Lost and Found in Portugal

Even when you lose your way, God will lead you exactly where you need to be.

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Posted in , Nov 20, 2017

Lisbon

My sister Priscilla and I just came back from a week-long vacation in Portugal. Let me start by assuring you that the rumors you may have heard about Portuguese egg tarts are true–they really do taste like little bits of heaven!

I’ll remember so many wonderful things about my trip to the cities of Lisbon and Porto, even beyond the egg tarts. One experience in particular sticks out–something that happened on our last night in Lisbon.

Before the trip, I put together a very detailed itinerary of places to see. One of the must-visits on my list was Livraria do Simão, one of the smallest bookshops in the world. On our very first day in Lisbon, Priscilla and I searched for it. We found the oldest bookstore in the world, Livraria Bertrand do Chiado. But the smallest one was impossible to find, at least for two gals who were jet lagged and trying to read street names in Portuguese!

Back at the hotel, where we had Wi-Fi, I looked the book store up again, hoping we’d have time to find it on another day. But our schedule was jam-packed, and we probably wouldn’t have time to look for it.  

On our last full day in Lisbon, Priscilla and I took a day trip to Cascais, a coastal town outside the city. We got back to Lisbon in the late afternoon and decided, at the last minute, to visit a historic flea market we’d read about. We walked for about an hour, up many steep hills. When we finally reached the market–completely out of breath!–all the vendors were closing up shop. It was a bust. Not to mention, we were both now tired, hungry and more than a little edgy.  

Priscilla and I squabbled over the directions. I insisted we turn right, which ended up being another bad decision. We climbed up more steep hills, farther and farther away from any area we recognized. We couldn’t even find ourselves on our map!

Maybe we were a little delirious by that point, but we both started laughing at the absurdity of the situation. How I’d gotten us so lost with just one little turn to the right.

We made another right turn onto a random street and Priscilla stopped to check the map. Meanwhile, I looked up at the street sign. Rua da Madalena.

Hmm. I’d heard that name before. We continued a little farther up the street, and I spotted a few people hanging out in an alleyway. There was something oddly familiar about the scene. I looked closer. There was a small store practically hidden in the alleyway. It had books in its windows…  

“Oh my goodness!” I said to Priscilla. “The book store!”

The very one I’d so badly wanted to find on our first day in Lisbon. I snapped photos of it on my phone in amazement. My delight must’ve been noticeable because one of the guys standing outside the store started talking to me. “It’s the smallest bookshop in the world!” he said, then pointed to his friend. “This man is the owner. Do you want to go inside?”

Did I ever! He led me inside the book shop, which was no bigger than a walk-in closet. There was a desk at one end and shelves lined with books all around. “Here, come sit at the desk,” the man said. “See what it’s like to work here.” I sat down and Priscilla took my photo.

Even after we said goodbye and headed on our way, I couldn’t stop smiling. We hadn’t just visited the smallest book store in Lisbon. We’d met the owner and taken a tour inside! I couldn’t get over all the little things that had come together to lead us there at that very moment. If we hadn’t decided to visit the flea market at the last-minute, if I hadn’t insisted we turn right, if we hadn’t gotten lost…

That moment in Lisbon wasn’t just a coincidence to me. It was a reminder that even when you lose your way, God will still lead you exactly where you need to be. To something even better than you could’ve ever imagined. 

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