Portugal

April break came quickly!

Most of the time, it seems the boys have 5-6 weeks of school between breaks, but this time, it was 4, so it felt like yesterday that we were on the slopes, and now we were heading south! Honestly, it has been a very grey, cold and wet several weeks and we wanted sun!

Portugal has been on my bucket list to visit for years because it is one of the countries and cultures that I feel like I knew nothing about but was so curious to learn more. We absolutely loved Spain and as it’s next-door neighbor, we were excited to see what Portugal would be like!

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We left on a Friday night and drove to Paris to stay north of the city since we’d be flying out of Paris-Beauvais, a very small airport from which smaller airline fleets operate out of. There are lots of very cheap options when it comes to flying here in Europe- Both RyanAir and EasyJet offer very inexpensive flights to many European cities and the less you bring, the less you pay! If you are able to pack one tiny suitcase, you can fly for as cheap as $50 round trip!

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Navigating thru this tiny airport was quick and easy (very non-French) and it reminded us of Greenville! Except for the “permissible items in carry-ons” poster, of which there is an entire one dedicated to JUST cheese.

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I’m not kidding when I say that cheese is right up there at the top of the list of basic needs for survival among the French people. Right behind bread.

The flight was 2.5 hours to Lisbon from Paris and, as would be expected for a budget airline, they have to make their money somewhere. We had assumed we’d be able to use a credit card, but that was not the case, and so we used up every last euro to buy 2 cans of Pepsi that were like a few sips each, like the party size. So we rationed it out between the 3 boys:)

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The flight was uneventful, other than when our plane was struck by lightening as we were flying in and over Portugal. There was a loud boom and a flash and the pilot was quick to come on and announce what had happened and that this is actually a pretty common occurrence!What the? Common or not, it definitely added some excitement! I read later that on average, a plane will get struck 1-2 times a year, but nowadays all planes have several safety features to protect them from lightening strikes. It was crazy!

We got to Lisbon, and it was raining pretty hard, but luckily it was a short walk to the rental car area, so we were off on our way in no time! Our plan was to spend the first few days down near Lagos, on the Algarve coast, the southern most part of Lisbon which sits on the Atlantic Ocean.

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Owen creating some “suitcase art”….

We hopped in our sweet Volvo station wagon (a VERY refreshing and welcome change from our Peugeot…) and off we went!

As soon as we left the Lisbon airport, we crossed over this very long bridge- the Vasco De Game Bridge, 18 miles long and reminded us so much of the Cooper River Bridge!

It was a 3 hour drive with a quick stop for gas. It’s always so interesting to visit gas stations in a new country- of course, we love to check out all the new snacks; it’s fun to see what countries have their own version of something American- Doritos for example. Not only were we the only ones at the gas station, we were literally the only ones on the highway, it was so strange! Compared to France, Portugal already felt smaller and less populated.

Our AirB&B home was in a very remote area near a tiny village called Oxiadére and the last 5-10 minutes of the drive was along dirt roads with a few wild dogs standing in the road. I’m not gonna lie- as we drove along, I (secretly) was wondering where the heck we were….

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As much as I trust Chuck when he picks our Air B&B’s, there has been a time or two when I’ve held my breath as we drive through a certain area to get to a place we are staying… even though virtually every place we have stayed has been just perfect for what we have needed. This home, though, was different and unlike anything we had ever stayed in…super modern with all glass, big yard for the boys to run around in- it was absolutely beautiful…. and the dark clouds and rain rolled out just in time!

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Our host met us at the house and showed us around- lots of fancy gadgets in the kitchen- that we unfortunately never figured out how to use while we stayed there and, aside from the awkwardness when she (in broken English) tried to convince Chuck he needed to pay another $300 for the cleaning/security deposit, (which after confirming with the owner, was determined that he did not), we settled in.

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Knowing that the next day would be rainy and cooler, we soaked up the sun and enjoyed the beautiful sunset that evening.

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Unfortunately, the nearest grocery store was 20 min away, so I stayed back with the boys while Chuck ventured out to find groceries. It killed me to miss out- I LOVE to see what kinds of culinary treasures can be found in a new place. He returned an hour or so later with all kinds of finds- meats, cheeses, wine, and pastries! He told us about the Balcalhau (dried and salted cod) that was literally sold in huge slabs on shelves.

