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Portugal Day 12 — Amarante, Guimarães, Braga (August 2017)

We woke up earlyish on this Sunday (Shaw was in our bed most of the night) and made it to most of church in Guimarães (didn’t understand a word). There were about 30 people in the branch there, and we met missionaries from New Hampshire, Arizona, Idaho, and Portugal.

Next, we headed to the Guimarães castle.

Next, we walked to the teleférico de Penha and rode to the top to explore up there. We ate lunch at a little restaurant (goat, pork, bacalao, rice, potatoes, soup), walked around the gardens/church, then rode the tram back down.

Next, we drove to Bom Jesus do Monte just outside of Braga — a sanctuary and pilgrimage site with an impressive staircase system (rising 381 feet, on top of the climb up to the stairs from the parking lot, if you choose that route). Shaw slept in car under Mackenzie’s watch while I started a brisk walk up the path to the famous stairs; Tim and Soren took the funicular up. I entered the church and got caught in a pilgrimage group there from Fatima. We were all sitting in the benches, taking it all in, but when everyone stood and started singing I made my exit.

After we returned to our cranky baby at the car (sorry, Mackenzie!) we ate peaches in the parking lot and watched a car get towed (kids’ choice). Then back home for fruits/veggies and meats for dinner on the back patio. Oh, and bread. Our Airbnb came with freshly delivered rolls or breads every day — some as big as our heads!

Then we walked into town for gelato and crepes — we all deserved it. And the kids were in bed by 8!



All is well until you get powdered sugar all over your shirt.

Portugal Day 11 — Amarante (August 2017)

Our first full day in Amarante was a Saturday, so we began at the mercado, where local families have been selling their produce and wares for more than 100 years.

Tim couldn’t resist the meats.

Prettiest little town!

We walked to a nearby park, and Soren was excited there were enough stone benches for each person to have his/her own.

Travel checkers — perfect for a game in the park.

Our afternoon adventure included a crazy drive on narrow winding roads overlooking scary, steep cliffs, then a super hot hike to Fisgas de Ermelo. Tim had researched it pretty thoroughly and assured us it would be worth it. He was right!

This kid is a sucker for a good view.

Soren’s look by the end of the hike.

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, a herd of goats came waltzing down the road — followed by their shepherd!

Portugal Day 10 — Lisbon to Coimbra to Amarante (August 2018)

On Friday we said goodbye to Lisbon and our apartment with the view of the castelo.

While we packed up the apartment and Tim picked up the rental car, Soren figured out what the remote control could do. Thanks to his Spanish preschool, he could pick out a few words here and there!

We headed north for a couple of hours until we hit Coimbra, Portugal’s former capital city.

Coimbra is home to a preserved medieval old town and the historic University of Coimbra. Soren did not fall into the fountain.

Tiles, tiles everywhere.

Inside sé velha de Coimbra — the old cathedral of Coimbra.

Soren walked into the church and knelt right down like it was regular.

The prettiest pink building you’ve ever seen.

We took a long walk up lots of hills to the famed University of Coimbra.

Great views from the top!

Portugal Day 9 — Belem (August 2017)

The kids woke up early today, which made it easy to get ready and get out the door for our train ride from Lisbon to Belem.

After a 35-minute train ride, we found ourselves at the Monument to the Discoveries.

From there, we walked over to the Belem Tower — and found some fun along the way.

We definitely did NOT wait in that long line to get in.

Next we walked over to the gardens by the monastery for a sandwich lunch at the playground.

Then, the monastery!

Then, time for treats. We walked to the Pastéis de Belém in the little town for natas — the famous little custard tarts.

And then why not top it off with gelato from Santini?

We had to wait awhile for a train back to Lisbon, and when one finally arrived it was full. Soren cried halfway home because he wanted a seat. Shaw was wild as well. A lady gave them candy, maybe to be nice or maybe to try to shut them up. We finally got off because they were too crazy. It was too late for naps, so we pushed through the rest of the day by stopping at the money museum, which was surprisingly fun.

Shaw and his stroller got their own personal lift up the stairs.

I can’t stop laughing at these. The museum had some fun interactive exhibits, including getting your face “printed” on Portuguese bills.

On the way back to the apartment we stopped by a market and got suckling pig sandwiches and a kebab. The kids were kebab fanatics. Also, VERY tired at this point. So Mackenzie and I ventured out after bedtime for an adults-only Indian dinner!

