Despite the fact that I woke up early yesterday and was tired for most of the afternoon, we ended up having an unexpectedly adventurous day. It was actually sunny, still cold, but not cloudy and raining, so we went out for a “short” walk, mostly to test out my new shoes.

About half a block down the road, I realized that we’d accidentally gotten the smaller of the two pairs of shoes I’d tried on the night before — my toes were hitting the end of the shoe every time I put my foot down. Whoops.

Even so, we prevailed, and made it up to the highest miradouro in the city, the Miradouro da Senhora de Monte. We had always looked at it from other vantage points, but had never made it up there ourselves. Yesterday, it was time — and good Lord, was it a hike! Even now that we’re used to climbing hills, even in my new spiffy hiking shoes, it was a very steep incline indeed. Impressive. As usual though, it was well worth it for the views it afforded, out to the bridge to the left and as far as the squat black cubes of Gabe’s building at university to our right.

We made our way back down, which was remarkably easier than it had been coming up. Many of the restaurants and stores along the way were closed, perhaps because it’s Carnaval weekend, but we were happy to find one small costume store wide open and doing a brisk business. We went in and spent a wonderful twenty minutes trying on all kind of masks and other paraphernalia, eventually settling on a black and gold mask with peacock feathers for me and a red mask with red and black feathers for Gabe. Very fabulous.

By then it was time for our usual coffee stop, so we went back to our other favorite miradouro, the Torel, and sat out on the patio there to enjoy the sunshine and our coffees. The girl working there, while fabulously dressed in a crazy sequined outfit with red Converse, was not all that bright, and when Gabe ordered a cafe au lait and a pingado (espresso shot with milk), both decaffeinated, for some reason she thought he wanted three coffees.

After quite some time, she brought out two black espressos and a cafe au lait. When we tried to explain that we only wanted one other coffee, and that one with milk, she proceeded to leave one of the black coffees on the table, take the other back in, and bring out a pingado as requested. So we still ended up with three cups of coffee. Sigh. Luckily they were all decaf, and only cost a euro each, so at least it was an amusing mistake.

We made it home without further mishap, but didn’t linger long, as we had to go back up to the mall yet again to exchange my shoes. So back we went, exchanged the shoes for the bigger size without a problem, and retraced our steps from the night before… via a stop at another cafe, this time for some bite-sized pasteis de natas and a freshly-baked mini chicken pie for Gabe. We had to refuel, you know — especially since our “short” afternoon of walking had by then turned into yet another four hour excursion, thanks to the shoe mixup. But so it goes.

Once we were finally home, we both proceeded to collapse for a few hours before heading back out a third time. We met up with our Princeton friend and her family for dinner, this time at an Italian restaurant they recommended that was about halfway between both of our houses. We were inevitably the first people there at 8, but as we didn’t get served our mains til nearly 9, by the time we left at 11 the place was jam-packed.

Once again we had a wonderful time with our friends, laughing, eating, drinking wine and limoncello, swapping stories and listening to the two Princetonians reminisce about the good old days. Their two teenage kids joined in their fair share of the conversation too, which always impresses me, as it took me until at least my early twenties til I felt like I had anything to contribute to family banter. But they were just as hilarious and laid-back as their parents, and made me laugh just as hard. It felt so good to be out with friends, and even though our English conversation earned us some curious looks from the other patrons, I truly felt like we belonged. What a fabulous feeling.

We emerged from the restaurant more than 3 hours later, much replete and ready for bed. Outside, the streets of Barrio Alto were just getting started on their Saturday night business, which we usually aren’t out late enough to witness. (My fault, yes, my fault. I have an old lady bed time, I know.)

Even despite the cold, the narrow streets were packed with people drinking, smoking, and partaking in other more nefarious activities. Our friends had told us that they consider it a measure of their hipness when the dealers offer them hash, so I was nervous that perhaps we wouldn’t be hip enough to merit a tout. Sure enough though, before we had even turned the corner from the restaurant, we were solicited, with a second offer a few blocks later. Thank goodness, we are hip. Phew.

That final dubious stamp of approval put an end to a very successful evening. Even as I reveled in the company and the good food though, I couldn’t help but be sad that we will have to leave such wonderful people behind when we go home. This is why I was afraid to make friends here: because we’ll only have to say goodbye. It reminds me of the story my mom always tells me about when I was a little girl, traveling around on my own parents’ sabbatical. I grew tired of making friends and having to leave them behind, so I asked my mom, “Why do we always have to say goodbye?” And I still feel that way now.

But the goodbyes won’t be for some months now, and in the meantime, I hope to have many more dinners like last night’s: long, leisurely, and full of laughter, alcohol, and excellent food.

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