Getting to Portugal was a bit of a shit-show. Originally we were going to arrive in Lisbon in the morning on Sunday and then renting a car (or taking the train) down to Faro. But unfortunately my dad booked his ticket to arrive at 11pm instead of 11am. So we were forced to spend a night in Lisbon. Not horrible, except my mom and I had a 7am flight and so we were catching a cab at 4am leaving the rest of the day pretty shot with only a few hours of sleep. We arrived to a towering skyscraper of a hotel (we were on the 17th floor) and promptly crashed. Because it was Sunday and most everything is closed Sundays, we pretty much spent the day reading, napping and watching TV. Dad arrived closer to midnight and we were up bright and early to get a rental car. I had suggested multiple times to order a car ahead of time, but no one seemed overly concerned about it. That meant that getting a car was a bit more difficult, but we were on the road just before lunch time. It was a three hour drive south to Faro and eventually to Moncarapacho where my dad’s friend lives (where we were staying). It was a bit of an adventure to find her house. Actually, we didn’t find it. We found close and then she came to meet us and we followed her up the hill to her house. What an amazing place, though a bit out in the middle of nowhere and too isolated for me to live all the time. Great for a get-away though. It was warm, but not too bad when in the shade. We spent one day in Faro, downtown and then to the coast for a walk on the beach and to dip our toes in the water. Portugal is a bit sad in a way. Very poor from what I saw in the south, with many old buildings abandoned and falling apart. Graffiti covers most everything, but with a little imagination, you can imagine the town in all it’s glory. Our second full day in Faro was a Portuguese holiday which meant much of the city was closed down. So we took a little drive across a river and into Spain. It was like night and day compared to Faro. Clean, bright and pretty well maintained. It seemed to be more of a vacation town as there were many properties listed for sale, many were condos near the water and most posts were in English despite everyone we encountered speaking very limited English (unlike Portugal where most people had a pretty good command of the language). Portugal is very high on my list of places to return to. I would love to go and spend some time relaxing and maybe touring a few more historical places in Lisbon. The fresh seafood was delicious and the sangria was on par with my own sangria recipe. The orange juice was to die for (seriously, I don’t even really like orange juice but I drank so much in three days). Oranges grow all over the place and it was so sad to see oranges rotting on the ground in the orchards.
Month: July 2015
“Paris is always a good idea.” – Audrey Hepburn
With my parents off to Frankfurt for a couple days, I wanted to go somewhere on my own. I looked into returning to a couple of previous favorites (Greece, Croatia or Italy) as well as branching out somewhere new (Bulgaria or Albania). But since I was meeting my parents in Portugal, the cost of travel and ease of connecting flights played a big part in my decision. I ended up picking Paris for a couple of reasons. I had been once before nearly 8 years ago and thought it would be a great place to chill for a couple of days. The city center is fairly familiar, so there would be less of a learning curve and as I researched new things to do/experience, I came up with the idea for a cooking class. Best. Choice. Ever.
It was great to get away for a few days and be on my own. So many people wonder about traveling solo and for me there is something so freeing about being on your own in a new place.
Although my time in Paris neared perfection, it wasn’t without a bit of drama. I booked a hotel back in March. It was near the city center, away from any religious buildings (my mom’s request after recent violence) and had an elevator as my mom would be joining me for two nights and with her knee problems, no elevator was a deal breaker.
The Friday before I was to fly to Paris I was double checking the price of the hotel. I tend to book through hotels.com and with the ‘best price guaranteed’ I keep an eye on the price in case the price drops. I searched my hotel and it said that the selected hotel was closed! I had been emailing back and forth with the hotel to confirm my stay and request a bathtub, so I shot off a quick email asking ‘whats up?’ and on Saturday I got an email from hotels.com saying my hotel was closed, please call. It turns out they had re-booked me elsewhere, but it was further away from the center, no elevator, etc. excusez–moi? So I cancelled the replacement hotel and booked one of my choice (for an extra $250* because 3 days before arrival, the pickins were slim).
