost every single one was occupied. Nobody seemed to give us a second glance, it was almost as if they didn’t even see us… Like they couldn’t see us, even if they wanted to. They all seemed to be completely immersed in this bizarre world, lounging around and smirking at us, like they knew some kind of secret that they promised to share with us if we just so happened to stick around long enough to become one of them. We had entered into the Land of the Lotus Eaters, of this I was sure. Pleasure mixed with a hint of danger and uncertainty danced around every alluring corner, but luckily Ellen had her wits about her and found the exit before we got the chance to consume the mythological flower be trapped there forever. I felt like I had just stepped out of a dream, one I have had many, many times before- and I had the strangest feeling that I would once again return to this place. Anyway, after we left (escaped), we once again took to the streets of Lisbon and eventually wandered into a massive pavilion where an orchestra just happened to be playing a public concert. The music was beautiful, Lisbon was beautiful- all my my expectations of this place had been both met and exceeded. We stayed for a few songs and then decided that it was high time we found our way back to the the subway and the apartment. It was a bit chilly, so we stopped along the way for something to warm us up (I got some Irish whiskey ‘to go’. Thats right, they literally put some whiskey in a paper cup and sent me on my way for only 4 euros. Fantastic service here, 10/10). Despite watching some girl crumple to the floor right next to us on the far too crowded subway car (don’t worry, she was fine, eventually), we got back to the apartment without a hitch and swan dove into our beds. Although we were leaving quite early the next morning, we would be back in Lisbon the following weekend (conveniently during the city’s annual festival), so I didn’t have to say goodbye just yet. Next stop, São Luis!

World of Whiskies and Immunitea – The Road to Lisbon

So.. here goes my first blog post. Currently running on about 1 hour of sleep whilst simultaneously nursing a 5 hour layover en route to Lisbon at the ever glorious and far too big (we had to take a subway AND a bus just to get from one terminal to another) Heathrow Airport in London. To my surprise.. when we arrived in this fair city it was sunny and hot…. thats right folks, sunny.. and hot. Not a rain cloud in sight. A well known rain connoisseur myself, you can only imagine my initial disappointment in a place known for its overcast weather behaving in such a way. Blasphemy. But alas.. my spirit did not dwindle and I entered Heathrow with an open (but mostly tired) mind. Since we jumped about 5 hours ahead in time (planes are time travel devices and I don’t care what anyone has to say otherwise) and it was now 10am, my trusty travelling companion Katie and I decided that the logical thing for us to do was get some breakfast. I suggested seafood but Katie told me thats not ‘breakfast food’. Boo. Who cares about social rules anyway. After meandering around for a bit, we finally decided on this chic little restaurant called Pilot, decorated with fake plants and lots of mirrors to feed the apetite of your every day adventure seeking narcissist. The menu had some very interesting (and very British) choices.. such as Bubbles and Squeak? If anyone knows what that is please inform me because I still remain baffled. After carefully deliberating over the menu, I opted for a Bellini (peach juice and prosecco is my weakness) and eggs and toast… which was actually in fact eggs, toast and baked beans. I asked for no beans but the server looked uncomfortable about that and avoided eye contact with me whilst shuffling her feet so in order to ease her pain I just told her that beans were fine. It was also very interesting to note how different the food service industry is overseas.. the food is amazing but the servers seem to care a whole lot less about your overall dining experience. I almost didn’t want to tip (I did, of course. Force of habit from being a waitress for so long). Katie got a couple of scones and some clotted cream (basically just cream that has the consistency of whipped butter), and then accidentally missed her cup when pouring out half of her teapot. I found that hilarious, as did the family sitting next to us. It was the most tragic part of our day, really. After waiting much too long to get our check, Katie and I finally escaped the restaurant of mirrors and set out exploring the shops of Heathrow. I, of course, was immediately drawn to the World of Whiskies. From the name, you can probably guess that this was a shop more than capable of catering to even the most pretentious of whiskey snobs; I myself, was in heaven. I managed to procure at least 6 different {free} samples of whiskey, the first of which (to the utter dismay of the salesman) I must have taken down far too quickly because he turned to me in alarm and said ‘oh my… did.. did you even taste that?” … I made sure to keep my savage drinking nature at bay after that, didn’t want to give the poor guy a heart attack. Finally, I decided on a purchase; the best and most reasonably priced scotch I have ever found; Scapa single malt scotch whisky. God save the Queen and mind the gap, my scotch prayers had been answered and I happily bounced out of the World of Whiskies while the salesman heaved a sigh of relief. I found Katie and the two of us decided to spend the next couple hours just lounging around on the airport chairs- we both were still exhausted. At one point, Katie asked me to watch her stuff while she got up to go and buy a drink. When she returned.. she was carrying one of the most bizarre- and frankly violating- beverages I have ever encountered. It was called Immunitea- and at first glance.. you think it’s just an innocent bottle of tea that will help you fight off any and all sickness/toxins in the air…… but upon further inspection you realize that the bottle is far more forward than your father would like it to be. Case and point; “Now that I’ve been in your mouth, I think it’s time we had a chat.” Woah. Settle down.. bottle of tea? Thats honestly the most aggressive come on I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing and you’re not even alive. Guys at the bar- step up your game. The tea bottle has you beat, and thats just embarrassing. Well.. thats about it for now. If you happen to find the utter insanity of my mind amusing, stay tuned for my sure to be hilarious recap of our first night in Lisbon that I’ll hopefully have posted by tomorrow. Until then.. make sure you’re reading the fine print on any and all international tea bottles that you may be purchasing… I mean, unless you’re into that of course. Hey, to each their own, c’est la vie baby!