Tag Archives: ocean

Spanish Beach Bums!

16 Aug

Back again with the second half of our southern Spain getaway! Y’all, it couldn’t have been any better if I’d read about it in a glossy travel magazine. Like I said yesterday, my requests were: staying ON the beach, being able to hear the ocean from our room, sweaty hot sunshiney weather, and lots of people. Let’s just say that every single box was checked and then some!

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Y’all know I like some visuals 😉

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Torremolinos is 13 km west of Malaga.

Now, before we get into all the pictures (and trust me- there are a ton of ’em! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!), let me talk about the ‘lots of people’ part. John and I both tend to go from one extreme to the other on preference here. Sure, sometimes it’s so nice to stay somewhere remote where you have plenty of space and quiet and peace. Sometimes that’s exactly what your soul needs- to disconnect, to recharge. But other times, your soul needs crowds and noise and movement and room service. Sometimes, your soul needs LIFE. And for me, those times often come in the summertime. I think it goes back to growing up in a seasonal touristy city, near the beach, on the boat, vacationing in Myrtle Beach (still one of my favorite places on Earth, btw)…Some of my happiest times involve all things summer- which includes throngs of people- so that’s probably why I equate those things with these types of vacations. They truly feed my soul- and refill my tank ❤

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Once a poor fishing village before the growth in tourism began in the late 1950s, Torremolinos was the first of the Costa del Sol (ie. Sun Coast) resorts to be developed. The average population is about 80,000, but this more than doubles from late spring through early fall. A large portion of the tourists are from the UK (which we loved! We talked to several and they told us that the beaches in both Spain and Portugal are wildly popular for them because of their quick direct flights…) and Scandinavia.

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View from our balcony…Look at that blue Mediterranean water!

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Two of our hotel’s pools…Loved how the fact that they’re infinity pools makes them just blend right in…

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There are 8 km of beach just in Torremolinos (Costa del Sol runs the entire coast and is comprised of lots of similar towns, so there’s beaches for days!) with a paved promenade running from end to end- walkers, joggers, skaters, cyclists…Every 100 meters, it seemed, there’s another beach bar or restaurant, all specializing in fish.

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Hey Dad, who knew you had your own beach bar!

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Yep, that’s my daughter! Look at that hair once it hits humidity 😉

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We rented one of these, with three chairs, both days- in the front row right along the ocean. Best 5 euro spent!

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Within walking distance from our hotel- along the promenade- is the next town, called Benalmadena, and its gorgeous marina. We loved heading that way for dinner for the simple fact that the views were unbeatable! Unfortunately, the food (for most of our trip) left alot to be desired. You know that’s true when I order a hotdog for three meals in a row! Ha!

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This hotdog was actually pretty good! As close as I’ve had to home for sure!

For our two full days at the beach, our one and only goal was relaxing (ok, and playing a little, too). We slept in both mornings, then moved ourselves out to the pool or beach around 9a, swapped to the other (pool or beach) sometime in the afternoon, headed in about 5p to get cleaned up and go to dinner. Seriously, that’s all we did and it was so freakin’ magnificent I can’t even.

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Poolside lunch…

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Neve’s swimming has come lightyears this summer. Finally! And these two days in the water just solidified it. She can swim side to side, she can jump off the side and make it back to the ladder, the can mermaid twirl (don’t ask) and she can float on her back for well over 60 seconds…Dare I call her a swimmer now?! WOOHOO!

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Finishing up his Garlic Grilled Octopus

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You can’t tell, but this is a topless beach, as are many of the beaches across Europe. Of course it’s not mandatory, just optional. And honestly, I find it so liberating! No one bats an eye. Young and old women, thin and larger women, pale and tan women…It’s just so refreshing to see positive body images being celebrated and embraced! And before you ask, yes, I took mine off and joined right in the positivity 🙂 (Although no, I didn’t walk the beach or anything- don’t get crazy!)

