Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wind and Waves



That morning we awoke to rain pattering on the roof tiles. It was very windy, with forecasts (in Cascais and further up the coast) of up to 80 kts of wind and a wave height average of 9 meters. That's average. The waves could get bigger. The apartment we are staying in has Ticket to Ride, so we set that up and played a game of that. By then, it was lunchtime, so we went out into the storm to eat at Saudade, a café in Sintra. We ate lunch, blah blah blah, and then, after lunch, we went out and grabbed a taxi. The driver was cleaning his taxi when we found him but he let us in anyway. We wanted to go to the beach, which, if you recall, had a forecast with 80 kt winds and 9 meter waves. That was the whole reason why we wanted to go to the beach. Anyway, when we got to the first beach, which was called Praia Grande, we got out of the taxi into the high winds. However, they weren't such high winds that we started losing control of vital parts of our body, such as our legs. After a few moments of standing on the beach watching the waves while sand and seafoam blew everywhere, we got back in the taxi and headed off to the next beach to watch the waves while wind pummeled us. The next beach was called Praia Adraga and we all got out. Dad and I got out the windward side of the car while Mom and Aaron got out the leeward side of the car. Dad and I had an extremely hard time getting out of the car, while Mom and Aaron a mysteriously easy time of it. Strange. Anyhow, once we were out of the car it got chaotic. Sand and seafoam were going by as fast as a speeding car on the autobahn. Mom and Aaron were huddled behind the leeward side of the car to get away from all the sand, Dad had taken refuge behind a building, and I was getting sandblasted. I saw Dad behind the building and hurried over to join him; as I left, I heard Mom and Aaron jump back in the car. In the safety of the building's leeward side, I decided the sandblasting wasn't so bad after all. I peered around the corner, and a piece of seafoam got me in the eye. I wiped it out and peered around the corner again. I shouldn't have left my mouth open. After spitting all the seafoam and sand out, I stepped out into the wind. It was almost hurricane force. The wind was being channeled down the narrow beach, making it stronger than in Praia Grande. It was hard to move into it, but real easy to move away from it. Such is the nature of strong wind. I hid behind the building again. At that point, Dad decided to video me in the wind, so he urged me out into it again. This was the moment that I lost control of vital parts of my body, and I got flung into a fence. I hid again. Dad and I then decided that it was a good idea to go back to the taxi. We left the shelter of the building and started getting blown towards the car. At this point the wind knocked me down. I got up and we got into the taxi. We felt pretty bad about the cars side. It was covered in sand and seafoam. We drove back to the apartment and spent the rest of the day relaxing there.

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Isaac

Zurich

Here is a link to a blogpost Jason wrote about Zurich.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Castelo dos Mouros



Though we love Lisboa, we learned this trip that it is as densely packed as Singapore so I'm sure it will come as no surprise when I say that we were relieved to be out of the city and in quieter Sintra. I can't tell you how much I love seeing my kids in so many different landscapes. It's amazing for me to see them at home on busy city streets or in quiet forests, on craggy beaches or tops of mountains, on a sailboat or in a camper van, navigating airports and train stations or running around ancient castles. We were particularly lucky to visit 9th century Castelo dos Mouros in the fog which accentuated its mysteriousnes as we climbed up and down the steps along the castle wall catching glimpses of Sintra below and Palacio Pena above. As we look down the steep, rocky slopes below, it always begs the question, how in God's green earth did King Alfonso take this castle from the Moors in 1147?

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Monsteiro São Vincent


After hustling across Lisboa to the Alfalma neighborhood, we just managed to squeak into Monesteiro São Vincente before they closed so Aaron's dreams of seeing the big view from the top would come true.  We beelined through, past religious relics and jewels, cloisters, ancient cisterns, and amazing blue-and-white-fable-telling tile scenes. We paused at the tombs of kings, queens, princes, and princesses where a ghostly statue of a woman in white mourns over the tombs. As she did last time, she took our breath away and gave us chills as we asked ourselves if she is truly a ghost or not.  After quiet reflection, we headed up the stairs to the rooftop where we enjoyed yet another big view of Lisboa.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Convento do Carmo



I am smitten with Convento do Carmo, the late 14th century Gothic ruins that crown the Chiado neighborhood in Lisboa. Could it be any more picturesque? Founded in 1389, it was a convent of the Carmelite Order. Now with its open-to-the-air arches and crumbling walls, it is the last reminder of the devastating earthquake that decimated Lisboa in 1755. We have walked around the outside of the ruins but never had time to go in. The day we visited, the light was absolutely perfect for the mysterious mood of the medieval ruins and my Leica perfectly suited this type of photography and my kids were so gorgeous in this landscape so it was hard to stop shooting and there may be too many photos attached but....sigh. I find that I just can't get enough of beautiful arches of white and old tombs. After wandering through the courtyard, we went into the attached archeological museum where we saw a wide variety of old things spanning millennia; neolithic arrowheads, tombs, two mummified children found in a cave during Portuguese conquests in Peru, as well as an Egyptian mummy sarcophagus. The Convent also shares a wall with the Portuguese National Guard and the square outside, Largo do Carmo, was the scene of the final moments of the Carnation Revolution. Civilians and soldiers with carnations in the gun barrels packed the square as the last of dictator Salazar's regime toppled.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Cristo Rei




There's a giant Jesus statue called Cristo Rei across the Rio Tejo and Aaron's desire has been to go to the top for the big view. Since we missed it last time we were in Portugal, we hopped into a taxi with our non-English speaking (this is true for most of our cab drivers), female (the first, and only one we have seen) taxi driver. Now, our Portuguese is not so bad when we are speaking to somebody who speaks English, but when we are speaking with someone who doesn't speak English, we are pretty hopeless. Somehow we conveyed to her where we wanted to go but we couldn't understand any questions that she asked us and she couldn't understand us. As she weaved through the narrow streets, dodging violently back and forth to avoid potholes, she mumbled irritable Portuguese insults towards the whiplashed occupants of her taxi. That would be us. Luckily when we reached the giant Jesus statue there was another taxi cab driver there who helped us ask her to wait for us while we went up. The statue was inspired by a similar one in Rio de Janeiro and was completed in 1959. The construction was quite 'different' than what we had grown accustomed to. It was just a big conglomerate, concrete statue. The distinctly 1960's era chapel at the top had astonishingly bad art, and renewed our awe for old cathedrals. The view off the top, however, was first class and Aaron was delighted by the 360 degree panorama. 

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Istanbul

Here's a link to a blogpost that Jason wrote about his time in Istanbul.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cascais


With sunshine in the forecast, we hopped onto a train destined for the beachtown of Cascais. Though we love Lisboa, it was a bit of a relief to be away from the bustle and noise of the tiny streets and tinier sidewalks. We played on the beach, clambered up rocks, and took a walk along the ocean to see the Boca do Inferno where water thunders against the rock walls and caves creating enormous spray. When we reached the inferno it was low tide so we opted to walk back into town for lunch in a tiny patio restaurant perched next to the water where we basked in the sunshine, watched the Atlantic waves roll in, and only occasionally fed the stray cats that lurked around our table. Once properly full, we headed across the road to the  Condes De Castro Guimaraes Museum where we first explored the gardens and the kids ran free with the threat of speeding cars gone. Upon entering the museum we were led on a tour where we learned that the mansion was built by a wealthy Irish man and then sold to a Portuguese Count. The highlight of the tour was the library where we saw an illuminated book of Lisboa's history. Having our fill of period piece furniture and facts that quickly faded from memory, we headed back to the Boca do Inferno arriving in time for high tide where we watched wave after wave smash into the caves blowing huge poofs of water everywhere.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Castelo and Sé




With a day of gorgeous, Manueline architecture under our belts, we trekked across the city and up winding stairs to our old neighborhood where we stayed last time to visit old favorites. First we stopped at Castelo São Jorge where we relaxed outside the castle walls, taking in the sunshine and the views of the city while reminiscing about things we love about Lisboa. Crossing the bridge into the castle walls, we explored every nook and cranny. Atop of the walls the boys peered over battlements at the drops below and through arrow slit thingies, marveling at the thickness of the walls. We then wound our way through narrow streets to Pois Café, our favorite coffee shop, for a mid-afternoon snack and meia de leit, before crossing the street to the Sé (cathedral) where we beelined back to the cloisters to see the archeological dig with its layers of Iron Age settlements under Roman settlements under Moorish settlements, and the generally-extremely-cool-old stuff contained within. We ogled over the ancient sarcophagi with their dogs at their feet chewing on chicken feet and heads, and wondered what the books the young princesses were reading for all of eternity said. Happy with our visits to old favorites, we followed familiar paths back across the city to our apartment for the evening.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Familiar Ground



It's weird how not weird it feels to be in Portugal. We didn't have any of the strange otherworldly feelings we had on previous international trips as we worked our way through foreign airports. When we arrived in Lisbon, it was strange to have everything so familiar. The paths we had walked through the city two years ago are still fresh in our brains.

We spent our first day close to the apartment recovering from the flight, though I snuck out for a winding walk around the city while the kids rested. The following day we set out to Belém to see the 16th century  Monsteiro dos Jeronimos, the monastery at the site where great explorers like Vasco de Gama prayed before they set out on their journeys. The Manueline architecture never ceases to amaze me. The level of detail is stunning. The figures carved out of stone on the tombs of Vasco da Gama and the famous poet Camoés were so real the stone pillow looked soft and the leggings looked like real cloth. But I have written this all before and I don't want to be repetitive in trying to accurately describe its beauty. We then "hiked" (as Aaron said) the stairs up the Monument of the Discoveries for the big view of Lisbon and the Rio Tejo before heading back into Lisbon for a belated sixteenth wedding anniversary celebration dinner at, as is our tradition when we are in Lisbon for our anniversary, Sacramento.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Portugal 2013



So I thought that we were going to Istanbul but we jumped through every hoop that we could jump through and pulled every string we could pull to try to get Pika into Turkey on short notice but....we couldn't. The earliest we could have gotten her into the country was in four months. I will spare you the details of pet importation laws. I know, a lot ridiculous to not go because of our silly chihuahua. Jason had an important meeting there and didn't really have a choice, so we sadly said goodbye just after the New Year. It wasn't easy watching him leave when we wanted to go have an adventure with him, but there was no other option. Our plan was to meet him in Portugal in one week when Pika's rabies vaccine was legit in EU countries. En route Jason changed his mind and decided that after Istanbul he would stay a few days in Zurich where we would meet as we flew through on our way to Portugal. Six days after Jason left, after much anticipation, we finally boarded the airplane where we got our first taste (perhaps only taste) of flying international business class....dangerously, highly addictive. We were graciously welcomed on board our first plane into first class where the boys enjoyed juice and free snack boxes. In Chicago, we passed our time in the Swiss Air business class lounge where the boys helped themselves to big plates of fruit. In the next plane they were delighted by their huge seat pods that awaited them. On take-off we were handed champagne and orange juice along with a menu of our meal choices as our high-tech seats massaged our lower backs (we used to get kicked out of Brookstones for spending too much time in those chairs). Within an hour, our three-course meal was set before us.  With full tummies and plenty of screen-time logged, we all laid our seats flat into the bed position and fell asleep. With two hours of sleep under our belts we were awoken in time to eat breakfast just before landing. It was such luxury to not feel like my body was twisted and frozen into pretzel by the time I got off of the airplane. I am feeling quite spoiled. After groggily working our way through the Zurich airport, we were surprised by Jason as we climbed off of an escalator. After many rounds of hugs and kisses, we sat at a nearby table where he showered us with gifts and I ordered caffeine before heading to our final plane. 

After 22 hours of travel we finally arrived in Lisbon where we caught a taxi that took us to our apartment in Chiado where we deposited our stuff before heading out. We had important matters that needed to be attended to immediately....coffee....and pastries. We ducked around the corner and settled into a coffee shop where we ordered a pingado (espresso with a small dab of milk) and a meia de leit (latte). Next we walked to Confeitaria Nacional where we ordered three Pasteis de Natas (pastries of the nation) and a bolo arroz (rice cake). With these needs sufficiently satisfied, we blearily walked the familiar streets back to the apartment for a little rest before our 7:30 dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Lisbon, Sacremento.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Atlanta






At the beginning of December, Jason had a meeting in Atlanta so we took the opportunity to visit Great Grandma and Grandpa. While there, we attended a lovely brunch for 89th Grandpa's birthday where we caught up with family. Grandma and Grandpa brought us to the botanical garden where there were millions of Christmas lights on display. We all walked through the evening with twinkles in our eyes. The boys planted ten dozen tulips for Grandpa and took a swim in the cold pool in their pants. And Jason talked us into going to the Coca-Cola museum while he was in his meeting. Here is my honest assessment....the museum was strange. First we entered a locked area where we listened to a spiel about Coke, then we were allowed to enter the "Happiness Factory" where we watched a surreal movie about creepy, eyeball-less puffballs with giant lips and feet. I'm not sure how that brings about happiness, but oh well.  We were then allowed into the museum where we actually learned a little about the history of Coke and watched the bottling process. In the room with the vault that stores the secret recipe for Coke, the presentation was so loud that I was sure that the vibrations in my chest were going to give me a heart attack....NOT recommended for anyone with heart problems, though there were no warning signs to be seen. The grand finale waited in the final room where we could sample different Coca-Cola soft drinks from around the world. The boys' faces were hilarious as we took tiny tastes of each. It was a very interesting glimpse into pop culture.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Roche Harbor to Seattle



Back in the U.S., we buzzed through our favorite spots (Roche Harbor, Jones Island, Watmough) on our way back down to Seattle. We spent a sleep-deprived night in Port Townsend where a dog kept us up through the night with its loud, uncomfortably close barks. In the morning we were awakened by blaring classical music at 6am. When I took Pika up for her morning bathroom break, I met the dog who had kept us awake when I was blockaded from the ramp down to our boat by the large German Shephard who had been roaming the docks through the night. Not sure if he was going to try to eat Pika or not, I was worried to approach him. A tired, angry fellow sailboat owner approached me asking me if it was my boat that was blaring the music. I informed him that it was the motor boat belonging to the dog's owner that was blaring the music. "Of course, it would be the motor boat," he replied. Seeing that the dog was blocking my way and angry about the early wake-up call he proceeded to call the police. After safely making it back to our boat without Pika being eaten, the noise-pollution offender approached our boat. Being too tired and annoyed to talk with him, I sent Jason up. Jason informed him that he had woken us up too early, to which he replied, "What!? It's Vivaldi!" (I have to admit here that Vivaldi is a nice way to wake up in the morning....it's the hour at which we were awaken after his dog roamed the docks next to our boat barking that we protest.) As it turns out, he was quite an interesting fellow from Quadra Island up in the Desolation Sound area. He was staying in Port Townsend taking a class at the Wooden Boat Center. Being from the wilderness of Quadra Island, he is used to living without any rules, so he was annoyed with all of the regulations he was encountering in the U.S. so he decided he was going to wake everyone up early just to make them angry. After a lengthy and interesting conversation, he handed Jason his "business card," which was his name handwritten onto a piece of wood. It seems that there are a never-ending supply of interesting people in the world, especially the sailing world. The early wake-up call allowed us to sail away early down Admiralty Inlet to Puget Sound where we tucked Marinero into her slip after our long journey. The next day Jason headed into the office while the boys did a stupendous job washing down the outside of the boat while I scrubbed the inside. After spending seven amazing weeks on Marinero we hopped into the car and hit I-90 headed for home.


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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Nanaimo to Bedwell Harbor


With winds howling at forty knots the day following our overly-exciting trip down the Strait of Georgia, we stayed nestled in the safety of our slip in Nanaimo. After weeks so far from civilization we spent the next couple of days indulging in creature comforts, which mostly means pastries and coffee and bookstores. Winds calmed the next day and we set out for Ladysmith where we repeated the formula above, followed by more of the same at our next stop, Ganges. On our last night in Canada, we finally broke free of this calorific routine, mooring in Bedwell Harbor, near Poet's Cove, where we hiked to the top of Mount Norman.

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