Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fall or Winter?

So far, the weather here in Lisbon hasn't been too bad. We were a little worried seeing as we caught the tail end (last February and March) of the worst winter that Lisbon has had in a long time.

There has been a good amount of rain lately, but we've also had plenty of sunny days. I can definitely handle a winter where you don't need to have your fingers, neck and ears covered all the time. Here is a chart which shows the average temps and rainfall for Lisbon.

In the spirit of our fall-like weather here, enjoy some pictures we took recently in a park. I will warn you that these are pretty cheesy pictures. However, we did NOT both wear stripes on purpose!

I told John to try kicking the leaves as I took a picture. It was hilarious, because he completely fell backwards onto the ground after he kicked them. I couldn't stop laughing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Obama Comes to Town

You may have seen on TV recently that President Obama came to Portugal to meet with the leaders of countries that are members of NATO and with the heads of the European Union. That meant lots of work for us. I got the glorious job of staffing the operations room that we set up in the hotel where Obama and all the White House staff stayed, as well as Hillary Clinton. During the four days leading up to his arrival and the two days he was here, I worked 78 hours.

John had an important job, too. He was in charge of making sure that the meeting between President Obama and the Portuguese Prime Minister went off without a hitch. Because John's also responsible for knowing about and promoting energy at the embassy, he arranged for GM to send two of its prototype electric cars to Lisbon so that the Portuguese delegation and the President of the European Commission could use them to drive to the NATO Summit. Obama had to use his own car for security reasons, but he did stop by to take a look at one of the cars.

But what made all the hard work worthwhile was getting to meet Obama. He came and spoke to all the embassy employees who weren't busy at other locations (like John). He told us that "your President is proud of you," which was pretty cool. And then I got to shake his hand!

See how close we were?

After he left, my friend Rebecca and I were able to sneak up to the podium and take a quick picture.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Marines

United States Marines around the world celebrate November 10 as their "birthday" to commemorate the founding of the USMC in 1775. We recently celebrated the birthday of the Marines by attending our fourth Marine Corps Birthday Ball, which was hosted by the Marine Security Guard Detachment stationed in Lisbon. It's a great event where the Marines get to show off and commemorate their history. The embassy community tries to support the event, so we've made it a point to attend them so far. Plus they're a lot of fun. Enjoy some photos.

All dressed up

Hillary with our friends, Rebecca and Sgt. Ochoa

Hillary, Rebecca and Abby

Nine years ago, we went to our first Marine Corps Ball in Athens

Monday, November 15, 2010

100 Maneiras

The title of this post is a restaurant we recently tried, and it was so great I wanted to do a post about it.

Last month we had some friends come visit us in Lisbon, traveling here from London, Baghdad, and Warsaw. It was a nice reunion, and they also got to do a little sightseeing while they were here.

We had heard wonderful things about a restaurant here that does a 10 course meal. I thought it would be fun for us to try while they were visiting. There is no menu, and you can't order anything a la carte. However, the total price for this decadent, 10 course meal? Only 35 euros!

The first course was so cute and inventive - bacalhau (dried cod) crackers hung from mini clothespins!

The second course was a foie gras made with chocolate, served with a mango something or other.

After that, I was enjoying everything so much I didn't bother to take any more pictures.

Oh, except I had to take a photo of the wonderful wine we had so we would remember the name. It was one of the best wines I've had since we moved here.

The last 2 courses were dessert. Every single thing served was wonderful, and managed to be delicious and unique at the same time. Here is a group shot of us at the end of our almost 3 hour meal (!)

If you live in Lisbon or visit, definitely make a reservation here!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Prague, Czech Republic

Recently we went to Prague for a conference John attended, and I got to tag along! We were able to go for four days, and John's conference was only for two days, so it was a nice trip. I had been to Prague ten years ago while backpacking, but only for two days. One of the days we took a day trip to Terezin, a former concentration camp about 45 minutes outside of Prague. It was one of the most interesting places I visited while backpacking. But essentially I had only seen a day's worth of the city, so I was excited to go back. Prague has become much more touristy in the past 5-10 years - I definitely noticed that. If it was that crowded at the beginning of October, I'd be afraid to go during the summer! We spent most of our time walking all over the city, and trying out the Czech food and beer - both of which were great. Enjoy the pics.

We got to stay in a really nice hotel called the Alchymist, which was right across the street from the American Embassy there, and near his conference. Although the first night we stayed in a cute attic room of a hotel. The only drawback was no elevator. Here is John after carrying our luggage up four flights!

We stayed very close to the Charles Bridge, which connects the old part of the city to the new. It is lined with licensed vendors and musicians, and is always packed with tourists.

See all those people?

View of the Prague Castle. It is the largest castle complex in the world!

Famous astronomical clock

This was a popular Czech appetizer called beer cheese, which you put on fried toast. Needless to say, it was delicious.

Night view of the river and castle

Apparently Prague has freaky black squirrels with pointy ears and glowing eyes!


And more beer

A really cool underground cave-like restaurant

Look at all that candle wax!

Awesome steak with potato-stuffed onion!

