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By Irène FRAIN Sofitel Lisbonne Liberdade

Lisbon was packed. Thanks to a volcano in Iceland that was preventing planes from coming and going, and no one knew when flights would resume.

Many of the stranded travelers, impatient to return home, had camped out at the airport. But a number of others refused to be held hostage by a volcano. And since they hadn’t yet had their fill of the Portuguese spring, they ventured back to the city, heading straight to the Praça do Comércio’s café terraces, where they lounged in south-facing chairs. Some opted instead for a few more rides on the rickety trams making their roller-coaster runs between Graça and Alfama. Still others went off to see sites that they hadn’t managed to visit before. In any case, all of them joined the hordes of tourists who had already flooded the streets of Lisbon before the airport had closed and who were now also
stuck. A great many of them were French.

My situation was different. I had treated myself to a brief weekend alone, but I almost as soon as I arrived I had begun to feel feverish and thus had remained holed up in my hotel room, knocked out by migraines and medicine, for two days. I only learned of the disrupted air traffic as I was beginning to emerge from my illness, on television. I called the travel agency at once.
“There’s nothing we can do,” they said. “Extend your hotel reservation. We’ll let you know about your flight.” I received the news like a gift: I was feeling better, I was hungry, my headache was gone, I could stand on my own two feet and I would now be able to take full advantage of Lisbon.

It was noon, a beautiful day, I remember. The thought of it reminds me of the delicious paradox of my condition that day: I was still a bit weak yet I was ferociously hungry for life.

Or perhaps I was just hungry. I quickly got ready and headed for the hotel restaurant. The first thing I did was order a glass of port:
Quinta do Noval Colheita 2000. I definitely had my wits about me.

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