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The next morning, whatever illness I’d been fighting for a few days came back with a vengeance and I literally felt awful. When I was finally able to get up and moving (thank you zofran/flonase/dayquil/allegra) we went for out for a drive and stopped at the same grocery store (Pingo Doce- which was super gourmet and fancy!) for a cappuccino and a few more groceries. I was curious to see the Balcalhau that Chuck had told me about the night before. This dried and salted cod is a huge staple in Portuguese cuisine- Portugal is a HUGE fish-loving nation) and the seafood section was unreal.  Balcahau is the most-consumed food in this culture, and more frequently eaten dried than fresh!

As we drove, I couldn’t get over the mismatch between the beautiful homes (and this grocery store- Pingo Doce) and how poor and underdeveloped the area was- cars shared the road with horse and buggies- families riding in a wagon being pulled by a horse! It was crazy!

As we came out of the grocery store, we found this buddy parked and waiting on his family…

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We drove along the coast to Lagos and Ponte da Piedade, a beautiful spot along the western part of Algarve coast with cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. There were many hiking trails winding along the top and down onto the beaches.

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The effects of erosion to these sandstone cliffs have resulted in creating the most beautiful and unique rock formations that are distinctive of the Algarve coast.

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Wells said “I think I see Charleston”…

We sat and looked out over the Atlantic Ocean beneath us and over to the right, towards the West. Out in front of us we looked directly south- It was hard to imagine that Morocco, one of the most northern regions of Africa, was only a few hours south.

At some point, someone mentioned Mexican and we found a cool Burrito place in downtown Lagos called Beats and Burritos that everyone agreed was the best Mexican we have had since we left Greenville. That is one thing we all really miss. Fresh Mexican. Not even necessarily Corona’s. There is one Mexican restaurant in Clermont that is tiny and impossible to ever get in to for dinner. Plus, it’s not kid-friendly, so we’ve never been.

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The kids got to decorate napkins to hang on the wall along with tons of other amazing napkin art. I wish I’d taken a pic of some of the drawings, there were some drawn by kids, but many others these beautiful, intricate drawings; we wondered how anyone could finish in the time it takes to eat dinner at a restaurant?

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Charlie’s napkin art

Lagos itself was a great little town. It is actually encased inside ancient walls surrounding it that made it feel like we were entering a fortress.

The streets are pedestrian- only (no cars) and had lots of tiny alleys and streets wrapping through with cafés and shops selling Portuguese specialty products. There were tons of items made from cork- bags, wallets; beautiful decorative tiles, lots of woven rugs and blankets too. Everything was SO cheap!

I loved walking through the streets and admiring the many tiny bleach-white houses with Spanish tile roofs and the most beautiful tiles lining some of the walls.

After a few hours, we headed home and I crashed for a nap while the boys and Chuck all headed up to the hot tub up on the roof deck. I was sad to miss out on the fun, but just couldn’t hang 😦

After breakfast Monday morning, we drove to Carvoeiro, another small coastal town about 30 minutes away in hopes of more amazing views. When we arrived, it was cool and rainy but luckily, the sun moved in and made for a gorgeous afternoon.

We ate lunch at a neat restaurant called The Wolf where the guys got burgers and Wells- ribs. Still feeling rough, I had some carrot soup that was delicious.

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We walked up hill the beach and hiked down near Altar Seco Parque. Like the cliffs yesterday, many more beautiful views but there was a long boardwalk that overlooked the ocean and lots of intricate paths leading down to the beaches below.

We hiked along the cliffs and saw these amazing deep craters and caves, again- effects of erosion. It was incredible.

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Something about the stark white architecture in this cute town next to the sea magnified the beautiful blue colors of the Atlantic… in a lot of ways, it reminded us of Nice.

That evening when we headed home, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Back to the hot tub….

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A serious rock-paper-scissors tournament (“pierre-feuille-ciseaux” as the kids say when playing at school) evolved and Wells was the clear and undisputed champion:)

After drying off, we were excited to finally grill out- one thing apartment life does not allow for back in France. Aaaah, but, the grill was out of gas. It would have been too perfect…

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We were able to slide open our giant glass wall door in the kitchen while the boys played soccer in the yard…

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and then ping pong…

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The next morning Chuck was finally able to figure out how to turn on the heat in the house (it was freezing in the house for a few days; we just assumed glass houses probably don’t heat well) and for me (who is ALWAYS FREEZING), it was a game changer. It was a rainy and cool day and so we veg’d out in our (now warm) house in the morning but wanted to go back to Lagos for lunch.

