I was all set yesterday morning to go to a museum, until I looked at the guidebook more closely and realized that all the museums are closed on Mondays. Whoops! Good thing I saw this before I set out. Shortly afterward, I also realized that I was A) still tired, B) in the middle of a very good book (Margaret Atwood’s latest), and C) I hadn’t had a lazy day of reading in about oh… three months. In fact now that I think about it, I had a weekend of reading at the beginning of June, because I knew full well I wouldn’t get many more this summer. And so I didn’t.

So instead of dealing with the bustling hordes outside, I stayed in our room with Gabe and read. The experience of getting absorbed in a book is not the same on a Kindle, as you’re missing the visceral feeling that accompanies a physical novel. But to be able to get my favorite author’s new book while I’m in a foreign country, in a total of about 10 seconds from searching for it to having it on my Kindle… well, that makes it all worth it. I can deal with it for this year anyway.

I finished around 2 PM, and decided I needed a walk to avoid going stir-crazy. So I set out for a large park right in the middle of Lisbon, as a kind of arbitrary destination to give my meandering a goal. The park was beautiful, once I reached it, and although you could see one of the largest roundabouts in the city not a half mile away, the park itself was blissfully quiet. (I’m remembering now how I managed to live in a city before — you just find the pockets of quiet, and go there when it all gets to be too much. In London also listened to my iPod while I walked around the city, which I forgot to bring with me yesterday.)

There were winding paths leading up into stands of trees (unfortunately still concrete, so no good for running), and a big central strip of more neatly-kept grass and lines of the ubiquitous marble cobblestones. Of course this being Lisbon, nothing is sacred to graffiti artists, so the statues in the midst of the wooded area were both covered in it. Alas. But also being Lisbon, once you’d huffed your way to the top of the hill, you were rewarded with a great view down to the river (see pictures).

I found a nice quiet bench to eat my snack on, then meandered down the nearby Avenida, which is one of the biggest thoroughfares of the city — and runs about two blocks away from our soon-to-be home. My goal was to look at the area a little more closely, and perhaps to find a grocery store, since I hadn’t seen one last week.

With this loose goal in mind, I wandered the shadier side of the tree-lined Avenida, as it was up to 31 degrees C again yesterday. (My blood is thinning out so fast that when it was down to 29 on Sunday, I actually wore long pants and a long-sleeve shirt tied around my neck! I am a lizard, what can I say.)

Turns out to be a strange area, home to many of those contradictions I am growing to know and love here. On the Avenida itself, there are all kinds of high end stores (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc), along with big banks, fancy hotels, and swank restaurants. No grocery stores. But if you walk literally one block off the Avenida, you return to the old run-down buildings and small local cafes and restaurants that you see all over the rest of the city. All the Guccis and Versaces in the world couldn’t make a dent on them! However, still no grocery stores.

Instead, I sat in a park filled with beobab trees and a fountain, just down the block from our flat, and was happy to see both a police and a fire station on either side of the roundabout. So at least we’re in a safe neighborhood. (See various pictures below, from tree-lined boulevard to tiny old side streets and the baobab trees.)

I did finally find a grocery about 15 minutes walk away, right by the metro station. Conveniently, it’s right across the street from a health food store that I had already scoped out last week. Content with the fulfillment of my goal, I hopped on the Metro and successfully negotiated it home — all my myself! My first solo outing, accomplished. Whew.

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