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  • Days of Wine and Port

    We had already visited a port cellar with an excellent tour and tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia, at Calem Cellars (I highly recommend this tour for its lucid and visual explanations of the history, geography, viticulture and enology of this unique spirit). Of course, any tour will include tasting, in this case we sampled three varieties of the twenty this cellar makes. But this was insufficient: we did two other port wine tours, first staying overnight at a quinta or wine estate near Peso de Régua, followed by a half-day tour of the region that included a boat cruise on the Douro River. Over the two days we

    * traveled by train, boat and van throughout this mountainous region,

    * experienced “quintas” where the dozens of varieties of grapes are grown and transformed into both wines and ports,

    * enjoyed two massive five-course meals, each course accompanied by several different ports, and

    * found companionship while speaking Portuguese, English, French and German, in what proved to be one of the most international days of our entire trip.

    Hand-Crafted Mountain Terraces

    First the setting: the stone terraces on which perch the vineyards are hundreds of years old, made by hand, stone on stone— no mortar— to prevent the rather thin layer of topsoil from sliding down to the river. That same shale, down below the vine roots, provides coolness and stores water in the summer and holds warmth in the winter, rendering it an ideal location for multiple varieties of grapes, the steep hills notwithstanding. The saying here is, we have two seasons in the Douro (pronounced “door-o”), winter and Hell. The latter refers to the three harvest months, August, September and October, when the temperatures run into the 100s and the grapes must be harvested, by hand, and carried down the steep stairs (see below) to the cellars.

    Bob took this view from the top, looking down on me with fellow guest, Jen, the two cypress trees that are the symbol of this winery and a passing cruise ship. Caution: the stairs are very steep!

    Quinta de Marroccos

    The dining room is arranged so that every guest is able to enjoy the view of the valley and vineyards— and see the port bottles (tempting, yes?)!

    The tour was capped by an amazing dinner of local specialities, each course accompanied by a port or wine: appetizers (white port), soup (rosé port), main course (choice of white or red wine— or both!), cheeses (tawny port), cake or flan (Late Bottled Vintage, LBV) and chocolate truffles (20-year varietal). Yes, we were served two desserts, because port is mostly a digestive (the earlier types, less sweet, are used as appetizers) and Susannah wanted us to try it all. We were, needless to say, both stuffed and “tooted”, but pleasantly so, as we navigated the steps back down from the view and to our lovely room.

    Boat and Van Tour

    Here is a modern version of the barco rabelo or “tailed boat” so named because of the long rudder at the back…
    … which provided yet another perspective on this enchanting valley.

    This second tour, after the boat ride, took us to two port cellars, and at the first— you guessed it— we had another five-course meal served with port and wine. Here is our server with a vegetable and pasta soup hot from the pot! Just for the record, neither Bob nor I ate a full meal for two days following!

    The atmosphere during the meal was quite festive— the two tables across the room from us started a conga line to encourage the accordion player and work off some of the food!

    Muscatel, an Alternative….

    This tour took us out of the valley and up into the mountains beyond the Douro to the flat area at the top of the region (elevation 2,000 feet but for some reason these really look like mountains) where muscatel is grown. Because the land is mostly level up here, the sun hits the grapes differently and this area is known primarily for muscatel. Hey, it’s also very good and we enjoyed several tastes of this, too.

    One of the best things about this tour was knowing that our guide would be driving us back to Porto at the end of the day so we could doze and not worry about the effects of all the drinking.

    Among the distinctly delightful parts of the entire two days was that our fellow hotel guests and tour participants were from different countries: Germany, France, Spain as well as the US. Of course, all spoke English but I had some fun with the others as well. Once, long ago, I fancied I might become a simultaneous interpreter. Later on, I decided it was too passive a role— I wanted to be making the policies, not just stating the words in another language. But this day provided me an opportunity to indulge myself in recalling those days. I love being in Europe. This day was not the only one on the trip when I have felt this way. It’s possible that I could become conversational in Portuguese but maintain my other loved languages as well.

  • Quirky and Beautiful = Personality!

    That’s Porto!

