Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

Top L to R: Dean Oggel, Hayley & James Oggel, Greg & Baby Devin O'Connor
Center L to R: Hubert Bero, Devin, Greg O'Connor
Bottom L to R: Devin & Bump, Hayley & Tom Burke, Robert Jenkins


Ah Father's Day. 

I remember thinking as a little girl that this day was a very special day, and whatever I would do for my father should be thought about deeply and with great care and intention (though in the end the gift often end up being golf related). I really wanted to impress upon my Dad how important he was to me and I felt that this was the day in which I was meant to do that. I guess, in some ways, I still feel this way today. 

So Dad, Since I neglected to get you any golf related gifts this year, and I can't give you a big hug in person, this post is dedicated to you.



My Dad

My Dad is famous. I don't know if you know this, but I do. And growing up in a small Iowa town of 100,000 people where he was the only Allergist, you might have thought so too. I can't even begin to count how many people, friends and complete strangers, upon finding out I was an Oggel exclaimed, "Your Dad is my Allergist! He's made my life so much better!" 

Granted my Dad wasn't an ER doctor, greeting incoming traumas and saving lives on a daily basis. But what he did do, day in and day out for decades, was treat people suffering from allergies or asthma, and by doing so increased someone's quality of life, making their lives better, and in some cases livable. Diagnosing food allergies, helping people understand what in their homes was making them so sick they couldn't breathe, or administering allergy shots so you were able to keep that little white dog who had become an integral part of your family. This is what my Dad did. This is why in my eyes, he was famous. 

And when he wasn't at the office in our home town, he was driving long distances on snowy 2-lane highways with a Suburban full of allergy extract in coolers to hold a clinic in another tiny Iowa town to help even more people. Impressive? I think so. 

Of course there is so much more to my Dad than who he was professionally. I have many fond memories of spending time with my Dad at home or around town. Just to name a few:
  • Golfing or hitting practice balls at the Sioux City Country Club.
  • Getting frozen yogurt from TCBY on a warm summer night with the sunroof open and the windows down.
  • Watching as you drilled a hole into a coconut brought back from Hawaii in the garage workshop.
  • Grilling out on the back patio.   
  • Going for walks through our neighborhood, having long talks about friends, school and family.
  • Driving to Kansas City or St.Cloud listening to Garrison Keillor or the Oak Ridge Boys.
  • Holding your hand on my first airplane ride because I was so scared during take off.
  • Visiting so many foreign and beautiful lands . . . Spain, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Croatia...
  • Watching comedians on television and laughing so hard tears would stream down our faces.
  • Dancing with you on my wedding day.

I'm so incredibly lucky to still have my Dad in my life, though he is far too far away. I am looking forward to sharing new experiences with him, most importantly of all parenthood/grandparenthood. Come September I'll be introducing him to the 1st Oggel grandchild on this side of the family. What an honor and a blessing. I can't wait for that day, and I can't wait for my child to know and love him the way I do.

Dad - I love you so incredibly much. Thank you for being the best Dad a little girl and a grown woman could ever have asked for. XOXO



My W.S.F - Tommy

As if my own Dad wasn't enough, when I was around 16 years old another father-figure entered my life and has been there for me these past 20 years (20 years!!). Thomas Mehan Burke, a.k.a. Tommy. I knew of Tom Burke for years before I ever really "knew" him. He and his family lived not too far from my own, and his two boys, Jeff and Jon, attended the same schools that I did, though they were older than me. I used to see Tom when he was out walking the neighborhood and he always waved hello to me and my friends with a big smile and a cheerful greeting. 

