Atlántico Ocean – Fun at the Beach

On the afternoon of our arrival in Sintra, we set out to explore the village and came upon a small group of people waiting for the tram (an electric trolley) that has been operating since 1904.   We overheard a German tourist and his wife nearby speaking in English. Hearing the English, I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity to get some information about the tram.  He informed us that the trolley was about to depart in 10 minutes and that we could purchase tickets just inside the building around the corner. He cautioned us that the elderly woman inside at the ticket counter spoke no English (or German). So without knowing where this tram was going or anything else about it, we purchased tickets (10 euros) which was the total fare for our whole family and rushed to catch the tram. The tram had a maximum passenger limit of 24 (there were 6 wooden bench seats that could just accommodate 4 adults each). Bernie managed to converse with the German tourists that he ended up sitting next to for most of the trip (in English), who were also on holiday from Hamburg.

After 40 minutes of breathtaking views of castles, palaces, beautiful old mansions and one particularly scary moment when we discovered our tram coming head on with another tram on the same track); we arrived at Praia das Maçãs (Apple Beach).

There were a few hardy souls on the beach as the water turned out to be colder than expected.  Bernie and Grace ventured down to the beach but only got as deep as their ankles. I was content to people watch on the beach and take photographs.

DSCN0521
Praia das Maçãs

Adjacent to the small beach there was a large rock outcropping that had quite a few interesting feats of rock balancing (obviously by fellow tourists or locals). It was hard to resist the impulse to add to the collection of organic stone sculptures so Bernie with the help of Eleanore made his own contribution.

We decided to make the most of the beach day by staying until the last tram departed back to Sintra at 7:00 pm. There was a seaside restaurant that looked interesting so we decided to get some dinner before the last tram ride. It seemed that neither our waiter nor the chef spoke much English. The owner (or chef) led me to a glass case where several fish (whole and intact) were laying on ice. Before I could say anything, he had picked up one of the fish and I interpreted this gesture to mean that he was recommending this for our meal. The fish was served (cooked of course), but also was still more or less intact with the tail and head (and eyes). It was delicious but a bit unnerving as we were not accustomed to having fish served this way! Bernie called this a ‘real shore’ meal.

We knew that the younger girls would be tired and would likely fall asleep on the tram and we still had to walk over half a mile to get back to our rental guesthouse. And fall asleep they did. We managed to wake them up in time and to walk home in the dark with only a little bit of grumbling. The day was done.

We had enjoyed the day thoroughly, so much so, that we came back to the beach the next day and did it all over again (except for the fish dinner).

Hope you enjoyed my blog.

Tiffany

 

 

 

 

CASTLES AND KEEPS

 

Today marks the 2nd full week that we have been abroad and a full 2 months since we left Maui on our journey. Somehow, we have now managed to ‘live’ in four dwellings during our travels so far. Some good, some very good and some not worth writing home about. Our current dwelling is in Sintra, Portugal which is about 15km west of Lisbon proper.  Our favorite taxi driver (Carlos, a proud native of this area) informed us that Sintra was originally the vacation get-away spot for the many royal families that ‘ruled’ Portugal for centuries. We are currently in a large 3-level guest house (our family is occupying the main floor only). The house is comfortable and well built but distinctly musty in many rooms. I have noticed that the builders in Portugal use a lot of marble and granite. For everything it seems…furniture, stairs, guardrails, doors, sidewalks, street lamp posts, park benches, etc., This is just an observation that I have made probably from an ‘engineers perspective’.

This week we have visited two of Lisbon’s very prominent landmarks, geographically and historically. Popular with tourists and locals: The Pena Palace and the Moors Castle. Both of these structures have a very storied history which goes all the way back to the age of kings and queens in the middle ages (10th to 12th century). I won’t bore anyone with any of the history which has been well researched and documented.  I just find the structures fascinating from an ‘engineers perspective’ since I find them to be compelling from a ‘how did they build this’ instead of ‘why did they build this’. The structures seem to almost grow out of the rocks organically which are immense granite boulders.

I inserted and interspersed as much ‘history’ into our recent excursions that I thought our girls could handle. They may not be aware of it but ‘field trip’ days are also homeschool days, of sorts. In keeping with our general expectations so far in our travels there has been a lot of walking and physically it has been challenging for all of us at times.

After the palace excursion while exploring the narrow walkways of Sintra we heard a strange sound as a crowd gathered around. There was a bronze that came to life. Whenever anyone tipped this mime he would pound his spear on the stage and take aim in a manner of thanking the person for their contribution.  Later on the walk home the girls enjoyed making large bubbles with the locals.

I hope that you enjoy the attached photographs from our self-appointed photo-journalists on this trip, Tiffany and the girls.

Onward and upward, until next time.

Bernie

Blog Worthy

 

I really wanted my first blog from abroad to be full of optimism as I am in the early stages of fulfilling a life long aspiration to journey.   I have always wanted to travel and it is happening now on the largest scale imaginable.  Did I mention I am a homebody with a tendency to isolate?DSCN0271

Post crazy last few months of simplifying (a dirty word in our house meaning to throw out), selling, packing and giving away stuff, lots of stuff (in a free pile on the side of the Kula Hwy.)  I would like to report that I am in travel bliss; however, this is not my reality… I keep having emotional ups and downs… super-high highs and tearful lows all while trying to stay really optimistic, centered  and chill for my daughters.DSCN0007 I think of myself as a glass half full type of girl, but the last several days have been rough.  Exhaustion, off food schedules and  the fact that I am constantly packing up our stuff. Did I mention? I loathe packing. Coupled with the fact that I am in shopping withdrawal is super-intense.

As I sit and type this, Grace (my youngest)  turns to me and kisses my arm and tells me how much she loves me.  I think to myself “I am a good mother”. At other moments like seeing the Haleakala Waldorf newsletter I think  “I am definitely scarring them for life”.

Uprooting us and traveling for a school year was a challenging decision.  Am I self-centered and indulgent for not putting this off until they are grown? The truth is we are not doing this so much for our children as with them.  I need this! Will they benefit? I hope so.  Will they be damaged? I pray not.  Most of our friends support our decision to do this, of course they are well-traveled themselves and know the incredible value of experiencing different cultures. It is important to me to have this personal growth while it can still impact my mindset and life.

We have finished our first week of homeschool. Figured out mail chimp and managed to write a couple of posts. Our first airbnb was a dream. Then we spent a night in a little Villa Quinta de Carma in a charming Parish town of Freteiras we spent 4 hours driving  back and forth and across the Island to  find. We booked this place through Agoda and never received a bill from the owner.  We will have to turn on the cell service for the day and contact them to remit payment, as they have yet to email us our bill.

I keep repeating the mantra “the Universe is conspiring in our favor” this seems to help when we finally get up the courage to try the bidet only to have it leak. Or find ourselves in need of changing houses at our second airbnb  after only two nights due to the long distance from everything, lack of wifi and faulty plumbing.

Yesterday I had 40 mins to buy groceries before our scheduled taxi arrived, I became consumed with buying food that would make us feel at home all the ingredients for feta cheese wraps for Scarlet, cinnamon sticks and oatmeal for Grace, and tiny little jars of jam for Eleanore.  In my excitement of loading the basket with vegetables I failed to realize until checkout that you are meant to weigh in advance and print our a barcoded sticker for each item.  As the produce was at the front of the store; therefore at the bottom of my basket and consequently at the end of conveyer belt, in a attempt to conserve plastic bags I hadn’t even bagged them.  As the line grew behind me and the customers became more and more agitated, the only words I could understand were “muito verdura” much vegetable. I apologized and tried to communicate to forget about the vegetables but the cashier was lovely and Insisted “rapido” fast, as  I tried to explain that I was late for the taxi and my family was waiting. My pulse was elevated I was uncomfortable, to say the least, in the end all was well the taxi was held by Bernie and the meter was running and we made it home.  Simple everyday life made slightly more challenging, sometimes it is nice not to catch every word uttered about you in Portuguese.