We got our raincoats on and into the car and when Chuck went to open the automated gate it wouldn’t work. We had noticed earlier in the day that the back part of the house where Charlie’s room was had lost power. Our host had told us that the power goes out briefly and intermittently at times, but should come on after 10 minutes if so. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out how which fuse corresponded to the automatic gate, so after 20 minutes of waiting in the car, we decided to bag it and have cereal for lunch.

Later that afternoon, we were able to get in touch with Natalia and she talked us through the fuses and off we went, back to Lagos to walk around, pick up some souvenirs and grab coffee and ice cream. We came home, cooked dinner, packed up and headed out the next morning, back up to Lisbon.

Chuck had read about a very tiny coastal town called Comporta that had recently become a very popular vacation spot, known for its beaches, charming tiny shops/restaurants and furniture shopping. We stopped off to check out the beach and then lunch. There were some very cute restaurants sitting on the beach, but it was still pretty abandoned at this point- some were not even open yet for the season… but the views were so pretty!

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We found this a cute lunch spot with a very simple menu- it was literally burgers and a few salads. And the boys loved it because when we ordered chips with the burgers, the waitress literally brought a big bag of Lays chips to the table.

After lunch, Chuck and I sat for a coffee but the boys were jacked up. After several fights, crying, etc. our only option was to literally put all 3 of them in “time out”. Seriously, even Charlie. Luckily, there were 3 benches surrounding the tree that made for perfect time-out. So there they sat and there we sat, drinking our coffee in peace.

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cute furniture shop

We continued on towards Lisbon which took us through the middle of nowhere. I mean, nowhere. As in, no towns, no villages, no gas stations, no lights. I’ve never even seen the navigation screen look like this..

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We drove on this long straight road for what seemed like forever until we reached the highway and up into Lisbon.

We were excited to see the “city” side of Portugal.  Since we wouldn’t need the car any longer, we turned it in and grabbed a cab to our air B&B in downtown Lisbon. We had the most insane cab driver ever- running red lights, honking his horn, driving a million miles an hour; none of us were sure we were going to make it to our destination alive. Luckily, the immediate uniqueness of Lisbon with all of the beautiful colorful Moorish tile that adorn the buildings distracted us as we drove along and we finally made it.

We had a cute little loft in the Alfama district, one of the oldest areas in Lisbon. This area is exceptional in that it was spared during the earthquake of 1755 that destroyed much of  Lisbon.  Once run-down and poverty-stricken, the Alfama district has been completely revitalized and has a special charm to it with its hilly cobblestone streets that wind around past cafés, restaurants, artisan shops and studios, etc.

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our apartment building!

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Here in the Alfama, there are numerous beautiful viewpoints of the city, known as miradouros, scenic terraces where people flock to enjoy the sun, music, food/drinks and photos. There was one up the hill from our apartment that we came up on when first venturing out. This one (Miradouro de Santa Luzia) was unique with columns, vines and even a big fountain, kind of a Greco feel to it.

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We found a restaurant in the Chiado district for dinner that had lots of good seafood options; we had some delicious Balcahau- prepared 2 different ways- one fried and one sautéed with a lemon butter sauce. Yummy!

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Unfortunately, the really “good” looking gelato places near our apartment had all closed early, so the boys settled for some “just OK” gelato and we headed home.

The next morning, it was pouring rain. I mean POURING. To the point where, we debated running out and grabbing breakfast and bringing it back. But, since we didn’t know how long the rain would last (?all day) and had rain forecasted for the next 3 days, we figured it was time to venture out.

We ate breakfast at a very unique little place called Ha Café do Alfarrabista. It felt like we were eating breakfast in cute little library. The menus were glued into the middle of these old books and they had all kinds of cakes, pastries, and both savory and sweet traditional breakfast. The boys had the freshest OJ I’ve ever tasted in my life (oranges are everywhere in Portugal) and all of our food was served in the most unique ways. Scrambled eggs in a jar and a warm, soft loaf of bread served along side it…

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We ended up waiting what probably felt like forever to poor Owen (who was starving!) for his pancakes to arrive. But luckily, we had ordered some Pastel de Natas to try (famous Portuguese custard-filled tarts) and our food was all so delish we forgot all about the wait.