A few years after really getting to know Tom (and realizing that he not only had a heart of gold, but also a great sense of humor) he officially became my W.S.F. "Wicked Step-Father", a title he gave himself, I might add. Tommy has been there for me through thick and thin, loving me no differently than he loves his own two boys. I have many happy memories of Tom over these past 20 years and to name a few: 
  • Launching water-ballons from the deck of the cabin in Yankton onto unsuspecting boaters down below.
  • Taking my first motorcycle ride on a Harley Davidson through the streets of Sioux City. 
  • Driving me to the University of AZ only to fly me home a semester later because I disliked AZ so much.
  • Teasing me after getting my wisdom teeth removed as I sat drooling in his and Mom's bed bleary eyed with painkillers and cheeks swollen up like a chipmunk.
  • Making our own blend of wine on a trip to Sonoma, California.
  • Watching him do a backflip off a mini-trampoline into Bow Mar lake (in 2014 when he was 70 years old!)
  • Summiting our first mountain together in Jackson, WY and later that week jumping off a mountain to go paragliding. (again, at 70 years old!)
  • Sitting quietly on the sofa on Christmas Eve with a big smile on his face and tears in his eyes as the rest of my Mom's family were jumping and screaming with joy at the announcement of my pregnancy.
I can't wait for my kiddo to meet their W.S.G.F. this summer. 
Tommy - I love you so much and am eternally grateful to have you in my life. 



Father-in-Law

Greg O'Connor, my Father-in-Law = Hands down, one of the coolest Dads I know.
I can't even begin to list the many things I love about my Father-In-Law (but I'm going to try anyway):
  • His creative and innovative mind.
  • His generous and compassionate heart.
  • His wicked-smart brain from engineering, to patent-law, to home-improvement projects.
  • The way he loves his family.
  • The way he loves his sons.
  • The father he his to Devin and to myself.
If you haven't met Greg, then you're missing out. (I know many of you reading this blog have no reason to meet him, and if you went out of your way to do so it might seem awkward, but believe me, once you'd met him, you'd thank me and all awkwardness would disappear).

Greg - I am so excited for you to meet your first grandchild and am even more excited at the thought of all the things you will do together with one another in the workshop, at the "cabin" and in life. Thank you for being a father to me and to raising such an amazing, wonderful son.



Grandfathers

Oh man do I love my Grandfathers. And oh boy do I miss them something terrible.
I was lucky to truly know and love both of my Grandfathers, Dean Oggel and Robert Jenkins, fondly known as "Grandpa Dean" and "Grandpa Bob". Both of them such loving people, with a great senses of humor and kind eyes. Both of them could whistle loudly, with vibrato and on pitch. Both loved teasing me to no end. Both loved eating salted nuts. And both had gigantic recliners in which they would sleep and snore in the middle of the afternoon. 

I never saw my Grandpa Dean in anything but trousers and a button down shirt, and I don't know if I ever saw my Grandpa Bob wearing a suit or a tie. If I try, I can still hear their voices, the sound of their laughter, and see the shape of their hands and nails. 

But I don't have to try to remember what it was like to be hugged by them, to be pushed on a swing-set, or to hear their voices singing songs as they putter around their homes. Those memories are very much alive inside me even today.

And in 2012 I was adopted by another Grandfather, Hubert Bero, Devin's maternal Grandpa.
Hubert is an amazing man, who I feel so lucky and blessed to know. Last summer I was even home to help him celebrate his 90th birthday. I've yet to meet a person with a mind and memory as sharp as Hubert's. He is generous, and kind, quick to laugh, and full of the best stories. I cannot wait for Hubert to meet his first great-grandchild! 

Hubert - We hope to bring the baby home to meet you not too long after Christmas, so get ready to hold your great-grandchild!



Devin - My Baby Daddy

And last, but most certainly not least, Devin.
In my mind, today is your first official Father's Day. Granted our baby isn't exactly out of the womb yet, but regardless, you're already a father to our child. I see and experience this in the way you care for me each day. From all the hugs and kisses you give me, to helping me get out of the couch or off the ground. I see it in the way you work so hard at your job to not only be successful at what you do, but to provide for us as a family now and in the future. I see it in the way you research strollers and carseats, and in the way you are already planning to experience life with our child, planning kid-friendly trips, taking it for hikes in your mind, and when you say to my ever-growing belly, "Come out here baby and come play with me!". 



