Monday, July 14, 2014

Very Cool Valencia - Spain

Our cruise on the Mediterranean in November had been going for over a week at this point. Believe it or not, living on a cruise boat can start to take on a tiny bit of monotony. Sleep in, buffet, lounge by the pool, buffet, take a nap, buffet, read a book, buffet, chat with friends, buffet, lounge by pool again, buffet. The days at sea are relaxing, but once the novelty of sitting around wears off, it borders on boring. At this point we had spent almost a whole month of 2013 on a cruise boat. I can hear what you are saying. "Po-or Kelly! She has cruised around Europe so much it has become boring!" I know, I know. I hate me a little bit too right now. 

On to Valencia!

We left the choppy seas of the open Atlantic behind us and sailed into the calmer waters of the Mediterranean with Spain's east coast in our sights.

Valencia cathedral

One of our first stops in almost every new city is the large, medieval cathedral that dominates most European city-centers. Valencia's cathedral is dated to 1270 AD. I don't know how old the McDonald's is that shares this square with the centuries old cathedral. And for our group the McDonald's was more inspiring than the cathedral. They had WIFI after all. (Cut us some slack. We've seen a lot, I mean a lot of cathedrals.)

Valencia Spain Cathedral

It seems like almost every old, cool thing we want to see in Europe is in some state of repair. I guess when things have been around for 800 years they need a little upkeep.

Valencia Spain paella

Valencia is the home of paella. That wonderful dish of spicy rice, vegetables, and sometimes meat. So of course we had to have some.

Valencia Spain

This tower looks misplaced among these modern looking apartment buildings. But this tower was likely here for hundreds of years before the apartments.

Valencia Spain

Valencia Spain

While we were here I wanted to get some pictures of orange trees. After all, isn't that what Valencia is famous for? Its oranges? Turns out the oranges that are so yummy, valencia oranges, aren't from Valencia at all. They are from California. They are just named after this town in Spain because oranges grow here. Bummer. So enjoy this picture of some non-valencia oranges in Valencia.

Valencia Spain

Valencia Spain

After some paella and non-valencia orange trees, we walked around Valencia enjoying the unique Spanish architecture.

Valencia Spain

Valencia Spain

Valencia Spain

Here is another side of the cathedral. If my describing Valencia seems a little ho-hum, that's because I felt a little ho-hum about Valencia. Don't get me wrong, it was beautiful! But it was our third stop in Spain and Valencia just didn't seem to jump out at me the way Seville, Cadiz, and Barcelona did. Maybe it was just that it was overcast that day. I should go back on a sunny day and see if it really grabs me.

Valencia Spain

We sat by this fountain and had ice cream. It was pretty good. As I sit now thinking back about our day in Valencia, I realize it was a fairly relaxing day. No rushing, no driving, no feeling like we missed something. So actually, a pretty cool day. Scratch that. Very cool.

Valencia Spain

We completed our circuit of Valencia and took one more chance to pose with flowers, palm trees, and oranges. What I've come to decided is that even a mildly boring day in Spain is still pretty darn good compared to any regular day. 

Up next - Rome, Italy!

Want to read about our day before in Portugal? Click HERE for part 1 and HERE for part 2.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Coast Of Portugal

We had just finished up the day in Sintra, Portugal and it was time to head back to the cruise boat. We gave ourselves a little extra time in case we saw some things we wanted to stop and see on the way. It's a good thing we gave ourselves all that time because we saw a lot of cool things. Here are some of them.

Sintra Portugal

Here is where mainland Europe reaches its furthest point out in the sea and the cold Atlantic battles the cliffs of Portugal.

Sintra Portugal

Remains of an old fort built to defend Portugal slowly crumble into the ocean.

Sintra Portugal

It's easy to see why some people call this place "where the land ends and the sea begins." It is the perfect mix of rocks, beach, and waves.

Hell's Mouth Portugal

On our way back to Lisbon, we passed through Cascais, a small little sea-side town. Here in the cliffs along the beach is a cavern called Boca do Inferno, Hell's Mouth. So called because the waves beat here so hard that if you were caught down in this cave, I guess it would be like being in hell. Maybe?

Cascais Portugal

The quaint hamlet of Cascais, Portugal. Lighthouse, cliffs, ocean, sky. What more do you need?