    This post will mostly be photos of this amazing city. Like Lisbon, it is both hilly and next to a large river and the Atlantic Ocean but unlike Lisbon, it is grittier, less glitzy and more quirky in a fun and energizing way. Perhaps because the weather was less relentlessly hot and sunny than in either Lisbon or the Algarve (we get enough sun and heat at home, thank you very much!), and perhaps also because we enjoyed much of the atmosphere with our family, Dan, Julie and Fiona, this city appeals to us in a special way. Any city that has Dan’s Seal of Approval is on the top of the list!

    Classic view of Porto from its “Oakland”, Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro
    Watching the skateboarders on the terrace of the National Theater where we later saw Othello (Castilian with Portuguese subtitles) is a great café pastime
    Wall murals are a thing here
    This one decorates a corner….
    And the side (note ubiquitous cafes).
    Most churches in Portugal have some degree of porcelain tiles but this one, the Chapel of Souls, is outside and over the top!

    And speaking of azulejos (tiles), here in the Sao Bernto train station, reputedly the most beautiful in Europe, they are used to depict the country’s history in gorgeous murals on all the walls.

    I’m still on gorgeous but will return to quirky in a moment. Just watch this video, taken from the city across the river, Vila Nova de Gaia, and viewing the panorama of Porto and the Douro… oh, you’ll hear the music and the fun as well. The tiny cart at the end sells snacks from a “tricycle motorcycle” outfitted to serve food.

    We saw people just having fun in Porto. Turn your volume up for some Portuguese rapping while hanging out in the park.

    We think these guys were having a Bachelors’ Party— but who knows?

    Last photo, taken from a park above the river and looking back on all of the beautiful and quirky sights we’ve enjoyed here. Ciao!
  • Time with Friends and Family

    One of the great joys of traveling is making and renewing friendships, with both family and friends. During this journey, we cemented our friendship with people we had met barely a month earlier. We have re-connected with family we have not seen in over 40 years. We’ve enjoyed time with friends and family in new places that have added energy and spice (or herbs) to long-term friendships. All in all, it has provided some of the most memorable moments of our trip.

    Make New Friends….

    We met Gregg and Bridget in March after learning from a mutual friend that we all were headed to Portugal within the next two months. By the time we arrived in Lisbon, Gregg had been here for a month, survived 10 days of COVID by himself by virtue of food delivery service and the internet, partially furnished his newly-leased apartment and thoroughly explored his new neighborhood, the Arroio area of the city.

    Gregg and Bob on the neighborhood tour

    Not to give Gregg a swelled head or anything but he proved to be a true friend, as well as a guide to the practical matters of living in Portugal. He was instrumental in introducing us to the day-to-day life of Lisbon away from the tourist areas. He provided luggage storage, socializing and advice both times we entered and exited the city with hours to spare between arrival and check-in and/or check-out and departure. The day we went to the ER, Gregg, offered his place as a haven during our very anxious 24-hours of not being certain we would be able to go to France, afraid we would have to cancel both our plans and those of our friends… I am so grateful to Gregg for all he gave us during these weeks and hope we are able to reciprocate at some point (the hospitality, at least, hopefully not the emergency refuge!)

    You Go, Girl!

    Bridget, the other friend we made just prior to our departure on this trip, made an unexpected trip to Lisbon during the week we were in the Algarve. As she had a full schedule for the two weeks she was here, we had resigned ourselves to not being able to see her. We were therefore surprised and pleased to receive a text message from Bridget that she was 1/2 hour away in the Algarve for two days and could we come for a visit?! Having our rental car, we made the trip to Albufeira to enjoy a precious one-hour visit learning about her travels to decide on a place to live (she has since settled on Lisbon). You can see from the photo that Bridget is full of enthusiasm and positive energy over her plans— it was a confidence-builder in all kinds of ways for us. Enthusiasm is a trait that I value highly and Bridget personifies this value for me. That hour with her gives me energy and joy when I think back on it. She’s back in San Diego now but planning to make her move in the fall.

