Lagos: The Sunny South

Since landing on Portuguese soil, everyone we have met has told us that we NEEDED to spend some time in the Algarve. That the beauty, warm weather and beaches in that area were the best Portugal had to offer. We kept saying that we were going to go, but life here in Lisbon kept us busy for a month or so and the Algarve was put on the back burner.

But our time in Portugal was growing short, we had made definite plans to start traveling again and going south for some sunshine was put back on the plate.

We made the final decision to go and check out this gorgeous destination after Chad got a tattoo from an artist named Pedro that lives in the Algarve and invited us down to check it out. (By the way, Chads tattoo turned out amazing! If you ever want a tattoo in Lisbon, check out Pedro Soos at Queen of Hearts.) Pedro even invited us to stay at his house, but we decided that we would stay in a hotel as Zoë can be rather loud and we hate to inconvenience anyone. Everyone we have met here has been so welcoming and hospitable and friendly, I just love it!

Instead, I booked a room at the Iberlagos Apartments. Despite some bad reviews, the price and location seemed worth the chance.

Iberlagos Apartments

Iberlagos Apartments

Chad researched the best way to get down to Lagos in the Algarve, the trains cost about 25 euros a person, and took three hours, or there was a bus, but we were worried about being stuck on a bus with a toddler for 3 hours. We wanted to see a bit more of Portugal, and take our time to stop if we wanted, so we decided to rent a car. The price of renting a car was just a bit more than taking the train, even with the price of gas and such. Although I will say that our jaws dropped when we had to pay 65 euros to fill up our “economy” car. Yikes! Still, even with the price of fuel, renting a car was not too expensive and gave us some autonomy.

So early in the morning, a couple Mondays ago, we took the metro to the airport and picked up our rental car. We excitedly got Zoë settled in her car seat and headed out to what we thought would be a couple of hot sunny days on the beach.

There are a couple of options when driving in Portugal, you can take the back roads, or the toll highways. If you take the toll roads it costs about 30 Euros and gets you to Lagos in about 2.5 hours. We wanted to take the slow roads so we could see what the country side looked like, it only took about 3.5 hours and it was fascinating to see the small towns and landscape.  Portugal’s landscape is so similar to California, especially northern California. We felt like we were home. The way was fairly simple and we only took a wrong turn one time that set us back about 10 minutes. The signage along the way was pretty easy to follow, and google maps helped us out as well.

We arrived in Lagos, to the address of the flat we rented and found a horribly dilapidated building that looked like a mix between a prison and a crack house. It just didn’t seem right, the pictures didn’t match what it showed on the web, the description of the place according to other patrons reviews didn’t match either. It didn’t have any signage to say it was the vacation stay rentals that I had found and decided on. I started to freak out a little on the inside…if we were staying in this building, I would never live it down.

We stopped and I ran inside a restaurant and asked where the Iberlagos Apartments were and was massively relieved when the helpful woman told me they were down the way a bit.

We reached the apartments finally (after having to stop one more time for directions) and realized that the address they had on the website was incorrect (obviously) and that the grounds of the apartment complex looked well-maintained. I breathed a sigh of relief and we set out to find the reception office. It was a little hard to find, but we finally noticed the tiny sign that said “Recepção”. We checked in and were shown to an apartment with an amazing view of the pool, grounds and beach below. It had a small patio, which was exactly what I wanted.

The apartment itself, was small, a studio with a murphy bed, a small kitchen, and a bathroom with 2 showers (couldn’t figure that one out). It was musty, like no one had been in the apartment except to drop off the clean linens in quite some time. Regardless, it was clean and I was happy that it had such a beautiful view and direct access to the golden sand beach below.

The View From Our Patio

The View From Our Patio

The only unfortunate thing about this trip was that the weather was cold, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and windy. Yes, yet again, the cold weather was following us. We decided not to let it get us down and put on our swimsuits to go down to the pool. I was there to work on my tan, and I was going to even if I froze doing so.