Next, we visited the Sé cathedral which had the most beautiful huge wooden doors that you step through to enter…

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Though the inside was very dark and typical in appearance I think to most cathedrals, the small chapels in the alcoves were lined with tiled-images (azulejo panels) that gave it a very unique Lisbon-feel.

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The cathedral was small and we didn’t stay long. Luckily, there was a break in the rain and the sun peeked out, so we walked uphill to Castelo San Jorge, a big castle with fortress that sits up on top of the city.

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After entering this big arch, it almost feels like you are walking into a small village- the “Castelo” itself actually is more like an estate which includes the castle, the ruins existing from the former palace and then a residential area where the wealthy lived. As we walked around the estate, in a way, it felt like an college campus with its big hovering trees, gardens and small buildings.

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Except for the peacocks everywhere… that was interesting 🙂 They were so beautiful!

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The castle was actually built by the Moors in the 11th century along with the residential area nearby but did not actually become a home to royalty until the 12th century. At that time the first King of Portugal (Dom Alfonso Henriques) made it his home and with the transition from Moorish rule to Christian, many modifications were made. For the next few centuries (until the 16th), the Castelo was a royal palace that hosted many important Portuguese and foreigners.

IMG_1129It later became more military in function when Spain took Portugal under the Spanish crown and remained so until the 20th century. Several different renovations to the medieval alcove and citadel started in the 18th century (after the earthquake) until late into the 20th century, but interestingly the castle, royal palace ruins and other old buildings were rediscovered in the mid 20th century, during restoration work. It has since been recognized as an important Portuguese National Monument.

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The views from windows in the ruins and the top of the fortress were incredible.

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Castel de San Jorge is actually one of the best viewpoints in Lisbon, offering a 360 degree view of the city. A nice Russian lady offered to take our picture…

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At the bottom of the hill beneath the castle is a pasteleria known for their Pastel de Natas, Pastelaria Santo Antonio. We grabbed coffee and didn’t actually have one since we were still stuffed from breakfast, but there was a window where you could watch them being made which was cool…

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For lunch, we had hoped to eat at the famous Mercado de Ribeira, a huge hall that is home to many food stalls, each offering different types of cuisine.

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source:Monnuage.fr
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This one literally serves only chocolate and either port wine or whiskey to drink with it!

These type markets literally have huge tables extending the length of the hall where people just sit next to each other; there is no individual tables, per se. Unfortunately, we must have hit at the busiest time of day, because after 30 minutes of walking around, looking for an open spot for 5 people (and then we’d have to start figuring out who wanted what from different places! ) we decided we’d try again later….

As soon as we walked out into the sunshine (yay!) there was a great Italian restaurant directly across the street, called Otto.

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The kids were hoping for pizza anyhow, so it was meant to be. Not only was the food super delish, the kitchen was enclosed in glass, so the kids could watch the pizza dough being made and the man that greeted us at the entrance was so friendly! He came over several times to joke with the kids and towards the end of our meal, he walked up and handed each of the boys a ball of pizza dough to play with…

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So simple, yet so genius. It kept them entertained forever!

As we strolled through the streets of Lisbon, it struck me how much it reminded me of San Francisco in several ways… one unique feature to Lisbon are the street cars that wind up the hilly streets- the cable car #28 is a famous one that takes passengers past famous sites and through some of the more popular neighborhoods.

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Also, the 25 de Abril bridge that crosses the Tagus River and is a special part of the Lisbon skyline… Similar in color and shape to the Golden Gate Bridge, it is often referred to as its sister bridge.

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That evening, we wanted to take the boys to see Fado, a traditional Portuguese type of music that is played in restaurants all over Lisbon, but can be found especially in the Alfama district where we were staying. Many restaurants have a Fado performance earlier in the evening which you can listen to while sipping (typically) port and eating traditional Portuguese snacks- meats, cheeses, fish, olives, etc. We had made a reservation earlier in the day, and upon our arrival at Bohemia LX, a small, traditional Portuguese restaurant with a piano, velvet curtains, lace tablecloths and candelabra everywhere.

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Fado music was born in tiny taverns of Lisbon years ago and is a unique type of music accompanied by piano or guitar that reflects the personality of the city- full of expression, songs about love, disappointments, and their country. Often, the music is slow and melancholy, but can be quite loud and intense at times!

