|Lisbon, Barcelona, and Home Again|

Lisbon! This was our final stop on our trip before we flew back to Barcelona and from there to the States. It was bittersweet leaving Lagos, which was literally a paradise for the last five days, but we were excited to have a day in Lisbon and do something different. We had to leave our Airbnb at 6:30 AM to catch the train back north and had a good three hour sleep which helped give us some energy since we only had one full day in Lisbon and needed to catch a plane the next morning for Barcelona.

We arrived and quickly figured out how to get to our Airbnb in Lisbon. It was in the historic old part of the city, and was in the cutest neighborhood filled with rows of colorful buildings with the Castello de St. Jorge towering on the hill above. We walked through the tiny streets until we found our apartment building, and then climbed three flights of wooden steps to the apartment which then had another staircase once you entered. This apartment was definitely not for someone who had trouble climbing stairs! It was well worth the climb though, because it was an immaculate, darling, eclectic little apartment. on Airbnb’s website it was called the “Rose Apartment”, and it was rightly named because everything was pink. Jess and I took the more pink of the two pink bedrooms and our window had a perfect view of the castle.

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I loved the cute little streets

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The view from our bedroom window!

We dropped off our bags and headed into Lisbon to see as much as we could.  We didn’t really have a plan, so we just sort of wandered, but it was perfect. Along the way we were suddenly starving, and as we rounded a corner there it was: Burger King. Let me just make a little side note here: I NEVER eat fast food, but for whatever reason American greasy fries and burgers sounded like heaven. We shamelessly gorged ourselves until we were full and then walked down to the waterfront. It was so warm and sunny that day, but super windy by the water so we didn’t stick around long.

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We headed back into the city and made our way to the Castello de St. Jorge. It was a maze of tiny streets to find the entrance, and an extremely uphill climb. We purchased tickets to go inside and then explored the grounds for a good hour or so. Not much of the interior of the gigantic Moorish castle remains, but it dates back to the 11th century. There were a few peacocks roaming the grounds, but it was amusing to us that there were also quite a few cats who lived there. Apparently castle cats are a thing in Lisbon? Either way, they were pretty cute. The views from the top of the castle were worth the 8 or so Euros it cost to enter.

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When we left the castle grounds we wanted to go see a few more sights, but first needed to get gelato because, gelato. Then we made our way to the Church of Sao Vincente of Fora, but were very sad that it had just closed. We saw what we could of the exterior, and enjoyed some lovely fountains. Then we tried to go and see the National Pantheon which much to our dismay was also closed.

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The Church of Sao Vincente de Fora

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The National Pantheon

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At this point it was getting dark, and since we had such an early flight the next day we decided to go grab some dinner by the waterfront where there were lots of restaurants and shops and then go home. Once back at the Pink Apartment, we showered, packed, and hit the hay. I had to sneak one last view of the castle which was lit up at night outside our window. It was such a dreamy view that I didn’t want to forget!

The next morning we hopped on the subway to the airport in Lisbon which only took us about 20-30 minutes. Once there, however, we were told our flight was delayed at least an hour for the heavy fog. We now got to hang out at the airport for a few hours, but thankfully there was some good food for breakfast. After what felt like a lifetime we finally boarded our plane and made the flight back to Barcelona. The only problem was that when we had been in Barcelona the first time, we had made reservations to see La Sagrada Familia, but since our flight was so late, there was no way we would make it in time to our reservation. I can’t describe to you just how upset I was. The interior of La Sagrada Familia is on my bucket list and we were so close to seeing it!  but now we just need to make another trip back there one day so I can see it!

So, since we were now stuck in the airport for about 3.5 hours we decided to change into some comfy traveling clothes, explore the mall that was inside the airport, and charge our phones. I got some more cute trinkets for the kids, and we loaded up on snacks for the 7 hour plane ride to New York. Our plan on the way back was to stay up the entire flight watching movies, which Jess and I did on the way back from Europe a few years ago. It really helped us adjust to the jet lag easier, because by the time we landed, went through customs which took (FOREVER), and got to our hotel we were exhausted and passed out. Aly and I had a flight the next morning at 7 AM and were up and ready quite early. Jess had to wait until 7 PM that night. So we said goodbye to him and headed out. Not only did he get more sleep than we did, but he was on a non-stop flight to Salt Lake, while Aly and I had to go through Seattle.

