Monday, September 5, 2011

how i spent my summer vacation

I think this has to be the longest P&P post ever! It took such a long time putting together because I kept stopping and reminiscing about how truly wonderful my vacation was.  I do have to say that I was quite unprepared for this trip. I usually have my bags packs {seriously} a week before I leave but for some reason, I was literally weighing/ removing/weighing again until my brother-in-law showed up to take me to the airport.     Ever since I was a kid, once the flight attendant tells us that they are preparing to land in Lisbon airport, I hurriedly lift the window shade for my first sign of orange roof tops but for the first time ever there were no orange tiles because we landed really early {5 am} that it was still dark out  ::sad face:: 

Our first stop was breakfast at the {Antiga Confeteria de Belem} for some of their world famous pasteis de Belem! It has to be one of my favorite places.  I love the blue and white decor.  If you look from the outside, you'll see a typically small bakery {left} but once you're inside, there is a long maze complete with small bistro tables just waiting for locals and tourists to fill.  Unfortunately, we arrived to find the bakery still closed. GASP! So what would any other self respected tourist do? We waited and waited until they opened  and order a dozen of those warm custard cups {right} and washed them down with a galão {coffee and foamed milk served in a tall glass}.  

A few blocks away stands the Belem Tower. A beautiful Manueline style fortress which sits on the Tagus River. It's where many of the voyages of discovery started and one of my favorite places in the world!  
note: the Belem Tower photos were taken on my second trip to the bakery ;)

For the time I stayed in the Lisbon area, I was lucky enough to crash at my aunt's house in Costa da Caparica.  To get there we have to cross the 25 de Abril Bridge, which often gets confused for San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.  On the other side stands the grand Cristo Rei monument {left} that overlooks the city of Lisbon. Costa da Caprica is known for their beaches {right}. I wouldn't know because the whole time I was there, my toes didn't touch the water. That's how cold it was!! 

Our next stop is Sintra. A charming town that is usually filled with tourists {especially in August}. Our first stop was what else, a cafe. {Cafe a Piriquita} is known for their Queijadas, small little cheese cakes made with sugar, cheese, flour, egg, and cinnamon.  Another Sintra fave are travesseiros {right}, a light as air pastry filled with egg and almond filling and dusted with sugar. Both are sweet and a must try if you're ever in Sintra.  

After my sweet binge, we walked and wander the quaint, narrow streets {left} that are filled with local shops and tourists of course!  Sintra is also known for its beautiful Palácio Nacional da Pena {right} that was built in the middle ages and sits on top of the hill above Sintra. 

Later that day I visited the {Monserrate Park and Palace}, a romantic garden built by a wealthy Englishman, Francis Cook.  Beautiful landscape filled with plants {left}, waterfalls and ponds. The chapel ruins {right} is dedicated to Our Lady of Monserrate is so enchanting and romantic. It took us about an hour to walk around and finally had to CLIMB up this steep hill to the Palace.  I was pretty disappointed because I huffed up that hill to find out that photo taking was not allowed inside..bummer!  

{left} Downtown Lisbon is best place to shop!! {right} How lovely is that tile wall? 

Visiting Obidos transports you to another time. The town has a medieval feel with its jesters, jugglers and narrow cobblestone streets. {left} Shops are lined up with gorgeous linens, stoneware and Ginja, a sour cherry liqueur. {right} I couldn't leave without sampling some Ginja in those cute chocolate cups. 

We made a quick stop at Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Portugal.  I loved hearing the sea crash against the cliffs {left} but please don't forget your jacket because it gets pretty windy and chilly there.  {right} lighthouse / souvenir shop. 

{left} No trip to Portugal is complete without visiting Fatima. The famous town where three young peasants claimed they saw Our Lady of Fatima.  I always feel a sense of peace every time I visit.   {right} I came across this vehicle after visiting a local farmers market.  It was so cute and tiny! 

{left} Prosciutto is a must in any Portuguese household.  It's too bad Customs doesn't allow us to bring it back to the states.  {right} I woke up to this view everyday. 

{left} medieval castle {right} gorgeous old lanterns

{left} Can you see the old man's head? {right} I rode the ski lift on the Torre, the hightest point of Portugal. It's a big tourist attraction during the winter months for its skiing and snowboarding. 

Piódão was such a treasure. We decided to visit this little village when we read it in a tourism book. When you first approach the village you come across this large white church {left}which was in the middle of some renovations. We walked and climbed tons of stairs and took in the gorgeous views and marveled by the slate houses and their wooden doors and windows {right} are painted in the prettiest shade of blue. 

