And we are HOMEūüíĖ

After being up for 24 hours straight the four amigos are all exhausted. ¬†We partied hardy for old goats! ¬†We learned a few things we would do differently: ¬†1st–3 weeks is a little too long. ¬†2nd–3 legs on travel day is too much (Lisbon to Philadelphia to Phoenix to Sacramento). Pay a little more and cut the air time a bit. ¬†3rd–Some driving might be okay, but limit driving in cities. ¬†Use more public transit (trains, subways, busses). 4th–One night stands are hard. Include more time to relax instead of go, go, going. ¬†At least 2 nights in most places seemed to work better. ¬†BEING somewhere can be just as meaningful as doing things. Taking time to reflect and consider being in this new and different place should be part of the plan. ¬†People watching makes me smile.

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So our vacation has has come to an end.  Rick and Kathy have been wonderful travel partners.  Rick was a real trooper.  He did the driving, even in busy, narrow streets.  Kathy has the get up of the energizer bunny.  Steve is ready and willing to try (and eat!) anything.  His Spanish was very helpful.  Not sure what my role was, but I think I was good at just taking it all in!

Thank you for reading my blog and sharing this amazing adventure.  Til next time vaya con Dios!

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Last day of Vacation: Lisbon

I slept pretty well last night. ¬†Our hotel is nice, situated at the top of one of the 7 hills of Lisbon. ¬†We didn’t rush this morning, although maybe we should have to avoid long waits for busses. ¬†We walked down into one of the main squares in town, just Steve, Ryan and I. ¬†Rick and Kathy were doing their own thing today. ¬†At one end of the square was a big arch. ¬†We walked through it and were at the Rio Tejo. ¬†It’s a huge river that rushes into the Atlantic, about 15 miles west. ¬†Over the river is a duplicate of the Golden Gate Bridge, designed by the same man. ¬†It looked like home!

We then hopped on one of those “Hop on, Hop off” busses and went to the Castle of St. George. ¬†Steve and Ryan went in, but I chose to sit outside, people watch, and enjoy the street musician. ¬†He was very good. ¬†I’m not sure what kind of instrument he was playing, but it was quite pleasant. ¬†There was a tree with lovely pink blossoms (I know…it’s October!). ¬†I looked over the red tile roofs and could see the river. ¬†I enjoyed the time in that spot just as much as the guys enjoyed the castle! ¬†We then walked¬†out to the Alfama District. ¬†There were lots of old buildings, narrow streets, tiny restaurants and bars. ¬†There were many apartments with clothes hanging from windows to dry. ¬†After enjoying this quaint neighborhood, we hopped back on the bus and rode out to Belem. ¬†This is a seaside neighborhood at the far end of town. ¬†Sadly, it was Monday and the “best” site, The Geranamo Monestary was closed. ¬†We did see the outside though. ¬†Next door is the spot where they make the famous national dessert of Portugal. ¬†They have them all over, but supposedly, these are THE BEST! ¬†However, by this time it was raining and the line was way out the door, so we decided to pass! ¬†I did have a salted toffee gelato instead. ¬†Ryan got jinja gelato. ¬†Jinja is the national drink of Portugal–a kind of dark cherry liqueur.

We then rode the bus around town.  This is a tour bus with headphones that describe the sites as we drive by.  Since it was raining we decided to get the BIG PICTURE from the dry bus!  Ryan is young so he hopped off and toured a bit more thoroughly in the rain.    Steve and I hopped off at the closest stop to our hotel, but even so, we got pretty wet.

Now we are drying out a bit and thinking about where to go for dinner.

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Sintra

This ¬†will be short…3 weeks of vacation and I’m plumb tuckered! ¬†We drove to Lisbon, turned in the car, took the metro and walked (uphill) to our hotel. ¬†Then we rushed out to catch the train to Sintra, about 30 miles west of Lisbon. ¬†There we caught another bus that took us to 3 main attractions. ¬†First stop: ¬†The National Palace. ¬†It was much more plain on the outside than other sites of grandeur that we have seen. ¬†On the inside though, it was exquisite. ¬†I especially liked the ceilings and tiled walls. ¬†I’m sure it would be more meaningful if I knew more (well, any!) Portuguese history.

Second stop:  The bus took us up a steep, windy hill to The Moorish Castle.  We decided to do that one last, so we walked up the road to

Third stop: ¬†The Pena Palace. ¬†This is another palace, high up atop the city. ¬†It’s bright yellow with turrets and lookouts. ¬†No one could dare invade as the enemy would certainly be out of breath by the time they arrived! ¬†Another elaborate and impressive monstrosity! ¬†img_1734

So back to the Moorish Castle–We walked back down the road and down a long, but lovely trail to the entrance. ¬†By the time we got to that point, it was raining and I was worn out. ¬†We just did a short walk through and headed back to the bus, then train to Lisbon. ¬†We ducked into a Portuguese hamburger joint, thoroughly enjoyed dinner and are ready for yet another bed!