Mrs. Albania's husband and Mr. Point looking up at us.

I have always thought the ocean was the perfect backdrop for a picture. Smile Matt!

Portugal fortress

After leaving Cascais, we drove along the coast back to Lisbon where we passed this Portuguese fortress where people were body surfing in the waves breaking on shore.

Christ the King Lisbon Portugal

We traveled back to the port in Lisbon. By the time we arrived, the sun had begun to set, treating us to this beautiful display of color. A spectacular canvas for the Cristo Rei (Christ the King) statue to look down over all of Lisbon.

Lisbon Portugal

We embarked on the ship and went to the back decks to get one last glimpse of Portugal. We were speechless as we silently slipped back into the Atlantic, watching the evening sky awash in flame like brushes of color.

As beautiful as that sunset was, it was not my favorite moment in Portugal. 

I think this one was. Sitting on a rocky coast in the sun, ocean wind whipping our hair, smiling into the camera, surrounded by my favorite people in the world. 

Up next, Valencia, Spain!

Want to read about the first part of our day in Portugal? Click HERE!

Perfect Portugal

Our Mediterranean cruise of 2013 continues. We sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the open waters of the Atlantic. Lisbon, Portugal was our next stop.

We were really excited for Portugal. We had hired a driver (we were praying he would be at the port, unlike our driver in Casablanca, Morocco) to take us around Lisbon and then over the small village of Sintra, Portugal. Rick Steves (you know, of the European travel series Rick Steves) said that unless you've seen Sintra, you haven't really seen Portugal. 

As we are not ones to argue with Rick Steves, we made it a point to get over and see Sintra for ourselves. 

Church of Santa Engracia Portugal

First we walked around Lisbon looking for an ATM. Seriously, when we travel we are always looking for one of three things. ATMs, a drink for a thirsty child, or bathrooms. Sometimes looking for things isn't too bad because you come across things like this, the Church of Santa Engrácia. It was built in the 1500's and is the final resting place for important Portuguese people.

Church of Santa Engracia Portugal

It also seems that is a place where you can be weird.

Eduardo VII Park Lisbon

Our driver took us to the top of the Eduardo VII park in downtown Lisbon, which offered great views of the city and the bay. Here is an interesting tidbit - Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe. It predates Paris and London by hundreds of years.

Eduardo VII Park Lisbon

It took me practically forever to get a shot of these buildings in the park. People kept walking through blocking my shot.

After spending a little time in Lisbon, we were ready to head over to Sintra. Oh, and by we I really mean me, Matt, my four kids, Mr. and Mrs. Point and their four kids, my brother, his wife and child Mr. Sun, Mrs. Albania and her husband Mr. Mrs. Albania and their daughter. It ain't easy traveling around Europe with such a big group.

Sintra Portugal

This shot here is why we went to Sintra.

Sintra Portugal

And this view here. This is why went to Sintra.

Sintra Portugal

And this here. Everywhere we turned places in Sintra were crying out, "Look at me! Look at me!" So we did. It was pretty wonderful.

Sintra Portugal

We a found a funky little restaurant in one of the alleys on Sintra. It was built right into the hill and the inside was modeled to look like a cave. A cave complete with a flat screen TV on the wall. That's my kind of cave.

Sintra Portugal

Sintra Portugal

Sintra is the kind of town where you can just walk around for hours and hours, taking in the different buildings and vistas.

Sintra Portugal

As we walked around Sintra, Portugal, Mr. Point found out one very important fact about the Portuguese. They do not appreciate being spoken to in Spanish. Yes, Spanish and Portuguese are similar, much like Spanish and French are similar. BUT! They are separate languages and they don't like people thinking Portuguese and Spanish are interchangeable. Just a little something we found out.

Sintra Portugal

It was late November when we were in Portugal. Perfect time for leaves changing and cooler weather.

Sintra Portugal

Sintra is the perfect town to get a taste of a simple Portuguese life. It is close to the sea and filled with kind and friendly people.

It is also filled with really good chocolate ice cream, as Mrs. Albania's daughter found out.

When we found out our cruise itinerary included Portugal, we were glad that we could finally cross it off of "our list." But now after spending the day in this fabulously gorgeous corner of the world, all we can think about is when we can go back. 

Up next - more Portugal!

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