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Notice the crescent moon over the palm tree…Going to Carolina in my mind ❤

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Yep, the stars definitely lined up for on this one. The weather, the hotel, the beach itself, the language (yay for majoring in Spanish and being able to speak!)…And most importantly, the three of us being together. Just us. After being apart for a month while Neve and I were in the States and then being so crazy busy since we got back, we really needed this time as a family to relax and to play and to enjoy. So THANK YOU to my wonderful husband for planning such an incredible Spanish getaway just for us. And for always putting Neve and me above all else. You move me ❤

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We will most definitely be back- I foresee the Costa del Sol becoming a regular quickie getaway for the Thomas clan!

Home Again, Home Again…

16 Jul

…Jiggity Jig. John always makes fun of me for saying that when we walk in the door from a trip, but my grandmother- on my Dad’s side- always said it and I have the fondest memories of her saying just that as we’d walk through her front door after a morning at the ‘Jockey Lot’ in Anderson, SC…Alas, it always makes me smile even though I have no clue what it actually means!

So I hadn’t intended to write this post today. Truth be told, I’d meant to write it multiple times over the last few days while Neve and I were still in Charleston, but life- the good life- got in the way and before I knew it, our time was done. We arrived back here in Stuttgart this morning after a long day and night of travel, so now my only goal for today is to fight this feeling of death and stay awake long enough to go to bed tonight and pray to stay asleep for the most of the night. (That won’t happen, no, but believe me when I say that sleeping during the day today would only make tonight an absolute nightmare and would start one crummy cycle of getting over jet lag!) Sharing our adventures from the last two weeks at HOME just seemed like the perfect- therapeutic- distraction.

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Ten hour red-eye flights suck. Doing them with a 4-year-old who doesn’t sleep on planes sucks. Already missing home and your people sucks. But watching the sunrise from 35k feet over the Atlantic is pretty damn awesome.

Neve and I had a fun, low key Fourth of July eating pizza with the fam and then continuing our tradition of spending it with our neighbors, the Mathews, just three houses down from our house (yep, we still own it- it’s just being rented right now). We actually met Lindsey, Joey and Savannah on this very day two years ago, at the holiday block party. Our girls are just a few weeks apart and we were all fast friends. Sometimes, you meet people and you just click. ❤

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My goodness she loves her Uncle Andy…

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Coincidentally, John celebrated the holiday next door (that’s our yard on the other side of the fence) with our other neighbors- more people we just clicked with from Day 1.

Later that same week, we celebrated quite a special moment, Neve’s baptism. I can’t tell you how many conversations John and I have had about this topic over the last four years. Religion can be such a tricky thing sometimes- the differences in what things mean, what they represent, how different denominations view the same things…In this instance, John was raised independent Southern Baptist and I was raised Lutheran, which means that there are key differences in what baptism actually is and what it represents. I invite each of you to research these differences if it’s something you’re interested in because there really are some interesting discussions on it. But that’s not my goal with this post. I merely want to share the happy news and some sweet pictures. Neve did wonderfully and was so proud of her accomplishment. So were this mama and her family ❤

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What would a summer be without some fun times at the waterpark?! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ms. Lori (who was Neve’s first preschool teacher and who has been keeping her in the summers ever since) is one of our absolute biggest blessings. Not only does she love Neve like her own, but she’s seriously one of the best, most nurturing, most creative women- and moms- I’ve ever met. Spending time with her and her two kids was 100% one of the highlights of Neve’s vacation.

And in that same thread, what would a summer be without boating and more boating?! Seriously y’all, I can’t even. Being on my boat on any body of water (I’m not picky) in the sweltering heat with the people I love and listening to some good music…There just isn’t any better for me.