Portugal Day 8 — Lisbon (August 2017)

This Wednesday was a low-key day in Lisbon. Tim spent the day at his conference, and we headed out on a long-ish walk (thanks to all the hills) to a nearby park for our morning outing.

Sights along our walk.

Halfway around the world and we can still find construction to spectate.

Finally made it to the playground!

Dump Trump!

While we were at the park, Mackenzie arrived from Virginia! We headed back to the apartment to get her settled and to give Shaw his nap. In the afternoon, we went out for another walk — this time along the water.

We had dinner at the Time Out Market — a fancy food court. I wish I could remember everything we ate. We sat at a table in the middle and Tim would run off to one shop or another and bring us back the best Portuguese delicacies. Jamon iberico, pizza, fried squid, and much, much more — and all of it amazing.

Topped it all off with gelato, of course.

I loaded up on Father’s Day goods at Loja Das Conservas — the store was so cute it almost made me want to eat sardines.

Had to stop for TP on the way home. Thanks for schlepping it, Soren.

Portugal Day 7 — Sintra (August 2017)

Sintra day! This was one of my favorite Portugal days. The most unique architecture and gardens and views and history.

We walked from our apartment to the Rossio train station, then rode for about 30 minutes to Sintra. No seats for us — so we gave the kids breakfast and entertained them on the floor.

Taking this sketch pad thing very seriously.

Took LOTS more pictures of fancy tiles.

Our first glimpse of Pena Palace. Pictures hardly do it justice!

Taking tiles to the next level — 3D!

That’s us hanging out in that little turret.

And then we began our long walk through the Palace gardens and on to the Castle of the Moors.

Reeeally missing my UppaBaby right about now!

We took lots of pictures of cool trees for Pappy!

Cookie break.

More trees for Pappy.

Goodbye to the Palace, and on to the Moorish Castle.

It was a long walk to get up there!

Stroller nap.

And here we are. This castle was incredible. And enormous. So many stairs and long, narrow paths.

Just trying to make sure Soren didn’t fall over that one-foot ledge to his death.

Taking a breather.

Battle scars.

The bus ride back down to the train station. Already been a long day for this kid!

Excuse my double chin, but this is probably what I looked like every second I was sitting and not breaking up a kid fight. Had to get through that book!

Back to Rossio (train station), back to Lisbon.

Nicely decorated trains.

End-of-adventure rewards.

That night, Tim and I finally took advantage of the babysitter situation and went out for an adults-only dinner.

And it’s a good thing we did, because we got to talking about Soren’s upcoming kindergarten year, and we decided to… not do it after all. A surprise decision, for sure, but definitely the right one (and an exciting one — a year of play time for us at home!). So… just wanted to document my night with this guy.

Portugal Day 6 — Lisbon (August 2017)

Our Lisbon apartment had a perfect view of the Castelo de São Jorge, which sits atop a hill looking over the city center. So visiting the castle was our first item of Lisbon business. We made our way there on foot, taking advantage of the free city elevators to get higher and higher until we finally reached the castle entrance.

Not a free elevator, but a cool one!

Views as we made our way up.

Walking along.

This guy was busy re-painting the doors. Soren was mesmerized.

I don’t know how many pictures I took of tiles I loved, but it’s probably in the hundreds.

Soren was more impressed with the views from the castle than I expected him to be. You don’t really expect your 5-year-old to appreciate the richness of international travel, but in this moment, he got it.

And then he sketched the scenes for a LONG while.

There were all sorts of peacocks running wild in the castle gardens.

I spy Tim and Shaw.

Tim and Shaw ran around the ramparts until Shaw couldn’t handle it anymore. They spied me and Soren down below.

Shaw taking a breather on Tim’s back.

Taking a water break on our walk home.

Seriously can’t get enough of the tiles.

We took a (crowded) tram ride — kids were in heaven, of course.

After bifanas for lunch and then a very long nap for Shaw, we headed back to the Alfana neighborhood for a DIY walking tour of all the amazing street art (and more tiles — duh). Lots of tiny streets and nooks and crannies and beautiful buildings.

A little historia de Lisboa.

Cobblestone streets: A nightmare for the stroller, a feast for the eyes.

Stopped for a refreshing juice at this cute spot.