    Bridget, formerly from San Diego, soon to be settled in Lisbon

    Mom and Dad’s Legacy

    Chantal Henry, responded in about 1972 to an advertisement from my mother who wanted a French-speaking boarder in the extra room so she could practice her French. I remember the heavenly vegetable soup on Mom’s stove on my visits hope from college, stewed until limp, then puréed in the Cuisinart and eaten hot and fresh with bread… yum! My brother, Chris, remembers Chantal riding off on her Vespa in a floor-length gown to her job as a hostess at a restaurant. That five-year stay with my parents became a decades-long friendship, extending to my sister and me, even after both our parents passed on. On this trip to Portugal, Bob and I took a side trip to Lunel to spend a week with our friend. Chantal’s hospitality surpasses mere hospitality. Her home is a garden, we ate two of three meals a day in it, all vegetarian and so varied and sumptuous you never think to miss the meat. She took us on a great hike to see capellas, small stone huts built by shepherds to shelter from sudden rainstorms and to Arles, where we enjoyed the glow of the atmosphere of this small city where Vincent Van Gogh worked for about a year…. Oh, and not to forget the flamingos!

    Exchange Year Friendship

    Christiane Schmidt adopted me during my exchange year in Nürnberg, Germany in 1970. Through her sponsorship, I was invited to go with her class at school on their much-awaited Class Trip through then-Yugoslavia and spend a week in Greece. We still laugh about our night in Nafplion, when we smuggled ourselves out of the hotel and went out dancing with two (older) Greek guys. Two of our classmates came to find us before the Greeks had talked us into going someplace else with them… and we didn’t get into trouble, either because we sneaked back into the hotel safely and without being discovered by the chaperons. On another occasion, we drove together from Nürnberg to Salzburg, stopping literally at every Konditorei (pastry shop) on the way and filling ourselves with delicious and very rich desserts— total binge. Twenty-five years later, both married and with children, we met again in Nova Scotia and followed up with visits in Paris on the occasion of our thirtieth anniversary, a five-country European tour in a big blue van with six people and the dog, Dooley (I still refer to that trip as “Travels with Dooley”!) and a trip to Costa Rica. My friend and travel buddy could not make it to Portugal but she flew into Montpellier for four of the days we were at Chantal’s. I can’t imagine being in Europe and not seeing Christiane. She is a big part of what makes our trips here so memorable.

    A Joyous Reunion

    Bob posts on Facebook and because of this, his entire set of cousins in Brazil follow our movements. And because of this, we learned to our great surprise that Bob’s Aunt Luisa, just turned 99 years old, is now living a mere two hours away from Chantal in southern France. Chantal not only understood our desire, no need, to visit this last surviving member of his mother’s generation, but offered us her car so we did not have to deal with trains and transfers. Tia Luisa lives with her step-son, Thierry, who helps to care for her. Words cannot do justice to this reunion, so I’ll just show photos.

    Reunion after 42 years— Tia Luiza attended our wedding in 1980.

    My Around-the-World Family

    Dan, my sister’s son, his wife, Julie, and five-year-old daughter, Fiona, have their own blog covering their odyssey, which started in San Francisco in March and spending time in Fiji, Bali, Australia, Shanghai, Spain and, yes, Portugal. They timed their stay in order to be in Porto when we were, and what a fun two days we had! Having a five-year-old with you truly changes the vibe and the tempo of your day. We were very impressed with the entire family, how laid-back and flexible it’s possible to be, and we’re super impressed with how well Fiona keeps up with the big folk— she’s a great walker! She is also tremendously patient with us old folks while we insist on taking time over a meal and over a glass (or two) of wine. A tour of the port cellars was a highlight (for the adults)— and the gondola ride across the river!

    Together in Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia

    More on Porto to come. This city, like Lisbon, stole our hearts but for different reasons. Family and friends along the way has added spice and warmth to our stay here.

  • Ah, La Vie en France….

    Much about this part of southern France east and south of Montpellier, calls the California delta to mind: oleanders, palm trees, rice fields planted in the flood plain of the Rhône and other rivers, wide delta marshes with egrets and other birds (more that that later), long views of the flat countryside punctuated by hills of scrub forests…

    On our hike near Saussines, Occitane, France

    But then, of course, there are the Roman ruins, the castles, the churches, the amazing poppies ala The Wizard of Oz, markets, cafés and— ooh, la la— the Mediterranean…

  • Some Travel Realities

    No photos with this one…. I’m just writing for the record that during our second visit of three days, this time in the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon, Bob was quite ill with some kind of flu and it was a bit scary. No worries, he tested for COVID and was negative. Or maybe it was COVID (he was nervous about testing a second time!) and he’s got another boost of immunization… we do not know for sure but it’s over.

