Portugal stay #6 – a hot minute in Amsterdam

posted by on June 30th, 2019

No trip to Europe would feel right without a visit to our dear friends Pascal and Jose, so we made sure we had a long layover in Amsterdam to spend a day with them.


Portugal stay #5 – near Lisbon

posted by on June 30th, 2019

We drove to “Quinta das Hortencias”, another little farm-stay about 45 minutes from the airport for our last night.

This place was also really nice. The host didn’t speak much English, and pretty much disappeared after letting us into our house, but the grounds and facilities were great. They had two swimming pools (a little chilly, but swimmable), chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, birds, peacocks, doves, turkeys and turtles. It’s too bad we only had one night because Sawyer would have lived a little more time with the animals.

We ate out for our last traditional Portuguese dinner, grilled piri piri chicken, grilled fish and stone soup. (Okay, I ate some of the chicken. These people really know how to handle a grill!)


Portugal stay #4 – Porto

posted by on June 30th, 2019


We drove into Porto. Alyssa did an incredible job of navigating the narrow streets to our new apartment. Not even one accident!

Our new place was very cool. It had a walk-out balcony and large bedroom up a flight of stairs, with a trundle bed for Sawyer.

After we checked in, we met up for dinner with Rita, Gregg and Trudy. While most of the crew hung out with Sawyer at a nearby playground, Alyssa and I had a mission to cruise around the neighborhood to try to find a place for us all to eat. Our first choice restaurant, “Brick” was closed
(and continued to be closed every time we tried to go back throughout our stay), so we took their recommendation and headed through some of the narrow alleys to a small restaurant named “Miss O’vo” a few blocks down the street.


Slept in. I made a morning run to get cappuccinos and pastries.

Got tickets for hop-hop off bus while Sawyer spent some time at the park playground again. The bus was a double-decker with an open top, which sawyer was pretty excited about.

We rode down to the river and had a lunch with a view, then boarded an hour long “6-bridges” boat tour that gave us some of the sights of Porto from the water.

After our boat ride we went across the river to the area of Porto famous for it’s port cellars. We did a cellar tour of Cálam, which actually turned out to be cooler than I thought it would be. I was expecting a simple tasting at a counter, but it was actually a pretty elaborate set of interactive exhibits, which Sawyer liked a lot, a tour of the cellars, which had some pretty impressive giant barrels aging, and a tasting where we met a really nice couple and their daughter from Dubai.

Next we headed back to our neighborhood and hoofed it across town trying to find a nice spot for dinner. We failed a couple times at trying to get a spot at too-crowded popular restaurants, and hunger and weary feet led us to an outdoor seating place not far from a main square. Alyssa wasn’t totally thrilled with it, but my grilled fish was pretty Good

So it was a pretty busy day. Sawyer was s trooper all day, and we chalked it up to a win across the board.


We dawdled around again in the morning and headed out late, hoping to get a spot at a restaurant we’ve had our eye on for lunch. Things got off to a rocky start with wrong restaurant opening times, not-good snacks, and a really really long bus ride to the Foz neighborhood.

We were a little deflated when we got to Foz, but it all turned around when we had lunch at Don Zefarino, where we had some mind-blowing grilled fish, and had a great rapport with our server Joseph. With spirits lifted, we spent some tome in the neighborhood, me walking to the (closed) marked, and Alyssa and Sawyer headed to the beach.

The beach, by the way, was beautiful. Super fine white sand as far as you could see and super clean. We found a little playground and bought some sand toys for Sawyer and hung there for a while. We probably didn’t spend as much time here as we would have liked, and we didn’t have our swim gear with us, which was too bad. I’ve made a mental note to go back next time I’m in Porto.

When we got back to our neighborhood, we decided to take it easy and just do a picnic dinner on our balcony. So we got some take-out sandwiches and chilled out for the evening


Time to pack up and head to our next home! Nothing very notable about our morning of packing our bags, but…before we left town we did get a proper restaurant brunch. Oh poached eggs and proper coffee, how I missed you so!


Portugal stay #3 – Casa de Paleirmas

posted by on June 25th, 2019


Stopped in Setúbal on our drive and ate at a super cute little restaurant. The food was great and the €3 liter of wine was amazing!

Arrived at casa de palmeiras, Thais place is so cute and quaint and amazing. Lots of space to explore. Gardens, chickens, goats, ducks, guinea pigs and more! We ordered a ”delivery” dinner at our place. Helped with the evening feeding of the animals. 


Ate out regular breakfast at home, fresh baked bread, homemade jams, cheese, fresh fruits

We spend most of the day in the nearby town if Viseu. We walked around the weekly market a bit. Then lunched at a curate little wine bar/tapas place near the cathedral.

2-hour Tuk tuk tour with Suzanne. We saw lots of historical sights and street art (mostly commissioned murals.) sawyer likes seeing the peacocks at the park.

Went home and fed the animals and helped milk the goats.


This was mostly relaxing day around the farm. Lots of laying around and reading. Sawyer spent a lot of time on the swing set and playing with his new friend next door, Joanna (age 7). Sawyer helped with watering the garden and planting some seeds. We did a quick drive to a nearby town (Nelas) for lunch and a small grocery run (well, mostly a wine run). This was a great, low-key day before heading out for more adventure the next day.


Finished up our fresh bread/fruit/cheese breakfast and packed up the car to go to our next destination!

Road trip detour: “the Venice of Portugal “

We stopped half way in the town of Aveiro, sometimes called “Venice if Portugal” because if it’s canals and gondaleirs.

This was a pretty quick stop because we wanted to get to Porto before rush hour. We had a quick pizza lunch, then a 45 minute boat ride. This boat was nothing like the gondola ride in Venice like it was built up to be. The canals were wide and straight (and a little boring), and the boats, while quite pretty and shaped like an Italian gondola, were really big, holding up to maybe 20 people, and motor powered. Our guide was a young guy with a little too much pep and bad humor for the crowd. Maybe he was a little Day-drunk? Who’s to say?


Portugal stay #2 – Lagos

posted by on June 24th, 2019


We rented a car in Lisbon and drove with Rita and Gregg down to Lagos, a city in the Algarve region of Portugal. We had an apartment right on the ocean along the southern coast.

When we got there we were awe-struck with the place. It was a beautiful 4-bedroom apartment with a large deck and lawn-patio that overlooked what is arguably the most beautiful beach on the coast. Staying with us was Alyssa’s Family: Rita & Gregg, Paul, Renata, Olivia, Elena and Judy, along with the three of us.

We stayed in the rest of the evening and enjoyed each other’s company and our new home.


While everybody was waking up, Paul and Gregg made the trek into town to pick up some freshly baked pastries for everybody.

After breakfast, we all went out as a group and took a walk through the old-town of Lagos, where we sight-saw for a little while, and ate lunch and a nice outdoor restaurant on the sidewalk.

From there, we got our suits on and spent some time down on our beach. The one downside of our location was that the water was cooooooold! Really cold, but not cold enough that one wouldn’t dare go into it. Instead, it was just cold enough to try it, and then regret it.

In the evening after we all cleaned up, Judy volunteered to stay home with the kids while all of the siblings went out to dinner. We ate at “Los Artistis”, a Michelin recommended restaurant . The food was just fine in my opinion, but the company was great!


On this day we had a plan. Each family would be in charge of a dish for dinner, and we would walk down to the local fresh fish market in the morning to source our ingredients. So when we woke up, Gregg, Paul, Renata and I walked down to the fish market to pick up our ingredients. Gregg got an octopus, I got a whole Sea Bream, and Renata got a whole Atlantic Wrekfish, (Stone bass).

The day was filled mostly with some grocery runs, and a lot of relaxation and beach time. Yessss!

Dinner prep was made into quite an event. When all was said and done, this was probably the most delicious meal of our entire stay.

After dinner. we all took a long walk along the dirt paths that line the bluffs along the coast. We ended up down on some of the beaches. These beaches are especially beautiful, because depending on the tide, you can often go from one beach to the next either by skirting the surf when it goes out, or by ducking through some tunnels in the rocks that divide the beaches. This leads you to more, secluded white-sand beaches surrounded by rocky cliffs. Beautiful!


On Thursday we made an excursion to the nearby beach town of Selma.


We spent some time in the morning checking out the old-town in Lagos again today. We had some breakfast, then some of us went shopping, and Alyssa and I took Elena and Sawyer to the science-museum/playground.

The afternoon was filled with more relaxation and beach time.

In the evening, Judy watched the kids again while the siblings all went out to Restaurant Piri Piri, where we ordered some giant pots of “Cataplano”, a seafood stew which is the specialty of the region, and of course, the Piri Piri chicken.


We did a 4-hour catamaran tour along the coast today. Amazing! The boat took us south past rocky cliffs, caves and grottos, down towards Ponta da Piedade where we stopped to eat lunch, swim and paddleboard, then back home.

Pizza for dinner…we’re getting a little sick of seafood 🙂


Being our last day, we took it pretty easy this day. Everybody went off and did their own thing for a while.

Several of us did a “Grotto Tour”. This is where a local takes you along the coast in a small boat with an outboard motor and shows you through the caves and crevices of the cliffs along the coast. This was really cool because we got to see a lot of the grottos close up, as opposed to the distance we saw them from our catamaran the day before.

In the evening, we had a little plan to surprise the kids. We really wanted to know how they would react if we all decided to have cupcakes with whipped cream, but when it came time to take a bit, all of the adults simultaneously smashed the cupcakes into our faces.


Time to move on! We packed our bags and got our rental car. Off to our next destination!


Portugal stay #1: Lisbon

posted by on June 14th, 2019

It didn’t take long after we arrived in Lisbon for us to fall in love with this city. Lisbon, especially the neighborhood we stayed in, is a very old city. There are winding cobblestone streets everywhere, orange tiled roofs, and open air restaurants and shops around every corner. We are in a very touristy neighborhood so we are able to get by with English only with ease, and everybody we meet is very friendly.

Our apartment – Friday

We have a VRBO apartment in the Baixa neighborhood. It’s up a steep hill with beautiful views of the river, and only a couple blocks from where Rita and Gregg are staying. It’s on a short side street, at the end of which we learned from Gregg becomes a party at night, with live music, street food and hoards of both locals and visitors dancing and drinking into the evening. We would get to see this for ourselves on the second night, but the first night we passed out early before the festivities started and barely heard a peep from out our window.

That first evening after we arrived we walked down our hill and ate dinner at Pistola de Corazon, a little Mexican place near us. Yea, it was a little strange to land in Europe and head straight for Mexican dinner, but it had great reviews, was easy, and it lived up to our expectations.

Tuk tuk rides and street cars – Saturday

Our first course of action was just to walk around a bit and explore. We had promised Sawyer that Portugal was the land of bakeries and treats, so we immediately seemed out the nearest spot and picked up a couple of Portugal’s most famous treat, a small custard in a flaky crust called a pastel de nata. It did not disappoint.

It was a beautiful day, but the sun was hot and the distances long, and Sawyer was getting quickly tired traipsing around, so we grabbed a nearby Tuk Tuk to give us a ride to the other side of town where we could have some lunch and catch a streetcar back home. We ended up catching the well-known “tram 28“, which winds through the narrow streets, up and down hills, and barely missing entrances to buildings and parked cars.

We took the train to the end of the line, where we found the Campo de Ourique Market, a wonderful food hall where we got wine and some snacks. The Grilled Cuttlefish was fantastic!

Later that evening. Gregg and Rita took Sawyer for a sleepover so that Alyssa and I could head out for a night on the town. We were finally able to see what the street-parties were all about after dark.

Street Art and Sailboats – Sunday

We started our second day with a scheduled “street art” tour around Lisbon. Our guide walked around the city showing us graffiti, murals, tags and tons of amazing public art, both legal and illegal, throughout the city. It really gave us a new viewpoint on the city, and we saw so many little beautiful details we never would have noticed just wandering around ourselves

After the street art tour we had some lunch at a local place (grilled fish anyone!), then wen’t home to relax a bit before our next outing.

In the evening, we headed down to the Marina for a sunset sailboat ride. We rode on a 42′ Benetau. It was a little chilly and windy, but it was so nice to be out on the water, and the sights from the river were beautiful.


Portugal Bound!

posted by on June 12th, 2019

Well, we’ve skipped over blogging about several trips…all of them since Sawyer was born actually. There was New Orleans, North Carolina, a great trip to Sayulita Mexico, and numerous San Diego trips. We’ve certainly gone through some transformations with how we travel now that we have Sawyer with us, but we’re figuring it out!

So next up is our first family trip overseas. Portugal here we come!

We’ve got our flights and lodging all lined up. Here’s a summary of our plan:

  • Three days is Lisbon. We have our own place, but Rita and Gregg will also be staying only a couple blocks away
  • A week in Lagos. We have a big house near the beach. It will be us, Rita & Gregg, Paul, Renata, Olivia & Elena, and Grandma Judy
  • Three nights at a farm-stay north of Lisbon
  • Three nights in Porto
  • One night back near Lisbon
  • One day and night in Amsterdam to visit Pascal and Jose!

Whew! It will be a whirlwind, but I’m confident we can pull it off and come out alive on the other end. Wish us luck.


Two days in Split

posted by on June 9th, 2015

Our last two days were spent in Split, Croatia’s second largest city next to Zagreb. Split is a much larger and busier town. There is an old town like many of the other places we visited, but much larger and surrounded with more parts of their city that had places to visit.

We did the self tour of Diocletian’s palace, the main historical tourist draw to this city. It was alright, but even though it was larger and perhaps of more historical importance than some other placed we visited, it was a little underwhelming. Maybe we’ve just become desensitized to centuries old palaces?

Our apartment was about a ten minute walk to the city center, and run by a very nice, young Croatian guy named Petar. Petar offered us some wine and some of his family’s homemade grappa and cherry liquor when he checked us in. His shining moment though was when we were about to start our 20 minute walk to Bacvice beach in the hot mid-day sun, and he magically appeared out of nowhere and offered us a ride. Also, little known fact, Petar designs high-tech spear guns that will soon be featured in the US in Spearing Magazine (have you renewed your subscription?). Kindof interesting. While he was driving us to the beach there was a guy crossing the street and he was all like “hey, that’s my partner, and he’s carrying my speargun, and sure enough, there was a guy carrying a spear-gun about the size of a rifle made out of mahogany on the sidewalk.

We spent the afternoon at the beach, and then did a search for a little taste of home that we all missed…Mexican food. We found just one place in Split that served it, a place only a few blocks off the beach named Bistro Toč. The food was mediocre, but switching up the food was priceless. For some strange reason, it’s impossible to get Mexican food anywhere in europe, and I would have killed somebody for a burrito by this time. The greatest thing of all though was that I actually found two local craft beers in the restaurants beverage cooler! A porter and a pale ale made in Zagreb. Yes!

One the walk home we discovered a side of Split that we had not see yet. It was just a couple hours after dark and the small wine bars and restaurants in the northeast corner of old town were spilling out into the alleys with locals and tourists alike drinking, snacking and chatting. The atmosphere had changed to be more boisterous the nightlife was very lively. We were exhausted from our day in the sun so the best we could do was to make a mental note to ourselves to come back the next night and check things out a little more.

The market in Split was pretty standard, but definitely worth a walk-through if you’re into that sort of thing. My favorite part though was just outside of the north gate. One of the streets was lined with vendor tables heaped high with antiques. There were mounds of silver, steel and bronze items, sailing tools like sextants and marine compasses, old Russian and Yugoslavian war medals, Croatian folk music records, army helmets, coins, tools, knick-knacks, do-dads and thingamajigs. We pondered the horde of junk/treasures for a while and fond a few items that had our names on them. Nearby stood a tall, bronze statue of Gregory of Nin. I don’t really know who this dude was, but the statue stood about 50 feet tall, and it’s said that if you rub his big toe, you are granted good fortune and you will someday return to Split. Not wanting to take any chances, we all rubbed his toe, and Alyssa gave her baby bump a good rub too.

Our last evening consisted of some low-key card playing at our apartment, and continuing on out at a few restaurant tables. We re-visited the lively neighborhood we had discovered the night before and found three great stops perfect for foodies. First was Uje Oil Bar, where we ordered an olive oil tasting of five oils and some Dalmatian tapas. Then a stop nearby at a wine bar named Zinfendel, where we had some of the best white wines we’ve had the whole trip. And last at a restaurant named Monzoon, which had beautiful courtyard surrounded by palace walls and bell tower.


And then there was this unforgettable cooking class…

posted by on June 8th, 2015

…and I say “unforgettable” not in the sense of like, “it was amazing”, or “it was the best ever!”, but more like “it was a bit awkward and bizarre, and we will not soon forget it”.

Our instructors name was Ivana. She showed up to meet us about 15 minutes late a bit sweaty and disheveled. Her bike lock key had broke so this is totally forgivable, but it was a little foresight into the day ahead. Before I go into detail about the things that were a little weird and off putting about this class, I should say that in many ways some things were actually pretty great. We got to see the local fish market and green market and learn a little bit about it, we got some history and background about the town, we learned how to clean a sardine and an eel, and we made some pretty good food.

The main complaint I’d say we had about this class would be Ivana herself. She was a bit of a nut job. She was bossy, which I think she was trying to pull off in a bossy old grandma in the kitchen that everybody actually loves sort of way, but it came in a mean boss who thinks you do everything wrong sort of way. She would regularly tell us we weren’t doing things right after giving us only one chance, and take kitchen utensils from us and give them to somebody else. She told Bernadette that her photo taking was annoying and she seemed to berate the men. She was overall pretty abrasive, but the confusing part was that we weren’t really sure if she was trying to be that way or if her weird sense of humor was totally lost in translation. This poor retired Belgian couple was with us who barely spoke a lick of English so I can only imagine what they might have been thinking.

A turning point came when we were plating up our dishes and placing them on the table. Ivana accidentally dropped our entire course of fish simmered in olive oil and fig marinade. The dish would have been the star of the entire meal, bet ended up scattered across the ground. At that point I think Ivana was humbled a little bit and things seemed to take a sharp turn for the better. I don’t know, maybes he has a terrible morning with some personal matters an we ended up on the wrong end of her day, but things seemed to be a little lighter near the end. (Yet, still far from comfortable)

Our final menu started with salad, breaded and fried anchovies and eel, fresh baked bread, and the main course (subtracting what ended up on the ground) was a pretty delicious Dalmatian fish stew with tomatoes and polenta.

While I’ll never regret the class because of the story I’ll always have from it, if you’re in Trogir and thinking about taking a cooking class, go to the beach instead.


Two days in Trogir

posted by on June 7th, 2015

We had planned on spending our last four nights in Split, but the word we kept hearing from everybody who had visited there was that a couple nights is all the time one needs to seethe town, so instead of four nights, we booked the first two in the nearby town of Trogir which we had heard great things about.

We had our taxi drop us off at the gate’s of Trogir’s old town and we ventured in to find our AirBnB apartment. As we got close, a server at a restaurant saw the four of us marching along with our noses on our maps and asked us if we needed any help finding somewhere. We just mentioned the name of our apartment or the name of our host and a server shouted to another guy and a local joined in and it seemed as though everybody here knows everybody and in no time one of the servers from the restaurant was leading us up the stairs to our temporary home with key in hand (another server actually described the staff at the restaurant as family a couple days later). This restaurant, Restaurant Capo, would be our home base for the next couple of days. It was a quick stop for some snacks, a table to play cards at, local advice from the staff, a cup of gelato or a pizza delivered to our door.

Now, I feel like a broken record here, but Trogir is yet another quaint and adorable old town. It’s about 20 miles south of Split. The old town is a Unesco world Heritage site, as is the Dalmatian cuisine from the area. It’s small, a person could wandered the length of it in about ten minutes. There is a stretch of waterfront promenade where vendors line their stalls for the tourist crowd, cafés set out umbrella covered patios, and sailboats and yachts pull up to dock. There is a daily fresh fish market and large farmers market where we bought some incredibly juicy, ripe strawberries. Alyssa and I fulfilled our dream of stuffing our mouths with as many fresh strawberries as we could fit.

Our days were mostly filled with wandering and eating, playing cards outside and sampling wine (well, mark, B and I anyway).


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