We have seen so much these past few days, and are heading out early this morning to do more, so I will try to give you some highlights…

Wednesday we spent mostly at home working, and for me, a run at the gym followed by the afternoon nap that activity usually renders necessary. What with all the excitement lately, I haven’t been sleeping very well, so it was a much-needed day of productivity and rest.

That evening we went out to the bigger wine bar down the street, the one located in the cistern at the end of the aqueduct. There we met up with our French dopplegangers and some friends of theirs from Houston, who are originally from Melbourne. It was an appropriate venue for a group of people from very dry climates, as the constant stream of water running along the walls of the cool stone passageway was almost more decadent than the wine itself.

We had a great time with them, eating cheese and drinking what looked like a huge amount of wine, since four of us ordered a tasting flight. At one point I happened to mention the house that we’d joked about buying and fixing up the day before, and our French friend, asked me, “Would you ever consider actually doing that? Living here for longer than a year?”

The question stopped me dead in my tracks. If he’d asked me that even a few months ago, I would’ve said no way. But now… now I’m not so sure. I was surprised to find myself admitting that yes, I could see us living here for a longer time. I am starting to recognize and appreciate the community that exists here, the warmth of the people and their tightly interwoven lives. I am falling in love with the place, its ghetto fabulousness, the constant surprises that await you around every turn.

No, scratch that: I already am in love with this place, and have been for some time. It’s like realizing you’re in love with your best friend, the one you have cohabited with, fought and laughed with, and struggled to understand for so long that the process is almost indiscernible until wham! There it is. After that, nothing is the same.

So I stepped out yesterday with a new perspective on the town I have — shockingly, gradually, imperceptibly — grown to love. We went up to the Casa of Fernando Pessoa, stopping on the way to gorge ourselves on all you can eat sushi, and spent a pleasant hour or so wading through their many books on Pessoa’s life and myriad personalities while the rain came down in buckets outside.

All that physical and mental nourishment rendered us in desperate need of caffeine, so we went to the pasteleria Gabe and I had found on our first trip up there. As we refreshed our parched minds and bodies, I gazed in wonder at the fabulous collection of characters there. There were tables of little old ladies gathered for their afternoon coffee and gossip, businessmen in suits delicately eating pastries, and at the glass counter, a painter drinking his afternoon beer, his face, hat, hands, and overalls completely covered with grime and paint. I love you all! I thought, and you don’t even know it!

Ditto for the ornate Easter cakes we spotted on the way out, which were built of chocolate “twigs” and filled with pastel chocolate covered almonds. One even had a tiny nest with little yellow feathered birds right in the middle of it. Oh, these people and their equal devotion to sugar and religious holidays! It fills me with joy to see.

Since the weather had so far not been cooperating with our plans, we hopped on one of the little old trams to take us back home. This time we took another route than the usual touristy one that winds up and around the castle, so we were surrounded almost entirely by Portuguese people instead of German and British tourists. It was a nice change indeed.

Again, we saw a wide variety of priceless characters, each one of whom I gladly could’ve sat and watched for hours. One man who looked just like a character out of Moby Dick — brimmed cap, gloves, a beard, and a dazed, surly look on his face, as if a gaze used to looking out at a far distant horizon was resentful of the restrictions imposed by buildings and land. When he got off, we turned to each other and said as one, “That guy looked just like a pirate!”

Soon afterwards, an old lady got on carrying a small padded dog carrier, which emitted high-pitched whines as she stood in the front behind the driver. This provided endless wonder for the small, wide-eyed, curly-haired boy who got on with his father shortly thereafter. Clearly the thought of a dog riding on the tram was a great delight and curiosity for him. When they got off after a few stops, the boy waved over his father’s shoulder and said, “Ciao, cão!” (Bye, dog!) My heart constricted inside of me at the cuteness of it all.

We got out well before the final stop, as the tram got caught up in a rush hour traffic jam of trams, buses, and cars that were all trying to negotiate one particular intersection. It was a quaint and sedate traffic jam, far less stressful than the usual kind, but I was tired and cold, so out we got and hoofed it home.

So you see… this is the town I love. Traffic jams involve ancient electric trolleys, not loud smelly cars. Adorable children say good bye to small whiny dogs in perfectly rhymed phrases. Out the window of the tram, you see buildings covered in dark blue tiles with purple and red drapes in the window, and churches with pink cherry trees blooming in front. Even the bums look like swashbuckling pirates of olden days, and belong more in a Gilbert and Sullivan musical than they do in a soup kitchen.

You drink coffee, lots of it, right along with little old biddies and exhausted workmen. You stuff yourself with excellent sushi, along with tables full of teenaged boys on lunch break and yet more little old biddies with immaculately set curls and plucked eyebrows, sharing a bottle of wine over a long afternoon meal. At night, you drink wine with good friends, either in grand places that are older than our country or in a local haunt with only four tables and two bar seats, where the waitress greets you by name.

After six months of being wooed by all of this, I have at last been won. It’s now official: I am having a love affair with our city. And a grand affair it is indeed.

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