Hey, I stayed calm!
Beyond the Book: the rest of our honeymoon!
Ok, here’s the long awaited conclusion to the honeymoon posts! Actually, I have no idea if you were waiting for this conclusion at all. But here it is anyways!
As you may recall from the first honeymoon post sent a BILLION YEARS AGO, Disneyland Paris did us real dirty and we left France still reeling from some pretty bad food poisoning. We then boarded a train to London for a few days in Brixton. I highly recommend the Eurostar train btw, it’s easier to navigate than an airport, less expensive, and you get to see more of the countryside on the way.
We chose Brixton because we were told that’s where the Black people are. But I think that’s all relative. It was really clear from day one that Brixton is rapidly gentrifying. But it was nice to see some Black people and we got some really amazing Jamaican and Nigerian food there.
This was our first time in London and it really wasn’t what we expected. I’ve posted before that Gabriel and I have been traveling with an eye for where we might want to move for part of the year once the youngest kiddo graduates. And well, London is not it y’all.
It’s just….so white.
We love traveling overseas especially to get a break from that constant feeling of unsafety that is felt in the U.S. as Black people. But we didn’t feel that escape in London at all. We felt very visible and othered there and we just couldn’t shake the feeling of unease everywhere we went there. Gabriel and I didn’t really have to discuss it.
He was like, “Um….I’m feeling like London’s like..”
Me: “Not it? Oh yeah, I totally feel you.”
End of discussion.
But that’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy our trip or won’t be back. There were some really great moments there for us.
The kid’s last day with us before we shipped them back to the states we took a train up to Liverpool. This day was purely for the youngest kiddo who is the world’s biggest Beatles fan. The older kiddo still had bubbleguts from Paris so he decided to chill at the AirBnb for the day, so it was just Gabriel, the younger kiddo, and me.
Fourteen-year-olds are interesting creatures. Method Man was interviewed recently about raising teens and he said: “I don’t have teenagers, I have meanagers,” and I’ve never heard anything more accurate in my life. Teens are amazing. They are complex and funny and smelly and also fucking brutal. They try so hard to hide the gentle little-kidness that is still very much inside of them.
Arriving in Liverpool we first went through one of the Beatles museums. Kiddo was very seriously into it. Gabriel and I went through the self-guided tour at a pace of someone who’s kid is into the Beatles and then sat in the lounge with a soda while the kid poured through every artifact very intently. Then he tried not to die of boredom while Gabriel and I quickly went through the Slavery Museum that we spotted (because what honeymoon is complete without a tour of a slavery museum?).
The kiddo was determined that he could walk from there to Penny Lane by himself. “It’s only a few miles mom” he argued. But we didn’t have much time before the train back to London, so I grabbed a cab for us all. When we explained to the cabbie that we only needed a ride to Penny Lane and back she asked if there were any other Beatles stops we wanted to hit up in the time we had. Marcus was very much into that idea and we ended up getting a really lovely impromptu tour of Beatles childhood places.
As we drove by primary schools that Beatles members went to I started to see the surliness fall away and the kiddo’s eyes got bigger and bigger. Then we got to Penny Lane and I said, “Do you want to get out of the cab so I can take your picture?” And at first he tried to be a cool teen and was all, “nah,” but I urged him and then he hopped out and it was all over. All surly teen was gone and from then on we just had a joyful kid hopping out of the car to get pictures in some of the important spots of his icons.
It was a lovely way to end our familymoon. The next morning the kiddos flew home to Seattle together and Gabriel and I had one last night in London before heading to Lisbon.
On that last night we went to see Matilda. Gabriel wasn’t familiar with the book or movie at all, so he didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited. Let me tell you, if you have a chance to see Matilda in London, please do it! It was so delightful from beginning to end. It absolutely surpassed all of my expectations. It also reminded me of how much I love the theater. I used to go to more shows pre-pandemic, but recent years have kept us away from any sort of crowd. It was so lovely to see live performances again.
