Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pretty Portugal

As I've mentioned in previous entries, Ken had a rough go this busy season.  He pretty much worked day and night for three months solid.  

So, he needed to escape.  To a place with a nice beach and cheap drinks.  

Thus, we found ourselves in beautiful Portugal last week.  Before we moved to Norway, we had big plans to visit Portugal on a Euro trip.  So, it was fun to visit a place we'd been wanting to see for awhile.

It also turns out that everyone in the UK who was looking to escape the Royal Wedding madness also decided to visit Portugal.  You would've thought we were in London with all the British accents flying around.  Our Portuguese dictionary was basically useless, because every menu was printed in English.  I was kind of looking forward to having to work for it...

Anyway, we chose the Algarve region of Portugal due to the amazing pics we'd seen of the area.  And those pics weren't lying!

Our first stop in the Algarve was Lagos, which ended up being our favorite spot by far.  The scenery there was just amazingly gorgeous - hard to beat! 

Beautiful Praia Dona Ana in Lagos.

Hiking around.

More from the hike.

Boat ride through the grottoes.

Safety first.

It was a small fishing boat, so we were able to go through a lot of the arches and into some of the small caves.  Who doesn't love a good boat ride?

After a wild night of partying it up with two fun and cool retired accountants we met at dinner (read: not so wild if it's a party of four accountants), we headed to Tavira, on the eastern end of the Algarve.

Took a ferry out to a huge beach on Ilha de Tavira.


We also stayed in Faro, the largest city in the Algarve, for a night on our way to Lisbon.  It rained, so our beach days were over.  Even after frequent coatings with SPF 55, our skin was ready for a break by then anyway.  We walked around, and I tried to make Ken pose with the nice paintings on the city walls.  He wasn't having it, so I made him be the photographer instead (which he equally dislikes).

Outside of the Algarve, we were able to explore Lisbon for a day on the front end of the trip and a day on the back end.   Such a lovely city.  It reminded me a lot of San Francisco, actually.  Lots of hills, and even a Golden Gate-esque bridge.  It was a bit sad though, because many of the beautiful buildings in the city were abandoned and run-down, and apparently a lot of jerk graffitiers have decided that Lisbon makes a good canvas.

We found a wonderfully charming area of the city called the Alfama, which is the oldest district in Lisbon.  It was full of super narrow and winding walkways, people sitting outside chatting, and laundry hanging from balconies.  We walked through quickly, because you feel like you're invading the homes of the people who live there since it's such tight quarters.

And perhaps the most fun you can have in Lisbon: riding these rickety old trams up and down the steep hills in the neighborhoods.  They're like the SF cable cars, only more like roller coasters.  

We'll wrap up Portugal with some pretty details.  Every city we visited had such beautiful doors, tiled buildings, flowers, and mosaic sidewalks.

 We had a long layover in Brussels on our way home, so we took a train into the city for the afternoon.  It's a very pleasant city, with lots of beautiful buildings.

There were also waffles.

And the classic statue of the peeing boy, Manneken Pis (charming, eh?)  He was dressed in a scouting outfit that day.

And now you have the best of Brussels in one pic - waffles, Belgian chocolate, the Manneken Pis, and Ken for the day.  I suppose the fries are missing though...

Moment of Zen:  

 More delicious mojito than you can handle (1/2 litre!) for 6€ in the Bairro Alto in Lisbon.  Magical.