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!
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!
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.
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!
More trees for Pappy.
Goodbye to the Palace, and on to the Moorish Castle.
It was a long walk to get up there!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
After a surprisingly good night’s rest, Tim and Shaw ventured out first thing to round up some breakfast. Apparently, the place was dead even at 8 a.m. — not a soul in sight! (I had assured Tim he would be able to grab a few things from a fruit stand — oops. They eventually found a grocery store.
After Soren and Paulina finally woke up (teenagers!), we headed to the “tourist train.”
Tim was quite skeptical of a “train” that is more like a little tractor pulling a few passenger cars and driving on the main roads. But the kids loved it, of course, and it took us on a nice little tour of the town. We hopped off at Ponta da Piedade. Absolutely stunning!
The western Algarve is loaded with vast sandy beaches and sky-high cliffs, and Ponta da Piedade is the best of the best. There are cliffs, grottos, tunnels, and rock pillars as far as the eye can see. And the contrast with the blues, greens, and turquoises of the water? Amazing! We climbed lots of big rocks, took lots of selfies, and prayed our kids wouldn’t run straight off a cliff. Europe doesn’t child-proof quite like the US of A.
After checking out Ponta do Piedade we began the long trek back to the house. (The tourist train wasn’t coming back anytime soon, so we were on our own.) We passed a few beaches along the way, including Praia da Dona Ana, ranked on some websites as one of the top 10 beaches in the world.
We grabbed some popsicles at a nearby shop then kept walking. Saw some neat houses and fun street art on our walk.
Once we were home and practically melted, we changed into swimsuits and headed out to walk to Restaurante Piri-Piri for lunch — our first official Portuguese meal. (Piri-piri is a local specialty — sort of a spicy fried chicken.) Tim asked the waiter/host how he was doing, and he said, “Not good. I am supposed to go home.” So… not the best service, but the food was pretty good — grilled prawns, grilled sardines, and piri-piri chicken.
Then, we were off to the beach — this time to actually DO the beach. A quick walk brought us back to Praia da Batata, the beach we’d briefly checked out the day before. Tim and Soren quickly went off on an adventure to explore the caves and secret tunnels to other beaches along the coast.
Tim said it might have been the best day of Soren’s life. Perfect blue water and amazing beaches at the bottom of enormous cliffs. Tim told Soren he should write about it in his travel journal. He said, “Maybe we should write about it in the Wall Street Journal. Just kidding!”
The water was chilly, but we swam!
It eventually became our private beach as everyone headed home for the day. We closed it out and then ventured back into town to get dinner.
No idea what this public body of water was, but Soren made it his personal bathtub.
Tim introduced us all to kebabs. The kids loved it (and we ate it many more times on the trip). We capped off the night with gelato. Could the day have been more perfect?!
Well, we did it. We went to Portugal for two weeks with two little kids. Not only did we survive — we loved it and are ready to go back!
We were terrified of the overnight travel, so the night of our trip we put the kids to bed around 6 p.m. to ensure they’d at least get some sleep (we were expecting Soren to sleep peacefully for the whole flight and for Shaw to wreak havoc). Tim and I packed up our last few things, and then we woke the kids around 9 to head to the airport. They were, understandably, quite confused, but the excitement of going to the airport beat out any negative feelings. Soren thought it was quite amazing that there were so many people out and about, playing baseball, etc., when it was the “middle of the night.” Shows how often he gets out at night. We were also nervous about the possibility of a delayed flight (which would mean many hours in the airport with tired kids) because we were flying Azores Airlines — they had been experiencing a number of strikes from their employees, so flights all summer had been less than reliable. While we waited to board, Tim and Shaw picked up some snacks and drinks for us in the lounge (Tim had access since he was flying business class, the lucky dog).
We were thrilled to board and take off on time — 11:45 p.m. Shaw and Tim had a row to themselves in business class. Shaw was a little fussy until Tim moved to a window seat. He was also annoyed because the flight attendants made him wear a weird seatbelt that attached to Tim’s. After we took off, Shaw kept pointing out the window and saying “boat.” Eventually, Tim had Shaw lay on him and told him to go to sleep. Instead, he would pop his head up every few minutes and laugh at Tim. After about an hour of playing, he was out. He slept uninterrupted until we were 30 minutes out of Lisbon and Tim had to raise his seatback, causing Shaw to flip out for a good 10 minutes. He calmed down in time to land, and all was well.