We ordered some tapas like a cheese/meat board, calamari, and (oddly) they even had scrambled eggs, which we thought Wells would like. He did not, but I thought they were really good! My favorite was the cheese. Dare I say that I might just like the cheese in Portugal better than France…?!?! Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince the boys to agree and so, since we had told the boys we would go to dinner after Fado, they didn’t eat much of the food we’d ordered.

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As we were leaving the restaurant, it began to absolutely pour. POUR. We had 2 umbrellas between the 5 of us, so we had to move quickly and pick the closest restaurant we could find just to get out of the rain!

The boys had hoped to get something small and then dessert, so we’d hoped to find something that would suit.

We rushed into a restaurant across the street and asked for a table for 5. As we sat down, the hostess proceeded to tell us about how they were a fondue restaurant, and offered several different options, (each multiple in course) that they often pair with their several house-made wines, etc etc etc…

Chuck and I sorta looked at each other as in, uh-oh. How did we pick the one restaurant that will probably expect us to order the most food of all the restaurants here in Lisbon? But, in an effort to avoid offending anyone, we decided to have a “second meal”… We told the boys that we’d get the chocolate cake they were each eyeing on the menu after we ate some of the steak we ordered.

It actually ended up being such a fun meal. We had never had fondue before, (other than raclette in Annecy) but this was different. After turning on our table grill, the server brought us a huge platter of marinated steak that we could cook and dip in different sauces. By “we”, I mean Chuck. I sat back, relaxed, and sipped my green wine while he cooked our second dinner 🙂

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I ordered goat cheese which came on a platter with honey, hazelnuts/cashews and goji berries. It was so delicious. I guess it was more like dessert, but we both agreed it was some of the best we’d had. And at this point, in our adventures, I have eaten a LOT of goat cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again…

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When it came time for dessert, the boys excitedly ordered the chocolate cake they had eyed up only to find out that the kitchen had run out for the evening. I guess the waiter must have felt the heavy disappointment because he returned a few minutes later with 3 “special” chocolate desserts, made especially for them…

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Being the Nutella lovers that they are, they recognized that deliciousness before that first bite and quickly forgot all about that chocolate cake. Presentation is everything in Portuguese cuisine- even with something as simple as Nutella and berries- they can make it look 10x fancier! Genius!

The next morning, we wanted to find something light for breakfast, so we went to a cute place close to our apartment called Tapas ‘N Friends for ham & cheese croissants, freshly-squeezed OJ and coffee.  It was a cool, beautiful, sunny, spring morning; the doors and windows were open and the fireplace was burning…

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One really unique aspect to Lisbon is all of these tiny little vehicles called “Tuk Tuks”- little open-air vehicles that look like golf carts. Some people use them as taxis to get from one point to another, but most people hop in to take a personalized tour with a guide who will take you to must-see areas of Lisbon. They are literally everywhere, all different colors and motifs, winding up through the hilly cobblestone streets; you can hear all types of languages being spoken by guides as they explain the sites to their passengers. It’s really a great idea if you want to take a “spur of the moment” private tour of the city; most last about an hour.

While walking down the street the day before, we had been approached by a super-friendly, energetic young woman named Anna who was riding by and greeted us with a cheery “Hi, family!” She was so cute. In broken English, she asked us if we wanted to hop in for a tour (for a reduced price; she was going to give us a deal! hahaha) but at the time, we were on our way to lunch, so she texted me her number and we agreed to reach out to her when we were ready and she’d come pick us up wherever.

We decided to wait until the next day since it was finally sunny! We walked to the huge historic square, Prada do Commercio, that sits right on the water. Anna told us later that this square is one of the very largest in all of Europe!

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Next to the square there was a small beach that we wandered over to and, though it was too cold to even stick a toe in the water, the boys had fun playing on the beach for awhile.

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We found all kinds of interesting rocks and tiny snail shells with many different patterns.

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There was a guy using a broom, shovel and his hands to create large sand animals like this one…

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But the most incredible thing we found was this incredible display of stacked rocks… The cutest old man in a red hat was busy working on his masterpiece, stacking rocks as we walked by.  It was amazing to watch him in action!

