Storming the Castle – Castelo de São Jorge

Castelo de São Jorge Photo Credit Wikipedia

Castelo de São Jorge
Photo Credit Wikipedia

This past Tuesday, we decided to check out one of the oldest standing structures in Lisbon. The Castelo de São Jorge, or Saint Georges Castle, is an imposing fortress that stands on the highest hill in the city. From pretty much anywhere in the city you can look up and see this awe-inspiring piece of history staring at you from amidst the trees surrounding it. This castle calls to be noticed, and I have heard it’s call since we arrived here. Finally, on Tuesday, the weather started to change for the better and we could make our way to check it out. I was so happy! Sun and history, can you really ask for anything more? That’s a rhetorical question guys…
The weather was warm (probably about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so a little cold still to me) and Chad and I needed some physical activity so we decided that we would walk to the castle. Like I said, it is on the highest hill in the city, but to our amazingly toned legs (kindly given to us by our four flights of stairs to our apartment) it was a refreshing little jaunt. Okay, so I am exaggerating a lot little. But really the hike up the hill was not all that horrible. It was a steep incline, but in all only took us about 15 minutes from start to finish. And to top it all off, all that wonderful exercise made it so I could eat ice cream later without the normal guilt I usually suffer with eating sweets.
Most people choose to take the bus or even a taxi up the hill (obviously they do not have our now strained and tired awesomely powerful legs). It is up to you which way you make your way up, but do it! This has been my favorite site so far in Lisbon.

It Doesn't Look That Steep From Here Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

It Doesn’t Look That Steep From Here
(c) andthreetogo

The price to enter the castle is 7.50 euros for adults. The castle admission includes a museum filled with ancient ceramics, run of the castle garden, getting to see the archaeological dig with walls dating from the 7th century BC (I immediately thought of my dad…I got to see something over 2000 years old dad!), and the most amazing view I have ever seen of Lisbon city. There are many hills and photo spots that I have passed by without a thought, but the view from Castelo de São Jorge, just breath-taking. Our pictures do not do it justice.

View from One Side of the Castle Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

View from One Side of the Castle
(c) andthreetogo

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From The Top of the Castle Wall

From The Top of the Castle Wall

When you are in the castle, you have pretty much the run of the whole area. You can climb stairs up onto the outer walls (which I did for about 10 minutes, but for some reason my fear of heights kicked in and I had to get down) and take more pictures of this beautiful city.
The castle that stands right now was built in the 14th century over remains of a fortress that was built in the pre-roman era! The grounds and castle walls are impeccably maintained. There’s a fancy looking restaurant that serves dinner and a cafeteria/snack bar if you need a bite to eat or just a coffee. Zoë loved running around and looking at the peacocks that run (and try to hide from all the crazy kids on school field trips) around the garden.

A Peacock Hiding in a Tree Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

A Peacock Hiding in a Tree
(c) andthreetogo

We spent a couple of hours running around the castle and imagining ourselves as royalty. It was a perfect amount of time to see everything and was one of the funnest afternoons so far. I would definitely recommend that you check it out, there is something in this castle for all different kinds of interests!
If you would like more information about the castle check out these helpful websites: GoLisbon, Wikipedia, Castles.Info, and Viva Travel Guides .

Here are a few more photos for you (did you really think I could leave you without a picture of Zoë?)

She Would Only Touch The Lion Statue With a Stick Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

She Would Only Touch The Lion Statue With a Stick
(c) andthreetogo

Looking for Captain Hook

Looking for Captain Hook

My Two Favorite People in My Favorite Historical Sight So Far Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

My Two Favorite People in My Favorite Historical Site
(c) andthreetogo

Wednesday Write-Up: And Now For a Little Frustration

There are many who would say that I am suffering from what are called “first world problems” when I say there some frustrations that come along with traveling. Yes, I do realize that I am incredibly blessed and know that I am living many people’s dreams right now. And because of knowing and realizing these things, I struggle. I struggle with my own negativity when all I get to do by myself is go grocery shopping (no more girls nights for this lady). I struggle with missing my friends and family. I struggle with feelings of being an awful mother, toting my daughter around the world away from all that she knows in her short life so far. I struggle.

There are not only rainbows and happiness in this world, and unfortunately, I am the first to point out the bad. I have been trying to keep a positive attitude and acknowledge God’s blessings on me and my family. We have been granted the opportunity to take this amazing journey, and have been blessed in every instance. I should be walking around with a perma-smile on my face, singing praise songs and exuding joy, right?

And yet, sometimes, the small things weigh me down and make me forget the good.

After dinner tonight, we went to the grocery store, just for a couple of things. I always feels as though I need a Xanax after grocery shopping here in Lisbon. For some reason, they are always restocking the shelves in every crowded aisle, while waxing the floors with the big floor waxing thingy (why wait until the store closes for that right?). I am not a person that needs a 3 foot space bubble, but I sure love to be able to get my groceries and get out of the store without so much stress and craziness.

Then as I check out with my toilet paper and tampons (sorry all you men out there!) I was unable to pay with my visa since it was under 20 euros and had to hold up the whole line, while I trudged to the ATM in the corner of the store, to get cash for my purchases. I don’t know if I have ever been so red faced.

Tonight, Zoë fell asleep but wouldn’t let me lay her in her bed for over an hour, she kept waking up. I tried to be patient, I tried to enjoy the cuddle time. But in the end, my humanness and fallibleness makes me hand her off to Chad to rock back to sleep. And she is still awake, an hour and half later. This makes me sad and frustrated. Why can’t I be the patient, ever calm and loving mother that I want to be? I want to be better.

Seriously, I am not that high maintenance! I promise! But, sometimes, on nights like these, I feel like an old towel that has been cleaning the toilets for too long and just needs to be thrown out.