Then it was time to hop on a plane to Portugal. We had never been to Portugal before so we didn’t really know what to expect. Lisbon had been so highly recommended by other Black travelers and it was a lovely and surprising experience for us.
First of all, Lisbon is one of the most gorgeous places in the world. The buildings, the water, the tile. It’s just stunning everywhere you go. You turn down a little alley between these 400 year old tile-covered buildings and suddenly you’re on a mosaic path through tiny shops and restaurants that you can tell have existed basically forever. It all looked like a movie scene with an unlimited budget of like, “old world” fantasy.
One of the most surprising experiences for Gabriel and I, one that we haven’t had travelling anywhere before, is that pretty much everyone assumed we were Portuguese. As Black people when we travel basically anywhere in Canada or Europe, we’re immediately othered. As light-skinned Black people, we often stand out in predominantly Black countries as well. But so many people in Lisbon are various shades of brown, with hair just like mine, that everybody came up to us speaking Portuguese and always looked surprised when we didn’t understand them. They’d then run through like three other languages before trying English (btw, damn American schools need to do a better job of teaching languages other than English because basically every country in the world is more multi-lingual than us and it’s embarrassing). It was such an interesting experience to just fully blend into a space. We’ve never really had that while traveling before.
We were in Lisbon for nine days, which is the longest time Gabriel and I have had just the two of us since our very first 10 day first date in Stockholm almost four years ago. I seriously had therapy sessions dedicated to managing my anxiety about being away from the kids for that long, and honestly it was such a great investment to make. I was more present on this trip than I’ve managed to be in years. And it’s not because things went smoothly at home. We had a few medium-sized crises with the kids at home and I had to spend some time late at night managing them from another continent. But I did manage them, and I didn’t let them send me into panic or into booking a flight home (which I likely would have done had this been six months ago). I managed with the amazing support of my partner and still managed to have an amazing time in Lisbon. I’m really proud of myself.
We spent a lot of time in Lisbon just walking around looking at the amazing buildings and eating copious amounts of gelato. A day was not complete without gelato. I also consumed a lot of port and cookies.
We took a day trip up to Sintra, which was lovely. We walked through one of the many old castles there and the palace kitchen had these incredibly high ceilings with giant chimneys that produced an amazing echo. Gabriel figured this was the perfect place to yell, “FUCK THE POLICE” because I can’t take him anywhere. We were not ejected from the castle, even after Gabriel spent most of the entire walk-through being goofy as hell, and I bought some commemorative sardines (which I never considered would be a thing but here I am, the proud owner of multiple cans of sardines with my birth year printed on them).
We also went to Museu do Aljube (Museum of Resistance) which was amazing and a beautiful tribute to resistance housed in a former prison that was once used in the detaining and torture of political prisoners. It’s easy to forget, when you walk around all these old buildings, that the struggle for political freedom in Portugal and the African countries that Portugal had violently colonized was just in the ‘70’s
We walked so many miles every single day and were convinced that this was the start of a new, super-athletic Ijeoma and Gabriel that was going to walk miles and miles every day in Seattle but then we got home and were like, “Oh, it’s boring and ugly and rainy here and not fun to walk around at all. Let’s not do that.”
Anyways, Lisbon was beautiful and I feel like our nine days there barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do. But the highlight of the entire trip was really just getting time alone together. We got to unwind from the wild business of our day-to-day lives and talk about grand plans for our individual and combined futures. Gabriel came home fired up to focus on his music more and I came home knowing that I have a book due. But I also realized that my work can contain more of the solo travel that I’ve long loved, without being in constant panic about my family.
So that’s it ya’ll, the familymoon/honeymoon! We are so privileged to be able to take such an epic trip and we had a wonderful time. In conclusion: Paris is still our #1, Disneyland Paris is the worst, London is suffocatingly white, and Portugal is gorgeous.
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