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We joined up with Anna and agreed that she’d pick us up at the square. But first, a stop at the only bathroom we could find… There was a big sign outside coining it “The sexiest WC in all of Europe”. WC stands for water closet- what the Europeans call toilets. Of course, Owen and I could not resist our curiosity, so we wandered in and after paying our 2 euros, we had the unique privilege of choosing from the many different shades of toilet paper…

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What I didn’t quite get to was to snap a pic of the really bizarre-o wall art. There were naked men in construction boots (strategically posed thank goodness) posing at all kinds of construction sites… I guess this is where the designation “sexiest” WC came from… Still not sure how I feel about how eager some people are to capitalize on bathroom usage.

Anna picked us up and off we went! She took us to her favorite spots all the while telling us all about the history of Lisbon and Portugal. For such a tiny country, it is so rich in history and culture!

Here were a few highlights:

Lady of the Mountain- one awesome view point up on this big hill with a little chapel where legend has it, a few hundred years ago, women would come here to see their husbands off as they left for sea, mourning their departure, dressed all in black and, because they were certain it would likely be the last time they would see them, they would sing sad music (one common theme in Fado). There was a woman who said goodbye to her husband and 3 years later, much to her surprise, her husband returned, but there was one slight problem- She was pregnant! Her only explanation was that it was a miracle! She had been praying in the church and God had blessed her with a child! The whole village celebrated this miracle and from the on, women who are seeking pregnancy flock to the chapel hoping for success….

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Roman ruins- the pic below is one of the 2 sites that Anna told us about containing Roman ruins that were recently discovered during a renovation project… While excavating/digging, this was a Roman theater that was discovered! Obviously, construction was put on hold and archeologists/historians came in to research, date and take measure to preserve the area; the theater dates back to the 1st century! What a cool find!IMG_1216

Anna also took us to 3 of the notably best viewpoints of Lisbon- the Miraduoros I had mentioned above.

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She took us by the Pantheon- Also known as the Santa Engràcia church- built in the 17th century, it is the resting place of many famous and influential Portuguese figures, including artists, presidents, writers and singers. I asked her if Ronaldo has a spot reserved 🙂

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She also took us through different neighborhoods where her family grew up, as far back as several generations! It was so interesting to learn about Lisbon’s history in such a personalized way. We absolutely loved our time with Anna and couldn’t believe how much more we learned in an hour than we would have discovered over several days on our own!

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That afternoon, the boys were exhausted, so Chuck and I headed out a bit to shop and collect some treasures to bring home.

For dinner, we enjoyed a truly authentic Italian meal and Charlie found his most favorite Bolognese yet…

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On our way to gelato, we turned onto this street and it reminded us of home..

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Santini is written about as the best (and oldest!) gelato cafe, opened in 1949. They had all kinds of unique flavors, such as lemon with chocolate threads, forest fruits, depois da 8 (a mixture of 8 flavors) and others!

Saturday was our last day in Lisbon and we still had lots we wanted to do and see! There is a Thieves’ market (Feira da Ladra); a giant flea market every Saturday in the Alfama district which we thought would be fun to walk through. Our walk towards the thieves’ market led us through some pretty run down areas of Lisbon and lots of very hilly streets. The boys were hungry and not excited about the number of steep hills we had to climb to get to the market.

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But, as Chuck often does, he knew exactly where we were going and had a plan in his back pocket…. we had read about a coffee shop called Copenhagen Coffee Lab that sounded amazing, but lots of coffee shops we’d read about in Lisbon sounded amazing, and there was just not enough time to visit each one… but right after I caved and ducked in a tiny produce market to buy 2 bananas, an apple and a pack of generic chocolate stuffed cookies for 1 Euro 60 and our 3 hangry kiddos, Chuck led us down an alley and right up to what felt like the closest thing to an oasis I’ve ever experienced.

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There right in front of us, tucked in a pretty beat down, rough neighborhood in Lisbon, was the Copenhagen Coffee Lab and I’ve never, WE’VE never found a coffee shop quite like this.

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When you walk in, you can see the counter and tables down below, but first, you are greeted by a big old bread kneading bowl filled with fresh baguettes.

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It was really hard to hold myself back from taking photos of all the dreamy looking warm, fluffy pastries- bread stuffed with fresh tomatoes & cheese, pillowy cinnamon rolls, chocolate croissants, chocolate rum balls and others. There was a long line behind us and we had to move quick!

For people like us with complete “analysis paralysis”, the breakfast plate was the best option because we could try a little of several things.. this was mine below- chia seed pudding with berry compote, fresh cheese, a warm whole grain roll, 2 slices of wheat bread, an egg and a pastry- I chose the cardamom sweet bun. Oh, and raspberry jam and butter. Chuck had similar but with a lemon chia pudding and a cinnamon roll. The boys inhaled their cinnamon rolls in less than 3 seconds. As if this wasn’t enough, our lattes were wonderful, too!

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It seems kinda silly, but coffee shops are my happy place. There aren’t many things so simple that can bring as much happiness. When there’s coffee, there’s happiness. But what these artisan coffee shops often have to offer is the freshest, yummiest things to eat alongside your coffee- even better!

This coffee shop had just great vibes- people just sitting and sharing time together, some inside, some outside in the sunny courtyard, great music. We are always searching for new and different coffee shops in every city we visit and we’d found our favorite.  We didn’t want to leave!

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As I’ve mentioned in other posts, it never gets old walking through markets in every single city we visit. Whether it is a flea market or food market,  it is one of the very best ways to really see the heart of each different culture. The hands that create these treasures, whether it is jewelry or iron keys or handprinted tiles or woven baskets, have poured their heart and soul into what they create. And they are so proud of what they have to share with others, often the prices are humbly low. Especially outside of France.

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Most of the items you’d never probably consider buying, but it is so fun to see what people are selling!

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You never know what you will find!

There’s always music playing too!

After an hour or two at the Thieves’ market, we went back to the huge square to find a sunny place to have lunch. There was a marching band playing some fun music and people were just hopping in line behind them to follow along. I took this video because I loved watching this cute mom dancing with her little guy along behind them. It wasn’t until I watched it again that I noticed someone else feelin’ the music too….

One thing we miss is having books in English to read (thank goodness for kindles/ipads!) so we love to visit bookstores in bigger cities; often they will have an English section where we can pick up a few books for the kids. We were looking for a coffee table book of Lisbon and stopped in here, Livraria Bertrand, which we found out was the oldest operating book store in the world!

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We spent the last of our Saturday in Lisbon packing up, getting organized, to bed early. With a 6:20am flight out of Lisbon to Paris, we had alarms set for 4am, 2 cabs reserved- Just in case!

When we arrived to Paris, we planned to spend a few hours hitting up a few of our very favorite American stores. Though it was Sunday, the boys didn’t have school the next day, so we were in no hurry to start our 4 hour drive home!

Of course, first we hit Starbucks- there was one right at the airport, so we grabbed our most loved American coffees and headed into Paris. We were soooooo excited to go to Chipotle in the Saint Germain district. Next to Chik Fil-A; Chipotle is unanimously the “quick” American food we miss the most. I’m obsessed with their honey tabasco dressing and have tried to replicate it numerous times at home (and failed!!). I couldn’t wait to have it. Of course, when we got there, they were “out” of it that day- their machine was “broken”. Dangit. Oh well, it was still good.

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We stopped in the Apple Store, for Charlie. He loves to play with and dream about the iPhone 10.

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Last but not least on our list (my list) was to visit the Lululemon store. There is only a very few stores here in Europe and Paris is the closest one! It still surprises me that there is a store in France. French women are pretty fancy in their everyday attire; they aren’t really into wearing active wear all day long like we Americans like to do. As hard as I try, I can’t find one piece of French exercise clothing that would work. So, I dragged my guys several blocks to the LL store only to find it was closed on Sundays.. NOOOOOO!

The 4 hour drive back to Clermont felt like 20. Maybe it was because we’d been up and traveling since 4:30 am, but it dragged on….. we were all dying to get home…

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I thought we might all die of boredom until Wells started making funny selfies on his iPad and we all tried to see who could make the ugliest one. Warning: These are really not our best self-photos…

What WAS much more picturesque was the scenery… We have not travelled through France in the spring and the hundreds of fields of yellow wild flowers were so beautiful… Unfortunately I couldn’t capture it well from a moving vehicle..

We couldn’t make it home without a pit-stop; the boys were busting at the seems so we pulled over into a rest stop so they could run around a bit. Chuck turned up the music super loud in this abandoned parking lot and Wells pretty much launched into a dance party. We saw this guy up on a hill smoking and he was looking down at us at like we were completely crazy; and of course, he was exactly right.

That’s what long travel days do to you. But, crazy and all, we wouldn’t change it. It’s humbling to have the opportunity to travel to these new cultures, near and far!

April break in the books! Tomorrow, back to school 🙂

 

 

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