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My other happy place? Duh. The beach. I am a Lowcountry girl through and through- and I’m raising one, too! You’ll remember from the last post that we’d done Sullivan’s Island right after we got to town. Well, we got to round it all out over these last couple weeks…First up, Isle of Palms. John’s Uncle Mark, Aunt Kathi and cousin, Lauren, came all the way from Lexington, KY, just to visit with us and invited us to crash with them at Wild Dunes for a couple days. They stay there often when they visit and I’m always amazed at what a cool resort we have right there in our city. It’s everything you want in a beach vacation- crystal clear pools, tiki bars, umbrella drinks, live steel drum bands playing all day long, lots of people, the air full of the sweet smell of sunscreen and five short steps down onto the sand. Yep, it’s definitely the good life and we certainly realize how fortunate we are to have such awesome folks we get to call family. ❤

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Poppy got this kite for Neve when she took an interest in big kites after watching some YouTube videos. This one was so cool. But the wind was too strong, the cords snapped and it flew away never to be found again. :/

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And then there’s Folly, another of my absolute favorite islands on the planet. There’s just something about its vibe…its realness. It holds a very special place in my heart. I’ll just leave it at that.

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And then there were more of just those regular, everyday moments that all too often pass by unnoticed. Those ones I was telling you about before that feed your soul…that tide you over until you get your next fix. ❤

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Mornings at the pool with Poppy…And then Mommy’s bestie happens to see their truck in the parking lot and pops in for a quick catch up 🙂

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Summertime in Charleston = Humidity Ringlets and Blonde Highlights, just like mama 😉

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Lazy Sundays ❤

And that concludes what feels like a whirlwind trip to the South Carolina Lowcountry. I knew our time at home would fly by, but I had no idea just how quickly…Nor just how sad I would be for it to come to an end. Just keeping it real here, but coming back to Germany has proven to be the biggest bag of mixed emotions for me…so bittersweet. Of course I’m elated to reunite with John and our pups (Neve even warned me as we were getting off the plane this morning that ‘tears will be rolling down [her] cheeks long before [she] even sees Daddy’- and they were! It was precious.) and to catch up with our dear friends here whom we’ve missed so much (our neighbors even welcomed their second baby just a few days ago!), but there’s a huge part of me that’s very much still in Charleston- still in the house I’ve called home for decades, still running errands with my mom, still soaking up the sun and the sand and the water, still taking advantage of having Netflix available, still stopping by my dad’s latest construction project just to say hello, still playing Team Trivia at a local bar with my best friend on Tuesday nights…Right now, being back in Germany and away from home is hard. I’m sad and relieved and excited all in one. But I’m doing my best to follow my own advice- advice that I believe in so fully that I had it tattooed onto my arm just a few short weeks ago. I feel a bit off right now, until I don’t. It’s a sad time right now in some ways, until it’s not. Sometimes being pulled backward is only to ensure our greatest projection forward. Our minds are the atmosphere and our feelings are just the weather, ever-changing and constantly flowing. That in itself makes me smile. Until next time, Charleston…

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Home Sweet Home…

4 Jul

…and it feels SO good. Y’all, I can’t even tell you how awesome it is to be here in Charleston. Of course, I’m sure you could’ve guessed I’d be having this kind of reaction- either because A) you know me even a little bit 😉 or B) the fact that I haven’t had a chance to chat with you guys in two weeks, which is always a good sign that time has been limited! Speaking of which, don’t even get me started on how quickly time is flying. Two weeks already?! Sheesh.

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I want to start with the most wonderful BBQ my parents threw for us last weekend. Something like 75 of our closest friends and family showed up to spend their afternoon- and some even well into the evening!- with us in the backyard. Burgers, hotdogs and all the fixins’…Sweet tea brewing, sunshine shining (fans blowing ;))…Kids in the pool…Grown-ups playing Cornhole in the shade…Neve and I couldn’t have asked for a better party, a better afternoon. And we couldn’t have been more perfectly reminded of how great the people we surround ourselves with truly are. Thank you so much to everyone who came to hang out!

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Just in case any of you need to put a face with a name you’ve heard about many a time on here, this is my best friend, Sam ❤

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Probably my favorite shot of the day…My dad and his cousin, Billy, having some fun with the potato gun!

In addition to running ourselves ragged the entire first week- getting in all of our doctors and dentists appointments- we’ve managed to pack in as much summertime and friends as we possibly can these first two weeks…

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My dad’s cousin, Billy, recently hiked the entire Appalachian Trail over an 8 month period. Yeah, WOW. (Check out his cool blog if you’re interested- MyATGuide.com) He’ll next be hiking El Camino (Portugal/Spain/France) starting in mid-August. My dad is going to be joining him for the first 2 legs of that one 🙂

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Possibly one of my new favorite pictures of my girl. And she’s rocking my old shorts from 1985ish.