Next up was our nightly dinner dilemma — should we grab something and bring it home or attempt a dinner out and hope the kids will hold it together after being out for hours and hours. (With the added dilemma of not knowing where to eat and not having great access to tried-and-true tools like Yelp.) We finally decided to throw in the towel and head home, but on our walk home we spied a tapas place that looked like it was worth a shot. And it was a winner — bacalhau, octopus, cheese, hot flaming sausage. Delicious.

And then another late bedtime… especially considering the next day would be a big one!

Portugal Day 5 — Odeceixe to Lisbon (August 2017)

Happy birthday, Soren! We’re lucky he had low (or no) expectations about his birthday, because we spent a chunk of the day packing and driving. We didn’t really do presents, but I did happen to have a dollar store travel checkers game we hadn’t used on the airplane, so that became his one gift. He happily played with it while we packed up the apartment to head to Lisbon!

Goodbye, Odeceixe!

We stopped an hour into our drive at Santiago do Cacem. Time for another castelo visit!

We made it to Lisbon by late afternoon and eventually found our apartment (after walking up and down the sidewalk past lots of buildings with hidden addresses). After unloading all our bags, Tim drove the rental car back to the airport and hopped on the metro to rejoin us.

Grumpy metro selfie.

The view from one side of our Lisbon apartment. Way up high!

This pretty hospital entrance was right outside our building.

Ah, the rooster — the most common emblem of Portugal.

For dinner, Soren decided he wanted paella after seeing some on a sign outside a restaurant. So we rounded up some paella and a few kebabs and met up in the park by Martim Moniz. There were musicians and dancers aplenty, so Soren decided to join in. These videos are mostly blurry, but I need to keep the memory of Soren dancing like a madman, running back to us for a bite of paella, then continuing to flail his arms and legs all over the park.

Birthday gelato! Lots of red and stripes going on.

Getting to know the Lisbon sites.

Lisbon at night.


Portugal Day 4 — Odeceixe (August 2017)

Stinker Shaw joined us in bed during the night and slept fine until 4 a.m. when he was wide awake and wanted to play. After attempting to ignore him/wrestling him for who knows how long, he slept until 8 a.m., when the first bells began. He didn’t move through all eight bells, so I thought we were in the clear. but then he popped up and said, “DING, DING. BELLS!” Soren slept until 9. We ate fruit and bread with peanut butter and honey for breakfast and took our time getting ready.

Then on to our family “hike” to Odeceixe beach. It was not quite the hike we were expecting. It was mostly along a road and it involved some hills. Soren was a little out of sorts and cried here and there, wanting to be carried. So… kind of a terrible hike.

But the end result was lovely — a really beautiful beach with huge, long waves. It’s situated at the end of a river, so the beach is actually a peninsula surrounded by ocean on one side and river on the other two. Nice to have two varieties of water fun! We weren’t in swimsuits but played in the sand and shallow water. The beach was fairly crowded, and there were tons of surfers. The waves started waaayy out and slowly rolled in. And the water was fairly shallow for a long distance, so surfing instructors could stand in the water near people learning to surf. Per usual in Portugal, there were huge cliffs surrounding the whole place. Lots of campers on the other side of the river, and they would cross over to the beach by fording the river (carrying their things over their head).

Some people brought their dogs across the river on boogie boards.

Cute little beach village, complete with horse-riding police.

To save us the misery of hiking back to town, Tim ran home to get the car. (It took us an hour to walk the two miles there; it took Tim 20 mins to run it). On the short drive home we stopped in a tiny market to get bread, salami, and sheep’s milk cheese for lunch at home. The cheese was amazing and the whole lunch costed about 8€. Europe is the best.

After lunch, Shaw took a super nap — three solid hours. Tim and Paulina napped as well. Soren did quiet time but mostly interrupted my nap. I read and relaxed while being annoyed by Soren. Once he and I got bored of waiting for everyone to wake up, we went on a walk to find a treat. Most places were closed for siesta, and it’s a small enough town that we walked the whole place. But the little market we’d stopped in for lunch ingredients was open, so we bought fruit and popsicles/Magnum bars. Funny to see Soren deliberate over a fruity popsicle or a chocolatey Magnum bar.

We made our way back to the house and got ready for the beach. This time we opted to take the tourist train there (although Tim drove the car there so we’d have a ride home — we knew we’d stay there longer than the train’s schedule allowed).

The beach was lovely — we played for a few hours and stayed until 8 p.m. We outlasted all the natives. Tim and Soren went on an adventure while Shaw played in the sand and shallow river water. Paulina and I took turns playing and read.