Yes, I know I sound like a spoiled brat, I know that I sound like I am unappreciative, but if I gloss over the bad and just give you all the greatness (which believe me, is a massive amount of great times), you may end up feeling as I do. That you cannot feel down and frustrated sometimes. That you should always be happy and eager to undertake the new cultures that envelope you. That you are unappreciative for the blessings you have been given, if you have a rough day and it gets to you. Simply, that you must always be happy while traveling.

I cannot lie to you, my friends and family, there are rough days when abroad.

But in the end, the good days do outweigh the bad. And this one little day will just be chalked up to culture shock and a traveling learning experience.

Until tomorrow, I will have a glass of amazing Portuguese red wine and try to relax, while trying not to cry, and pray to God to get me through my negative attitude. Because this is all part of it, the journey we have been given, and I relish the experience, both positive and negative. God will see me through this.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but the very things I hate. Romans 7:15

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Pastries and Ships

Many of the museums here in Lisbon offer free entry before 2:00pm on Sundays. So last Sunday we decided to take them up on their offer and go to the Museu de Marhina (Maritime Museum). Chad and Zoë have a real love of “dada boaps”, as Zoë calls any kind of watercraft, and I love all things history. We were all exited to see what the museum had in store for us.

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We got a late start, but because of my intense need to eat often (its biological really!!) we decided to stop off at a famous Lisbon landmark for food on our way.

The Pastéis de Belém  is known throughout Portugal as the birthplace of the lovely little pastries for which the restaurant gets its name. The recipe for these little cakes of deliciousness date back to the 19th century when the monks at the nearby monastery needed to make a little extra cash. These pastries are made by other bakeries and are at every cafeteria and snack bar, but it’s well known that the original bakery’s are the best. The take away line always curves outside the restaurant and is known to take at least a half hour of waiting to buy these tasty pieces of history. I thought that was the only way to try the real pastéis were to stand in that long line, which I was hesitant to do. I know, my fellow foodies are disappointed in me right now, but standing in a long line with an impatient and hungry toddler sounded like hell a possibly unpleasant experience.

Lucky for us, a kind Canadian gentleman, that we met on our trip to Sintra, told us that there are rooms and rooms of tables that you can sit at in the bakery and get the pastries served right to you! The tables are first come first served, but the service is quick and the tables turn over so that you never have to wait as long as the take out line.

We sat and had some meat pies and finished our meal with the lovely, sweet, buttery custard pies. I am glad that we got to try the real things, they were scrumptious. I wish I could send one to all of you!

Pastéis de Belém

Pastéis de Belém

After we had filled ourselves up with yummy food, we quickly walked to the Museu de Marhina because it was getting very close to 2:00 pm. We slipped in with just minutes to spare.

Entrance to the Museu de Marinha

Entrance to the Museu de Marinha

The museum was filled with extremely detailed models of ships and (mostly replicas) of paintings of maritime war scenes and famous navy men. And we mustn’t forget portrait paintings of the very famous Portuguese explorers, such as Christopher Columbus (who actually was hired by Spain as were a couple of other Portuguese explorers). Again, most of the paintings, costumes, and weaponry were replicas it seemed, which deadened the experience for me a little. I love being close to real history, and the fact that most of the artifacts were actually more recently rendered facsimiles made it less awe-inspiring.

One of the More Interesting Looking Ship Models

One of the More Interesting Looking Ship Models

There was a huge area at the end of the tour that housed some of the actual royal ships and boats. That was pretty fascinating. That room also held some early airplanes and steam engine vehicles that were fun to look at.

The Royal Barges and Boats

The Royal Barges and Boats

All-in-all, I would recommend the Maritime Museum if you really love anything to do with boats and the military use of them. For me, it was just a little boring. If you want more information on visiting this museum, check out this website.

The winners of the day were definitely my tastebuds, having a chance to be enthralled by a tiny little custard pie. I may have to go get some now… Until next time!

Wednesday Write-Up: Welcome Back Sun!

Last week was cold, rainy and windy. Definitely not my favorite type of weather, in fact I get quite cranky and moody when I don’t get my natural vitamin D (which, unfortunately, Chad and Zoë can readily attest to). One of the main thoughts in our minds for planning this trip was (and still is) to follow the sun. Last week we were shown that we have no control of the weather…I know, it was surprising to me too!

Sunny days are here again though! Or should I say happy days, because that’s what they truly are to me. We have now had three days of glorious warm sunny weather that gets one up off their butts and moving (my butt is totally thanking me too, it can only take so much pressure for so long).

Two days ago, we decided to go to breakfast (we usually eat breakfast at home) and boy, what a treat! We went to a little chain bakery called A Padaria Portuguesa and I finally let myself try the amazing looking pastries that are everywhere here in Lisbon. I had two buttery and sweet probably very fattening treats that were reminiscent of donuts back home, but were lighter and less oily. I hope to learn the name of them and let you all know, but when ordering them, I just pointed to the prettiest ones in the display case.

After that deliciously gratifying breakfast, we decided to walk around our neighborhood a bit. Our exploring has subsided a bit since the weather had been so bad. We both wanted to see what else was near us. As we walked up the hill and looked around, we happened upon a park, with a playground! We have a park within walking distance to our house! I was so excited, maybe even more excited than Zoë, this was a place that I could bring our wonderful little ball of energy while Chad works at home! Not only that but I could bask in the sunlight while she plays!

We have now been to the park twice and my mood has greatly improved, as has Zoës’ and Chads’, because we all know that a cranky wife/mother makes for some hellish days. I am one blessed lady to have a great husband that puts up with my “lack of sunshine mood swings”. I am sure that he prays daily for sun and a happy wife.

Here are a couple pictures of Zoë playing in our park! Til Friday, sunny days to you (and me)!

