Since it was supposed to be raining yesterday, we decided not to take another day trip, as the last two have already ended with damp, cold clothing thrown straight in the washing machine when we got home. Our caution turned out to be misguided, however, as it rained a total of two times, for about 3 minutes each. Alas. For some reason, weather prediction here is an even iffier science than usual.

We had a good walking excursion nonetheless, even if it was done entirely in Lisbon. We explored an area of town new to us, and saw not only Europe’s largest Christmas tree (Portugal has had that honor every year since 2004 — nothing like a formerly great Catholic country to really take its Christmas decorations with competitive pride!), but also the remnants of the Victorian-era aqueduct that stretches across the southwestern corner of the city.

From the aqueduct, which was surrounded by run-down, crumbling buildings tattooed with graffiti, we walked along a modern freeway overpass to a huge, modern multi-storied shopping mall — all within about ten minutes’ walk of each other. That’s Lisbon for you.

In the mall, we found everything from Cuban cigars to expensive purses and cosmetics, including a seamstress who fixed the broken band of my hat for free and a beauty store that sold nail polish remover, which I’d been looking for. We also found a small coffee cart there, and stood at their bar drinking our afternoon decafs, feeling very European. (Beaten in that category of course by the teenage girl next to us, who had her next hand-rolled cigarette at the ready while drinking her straight black and very much non-descafeinado expresso. She was the most European of all.)

Our way home took us alongside more of the aqueduct, through a lovely little park we hadn’t seen before, past some very nice looking restaurants (all closed on Sunday of course), and finally down some small, winding alleys just near our house that we’d hadn’t yet discovered. We sat on a convenient bench along one of these alleyways, and watched the women hang out their washing, listening to the sounds of fado coming from someone’s open window. The light was achingly clear and crisp, the day almost warm when the wind wasn’t blowing, and the air had that clarity you only get during the winter, when everything seems cleaner and distances are compressed. Our walkabout ended, as most do, at our miradouro, where we out looked over the city and felt as though we could reach out and touch everything we saw.

Even as we get to know the city better, I notice aspects and details I’ve never seen before — the tiles on that building, this narrow alleyway, that store or pasteleria over there. So it was wonderful to explore close to home for a change, to see new and beautiful things without getting on a train — and without getting soaking wet.

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