Picturesque Pena Palace, Portugal

Ciao Readers!

So, if you’re anything like me, you get back from a nice vacation with the “real world” already knocking on your door – whether in the form of a nasty cold, tons of voicemails, or a new home repair task…..

Before I totally lose the magic that was Portugal, I wanted to share some photos of a super quirky, beautiful, eclectic site – Pena Palace in Sintra (about a 45 minute train ride from Lisbon). I think this website describes it aptly: “The palace is a hedonistic mix of vividly painted terraces, decorative battlements and mythological statues, all of which stand at stark contrast to the lush greens of the Parque de Pena forest.”  The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its existence goes back to the Middle Ages. I will spare you the entire history here – but what started off as a chapel, turned into a monastery – which was then battered by all sorts of things, including lightening and the great quake of 1755 (which destroyed much of Lisbon) –  and was eventually acquired and greatly added to by King Ferdinand in the mid 1800’s. It was commissioned to be a summer palace for the Royal family and was modeled, in part, on castles likely seen in Germany. Just to be quirky they decided to add some Medieval, Islamic, and other decorative elements to the palace (notice the Moorish tiles, the minaret-ish tower, the Triton gateway…..). We had read that the outside was much more the draw than the inside, so we bought tickets to the surrounding park (which also lets you access the scary-thin terraces surrounding the palace) and wandered around marveling…..returning down the very steep hill by tuk tuk (with a driver that knew where we live – Albuquerque  – through Breaking Bad – “Ah, Sim, Pollos Hermanos!!!”), for just a few euros more than the packed city buses.  All in all, a lovely last full day in Portugal:

 

Museu da Marioneta (the Puppet Museum in Lisbon)

Ciao Readers!

We are back state-side and slowly adjusting to the 7 hour time difference after a 24-hour commute home (I love travel… traveling, not so much). I hope your new year has started off well.

Having recently shared my life-long affection for puppets (see my Muppet post), it will be no surprise that when I stumbled upon the fact that Lisbon has a puppet museum, I knew we had to go! (In contrast, feel free to skip their largest art Museum, the Gulbenkian – if you’ve been to any other large/famous museum you’ve seen better.) The puppet museum is funky and dark (even their tickets, below, are cool and weird). There are puppets from throughout the ages – from early Thai shadow puppets, Vietnamese water puppets, lots of old European and traditional Portuguese puppets, and on through modern day stop-action animation figures (complete with mini props!). It seems that puppets were often used as an entertaining way to make subversive cultural or political statements, including during the latest fascist regime in Portugal (did you know they had a dictator until 1974?!). It was kinda surreal and creepy in there, but supercool (they even have a place you can put on your own puppet show). I felt in-the-know finding this off-the-grid site, seeing how it’s not even in travel guru Rick Steves’ Lisbon book.  Take a look…..

Next time we travel to the nearby town of Sintra to see its very eclectic Pena Palace….

Feliz 2020 from Lisbon, Portugal

Olá Readers! Happy 2020!

So far it’s been an interesting start to the new year here in Lisbon – last night we partook in what has to be the most mellow midnight celebration ever – just about 200+ folks, including lots of kids, hanging out by the Belém Tower (pictured below) watching fireworks go off in other parts of the city. There wasn’t even a real countdown, so maybe it’s still 2019…….? Then today we had a leisurely and delicious Indian food lunch out in the sun – never expected to eat Indian food here, but we kept walking by this place and it smelled so good, and it was! (And, unlike in every other place we’ve been to in Europe – especially Italy – it is okay to get your leftovers to go). If I have one major observation so far, it’s that Portugal is super chillax about most things compared to other EU countries – people seem mellower, not so fashion conscious, and fairly open and friendly. There don’t seem to be as many rules (i.e. obstacles) like you run into in Italy – for one small example, only post offices and tobacco stores in Italy sell stamps – the other day I bought some here at the gift store where I bought postcards – so simple, but who woulda thunk!?!

In any case, I thought I’d take this lazy day to post some of the photos I’ve been saving up – from our food tour, food and sights around town, and some more tiles and mosaics. Wishing you, dear Readers, peace and joy in the new year!

From our Taste of Lisboa  food tour, which was super fun and educational (and shared with tourists from Sweden, Wales, Luxembourg, and even Portugal!):

From our visit to the most famous pastry shop in Portugal, Pastéis de Belém, and our fancy New Year’s Eve day lunch:

From our walks around town and the tower on New Year’s Eve:

Tiles of Lisbon (a photo anthology)

Olá Readers! Happy (almost) New Year!!!

I have many thoughts and insights (and food) to blog about, but for today I thought I’d just share some photos. Portugal is known for its beautiful tiles (azulejo), and you can pretty much see them covering buildings on any street. If you want a short history, you can find one here. In any case, to prove my point, here are some photos I just took, all within about 2 blocks from our apartment …enjoy!

 

Até a próxima!!!

Best Race Ever! (10k in Lisbon, Portugal)

Olá Readers! Boas festas!

I am blogging to you as I come down off my runner’s high, having just run the El Corte Inglés São Silvestre de Lisboa. I really don’t know where to start – this was a 10k race with over 10,000 runners through the center of Lisbon, which is all decked out for the holidays. It was one of the best run races ever – well organized, amazing swag, high-quality race shirt, chillaxed people, fantastic route, real bottles of water at the water stations, fancy finisher medals and even pretty printable certificates of your results! And, all for the amazing price of 10/12 euros (for comparison, US races of this caliber run 45$+). (It was also the easiest international race I’ve run – no EKG and health certificates like Italy, no local sponsor and finger prints like Japan – true stories). It was soooooo much fun, I wish I could truly share the experience…but these photos from my Luddite 89$ phone (and one from the official website) will have to suffice – we start with me after packet pickup the day before, continue on to the race start and past some of the sights – and end with the yummiest post-race meal ever!

Portugal is super cool by the way, so stay tuned!

Harmonious Holiday Happenings (with helpful hints)

Ciao Readers!  And happy and healthy holidays to you and yours!

Before we head off to Portugal to eat as much seafood as deprived desert-dwellers can (and I run the Lisbon holiday 10k – yay!), I thought I’d share some happy holiday happenings with a helpful hint or two.

It’s been an interesting month and from what I’ve experienced in the universe (and on the inter- webs) many people are suffering.  I try not to be preachy, so I will just share my experience – Headspace is a meditation app that is really all that and a bag of chips (and no, they didn’t pay me to say that).  It’s pretty much how I go to sleep every night, plus there are cool mini meditations (3 minutes) for everything from feeling “overwhelmed” to “frustrated” to fear of flying. If you’re finding yourself frazzled this time of year (or any), you can try it out for free.

So, now that that “public service announcement” is over, on to the festivities.

Almost every year we go to the River of Lights at our bipoapark – it is super sparkly and festive. I blogged about it, complete with tons of photos, two years ago here. Since you can see those photos, I’ll just add a few new ones and a helpful hint. They now sell tickets to what they call the “magic hour” – this means you get in at 5:00 instead of 6:00 when it usually opens.  Now, granted, it is more expensive, but if you can swing it this is the difference: on a normal night you wait in a line of cars to get into the parking lot for 1+ hours, you are then sent to the farthest reaches of a back parking lot located in another state, and then you trudge through the River of Lights like a sardine lined up end-to-end. Pay the few bucks more and you drive right into the parking lot and pretty much have the entire place to yourself – score!!!   It’s gotten so big they even went into part of the Japanese Garden this year:

Another thing I do pretty much every year, but did much differently this year, is attend the Festival of Trees. It’s an annual fundraiser for Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation which works with kids with disabilities. The Albuquerque Convention Center is stuffed full of 100+ trees and 200+ wreaths, plus festivities, a mini village, kids crafts, etc. You can go for free or donate any amount you like. While it’s over for this year, next year you can volunteer to help decorate!  That’s what I did this year – I had no idea they had to start in September or what a precise science tree and wreath decorating were.  I was mostly a “helper elf*” – for example, I made all the bows in the tree behind me in the photo (and sourced the supplies for the Hanukkah tree pictured). (*Okay, full disclosure, I relegated myself to helper elf as I don’t seem to have the decorating touch – the cool (at least I thought so) travel/foodie wreath I sourced and made (first photo) was in the silent auction – and purchased by me, the only bidder!)  Steve and I even went to the opening night shindig.  Fun, festive, and for a good cause:

Finally, what Festivus would be complete without a festive holiday run and an indulgent ooh-laa-laa fancy-pants tea at St. James Tea Room:

Whatever you do or do not celebrate Dear Readers, I hope you find a nice warm peaceful space this holiday season.  Here’s to a bright 2020!!!

More Monets than Imaginable (or a VERY quick trip to Denver)

Happy Thanksgiving Readers!!!!!

I hope you are all safe and warm!  We are snowed in, which is perfect since we weren’t going anywhere and we cooked everything yesterday.  Pretty, huh?

 

In any case, this is a post about Monet and Denver, so on with it….

The Denver Museum of Art is a pretty amazing place, and right now it is showcasing the largest Monet exhibition in the U.S. When I read about it, I HAD to get tickets, which I did, for this past Monday at 12:00. So, off we go to Denver on Sunday….I had checked the weather several times throughout the week and the driving weather there, and back on Tuesday, looked great. Which is why it was a bit perplexing as we drove in Sunday evening to keep seeing road signs saying “Storm Warning: Expect Road Closures for Monday-Tuesday.” Being the modern age, I was able to get on my iPad and weather.com, and what d’ya know, it was supposed to start snowing Monday about 3:00 and then pretty much not stop. Time for an impromptu plan….

Our tickets were for 12:00 on Monday and it wasn’t supposed to start snowing until 3:00+, so no problem, we could see the exhibit, then hit the road and beat the snow! AND – I almost forgot – before we went I discovered Denver has a Shake Shack (you may recall my obsession with shake shack burgers from previous posts).  We had planned to go to Shake Shack after the museum, but new plan – get to Shake Shack before they open at 11:00, be the first in line, get our heavenly burgers, then high-tail it back the 40 minute walk to the museum just in time for our ticket time!   And, amazingly enough, we pulled it off!

The exhibition was beyond description – when I had read “100+” Monets, I expected a few big ones and lots of little half sketches, etc. NOPE – it was room after room after room of giant, gorgeous, mind-blowing Monets!!!  I read the info on each and every one because I wanted to know where they came from – they were sourced from all over the world including Tokyo and a museum in Omaha Nebraska!  Second only to the Stendhal Syndrome-inducing exhibit was my amazement at what it took to get all those paintings to the Denver Museum all at once for this show. In any case, if you are anywhere near Denver (when it is not snowed in) before February 2nd, I cannot recommend this exhibition enough.

So, street art on our walk to Shake Shack; our beloved burgers; and just a taste of the Monets….Enjoy!!!

 

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