I can't believe we haven't posted ANYTHING here in months. Sorry about that! Aaron's work schedule has been absolutely nuts - which means pictures don't get edited as quickly anymore. That said, we definitely have a lot to share with you guys :) Portugal, San Antonio, Seattle and more! We *should* have more posts being published soon!
It's been quite a while since we've gotten back from Portugal. I have to say, Portugal, for being such a small country, is packed full of charm and oozes authenticity from every corner. In short, I fell hard for Portugal. The food, the people, the wine, the port, the countryside, the food (oh wait, I already mentioned that) - all were out of this world! When I was planning this trip, I wanted to try to see as much of this little country as we could in the week we were there, certain that we would likely never go back. But after our time there, my mind has been changed, just like when I finally realized why so many people love Italy. I can say with almost certainty, we will probably be back there at some point. Perhaps on our next delegation, we will have the opportunity to go there for a week, rent a house in the country side, and just relax. Hey, I can dream!
Our itinerary ended up being far more aggressive than I thought. We didn't land in Lisbon until 2:30 in the afternoon, and didn't get to our hotel until close to 6:00, which meant we were exhausted. And in desperate need of showers! We spent the night in Fatima where we attended mass the next day, checked out some caves nearby, and then headed north to Porto.
I thought we would have the equivalent of two days in Porto, but we didn't. Nonetheless, we got to see some amazing sights on the walking tour we did, and we got to visit a couple of the Port wine caves to sample some of the fortified wine. In short, I wasn't sure I'd like port (I had heard it was sweet and I don't care much for sweet wines), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did I like the stuff, I found some varieties that I loved! In general though, the wine from all over Portugal is amazing and is a fantastic value. I don't think we paid over 15 euro for a bottle in a restaurant, or 7 in a store, and every single one we had far exceeded our expectations.
From Porto, we headed to Lagos in the south. We took the long, scenic way, almost reaching the Spanish border, but being able to enjoy the feeling of being in the middle of no where for a bit. A drive that takes about 5.5 hours on the high way ended up taking us close to 8, but I'm glad we did it.
And Lagos, oh Lagos! I had seen pictures of the Algarve coast, but I clearly underestimated it's beauty! Pictures cannot do this place justice. The rugged coastline, worn from years of being battered by the sea, was striped with color. We visited a beach there to enjoy the coastline from land, but to appreciate the true beauty, we took to the water. Our hour cruise along the coast line led us past some amazingly rugged, beautiful and harsh coastlines and into little alcoves. Had the weather been warmer, I would have tried to do a kayaking tour. We also learned that the Algarve coast has some amazing scuba diving. We longingly stared as a boat loaded with divers and tanks headed out from the same marina. If it's as beautiful as it was above water, I can only imagine what the underwater world there looks like and I, for one, would love to go back to actually see it!
From Lagos, we returned to Lisbon for a few nights. We took in some Fado, visited Pena Palace (which is even more colorful and beautiful, even on a cloudy day, than I expected), and enjoyed custard tarts for which Lisbon is famous. Not to make you jealous or anything, but these things were OMG good.
So in reflection, we loved Portugal. We ate lots of delicious food, drank amazing wine, saw some stunning sights, and even fit in a little relaxing. We were so not ready for our flights home and I can't wait until the day we can return there. I feel like we only barely scratched the surface of what Portugal has to offer and, from that small taste, know I want more.