Monday, July 13, 2015

What I did on my summer vacation.

We're back from a long-awaited, all-too-short trip to Lisbon, Portugal.

The trip was planned as a 50th anniversary gift to Bart's parents (who refused, while there, to give us any advice on how to reach that milestone ourselves).

All of the brothers and cousins were there, along with two amazing sisters-in-law (yup, that'd be me and C). I'm telling you, I lucked out in the in-law department, because I love them all, every last one.

We arrived in Lisbon before the rest of the family, so we spent a day exploring the city before hooking up with the rest of them at our beach rental house.

A whole day to explore - but with 6 people to cart around, we didn't get far. It's okay, though. We did exactly zero prepping for the trip, so had only a vague idea of what we wanted to see. I had exactly four things on my to do list, and we managed to do three of them: we saw the Torre de Belem and the Castelo de São Jorge, and we had an amazing seafood meal. Okay, so maybe I'm the only one who had the seafood. But I guess since I'm the one who made the to do list, it's only fair that I got what I wanted.

We asked the concierge where we should go for dinner late that first evening when we rolled into town. He only had one solid recommendation, so we headed there and took seats without even asking to check out the menu. Well, it turns out it was a seafood restaurant. As in, that's pretty much all they served. I should mention here that Portugal isn't maybe the best place to vacation with 2 vegetarians and 3 kids who don't like seafood. The waiter was baffled when he came to our table bearing a tray of whole raw fish from which we were expected to make our dinner selection, and we asked instead what he could make that wasn't fish-related. He agreed to ask the chef to make "something out of vegetables." (It turned out to be one of the most delicious pasta-and-bean stews I've ever tried, anywhere.) Ainsley and Kyra then asked if he couldn't make them steak instead of fish, and he cheerfully agreed to that, too. I was the only one who ordered off the menu, and I've been dreaming about that garlic-shrimp-bread soup ever since.

The next morning, we walked from our hotel down the main street to the waterfront. (No need to mention the name of our hotel, as I really didn't like it at all, but the people who worked there were so unfailingly kind that I hate to complain about them in public.) The front desk clerk estimated it would take about 30 minutes to walk the distance, but she was waaaaay off - it was more like an hour and 30 minutes. Plus or minus stops for coffee and cups of fresh sliced mango and watermelon.

The main street was beautiful, with trees growing into canopies in many places. And yet I still got fried to a crisp that first day.

We walked down to the water, then hopped on a tram to the Torre de Belem. That's it, back there behind us. It was built on the Tagus River back in the 1500s, in part to defend the city and in part as a sort of ceremonial gateway. These days it's a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I had hoped to see the nearby monastery, but by the time we finished our tour of the tower, it was well beyond lunch time and the kids all needed a break. And a hamburger.

Later that evening, though, we found our way to another place I really wanted to see: the Castelo de São Jorge is perched high on a hill overlooking Lisbon and the Tagus River. The views from up there - amazing.

We walked all around the castle walls, stopping every 3 feet to take more photos. There really weren't any bad places to snap photos up there.

When it was time to leave, nobody wanted to walk down the steep narrow streets, so we hired a tuk tuk driver to take us to the bottom. It was maybe a 15-minute drive? But at the very end of the week's vacation, when I asked the kids what their favorite part of Portugal was, they all agreed that those 15 minutes in the tuk tuk were the best 15 minutes of the whole week. It was a bit, how to say?, terrifying. But we were all buckled in and we made it safely to the bottom.

At the bottom of the hill we wandered through a touristy street of cafes until we found one where I could try more seafood while the rest of the family could enjoy more not-seafood.  It was here that I first sampled vihno verde, a mildly sparkling Portuguese white wine. I'm ashamed to admit that once I tried it, I didn't stop drinking it for the entire week. So good.

We snapped the shot below while sitting in the tuk tuk. We laughed at the time, but I think it cursed us because tomorrow was much, much worse indeed.

But today. Today was lovely.


Popster said... [Reply]

Come and visit. We usually have a stock of Vinho Verde.

Please. Write your own stuff.