Fixing the Jungle Gym Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

Fixing the Jungle Gym

Riding the Giraffe Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

Riding the Giraffe

All photos were taken by Jenny (c)andthreetogo.wordpress.com

Bad Day Made Good: The Pena Palace

This past Wednesday we were going to go the beach to work on our fading tans. Alas, our plans of having sunny and warm weather throughout our whole trip were dashed. Wednesday (as well as the rest of the week) was cold and windy. I mean like in the 60’s cold (I knew I should have brought a snow suit on this trip). For those of you that use Celsius, that is 16 degrees. Brrrr… It was unacceptable blustery uncomfortable weather. That is all I will complain about the apparent early summer freeze we have experienced for now.

There was one positive side to the cold and having to miss the beach. The Pena Palace in Sintra.

Through very little online research Chad was able to find out that the easiest way to get to Sintra was by train. We went to the Rossio train station here in Lisbon, paid the four euros each (Zoë was free) and hopped directly on a train that would take us to our destination in 39 minutes. Zoë loves trains, as do we, and the ride went by quickly.

We disembarked from the train and were in a quaint little town that immediately makes you feel like you are in a real life Disneyland. The clean little cobbled road ways, the colorful and well-maintained buildings constructed in the 19th century, the sculptures and tile work each way you turned, all that were missing were the princesses and background music. And to top it all off, the castles, one within the town of Sintra that is more modern, The Palácio Nacional, and the oldest one in the area, the Moor Castle, which looks down on Sintra eerily.

Moor Castle Looking Down Upon Sintra

Moor Castle Looking Down Upon Sintra

The castle that we were in Sintra to see was up on the other side of a mountain, concealed from the town below, The Pena Palace.

I just want to give a little history of the castle before I go on about our day…

The site held a monastery that had been all but destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. Queen Dona Marie II and her king consort Ferdinand II, loving the beauty of the area, contracted Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege in the mid 1800’s to build and design a palace that looked like an “opera” around the remaining chapel that still stood. So it is actually a bit more modern of a castle than I had expected. If you would like to know more about the history and construction of the “Feather Palace” I would suggest the Pena Palace website, the wikipedia page, and gekkoportugal.com.

There are many different ways to travel to the palace, including a public bus, private tour buses, and even tuk tuks. We checked out the tuk tuks, because of our love for the fun little taxis from Thailand, but the prices were rather exorbitant starting at 45€ for a hour and a half tour. We opted for the cheaper public bus at only 5€ a person. The public sightseeing bus #434 stopped at the trains station, the old town center, the Moor Castle and the finally the Pena Palace. It was a great deal as they picked up every 15 minutes or so and you could hop on and off at any stop throughout the whole day!

A quick note about the bus trip, the road to the sites is steep, windy and sometimes cobbled. If you have ever had issues with motion sickness, I would definitely suggest taking dramamine before this ride. The drive only takes about 20 minutes, but I am sure that it could be a day killer for any one who gets car sick.

When we had arrived at the crest of the mountain at the entrance of the Pena Palace, we were confronted with ticket booths. I had figured there was a charge to enter the grounds, but was honestly unaware of the cost. Yes, that is how I research..pretty much half way. It is one reason that I always make let Chad look into what we are thinking of doing, that and my infernal laziness incredibly busy schedule. There were a couple of options as far as ticket purchase, you could get a ticket for just the palace grounds and garden which I think was 10 €, but we really wanted to see the interior of the palace too, so we paid 13.50 € each. I thought the price a little steep, and they did nickel and dime you a bit. For example, you could walk up the rest of the way from the entrance to the castle for free, or you could take the tram for two euros a person. But I think I could say in all fairness, that all touristy historical places I have been to do the same thing. You were given a map for free, and you could download an app on your smart phone for free to listen to a tour as well. At least they said you could, we couldn’t get it to work, but I did see people who apparently were using it.

Halfway up the steep hill that we were walking up for free, I started to regret saving the 4 euros for the tram though. Chads positivity saw us through pushing our almost 30 pound toddler up the steep cobbled road in our not so sturdy stroller, because the walk only took about 10 minutes. I think I probably complained for at least 7 of those minutes…I really have to work on that.

Anyways, as we came upon the palace garden and outer walls, I was again struck with how Disneyland must have been designed after castles like this. The pink, yellow grey and green walls interspersed with tiles. The defensive fortifications mixed with the purely cosmetic decorations.

Disneyland also might have been coming to mind because Zoë had been singing “Hi ho hi ho” the whole time we had been in Sintra. I do not know why she thought we were going to Snow White’s castle, but it was pretty cute and appropriate actually.

Despite the cold chill of the wind whipping through our thin summer clothes, we slowed down and took in the entrance to this amazing and somewhat schizophrenic structure. The gardens were beautiful and showed off each decorative motif perfectly. The view was breathtaking, you could look over Sintra all the way to the ocean over 17 km away. I could go on and on about the grounds of the castle, but I will let Chads wonderful photos show you.

View From the Walk Up

View From the Walk Up

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Such a Beautiful Structure

Zoë Walking to the Castle on Her Own

Zoë Walking to the Castle on Her Own

The Amazing View

The Amazing View

Such a Mixture of Decorative Styles

Such a Mixture of Decorative Styles

A Depiction of a Newt and the Creation of the World on the Outer Wall of the Castle

A Depiction of a Newt and the Creation of the World on the Outer Wall of the Castle

The interior of the palace was a mixture of different decorating influences, including islamic, arabic, renaissance, and medieval. The way around the rooms were clearly directed with signs telling you where to go next and was clean and actually quite quiet (must have been because it was a weekday). The walk through the rooms begins with the formal dining room, complete with the full dinner service and tea china. From there you are led through the king and queens bedrooms, sitting rooms, and bathrooms. Surprisingly the lived in rooms were quite small, having just enough room for a bed (about 5 feet long and the width of a double mattress presently), a desk and a chaise lounge or settee. What stood out most to me was the almost unreal view out of the windows in these rooms. Unfortunately we were not able to get a good picture of the view from the windows, but believe me, its worth the trip to the palace just for that. It was overwhelming how intricate all the furniture and accoutrements were in the rooms.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Intricately Carved Furniture in One of the Sitting Rooms

Intricately Carved and Decorated Furniture in One of the Sitting Rooms

My favorite area of the palace was the chapel, which was the last remaining part of the monastery left after the earthquake of 1755. It had the most vibrant and clear stained glass windows I have ever seen. It also housed a complex wall sized retable carved from marble and alabaster by Nicolau Chanterene, showing seven periods from Jesus’ life and death. The interesting thing to me was that Jesus and the scenes were depicted as though they were in the renaissance period (which is when the sculpture was completed). Regardless of its historical accuracy, it was awe-inspiring to look at.

