April 2017
  • Day0


    December 20, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 36 °F

    Getting ready for our trip to Portugal in April of 2017. Have not used FindPenguins before as a blog tool. Looks good so far although a bit puzzled about a few features but think I can work that out. We'l be doing an AirBnB in Lisbon for about 4 days, then renting a car and heading down to Lagos on the southern coast for a few nights, then head back up through Evora and Coimbra in the middle of the country before landing in Porto at another AirBnB for 3 or 4 nights and then back down through Fatima on our way to Lisbon and a flight home. Feel free to travel along.Read more

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  • Day0


    January 10, 2017 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 59 °F

    This is our destination for our trip in April or at least the first few days of it. Looking forward to some of these destinations. In the meantime listening to some Fado music by Mariza - Listen to Mundo by Mariza on @AppleMusic.
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  • Day0

    Crunch Time!

    April 16, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 66 °F

    One more Day of Work , then blasting off to Lisbon, courtesy of Lufthansa - CLT-MUC-LIS. Going over packing lists, the usual. Always good to have a list. Going to make do with 2 carry-ons and that's it. Janet just weighed hers - 18 .2 lbs - Lufthansa allows 18 lbs (8kg). Haven't tried mine. That's just for the bag you throw in the overhead. I carry all my heavy electronic stuff in a small backpack. Has worked this way in the past - hope it continues to work this way.j

    So I've called in to inform my credit card companies that I will be traveling overseas and I was surprised to see that my Costco Citibank has a 3% foreign exchange fee as does my Chase Freedom card. That doesn't really matter as I will primarily use my AAA Visa card which has no transaction fee and gives me 3% off on travel via rewards points Contact me if you want one of those!! My plug for the day!!

    Now bring on the grilled sardines and world famous custard tarts! How's that for a combo?
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  • Day1

    ... in Charlotte

    April 18, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 68 °F

    Left home around 2:30. Smooth sailing to Charlotte at this time of day. Thanks to Waze for helping me dodge all the hidden cops! Found a spot in Long Term Parking right next to the pickup point. Bus came along in 1 minute and two minutes later we were at the terminal. Breezed through TSA in 10 minutes and made it to the gate 2 hrs before departure. Good way to start. Was quicker because we just have Carry-ons.

    Don't think our cats were very thrilled about this. They have all this stuff figured out.
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  • Day2

    Munich airport

    April 19, 2017 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 36 °F

    Very nice flight on Lufthansa. Landed about 10:15. Next flight out about 11:30. Lufthansa always seems to do it right. Food is decent. Free wine,beer,Bailey's. Watched "Fences" with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Boy, can those two act. Getting close to being up 24 hours and we still have 3 hrs to Lisbon! Pretty cool here in Munich this morning! Supposed to be in mid 70's in Lisbon though which sounds good to me!Read more

  • Day2

    Lisbon - Arrival Day

    April 19, 2017 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 64 °F

    Finally arrived. Flight was about 30 minutes late, but all was good. Very smooth flight but man did we come in hot on that runway! I thought the plane was going to shake apart when he slammed those brakes. Temps were mid 70's and quite the contrast from Munich a few hours before. Headed for the exit and found a tourism office - bought some tickets on the AeroBus for 3.60 Euros each which took us downtown and dropped us 3 minutes away from our AirBnb. Hiked up a hill to the address (thank you Google maps!) and faced an apt building with about 7 different buzzer buttons. Of course I didn't know the right one! So after some digging through various apps,emails,etc I stumbled across it! She buzzed us in and we came in on the ground floor looking for 1D. No signs -so we climbed a flight of stairs to the next landing to face 3 doors, none of which had numbers. So we discussed that for a moment (or is cussed the right word?) when she must have heard us and opened the door.

    Lovely young girl who was very pleasant. She got a map out and showed us some things around the city and pointed out a few good restaurants she knew of, so tonite we are headed there! Will post some photos later. Hope we stay awake!

