Monday, April 26, 2010


I put exclamation points after Portugal so that maybe you would get excited to read the travelogue and scroll through the 5 million pictures I'm about to post...

I never thought I'd visit Portugal - I'm not sure that I
wanted to or even knew much about it to be honest. It's not like it was at the top of my list with Greece and Barcelona and New Zealand. But I must say now that it was one of the loveliest places I have ever visited. There was a bit of a wet mildewy smell that seemed to permeate the entire country, but besides that, it was seriously amazing. I L-O-V-E'd it. Like a lot.

We did a bazillion things and saw so many incredible sights, but I won't bore you with
all of the details. Here are just a few of my favorites:
  • Lisbon - We stayed in Alfama, the oldest part of the city and one of the only parts that wasn't destroyed by the earthquake in 1755. So the "flat" we stayed in was in a several hundred year-old building that's been refurbished and made all lovely looking. We had the most spectacular view of the port and we had to climb/go down approximately 100 stairs every time we left the house to go out and explore (that was just to and from our house, that's not including any other stairs we may have encountered during the day). We rode the tram, usually the famous #28, everywhere we went. There was fabulous shopping downtown (I discovered a new favorite European store) and there were winding cobblestone streets in every part of the city that made you feel the need to squeeze in your shoulders every time the tram passed another car. And of course the hand-painted tiles - Azulejos - everywhere. So beautiful. But best of all were the pastry shops that covered the city and had the famous custard-filled pastries (something I didn't know about Portugal) that had us going back for more nearly every day. Delish.
  • The Algarve - That's what the stretch of southern coast is called. We stayed in a little town called Albufeira in a "villa" up on the hill. It had a beautiful view and I can never have too much sand and sun. The water was amazingly blue and the rocks and cliffs made the beach that much more fun. We also visited some of the other coast towns and had fun exploring the mountain top of Monchique. Altogether good times. Oh, we also found Portugal's equivalent to Target called Continente, which you must know made us nearly drool. There is no Ukrainian version of Target. Or Wal-Mart. Or even K-Mart. So it was, to say the least, fab-u-lous. Joy, in every sense of the word.
  • Cape St. Vincent - "The end of the world" as early Europeans knew it. It's the most south western tip of Europe before you reach America; a place most early sea travelers were afraid to venture past until Prince Henry the Navigator came along and taught people how to sail and start new routes to other parts of the world. Today there is a darling little lighthouse that sits right on the edge of the cliff that has the most amazing views. There were also great souvenir stands where I picked up some keepers and a food cart that sold "the last Nuremberg sausages before America." Those sausages were a favorite of ours from our Christmas trip to Germany, so we were pretty excited to have some at the "end of the world."
  • Sintra - I have very few words to describe this place adequately. It was, in a nutshell, spectacular. It's a little quaint town north-east(ish) of Lisbon where we spent (what was supposed to be) our last two days in Portugal. It is built up the side of a mountian and everything was so beautiful. And lush. And just.... darling. I wish we could have stayed longer. We visited the Palacio Nacional, found yummy new pastries, a pretty blue-eyed guy told Calvin that his aunt was beautiful (me...), and we explored the most amazing fortress that sat at the very tip-top of the mountain that had the most spectacular view of the valley below. Loved. It.
  • The zoo - So we had some flight delays because of this volcano eruption and really had no original plan to go to the Portugal Zoo. But alas, we had an extra day and a half to waste in Lisbon (no, we didn't have to sit endlessly at the airport... David was really on top of things, thankfully) so we decided to spend the day with some animals. And it was really fun. Besides the baby baboons that were small enough to squeeze through the bars and come "interact" with the crowd of people (aka, steal their belongings and beg for food), there were some fabulous adventures at the sea life show. The first act was a performing sea lion that followed his trainer into the audience and gave kisses to anyone who would let him. It was the cutest thing I've seen in ages. David was standing by with the camera waiting to take pictures as he kissed Calvin, Henry, Charlie (who was on Traci's lap and totally freaked out), and me (who was holding a sleeping baby Jane) but unfortunately, the camera was out of batteries so none of the pictures took. Arg. But don't worry, the professional camera guy that works for the zoo was following the duo with his camera and selling shots for 5 euros apiece. Mine was horrendous so I passed that opportunity up in a hurry. It would have been great though to post a picture of me getting kissed by a sea lion (a first for me, believe it or not) with my face all unsure and pinched up. Another highlight of the show was when a handsome dolphin trainer came and asked me if I spoke English and when I blushed and said yes (I thought he was there to flirt), he asked me if Calvin could ride in the boat and kiss a dolphin as part of the show. I'm not his mother, so of course I said yes. It was a pretty fabulous sight - he did the parade wave and everything. So all in all, our last days being "stranded" in Portugal were pretty good. I could seriously watch animals all day. They are just so amusing.
The view from our place in Lisbon
The church above where we stayed
Stairs, stairs, stairs...
St. George's Castle
The big clock...
One of the famous pastelarias
Excellent advice.
Me & Jane on the famous #28
The Santa Justa Elevator
Monastery of Saint Jerome - burial place for Vasco De Gama
The Tower of Belem
The Oceanarium
King Edward's Park
Calvin kissing a dolphin!
The warning sign by the baboon cage...
Ahh, Sintra
The Palacio Nacional
Queijadas - Sintra's own deliciously cinnamony, flaky-good pastries
The Moorish Castle
From the top of Monchique
Cape St. Vincent
See that guy at the top of the cliff? He's fishing.
The Algarve... mmmmmm.


  1. Holy smokes!!! That definitely looks like an amazing place!!! I never would have thought of Portugal as a vacation spot, but now I might have to consider it :) CAN'T FLIPPIN WAIT TO SEE YOU!!!!!!!

  2. Maybe it should be your job to go travel the world and take pics! I think you would be fab.

  3. OK, so yeah. I'm just going to link to this post and forget blogging about it myself. Seeing as how we went there a month ago and I still haven't posted anything about it yet.

    You really should make traveling your job. You're good at it.

    P.S. I got some KILLER clandestine photos today on Khreshatik. I SO wanted you here. :)