Monastery Sculpture

Monastery Retable Sculpted by Nicolau Chanterene

Pena Palace Chapel Credit Wikipedia

Pena Palace Chapel
Credit Wikipedia

At this point, Zoë felt that our time was up for walking around slowly and we had to walk a bit more quickly through the remaining rooms, including a room filled with stag heads and the great hall.

Our walk ended at the gift shop, which offered many different types of souvenirs that were reasonably priced.

We walked around the outer garden for a bit longer and took some more pictures and headed down the hill again to the bus stop.

You would be so proud of me, I didn’t complain once on the walk down the hill! I felt like I had turned a proverbial corner.

We hopped back on the bus and walked around the old town center, ate some dinner and went home, exhausted, but happy and feeling like we had had a great experience.

We will definitely be going back to Sintra to see more of the town, as well as the other castles, before we leave for our next destination. I would definitely recommend checking out the Pena Palace if you choose visit this wonderful country, you will not regret it!

Wednesday Write-Up: Roughing It in Unexpected Ways

We have now been living in our apartment for almost a week and all three of us are settled in and happy with our little haven in the “City of Seven Hills.”

Our apartment is a studio/one bedroom with a large full kitchen, a beautiful marble bathroom with a huge tub (Zoë’s current favorite place to play and “swim”) and all the amenities that you can think of while traveling. It’s fully furnished, with a dishwasher, and clothes washer. Our “clothes dryer” is the line hanging five stories above the ground that utilizes solar power. Yes, you read that right, we are on the 5th floor, with no elevator. It doesn’t even really bother me yet because I love the apartment so much! My legs better will be amazing when we leave for the next destination, so how can I look at it negatively? Also, there is a hook and pulley set-up in the center of the stairs, so we are able to pull up our groceries instead of carrying them… I tried to see if it would hold my weight and, alas, a bag of groceries seems to be it’s limit.

The Bedroom  Photo Taken By Chad R. Mitchell

The Bedroom

Living Room Photo Taken By Chad R. Mitchell

Living Room

The Tub Photo Taken By Chad R. Mitchell

The Tub

The Bathroom (yes, that is a bidet!) Photo Taken By Chad R. Mitchell

The Bathroom (yes, that is a bidet!)

The Kitchen Photo Taken By Chad R. Mitchell

The Kitchen

My first order of business after we got settled last Thursday, was to start doing the massive amounts of laundry that we had been saving up since Curacao. I know, I know, it’s such an exciting and adventurous life I lead in between the “travel” type things we do. But it is a nice change to just be somewhere where I can stop for a while and accomplish some household things that are in great need of attention. In fact, I just finally finished all the laundry today, and I felt so accomplished! (Yes we had that much laundry!!)

Anyways, onto more exciting things (unless you are one of those people that are enthralled with household chores, there are some people out there like that, right?)…

And yes, that brings me to food! Each day Chad, Zoë, and I have been having lunch at a different restaurant, also called a snack bar or Pasteleria, in our new neighborhood. Each of these quaint places sport a glass counter filled with pastries and some tables for those that want lunch. It seemed odd at first to see a person walk in and stand at the counter and have an espresso and snack, but I have gotten used to seeing it and have actually done it a time or two. It’s not unpleasant, but can be a bit difficult with Zoë trying to hide her face in my shoulder, leg or skirt (almost to the point of pulling it off of me!) from the customers and employees that pinch her cheeks and try to talk to her.

Zoë is very shy, and I am sure that people speaking another language and trying to pat her head or pinch her thigh, makes her even more shy, but she is getting better. The people here are so nice and patient and find it very humorous when she covers her eyes with her arms when they talk to her. Everyone seems very family oriented here and everywhere we have gone has been very kid friendly.

Ok back to the subject at hand…the food. Every pasteleria has pretty much the same menu: pastries, beef/steak plates, fish plates, or pork plates. All the meat plates come with home made olive oil french fries or rice, and usually a salad or vegetable. So far, everything I have tried has been wonderful. I usually stick with seafood, because it is my favorite and its so inexpensive and delicious. Chad usually gets the pork or beef, so we get to try each others. It’s a match made in heaven…seriously! Zoë has tried everything that we have for the most part, including whole grilled octopus (oh my gosh…so yummy!) and she has quite an advanced palate for a two year old.

We found a couple of super markets nearby and have been taking daily walks around to see what is around us. Sometimes we hop on the metro and just get off at an exit that seems good, and explore. We did that today and found a park (with a mediocre playground for Z, but she was happy with it) that ended with a huge amazing fountain that must have been about 5 stories tall and a city block wide. It is crazy to me, and I feel so blessed, that we are in a city that we can get off at a random metro stop and there can be an amazing structural beauty such as this. And that’s been the case in most parts of the city of Lisbon that we have seen so far. In the midst of all the shopping and restaurants, there will be some sort of monument or statue that honestly, puts most of our American monuments to shame. Just the fact that they are older and more diverse here, than our monuments and statues back home, makes them more appealing and enthralling (to me at least)!

