It was our third night in Porto and our third night visiting this ice-cream parlour. We worried that the guy who worked there would think we had a problem, but we went for it anyway. This time, I had a scoop of mango and raspberry sorbet. It took me a while to decide what might go with it, but I settled on a scoop of strawberry cheesecake ice-cream and a scoop of vanilla with macadamia nuts. It basically worked.
We talked about our trip. We talked about life. What should I write next on my blog? Where should she go in her career? How beautiful was this ice-cream that was finally satisfying her craving?
Something made me look down at the floor next to me, at the spot where my bag was sitting. Huh. Did I leave it open? That’s not like me. Maybe it fell open when that guy pushed his chair back and left. Maybe. I picked it up, suddenly curious to see inside.
I never usually swear out loud around people so this was serious.
Turns out that my first foreign holiday in eleven years was the time when I would learn a lesson about making myself vulnerable and the tendency of some people to take stuff that doesn’t belong to them.
The cost of this lesson?
- 1 credit card
- 2 debit cards
- 130 euros
- 1 driving licence
- 1 book of first class stamps
- 1 Nando’s card
- 1 Tesco Clubcard
- 1 Nectar card
- 1 funny note that my friend once put in my lunchbox
- 1 photo of said friend
- 1 photo of my dad
- 1 photo of my late granny
- 1 tiny foil loveheart that my friend took from the table of a wedding we went to years ago
- 1 shiny little gemstone that me and my mum bought from a shop selling tacky touristy knick-knacks during a seaside trip over a decade ago (we bought a pair and she still has the other)
I’m not a frequent traveller. It never occurred to me not to carry around my everyday purse with everything in it or to leave any of my money in my hotel room while out and about. Common sense is thin on the ground when you’re me, but I also like to have faith that people aren’t gonna screw me over.
Two days on, I’m still bloody annoyed about the whole thing. But, like the ice-cream guy said (after informing me that yes, those were CCTV cameras I could see but no, they did not work), these things happen. They shouldn’t, and people should have a bit more respect for their fellow humans and their personal property, but these things do happen and the best you can do is be aware and be a bit more realistic in your purse-carrying escapades.
After relaying my sorry sob story to a friend this morning, he asked if the experience had tainted my rosy view of humanity. It’s made it a little cloudier, I’ll be honest, but generally? No. I still really like people and I still really want to see the best in all of them. I credit my friends for my continued optimism. They paid for my ice-cream. They spent an hour in a tourists’ police station with me. We group-hugged. They made me laugh. They rubbed my back reassuringly as I spoke on the phone with the Visa people and stumbled over my words. They searched in nearby bins to check that my purse hadn’t been emptied and discarded. They let me be angry. They joined in with the anger. They told stories of when similar things had happened to them. They bought me breakfast the next morning. They bought my train ticket back to the airport. They’ve spotted me some cash until I can access my own money again. They were the best people I could’ve hoped to have been with when the shit hit the fan in a way that was so relatively minor yet felt so major at the time.
And, lest I forget and let this incident be a big, grubby stain on the whole weekend, we had a pretty decent trip.
We posed on a spa balcony and on a reasonably tall bridge.
We ate food that was so good, I’m scared I’ll never again eat anything that compares.
We went on a cable car ride and took more pictures of ourselves/each other than we did of the view.
We danced with children on escalators, marvelled at the lengths some Portuguese go to for Halloween, jumped up and down in a loud and sweaty bar, tasted (and, at least on my part, continued to dislike) lots of port, discovered the Imperial McDonald’s, listened to a Lenny Kravitz lookalike play very good acoustic cover versions in a riverside cafe, chanted in the street at 3am with a passing group of Portuguese guys, drank sangria every day, ate outside in November, walked up and down a lot of cobbled hills and questioned the safety of two hotel lifts.
I’d go again.