I am so impressed by you as a person, as a husband, as a scientist and now as a father. I am so thankful to have you in my life, and don't know what I'd do without you. I can't wait to see you corn-dog our kiddo in the woods, throw them around in the water and talk in funny voices. 

Thank you for being exactly who you are. 
I hope you liked the cinnamon rolls I made you, and all the funky plaid clothing I bought you.
Happy Father's Day Devo. XOXO




Related? I think so. Devin & Baby Pinecone, Greg and Baby Devin


And a heartfelt Happy Father's Day to ALL the Dad's out there! 
(I'm looking at you Chris Oggel, Kris Byam, & Justin Miera)


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day! (I'm Pregnant!)

Clockwise from top left: Mary Helen Jenkins, Carson Burke and Newborn Hayley, Inez Emily Oggel, Edie O'Connor, Hayley 17 Weeks Pregnant (March 2014), & Ynes Oggel

If you're one of the lucky few, you are blessed with an amazing Mother.
I am so thankful and grateful to be one of those people as I have been blessed more than once.

My Mother has given me so much over these past 35 years. She has taught me the value of perseverance, and that I'm loads smarter than I give myself credit for. She has always listened to my concerns and woes without judgement and offered me gentle guidance. She has encouraged me when I'm ready to give up, and celebrated with me when I eventually succeed. We are amazingly similar in voice and actions, but different in mind and spirit. Our differences teach us about ourselves, and our similarities a hilarious reflection of our neurotic behaviors and dark sense of humor. My Mother is most importantly my Mother, and secondly my treasured friend. 

Thank you Mom for:
Teaching me about creativity (sewing, crochet and creative thinking). 
Teaching me how to care and cultivate life (plants, gardens and my inner-self).
Teaching me how to feed myself (through cooking, recipes, and self-compassion).
Teaching me to be a lover of reality.

If your luck continues, when you're 16 years old, another Mother comes into your life.
She becomes your friend, your confidant, and your fiercest cheerleader. She sews your madrigal costumes for you in high school and teaches you the proper way to eat a mango. She encourages you to live life to it's fullest and not to be shy with your laughter.

Thank you Ynes for:
Being an example of what it means to live life (traveling abroad, speaking another language, dancing).
Accepting me for who I am (even though I was a very angst filled teenager for many years!).
Teaching me to go after what I want, and to believe in my talents and education.
Loving my father and my family perfectly.

And if you can believe it, when you're 31 years old, one more Mother comes onto the scene.
She welcomes you into her family of boys with wide open arms and the most genuine smile you've ever seen. She is the story-keeper for the life your husband lived before you knew him, filling in the blanks of his childhood and younger years. She is wicked smart, an unstoppable force of energy, and an amazing Mother to you, to your husband and to her family.

Thank you Edie for:
Raising a son that is respectful of women and emotionally aware.
Treating me like a daughter from the first day you met me.
Your unending generosity and constant flow of care, concern and love.

And before I was even on this earth, to the two women that raised my Mother and my Father.
I am so thankful that I knew you both as Grandmothers. You were both so unique, and so very different from one another, except in the way you loved me. 

I carry with me the stories you told, the experiences we shared, as well as the smell and feel of you. The rustling of pantyhose against a skirt, the smell of your perfume, the softness of your cheek as you hugged and kissed me, the depth with which you loved me. I can only hope to someday be a grandmother in your likenesses.

The story of Motherhood continues now with me and the little one I carry inside.
It is my hope and aim to give this little one all of what has been given to me through these generations of women. It is because of their love, support and influence that I feel prepared to take on this challenge of being a Mom. 

Thank you to all my Mothers.
Happy Mother's Day.
xoxo




An August Christmas Present

February 15, 2014                                                                                                12 Weeks, 3 Days

Hello People of the Interwebs.

