Our Saturday was another very chill day, in fact so chill that it completely ran away from me and was gone before I even noticed! I am definitely adapting to Lisbon time…!

Of course it doesn’t help in that regard when I spend two hours at the gym in the middle of the day, which rather has a way of eating up the time. But that’s all right — I did manage to do some laundry and organize the bathroom (woohoo! only the office to go now!), and we decided on and bought the next set of tickets back and forth to Portugal.

It was very strange picking an outside return date — somehow the thought of August 31, 2010, seems immeasurably abstract right now. But it seems that is the date we are moving back to Santa Cruz, if only because it was the only day from about May onwards that we could get a direct flight back from London. Good enough reason for me!

Afterward, I discovered that it made a big difference to have a set ending point to our adventure — or as Gabe called it, a period to end the sentence. It seems far away now, but when I think about how quickly the past year has gone, I know that it’ll be here before we know it.

So in the meantime, we must make the most of the sentence preceding the final period. Last night we ventured out to see a new area and make some new acquaintances at a dinner party chez the Israeli/Dutch couple we went to dinner with a few weeks ago. Their house is in Estoril, a beach area slightly further along the coast from Lisbon than Belem, where we had been the night before. We debated heading out there earlier in the evening to see something of the town, but since all either of our guidebooks could tell us was that the casino there had inspired Ian Fleming to write Casino Royale, we didn’t really see much point in trying to make a day of it. Another time.

Getting there was — not surprisingly — quite the adventure, which is turning out to be the case more often than not in our car-free urban lifestyle. Dinner was at 8:30, so we left the house at 7:15 to give ourselves plenty of time. However, I didn’t want to show up without a gift for our host, which sent us on a hunt for somewhere we could buy some wine, flowers, or even a box of chocolates. The only stores we found either had ridiculously long lines or were far too expensive for our needs, until finally half an hour later we discovered somewhere selling inexpensive but nice-looking chocolate. Whew! Mission accomplished, at least that part of it anyway.

It was now getting on to 8 PM, but since the trains to Estoril supposedly left every 20 minutes, we weren’t too worried. Next step: get on the Metro, take it one stop to the train station. No problem.

Get to the train station, where the board informs us that the next train leaves at 8 PM (it was by then 7:58) and there wouldn’t be another one until 8:30. Holy crap! So we’re fumbling with our money at the ticket booth, trying to decipher what the screen is demanding of us, and finally we procure two tickets to Estoril — with at least 30 seconds to spare.

As we were running madly up the inevitable flight of stairs to reach the platform, the train hooting its departure horn all the while, I thought to myself, “Well if I fall on my face, I guess it won’t matter if we miss the train, since we won’t be going to dinner anyway.” But by dint of Gabe running ahead of me and physically blocking the door from closing, we just made it onto the train, and with a deep sigh of relief, we settled in for the 40 minute ride to Estoril. We then got a taxi to our friends’ house, arriving at the fashionably late time of 8:45… with only one other couple there ahead of us. Miracles!

Once we got there, the dinner itself was lovely: light buffet-style fare eaten while sitting on the floor or the couches, and three different fabulous home-baked cakes for dessert. Our new friends live in a beautiful flat, which seemed gigantic by Lisbon standards but was really about the same size as our house at home. Reclaiming our house next fall will certainly take some readjustment!

Like our host, the rest of the guests were also Israelis living in Lisbon, which required an interesting mental adjustment as I readapted from understanding very little conversation in sibilant, swooshing Portuguese to understanding absolutely nothing in guttural, throaty Hebrew. Every time the conversation lapsed out of English, they would chide themselves and switch back, but frankly I’m getting used to being surrounded by conversations I don’t understand. It’ll be very strange to back in the States, where I can’t just let other people’s conversation swirl by me without paying attention!

We had a great time, and even though we were newcomers to the group, it was wonderful to be surrounded and welcomed by a group of people who are clearly all very close and care deeply about each other’s lives. Already we are far more social here than we usually are at home, but I think that’s partly because it’s much more a part of the lifestyle here. Despite the fact that all the other couples last night had jobs and kids, it was clear that going out for an evening with their friends was very much a part of their regular routine. At home, it always seems like such an ordeal to arrange a dinner with even one other couple, much less three or four…

The best part of all was that we were able to get a ride back to Lisbon, so we didn’t have to deal with the train ordeal in reverse and late at night. I always forget how much more convenient it is to have a car! Such freedom! And a good way to end an excellent evening.