    The systems started as a throat tickle that would eventually translate into an explosive cough— dreading the latter kept Bob awake, he lost a few nights sleep and you could see the tiredness. Suddenly, the cough was secondary to a monstrous stomach attack, no pain, no nausea, just many trips to the bathroom night and day which kept us indoors and not eating any of the food we had bought for our three-day stay.

    The only fun part of this episode is that when we decided to go to the emergency room, the first ride to happen along was a tuk-tuk, a funny three-wheeled motor “car”, similar to a golf cart, that is used for tours around town. The driver was a merry soul and— since we had paid for it (minimum charge is 10 Euros as opposed to about 3.5 E for a taxi), he kept up a non-stop patter of information about the city as we rattled along the cobblestones to the public hospital. It was great for keeping our minds off of Bob’s rather severe dehydration and off of what the problem might be (OK, I’ll include a photo of a tuk-tuk!).

    The Emergency Room part, I’ll skip over except to say that, while Portugal may have one of the best health care systems in the developed world, as rated by some group or other, emergency rooms are the same everywhere. For a deposit of about $20, we were advised in very unfriendly tones and in no uncertain terms that the wait would be “several hours”, so we walked out. By the next morning, Bob was on the mend and we were able to take our 6 pm flight to Montpellier, near the Mediterranean in the Occitane region of France, to visit a dear family friend— more soon, don’t leave your seat!

    PS— Note to Self: Travel insurance is worth the peace of mind. Also, as an American, you can afford a private hospital in Portugal.

  • Obido Post Scriptus

    We’re back in Lisbon now, the car relinquished and walking up hill and down in the Bairro Alto neighborhood but I can’t let Obidos go quite yet. I have to mention….

    Obidos is known as “The City of Literature” and it merits the title. This town of barely 2,000 inhabitants boasts at least four bookstores, big ones. There’s even a hotel, The Literary Man, that is built as a library, with books from floor to ceiling that guests are free to borrow. I found six Georgette Heyer novels on a hallway shelf!

    Yes, this bookstore also sells produce
    Floor to ceiling, plus the tables.. and under the tables…. and the floor…
    This hotel and restaurant is down the street from our Casa
    The dining room is also a reading room and library
    The hallway where I found a small collection of Georgette Heyer books.
    This photo has nothing to do with books… except that the tree looks like a whomping willow.
    Can’t leave without flowers: no matter that there is no room for a porch, much less a yard, people here find a way to adorn their little houses with flowers, either climbing the walls or subsisting in pots of color.
  • Sights and Sounds on the Silver Coast of Portugal

    While we spent five nights in the tiny town of Obidos near Portugal’s central coast, we spent most days using our rental car to good advantage, visiting several cities and towns that our guide books said were worth a stop. So far, this climate suits me the best, for it can be said to resemble the San Francisco Bay Area as it was when I lived there: “Fog along the coast, extending inland nights and mornings….”, meaning that even 10 miles inland, it’s not too hot even in the summer and yet there is enough rain here during the winter to keep the country side green and productive. Lisbon is vibrant, the Algarve is touristy, the Alentejo is hot (and we were there in early May!), but the Silver Coast gets it just about right.