The Alameda Fountain Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

The Alameda Fountain

Zoë's First Time on a Big Girl Swing Photo Taken By Jennifer Mitchell

Zoë’s First Time on a Big Girl Swing

There are a couple of ways that culture shock has been setting in for me, but the most difficult thing for me so far, is that they do not have baby changing stations in any of the bathrooms, unless it’s the bathroom of a tourist attraction (museum, aquarium, etc.). This means that I have had to get used to changing Zoë’s, sometimes very poopy, diapers while she stands. Of course, this is only in public areas, but you other parents know, if there is nowhere to change the diaper of a child, that is when they will have a poop explosion. It has happened a few times now (lucky me!), and I think I have finally gotten it down. I can be in and out of the typically claustrophobic and badly lit rooms in about 5-10 minutes flat. Unfortunately, Zoë does not enjoy standing as I clean her up and she usually cries and screams, but the people nearby have not assumed that I am beating her or anything, thank God (or at least I hope so)!

Despite all the differences between Santa Rosa, California, and Lisbon, Portugal, I still love this city. Chad and I are actually considering making this our home base for another month (so two months total) and just taking a weekend or week long trips to other countries in Europe. Lisbon has been so wonderful to us so far, but we do want to see more this summer. We are undecided still on what to see, we are considering different possibilities… southern Spain, Greece, Italy, and maybe Croatia. Maybe you all could help us, where would you recommend that we visit? Leave a comment here and let us know where and why…we love to hear others stories and opinions!

Until Friday my friends, ciao ciao!

All Photos are (c) andthreetogo.wordpress.com

Review: Hostel w/ Children – Travellers House

Travellers House – A Luxury Hostel Experience

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One of the challenges of traveling with a toddler is finding a place to stay. There are thousands of hotels, guesthouses, and sublets that accept children, but almost all of them are pricier and less “indie” than the backpacker favorite known as the hostel. Unfortunately most hostels aren’t as willing to let those under 18 stay as guests.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with staying at hostels, Wikipedia defines them as “… budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels may include a hot meal in the price.”

Family Friendly?

Family Friendly?

To most travelers with children, especially those who are unfamiliar with the road, the idea of staying in a “dormitory,” or sharing a kitchen, bathroom, or anything for that matter, may sound like a disaster. The free meal may be tempting, but a hostel is generally considered a young persons game, and not one that lends itself to the traveling family’s needs.

Kids love parties yeah?

Kids love parties yeah?

However, we used to stay at hostels throughout the world, and had seen kids here and there, usually not in the dorm areas, but sharing private room, and shared bath, and generally being the star of the accommodations. Well, at least as long as they were well behaved…  And we loved hostels: the camaraderie, the chance to meet other travelers, the kitchen where we could cook our own meals, etc. Especially as this trip is not a vacation, and more a way of life… Every saved dollar, pound, or baht, is another day we can enjoy the adventure without worrying about the day those same finances run out…

So we began searching well in advance for accommodations in Lisbon that would host our small family. First we searched Airbnb (Our personal favorite!), but decided against renting something for the long-term, sight-unseen, until we had become somewhat familiar with the territory. Unfortunately we put off our purchase of a room until it was far too late, and ran out of most options. Fortunately we stumbled upon a hostel that not only accepted toddlers, but also one that redefined our expectation of what a hostel is meant to be.

Traveler’s House Hostel – Review

Common Area: Beanbags make everyone relax.

Common Area: Beanbags make everyone relax.

Words cannot describe how relieved we were to find this accommodation in the Baixa district of downtown Lisbon. The location is mere minutes (walking distance!) to the neighborhoods of Alfama, Bairro Alto, Chiado and Rossio, and as close to the major Metro stop of Baixa-Chiado. It is on the pedestrian only street of Rua Augusta, and as soon as you step outside the front door you are in the heart of the touristy, yet charming, hub of this fascinating city. Everything a weary traveler may need is within a stones throw and everything else is only a short walk away.

Location, location, location.

Location, location, location.

The view from the balcony

The view from the balcony

But enough about the location… and on to the accommodations. Traveler’s House was one of the only hostels we could find that not only accepted children, but actually mentioned families on their website. The shared dorms are most likely not kid-friendly, but the private rooms most certainly are. Due to the fact that we booked the room late (only a few days before we arrived), we had to split our time between different rooms. For the first couple of days we stayed in a private room with shared bath, and for the last few days we moved to a private suite.

To be honest we were hesitant about the shared bath situation, but in the end we loved it, and even wished we didn’t have to move. Primarily as the suite was more expensive, and we really didn’t mind having to walk the short distance to the clean and plentiful restrooms/showers.

Zoë Approved!

Zoë Approved!

The room was impeccable, clean, and just large enough to host us and our luggage. They even, at no extra charge, had a portable crib setup for Z to use during our stay. Once we moved, the suite was about twice the size, and the bathroom was excellent as well.

As good as it looks

As good as it looks

Two small things I must mention as a small warning: You can’t eat or drink in the rooms (except water), and the shower floors are very slick. What this means is that with the child who wakes up hungry, and nibbles all day long, is that you must get up and get going as soon as possible, or else face the crankiness of a jet-lagged, and starving toddler… In a hostel… where screaming can be heard quite easily… And that during showers you must continually try to hang on to a soaped up squirming bundle of fun so as not to let them crash their head into the wall.

Those small annoyances challenges aside, the rooms are more than adequate, and even border on the side of being perfect. Especially compared to what you might find at any comparable price in any major hotel chain. And don’t forget they do offer a delicious breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast or Nutella crepes! With coffee, tea, juic etc.), starting at 8 and ending at 11… All the more incentive not to huddle in the room past tantrum the waking hour…

This bed is just right.

This bed is just right.

The best part of staying at hostel is the time spent getting to know your fellow travelers. To partake of the common room, and to take advantage of the knowledge of those who work, stay, or all but live, at the hostel.

Fortunately Lisbon Traveler’s House employs a great variety of well traveled folks, who are kind, talkative, and more than willing to chat in great detail about what to do and see around Lisbon and the rest of Portugal. Not only do they patiently recite the same instructions over and over again, when asked where the “authentic” Fado singers might be found, but they will willingly mark out a map, make telephone calls, or even accompany their guests to the spot.

