We fit in another quick walkabout yesterday, as our afternoon was somewhat abridged: we got a late start, and we had plans to see a movie with our French friends later in the day. (Which felt like sacrilege on such a nice day, but since I’m hoping we’ll have mostly nice weather from here on out, I didn’t feel too bad.)

For our Sunday walkabout, we went back to the area around the ferry terminal, which we hadn’t really explored before. We wanted to check out the Mercado da Ribeira, a huge market building across the street from the Cais do Sodre train station, which features food all week and collectibles on Sunday mornings. We were disappointed to find that “collectibles” meant exclusively coins and stamps, not antiques and other oddities, as we’d hoped. But as usual, our destination was chosen merely to provide us with an excuse to wander, which we happily did anyway.

We walked down through the streets of Barrio Alto, stopping to admire the Ascensor da Bica, the little tram on that side of the hill, which has been newly recovered in shiny aluminum siding as an art project. After musing over the odd wares on display in the Mercado da Ribeira, we went back up the hill — since all roads lead to a hill here — and back through the winding streets of Bica.

Among other amusements, we passed a guy grilling bell peppers over a barbeque right out on the street, surrounded by scaffolding, laundry, and of course graffiti. Close by sat his car, windows open, music on, a small boy playing in the back seat. The best part was that the peppers were intended not for his own consumption, but rather for the restaurant on the corner. Talk about curbside service!

Just after the outdoor kitchen, we walked down a street where an old lady was throwing crumbs out her third-story window to feed a huge flock of pigeons on the street below. As we picked our way past them, I noticed that you could actually hear the small crackling, crunching sounds as the pigeons gorged themselves. That’s how quiet it is here on Sundays — literally no one is around. It’s like a ghost town.

Slightly further up the hill, we saw a girl with a small Pomeranian tumbling around her feet, whose bushy fur rather resembled the post-Saturday night tangle of hair on its owners head. As they walked by, a much bigger dog started barking at this transgression on its territory — luckily it was restrained by a fence, because otherwise the Pomeranian might have become a snack. The Pomeranian, blissfully unaware of its inferior size, started to bark back in a tiny but valiant defense of its mistress. We couldn’t help but laugh at its ferocity, especially when it finally got smart and scudded on down the street like a red furry tumbleweed. Oh, such a brave little thing!

Somehow our feet once again took us to the mirador of Santa Catarina, where we’d stopped for a drink on the day we were both sick a few weeks back. What a difference the sun makes! Both cafes up there were packed, and the mirador itself was filled with the vagrants and other unsavory characters we remembered from our visits there last summer.

Of course we couldn’t just pass it by, so we grabbed a table and spent a good half hour basking in the warm sunshine, letting the flow of other people’s conversations and colorful personas wash over us. We’re already seeing a lot more tourists, mostly French and British, which I know will only increase exponentially as the summer goes on. It makes me feel as though I have to justify our presence in some way, or wear a sign that says, “No really, we live here!” But then, I often feel that way in Santa Cruz too.

So ended our short but sweet walkabout, and we came home for an hour or so of work (with the windows thrown wide open!) before meeting up with our friends for the movie. We saw The Hurt Locker, which came out here a couple of weeks ago. Initially it only had two show times, but after it won the Oscar last week, they magically added more showings! Apparently both the theater and the Portuguese decided this movie about an American war might be worth seeing after all, since the theater was packed when we went in. (Movie going on Sunday afternoons really is the thing to do here.)

We have a running joke with our French friends that any movie they like, we don’t, and vice versa. They loved A Serious Man, which we weren’t crazy about. We loved Alice, which they didn’t like. So we were hoping that maybe this would be one movie we could all agree on.

And we were right. None of us could say that we liked it, exactly, as it was too powerful and difficult a movie to really be able to like. But it was an important one, and extremely well done, so much so that I almost couldn’t finish watching it. I know at least two people who have been to Iraq, and I have never been able to contemplate what they must have seen there. This movie held it up in front of me and wouldn’t let me avert my eyes. Like I said — an important movie to see, but one that I can’t claim to have liked per se.

After that intense experience, some alcohol was definitely required, so we went back to our friends’ beautiful, lofty-ceilinged flat for some port and petiscos, or snacks. The good wine, food, and company did much to push away the ghosts of the movie for a while, and we were soon laughing and talking in a fluid mixture of French and English.

The more time we spend with this couple, the more we discover that they are scarily similar to ourselves: the girl is slender, stylish, and dark-haired, introverted yet quietly funny, and loves books and words as much as I do. (I came away from their flat with a huge stack of English language books — so excited!) Her partner is outgoing and talkative, laughs a lot, works in education, and is extremely good at what he does. Hmm… sound familiar? I’m pretty sure they are the French version of us!

So ended another in our recent string of good, sunny, active days. Today it’s back to work for a while, but at least the sun continues!

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