    Looking west from the ramparts of the castle in Obidos, you can just see the icing of fog over the hills bordering the Atlantic Ocean
    Bob at the western edge of Continental Europe on the south side of the town of Peniche, just 10 miles from Obidos. (The north side is where all the surfing is!)
    Another well-known beach town is Nazaré, also known for surfing. Seriously, we saw VW microbuses with surf boards on them! Here is the esplanade, lined with cafés, and with the characteristic decorative street tiles (this pattern is the same as in Copacabana, Rio de Janieiro, Brasil.
    The city of Caldas da Rainha has a daily produce market on the main plaza— also stall after stall filled with gorgeous flowers.
    We especially enjoyed our cup of espresso on this wide esplanade on the plaza of its monastery
    Mere words cannot do justice to this church— based on the Jewish and Muslim temples in Jerusalem but with Baroque-Manueline touches— at the former home of the Knights Templar (Da Vinci Code, anyone?) in Tomar
    Just as a reminder, the Knights Templar were bankers and a sort-of religious order, but mostly, well, they were solders so they needed a castle. It’s an impressive one— the refectory can feed over 100 at a time.
  • A Muse on Inns and Guest Houses

    One of the delightful elements of this trip— besides the obvious one of its length—is the series of delightful places to stay we have discovered. With the sole exception of our Diamond Resorts International place in the Quinta do Lago area of Almancil on the Algarve, I don’t think we’ve stayed in a single place that is less than 200 years old. Everything is renovated, of course, and the rooms, although small, include in-suite bathrooms with showers, comfortable bedding and WiFi (not always real fast or secure but that’s Portugal). While the above is true of the Air BnB apartments we’ve stayed at, it’s the inns and guest houses that we’ve found so special. We’ve enjoyed most the personal attention and friendliness of the people operating them and how welcome we’re made to feel. Also, their locations are invariably in the old parts of the city, on tiny streets and many with views. And every place offers a delicious breakfast and as much of the savory, strong coffee we love.

    Hotel do Colegio, Ponta Delgado, Açores, Portugal, April 19-20 and 22-23, 2022

    Sines, Baixa Alentejo, Portugal, April 24, 2022

    Évora, Alto Alentejo, Portugal, May 2-3, 2022

    Casa do Relogio, Obidos, “Silver Coast”, Portugal, May 4–9, 2022

    We stayed other places that were also very nice, mostly AirBnBs. These I’ve included because we received personal attention from our hosts with extras that made the experience both unique and special. Obligada a todos!

  • Obidos, the Cute
    Our first view of Obidos

    This entire medieval town with its castle, tiny streets and tile-roofed houses, is a national historical preserve and so it cannot help being postcard perfect. We stayed here for five days, to allow a stable point from which to drive to the nearby coastal towns of Peniche and Nazaré and the monastery towns of Alcobaça and Batalha. But Obidos merits a posting all on its own

    According to Rick Steves, you can “do” Obidos in about 30 minutes, if you’re pressed for time. Luckily for us, we’re not! We walked the entire circumference of the Old City on top of the 45-foot high wall and climbed up all possible towers for views. There is a certain amount of acrophobia involved here but we persevered and oh, man, the views!

    I’m trying hard to avoid posting too many churches but this one is actually not a church but a bookstore. The town of Obidos is also known as the City of Literature— we are having our last dinner here tonight at the Literary Man Restaurant— and here is one of the most charming bookstores you’ll ever see!

    Browse all you like!

    This is our final day in on the Silver Coast of Portugal and I confess to liking it the most so far of any region I’ve visited yet. We’ll, there’s still Porto to come… but this climate, Mediterranean but with more rain and green than in the south, is about perfect this time of year. We’ve had a relaxing and yes, historical and church-filled time!

  • At Home in the Algarve

    This area of Portugal is so full of reminders of home that it easy to feel comfortable here, even while bemused by the contrasts. Here it is warm like at home, sandy beaches extend for over a hundred miles along the Atlantic, and more English is spoken than Portuguese.

    There are oleanders, birds of paradise, palm trees, nopales-bearing cacti, fig and orange trees, oaks dot the hills, lantana decorate the yards and streets. And there are freeways, gated communities, lots of tourists and a sense of no longer being quite in Portugal.

    As usual, we walked. In Lagos (“LAH-goosh”), we sauntered along the river on a wide promenade, past the yacht harbor, then the more modest fishing harbor, past the castle and ending at the beach. In Faro, we mounted steep tiny stairs to the top of the cathedral tower for a glorious view of the city, harbor and ocean beyond. We discovered the national park where the Ria Formosa meets the Atlantic in a blend of salt marshes, pine forests, sand dunes and ocean. We hiked to the top of the Rocha de Pena for a view of the mountains, ocean, and remains of an Iron Age wall built to keep out invaders. include a photo!)

    And yet… travel just two miles inland, or find the side streets, and you’re in Portugal again: windy, cobblestoned streets (we got lost even with the map app, as Siri insists on giving street names, and such labels are almost non-existent here), the through roads are punctuated by roundabouts, the freeways are truly free, as we never encountered a back-up, and, as always, one may pause at any point on every excursion for an exquisite tiny cup of espresso, the purchase of which allows one any amount of lingering, unquestioned.

    Late morning espresso in Salir, Algarve
    We had an amazing local lunch here in Faro: Cape Verde Islands stew and a concoction of braised fish, bread and a raw egg mixed in to cook as it is stirred in. Every meal ends with a cup of espresso.

    And we ate at back-street tascas, tiny, family-run restaurants featuring local dishes (I haven’t tried, and don’t plan to try, octopus but if Bob does, I’ll include a photo!

    The days are settling into a sort-of routine: sleep in late, leisurely breakfast, blog/FB/read/plan travel, then set out at about noon for the day’s explorations. Break it up with cafes, perhaps a siesta, late afternoon, we get in some more activity, then a very leisurely dinner before retiring at about 10-11 pm. It has been a true vacation week.

  • Flowers, in Honor of My Sister
    Serra de Caldeirao Mountains, Algarve, Portugal

    I took a much-anticipated camping trip with my sister a few months ago back in California and we took a day hike out of the redwoods and up a mountain to view the Pacific. On the trail. I learned yet another pleasurable aspect of my sibling. On hikes, she makes it a practice to note every variety of flower on the trail— on this one, we counted just over 20 varieties in about three miles. “You pay more attention altogether,” said she, “when you’re watching for flowers.” As a matter of fact, I did. However, I do not have the knowledge of the names as she does, so on our five mile hike to the top of the Rocha da Pena, I proceeded to photograph each new flower I saw on the trail. Here is my photo diary of this hike, in honor of my sister.

    To finish off, here is one of the views we had on the hike— when not looking down at flowers!— on a beautiful, sunny day in the Algarve.

    Southern view from Rocha de Pena, Algarve, Portugal (Atlantic Ocean blending with the sky in the background)
  • From the Mayor of Loulé

    I’ve fallen in love with the city of Loulé (“Loh-LEH”), even though I barely passed through it. It has the usual medieval castle, winding streets, roundabouts directing us up the hills where we were planning to hike the Rocha da Pena (and did). It was after that hike, at the ubiquitous cafe where we soaked our throats with a beer, that I saw the “Agenda Municipal de Loulé” for April 2022, a small booklet listing the community events and services for each month.

    Some background: On April 25, Portugal celebrated the anniversary of the birth of its democracy, a largely peaceful transfer of power following almost five decades of dictatorship under Antonio Salazar. Here is part of the mayor’s message at the opening of the monthly city agenda in its English translation:

    “April marks the 48th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, being the first anniversary where the country has lived more days of democracy than of dictatorship. Marking this date translates into responsibility, because democracy is built every day, it is a collective gesture, and it depends on our own actions. By reinforcing the values of freedoms, equality, equity and humanism we promote education and culture in the growth of free generations aware of their civic role. We must continue to defend and emphasize it importance!”

    What a reminder from the mayor of a city about the size of Davis! In the remainder of the agenda, events and opportunities are listed, including concerts, theater, but also assistance for hosting Ukrainian refugees, classes on dementia and lessons on parenting and parent care, classes in tile work, book clubs, art classes and more. What a great city this must be to live in and to benefit from the eloquence of its leadership. The Portuguese do not take their democracy for granted. I was honored to be present here when this day was celebrated.

  • Ireland and Hawai’i had a baby…

    Mostly, during our time on Sao Miguel, the largest of the nine islands in the Azores, it seemed like Ireland: stunningly green, azalea bushes in full flower everywhere, mountains down to the ocean and an overcast sky that— fortunately only once— actually turned into some rain (and not much at that).

