Fourth Week of a New Life
Habits, Hazings, and Happiness
As the week started, I was excited to prepare for my friend Liz’s arrival. She was my first visitor. After spending the first three weeks wandering the city extensively, my poor feet were shot. In preparation for Liz’s visit, I was determined to spend most of this week resting my feet and doing yoga.
Highly Addictive Habits
While I succeeded at morning yoga all week, the resting part broke down quickly. Monday morning I headed to my usual morning cafe just up the hill. After counting the steps required to reach this lovely branch of my beloved Copenhagen Coffee Lab, I’ve determined that I climb the same distance required to reach the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower in Florence every two days with that trip alone. However it is worth the effort to spend my mornings working in such a beautiful cafe.
As you walk inside the cafe, you immediately head down a staircase into a cavernous area with tables. To the right are the display cases full of the most heavenly tasting pastries. Their cinnamon cream bun should be on a list of controlled substances as they are insanely delicious and highly addictive. The struggle to not get one every day is real.
As you sit in the cafe, you can hear the bells of Tram 28 as it stops to pick up passengers just outside the cafe’s entrance. As I leave, I cannot resist the urge to hop on this historic tram and ride down into my other favorite neighborhoods. I grab a quick lunch somewhere and find a spot to work that afternoon so I can be out enjoying this enchanting city which is another addiction I cannot resist.
Hazed in the Douro Wine Valley
On the morning Liz arrived, we headed straight to the north to visit Porto. It’s such a beautiful city. I love it there. We rented a two bedroom apartment in the center, perfect for exploring the tourist center and some more local neighborhoods.
One day we headed out to the Douro wine valley with our guide, Andre who is a native Porto man. His passion for the city is infectious as he happily tells you all of the reasons he loves his home. From the beautiful city itself to the Douro wine valley and all the amazing people, food and football, he loves it all.
Equal to Andre’s love of the city, is his dislike of my lovely Lisbon. How can this be?!?!?!? His list of reasons for disliking my new city is extensive, but stem from the fact that Lisbon is the capital and a touch more popular than Porto. He enjoyed making jokes at my expense which I must admit, was good-natured and amusing. We all had fun with it.
My favorite joke of the day was when he said there was one very good thing in Lisbon upon which everyone could agree. Anxious to see if I’d missed this key attraction, I asked him what it was. He replied, “The sign that points in the direction of the highway and says “Porto “.
At the last stop of the day, we were all having one final tasting in a large room with three other groups we’d been following around. When the guide leading the tasting, who I had no previous interaction with, was handing out the glasses of port, he reached me and said “None for Lisbon!” Everyone in the room agreed, making Andre incredibly proud.
Mornings in a Porto Cafe
One morning, Liz and I stopped in a little, nondescript cafe on a side street in Porto’s historic center. As you enter, you don’t immediately notice anything remarkable about this place. It could be any of a dozen cafes in the area. A very friendly woman greets you with a smile, offering you a table and a menu.
As I got settled and began to look around, I noticed a lot of those signs with positive sayings and a guest book filled with happy customer’s comments. While these signs are not really to my taste, I did notice one, saying “Fall in love with as many things as possible.” I really love that sentiment.
From our table, I had a view of the woman who greeted us as she went about the business of running the cafe. What amazed me was that in a historic center, where so many proprietors tire of tourists and treat them like an imposition, this woman was always happy. I never once looked at her when she did not have a smile on her face.
When we were paying our check at the counter, she asked if we wanted anything sweet, proudly telling us that everything was homemade. For a moment, I had this image of her dancing around on the slopes of a mountain on a sunny day singing “The hills are alive… with the sound of music!”
Joking aside, this woman has truly found her happy place. She loves making the food she serves and even named her cafe “O Caseirinho” which means “Homemade”. It was so inspiring to watch her go about her day so happily. It made me want to try harder to find more of the joy in daily life and let the unimportant things go.
She told me if I was living in Lisbon now, I must return to Porto and visit her. I definitely will, especially when I need a reminder to focus on finding the joy in life.