As I sat, out of the corner of my eye I saw something move outside. Our apartment is an 'L' shape, which means from the sitting room window you can see the flat roof of the kitchen and bathroom. There was something - or someone - on our roof!
As my eyes tried to adjust from the bright TV screen to the darkness outside, I could make out three blurry shapes leaning over the edge of the roof!
"What's that?!!" I whispered to T.
"Outside! On the roof!"
We tiptoed to the window and peered out, thinking someone was trying to break in.
As our eyes finally adjusted to the dark, we realized it was not three people on the roof, but three raccoons! They peered over the edge looking as if they wanted to jump off but decided against it, then weighed up the tree hanging over the house before moving on from that also. After a good snoop around, they sauntered off.
As we gawped out of the window and tried - unsuccessfully - to take photos, we really showed our neighbours we were not local. I think they are considered pests out here, like foxes; scavenging in bins, and also ripping off gutters and chimney caps in order to get into houses. Apparently they can even turn door knobs with their fingers! They are also major carriers of rabies.
But despite all that, it was still pretty cool to see a racoon from our sitting room window!
As well as witnessing the local wildlife, T and I have been continuing our exploration of new unchartered areas of the city before winter returns, bringing with it the inches of snow and freezing temperatures to put a the brakes on our desire to mooch and walk for hours with no purpose, or prevent the whole walking for pleasure altogether. Maybe we will be more hardened to the cold and open to more outside time this time, we'll see...
Our exploring has been mainly carried out by foot. Although there are many cyclists here, and a cycling network exists in many parts of the city, I have been too spoilt by the German cyclists and the amazing bike network of Munich. Here, the cyclists are like the drivers, and are a little crazy. I am not trying to be mean or derogatory, it's just the way it is, most people agree. Every time we have been out on the bikes so far we have had very close escapes with cyclists cycling directly into us - despite us being well behaved and on our side of the cycle path. They go around corners at great speed on the wrong side of the road looking at their feet... Or, when a bus is stopped at red traffic lights, the cyclist will zoom past, on a red light, on the outside of the bus, not looking to see if any traffic is coming the other way...
Then there is the fact people just don't seem to look or be aware of what is around them. Whether driving, cycling, walking, I have never known a place where you have to rely on your instincts all of the time... all in all it makes for a very tiring and stressful pastime! Walking has not been quite so eventful on the whole. Although it is not without it's own pitfalls, and I have learnt after a very close call with a humungous lorry going at great speed that even if the white man on the traffic lights comes on to tell you to walk and the lights for the traffic are red, that does not always mean the traffic is going to stop...
Situated Northwest from home is the neighbourhood Little Italy; full of Italian restaurants, cafes, and shops. We have discovered a great little coffee shop on one of the backstreet corners; it is tiny, with no tables, just a couple of stools at the bars alongside the window, full of locals chatting and catching up. Oh, and which sells the most amazing homemade Italian cookies.: biscotti dipped in chocolate and nutella filled cookies bing the highlights so far... This is where wondering with no purpose is fantastic - you find these places off the main streets that are full of the passion and spirit of locals. Tiny pizzerias filled with locals eating pizza, drinking red wine and laughing on a lunchtime, the restaurants virtually no bigger than a hole in the wall serving recipes handed down generation to generation, the dishes capturing the essence in the genes.
From Little Italy we walked East to the neighbourhood, The Plateu, where, along the way we noted some very resourceful people have been making use of the pavements outside their homes: