Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dutch National Day

Getting ready to go the Netherlands' Queen's Day reception

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Beer Post!

Let's face it: Beer is important. (Sorry, Eric. You can skip this post.)

As most countries have a national beer or two, so does Portugal. While Portugal produces several, the two most popular are Sagres and Super Bock. So let's compare these two, shall we?

Sagres is your basic light beer. It's simple, it's good, and it should do just fine for any beer drinker.

Super Bock, well, let's just face it - it has an awesome name! But, more importantly, it has a great taste. While similar to Sagres, it is just a bit darker. I definitely prefer it between the two.

However, each beer has some other redeeming qualities. Sagres sells 5 liter mini kegs which you can keep in your fridge, and don't require a special dispenser, unlike some sold in the US. It has its own tap built right in. Here is a picture of John demonstrating how to pour yourself a nice draft beer from your own refrigerator.

On a final note, every movie we've seen in the theater here has a Super Bock ad that comes on before the previews. We really like the ad and the song that goes along with it, which is by a British alt/rock band named "Air Traffic". Watch the minute and a half clip here if you'd like.

So, for anyone who'd like to compare the two and give us your vote, just come visit. We'll even provide the beer!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


And not the one in Ohio. Although, while in Toledo, the medieval capital of the Spanish kingdom of Castille, we did pass Toledo Ohio Street. Apparently they're sister cities. But so are Toledo and Corpus Christi according to Wikipedia. I digress.

Toledo is 20 minutes from Madrid, so during our recent trip, we took the high speed train to Spain's most famous walled city. It's a beautiful place, set on a tall hilltop, overlooking the vast plains of central Spain. It had been the chief city of the Iberian peninsula for millennia, passing from Roman rule to the Visigoths, then to the Moors before finally returning to Spanish rule around a thousand years ago.

We arrived just before noon, so our first order of business after walking the mile or so from the train station up into the city was finding lunch. Our guide book mentioned a place that was popular with blue collar workers on their lunch breaks, so we decided to check it out. We made a good decision because for eight euros each, we got wine, bread, an appetizer, a main entree and a dessert. It was also fun to eat lunch in a place where we were the only tourists and no one spoke English. Luckily, our use of Portanhol (Spanishified Portuguese) was enough to get by.

After lunch, we did a walking tour of the city. It was fun to wind our way through tiny medieval streets. Toledo is known for having Muslim, Jewish and Christian influences, which was evident in the architecture. The old mosque was converted to a church after the Spanish reconquest and the synagogues are nothing more than museums, but it still maintains some of its charm. Toledo was also the home of Miguel Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote. We pose with him here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring in Madrid

We just returned from a 5 day trip to Madrid. The flight was $65 round trip, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity. We did our fair share of sightseeing, but of course, food was the most important part of this trip. A friend joined us for the first few days and fortunately, she had similar priorities.

I had always thought tapas were a little overrated, but I've seen the light. Madrid has the most bars and restaurants per capita of any city in the world, so it was a really nice place to spend a few days. We spent a few evenings in the La Latina neighborhood, which is just filled with tapas bars. We hopped between bars, getting a glass of wine or sangria and a small snack at each place.
Enjoy some of the photo highlights.

After a day of touring Madrid's royal palace, we went to Casa Mingo, a restaurant off the tourist trail that's famous with locals for good cider and great grilled chicken.

Sharing paella and enjoying the sunshine near Plaza Mayor. It was a little touristy, but the food was good and the sunshine was great.

Conspiradores in La Latina now holds a special place in our hearts for its cheap sangria and awesome spicy chorizo.

Madrid's most famous statue is this bear and tree. I don't really get it, but we took the obligatory photos.

Pretty impressive building. Especially when you realize it's just the post office.

Tapas crawl #2 meant more good wine, chorizo and manchego cheese.

We asked this guy to take our picture and afterwards we started chatting. It turns out he lives in Bali, so we reminisced about the best restaurants and places to hang out.

And we ended a night of tapas hopping with churros dipped in chocolate sauce at 1 a.m. Apparently, they do their best business a couple hours later.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Now that you know the port wine essentials, we can tell you a little bit about our trip to Porto. We rode the train since our car was on a boat in the Atlantic, which was the way to do it since the Porto train station is in the middle of the town and you don't have to worry about parking.

Porto is a beautiful city, which is known for its five bridges stretching over the Douro river. It's a very medieval town that never experienced mass renovation during the Enlightenment like some large European cities. As a result the streets are narrow and wind through giant city walls.
It was a great trip. We ate really good food, like francesinha, a specialty of Porto. Since it was Valentine's Day, we also ate at a really cool restaurant down by the water's edge where we had an awesome dish of pork tenderloin and chestnuts.

And of course there was port wine. On the other side of the river from Porto is Villa Nova de Gaia, home to all of the port wine cellars. We toured a few cellars and of course tasted some of the port they had on offer. It was also the weekend of Carnaval, which is much more subdued in Portugal than Brazil. But some of the kids went all out with their costumes since it's like their Halloween.

It was a great trip, and I'm sure we'll go back. During warmer weather, they have boat cruises up the Douro River, which we've heard are really great ways to spend a couple days and see the countryside.
A francesinha, "the little French girl," is a sandwich type dish filled with ham, sausage and beef, then covered with a tomato and beer sauce. It may seem strange, but it's really good.

Our waiter was the Portuguese Robert De Niro! Hillary asked him if he's heard the De Niro comparison and he said he gets it all the time.