Seems I'm finally ready to share our exciting news with you (incase you missed it, see photo above). Many of you who read my blog likely already know I'm pregnant (!!!), but for those of you who happened to randomly click on my blog post via Facebook you may just be finding this out!  Lucky you!  Isn't it exciting?!  I'm excited to share it with you and the rest of the interwebs.

Have you been suspicious? Have you been wondering? Were you one of the few that caught a couple little slip-ups on Facebook before I managed to delete them?  None of it matters now as the cat acorn is out of the bag (so to speak).

We took a pregnancy test in the wee hours of Christmas Eve morning while home in Denver, Colorado.  I'd had a sneaking suspicion I might be pregnant and had daydreamed about how fun it would be to tell our families in person while we visited people stateside.  While in the U.S. we spilled the beans to our families and had the immediate gratification of getting hugged and squeezed by our family members in person instead of through video chat (virtual hugs still have a long way to go).

December 24, 2013  6:30AM                                                                                 Sunrise over Denver moments after we found out.

December 26, 2013         Bow Mar Lake, Littleton, CO          5 Weeks, 1 Day

Luckily, for most of our holiday at home I felt pretty good physically. Though trying to wrap my brain around the fact that I was indeed pregnant and had a baby growing inside me was a whole other matter. It was difficult to fathom we were going to be parents in just 9 short months, and that my entire pregnancy would be happening away from all these people who I so dearly love. Being pregnant in England? I knew this was always a possibility, part of our plan even, but now that it was happening I struggled to adjust to all the logistics and emotions that would follow.

Just before we flew out of Florida I started to feel a little urpy in the mornings, and foods I usually loved started to make me feel nauseated instead of hungry. Unfortunately, our trip home was far from smooth (cancelled flight in New Jersey, packed hotel rooms, waiting standby for flights, bad food, little sleep).  I ended up feeling pretty lousy and was never so happy to get home and crawl into my bed in Cambridge.

January 6, 2014      Vacation Over. 1:25AM    Newark Airport

Once we recovered from minor jet-lag and a mild form of post-traumatic travel distress my morning sickness decided to take center stage. Have you ever felt like your healthy body is betraying you? Like every ounce of physical and emotional energy you have has disappeared and all food is disgusting? Well, I hope you don't know this feeling and that you never have to experience it. It's not fun. It's a real killjoy to the whole, 'Yay! We can get pregnant and ARE pregnant!' thing. 

For the next 2 months I rode the roller coaster of almost-constant nausea, fatigue and various emotional highs and lows. Those hormones of mine really kicked me in the face. And throughout these 2 months the only confirmation I was pregnant (besides my internal hormone revolution) was that pregnancy test I'd taken on Christmas Eve. In the UK they don't confirm your pregnancy until your 1st ultrasound which is around week 12 - 14. So while all the signs pointed to ---> You're Pregnant <--- big pieces of me just didn't believe it. Until . . .

February 24, 2014                                                                          1st Ultrasound

February 24, 2014                                                                   13 Weeks, 5 Days

The midwife touches a wand to my abdomen and quickly, as if by magic, the image of a baby in perfect profile appears on the screen and then proceeds to dance about before our eyes. Finally, after 10 weeks of disconnection between what my body was feeling and my mind couldn't begin to grasp I felt like myself again. My internal monologue went something like this:

Oh. My. God. 
There's a baby inside me! 
And it's moving! A lot. And yet I can't feel a thing. 
Woah.
Maybe this is why I've been so out of sorts? So nauseated? So tired? (Duh.)
OhMyGodABaby.

Seeing this tiny little baby wriggle around inside me was the most surreal and comforting experience I've had in my life to date. Full stop.


March 24, 2014                               17 Weeks 5 Days 

Shortly after the ultrasound my hormones seemed to settle down and I returned to eating and sleeping normal amounts. You know, less like a bear in hibernation and more like a human. What a relief it was to be able to cook again and to tolerate the smell of well, anything (the world is one stinky place!).