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A Day to Relax

img_1723I slept in–just a bit! ¬†My first plan was to head back to the big produce market we discovered yesterday for another pumpkin doughnut. ¬†Alas, the little lady didn’t make any today. ¬†So, we bought a different kind that wasn’t as good and walked down to see the boat museum. ¬†It was just a few very colorful boats out on the beach. ¬†We decided to have some alone time(24/7 can get a bit much). ¬†Steve hiked up a steep cliff and I visited a few shops. ¬†Ryan slept in, took a part of the morning walk with us and then went for a long run. ¬† ¬†In the afternoon we rode the funicular back up to the cliff top, hiked out toward the fort and watched the waves. ¬†This place is famous for huge waves and spectacular surfing. ¬†Today was supposed to be perfect, but the weather changed and now they say Monday will be THE BIG SURF DAY. ¬†So, we’ll miss it. ¬†Oh, well, to me the waves were huge and the views were breathtaking.

At 4:00 there was a Mass in the church on the cliff. ¬†It was very nice, but all in Portuguese, so we didn’t understand much. ¬†Since we do know what is going on during mass, it was still a good experience. ¬†After church we went back down into town, met up with Rick and Kathy and had drinks in a little cabana-type bar on the beach. ¬†The music was great, until they played Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas is You”. I guess they like American music, but since they don’t know English, they must not have known it was Christmas music! ¬†We chuckled about it.

Steve and Ryan had scouted a spot for dinner. ¬†Rick and Kathy had picked a different place. ¬†Steve had fish stew. ¬†Ryan had the special–beans with “meat”–which he thinks was tripe and mostly he avoided it. ¬†I had a small steak, which was pounded flat and way over cooked. ¬†It came with bread, French fries, rice (3 starches!)and salad with no dressing. ¬†I am actually looking forward to my own cooking again!

One more complaint about both Spain and Portugal:  The SMOKING is rediculous!  There is so much smoking everywhere!  Even in restaurants.  Yuk!

Tomorrow we head for Lisbon and Sintra.  I have loved this vacation, but home is sounding very appealing.

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Fatima

I ūüíĖPortugal! ¬†This town is so quaint–Nazare, which is Portuguese for Nazareth, is full of little shops, markets and little old ladies in their full skirts and neatly tied full aprons, with scarves on their heads. ¬†We found a farmers market this morning and bought some nice fruit, nuts and a couple of homemade pumpkin doughnuts. ¬†Yum!

Next we were off to Fatima. ¬†As a “cradle Catholic” I have heard about Our Lady of Fatima since I was a little girl. ¬†3 children saw the Blessed Virgin and were told things that would come to pass. ¬†Now, there are things about the church that I find upsetting, but there are many things about MY church that I love. ¬†I do believe in angels and miracles. ¬†I found the site of the Fatima apparitions filled with awe. ¬†Although it was quite touristy, most of the people who cared enough to come to Fatima must have a faith in the glory of miracles. ¬†To see the spot where those dear children saw angels and Mary, where they were chosen to spread a plea for peace, where they are now buried…well, it was spirit-filled.

Our next stop was The Monastery of Santa Maria in a little town called Batalha. ¬†It was huge and old. ¬†The architecture was intricate and detailed. ¬†After that stop (where I bought Wesley his birthday present, he’s 36 today!), we headed back to Nazare for a bit of a rest, before our evening doings!

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Nazare

IMG_1871.PNGAbout 200km. north of Lisbon is a small seaside town called Nazare. ¬†We landed in Lisbon, Portugal, met up with Ryan–so good to see him! We rented a car and headed north. ¬†Nazare is famous among surfers. ¬†It’s on the Atlantic and holds the record for the highest surfed wave, 78 ft! ¬†Our hotel is old and charming, right on the beach. ¬†I dipped my toes in the ocean, contemplated the wonder of it all and then we took the funicular to the top of a cliff. ¬†We hiked to an old fort, with a lighthouse. ¬†To one side was the calmer oceanfront by our hotel. ¬†To the other side was the wild, strong and magnificent waves this place is famous for. ¬†It was a bit of a steep hike to the fort, but well worth it. ¬†On the way back we had a drink in a little bar on the cliff and watched the sun set. ¬†We took the funicular back into town and are ready to venture out for a nice seafood dinner–no eel or squid!

