The great thing about longer-term guests is that you don’t have to explore everything all at once — unlike with my half-brother last month, when we fit the entire city and parts of the surrounding area into four days of non-stop walking. When you aren’t under pressure to give a condensed capsule of experience though, you’re more at leisure to wander and explore, and even go home for a while if that’s what you feel like doing.

Yesterday we explored the fancy shopping district of Chiado, where you can find all manner of odd places to peruse. Right down the street from the gigantic H&M I raided last week, we came across a minuscule booth of a shop selling beautifully crafted leather gloves, or luvaria, which has been there since 1925.

On the next block over, we passed a store selling Geox air shoes and a fancy Parisian boutique, then stopped for a coffee in the ornate and multi-colored interior of A Brasileira, the favorite haunt of my homeboy Fernando Pessoa and all his myriad personalities.

After browsing through my favorite 500-year old bookstore and a place down the street that sells reproductions of vintage postcards, soaps, and even cans of sardines, we found a tiny old coffee and candy store tucked between two more overpriced designer stores. As soon as we started talking coffee in serious terms, the old man working there perked right up, clearly appreciative of a break from the candy-buying hordes he’d been helping all day. (Easter candy is appearing in all the stores now, and true to their overzealous religious holiday form, the Portuguese are already stocking up in a serious way.)

While the coffee talk continued, I perused the candy, displayed in rows and rows of bins all along the counter and up and down the walls. On offer were at least twenty different kinds of chocolate covered almonds, all with different colored and flavored coatings on the outside, ranging from Easter pastels to a mottled brown one that promised to be cinnamon (or shin, although I don’t think that would be as appealing.) There was also a bin of ornately decorated licorice bits, and case after case of chocolate, bars and bits and other dark brown delicacies.

The man’s expertise on coffee was just as thorough and wide-ranging as their candy selection, and as he packaged up the grounds and poked a hole in the corner to let out the gases, he gave us a history of the beans we were buying. Until independence, you could only get coffee grown in the colonies, which explained the array of beans on offer from such exotic places as Sao Tome and Cabo Verde. They could get other kinds after independence was declared, but these were the older and more traditional Portuguese coffees. I was blown away — history and good coffee, all in one sweet-smelling, chocolate-drenched place! I could’ve died happy right then.

That evening, we added to the pleasure of our palates by visiting our now-regular local wine bar down the street. Again, the Brazilian waitress greeted us with pleasure and kisses on the cheek, and we gladly seated ourselves outside in their small back patio. As we discovered the place in January, we have long looked out their back window at the tree-covered patio and yearned for the return of the long, warm Lisboan evenings we had when we first got here. For the first time, the mild night allowed us to sit at one of the small wooden tables, softly illuminated by with a tea light lantern on the table and a rope of Christmas lights around the outside of the small graveled seating area.

We asked the waitress to surprise us with three different glasses of dessert wines, and she brought us a a red port, a tawny port, and a sauterne to accompany our chocolate mousse and passionfruit cheesecake. This time she was busy with other customers, but when we’d finished and asked for the check, she exclaimed, “Oh no, you’re leaving already? Let me sit and chat for a minute.” But of course, we said, please do!

Among other things, we got a full update on the lovely owner and her new baby. Ebullient as ever, our waitress said that they were doing great, she had seen them the day before, and he was so cute that he warmed her heart, or coraçao. Since she accompanied this statement with a rounded arm that looked like she was holding or rocking a baby, I thought she said he is cute like a snail, or caracol. When I gave this translation to my mom, Gabe laughed at me and said no, not snail, heart! Oh well. I kind of liked the description “cute like a snail.” I think I’ll keep it.

On that high note of misinterpretation, we ended our very strenuous day of coffee shopping and wine drinking, street wandering and chatting. Rough life, my friends, rough life!

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