Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maxim Portugal Launch Party

At the end of January, we heard that Maxim magazine was launching in Portugal and that there would be a big party to celebrate the event. We decided that this was the type of party we needed to attend, so I worked my magic and got a group of us on the guest list.

Although our intern was able to work on important subjects of U.S. foreign policy, this party was probably the highlight of his time in Portugal.

Everyone else had a good time as well.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Visit to the Azores

Nine hundred miles west of Lisbon in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is an archipelago of nine volcanic islands called the Azores. Although no one knows for sure when the islands were discovered, the Portuguese mark their official discovery in 1431 by Gonçalo Velho Cabral, a captain who sailed for Portugal's godfather of discoveries, Henry the Navigator. The Portuguese began to colonize the previously uninhabited islands in the ensuing decades. 

The Azores have a rich agricultural tradition thanks to fertile black volcanic soil. The region is home to large dairy operations that supply milk to Portugal and further in Europe. The islands also held geopolitical significance beginning in World War II when neutral Portugal allowed British and American forces to build an airstrip on one island and use the region as a base for controlling the North Atlantic. A U.S. Air Force Wing remains on Terceira Island and the U.S. government operates its oldest continuously open consulate on São Miguel Island. The Azores were also home to a large portion of Portuguese immigrants to the United States, especially those who settled in the northeast to work in the whaling and fishing industry.

I traveled to São Miguel three times during my time in Portugal, and Hillary went with me for a four-day trip in January 2012. While I was busy working, Hillary explored the island. One of the island's most famous sites is Lagoa das Sete Cidades, seen at the top of this post. The lake, which lies in a dormant volcanic crater, is actually two lakes, which are ecologically different and have different colors.

The church of Sete Cidades

Because São Miguel's industry is dominated by the dairy industry, there are cows everywhere. 

Downtown Ponta Delgada, capital of the Azores.

Hillary and I stayed the weekend so we were able to explore together and visit a thermal hot spring in the Terra Nostra Park in the center of the island. In addition to a large pool, the park was a great place to explore to see the island's sub-tropical plants along paths that friends said reminded them of Jurassic Park.

The best experience of our trip and among the most unique we have ever had was swimming in the ocean at Ponta Ferraria. Recall that the Azores are in the North Atlantic and we visited in January, so the outside temperature was only in the 60s and the ocean water was about the same. However, there is a small area on the western side of the island where thermal steam flows into the ocean. During low tide, the steam heats the water to where it feels more like a hot tub. Swimming in a warm ocean in the middle of winter was a one of a kind experience.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


To celebrate the end of 2011, Hillary and I took a trip to Barcelona with a couple friends. We had both visited Barcelona during our backpacking trips in the summer of 2000, but it was time to see it again. It's a great city and we really had a good time. Here are some photo highlights.

Giant macaroni art 

 Doubt you're supposed to get in it - these girls must have no respect for "art"

 Casa Batlló

 Park Güell

 La Sagrada Familia

 Park Güell

 Nothing like a game of pass the pigs before going out for New Year's Eve

Getting ready to hit the town

 Great Catalan dinner to end the year

Spanish tradition says you have to eat 12 grapes at midnight - one per second. Hillary upped the ante to catch a dozen tossed to her

Headed out to a club after dinner - thanks, creeper, for joining our photo

Another night out on the town

There might have been alcohol involved in the breaking of this glass

We still don't know why there was a recliner next to the urinal, but a photo seemed like a good idea at that point in the night