The Alcobaça Monastery {left} was the stop that I couldn't leave Portugal without visiting. This medieval Roman Catholic Monastery is the resting place of King Pedro I and his mistress, Ines do Castro.  The couple is considered the Portuguese Romeo and Juliet. We visited their tombs and walked around the courtyard {right} and I was blown away with the gothic architecture. 

{left} rooms were filled with these gorgeous statues. {right} one of the countless basins in the kitchen. 

While visiting some family friends, we did a quick pit stop to Aveiro. The city is nicknamed the "The Portuguese Venice" because of its canals. Since it was such a quick visit, we didn't have a chance to tour the  ria on one of those colorful boats {left}. But we did have chance to pick up some ovos moles {right}, a local delicacy that are shaped in sea shells and are made of egg yokes and sugar.

On the last days of my vacation, I headed out to Porto. I never visited this city except for the airport {go figure!} and aimlessly walked around the city. I spotted this old sewing machine on the roof of an abandoned shed while we happily waited for our amazing local tour guides.  Sofia + Andre met with us at the Cathedral {right} and we walked a lot. They talked so proudly of their city and I totally understand why they love it so much. 

 They picked a outdoor cafe with views of Vila Nova de Gaia and ordered what else...a francesinha! Sofia and I had a few conversations about francesinhas and to be quite honest, the sandwich scared me!  But since I always try to sample the local foods, I took their advice and ordered one myself. The sandwich is filled with ham, sausage, steak, cheese and is smothered with a thick sauce and served with french fries. Of course since it was my first time, I had to get the deluxe which also was topped with a fried egg. And I loved it!! But they did called me a lightweight for not finishing it. LOL

{left} Porto tower {right} downtown neighborhood

After lunch we walked some more and they took us to see the Lello Bookshop {left}.  I first heard about it from Sofia and it is quite an experience, the impressive red staircase and the stain glass windows are beautiful, too bad they didn't allow cameras inside. We also stopped in {A Vida Portuguesa} {right} a cute shop filled with Claus Porto soaps, books and other traditional handcrafts. 

Before packing I took a picture of my souvenirs {left}. Miniature replicated houses, postcards {of course!} maps, linens, journal and pintarolas!! Coming home was bittersweet {right} I miss my sister's kids but by the time I settled in my airplane seat, I was already missing Portugal too.  

{p.s.} Don't forget to enter the amazing giveaways that are happening this week! 


  1. Thanks for sharing, even though you've now given me the travel bug - and with a 10 month old, international travel is not ideal :) So you've put Portugal on my "someday" list.

  2. Aaah...Europe. Such a fabulous post, Chris! Beautiful snapshots and great stories! I love your snippets of souvenirs, too. I love to collect bits and pieces of goodness from out travels! Glad to have you back!

  3. So gorgeous! I have been dying to go to Portugal for years.

  4. thank you for sharing your trip with us!!!! i want to find your instagram listing so we can follow each other!

  5. That was a great post! Loved all the photos and will bookmark it for a time I travel to Portugal!

  6. This brings back memories... we had a short but amazing time together and we are hoping to meet you once again.... very soon!! Thank you so much for taking time to get together with us!!! It was such a great joy to finally meet you in person!!xo

  7. That was so friggin' cool! I LOVE your photos and the details were awesome. I'm glad you had a wonderful time and thank you for sharing.


  8. Brilliant post Chris... thanks for giving us an insight into your travels!! I remember when I was in Portugal how cold the water was too!! And that sandwich you had with Sofia sounds like my husbands dream!!

  9. To say I am jealous of you would be a dramatic understatement! OH MY GOD! :) Love this entire post! Ahh!!

  10. Wow, amazing! I always wanted to go to Portugal and now I want to go even more :)!

  11. Your trip looks simply wonderful! Portugal is high on my list of places to visit.

    ~ Clare x

  12. Your trip looked breathtaking. I love all your images and am grateful to you for sharing your trip with us. What a blessing it must have been!

  13. Looks like a blast, Chris!! Hope you had a brilliant time!

  14. This looks absolutely breathtaking! No wonder you were gone for so long! It's hard to choose, but I think Obidos would be the hardest place to ever leave. It looks so adorable and so whimsical - you'd have to tear me away from the Ginja!

  15. Loved, loved, loved reading about your trip! It sounds like it was absolutely amazing, Chris:)

  16. Your trip was amazing, Chris! Thank you for sharing the most beautiful P & P post ever. I love the images. I didn't have a summer vacation but I will have a pre -autumn vacation. The mini houses are always a fave but that sandwich and fries is making me hungry! Welcome back! xo

  17. wow. wow wow wow. those views are all so gorgeous, and the buildings are charming and the food looks delicious. i'd never considered portugal an ideal vacay spot, but after seeing these, i'm reconsidering. your photos make it seem absolutely beautiful.


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