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En route to Sevilla

After visiting Gibraltar we didn’t get on the road unti early afternoon. ¬†Then we stopped in a beach town called Tarifa. ¬†It’s the southernmost tip of Europe and just 14 km. from Morocco. ¬†It was a nice spot with lots of windsurfers. ¬†It was exciting to stand and look one way at rhe Mediterranean and the other way at the Atlantic. ¬†This is the place where the two meet. ¬†A nice lady explained about the underwater trenches, the currents and animal life. ¬†She said that people actually swim between Spain and Morocco from this point.

Stella, our GPS, had a rough time locating our hotel. ¬†It’s on the outskirts of Sevilla and rather hidden in the barios. ¬†By the time we found the place and had a light tapas dinner (followed by gelato) it was late and the idea of seeing a flamingo was no longer appealing. ¬†So, we are leaving Sevilla without seeing much of it, as we fly to Lisbon tomorrow. ¬†Our son, Ryan, is meeting us in Lisbon. ¬†Hopefully our last few days will be a bit calmer than the last couple of days. ¬†We are all a bit weary of narrow streets, poor directions and tapas.

 

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Gibraltar

Well, we didn’t make it to Gibraltar last night. ¬†Instead we ventured into yet another “Old Town” for dinner. ¬†We ate at a sweet little Italian place, outdoors. ¬†The waiter was from Turkey and the owner and cook was from Sicily. ¬†The food was delicios and the waiter was vert talkative. ¬†This morning we walked into Gibraltar , which is owned and governed by England. ¬†The city ¬†is a hodgepodge of English, Spaniards, and Arabs–as Morocco is just across the straits. ¬†Unfortunately the cruise ship was in, so the streets in Gibraltar were crowded. ¬†I seem to have come down with a bit of a cold, but am fighting it. ¬†I don’t want to spoil the rest of our trip. Sadly, the streets and beaches here in La Linea are dirty, littered and there was a lot of dog poop on the sidewalks. ¬†Now, on to Sevilla!

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THE ALHAMBRA

This morning we met our tour group early for a 4 hour tour of the Alhambra. ¬†Located atop a hill in Granada, The Alhambra is an ancient Muslim palace. ¬†The compound has palaces, ruins of homes, gardens, an amazing water system, and much more. ¬†We walked through rooms and structures that simply oozed history. ¬†As in the Mesquita, attempts had been made to add signs of Christianity, but here the ceilings, walls and structures were so imbedded with Islamic symbolism, that it remains the prominent focus. ¬†In Granada, as in C√≥rdoba, it should be noted that there seems to have been a time, and maybe still is, when Mullins, Jews, and Christians lived in harmony. ¬†Wouldn’t that be nice?

After our tour we walked to the village plaza, had lunch and drove south to the Mediterranean and west toward Gibraltar. ¬†We stopped in a small town called La Linea where we will walk to Gibraltar for dinner. ¬†Gibraltar is an English colony, so maybe we can find fish and chips! ¬†We are a bit tired of tapas and ham sandwiches. ¬†Well, Steve likes the tapas, topped with anchovies, eel, squid and the like. ¬†The rest of us…not so much!

Tomorrow its back to Sevilla, where I, for one, am hoping to take in a flamenco dance!

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Another day in Spain

We walked to rhe Mesquita this morning. ¬†It was huge, impressive and somewhat sad–at least for me.this is an ancient mosque which was taken from the Muslims during the Crusades. ¬†It was then filled with Christian icons and way too much gold. ¬†It embarrasses me, as a Christian, that this magestic place was stolen and then filled with “stuff” not representative of what Christianity is to me. ¬†I much prefer simple churches. ¬†Anyway, again, the architecture was amazing. ¬†We then crossed an ancient Roman bridge and returned to Check out of our hotel.

We got a bit lost traveling from C√≥rdoba to Granada and again Stella wasn’t much help. ¬†Entering Granada, with the narrow streets and busy city life had us discombuberated–again! ¬†Finally with the help of a guy on a motor bike we found our hotel. Our guide got 12 euros and wanted more, but we didn’t quite trust him to bring back change for a 50! ¬†Then, Steve, Rick and Stella (remember–Stella is our GPS) took the car to a parking garage. ¬†They were gone about an hour and a half and Kathy and I were getting a bit concerned. ¬†Again, wrong turns and mixups!

When they did finally return we got drinks and a light dinner and chilled a bit. ¬†They walked to the top of a good viewpoint–a great view but a steep climb. ¬†I just didn’t have the uumph to tackle it. ¬†I may take my own little walk (to a gelato stand I noticed just down from the hotel. ¬†We are surrounded by olive trees, which are aggravating my allergies. ¬†Tomorrow morning we tour THE ALHAMBRA.

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