Last Minute Trip to London and Lisbon

I had the opportunity to tag along on a trip to England and Portugal, so I jumped at the chance. I'm home now, jet-lagged but with lots of ideas for new mysteries to write...

Here are my top 10 highlights from the trip. I'll also be posting more photos of gargoyles and castles over at Gargoyle Girl.

1. The British Library's Murder in the Library exhibit in London. 

The A to Z of crime fiction kicked things off with Agatha Christie, and included Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen, locked room impossible crime mysteries, train mysteries, the Golden Age of detective fiction, xenophobia in early mysteries, mysteries for kids, and more.

2. Ghosts and Gargoyles in Cambridge. On a day trip to Cambridge, I ran into lots of gargoyles and heard stories about Cambridge traditions including the "night climber" tradition that's been going on for centuries. Under the cover of darkness, students risk expulsion to scale the towers of university buildings and leave behind items such as a Santa hat on a spire and even a car on the rooftop.

3. After arriving in Portugal, I spent my birthday exploring the ruins of a Moorish castle outside of Lisbon! 

4. Birthday dinner at The Green Room Cafe in Lisbon

5. Great coffee. Below, a "bica" (espresso) break at Cafe A Brasileira in Lisbon, a 100-year-old cafe where writers and artists congregated in the 1920s and '30s.

6. Great food and great company. I frequented Lisbon vegetarian restaurants including Os Tibetanos and Terra, where I met up with friends who were in Lisbon at the same time, and ate at the hidden Soul Food restaurant in Sintra at the foot of the Moorish castle. (I found so many great options for vegetarians that I'm going to do a full post about them later this week.)

7. Castle Sao Jorge. High on a hill in the Alfama district of Lisbon, peacocks and cats run wild on the castle grounds. So. Many. Hills...

8. Legend of the ravens on Lisbon's coat of arms. According to legend, two ravens guarded the grave of St. Vincent and continued their vigil as his body was transported to its final resting place in Lisbon. The legend gave me the gem of an idea to begin writing a new short story.

9. Architectural details of Lisbon. Below, the remains of the Convento do Carmo, destroyed in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

10. Lastly, all the little random things I didn't plan on. I took trolleys through the hilly streets of Lisbon, found friendly people in beautiful settings, and had picnics in centuries-old squares. Not too bad for a trip without much planning to a country I'd never been to before.