This is our last full week in Europe for now. Two things are true: we love it here and we are excited to get back to North America. First and foremost, we miss The Weez, although it seems he is thriving in our absence, so we will not be dropping in on him any time soon. Second, we are ready to have everyday experiences that are a little more familiar, a little less confusing and 100% conducted in English. Of course, we are going to Morocco for a few days between Lisbon and Victoria, British Columbia, so things are going to get more exotic before they get simpler. It will be our first visit to Africa and we hope it’s the first of many to come.

Steve and I have realized that one of our favorite things about this lifestyle is the ability to take side trips from our home bases. Since we have been in Lisbon, we have visited Sintra, Cascais and the Algarve, which is the southern coastal region of Portugal. We spent two nights and three days in the Algarve, saw a bunch of beautiful Atlantic beaches, and toured the coastline both from a boat that could go into the many sea caves, and from walking/hiking trails and lookout points high above the water. These little “adventures within an adventure” have mostly exceeded our expectations, and are one of the biggest benefits of slow travel. Also, it’s fun to stay in a hotel once in a while! Our hotel in the Algarve was Moorish-styled, and we had a private rooftop terrace with views over the city and the sea. I think Steve would have stayed indefinitely if he could have.

Another benefit of slow travel is the ability to do ordinary things, like grocery shop, get a pedicure or see a movie, in lots of different environments. Yesterday, we went to see a movie inside a large shopping center. This place is a huge, multistory building with several floors of apparel, ranging from high-end designer clothes, shoes and handbags to inexpensive sportswear, to entire floors of home goods, furniture, electronics, sporting equipment, toys, a huge food court, a separate epicure section with sit-down restaurants, multi-screen movie theater and the biggest, most full-service grocery store we have ever seen in a European city. You can get a Carolina Herrera dress, a pair of Crocs, some wallpaper, a bottle of champagne, a box of breakfast cereal and a Fisher Price Little People Farm. It’s like Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, NorthPark Mall, Tyson’s Galleria, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Whole Foods and an upscale multiplex movie theater all in one. The grocery store alone was well worth the visit. Best part of all: I bought a beautiful dress made by a Spanish brand for a lot less than it would have cost in the U.S. The first two salespeople I encountered spoke some English but were nowhere near fluent; when they realized I might lay down some semi-serious coin (at least by my admittedly middle-market standards), they produced a native English-speaking colleague tout de suite to close the deal. Now I desperately need my fashionista pals Courts and Mels to advise me on the right shoes. And handbag. And probably jewelry. It’s a whole thing…

Anywho, being the Fledgling Flâneurs, one of our most favorite things to do is still to stroll the sidewalks, watch the people and observe our surroundings. There is so much beauty in the world, and we are so fortunate to get to discover as much of it as we have. And we haven’t even been to Asia yet! I’m thinking a cruise to Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, with a visit to Australia and New Zealand, would be a nice way to celebrate my 60th birthday. Hey, if I have to go to a 40th high school reunion this year, and turn 60 next year, I think that’s only fair. Wink, wink. I can wear my new Spanish dress!