With the tide out, Soren and Tim found they could walk over along the cliffs to the next beach. Along the way, they did lots of jumping in”rivers” and holes full of water. Soren had the time of his life. Turns out the next beach was a nude beach. Lots of creepy old dudes walking around looking at themselves, Tim said. Weird. They then headed for the other side of the beach and started climbing up the rocks over there. It quickly got pretty rough on their bare feet, and they gave up.

Soren and Shaw spent the last hour or so having the time of their lives together goofing off in the river. Tim said he’d never seen them have so much fun together. It got a little chilly as it got later and later!

Classic Soren — always observing other kids.

We eventually made our way back home and bathed the kids while Tim went on a long search for a parking spot. It was Saturday night, so everyone was out and about (including a free show in the town center by a theater group — Tim wandered around after the kids went to bed to check it out). Tim eventually found a restaurant that would let him order pizzas to go (it took him five tries!). The kids devoured a few days’ worth of fruit waiting for the pizza. Shaw went to bed very easily, and Soren eventually made his way to his room — after 10 p.m.! His last night as a 4-year-old!

Portugal Day 3 — Lagos to Odeceixe (August 2017)

Good morning, Lagos! I woke before everyone else and read in bed — a vacation luxury. Shaw and Tim woke at 9, and Soren the teenager finally appeared at 10 a.m.

Whether on vacation or at home, Soren always has a book with his breakfast.

After breakfast, showers, and packing everything up we headed to the marina for a midday boat tour of the grottoes, caves, and hidden beaches.

Lots of people on the water on this beautiful day!

Edgar was our fearless captain.

So fun to see a new view of the beaches we’d seen from the opposite side the day before.

Still not sure how the boats squeezed through the narrow tunnelways.

The camel’s head!

Then back we were on the walking bridge heading to the mainland.

We grabbed some delicious (and cheap — 3€ apiece) sandwiches and fruit for lunch at a little Italian place in town then continued our walk back to the car to head out of Lagos.

We all piled into the car and set off for the “end of the world” — Cabo de São Vicente. Shaw slept on the drive; Soren listened to books. I made some good progress on “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” The views along the coast were unreal. Cabo de São Vicente is the southwesternmost point in Portugal, and the cliffs are nearly vertical. And it was SUPER windy, so I’m not sure how people weren’t blown off the cliffs straight into the ocean. Part amazing, part terrifying. We explained to Soren how people used to think that what they could see here was it — ocean for miles and miles, no land in sight (talked about Christopher Columbus, etc.). Shaw slept through it all while we adults took turns waiting with him in the car.

Soren couldn’t get over having to pay to go to the bathroom. Sad face with his bathroom ticket.

Sneaky paparazzi.

Crazy windblown curls are the best!

Giant chair — perfect for photos, no idea what it’s really about.

Please don’t fall off the cliffs.

Tim said running around the cliffs taking photos was one of the highlights of his life.

Then on to Odeceixe — a drive Tim says was a trip highlight for him. “No one has ever had so much fun driving a manual Ford Focus wagon.” (Also, Soren almost barfed on the drive. Fortunately, his stomach of steel prevailed.)

Odeceixe is the cutest little old town you ever did see, built on a hill and with the narrowest cobblestone streets. And no sidewalks, so when a car is coming you press yourself up against the house or building you’re standing by. The crazy streets also meant no parking anywhere except the town center, about a 10-minute walk from our cute three-story Airbnb — also known as the IKEA house, because that place was basically from the IKEA catalogue (in a good way).

The apartment overlooked the town and was also RIGHT next door to a large church with VERY loud eardrum-blasting church bells. Once we heard those bells I immediately jumped on the Google to figure out if these were 24-hours-a-day bells. None of us would have slept, if so! Fortunately, I quickly figured out (via Airbnb reviews) that the bells would go silent between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. We got settled in at the house and then went in search of dinner.

Bell tower. As Shaw would say, “DING, DING.”

Orange roofs = Portugal.

This pretty stairway ran in between the church and our apartment. Photo credit and head chopped off via Soren.

And then he wanted to be IN the walking-down-the-stairs photo.

The kids were total psychos at dinner, so blessed Paulina took them for walks while we waited for food. (We eventually had to drag them home in punishment because they were so wild.)

Shaw ate SO many fried piri-piri prawns. Tim had pork and clams. I had a bread stew thingie with seafood and a squid egg mixed in. And we all went to bed too late.