On top of that they always have a social event, food tasting, walking tour available every night of the week, and rent out Segways for those who would rather do it alone. We recommend the chorizo and wine tasting! It is delicious!

Jørgen heating up the chorizo

Jørgen heating up the chorizo

The common area is warm, clean, and inviting. There is light music being played from the antique stereo, and never once did we feel uncomfortable using the computer area, or the TV room. Though no one ever did use the TV room, as it seemed most would rather socialize, or go out on the town to explore. And there is Wi-Fi provided throughout the building. So if you choose not to leave your room there is always enough internet for the anti-social exhausted traveler.

Overall this hostel is one that we would gladly stay at again. It isn’t the cheapest one available, but it accepts kids, has “luxury” accommodations at a more than reasonable rate (check the site for seasonal prices), and is excellent for families looking for a more personable and social stay than at a normal hotel.

5 Hearty thumbs up to this excellent stay!

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Two Touristy Things to Do in Lisbon Without Feeling Too Touristy

Our third day in Lisbon, we felt refreshed and renewed. We had received our luggage the day before and were showered and had brushed our teeth two days in a row. We were ready to take on the city, but where to start? As we sat eating a lovely breakfast at a little outdoor café, we noticed a large red double-decker bus driving by that we surmised was a sight-seeing tour of Lisbon. We did have help, as it had huge signs saying “Lisbon Sightseeing – Hop On Hop Off Bus” all over it.

We decided after roaming around a bit, and having no idea what was important to see in the city, that we needed help. We kept walking by statues and monuments that meant nothing to us, so we started looking online how to purchase tickets for the big red monstrosity that we kept seeing drive by. As we were both looking at our phones for information we walked past a newspaper stand. Lo and behold, this and almost every other newspaper stand in Lisbon sells tickets for all of the different sightseeing tour buses!

There are a few different busses that you can buy tickets for that you can hop-on and hop-off at your leisure for a specified amount of time. We chose the Red Bus because it was for a 24 hour time period, seemed to hit all the historical and tourist sites, and was the cheaper of the three. We bought our tickets for 18€ each (Zoë was free). There were two different routes (red and blue) and that amount covered both of them. It also seemed like everywhere we turned there was another red bus picking up passengers. Of course, you know how it goes, after we bought our tickets, there wasn’t a red bus in sight. We waited at the bus stop for about 30 minutes and Zoë had an “ice meam” cone while we waited (there are ice cream stands on almost every corner in the city center).

Photo by Jennifer Mitchell Zoë Enjoying Her "Ice Meam"

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Zoë Enjoying Her “Ice Meam”

The bus finally came and we decided to sit downstairs for a minute before realizing that it was not air-conditioned. We moved to the upper deck, figuring at least there would be a breeze. We settled in and started listening (with ear buds given to us by the bus driver) to the information about the monuments, statues, museums and parks that we passed. In between the pre-recorded information, they played the same song by a female portuguese fado singer that was beautiful and interesting and made you feel like you were immersed in Portuguese culture. Well, at least at first. After listening to that song for about an hour it lost some of it’s charm.

Just as we started our tour, Chad realized that he had a work meeting an hour and a half later. We were both very glad to have the next day to finish our tour because it was really interesting to see and hear all about the sites of Lisbon.

The next day we got a late start, but we still got to complete the red line of the tour. At first, I felt like a total tourist and it made me cringe slightly inside… here I was on a obnoxious bright colored, double decker tour bus… it was something I had never thought I would do. I always thought I would be the traveler that would have her Lonely Planet guide out, walking around to find all the sites that I wanted to see and learn about. I have to be honest though, I loved this tour! It gave me enough information about everything on the route to help me decide what I really wanted to spend my time checking out more in depth. And on a much more important note… Traveling around the sites on a bus with a toddler is much more comfortable for all involved. Zoë loved the bus ride and saying “Olá” to everyone we passed.

If you come to Lisbon, take a bus tour of the city, it’s up to you which company you would like to go with, but do it! It’s well worth your time and money.

On Tuesday, we moved to an apartment for two days to wait for our long term (a month is long term right?) apartment to be cleaned and prepared for us. After we got all our stuff in the house, we realized that it was a big accident waiting to happen for our precocious genius daughter. It was a bachelor pad, complete with incense burners, just a microwave to cook with, and a broken toilet seat. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice enough, it was clean and if it has just been Chad and I it would have been perfect, but everything that was dangerous for a toddler was right at her level. So instead of following behind her and saying “no” over and over again, we decided a field trip was in order to wear out our little ball of energy.

Photo Taken by Jennifer Mitchell

Oceanário de Lisboa Welcome Sign
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Oceanário de Lisboa ( http://www.oceanario.pt/) is a must see if you spend any time in Lisbon. Even if you are not the biggest fan of aquariums, you will be amazed and entertained. I am one of those people and I actually wouldn’t mind going to this aquarium again!

We were easily able to take the metro almost directly to the aquarium, which is a plus when you have an almost two year old that really wants to walk on her own, which can take some time and a few tantrums if you have to walk too far.

When we entered the Oceanário, we walked up a long bridge walkway to a huge square building that is built right into the river. As you enter, the first thing that you see is a massive tank with sharks, gigantic tuna and groupers (they must have been over 100 pounds!), schools of fish, and one of the only Sun Fish in captivity today (what a strange looking thing, too). The aquarium is set up to take you through all of the oceans, giving you a chance to see the fish and aquatic life from that area. The amazing thing was that with each ocean, the surroundings changed for the person walking through. For example, the Atlantic area was so cold I was shivering in my hoodie and jeans, and it was a blue, sunset kind of light, then as we walked into the Indian Ocean area, it was hot, humid, and lit to feel more like sunlight. The sounds that they played overhead made you feel as though you were in the ocean and all along the way you could see the large inner aquarium. Each smaller tank was set up so you could take your time and take pictures without feeling crowded by the other visitors.