And because I'm built with the voluptuousness of a telephone pole, a bump started to appear rather quickly. By March I was wearing a few maternity tops and asked for a few things from the U.S. that I couldn't seem to find here in the U.K. (Aside: Pregnant friends, do yourself a favor and get one of these.)   


April 10, 2014                                                                            20 Weeks, 1 Day

By April we were back at the hospital for our second and final ultrasound. This time the baby was much bigger and the whole body no longer fit on the screen at once. Ultrasounds are pure magic. Seeing heart beat, each vertebrae of the spine, the beautiful walnut shape of the brain, the flow of blood and fluid through this tiny little babe that's inside of YOU. Indescribable. 

Since I'd been feeling 'quickenings' (pregnancy codeword for movement) from week 15 it wasn't such a mental leap for me to connect the image on the screen to the flutter in my abdomen. Now it was just a chance to see our baby and to watch it move about. The only leap left for me to take was that the next time I see our baby will be in person, when I'm holding it in my arms (OhMyGoshNoWay). 

As of today, I'm 24 weeks 3 days along and my belly continues to swell. I'm still cycling about 25 miles a week to my various jobs around town, and my appetite seems to be as it's always been. The only major difference in my diet is that I'm giving in to my cravings for sweet things more frequently than usual. Kale chips followed by a chaser of Peanut butter M&M's, yes please. (Thank You Carol and Richard for those "medium" sized bags!). 

I'm still not wearing maternity pants (though today I'm sporting a pair of Devin's jeans) and I really don't want to go out and buy any. Seems inevitable though. Also inevitable is buying things for baby (we don't know, and won't know the sex until birth). While we're hoping to buy the most minimal amount of things we know that we'd better hop-to and get shopping. I even dreamed about diapers the other night. 

Diapers. 
I'm already dreaming of exciting things like diapers. 

So there you have it interwebs. 
That's the news from our side of the pond. 
Who knows, maybe I'll even write another post soon.

I'm sure you can't wait to hear what exciting baby related thing I dream about next, right?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Silly Things I Sometimes Miss Having (Ode to US Grocery Stores)

I've pretty much got the whole shopping thing sussed here in the UK.

I know which stores to go to for the "good" peanut butter, where I can find tempeh and soy-based meat alternatives, and I even found kale at someplace other than the market square which only sometimes has kale on the odd Friday. Cambridge Friends: All these things can be found at either Arjuna Whole Foods, Revital or Holland & Barrett. The kale I buy can usually be found at "big" Sainsbury's and it's called Cavolo Nero. (Do I sound like one groovy hippy from this list or what?)

I have moments where I find myself missing certain products that I bought regularly, or occasionally at home. Sometimes it's not a particular product I miss so much, but  the abundance of variety and choice one has in the US/Bay Area (20 choices of hummus anyone?).

Oh Berkeley Bowl . . . I took you for granted.

So for this misty, foggy and altogether grey Saturday morning in Cambridge I'm going to make a little list of the things I miss buying when I'm back home.

The A List

Frequent Purchases: I always had these in my cupboard.


Seitan: BBQ seitan sandwiches were a staple dinner at our house.



Dill Pickles: I know you're thinking I could make my own or "Surely the UK has dill pickles!". But I don't want to make my own, I want to buy them cause I'm lazy and the pickles we've found here are vinegar soaked only. Not dill. Not good. Sigh, pickles.

Photo Credit

Trader Joe's Dried Mango (and the whole wall of dried fruits and nuts)
This wall . . . If I could hug this wall . . .



Trader Joe's Tahini Dip
My go-to after work snack, this stuff smeared on a toasted tortilla = Heaven



Trader Joe's Dolmas
Sometimes I'd even smash some of these on the tahini & tortilla. So tasty and satisfying.



Trader Joe's Tortillas (flour and whole wheat)
Simply so good. Minimal ingredients. Fresh. Yum




Trader Joe's Salsa (red and green!)
Drool. The best salsa I've found here (besides the one batch I made from scratch thanks to my step-mom's recipe (Thanks Yne!) is . . . are you ready for it? Doritos brand. Yeah. Ew.



