Well, here it is: our last day in Lisbon. This is the last morning I’ll lie in bed and watch the swallows dance above the rooftops, or eat my breakfast with only the sound of the cranes outside and the incessantly yapping dog to keep me company. (OK him I won’t miss.)

And so this whole crazy experience, truly a once in a lifetime event, draws to a close. As you’ve seen from my posts over the past weeks, it is certainly a bittersweet goodbye, no more so than today, when we’ll go in to uni to have a farewell lunch with Gabe’s colleagues.

For both of us, this year has truly been what a sabbatical is intended to be. For Gabe, it has been not only a mental and physical break from the routine of teaching and research, but also a time to expand his horizons professionally, to make new connections and do things differently than he would’ve done at home.

For me, it was more of the mental and physical break type of year. This was a year of solitude and introspection, of working on my body at the gym and my mind in our office, a time to sit by myself and read, write, think, feel, to recover from the past few years and get ready for what is to come.

In some senses, this year hasn’t gone the way I thought it would, in that I expected to use my spare time to build up my publicity business, design a website for myself, get business cards made, etc. Instead I’ve realized that I’m perfectly content with my business the way it is, and have focused on my writing, which has given me unexpected joy and much-needed stability this year.

To that end, I submitted my first piece for publication in an online journal yesterday. I have no idea if it will be accepted, but even the sending of it was a big step. I feel like I’ve come full circle this year, and yet I know it is just the beginning.

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Here are some pictures from our last walkabout yesterday — thought I’d give you a tour of our neighborhood, street by street, square by square, snack by snack. (Description is below the photos, so keep reading.)

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First we take you to Praca das Flores, which is kind of cheating because I forgot to take pictures on the way there from our house. But you get the idea. Then we walk up through the streets to Barrio Alto, past a little fruiteria and some old men playing cards outside of a cafe.

Once through Barrio Alto, we come to the mirador of Santa Catarina, where we stop at one of the first cafes we ever went to here, overlooking the bridge and the docks. Moving along, past a bollard that Gabe had to ride up and a mini-sized delivery truck, we get to Praca de Camoes, where you see two 28 trams and three churches, all in a row.

That leads us into Chiado, the fancy shopping district. We stop in a store selling sweet little espresso cups with the 28 tram on them, which to our relief were completely out of stock (as is our baggage allowance.) She wouldn’t even sell us the display model. But look at them! So cute.

Nearby, we take a picture of the tourists taking pictures of themselves in front of A Brasileira, the famous cafe where Fernando Pessoa spent so much time writing that he now has a statue outside. I turn around to take a shot of my favorite old bookstore, Bertrand, which takes up half a linear block and has been there since time immemorial.

Then on to my favorite place of all, the coffee shop, where we go in to take a whiff of the air. Gabe asks the guy about the various fancy coffeemakers on display, which leads to a lesson on the difference between all of them. Meanwhile I eye the candy, and inhale deeply, trying to absorb the old-world essence of that little store.

Onwards, down through the Chiado mall and out onto the streets below, where we look up towards the Santa Justa elevator. We turn right, through the end of Rossio square, where once the Inquisition burnt people for kicks; past the streets of Baixa, looking towards the arc at the end; and on into the Praca de Figueroa, where the tram for Belem leaves. On that corner is our second favorite place to get pasteis, the Confeiteria Nacional, which has been making Lisboans fat since before our country was a country.

There we order pasteis, and since they could be our last, we ask for them to be heated up. She leaves them in for too long, which has the strange effect of separating the butter from the dough, making the plate yellow and greasy and the whole thing taste like salty butter. Slightly anticlimactic. Nonetheless, we eat them so quickly we both burn our mouths on the hot custard inside.

Next stop, our nearby grocery store to pick up a roasted chicken for dinner, then past the ornate front of Rossio train station and back up through Restauradores square. We walk along the path of the elevador da Gloria, which took off just as we came along, and up onto our street, where many scary alley cats live. I took a picture of my favorite, the scariest by far, who barely has any ears left and is always haunted by a younger, more ear-endowed, and equally black companion.

That takes us past the local restaurant where we had my birthday dinner, although the waitress who usually says hi was nowhere to be seen last night. And finally, to our block and our red building, where we take our chicken and eat our dinner, trying not to think of how few hours of relative peace remain to us here.

So there you go — that’s our ‘hood. Hope you enjoyed our last excursion as much as we did…

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