It seemed like a terribly long day, but we were finally home! I was so happy to grab all my kids from the sitters and be with them. Our trip was an incredible two weeks, but coming back home is always the best part!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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|Lagos, Portugal|

We finally made it to paradise!! After a few hours on the train from Lisbon, we were greeted by warm air, sunshine and blue skies. We hoofed it a few miles to our Airbnb which was located at a hotel.  I will be honest that this Airbnb was my least favorite, and we were there the longest. It was in a hotel, but we had no real amenities. In fact, we had less amenities than any of our other Airbnbs we stayed in our entire trip! We even had to rent a beach towel for 4 Euros which I thought was pretty lame, so we only rented one and all shared it. But, it was clean, there were two bathrooms, and we all had beds so it was just fine.

We stayed in Lagos for four days and three nights. It was a great change to know we would be in one place for longer than two days. Our intent was to plan it this way so we could hang out on the beach for the last few days of our trip and relax.

After we unpacked our things and rested for a while we changed and headed down to the local grocery store for some supplies for the next few days. Then we walked down to the beach closest to our place. It was a five minute walk, but all of the beaches required you to climb down the cliffs. Most of them had stairways and access to them so it wasn’t a big deal. We laid out and played in the water for a few hours. Jess and I collected a good amount of seashells to bring home, since we have collected them on all of our trips. I also found some really cool rocks to add to our growing collection. We then started trying to hike up the coast, but with sandals on, the cliffs were a little scary to navigate. So,  we went back to the room to shower and get ready to go into the downtown area to see what it was all about.

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Downtown Lagos had a lot going on at nighttime. There were plenty of restaurants, bars, and stores to keep us entertained as we explored. Jess was determined to get gelato since the previous night we were about to eat some when I got super sick in Sintra. So Jess was on the prowl for some good gelato. Once we found some we listened to some live music in an open square until we were ready to head home. Once home, we watched some tv together until we were all ready to sleep. The nice thing was the next day we could sleep in as long as we wanted, and we definitely did!

We packed our bags with lots of food the next morning after breakfast and planned to spend the entire day at the beach. We hiked up the coast, this time with the appropriate shoes on, in search of the perfect beach. Along the way, we hiked out and down the cliffs, which in some of the more precarious parts had ropes attached to the rocks for easier climbing up and down. It was gorgeous. There were arches, and grottoes all along the way, each one just as beautiful as the last. I had heard that the coastline of southern Portugal was breathtaking, but you cannot truly appreciate it unless you see it in person. Some of the more famous caves were only accessible by boats, and we decided we did not need to see them.

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On our hike we happened upon the most amazing hidden little beach! We initially walked past the trail down, because it was hidden among some bushes, but after some exploring we found it. It was quite a steep climb down, so it was not for the faint of heart! There was a rope attached at one point which was convenient and helped us get down a little easier. But it was totally worth it! It was in this little hidden cove and when we first went down there were only two other people down there. As the day went on, a few more people braved the climb down, but there were never more than ten of us down there which was just perfect. We laid out, played in the waves, and explored the little caves surrounding it all day. It was seriously the perfect beach for us!

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When the tide started coming in high enough to reach our stuff stored in the caves behind us it was time to leave. So we climbed back up the cliff and headed home to make some dinner. After dinner we headed back downtown in search of some trinkets for the kids, but we didn’t hang around too long, because being in the sun all day really wore us out! We went home, and once again had a tv marathon until we were exhausted and went to bed.

The next morning, our last full day in Lagos, we once again slept in, but then decided to spend the entire day at our secret little beach. That’s exactly what we did! For most of the day we were the only people there, but eventually a handful of people came and went. Once again, we had the most relaxing day in our own little paradise. We really hated to leave it when the tide came in again. We took our time walking home and ate the leftovers in our fridge from dinner the night before. After doing laundry and packing up our things, we went to bed early since we needed to leave to catch our train at 6 AM back to Lisbon.

It was a bittersweet goodbye, but I really hope to go back to Lagos one day!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

|Porto, Portugal|

We had finally arrived in Portugal! After an extremely uncomfortable overnight train ride from Salamanca, Spain we arrived in Coimbra, Portugal. Although we needed to board a regional train once we got there, we were relieved to get off that hot and stinky train and be on our way to Porto.