Meanwhile, Soren and I were with the commoners in coach — and our dear Paulina was across the aisle. Soren was pretty excited and not at all sleepy. The flight attendants brought “dinner” by sometime after midnight. Soren was in heaven. He talked to me nonstop while I nodded off. After a couple of hours, I had the bright idea to have him listen to an audiobook. I was able to sleep a little while he listened, and before the book was over he was fast asleep. Glad he finally got an hour or two of shut-eye — I had expected him to sleep the entire six hours!
Next thing we knew, we were in Lisbon! We were still a couple of hours out from the fun beginning, though — had to get through immigration, wait for bags, a rental car, etc. Eventually, we were on our way to the Algarve (about a three-hour drive), with Tim at the wheel of a stick shift that he couldn’t figure out how to reverse (we almost went over a cliff trying to figure it out).
We made a pit stop at Alcácer do Sal to see a castle. Turns out, it wasn’t much of a castle — it had been turned into a hotel. And there was no signage to indicate what anything was. And we were very hungry. And it was a million degrees. And I was grumpy. But… I guess the views were alright.
We were desperate for food at this point, so we drove into the little town to search. The few restaurants were full, and we were feeling timid about our lack of Portuguese. Eventually, we sent Tim off to scour each shop while Paulina and the kids and I roasted in the sun. Shaw chased a lot of birds and was oblivious to our misery. Paulina was her usual positive self and appreciated
Tim finally found a bakery and asked them to make us some ham and cheese sandwiches. They obliged. We hopped back in the car to eat while driving. Best ham and cheese we’ve ever had.
We were in somewhat better spirits when we arrived in Lagos that afternoon. Soren somehow stayed awake the entire drive, so he was going on very little sleep (Shaw napped some, thankfully). We found our Airbnb and a parking spot after a few trips around the block on super narrow streets. We waited on the sidewalk and checked out the scene while Tim connected with Joao, our host. Do we look tired?
And then we were in! The place was perfectly located and just big enough for our needs. Soren and Paulina bunked together; Shaw slept in our bed between us. These pics are from the inside looking out.
Then we headed out for an evening beach adventure — just a few minutes’ walk from our apartment on the cutest (and slipperiest) cobblestone streets.
The beaches were amazing. When we first walked in to Praia da Batata, it looked awesome but a little small. Then we discovered the secret passageways through little caves and rock formations that allowed you to venture from one beach to another to another. Really cool.
We walked back through town to find dinner — Tim and Soren grabbed some kebabs and fries. The kids LOVED them. Paulina and I picked up some OK burritos. Then back home for bed around 8 p.m. Still not sure how both kids survived that 24-hour period on such little sleep. Soren was the most shocking of all — that kid needs his sleep, but he was miraculously cheerful and easygoing the whole day, despite running on maybe four hours of sleep. Both kids were out pretty immediately when we put them down — and Soren slept hard for 14 hours!
August was THE month of travel. So many trip pictures I might have to break this month up into multiple posts.
We started our August off with a regular park visit (this is a near-daily occurrence).
That same day, Soren and Tim went on a boat tour for Tim’s work, so Shaw and I hopped on the train and met them at the Frog Pond after.
Free as a bird.
Stopped at Area Four on the way home for dinner, and Soren was pleased to find a nice scootering path right next to our outdoor table.
And then, I headed off for my very first kid-free trip! It could not have been more amazing. We kicked off our first morning with a little capitol-building workout.
Why yes, this is in a hospital chapel.
I had the best visit with my favorite Bennetts.
Then on to the party. Perfect backyard reception.
Spent the next day walking the city, eating, pedicure-ing, shopping, talking, and taking photos.
Sunday morning brought us to Music and the Spoken Word at the conference center. My first time attending (or listening/watching at all), and it was amazing!
Then on to brunch at the Grand America. Also amazing.
Got to see this love twice in three days while in Utah! Also got to see Reagan and fam, Aunt Dana, and a few cousins. When I moved away from Utah 8+ years ago, I thought I might never return. But that place is filled with a lot of people I love!
We were surprised to see Soren on the front page of the WSJ one day. He’s famous.
While I was in Utah, Soren did a lot of this.
Shaw chased ducks.
Spotted this creepy lady at the park one day. Shaw was fascinated but would not go near her.
The next day he faced his fears and picked up the doll head.
And then we were off to Portugal! Portugal needs its own few posts…