There were two pools, an adult pool and a large kiddie pool that had a Super Mario Brothers looking toadstool waterfall in the center for the kids to run through. The water was freezing, but Z wanted to walk around in the water and luckily she has a loving father that is willing to suffer for her.

We were told by the “lifeguard” that we needed a pass to enter the pool area, so Chad ran and got the pass (it would have cost us 4.50€ a person otherwise). Then he told us that we were not allowed to use the lounge chairs without renting them either. We laid in the grass for a bit and then the cold got to all of us and we headed back to our apartment.

We went to the grocery store and picked up some local cheese, meat, bread and wine and had dinner on our apartment patio. Zoë went to bed and Chad and I sat bundled up in our warm clothes and took pictures of the sunset from our patio. It was a great start to the trip. I prayed that the weather would improve the next day so we could have some fun together.

The next morning Z woke us up bright and early and we headed down to town for some breakfast at about 8:00am. It was only about a 10 minute walk, a beautiful seaside walk. I loved it! Not only did I love the walk, but the weather was already warm! It looked like it was going to be a hot day!

We ate some breakfast at a cafe, it was really nothing special and headed down to walk by the water. All along the way there were kiosks of people selling tickets for boat rides to see dolphins or to the grottos, or for fishing trips. We stopped and talked to a few of them and decided to get tickets for a sailboat trip out to the ocean, with a speed boat trip through the grotto and sea caves. It was 2 hours long, 15 euros a person (Z was free) and the sailboat was fully fitted with a restroom and bar.

We were supposed to check in to board the sailboat in 45 minutes. We only partially rushed home to get our things, thinking that the walk back to the apartment was quicker than it was.

As I was putting sunscreen on the babe, Chad tells me we are supposed to check in at that moment! We ran around, threw some stuff in my purse incase we decided to swim, and ran to the car.

After hitting every red light along the way (it seems so cliché that that happens every time one runs late don’t you think?), we made it to the marina. I jumped out of the car to go check in 15 minutes late. A lady was looking for us and told us where to go… Chad went and parked the car, I ran and helped him get Zoë out of the car and the lady ran with us to where the sailboat was already sailing away. Lucky for us, people running late happens often, and they had a motor boat on standby ready to take us to the sailboat.

We made a rather embarrassing entrance onto the sailboat, and after a few moments and some quick instructions from the skipper, we were running after Z, trying to make sure that she didn’t fall over board. She is such a brave little kid, she had no problem getting her sea legs and wanted to help them raise the sails too. It was so much fun to watch her.

The Sailboat

The Sailboat

Helping to Raise the Sail

Helping to Raise the Sail

A Natural Little Sailor

A Natural Little Sailor

After an hour on the sail boat, we hopped on a motor boat to go to the sea caves. It was fascinating and fun! Zoë thought we were looking for Captain Hook’s treasure cave, and she kept calling out for the Lost Boys. It was incredibly cute.

Captain Hook!!!

Captain Hook!!!

Entering a Sea Cave

Entering a Sea Cave

After seeing all the caves, we returned to the sailboat and then to the port. We walked to have some lunch at a restaurant by the dock, I was starving! I had some pretty good typical Portuguese bacalhau (salted cod) and Chad got the most amazing stuffed baby cuttlefish I have ever had. He had to practically put a barrier around his plate so he could eat some without me stealing it off his fork.

We drove back to our apartment and went down to the beach below our apartment. It was the Dona Ana Beach, and it had bathrooms, and a restaurant and bar right on the beach. We laid out in the sun while Z played in the sand. The water was freezing, so I did my best to stay out of it, but my two year old told me what to do, and finally I relented.

We stayed on the beach until the sun went down. It was a great day. Z went to bed and Chad and I spent another night, this time a warm one, sitting on the patio, enjoying our blessed life.

Hanging Out on Our Patio

Hanging Out on Our Patio

The next day we checked out of our apartment, sad that we didn’t plan to stay one more day, ate breakfast and then started the drive home, more tan and happy than we were when we arrived.

