Now that we’re past the two week mark til our return home, it suddenly seems to be coming up very quickly. In fact I’m getting positively overwhelmed with how soon it is, and all that we need to do before then! Ah! Yaay! Ah!

How strange it will seem to go home… will it even seem like home any more? Or will we miss the multilayered buildings and cobbled streets of our adopted city? Will it be a relief to hear English being spoken all around me, or will it be overwhelming? We will see…

In the meantime though, we continue to add to our life, experiences, and friends here. Since yesterday was a national holiday, we both took most of the day off. When in Rome and all…! We took a trip to the gym in the morning, which for a Tuesday morning was unusually crowded — every time I turned around to use a different weight machine, it had someone on it. I guess people did actually get the day off work, although I’m glad it’s not that busy at the weekends.

“My” trainer continues to help me while I work out, which is nice, but doesn’t do much to further his goal of getting me to spring for personal training. I’m also not yet convinced that his “rehab” exercises are doing more to heal my leg injuries than to aggravate them — I spent the end of last week resting my hip flexor, which didn’t like my earlier attempts to strengthen my knee. Then yesterday my knee spent the whole day groaning and clicking to itself while we went up and down hills. So far, not so good, but I’m not willing to give up just yet.

The rest of our day was spent in a far more enjoyable manner and in far better (and less sweaty) company. We took a short walk up and over our nearby hilltop to the home of the Princeton/LSE alumna we met last week, who treated us to a wonderful lunch in her gorgeous tiled townhouse.

As soon as we walked in, Gabe exclaimed, “I think we’ve looked at your house before!,” which despite its stalker-ish overtones was actually true. We’d walked through that neighborhood on one of our explorations towards the end of October, where we’d admired a row of beautiful terraced gardens, whose large leafy trees loomed over and spilled into the street below, much like this:

I was thrilled to actually be on the other side of one of these gardens, having seen them from the street and wondered how they worked and who lived surrounded by such fabulous greenery. (Can you tell I miss my garden?!) The rest of the house was similarly beautiful, large, airy, and light — especially in the eyes of two people grown used to living in a tiny street-level flat. At this rate, American houses are going to seem positively gargantuan when we get home!

The rest of our new friend’s household all had the day off work or school, so we were joined by her husband, two kids, and two cats, all of whom were a delight to meet and converse with — except the second cat, who despite my best overtures, stayed stubbornly curled up on its beanbag by the table the entire time. Oh well, you can’t please everyone.

We were wonderfully wined and dined, with soup to start, quiche and salad for the main, and for dessert, a fabulous peach tart a la mode. We were even treated to a post-meal espresso from their fancy Nespresso machine, which I am now coveting — even if it doesn’t come with George Clooney as advertised.

As the meal went on, I had to keep reminding myself that we’d only just met these lovely people, as it truly felt like we had sat in their kitchen, drinking wine, eating delicious food, and laughing with them and their kids many times before. I hope that will indeed turn out to be the case over the course of our year here.

All too soon though, we had to reluctantly pry ourselves away so that I could make it to my Portuguese lesson in time. Had we not done so, I have a feeling that we would’ve ended up spending most of the rest of the afternoon there, with a lot more wine to boot! But instead we went back out into the wet gray afternoon, making it home just in time for me to gather my books and head up yet another hill (see earlier comment re knee creaking and groaning) to my lesson. Even despite the wine I’d had earlier in the day, our lesson was once again disappointingly sedate, with only grammatical and no political or cultural lessons to be learned. Alas.

However, I think that yesterday’s lunch provided us with sufficient cultural enrichment for one day. A long, leisurely afternoon meal eaten in great company is something I find particularly European, as Americans don’t tend to take the time to just sit, eat, and talk for hours on end. I think that’s why we need days like Thanksgiving: we get all our family dining out of the way in one fell swoop. For that same reason, Europeans don’t really understand Thanksgiving. Why is that so special? How can you have a holiday where you just eat? Don’t you do that all the time?

Personally, I think this is one Portuguese habit I could definitely adopt.