The new hotel was absolutely perfect though. Across a quiet street from a metro station (with grocery shops, a starbucks, etc), had A/C (because Paris was #$%& hot), super friendly and helpful staff and of course an elevator. I would absolutely stay there again. They had breakfast available for a charge, but hello… you’re in Paris. Why would you have a standard breakfast when just down the street you can pop into a bakery with fresh pastries. Yum! My most favorite part of my stay in Paris was the Market tour/Cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. We met at 9am just out side of the Metro station Place Monge. Just outside is the Place Monge Market, a market open every Wednesday and Saturday. Diane was our chef/instructor and she took us around the market, talked about picking fresh fruit and veg as well as how to tell when fish is fresh and talked about various types of cheeses. Because she frequents the same stalls, they were vary generous, sending us with extra cheese to try, offering a free sample of cherries, etc. She then took us to a bakery where they make fresh bread twice a day. Once we had what we needed we hopped the metro and two stops later we got off and walked a few blocks to the kitchen.
There were ten of us in the class – the perfect size. Everyone had something to do, often pairing with someone else. That way, we weren’t super busy and had the chance to watch what others were doing, but there was no standing around wondering what to do next. We made a fantastic lunch of roast duck breast with roast fennel, red onion and garlic and fingerling potatoes. We made a delicious cream soy sauce gravy to drizzle over top and then sprinkled with crushed pistachios. We made a nectarine and goat cheese salad with a nectarine-lemon dressing with olive oil and chervil. Dessert was creme caramel, moelleux au chocolat (molten chocolate cake) and Tuile au Amandes.Once everything was done, we all sat down for a hearty lunch and a glass of wine. Worth every euro. If you’re headed to Paris, please be sure to check them out. They have a variety of classes to fit any schedule and budget.
One of my other favorite places to visit was the Shakespeare And Company, an old bookstore. To this day, they offer a free place for writers to stay in exchange for a few hours work in the bookstore (all English books). There is a resident cat named Kitty and can often be found curled up on a chair in the reading room. The original book store was opened in 1919 and was a popular hangout for famous writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway. The store closed in 1940 during the German occupation. The current store was opened in 1951 in a new location and named after the original. Such a joy to explore.
Another fascinating stop was Victor Hugo’s house. If you know me, you know I absolutely adore Les Miserables, so getting to tour his amazing home was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, there was some sort of school field trip or something and it was packed with middle school/high school age kids who didn’t want to be there. It was loud and obnoxious and I was already hot,sweaty and cranky from however many miles in the hot sun (I was doing between 8-10 miles a day).
My mom arrived midday Friday and we made good use of the day and a half she had in Paris. I hauled her up and down all the stairs of the Paris metro, hopping all over town to see the Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Louvre (pretty much just the Mona Lisa), the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe – any and all of the major attractions. We lucked out in that her crutches mean we were able to skip many of the lines (honestly, we saved so much time this way). We were both exhausted already from such a busy trip, but Paris just added to the exhaustion. The heat didn’t help and I feel like we hopped between cafe and tourist site and back to a cafe for a drink and to rest our feet.
But overall, Paris was lovely. I would love to return and be able to relax. While the summer crowds hadn’t truly arrived yet, it was busy as the weather warmed up.
*I contacted hotels.com to complain about what happened and they sent me a $250 credit to use on the site, so we’re headed to the Oregon coast in September for some beach time.
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
I’ve been home for a month and meaning to post, but it seems like writing about my trip really means it’s over. I’m long past any jet-lag and real life has resumed and has almost settled into routine again (granted syncing summer schedules is a bit crazy, so I can’t say I’ve had a ‘normal’ work week yet).