Tomorrow we move to Sintra, Portugal to an airbnb that costs double what our current place does ($149)…. God, I hope there is an amazing little dress shop just around the corner.

  • New Words in Portuguese:
  • Garfo= Fork
  • Garoto= short coffee with milk
  • Pastilha= Bubble Gum (very difficult to pronounce)
  • Verdura= vegetables
  • Muito= much, a lot
  • Frango= chicken
  • Batata= potato
  • Leite= milk

 

 

 

PONTA DELGADA, PORTUGAL

It took us 45 days and 4 states but we finally managed to complete our mission which was to visit our family and friends on the mainland before departing on our 10 month long international adventure. As fun as it was (especially for our girls), it was definitely not a vacation. I worked a good deal of the time (as I expected) to keep up with my project work load. Fortunately, my ‘job’ allows me to work from practically anywhere in the world. As most of you know, I am a structural engineer and have had my own consulting engineering practice for over 30 years. Not many of my clients (some of which I have worked with for over 25 years) were very surprised that I would undertake an almost year long journey with my family especially after our move to Maui, almost 7 years ago!DSCN0027

I am happy to report that we have now arrived at our first international stop; Ponta Delgada which is in the Azores Islands archipelago (about 950 miles from mainland Portugal). A beautiful, friendly and very affordable island (for travelers anyway, especially those of us that are used to the cost of living on Maui!). There are many small restaurants and cafes in our vicinity.  Although our apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, we have opted to eat most of our meals out to experience the local quisine. We have probably spent on average 30 euro ($35) for a meal for the five of us, including espressos and dessert (which is about half of what we normally spend on a comparable meal on Maui).  We found ourselves ordering too much food usually thinking that the low prices equated to smaller portions, but this was definitely not the case.

The island is home to about 150,000 people and is approximately 1/2 the size of Maui. An interesting mix of old and very modern architecture (which I did not expect to find here). Most of the people that we have had interactions with speak a bit of English. With Tiffany’s fluency in Spanish (not exactly the same as Portuguese…but close) we have not had any communication problems at all.

There was a minor hiccup when we arrived at the Jet Blue counter in Boston to check in for our flight to Ponta Delgada. We had only booked a one-way ticket to Portugal to start our international travel but we were informed that we needed to have either a return ticket (back to the US) or a forward ticket out of Europe. I guess we forget to read the ‘fine print’ when we booked our first one-way ticket to Europe. We quickly made a decision to add Egypt to our itinerary (which we had tentatively planned to visit anyway, but had not picked a specific time to do so.) The ticket ‘out of Europe’ satisfied the agent and we were issued our boarding passes.

Our first Airbnb is a modest compact dwelling near the center of town about 2 blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. (The ‘other’ big ocean). As many of you know that have been to the older parts of Europe, the ‘houses’ are literally next to each other with shared walls and individual street entrances. Our ‘house’ opens directly to a very narrow one-way street (Rua do Poco). The street also has cars parked that are literally 2″ from the buildings. Parallel parking here is quite a feat.

The two level house is very comfortable with an eclectic mix of new and old furniture and decor.  The rent here is $56 per night (including service fees). From this location, our mode of transportation by choice is our feet. It has worked out well so far (albeit with a bit of grumbling from some family members). We have probably walked about 3 miles per day on average so far!

Perhaps it was serendipitous,  but the opening 5th grade story that we read to Scarlet is “Atlantis and Manu” which is a story about Atlantis sinking (disappearing) into the Atlantic Ocean (10,000 years ?) ago. And here we are literally 2 blocks away from the Atlantic Ocean. The 2nd grade opening story that we read to Eleanore is the story of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy. At this point in time, we are not yet sure of our itinerary in Italy.

Today is Monday, September 4, 2017 (8:00 am local time) as I complete this first post abroad. Tiffany will be adding the photos as she has volunteered to our photojournalist for this 10 month excursion.The next post will be shorter (maybe). Here are a some photos for your amusement (girls having fun, mostly).

 

signing off….Bernie