It was about 6 AM when we arrived in Porto at our Airbnb. Our host had other guests who were leaving by 3 PM, so we had about 9 hours to kill. Our host was not there, but his neighbor, Isabel, who also was his cleaning lady for the Airbnb, let us store our backpacks in her home until we could come back and check in. She was so sweet. She didn’t speak English, but could understand Spanish so her and Jess chatted as best as they could. It was mostly with hand gestures and guessing. Some other adorable ladies who lived in the same complex of apartments poked their heads out of their doors to say hello, and one in particular in her robe and slippers came over to chat with us. Her name was Angelina, and she spoke English and Spanish so she helped us talk to Isabel easier. Angelina was so helpful, and along with Isabel’s help and some maps, they showed us the sites we definitely needed to see in Porto. After a few minutes of chatting with these lovely ladies we headed to a cafe to eat some breakfast and charge our phones. We hung out there for at least an hour, since it was still quite early, and had some yummy pastries and juice. Once we charged our phones sufficiently and figured out a game plan on what to see, we headed out into the city.

The best way to get around was by the subway, and just two stops away was the historic center of the city. We were hoping that the rain would let up, which had been steadily falling since we had arrived, but it only seemed to get worse! Thankfully I brought an umbrella, but we were all still pretty soaked after about an hour of walking around. BUT despite the rain and cold, we were still in such an amazing place! So we made the best of it.

The fog made it hard to see the river and ocean beyond it, so one of the main attractions, the Clerigos Tower, which was part of the Clerigos Church, was not worth even going up. We walked around the inside of the church which was worth seeing though.

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The foggy view of the river from our AirBnb

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Clerigos Church. The tower is behind it, but we figured it wasn’t worth paying to go up and look at fog.

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The “birthday cake” inside Clerigos

We made our way to a very cool train station, which the inside of was made of all tile. It was a nice place to escape the torrential rain for a few moments too. Then, we walked up the streets in search of a famous book store that was used in filming the library scenes of the “Harry Potter” movies. When we got there though, it was a 2 hour wait to get in, and you had to pay about ten euros per person! We all decided it was NOT worth it and moved on. I caught a glimpse of the inside as we walked by though, and I called it good. So we wandered the streets, had some more gelato, because gelato, and admired some very cool buildings.

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We hoofed it to the top of the hill overlooking the Douro river to see the beautiful Porto Cathedral. It’s a Romanesque building with Gothic and Baroque architecture. It had another one of those statues like the one we saw in Salamanca, with a knight on top of a horse. It is located in the historical center of Porto, and is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Some of the relics inside were centuries old, and even though there were signs everywhere saying not to touch anything, I just HAD to touch the wooden doors. It might sound strange, but just touching the ancient wood gave me chills.

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Around this time, I got a message from Isabel saying that the home was ready! We were soaked and tired from the lack of sleep the night before so we were grateful to get to change and rest. We hopped on the subway and headed back. When we arrived Isabel had gone above and beyond for us. She walked in with fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and meat from the grocery store. She, along with Angelina, chatted with us again for at least twenty minutes. They really were just the sweetest ladies, and when they said goodbye, I hugged each of them, and literally teared up. It’s so refreshing to meet such kind hearted human beings. It gives one faith in humanity in a world full of hatred.

After the ladies left, we all promptly changed and took a (much needed) 2 hour nap! When we woke up, Aly wasn’t feeling great, but Jess and I wanted to go walk down by the river now that the rain had stopped. So, we had a date night! It was very anxiety-ridden walk across the double-deck metal Luis I Bridge across the Douro River and onto the other side. It’s 150 feet above the river below, and when it was constructed in the 1880’s it was the longest of it’s type in the world. Once across, we found a nice restaurant and had some local foods and got to have a romantic evening to ourselves. After dinner, we walked across the bridge again, but this time on the lower deck so we could ride up the funicular to the top of the hill.

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Once we got home, we showered, packed, and went to sleep. Our train for Lisbon left at 9 AM the next morning so we didn’t want to miss it! I loved what I was able to see of Porto, and hopefully will go back one day when it’s not torrential downpour raining all day!

