Ah, Lisbon - your cobbled streets, your charming arthritic wooden trams bustling up and down precipitous streets from the sea to the hills, your heady mix of rawness and sophistication, your views of the city tumbling down towards the Tagus, your tiny pavements filled with people, your cafés, kiosks and miradors - we've fallen in love with you all over again.
We had to bid a sad fairwell to Sam, our Ford Falcon van, leaving him stored safely outside the city in a friend's warehouse while we made our way to Lisbon for a few days before our flight to London.
We're staying in the Barrio Alto district in a beautiful apartment we rented through airbnb, and which has been our base this week for exploring the city. We've trawled through the city's past at the Feira do Lladras or Thieves' Market, a twice-weekly flea-market, filled with second-hand treasures, junk and antiques; and a wonderful window on the intimate lives of Lisbon's inhabitants, past and present.
After three months on the road Carlos' beard was beginning to make him look a little Tom Hanks in Castaway, so we stopped off at Barbearia Oliveira in Alfama's winding cobbled streets. Featured in Time Out Lisbon's 50 best new businesses of 2013, this tiny barbers is over 100 years old, and has recently been given a somewhat hipster makeover including a 1960s TV in the corner playing 80s hits on VH1, and a vintage counter - all good fun and Carlos left looking like a new man. At just €5.50 it was also incredibly reasonable.
We've been rather poor tourists this week, preferring to relax and enjoy the city rather than go visiting sights, but we did make it to the spectacular Oceanario in the east of Lisbon. We fell in love with the sea otters, but the whole exhibit with one of the largest aquariums in the world and its strong emphasis on education and conservation was pretty awe-inspiring.
On Sunday we wandered through the city westwards until we were directly under the huge suspension bridge over the Tagus, Lisbon's own 'Golden Gate Bridge'. The area has been invaded by the city's coolest nightclubs and the LX Factory, a creative space filled with cafés and independent stores and a weekend market. We fell in love with a giant papier maché cactus, which we somewhat rashly paid a deposit for. When we return in January we'll be travelling therefore with this large and totally impractical addition to our van.
The greatest joy in Lisbon is just to get lost, drinking in the tarnished beauty of the architecture, taking a rickety old tram across town and discovering new corners of the city for yourself.
Today we finished our Christmas shopping, buying some of the colour and flavour of Lisbon to take home to family and friends this Christmas. We stopped off at our favourite Mirador, the Jardim de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, with views over the whole city to the castle and river.
Tomorrow we fly to London and we'll be sharing some of our favourite places there as we prepare for a very happy Christmas. With love from Lisbon.
A few places we love: