Sunday, 25 January 2015

Rainy Adventures in Lisbon

The second stop on our Portuguese adventure was Lisbon. I'd been here once before in the winter when I was studying abroad in Barcelona, so I kind of knew what to expect. The city is beautiful and inviting and much larger than Porto. One thing I found a little sad was the amount of graffiti covering buildings throughout the city; clearly a sign of the times. We arrived late on our first night but were able to squeeze in a tasty meal at Club de Journalistas. This place is secluded and unassuming and the fare is a mix of Brazilian and international. My seafood paella and the dessert platter were the highlights. Our home away from home was Hotel Lisboa and it was just the right place: a little modern with a delicious breakfast included each day (plus they also had very attractive doormen!). Although it was raining on our first day, we made our way up the hill on a trolley to Castelo de Sao Jorge. You can see the entire city from the vantage's a beautiful sea of terra cotta roofs. After walking around the center of town in the afternoon and checking out the Arco Triunfal da Rua Agusta, we ducked into an adorable hipster hotel called Brown's Downtown and had a few Super Bocks (local beer) while sinking into cushy chairs. It was a perfect break from the rain.

Our second day was dedicated to exploring Belem. From the center of town, you can get there by trolley in about 20 minutes. The first thing you see is the Mosteiro de Jeronimos (the gorgeous old palace-like structure photographed below). If you head towards the water, you'll bump into the Padrao dos Descobrimentos monument and then a little further down the water is the Belem Tower, which served as a medieval fortress back in the day. The foodie highlight in this area is undoubtedly Pasteis de Belem, known for delicious sweet custard pastries. Don't miss it! When we made our way back into town, we spent time walking around Chiado, the fashionable area of Lisbon filled with boutiques and chain stores. Dinner was at Frado Dos Mares...all I can say is WOW. I had cod Lagereiro style (bathed in olive oil, garlic, herbs) and it was perfectly cooked. The ambiance is small but romantic and the service is friendly and welcoming. It was a lovely way to end our adventures in Lisbon before heading back to London. The next stop on our European trip was coming soon!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Winter In Porto

With a bit of spare time on my hands thanks to the lovely MLK, I've had a chance to catch up on blogging our European travels. After London, our next stop was Porto, Portugal. It hadn't originally been high on my 'must-see' list, but our quick visit changed my mind. From London, it's just a quick two or so hour flight, so when we arrived around lunchtime we felt refreshed and ready to explore. We stayed at Pestana Porto Hotel in Zona Ribeirinha and it is really gorgeous, right on the River Duoro. As you can see from the photo, there are vibrant colors everywhere you look. After unpacking, our first stop was lunch on the water...I can't quite remember the name of the restaurant we went to (truth be told, a lot of these places are overpriced because of the view). What I remember most is ordering the snapper and having it arrive whole...not my fave, but I learned my lesson. Just know that the Portuguese fare is mostly fish and potatoes. 

One highlight was walking across the Ponte D. Luis bridge over to the port wine tasting area, what the city is most known for. We visited a few tasting rooms on the favorite was Croft where we basically had the place to ourselves and got a chance to speak with the wine maker's family. The port was actually really tasty! We headed up Porto Cathedral right before sunset and took in the absolutely stunning views. The foodie high point happened on our second day at Leiteria da Quinta do Paco where they make insanely delicious eclairs. The dark chocolate and whipped cream one was so good, we got three. You'll notice there isn't much night life in this sleepy little town but there is plenty of shopping, including all of my favorite European stores like Massimo Dutti, Mango and Zara (I know these are in the US too but I swear the collections are different over there). Two days was the perfect amount of time to catch the highlights. If you do visit, I would recommend combining a trip to Porto with another Portuguese city like Lisbon or the Algarve if it's sunny. Enjoy!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Return To London

Happy New Year! Amazing to think it's 2015. With the busyness of the holidays, I never got around to posting about our European trip, so with a little down time today, I finally put pen to paper. Before the trip, Jim and I had so many thoughts about London and how we might feel when we got there. Would we still love it as much? Would we want to move back? Were we happier in San Francisco? And along with the questions came the excitement…to visit our family and friends and to travel and see more of the world…it's by far our favorite thing to do. Luckily, when we got off the plane in London, I felt a feeling of familiarity and closeness. It was like arriving there after any other trip, getting our Oyster cards and hopping on the tube home. We had such a fun time visiting with Matt, Kathy and their boys and seeing all of our friends and colleagues in the city. It's funny how after a year, most things don't change and you can still fit right in, except for the accents. According to our British friends, our accents have become much more American. We loved going back to Fulham and walking around our old neighborhood, going to the Sloaney Poaney for a cozy pint and then heading to the Chelsea match where they won. I also loved going back to Borough Market, shopping on Regent street and seeing all of the Christmas decorations that illuminate the city. The one thing I could have done without is the rain…but then again, that's typical London, right? Our Thanksgiving affair was fun with new traditions and lots of Veuve. I swear there were more Americans picking up turkeys than when we lived there. Aside from zipping around London, I loved mixing in a few trips to Porto, Lisbon & Paris...after all, one of the best perks of living in Europe is the ability to travel. More posts to come soon!

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