It had been a relatively long time since I was in Denmark. And even longer since my parents and I were in Denmark together. I was last there the end of 2011 and I believe it was 2007 that my parents were last there. Three and a half years for me is the longest I’ve been away in my teenage/adult life. And boy, did I miss it. Some people talk about places, the sights and sounds and the atmosphere, something that can never be recreated. And it’s rare that you truly understand what they mean. For most, home is a house or apartment, but for me, I feel so at home in the city. The familiar old streets, cozy cafes and bars humming with a familiar throaty language and clinking beer bottles. Denmark is consistently ranked as the happiest country in the world – there is no explaining, you can only experience it.
I think I was some what surprised at how much I missed it. I miss my friends, I miss my family and I miss the everyday life things. I miss Danish grocery stores and the things you can’t get here. I miss flopping onto my sofa and watching Danish shows or even the news (while not perfect, watching news about the US from outside of the country is such an eye opener. FYI America, you’re starting to look like a whiny little bitch
all most of the time). I get that I would feel the same way about Seattle if I lived in Copenhagen all the time. But I miss the years where I came home for Christmas and summer and spent the rest of the time in Denmark. But now that I’ve been in the US, I miss Denmark dearly. If only I could pack up my soccer team and bring them with me – though playing the way they have lately, they’d be relegated to a neighborhood rec team in no time.
I think what made it so hard to leave this time, was the fact that we really only had two weeks in Denmark. When I was younger, we went for longer and mostly stayed in Denmark. This time I had five days in Paris and another four in Portugal (I’ll make a separate post about those). We arrived on May 24th, left on June 2nd and were back in Denmark from the 11th-16th. Both of those days were shortened by travel. We had 12 full days.
It was near impossible to see everyone, do everything I wanted. That said, I was busy and made damn sure I was able to do as much as possible. One place that I had to visit was the Roskilde Domkirkle. I was a frequent visitor when I lived in Roskilde, the history oozing from every brick and stone in this cathedral just fascinates me. Completed in 1275, the royalty that has graced this place, both in life and in death and the regular villagers who built the town surrounding this mammoth cathedral, you can feel them all.
My favorite chapel has always been King Christian the 4th, also known as ‘The fat King’ in this family (1577-1648). Seeing that they were running out of space in the cathedral, he had his own chapel built, starting in 1613 and it was finished in 1641. He has built so much of what Copenhagen is today: The Round tower, Børsen, Kastellet, Rosenborg, Holmen Kirke, etc. And he founded the Danish East India Company, inspired by the similar Dutch company (though it was dissolved a few years after his death. I image him to be a loud, lively person. He probably wasn’t the most friendly, and killed many during the persecution of witches (one woman because she couldn’t get 15 character witnesses – yikes), but he had grand ideas and followed through with them. If I could go back in time, he would probably be the person I would choose to visit. I probably would have visited a second time before flying home, but time was limited and I didn’t make it back to Roskilde.
I had a fantastic time visiting with friends and family. It’s great to be able to meet up with people you haven’t seen in three years and fall right back into the friendship as though it’s only been a few months. I was able to meet Maria twice, once for dinner and once for brunch. I was also able to catch up with the boys for dinner and a beer at the Tap House (some place I’ve never been before). It was great to see Dorte as well, someone I’ve been friends with since Kalø (over 10 years ago). I had hoped to meet with a few others from Kalø, but time and distance were the biggest hurdles.
We celebrated my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. As most of you know, Danes do parties right. The festivities began with an arch going up over the doorway. The front window was blacked out with trash bags (so they couldn’t see it) and then everyone (friends, family and neighbors) returned the following morning to sing (complete with live music) first thing in the morning. Everyone is then invited in for breakfast, coffee and a bit more singing. Later that evening was a formal sit-down dinner, complete with songs, speeches and a beautiful cake made by my cousin (I helped and roughly three of the flowers on the cake were made by me).
It was slow going to unpack. As excited as I was to get my purchases unpack, it’s always a bit of a downer to pack the suitcases away.
Until next time…