    Hillside view in Furnas on the island of Sao Miguel, Azores

    But then, when you least expect it, you notice a bird of paradise or bougainvillea or an orange grove, that gives away that you’re not on the Emerald Isle. But what really gives it away is the black rock. The island’s infrastructure: buildings, roads, walls and dirt, are all black, made from the lava rock that is the earth of this place. And the beaches are all black sand beaches. Like the ones on the Big Island.

    Gateway to Punta Delgada, capital of Sao Miguel

    Black lava is used extensively, for example, in old-style Portuguese architecture (I’m doing my best to avoid over saturation of churches!) and the characteristic tile patterns that distinguish a neighborhood or plaza anywhere in this country. But here, it’s always partly black!

    We had a marvelous day hiking about half the distance (8 of 18 miles) around the caldera of the volcano that is the paramount scenic spot on Sao Miguel. From its rim, one gets ocean views and also the panorama of Lago de Sete Cidades (Lake of the Seven Cities), which is sort-of two lakes, one blue, the other green. By the way, there are not seven cities anywhere, just the small village of Sete Cidades where we enjoyed yet another amazingly satisfying meal of traditional Azorean food, including a buffet meal, wine and dessert, for less than $20 each.

    This photo is from near the beginning of our hike, which ended down below in Sete Cidades. That cloud had completely blocked this view by the time we reached the other side of the lake, so we were glad we started when we did!

    Five days, which was really only three with arrival and departure, is not enough for the Azores, but we managed to hit the highlights of this one island. We did not go to Isla Terceira, however and that means that we simply must come to the Azores again. I could spend several more days just on Sao Miguel, between hiking and thermal baths and cozido!

  • This is Cozido

    We arrived in Punta Delgada, the largest town (population 67,000) in the Azores at 10 pm Tuesday evening and stayed the one night at a hotel so delightful, we canceled our AirBnB booking for later in the week in order to stay here again. Our first two full days, however, have been in Furnas, a town of 1,500 about 40 km to the east which sits on active fumaroles, places in the earth where the steam from a not-so-defunct volcano pushes out of the earth. There are so many of these that the town has a special dish, called Cozido, that is actually cooked in these fumaroles! Here is how it goes…..

    First is the trip up to the lake, about 3 miles outside of town.

    It looks perfectly normal, an amazing combination of cold and tropical. When you continue around a bit further, however….

    You arrive at the steam pits, very steamy and reminding one of Yellowstone (except, of course, for all the greenery around the edges!).
    Local restauranteurs have built deep pits, about a meter deep, at the site of a steam outlet and place a huge pot filled with food: pork loin, sausages, cabbage and other greens, carrots, onions and potatoes.
    After 5-6 hours, they return, use long steel rods with hooks to lift out the pots and carry them to a truck to carry back into town to serve at the noon meal.
    This delicious stew, thermodynamically cooked, is the result!
  • Nao, This is Lisbon!

    Besides being in the perfect location to start our exploration of Lisbon, we had two fabulous aides: first Rick Steve’s travel guide includes two must-do walking tours, one of Alfama, our neighborhood, the other of Baixa-Chiado, another well-known area with historical merit. The second, even more valuable, is our friend Gregg, who moved here in March and has spent most his days exploring the neighborhoods around his apartment, Arroio, Avenida, Saldana… Here are my impressions after our three days of walking!

    Tiled roofs and a cruise ship— is it Cannes? Nao, it’s Lisbon!
    Sidewalk cafes abound— is it Paris? Nao, it’s Lisbon!
    Tiny alley with clotheslines in… Roma? Puerto Vallarta? Spain? Nao, it’s Lisbon!
    Wide, tree-lined avenues featuring monuments and parks— is this Paris? London? New York? Nao, it’s Lisbon!
    Single-span bridge by a beach— can it be San Francisco? Nao, it’s Lisbon.
    Patterned cobblestones to identify each neighborhood— can this be Rio? No, the craft actually originated here, in Lisbon.
    Roman ruins! Not in Rome, Paris or Croatia but here, in Lisbon.
    Uniquely Portugal: intricate tile work on most older buildings.
    Also, I found unique the number of public viewpoints atop most of Lisbon’s seven hills, giving panoramic views of the River Tejo, churches and their surroundings.
  • And We’re Off!
    At the Davis train station, on our way!