Bridge with thousands of locks

Here is the famous "Lennon Wall". Since the 1980s, this wall has been graffitied over and over with Beatles-inspired images and lyrics.

I decided to climb to the top of this mini Eiffel tower to see the great view. Yes, Prague has a mini Eiffel tower, too!

While walking around, I found a reflexology place! Since I hadn't had a professional foot massage since Jakarta, I was pretty much in heaven.

The funniest part was the guy outside. If it weren't for him yelling out "massage", I would have walked right by the place. Check him out, you'll see why I definitely noticed him!

Our fancy hotel had a complimentary cheese and wine-tasting hour every evening.

One of the neat things to do in Prague is to see a classical concert in a stunning concert hall or church. These guys were great

I'm sure it would be a great city to see covered in snow. But we were happy that it wasn't too cold and we didn't get rained on during our time there! One last shot - the beautiful Tyn church taken from the top of the Eiffel tower:

Thursday, October 28, 2010


We always knew that Indonesia was prone to natural disasters, but recently it has been particularly bad. As you probably heard, earlier this week, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, and then a few hours later, Mount Merapi, the huge volcano in Central Java erupted.

Of course having lived in Indonesia, we were shocked by the news. We experienced a couple earthquakes and floods in Jakarta, but to have events this big so close together really stretches Indonesia's limited resources to respond. I'm confident that the U.S. government and charitable organizations will help with the recovery, but more help is always needed. Hill and I hope everyone will think about how they're helping the less fortunate. I'll leave you with a few photos from our trips near these recent disasters.

Mount Merapi is the tall peak on the right side of the photo.

The area around the volcano is densely populated because the land is so fertile, especially along its slopes.

Padang is one of Indonesia's largest cities, located around 150 miles from the tsunami. It's popular with tourists, especially surfers who use it as a jumping off point for the Mentawai islands, the sparsely inhabited islands struck by the recent tsunami. Last October, Padang experienced an earthquake, which killed more than 1,000 people.

On a happier note, a couple weeks ago we were invited to a reception to honor Indonesian independence day, so I wore my batik shirt and we even spoke a little Indonesian. We really enjoyed the food and getting to taste some of the flavors we have missed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

France - Part Deux

After a couple days in Lyon, we rented a car and headed south into the Provencal countryside. It turned out to be a really fun trip, and by driving everywhere we were able to appreciate the beauty of the region. We were headed to a tiny village outside of a small town called Uzes.

Along the way we passed many cute towns like this one

We stopped for steak frites in a small town, and realized they were just finishing up their Saturday morning market. We made it just in time to sample and buy some cheese and sausage.

The sausage was covered with some sort of herbs, and it was delicious. I also really liked the Brebis cheese they had. Here I am sampling our purchase.

The place where we stayed was wonderful. It's called "Les Sardines Aux Yeux Bleus", or the blue-eyed sardines. :) It's run by a really sweet couple. A Swedish model falls in love with a Parisian photographer, and they decide to leave the big city behind and open a cute French guest house in the countryside. You know, your average story.

Here are some pictures of the place:

Our room:

After relaxing in their peaceful garden, we decided to head out and see what we could find. Our first stop was the historic town of Uzes. I love the light in this photo of the city:

Cute balcony in the town square:


The next morning we hit the yard sale in the next town over. We didn't manage to find anything we couldn't live without, but it was fun looking.

One thing we really wanted to see was an ancient aqueduct called the Pont du Gard. It was built in the first century AD! In its heyday it carried about 44 million gallons of water per day to the citizens of Nimes. It survived during the Middle Ages by being used as a toll road, which helped support its upkeep. Today it is one of France's most popular tourist attractions. Here are some pictures.

We drove on to Nimes, and after parking we found the main street to be roped off due to a bike race for young kids. Maybe we witnessed a future Tour de France winner in training?

Lunch in the town square consisted of croque monsieurs and beer, naturally

Palace and elephant statue in Nimes

Then we were off to Les Baux de Provence, which is a really, really, really old town (I don't know how else to describe it) that dates from 6000 BC. It is built way up high on top of a rocky outcrop, and was unlike anything we'd seen before. Here is a picture I found online - an aerial view.

Yup, there is an actual town built up there!

What we found funny is that walking around, it felt like you were at a Renaissance festival. Except that you weren't. You were in a really, really, really old town. Built on top of a mountain.

On to the city of Arles, where we checked out the town's coliseum. What's neat is they have restored the ruined parts and made it whole again. Even neater is the town actually still uses the coliseum for concerts and other performances.

The old

And the new

On one part of our trip we found the road closed with a small sign, which you could easily have driven around.

We took a detour high up in the mountains, and realized there had been a huge landslide which had completely covered the road. If you look closely in the picture below, you can see the road behind the collapsed mountain. Glad we weren't on the road at that time!

Everything was just so pretty in that region of France

We enjoyed all of the meals we had while we were there. I love French food, and I really realized how much I missed a lot of aspects of French life. They truly enjoy living, eating, drinking, talking, laughing. There is a reason they have the phrase "joie de vivre", or joy of living. I was happy that John enjoyed France as much as I do. I need him to want to visit again soon, which I'm sure we will!