On the way back to Lisbon, we stopped by Pedro’s’ house and had lunch with him and his lovely wife, Vanessa, and their two amazing and smart kids, Lilo and Bruno. I had such a great time getting to know Vanessa, Pedro and the kids. That is one of the things I love most about traveling, getting to know new people, making new friends, and learning more about other cultures. It was truly the best way to end our trip to the Algarve.

We have been back in Lisbon for almost two weeks now and we have spent that time preparing to leave for the next leg of our journey. I love Portugal and am sad to say good-bye, especially to all the lovely people that I have gotten to know. I know we will be back though, we have so much more of Portugal to see and experience.

Tomorrow, we fly to Paris, France, to celebrate Zoë’s second birthday at Disneyland Paris! I am very excited! I will have so much to tell you on Wednesday! Until then, ciao!

Wednesday Write-Up: Same Same but Different

This week has been one of quiet contemplative stress for me. On Saturday we are leaving Lisbon for Paris, France. We are taking Zoë to Disneyland Paris for her second birthday (one more Disney park off the list!) as a surprise. Yes, I know she probably won’t remember it, but she will see the pictures later and know that her parents were awesome and spoiled her rotten (right?!). Lisbon is so much like our home town that it has been easy to acclimate to being so far away from what we know and are used to. For this reason, among others, I am a bit sad to be leaving, but I really do feel that we need to explore Europe a bit more.

There are many similarities between Portugal and Sonoma County, California, such as the landscape, the weather, and the wine (although I have to say I like the wine here better, and only have to pay 2 Euros for a bottle—sorry Sonoma County). The biggest difference I have seen between Portugal and Sonoma County is the family friendliness.

Many of you parents out there may never have experienced this, but when I was living in America I was sometimes shunned from places because I was toting along a child. On any given day, I can peruse my Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest feed and I will see parents apologizing for bringing their children along with them, whether it be to a restaurant, or on a airplane flight (seriously… those people that made up candy bags for the whole plane apologizing for taking their babies on the plane thats viral on Pinterest…I just want to slap them…thanks for starting that trend lady).

I can’t really blame those parents for wanting to apologize though, because at the same time, there are people complaining about parents bringing their children to those places. It is a strange conundrum that American parents find themselves in. Everyone seems to love that you are having kids, but then once you have them you are supposed to hide them away, only letting them emerge from their room to go to an educational play date or a labeled child area, such as a park or playground. And if you decide to take your child everywhere with you, which I did, you had to be prepared for rolled eyes, sarcastic and rude remarks, and an overall feeling of being unwelcome whether your child was being a perfect angel or was throwing a full blown tantrum.

Being here in Portugal, I have had to deal with some post traumatic stress from my time raising Zoë in California. I am incredibly careful, to the point of paranoia, about Zoë making noise in a restaurant (heck, even taking her into a restaurant made me grind my teeth preparing myself for the looks) or running around the table while Chad and I finish our espresso when we finish a meal. When I would go grocery shopping, I would freak out that Zoë would grab something off the shelf, which I would then have to remove from her steel grip, causing a tantrum and I would have to leave the store red-faced and shamed.

What I have found in this lovely country, is that people love your child(ren) and want you to take them with you. More often than not, we will get frowns when walking into a restaurant, and as soon as they see our little curly haired cutie, their faces light up and the rest of the time we are there, they try to engage and entertain Zoë. She often leaves with a piece of candy or a lollipop, I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t stick to the “she will have no sugar until she is 2 years old” plan we had before she was born. Regardless, people seem to love children here and I have not had one eye roll or rude remark since being here. My parental PTSD is abating now with the therapy of family values in this wonderful country.

Something else that is different that goes along with the family friendliness here, is that the safety rules are a bit different from America. If someone was to give Zoë a piece of candy back home, I would tell her not to eat it, but to let me check it first. You can never be too safe when it comes to razor blade and drug laced candy back home. Here, in Lisbon, and the rest of Portugal for that matter, it seems a non-issue, everyone gives her candy, from the fruit vendor to the restaurant owner. It’s just what is done here, with no ill-will, but just to make your kid happy. I like this difference. This makes me feel that Zoë is safe and that I am able to keep her safe. The bad guys are not so prevalent here (I know that there are bad guys everywhere, but I seriously doubt someone will give her an LSD laced sticker here).