Photo Taken by Jennifer Mitchell The Famous Sun Fish

The Famous Sun Fish (c)andthreetogo

Zoë had so much fun looking at the “baby feesh” and taking pictures of them with her own camera. It was fun just watching her face. There was a little area that was especially for young children, with play things that teach how to conserve water and recycle and such. It also had a hidden slide, which was definitely a highlight for Zoë, and probably her her second favorite part to finding Nemo.

Even if you do not have a beautiful excited blue eyed baby to watch, you will enjoy the Oceanário. I would highly recommend it. One thing I wouldn’t really recommend is buying the ticket for the temporary exhibit right now. It was only an extra three euros each, but it was just a few sea turtles, which are really cool, but it seemed really hastily put together and kind of cheesy looking. Stick with the main exhibit and you won’t be disappointed.

All in all, I can say that these two touristy experiences have been a great time for all. All I had to do was get over what I thought a real traveler should be and I had an excellent and informative time! If you ever come to Lisbon (and you should), make sure to take time out for these two fun activities!

Wednesday Write-Up: Falling In Love With Lisbon

I have decided that I need to write more than one post every week for a while. There is so much going on in our lives these days that I feel like my Friday blog post is just about the sights and not the substance of our lives. I want everyone to know how we are doing as well as what we are doing. And so, what I have decided to call my Wednesday Write-Ups, will continue until either our lives get boring (who knows… it could happen) or I just have nothing else to say.

Since my last post on Curacao’s beaches, we have traveled by plane to our new home for the next month or so. The flight, I should say flights, from Curacao to Lisbon, Portugal took a total of 24 hours. We had layovers, just long enough to run from one gate to the next, in Dusseldorf, Germany, Zurich, Switzerland, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain, before finally alighting in the charming and lively city of Lisbon.

Unfortunately, we left a part of ourselves in Zurich, we realized as we waited for our bags at the baggage claim area of Lisbon airport. All of our luggage and our stroller got left behind. It was frustrating to say the least, but we handled it well, and felt blessed to find out that they had already found our luggage at the aforementioned airport, and would deliver it to us the following day at our hostel. The problem was that we were stuck wearing stinky, dirty clothing, plus we had not brushed our teeth in more than 24 hours. I kept wondering why there seemed to three feet of open space around me as I walked about, and then I realized it was probably my putrid less than fresh breath and body odor. The moral of that story is that if you have a problem with personal space, you should just skip brushing your teeth and showering or applying deodorant for a couple of days.

I was wearing a skirt, tank top and flip flops. Zoë was wearing her favorite elephant pajamas. Chad was wearing shorts and light shirt. We walked out of the airport to a cold blustery spring day and took a taxi to the hostel that would be our home for the next 5 days. It actually felt really nice to not be carrying 100 pounds of luggage, Chad and I realized how great it would be that someone else would have to carry our bags to our new place. Yes, we were both trying to be positive, while suffering somewhat severely from jet lag and trying to talk to each other through our hands so as not to commit bad breath homicide.

We checked into our luxury hostel right in the thick of downtown and the tourist district, called Traveller’s House and they have it right: it is luxurious… which made my very natural odor seem even that more wretched. So we dropped off our carry-ons, tried to freshen up the best we could and headed to the nearest market, or mercado, to buy some much needed hygiene products. After getting everything we needed, we settled down for some dinner at an outdoor eatery almost right outside our hostel door. We shared some steak and fish with potatoes and rice, not the best food we have ever had, but a vast improvement over the food in Curacao. We were too tired to go get clothing for the next day at the H&M a block from the hostel (thats right! I am in H&M heaven! I have one a block from me thats 3 stories and another one about 10 blocks away that is 5 stories! Try not to be too jealous…I know it’s tough) and stumbled back to our room to finally brush our teeth. What a great feeling it was to have clean teeth.

We went back to our room and all three of us went to bed around 8pm and slept peacefully until 9 the next morning! I cannot tell you what an awesome thing that was! Chad and I had assumed that Zoë would be getting used to the time difference and would keep us up until the wee hours of the morning, or that she would wake up and want to play half way through the night. But no! She slept from 8pm to 9 am, the longest she has ever slept in her life without waking! And since then, she goes to sleep around eight every night and sleeps until at least 7 am. This time change seems to have agreed with her! Thank you God!

So far this week, we have walked around downtown Lisbon and tried different restaurants, they mostly serve the same fare (lots of seafood and steak… yummy!), but each one has its own slight differences and it’s fun to try them all. I have located two Starbucks in the area and have still been able to enjoy my Chai tea lattes. I know Chad is going to be chagrined with me for talking about Starbucks. He really likes to go to the local cafes, but he drinks Americanos (or as they call it here “American coffee”), which you can get anywhere, but it is difficult to find good chai tea lattes. And so I get a Starbucks every day sometimes, everyone has their guilty pleasures right?

Like Mother Like Daughter-Zoë Loves Her Starbucks

Like Mother Like Daughter-Zoë Loves Her Starbucks

The thing that I love about Lisbon is the architecture and the cobbled sidewalks and streets that make it known to me that I am away from home. I am in this amazing, colorful, old city. It blows my mind that I could live in a building built in the 18th century here, not just take a tour through one, but actually LIVE in one! Two things remind me of home, the hills of Lisbon remind me a lot of the hills of San Francisco. The weather here also reminds me of home. Hot and breezy during the day followed by cool evenings to clean the air and give you a chance to wear your light sweater and jeans.

The Architecture Here is Just Amazing!

The Architecture Here is Just Amazing!

On Thursday we move into a large studio apartment on Rua De Liverpool for the next month or so. The apartment has amazing views of the city as it is on the 4th floor (all stairs too, no elevator…my legs are gonna be gorgeous) and has a balcony overlooking the hills of Lisbon. I cannot wait to post pictures and tell you more about this city that already feels like (a new and exciting) home! I really am falling in love with Lisbon. I really am looking forward to sharing this journey with all of you! Talk to you on Friday.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. James 1:2

Review: The Unexpected Expected.

The Unexpected Expected – By CRM

There are two things that happened on the island of Curacao. Or rather there are two distinct things that happened concerning food. Food is a favorite subject on this blog, Jenny and I love to eat our way around the word, and we love to experience a place by sampling the local cuisine.

Having said that, I am sadly not as adventurous as Jenny in regards to food. I am a lover of fine foods, can appreciate and understand the delicate things, and I have expensive taste. However, sometimes I am as American as can be, and have a hard time with things that don’t fit the flavor profiles I have come to expect.

Does that mean I won’t eat a lizard, river-weed, or rat? No, it does not mean that I won’t step outside of my comfort zone, but I may not be the most excited about doing it, and I may not order it more than once.

So it comes as no surprise that I we ended up doing what one tends to do while in a foreign place and ordering the sandwich with french fries way too often because at least you know you will leave with a full stomach. This is a two part review of the expected, the safe, and the familiar, and secondly of the unexpected, the strange, and the way the road turns.

RibsThe Rib Factory:

Who knew there could be such a place on oude caracasbaaiweg in Curaçao? An out of the way little joint with fresh veggies, delicious entrees, and a rather fine cocktail… It was two doors down from our house, which made it rather convenient, especially after a long day in the sun, and the food is offered to go if that is what you are looking for…

First off order their burger, ribs, sandwiches or anything else that we grew to enjoy and you won’t be disappointed. The samplings are well sized, and are not that pricey compared to what else you can find on this little Caribbean island.

food Ribs2

The menu isn’t diverse or challenging, and the choices are clear and plain. There are quesedilllas (which we didn’t end up trying), Nachos, which are mainly just cheese, chicken, and some light, fresh salsa on top of a bed of decent tortilla chips, fajitas (which looked quite good), and a few other options as well.

Unfortunately, as is the case in most places we’ve traveled outside the US, the vegetarian options are limited to salad. Which is nothing more than a bed of green lettuce, a slice of bell pepper, a tomato or two, and maybe an onion. Followed up with 1000 island dressing. The vegetarian way of life was one we gave up the first time we traveled… Quite simply because we were constantly given meat in our food even when we didn’t order it… and the other option of eating only lettuce or tomatoes all day sounded rather dull…

As for the ambiance, the rib shack looked like… well, a shack, from a distance, but up close it held a nice patio and a cool air-conditioned interior. Always nice on a typical 85 degree bay on the island.

I wouldn’t say that the familiar was a bad thing in this case. Fortunately it was probably one of the best food places we experienced on the island and one wouldn’t break the bank. The prices ran for 20-35 guilders an entrée ($12-20 US) and you definitely get your money’s worth.

Zoë would give this a 3 out of 5 and we agree!

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Jaanchies:

Then there are these times: the unexpected, the strange, and the unfamiliar. The twists in the road that take you unexpectedly to a place you probably wouldn’t have tried if you had made the choice but there you are, and there you find yourself enjoying the experience all the more for the unfamiliarity of it all.

Our place was Jaanchies.

We’d set out on our last day on the island, to drive to the far west point of the island (Westpunt), and have dinner at a place called Sol Food. Back in California it was the name of a most excellent Puerto Rican place not too far from our home in the town of San Rafael.

Since there were so many familiar names on the island (Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz… Spanish influence anyone?) we decided to check out this place about 45 minutes from our home and enjoy a well deserved delicious meal as our final hurrah before departure.

But as mentioned before, the road dictates the adventure, and this one plan was not to be: the place was closed. So we shrugged off our disappointment, the place looked so good, and drove around in circles debating which of the island food shacks to visit.

Fortunately there was a place that we had seen on the way in called Jaanchies, that had a dutch flag flying outside, and a kitschy décor that beckoned even from the outside.

As we walked in we were beckoned to a table, next to a living, open aviary that surrounded the open walls. Most places on the island try to keep the many birds from the eateries, but this one made a show of it. There were bird feeders occupying the branches, and more “ducks” (as Z likes to call any feathered creature), fluttering about than we had seen during our entire stay. The best part was that the birds stayed away from the tables and eating only out of their trays. Man living in harmony with nature you could say.

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Z loves the birds.

Anyhow, the owner of the restaurant appeared after a while and delivered the menu orally, as there was only what they prepared that day available. We were given no prices, just the option to have goat stew, conch, iguana, fried or grilled fish (who knows what kind), and a few other things that I can’t recall. The choices between French fries (NOT AGAIN), or beans and rice, were offered as a side.

Jenny chose the goat stew, and I chose the fried fish. I went for safe, as I simply couldn’t be persuaded to be adventurous only a day before 24 hours of flights (see Jenny’s upcoming post tomorrow!).

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Goat Stew

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Fried Fishes

The food was good, nothing too spectacular, but good. And it came on a metal tray with the sides beside it. Z ate a lot of the food, she usually abstains from meat, and we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. It wasn’t spectacular, but once again, this island doesn’t do spectacular food. Or at least we never found it… This might be due to the fact that the island imports everything… except goats… and sun…

Finally they brought us out each a half of a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich (odd choice), drizzled in strawberry sauce.

Overall the ambiance was great, the service lackluster (it took 45 minutes for our food…) and the food generally interesting. I wish I could say I had tried the Iguana or the Conch, but the adventurer in me was a little less brave that day. I think Z would agree when we give this place 2.5 out of 5 thumbs. It was better than most of the places on the island, butfelt it could have done it all just a bit better with a little more effort. Especially with such an interesting locale…

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Until next time… Eat well.

Chad

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