Neve has loved having playdates at her cousin, Norah’s, house…They even had their very first sleepover this weekend!

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She’s also been loving her time with Ms. Lori and her (not-so-) littles, just like she has the last few summers. I still don’t know how we got so lucky to have them in our lives. ❤

John’s family came from Kentucky to visit a bit while we’re here. Always a treat to spend time with them- I know Neve sure loves having them around. And we were able to get in some downtown time on multiple days, so it was beyond win-win in my book! Ha!

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One thing I absolutely miss the most living in Germany…Backyard summertime dinners with family ❤

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One extra cool thing that’s happened? I added to my personal art collection and took my bestie along for the afternoon, as if we needed anymore bonding time! Heehee. Her first time in a studio, so it was extra fun 😉

And last but not least, my goal for this past week- after all the running around like a headless chicken of last week!- was to touch water, ie. my favorite thing about this city. And I’m proud to say that I did, not once but twice! First up, y’all know we’re a boating family. Very few things in life make me more content than being on my boat- oh, how I’ve missed my boat! Doesn’t matter where we go- the lake, the river, the harbor…All it takes is good people, good music and the sun shining and I’m a happy girl. And you can see from the pictures that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Seeing her truly LOVING something that I’ve loved since I was her age is just so freakin’ awesome. Every summer she loves it more and more.

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When your elastic breaks 30 minutes into the day and there’s not another one around for 100 miles! (*Note: If you don’t know what this is taking the place of the elastic, you aren’t redneck enough to appreciate this creativity! 😉 )

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My kid ❤ When you give the day absolutely everything you’ve got and just can’t quite make it back to the landing. 

And finally, Sullivan’s Island. It’s by far my favorite beach, mainly because the tourists haven’t really found it yet and you can still go there without feeling crowded in the least. As I sat there watching the sunset, I couldn’t help but think of this…It doesn’t how matter how many beautiful cities we visit or how many beaches we play on, nothing- and I mean NOTHING- do I find as stunningly beautiful and breathtaking as a Lowcountry beach. The marsh leading out to it, the rolling dunes, the soft sand, the shells, the baby waves, the ghost crabs digging their holes, the wide openness of the shore, the salty pluff muddy smell…Even the brownish green water. Again I’m reminded of just how fortunate we are to call this great city HOME. Note: I may or may not have gotten teary first setting foot on the beach- and that says alot because y’all know I’m not usually a happy crier! Ha! Another Note: I may or may not have done that multiple times over these last two weeks!

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Wow, that was alot of pictures, right?! There’s just so much I’ve been wanting to share with you guys (obviously 😉 ) and what better time to sit down and do it than our halfway mark! In so many ways, that sounds so crazy because I feel like we just got here and there’s so much left for us to do and people to see and fun to have. But in other ways, I feel like we’ve been gone from Germany- from John, from our pups, from our friends, from our routines- for quite a long time. And we’re really missing all of them. Thank Heavens for modern technology that’s helping to bridge the gap!

In the meantime though, we’re just going to soak up every ounce of goodness that being home has to offer because we know good and well that it’ll be time to go home in a flash. Being here with my parents, in my childhood home, a block from my grandmother, surrounded by so much familiarity and comfort, having slow mornings in our jammies and getting to say goodnight before heading up the stairs to bed, eating dinner together at the kitchen table…THIS is where the good stuff happens, where the real moments are made. THIS is what feeds our souls and calms our seas. THIS is a gift we’ve been given and what really matters. THIS, afterall, is everything.

Hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th!

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Portugal, the (First) Adventure Phase…

3 Jun

…and boy did we cover a whole lotta ground! As I told you yesterday, our main goal with this trip was relaxation, reconnection and rejuventation. Our usual trekking around big cities took a backseat, which meant that we chose to only spend one day in each Lisbon and Porto. And while different than our norm, we all agreed that we thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace! One thing I realized, though, is that I have way too many pictures of each city to combine them into one post. It just wouldn’t do either city any justice!