It will be interesting if we ever go back home to beautiful Northern California, how will I teach Zoë not to speak to ANY strangers, when here I tell her she should always respond with a hearty “Olá” when someone addresses her. You will have to tune in and see what happens with that, because, honestly, I have no idea how I will make the distinction to her as she grows older.

This culture has so many similarities to Sonoma County California, but still the differences are noticeable. These differences are why I love to travel…I want to see what the world holds for me, what different cultures deem as acceptable and as taboo. I crave this change of culture, scenery, and especially food (you knew I would mention food at some point right?!). More adventures to be had in the near future and more stories to tell you! Thank you all for reading!

Lovely Port… Ahem..I mean Porto

So this past week we have been running up and down Portugal. We were trying to fit in all that we wanted to see before we leave for the next stop on our journey. We have a little over a week before our next destination. I am splitting these trips into two posts because there is just so much that I want to say about each. I am going to start by telling you about our trip to Porto.

We had really been wanting to check out Porto, which is a city in the north that everyone raves about as being “the” place to go wine tasting. Chad and I had originally considered staying in Porto, which is the second largest city in Portugal, instead of Lisbon. It was a hard decision, but the descriptions of Porto reminded us too much of home, so we chose Lisbon. As some of you might already know, we are from Sonoma County, California and have been surrounded by vineyards and wineries in all directions most of our lives.

We arrived on a Wednesday by train, which took about 3 ½ hours and cost about 25€ each. I love taking trains. I love feeling the soothing rock of the cars click-clacking along. I love being able to walk around and stretch my legs as much as I want to. I especially love the fact that there is usually a snack/dinner car where I can get something to eat or drink when I want to. This method of transportation makes it incredibly easy to travel with a toddler in my opinion. Zoë had a great time playing with the seat table and drawing and being able to sit in her own chair, she already wants to be a big girl.

We arrived mid afternoon and were able to hop on a metro immediately that took us directly to our hotel. Chad found a place called Hotel Da Norte, that was relatively inexpensive and like I said, as soon as you walk off the metro stop, there was the hotel right in front of us. It was nice not to have to search for it.

The hotel staff was lovely and helpful, making sure that we got a room big enough for a toddler crib for Z. The room was very clean and although the view was not beautiful, there were many windows that let the sun shine in (and give me a dose of vitamin D without having to sit in the horrible cold weather outside).

Zoë Checking Out the Room

Zoë Checking Out the Room

Porto is in northern Portugal and is bordered by the ocean on one side and a huge river runs through it, so it makes sense that it is a bit cooler than Lisbon. I was prepared for it, and yet it still made me a little cranky. I think I hid it well, although maybe Chad noticed a little.

Trying to Smile Through The Cold

Trying to Smile Through the Pain of Being Frozen

We decided to walk down to the river front and get some seafood for a late lunch. It was a big mistake. The river front is tourist central, which doesn’t really bother me usually, but the food that they served was disappointing and overpriced. The local dish, called Francesinha was really the only thing offered, besides hamburgers and hot dogs for the most part. I decided to try the local favorite and was served a lukewarm sandwich made up of one slice of cheap white bread, a some ham, sausage and cheese topped with a chili sauce that lacked any flavor at all. Luckily, my meal came with french fries, so I did have something to eat. Chad had calamari rings that looked as though they were probably from a bag. Poor Zoë got a hot dog on a moldy bun. She was okay with it though, as she only eats the hot dog anyways. Still, this was not the type or quality of food we had become accustomed to. We hurriedly finished our overpriced cardboard fare and decided to do some sight seeing.

We decided to do the Hop on Hop Off Red Bus again, but this one also included a boat trip down the river to look at Porto’s six famous bridges and a free tasting at one of the port wineries. We started with the boat trip. This was fun, but a bit disappointing as there was no information given about the bridges or the landmarks on the shore. It was simply just a boat ride up and down the river. They dropped us off on the other side of the river, where all the port tasting rooms are and we headed by foot to the tasting rooms that were on our voucher. They were the furthest ones away, but I needed to warm up a little and the brisk walk took care of that quickly. Just a quick note for parents of toddlers out there, the sidewalks were very well maintained and we pushed Zoë around in her stroller quite easily the whole trip.

The Six Bridge Boat Trip

The Six Bridge Boat Trip

Warming Up With a Walk

Warming Up With a Walk

We tried a red and white port at Krohns, the first port winery we came upon that we had a free tasting. Then we walked up the hill a bit more and went to Cockburns Port Winery, and there we tried three other ports, a tawny and two reds. I must say that the ports were divine. I loved them all. The walk back to the bus stop was merry. I was warm from the port and ready for the next adventure to begin.

Krohn Port Winery

Krohn Port Winery

Zoë Being Silly at Krohn Port Winery

Zoë Being Silly at Krohn Port Winery

Cockburn Port Winery

Cockburn Port Winery

After we arrived at the bus stop, we realized that the busses had stopped running an hour before. So we had another opportunity to warm up with a walk back to the other side of the river. It was actually pretty cool, the bridge was built by Gustave Eiffel and you could see the similarities between the design of the bridge and (the pictures I have seen of) the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The Bridge Designed by Gustave Eiffel

The Bridge Designed by Gustave Eiffel

We then got to take a Funicular up the hill back to the area where our hotel was. A funicular is a small trolley car that acts like an tram mixed with a elevator. It was a lot of fun riding in it up the hill, it was probably one of the highlights of the day for me. It’s the small things like that that fascinate and enthrall me.

The Funicular

The Funicular

By that time, it was dinner time. We walked around for a while and noticed that all the restaurants near our hotel were closing. It was only 7 pm! We were lucky and one of the ladies taking her outdoor tables down gave us the name and directions to an amazing restaurant called Casa de Paraiso II. The seafood was fresh and cooked perfectly. The restaurant had wonderful house red wine, and their half portion meals were big enough to feed a small family. All three of us had full bellies as we made our way back to our room for some much needed sleep.

The next day, our little alarm clock, named Zoë, woke us up early enough to check out of our room by 8:30 am. We went and had some typical pastries at a snack bar and made our way to one of the nearby bus stops to catch the red bus and see the sights of Porto. There were two lines the busses take and we got on the one that took us out to the neighborhoods of mansions built in the 1950’s instead of around the center of town with all of the castles and cathedrals. So, yes, we were not very lucky with the red bus on this trip.

We jumped off the bus as Zoë fell asleep for her nap so we could sit and enjoy lunch for awhile before she woke. We ducked into a little cafe as it began to rain and had a lovely lunch of spaghetti (yep, that was me) and Chad decided to take a chance and had an awesome plate of francesinha. The local fare was vindicated from our horrible food at the river front the day before. We drank some red wine and waited for Z to wake up. It was great to have some time to relax with each other and have an uninterrupted conversation. Zoë had another hot dog when she woke up (I swear we feed her more than just hot dogs!) and we left the cafe happy.  Our time in Porto was up, we had to run back and get our bags from the hotel and catch the metro to the train station back to Lisbon.

There were things I really loved about Porto, but I must say that our little overnight trip was marred by the very cold weather and my first sub par meal since entering this amazing country. I am glad that we chose to live in Lisbon for the time we have been in Portugal, but would not hesitate to spend some more time in Porto.

Wednesday Write-Up: Who Needs a Night Life?

This past week Chad, Zoë and I have been doing a little traveling to other parts of Portugal. We visited Porto, in the north, for a couple of days and just got back today from a trip to Lagos in the south. I plan on writing more about these two vastly different cities on Friday in my travel post, so subscribe so you can read all about it.

We got back to Lisbon today to a huge city wide party. Tonight is the Saint Anthony Festival, which starts in the early evening and continues all night. And it is going on in every neighborhood, currently the song “What a Feeling” is playing loud enough on the street below that we can hear it perfectly in our fifth floor apartment.  People are laughing, talking, singing along to the music. It sounds like a really fun night.