    So as you can see we made it to Quermesse - http://quermesse-restaurante.com/en/. Casual place - I had made a reservation on line so when I came , I was greeted by a "Welcome Mr. Mark" and a smile - (probably not that many idiot foreigners reserve over the web! :). Casual place - maybe 8 tables or so - filled up quickly. Had a nice waitress who spoke excellent English - helpful! This was like a block from where we are staying so that made it even better. Afterwards took a walk around town - went over to the train station and bumped into people dancing at 10pm! See video. Finally back at apt and crashing.
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  • Day4

    LIsbon - day 2

    April 21, 2017 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 63 °F

    Ok, we have decided to do a walking tour with Chill - Out walking tours (free) which start at 10:00am. We stagger out of bed and head towards the square where it begins. As we arrive at the square, we notice a bakery, so we duck in and grab two coffees (espressos) and two egg/sausage sandwiches on croissants and one of the famous Lisbon custard tarts. Dang, that was tasty.

    Ok, we join the Chill-Out folks and meet Nuno who is our tour guide. Awesome fellow - he precedes to take. Us on a 4 hour walking tour of all the old neighborhoods of Lisbon. Knows everything - his English is better than ours. First rate experience! Did you know that the earthquake that leveled Lisbon in 1755 was 8x greater than the one that hit Japan recently? Over 9 on the Richter scale. Many Lisboans fled to the large squares near the river, only to be drowned by a Tsunami. The largest earthquake to ever hit Europe.

    After the tour, we wander down the hill and stop in a restaurant that is offering a lunchtime special. Ok, but not excited about it. Think we bought into the tourist trap scene. Heading further down the hill into Alfama, we decide to catch the 28 Tram which covers much of Lisbon. Just getting on is an adventure - every tourist wants to ride this - as well as some locals. So we had to wait till a 2nd and 3rd tram comes along before we can squeeze on. Now we careen off through the old boroughs of Lisbon on this herky jerky machine till we finally come close to a church where we get off and stop briefly in a market to grab some apples (major dehydration - 8o degrees out - too much wine, etc). After checking out the church, we look at Google Maps and notice a restaurant that we had saved back when we were in Winston - decided that we could walk there. So after a few more hills, we arrive at this little restaurant where they're grilling fish and steaks.. About the time we're entering, a Canadian couple is entering just ahead of us - they sit down and then see us and I guess they figured we looked friendly and the lady asked if they could sit with us. Of course we said yes1. Ordered up some more Green wine (young wine with bubbles) from the north of Portugal and ordered grilled Sea Bass and grilled Perch and had some bread,butter and olives. Delicious - had some sort of pudding for dessert - also very tasty. Our friends left to get some money for a tip (no credit cards here) but as we were leaving, they showed back up with a bottle of wine in hand and asked us to come join them down the block at their AirBnb. We cracked open a Bottle of Lisbon Red and hashed over politics and health care, then exchanged email addresses and Janet and I headed back through twisty streets with the help of Google maps on my phone to arrive back at the apt at 12:04 a.m. Finishing this at 12:24. Do you know how hard this is to do after two bottles of wine? Holy Mackerel ! (Hmmm - that might taste good grilled too!)
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  • Day4

    A Day in Sintra

    April 21, 2017 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 66 °F

    Update coming soon :).

    Got a bit of a late start after last night but made it down to the train station and using our preloaded Viagem zap tickets, we hopped the 9:41 train ro Sintra. Mostly boring landscape on the 30 minute ride. Once off the train, we bought 5,50€ r/t tickets to take a loop around to the major attractions. Decided to start at Pena Palace at the top which is the major attraction. Spent over 5 hours exploring. Very cool Palace and the grounds are even more amazing. http://www.sintra-portugal.com/Attractions/palacio-pena-palace-sintra.htmlRead more

  • Day5

    Day 4 in Lisbon

    April 22, 2017 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 70 °F

    So, each day gets tougher to get out of bed, but by God we did it! Hiked up a few small hills to a Farmer's Market, where we bought some bread and cheese and then ate at a small restaurant in this pretty little park next to the market. Afterwards, we headed out for a 10 minute walk to a metro stop, where we jumped the metro for two stops to a train station where we were going to catch a bus to the Tile Museum (Tiles are definitely a big time Portgugese thing). After waiting around for a bit, it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps we were on the wrong side of the station! Sure enough, whipping out Google Maps and studying that little arrow which shows which direction.the Tile Museum lies revealed our error! So we went to the other side and after about a 20 minute wait , the bus showed up and we jumped on it for the mile ride to the museum.

    Got off, explored - = actually petty good! Had some ham and cheese sandwiches and then the plan was to head towards Belem where the Jerónimos Monastery
    https://goo.gl/maps/6fc5g56vcYS2 lies along with those world famous custard pastries (ok, so you haven't heard of them, but you should - scrumptious - we had already had a few, but these were warm and served with powdered sugar and cinammon! But I digress! First of all we decided we didn't want to wait for an hour for a bus to come by, so I whipped out my Uber app, requested a driver and within 2 minutes he pulled up. 10 minutes later we were at our destination. Great guy - nice Mercedes. We then jumped on the 15E tram using our Zap cards which we had just refilled (refillable Metro cards). Note - zap cards can't be refilled in the Metro in Lisbon with Visa cards - won't take them. We kept using cards and wondering what the hell was going wrong - well, had it confirmed later by a shop clerk.

    Waited on the tram for Belem - the sign said it would show up in 25 minutes - everybody is standing in the sun. It gets down to 4 minutes and then suddenly it jumps back up to 23 minutes. People were getting a bit crazy by then. It finally shows up and we pack on like little sardines (a Portuguese thing) . Totally smashed for the 30 minute ride. Fiinally make it to the monastery - impressive! Sprawls over about 3 blocks. Interior is amazing as is the church. Definitely a must see in Lisbon. Headed over afterwards to see the monument "Age of Discoveries" (built in 1960) on the water dedicated to Vasco de Gama and his explorers - Awesome memorial - starting to wear out, backtrack to the pastry shop we had heard so much about - world famous custard tarts - oh boy , were they good - warm - slightly crunchy crust - dang - consumed 4 between us and took 6 to go. (for a video by Rick Steves on Portugal and how these are made , see this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYh4SiuFvsc Back to the tram, we caught one of the old fashioned ones - again packed - nice thing about this one was that it didn't stop at any of the 14 stops on the way back to Lisbon - too full. So we got back fairly quickly. Spent a 1/2 hour in a Lisbon souvenir shop, then took a 10 minute stroll north towards our apt with a sidetrack to a Rick Steves recommended little hole in the wall where I had a Bifana sandwich (marinated pork - another Portuguese speciality) and Janet had Monkfish stew with rice. Oh , did I say I had a half bottle of Portugal red wine? Do you know how hard it is to type this at 10:45 after a half bottle?

    So tomorrow - we're heading to the airport on the metro bright and early where we are going to pick up our little ECAR to head south to the southern coast of Portugal and 2 nights in Lagos. Should be interesting adventure.!
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  • Day6

    Traveling the western coast of Portugal

    April 23, 2017 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 68 °F

    Got up early and left the apt in Lisbon around 7:45 to catch the metro to the airport. Not many people out on a Sunday morning. Smooth sailing on the metro. Arrived airport aroun 8:55. Got the rental picked up- had a good sandwich at the airport. Took a few minutes to figure out Bluetooth on the car (in Portuguese). Left the airport trying to use GPS. Always hate leaving new airports - GPS was lagging a bit and confusing us. Finally got out of there and hit the road. We had Zips set for no toll roads but again, the lag made us miss an exit and then suddenly we were at toll booth trying to read Portuguese. No attendant. Finally threw some money at it and the gate lifted. Then we finally noticed the e-toll transponder at the top of the windshield and realized we were supppsed to be in a different lane for it to pop up. Crazy.

    Once on the back roads we were all good.

    As we drove south along country roads, we passed through miles and miles of cork forests. (http://portuguese-american-journal.com/portugal-names-sobreiro-its-national-tree/). You could see where the bottom half of the trees had been stripped. Also passed through some areas of olive trees.

    In Vila Nova de Milfontes , we ended up by chance (thanks to Yelp), eating at a great seafood restaurant on the beach. Wonderful grilled sea bass, potatoes,salad, wine (too much wine) . I'm telling you Google Maps , Yelp, and Trip Adviser are good friends to have on the road. And it's nice to have an always available Internet connection, although that does set me back $10/day, but I have a lot of data with Verizon and that $10 is using my home data allowance, so I can use it without worrying about it.

    Anyway, back in the car, we continue southward - at one point climbing into the hill town of Alijezur which has these homes perched on the side of a hill with incredibly narrow streets and 90 degree turns - once up there and in the middle of it, we wondered if we were ever going to get out!

    After departing Alijezur, we headed for Lagos and landed there about 7pm. Nice property with beautiful landscaping and very nice check-in person who went out of his way to make us welcome and give us some good tips. After that - we chilled.
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