First up, Lisbon. Our resort was in Obidos, about an hour north of the city. Since we had a rental car (60€ for the whole 6 days!), we got a chance to really get a good feel for the northern part of the country. You’ve never seen so many mountains and hills in your life- in the countryside or in the cities!

See what I mean? They’re gorgeous! Although I will say that these shots make things appear a bit greener than they actually are. We were both surprised, in fact, at how tan/sandy/clay-y/almost arid the Portuguese landscape is. I guess because they’re known for having some pretty good, sunny weather, we just expected more of a lush- maybe even tropic- feel, but not so much…Still so pretty.

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Lisbon, the capital and largest city of Portugal, is the 11th largest metropolitan region in the EU with a population of about 2.8 million people.  It’s one of the major economic centers in Europe, with a growing financial sector and one of the largest container ports on Europe’s Atlantic coast.

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals like London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural centre of Portugal. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon’s status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially – by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital was formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal.

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A neat little side note here. Neve views- and chooses- all of her clothes based on their ‘tickly-ness.’ She pulls them taught by wrapping them around one hand, then tickles the palm of that hand with the fingernails of the other hand. (The above picture gives you an idea of what this looks like- and shows how ridiculously sweet she is! Gah!) Thin, smooth, slicky fabrics are the best, of course, but it can be done with some cotton and knits with a little added effort 😉  Two neat things about this cute quirk…First, she was born with it and started doing it with the fabric of her swaddle sack before she could even roll over (!) and we still can only have pillow cases that a) have a hole on one end and b) are made of the silkiest fabrics (translation: expensive!) as she tickles every single time she falls asleep. Second, I was (and still am) a tickler, too! I had blankets with silk edges that I used to tickle my palms for many years and still get John to tickle my  back at least once a week! So the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with my girl! ❤

OK, back to Lisbon! The other reason I posted that picture is to show Neve’s boredom after we’d been waiting nearly an hour to catch the city’s infamous old Tram #28 that takes visitors around to many of the major attractions. Trams are the main mode of transportation in the heart of the city and have been for decades.

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However, still having at least 30 minutes to go before it would our turn to board, up came a Tuk Tuk. What’s a Tuk Tuk, you ask? Well, it’s hard to describe. It’s like a covered moped taxi. That’s probably the best I can do. See for yourself:

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Long story short, for a super reasonable price, we hired a Tuk Tuk- with its driver, of course- to take the three of us all over the city and tell us what we were seeing. GENIUS. In less than 2 hours, we’d been up and down oodles of hills, winded through the narrowest of ancient alleyways, seen several different neighborhoods and ALL of the major attractions…Plus, it was all done with our own personal tour guide, Tiago, educating us along the way! Neve was in Heaven with how adventurous this was. Totally meant to be.

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View from the back seat. That’s Tiago driving. He’s hoping to save the €14,000 needed to buy his own Tuk Tuk by the end of this year. Once he can work for himself, he expects to earn about €7000/month.

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Our first stop was the highest point in the city so we could get the perfect overview. It really helped us to get our bearings and to see just how vast the city is, along with the flow of the Tagus River.

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The Lisbon Bridge was modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge.

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That’s the castle on top of the hill in the distance.

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We were so high that we had to put on our jackets to help block the wind!

Just the riding around the city was fun- and educational- in itself. It gave us a truer sense of inner city life, too. As you might imagine, the trams are on tracks and therefore, have to stay on the more beaten, wider paths. Not Tuk Tuks! We could go anywhere! We got to see the nooks and crannies, the vibrant colors, the locals…

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Remember a few months ago when we were talking about Budapest and how we liked that it felt ‘lived in’ and had some ‘grit,’ just like we felt in Prague? Well, Lisbon has the same grittiness- that wonderful marriage of old and new, of vibrant and dull, of life and decay…We loved the orange tiled roofs, the rainbow painted buildings, the cobblestones…And we liked that they were ‘real,’ as opposed to being painted and pristine for tourists.

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Oldest cathedral in the city, 1147.

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Originally a church, the Pantheo was converted into a burial place for notable Portuguese personalities. What makes it unique is that it’s not religious figures buried here- it’s people who had an influence in the city, including musicians, artists and philanthropists. 

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Lisbon had street signs before the US was even a country!

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Overview of Alfama, the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon…

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Someone bought this property to build a house on…When they started digging for the foundation, they found an ancient Roman amphitheater! 

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Our Tuk Tuk for the day 😉

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This is the entrance to the castle I pointed out in the overview picture above. It’s a Moorish fortress from medieval times known for its well-fortified citadel.

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One of the best doors I’ve ever seen! (I have a thing for doors- I have pictures of them from all the cities we’ve visited- this one was just particularly awesome!) The one a few up from this is also among the awesome- two in one post! Ha!

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John was in his element with all the squid and octopus salads everywhere! This was his favorite of the entire week and only cost €4!

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Dad, John insisted on this picture just so you could marvel at the wiring with him 😉

Now y’all know how much we love stumbling onto a good market, right?! Well, that’s what happened just as we were finishing up our day making our way back to the train (we parked outside of the city and trained in that morning). The Baixa Mercado takes up the entire famous Rossio Square and is jam packed with local artists, chefs and mixologists. Be still my heart! And speaking of mixologists, Lisbon’s (and Obidos’) signature drink is the liqueur, Ginjinja. It’s made by infusing ginja berries (sour cherries) with liquor and sugar, then serving in a small chocolate shot glass. Delish.

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And with that, we made our way back to Obidos for the night, feeling like we’d really covered alot of ground in just a day. No, we didn’t get into the depths as much as we’re used to (ie. touring inside the churches, exploring inside the castles, etc.), but we got a really good idea of what Lisbon is all about, its flare, it’s vibe. And we dig it.

You know what else we dig? Porto, Portugal’s oldest- and second largest- city. Please stop back by once more tomorrow- or Monday 🙂 – for our second Portuguese Adventure Phase! Happy Weekend, y’all!

Portugal, the Relaxation Phase…

2 Jun

…and oh how I wish we were still there in that phase! Instead, we’re back here in Stuttgart and I’m listening to the rain fall outside my window. *Sigh* And to make matters worse, apparently I picked up a snot bug somewhere along the way and now I’m wrapped up like a burrito on my couch, feeling like death, and taking solace in oodles of pretty pictures- and sharing all of the last week’s amazingness with all of you guys 😉

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So we had the BEST time in Portugal. Seriously, one of the best adventures we’ve been on in a very long time. It’s as though all the stars just lined up- a new country that looks so different than most of Europe, a new culture that is so friendly and inviting, a new cuisine (who knew that the Portuguese eat more fish than anyone else in the world?!), the most perfect weather…But what really was the most special part was that it was just the three of us, exploring and basking in all of the above, and truly enjoying one another. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how important it is to water one’s own garden…and that’s exactly what we did. We came home with gardens full of bright blooms- and very full hearts ❤

OK, enough with the feels and onto the good stuff! Y’all, I have 277 pictures from our five days in Portugal, it was THAT pretty! So in an effort to lighten the load, I’ve done everybody a favor and split the post in half- the Relaxation Phase (beaches, pools, countrysides) and the Adventure Phase (Lisbon and Porto). Now to narrow down the best shots to share! Ha!

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Our absolute favorite thing about this trip was where we stayed- outside the small coastal village of Obidos about an hour north of Lisbon. We had done tons of research ahead of time trying to decide the best location- we almost always end up in the heart of the big cities, mainly because they’re the most convenient and give the most authentic feel of immersion. But this time, our goal itself was different. Our goal was just to be together- to relax, to recharge and to breathe. When we found this resort- at least 15 minutes away from civilization, down remote country roads- we knew it was perfect.

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Headed out to paradise…

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Who would’ve guessed the oasis that awaited us at the end of this road?! Perched high on the cliffs overlooking the blue water and white sand beaches, Praia del Rey. It’s one of the most beautiful areas we’ve ever been to.

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Stepping out of our front door, heading down to the beach…

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Before we continue, just a bit about Portugal because…well, you know me! Portugal is the westernmost country in Europe, sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Spain. The land within the borders of current Portugal has been continuously settled, invaded and fought over since prehistoric times. In other words, it’s super old and in fact, some of the first evidence of Homo Sapiens have been found there. The Iberians, Celts, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and the Romans were followed by the invasions of the Visigothic and the Germanic peoples, who were themselves later invaded by the Moors. These Muslim peoples were eventually expelled during the Christian Reconquista. Portuguese nationality can be traced back to the creation of the First County of Portugal, in 868. In 1139, Afonso Henriques was proclaimed King of Portugal, thus firmly establishing Portuguese independence.

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Just a little visual of our travel…

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Every restaurant has these ‘door greeters.’ We never had the heart to tell her their real purpose 😦

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Bathing caps are required at indoor pools in Portugal. She thought they were awesome!

And just a few neat Portugal factoids…It’s the leading producer of cork in the world, although the industry is struggling as the wine industry continues to shift away from cork bottle toppers. Eucalyptus forests cover 7% of the country (!) as they were planted in the 1970s to help with erosion- they’ve since taken over and grown rapidly. (The smell is HEAVENLY!) Apparently Portugal is known for its wind- it’s often consistently with gusts of 25 mph! Another interesting industry is pine resin, used in turpentine. We actually had to look this one up ourselves (and examine up close and personal!) after seeing lots of little buckets hanging from the pine trees headed out to the resort. Best part? Tapping the trees doesn’t harm them in any way. Very neat, right?

And last but not least, a few government tidbits…Portugal’s economy is in the rebuilding phase as it was part of the major EU bailout back in 2011. (This translates into it being an excellent time to visit!) It’s the first- and only- country in the world to decriminalize all drugs. Yep, possession of all substances- up to 10 days worth of individual use- is allowed, although trafficking and distribution is not. The government will offer- and pay for- drug and alcohol rehab. The maximum prison sentence for any crime is 25 years- they do not have the death penalty.

OK, on with the picture party! 🙂 Right down the road from Obidos is the little fishing village of Peniche. Two awesome things about this town- it’s had lots of fossils from the Jurassic period and it’s one of the top surfing destinations in the world, second only to Hawaii’s Banzai Pipeline. Who knew?!

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Dinner one night overlooking the lagoon…

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A wonderful unexpected highlight of our trip…See those people, and sweet pup, obstructing our lovely view of the lagoon? Well, their soon-to-be 4-year-old, Florence, was playing just out of the shot to the left and about 15 minutes after this picture was taken, Neve finished her dinner and wanted to play, too. Long story short, we all ended up out on the patio until long after the sun had set and a new friendship was born. ❤ J and D are from England and have a vacation home just a few hundred yards from our resort. We spent the next day enjoying our vacation all together at their villa, then took the party into town for some walking and ice cream eating. Neve is still talking about her new best friend, Florence!

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Neve and Florence

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The best street performer guy I’ve ever seen!

The most fun day, right?! Such a lovely day for all of us and I truly think that we will see these sweet friends again. We have so much in common, including a mutual travel addiction!, so who knows, maybe we can plan a trip somewhere exotic one of these days! 😉 Needless to say, here’s how much fun Neve had and how John and I unwound ourselves:

There really couldn’t have been a better vacation for the three of us if it were written in a storybook. I know I say similar things about many of our adventures- and it’s true that we truly love all of the new experiences and fun that our traveling lifestyle affords- but sometimes you just get extra lucky with an extra special one that refills every single one of your tanks.We really are lucky. And blessed.

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Sunset from our balcony…

Join me tomorrow- same time, same place- for the other half of our Portuguese getaway- exploring the hills and narrow cobblestone streets of Lisbon and Porto! I promise the pictures are (nearly) just as pretty 😉

 

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