Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jakarta friends reunion

I might be a little behind on our blog - but that's only because we've been so busy. In June, we had three different friends that we worked with in Jakarta come visit us in Lisbon. Hunter is now in Helsinki, Finland; Kira is in Islamabad, Pakistan; and Joel is in Washington, DC. (DC doesn't sound quite as exotic as the other two, huh?) I thought it was amazing that the three of them could get their work schedules, vacation time and flights to sync so they could come visit together. They were here for about nine days, and we had so much fun! I think the best part is that while they did a lot of sightseeing and day trips, they still had time to relax and enjoy their vacation - something that's not always easy to do in a European capital. Plus they got to hang out with our group of friends here a few times and that was fun for everyone. The above picture is from the requisite visit to St. George's Castle, overlooking Lisbon. I never get tired of the view from that place!

Here are some more pictures...

Group shot on the castle walls of Obidos. We drove about an hour north of Lisbon to visit this picturesque walled city. We had gone last year for the annual "Chocolate Festival", but this trip was nice because the city wasn't nearly as crowded.

Obidos is home to "ginginja", a cherry liqueur that was first made in the small town. One of the ways it is served is in a chocolate tasting cup, which you eat after you've tasted the liquor - sort of like a chocolate-covered cherry. Our friend Joel thought it was the best thing in the world. John got a nice shot of the drinks being poured into the chocolate cups...

Here we are enjoying a home-cooked meal that Hunter made us

You may remember our post from a year ago here: We were excited for another St. Anthony's festival, and we were hoping that it would live up to last year's. It was nice that our friends were visiting during the festival, especially given the fact that we got a four-day weekend due to the Portuguese holidays surrounding it! During St. Anthony's, everyone pulls tables out into the streets to eat. While some may be the tables from people's kitchens, there are plenty of restaurants which have tables out in the streets as well. We had to wait a bit to nab a table big enough for all of us, but we did succeed!

At one point our group (of about 15 people!) stopped to take a photo. We were supposed to be imitating the mural on the wall behind us - although some people did a better job than others. :)

By far the most crowded area was the street along which runs a funicular called the "Bica Elevador". Thankfully it wasn't running that night, because I can't imagine the funicular would even have been able to move a few inches much less the 245 meters to the top through the crazy crowd of people. Even though it was slow-going, they were selling beers in every other doorway, so no one seemed too worried about moving very fast!

At one point the crowd parted to allow this band to get through - I love that!

The best group shot of the night

Thanks for visiting guys, and come back any time!

Monday, July 4, 2011

To the beach!

Portugal has more than 1,114 miles of coastline. Needless to say, but I'll write it regardless - Portugal has a fair number of beaches. Luckily, some of those beaches are within a 20 minute drive of our apartment. We visited amazing beaches in Southeast Asia, but we have never lived in a city with a strong beach culture. When the weather is warm, Lisbon goes to the beach.

One of our most favorite beaches is not the most accessible. It's about 45 minutes from Lisbon near the westernmost point of continental Europe and down a steep trail that drops more than 500 feet from the "parking lot." But it's beautiful.

Hiking back up

Fortunately, there are beaches that are a lot easier to get to all around Lisbon. We often go to the beaches just up the coast from Lisbon, which are always crowded on the weekend and make for great people watching. We also like the beaches on the other side of the Tagus river, which seem to have never-ending stretches of sand.

The beaches that Portugal is most known for are in Portugal's southernmost region, the Algarve. We've made several trips there already and will be going back at least once more with Hillary's family in a couple weeks.

But one of the best things about the beach is having a cold beer in one of the many restaurants to take a break from the sun.

Beaches have become such a part of our life here that it's hard to imagine not having them nearby. We'll be looking for our next post in the coming months, and I certainly hope there are some options with good beaches.