I have to say I am a little jealous. I am incredibly blessed that my amazing daughter is in bed and, pardon the cliche, is sleeping like a baby through all the noise. I will not jinx myself and say that I wish she would stay awake later…heck no, I would never wish that…I enjoy my evenings while she is asleep. Sometimes though I do miss being able to go out on the town after dark. Especially when it is right outside my front door.

I sit here and think how I wish I could go outside with everyone else, and then I realize how much more I have seen of the places we have been because I do not go out late at night. Not only that, but it also helps to be woken at 6:30 or 7 am everyday so i get the most time possible to partake in real life in the cities we have visited.  A special thanks to Zoë for being my little human alarm clock.

This journey is completely different from Chad and I’s pre-baby travels, and for the better I think. Zoë has made every part of this adventure acutely more special and fulfilling. I not only get to experience different and wonderful cultures, but I get to see how they enthrall and excite Zoë. It is a better feeling than I can even describe.

So I willingly give up my night life (despite being a tiny bit envious), because living on the road with my toddler, is the most exciting and worthwhile venture I could ever undertake. Being a mom is rad, that is all I can say.

I am off to bed early…Good night all!

Wednesday Write-Up: The Small Things

It is the small things that change my day, either negatively (like my day last Wednesday…please try not to judge me harshly for my whining) or positively.

Today was a day where the small things have affected me positively. It has been an absolutely wonderful day! Thank you God!

We haven’t really done any touristy type things so far this week, Zoë and I have been playing around while Chad has tried to get all of his work accomplished before we head to Porto tomorrow for two days. I am very excited to see a new part of Portugal! This week has pretty much been a normal week, except today was amazing!

It may seem insignificant to some of you, but yesterday I finally found a salon where they have a waxer! The only kind of hair removal I had found here so far was laser hair removal (scary!), Nair, and a good old fashioned razor. Sorry, but none of these are for me, I need some beeswax and a couple of fabric strips to get rid of my unwanted hair.

So, back to the salon…Not only did the receptionist speak decent english (thank goodness, as my portuguese is still sub-par to say the least), but it’s literally two blocks from our apartment. I immediately made an appointment for myself to get the god-awful excess hair removed from my body. I have not been waxed since we were in Curacao over a month ago. For those of you that know me, you know that I am not really that hairy of a lady. I honestly do not have to shave my legs more than once every month or so (I really do realize how blessed I am by this). But my eyebrows and underarms…that is a whole other story. After letting my underarm hair grow for over a month, let me just say, I looked like I should have been at Woodstock. I finally caved and shaved them. It was a sad day for me, but it really had to be done, I could’t wait any longer and wasn’t willing to try the laser on such a sensitive area of my body.

I am now a hairless and happy woman! The esthetician was professional, personable and proficient in her work. It was so nice to be pampered for an hour today. I left feeling like I was walking on air, although that could have been the 10 pounds of hair I left behind.

Another thing that made this day wonderful, was that Zoë did not throw one tantrum all day, actually listened to my instructions, and we had a great time playing all day long! It was eye-opening to me how much her moods affects mine and vice versa. I guess I should get used to that fact, two females living together can cause some serious turmoil…poor Chad. Now I know how my parents felt, well just slightly…they had three girls and a boy…there were about 10 years there that someone was going through puberty in that house. That, to me, sounds like hell on earth…props to you Mom and Dad!

Chad and I have made some plans to leave Lisbon, we have booked and completely planned our next two destinations, which is very exciting to me. It is bittersweet though, I really love Lisbon. If Thailand doesn’t work out for us, I already told Chad I think we should consider coming back to Lisbon to stay.

The next two destinations are so different from where we expected to go, but God has other plans for us obviously. And I love that we are blessed to be able to do all this. Life is good. God is good. Now I just need to make sure my attitude stays good. Thanks for staying with me through the good and bad times my friends!

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13

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

1-DSC_0689

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