Lagunitas IPA
Beer. Lagunitas Beer. All the kinds, but especially this one. I can smell the bay area and back yard BBQs just thinking about this beer.



Field Roast & Tofurkey Sausages
Believe it or not Linda McCartney has a line of veggie products here in the UK that have a variety of veggie dishes and faux meats. But they just aren't the same as Tofurkey and Field Roast.



Berkeley Bowl Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels (in bulk)
No photo for these delicious drops of tasty joy, but probably better off for it since I can't get my hands on any. But DAMN are they a good treat.


Berkeley Bowl: The Entire Bulk Section
Anyone who knows The Bowl knows my longing for this section of the store. Okay, for the entire store, especially the BB West.
Sigh.
Friends who frequent the BB, please do me a favor: Even though the store is crowded and frequently a nightmare of a place to shop, do not take it for granted!! Next time you're there, think of me shopping at Sainsbury's in the UK (think Safeway) and remind yourself how good you've got it.



The B List

Rare Purchases: Bought infrequently, but always comforted to know I could get it when the urge struck. (Going to the movies, afternoons shopping at Target, or over-hungry while grocery shopping)


Hot Tamales: I love putting these in warm popcorn. I think I originally got the idea from my Aunt Angie. She puts these in popcorn as well as M&M's which are both genius moves on her part. I believe the Hot Tamales addition stems from my Grandpa Bob (her Dad), who used to eat Red Hots mixed together in a bowl with salted peanuts. Another genius move, well done Grandpa Bob.



Peanut Butter M&M's
Oh sure, I eat the regular peanut M&Ms too, but the PB ones are probably my favorite because peanut butter. Duh.



Veggie Jerky (Primal Strips)
I have a strange relationship with these things. Sometimes I love them so much and they taste so good to me (usually on long hikes or camping trips) but other times I smell them and think, ew. What is this stuff. When you're really hungry though, and need a protein pick-me-up these guys do the trick. I like other veggie jerky brands too, but I can't remember their brand names. Veggie Jerky . . . I'm a strange vegetarian.



Ben and Jerry's Everything But The . . . 
I mean come on. COME ON!
If you're going to bother to import Ben & Jerry's all the way to the UK how can you not bring in this flavor?? They have a smattering of B&J flavors here (excuse me, flavours), but never this one. And none of them, I repeat, NONE OF THEM are as good as this one.





The C List

Daydreaming and Generalizing (foods and beyond)

A wall of hummus flavors and brands.
Tortilla chips of all shapes, sizes and quality.
The plethora of organic products, fruits and vegetables at your fingertips. (California)
Target. (Just because.)

Ugh, the restaurants:
  • Soley Vegan
  • Herbivore
  • The Cheeseboard
  • Cha Ya
  • Cha Am
  • Pizzaiolo
  • Burma Superstar
  • Lanesplitters
  • Bobby G's
  • Mexican food. ALL THE MEXICAN FOOD!
Getting pedicures with my girlfriends.
Book Club.
Colleagues at CHO.
Walking Mountain View Cemetery.
Piedmont Avenue.
Tilden Park.
San Francisco.
The Greek Theatre.
Driving to Yosemite.
The Friends.


As you can see I've gone off topic so I think I'll end here.
We hope to have a busy afternoon of Skyping with friends and family back home to do some serious catching up with people. Despite the weather I hope to get outside and eek out some vitamin D through these clouds. 

Next weekend we might have a fonude part with some of Devin's colleagues, and the following weekend we head down for two nights in London to see the Banff Film Festival! Yahoo! 
While in London I hope to check out a few places we've not been to yet, namely: The Borough Market and Wahaca! a restaurant of Thomasina Mier's (Mexican food!)

Anything else you think we should make a point of seeing when we're down in London? Restaurants to try? Shops to see?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Portugal, A Bit Of Text

Portugal was so wonderful.

