Yesterday’s plans to have lunch with Gabe at the university were foiled by my personal trainer’s determined attempt to turn me into a bowl of Jell-O topped with quivering noodles. I had scheduled a second session with my trainer earlier in the week, but still lifted weights the day before, expecting that my time with him would just be a quick check in and some demonstration exercises on the machines. But oh no — it was a full and very difficult workout, involving much more challenging moves than I had previously been doing, and I was in a whole world of tired after that.

Even more so when my trainer did the full assisted stretching thing afterwards, which we hadn’t done at our initial meeting. All the trainers help their clients stretch at the end of their sessions, pushing and pulling their legs and arms in various ways, and I have often looked on in envy, thinking I would pay someone to do just that part of the workout with me. I’m pretty flexible, so it’s actually difficult for me to stretch adequately without doing a yoga class or similar. But with a partner stretch, I can get a far deeper stretch than I can on my own. The poor guy was quite alarmed by my grimaces throughout the process, but I repeatedly assured him that no, it felt great, and I would let him know if it hurt.

Feeling like nothing more than a big rubber band, I called Gabe from the locker room to cry mercy — I quite honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it back up the hill to our house, let alone onto the tube and up to the university. So instead I went home, ate voraciously, and collapsed for the rest of the afternoon. Whew. All that working out, man — it’s bad for your health. (I won’t even mention how I feel this morning! Suffice it to say that I no longer have abs, only a big fat stripe of ouch that stretches from my hips all the way up to my ribs.)

Luckily, we’d already made plans with our French friends to go out that evening, or else I wouldn’t have left the house for the rest of the weekend. But I didn’t want to flake on them just because of a hard workout and crappy weather — it’s just a flesh wound! — so out we went.

Our goal was once again the Casa da Fernando Pessoa, this time to see a classical quartet. How very cultured of us. To my amazement, not only was this event totally free and ticketless, but there were still plenty of seats available when we arrived five minutes before it started. So on a rainy Friday night, we got to sit in a warm, bright room not ten feet from five very skilled musicians and listened to an hour of incredible music — absolutely free of charge. What’s more, we were in a beautifully converted house that once belonged to the national poet of Portugal. That is definitely something you cannot do in Santa Cruz, or perhaps anywhere short of Washington, DC.

After the music died down, we shook ourselves back into reality, where we faced a difficult decision: eat sushi nearby? Or go back to a crepe place that’s close to both of our houses? The girls wanted sushi, so sushi it was. Oh and PS — it was all you can eat. The perfect refuel after a hard workout and a long rainy walk.

I’m always a little dubious of all you can eat sushi, which is either of such low quality that you don’t really want to eat all that much, thank you, or they skimp you after your first order. However, this time my fears were unjustified. There was a big buffet style table with tray after tray of freshly made delectables, and also a Beni Hana-type cooking table, where you could pick out which raw ingredients you wanted and have them fried up while you were busy stuffing yourself with sushi.

We all loaded and reloaded our plates multiple times, but our efforts paled in comparison to the huge table of teenagers next to us, who luckily sat down right as we were finishing. As they mobbed the buffet table, we speculated that the restaurant would probably lose money on them. They certainly got their fifteen euros’ worth.

Fully replete, we caught a cab back to our neighborhood, and bid adieu to our friends before rolling ourselves back down the hill to our flat. To my mind, any day that involves not only a good workout and a long walk, but also beautiful music, all you can eat sushi, and good friends, qualifies as a definite success.