    We’ll, I’m backing up and, as Inigo Montoya (Princess Bride) would say, ”when you don’t know where to go, go back to the beginning.” I’ve been struggling with figuring out how to use Word Press and ”all in a sudden” (from my father-in-law, Wolfe, German Brazilian by birth), I can do it! So, everybody, here is the first photo I took, anticipating that this would open my account of our travels in Portugal, with a side trip to visit our dear friend, Chantal, in southern France. At some point, I will also insert our travels over the past two years in the United States with our tiny trailer, @rchy, but for now— here we go!

    We had a very relaxing time at my sister and brother-in-law, Allyson and David, lovely meal, appetizers in front of the fire with sherry beforehand, an early to bed for the 3 am wake-up call the next morning….. wait, that’s not how it happened! Well, it did, conveniently leaving out that the company we paid to conduct our pre-flight COVID test did not come through with Bob’s test results on time. We paced, e-mailed phoned and hovered on the brink of not making our flight for an unbelievably stressful hour and a half until we got his negative result. My advice to future travelers: 1) we could have presented ourselves at SFO and found out we needed EITHER the test results OR proof of vaccine BUT, I still recommend getting a test within the recommended 72-hour period for peace of mind I would just do it earlier in that time frame to avoid any delays in getting the results or— horrors— having to repeat the test if not completed correctly.

    The trip was 29 hours from Los Altos to Lisbon, encompassing two layovers, the first in Dallas-Ft. Worth and the second in Philadelphia. My second piece of advice: don’t use American Airlines Advantage points for European travel. An agent messed up our booking and what should have been a direct flight to London and quick connection to Lisbon turned into this odyssey in cramped seats. Once in Lisbon, however, we forgot all this in the charm of an afternoon espresso at an outdoor cafe before taking a leisurely Metro ride to Alfama, the neighborhood where we stayed for our first four-day sojourn here.

    Up two stories of cobblestone stairs, appropriately named, Alley of the Little Stairs, to….
    The door at Number 7…, figure out how to unlock it, heft your suitcase up a very steep and narrow flight of steps, wrestle to unlock another door, and…

    You are now looking at our entire apartment, about 250 ft. sq. The bathroom in the back has a tiny shower, the kitchen is very well-appointed with cooking utensils, the bedroom has a large bed— and little else except hooks and a closet about 2 ft deep. Bob’s feet would touch the front door if he stretched out!

    This location was excellent as an introduction to Lisbon! It’s the only neighborhood that was not rebuilt after the catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and fire of 1755, so the streets are crooked and cobblestoned, shops are tiny and stuffed, people are friendly and neighbors chat with each other from upstairs window to window. We’ve walked 5-6 miles each day, exploring, getting lost, and enjoying outdoor cafes and learning about the city. This is the life!!

    Our first traditional Portuguese meal.
  • Intro to @archy

    I should have started this blog site two years ago, when my husband and I first set out to cross the country to pick up our tiny teardrop trailer. But even that starting point would not consider the four years of research and 18 months of searching until I found one we could afford on our retiree pension. What I wanted was just one step up from tent camping: no sleeping on the ground, no struggling with poles, flaps and stakes, no finding out that your batteries are dead on the air mattress pump, or that the cord is not long enough to reach from the tent to the (former cigarette) lighter on the dashboard.

    Since the teardrop was with its current owners in Richfield, Ohio, we had five days of travel to get there with no trailer. I compromised by purchasing a single air mattress to fit inside the back of our Subaru Forester (we’re small) and also a tent that can either fit over the liftback of an SUV and keep you dry and also provide a place to stand up in and have some privacy. Our route was Interstate 80 with nights spent in 1) Winnemucca, NV; 2) Salt Lake City, UT; 3) Jelm, WY (try finding that on the map!) at the Little Cabin with a View, operated by the welcoming and gracious Linda through HipCamp; 4) on the La Platte River on the eastern border of Nebraska; 5) at Jubilee College State Park in IL; and from there to a delightful the Arbor Hill Inn in La Porte, IN.

    But for the rest, I’m going to paste in the letters I wrote from our first two trips in @rchy, both across this great country and back.

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