It was one of the countries in Europe neither Devin or I had visited in our joint or independent travels.
Once we found cheap tickets to Lisbon (which was really easy thanks to Ryan Air) we planned the rest of the trip down the southwest coast to balance out the big city with some adventures in nature.

Immediately after landing in Lisbon and hopping in our rental car (a Fiat Panda, so cute!), we began to notice how much Lisbon resembles San Francisco. A town hovering on the ocean's edge, a bridge that was modeled after the Golden Gate, and landscapes that appear to be a mix of Napa/Sonoma and Tilden/Mt.Tamalpais. In short, I got high on the scent of eucalyptus.

We found an amazing house in Aljezur that was truly a home away from home. Two levels, a Juliette balcony, two decks, lovely views across a river valley towards the mountains, and the sound of cow bells chiming up from the green field below. Beaches and trails were all just a short drive away.

Devin, the best adventure buddy a girl could have, found one of the most beautiful places to hike that we could have found, the Rota Vicentina.



From the website:
The Rota Vicentina is a long distance path along the southwest coast of Portugal. Comprising the Historical Way and the Fishermen’s Trail, totals 350 km to walk, between the city of Santiago do Cacém and the Cape of St. Vincent, the most southwestern point of Europe.

We didn't manage to walk the entire thing in our 8 day stay, but we did complete about 15-18 miles of the Fisherman's Trail (combined with bits of the Historical Way) down near the southwestern most bits of Portugal. The trails were very well marked, leading you through private and public lands, and the entire time we hiked we saw maybe 10 people, total. I'm sure in the warmer months it gets much busier, but for us the lack of other humans was wonderful.

We hope to go back to Portugal someday and do the whole trail, or at least a lot more of it. It would be lovely to take advantage of all the wonderful beaches and a warmer ocean in the late spring or summer months.




After 4 nights in Aljezur we headed back up the coast to Lisbon. We weren't quite ready to leave the beautiful countryside and if we had it all to do over again, I think we'd turn our 8 night trip into a 6 day / 2 day split. What can I say, we're not really city-folk.

Lisbon though, to be fair was lovely. We walked all over that town, up and down hills, up and down stairways and through numerous museums, castles and palaces. There's a lot to take in and Lisbon and no shortage of things to do. We stayed near the Rato Metro station, near Barrio Alto and Principe Real. A very nice area with sweeping views down the hillsides and within walking distance to many sights and shops. We found some lovely vegetarian friendly restaurants which we'd quickly recommend to any future travelers.

Duck Tail (Asian fusion)
Os Tibetanos (Nepalese)
Natraj Tandoori (Indian)

Also worth mentioning, the coffee in Portugal was really, really lovely and you must try the local favorite pastry called Pastel de Nata, which by English standards is a small version of a Bakewell tart, sans jam. So basically a sweet custard tart. Caloric and definitely enough to get your day off to a sugary start!

Sights around town we visited (to name just a few):

Castelo de Sao Jorge
Jeronimos Monastery
Cultural Centre of Belem
National Coach Museum
Botanical Garden of Lisbon
Parque de Edward VII
Centro de Arte Moderna
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

Our last full day in Portugal we took the train north of Lisbon to the town of Sintra. It's a magical town where the Portuguese royalty used to spend their summer holidays and it really is a magical little place. A UNESCO World Heritage Sight, it's definitely worth seeing if you've made it all the way to Portugal. Here's a great article in The Guardian about it, with some lovely pictures to drool over. We didn't make it down to the beaches nearby, but if we had had more time we definitely would have hiked around more.

Places we visited in Sintra:

Pena National Palace
Sintra National Palace
Castle of the Moors

Overall a fabulous vacation in Portugal and we are so glad we went!
Now to plan the next trip! We're hoping to make plans to somewhere in the Alps for my April Easter break from the schools.

Pena National Palace

Portugal In Photos

Just a fast and easy photo post to share a few more photos of our time in Portugal.
Dates: February 14 - 22, 2014
Locations: Aljezur, Rota Vicentina Trails, Lisbon and Sintra.