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Portuguese Dirty Bathroom Floors

As I sat in the bathroom stall with unbearable pain stabbing at my stomach, I knew that I was about to be extremely ill. We had literally just sat down at a table outside of the nice French Restaurant in Sintra, Portugal and were looking over the menu when I suddenly was overcome by “that” feeling of oncoming sickness. You all know the one – the oh-so-lovely  “number 2” kind. I bolted for the restroom, and there I sat on the toilet with my head in my hands to try and stop my head from spinning. Sweat was pouring down my face and neck making me even more uncomfortable. I had my coat on and another two layers underneath it since it had gotten chilly as the sun went down, and those layers were all just sealing in all the juices.

I badly wanted to take off my coat to help relieve me from some of the heat, but I didn’t want it to come into contact with the dirty floor in the bathroom. Granted, it was a nicer restaurant, so it was cleaner than most places but it was still a public bathroom in the middle of Portugal. I was determined to release these demons, and be on my merry way. Unfortunately for me, my body had other plans. All I’m gonna say is  it was a good thing that no one else was in the bathroom because once the floodgates opened, it was ghastly. Had it not been me, I would have been laughing, because it sounded like a professional sound board of flatulence and diarrheal explosions used in a movie. It was really bad. So bad in fact, that I  started to get really dizzy and quickly recognized that I was going to pass out. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and even though I could barely see what I was typing I managed to text my sister:

“Help”

Finally succumbing to the fact that I was indeed fainting, I figured it would be better to lay down myself than fall down. Feeling so awful to the point that I just didn’t care anymore about the aforementioned dirty floor, I plunged from the toilet head first. I did however, manage to place my hat on the floor so my face was not in direct contact. It was there, in all my post-diarrhea glory with my pants still down, that I finally blacked out.

Within moments my sister dramatically flung the door of the bathroom open, (I imagine her kicking it open with her fists in the air). She told me later she thought my text message meant I was being kidnapped, (I mean, obviously if I was being abducted I would be able to text), and she was fully prepared to fight off whoever it was. I was brought back to consciousness by her pounding on the bathroom stall door. I was able to lift my arm and unlock it, and she knelt down by me to assess the situation.

After telling her what happened she ran to fetch Jess. When the two of them returned, he knelt by my side and the first sweet thing that came out of his mouth was:

“Why are you so sweaty?!”

Had I not been incapacitated I would have busted up laughing. This whole situation was crappy – pun intended – but it was hilarious. The bathroom smelt horrendous from the ungodly things that had just come out of me. I was aware I was extremely sweaty – I had a river flowing from my neck to my backside- but I can only imagine what I looked like to everyone else. I was not only riding on the hot mess express, I was the conductor. Toot toot!

Along with Aly and Jess came a waitress, who was super freaked out and wanted to call an ambulance. I was mortified. First of all, my pants were STILL down around my ankles so, first order of business was to get those suckers back up. I was so glad they would come back up! You know after you go swimming and if your legs are a little wet it’s impossible to get clothes on? It was kind of like that. Secondly, I would be damned if I had to get in an ambulance because of a little diarrhea! What would they have done anyway, wipe my butt and give me some tums? Nope. That absolutely was not happening.

After drinking some water and sitting up for a few minutes – still on the bathroom floor mind you – I assured the waitress that I would be alright, and we headed back to our Airbnb which was thankfully about five minutes away. Once there, I stripped all my clothes off and put them in a plastic bag to be washed at our next stop, showered and went straight to bed. I was so relieved to be laying on a soft bed and not a dirty bathroom floor.

What would a European vacation be without an epic diarrhea story, right? Well, I would prefer it not to be me who was sick, but I took one for the team. My husband Jess, sister Aly, and myself traveled to Spain and Portugal for two weeks this past October. It was a dream trip that we planned for about a year, and even as we got on the plane to leave it didn’t seem real. The thing about traveling, especially with long trips like this one, is that nothing will ever quite go as planned. That’s just a given!  The mishaps and adventures along the way are what make a trip so memorable. Kind of like the hilarious example below where Jess and i could not nail this jumping photo!

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Besides this little diarrhea debacle, our trip was amazing, and I cannot wait to post more about it! I took SO many photos so get ready!

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette