Laurie Reynolds

Joined May 2017
  • Day13

    Hanging out in Lisbon

    3 hours ago in Portugal

    For these two weeks, I am teaching Monday through Thursday from 10 - 12:45. The routine is familiar -- sleep in the Marriott across the street from the University, spend the morning at school. Afternoons are for using the Marriott's recently upgraded fitness center (hooray for new LifeFitness machines!!!), seeing friends and students back at school and generally just hanging out. Dinner is either at a favorite place nearby or a short metro ride away, like last night's return to Pizzeria Lucca on the river. At some point even deliciouslly grilled deliciously fresh fish gets tiring.

    When my class ends today, though, we will change into tourist mode once again. For the next few days, we will head to Spain, to the city of Trujillo, well located in Extremadura (the region southwest of Madrid and north of Sevilla/Andalucía). I have walked through many of these cities, but am looking forward to seeing Mérida and its Roman ruins, Cáceres and its beautiful Renaissance historic core, untouched and well-preserved, and maybe Guadalupe or Yuste, two places with history aplenty. It's about 4 hours drive from Lisbon to Trujillo, home of the conquistador Pizarro, where I snagged a very good rate in the Parador. This place was built in the 16th century as a convent, and today is a nice hotel.
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  • Day9

    Probably the same people who have heard of the beautiful places we went yesterday. But we never had.

    So, as we were checking out of our hotel this morning, I asked the woman at the desk for driving directions to take us to a little Algarve beach we remembered as being pretty, planning to stop for an hour or so on the way up to Lisbon. She threw up her hands and said, oh there are much prettier places on the way up to Lisbon if you stay off the superhighway and go along the western coast. Having seen a bit of that yesterday, we quickly agreed.

    First stop, the beach at Arrifana, with a vast expanse of sand, rocks all around, and views views views. Lots of walking and oohing and ahhhing. On our way to Odeicexe, we saw a castle poking up on the top of the little town of Aljezur, and decided a quick walk up would be good cardio. Not the most amazing castle I've ever seen, but it is always so interesting to learn that though the castle itself was built by the moors in the 11th century, there were many layers of earlier victors below.

    But the beach at Odeicexe, oh my goodness. We spent a couple of hours there, walking and eating our picnic lunch, and then the reality set in. It was time to head back to Lisbon, drop off the rental car, check into the Marriott, and get ready to work tomorrow!
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  • Day8

    South coast and west coast

    February 17 in Portugal

    Today we started at the fort that was possibly the site of Sir Henry the Navigator's school for "discoverers". From there we proceded a little bit west to the promontory that is possibly the southwesternmost tip of Europe. There we saw the beginning of the walking route, the Ruta Vicentina. I was tempted. Good lunch in a restaurant on the beach, and then left with a few hours and nothing to do.

    So, Joe suggested we head north, along the western side of the country. After about twenty minutes we saw a turnoff for "praias" (beaches) and took it. Well, it turned out to be a circular drive of about 8 miles that went from one gorgeous site to another. We even saw the remains of a 12C moorish fishing site

    The ocean was crashing and angry, the surfers were going at it, and the views were just amazing. We had never heard or read anything about this place, called Carrapateira, but I can't imagine why it isn't in the guides. It is gorgeous.

    Back in Lagos, getting ready for our last freshly caught sea bass (at least till we get to our favorite little restaurant in Lisbon tomorrow) at the Camilo Restarante, located at, appropriately, the Camilo Beach.
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  • Day7

    Lagos and its rocks

    February 16 in Portugal

    Today we first headed to downtown Lagos. The first African slaves to be brought to Europe landed here in Lagos in the 1440s. The slave market building now has a small museum, and it was understated but dealt with the horror of it straight on. One display in particular hit me, playing a reading of a chronicler's account of how the families were broken up upon arrival here and the suffering he saw.

    After visiting a few churches and walking along the marina, we had a quick lunch in an outdoor cafe and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking on beaches and headlands in and out of more amazing rock formations. The weather was perfect once again and we soaked it all in. Nothing too strenuous, other than the ups and downs from beach to headlands (averaging 275 steps) and totally enjoyable.

    Another fish dinner awaits, but I am skeptical it can top last night at O Camilo (where we will return tomorrow night for our last night on the road before Lisbon).
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  • Day6

    Another beach day

    February 15 in Portugal

    Well, not a bad way to spend Feb. 15. First, a long walk along the cliffs, then lunch in a pretty tourist trap-y kind of place, but then a wonderful boat ride through caves. Now we are in our second Algarve hotel, near Lagos but nearer to the beaches. About a ten minute walk from O Camilo, a great little restaurant on a beach where we had our first robalo this year.

    I learned a new word in Portuguese tonight, when our waiter asked if we wanted him to "despinhar" our lovely fish. So glad not to have to struggle to figure out how to get out all the spine and bones, though I did learn a lot by watching him. Joe had a desert of cake made with figs, almonds and carob beans, with a scoop of medronho (can’t find a word in English) sherbet on the side. So happy to be here!

    Sent from my iPad
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  • Day5

    Faro!

    February 14 in Portugal

    Today was a day of cathedrals, chapels, bones, and Roman ruins. We drove to Faro, which has a bad name because of its Algarve airport where tons of Europeans flock for warmth and cheap holidays. But it has a really pretty old historic core, where we were back in the routine of churches, museums, and mosaics.

    After lunch,we drove to Estoi, with its Roman ruins and 18th century palace (now a fancy hotel, but the palace gardens are open to all). Really worth a trip.

    Back in Tavira for a special meal in O Castelo (it is Valentine's Day after all). We thought we were choosing salmon or lamb, but we got both! After a decadent chocolate dessert, we took one last river walk and got home to sleep at a decent hour. Tomorrow we move to the west side of this southern coast.
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  • Day4

    Day on the Beach

    February 13 in Portugal

    I can't remember the last time (if ever) that I have spent the entire day on a beach. But the temperature was perfect (low 60s), it was sunny, and the beach stretched on and on and on. So we just kept walking!

    We had to take a little ferry from a dock about 4 km outside of town. I had trouble getting there, but since I left my purse back in the hotel room, I learned the route better on the second trip. :-) The island has very little development and no cars. Except for the people at the beginning and the people we found several hours later when we found a restaurant open, the beach was empty. More often than not, we could see no one in either direction.

    We did see an elaborate beach-replenishing operation, involving heavy machinery, a huge boat dumping sand, and hoses spurting huge quantities of water.

    So there are no museum or church highlights today, no monuments or plazas, just one foot after the other for hours and hours and hours. Just me, Joe, millions of birds, and one dead jellyfish.
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  • Day3

    Cloudy with spotty showers

    February 12 in Portugal

    That's what the weather report said this morning, when we got up at a lazy 9:30 (jet lag and all that). If this is what cloudy with showers looks like in Tavira, I'll take it!

    We spent the morning, what was left of it, and the early afternoon, visiting Tavira. It is a really nice place, though our waiter tonight told us that no one lives in the town anymore. Everyone has moved to the modern parts outside. Shame. We enjoyed a castle, three churches, several cafés, and some nice river walks. As someone who walks the Camino de Santiago every year, I was delighted to see that there is a Camino from here that is now marked and open for business! I particularly liked the 18th century tiles in the Church of Misercordia, whose didactic messages included the admonition to "give shelter to pilgrims," along with feed the hungry, be patient with the mentally weak, clothe the naked, etc.

    In the late afternoon, we hopped in the car and went to the tiny village of Cacela Velha. Wow, just beautiful, with long walks along the estauary or whatever they call that delta part. We ran into lots of English birders talking about cormorants and kingfishers. Lots of French and German RVs hooked up along the water. If I had an RV, I would hook it up here too. It is just lovely. And the food is GREAT! Tuna, octopus, and prawns have been our dinners.

    Tomorrow is a holiday, Fat Tuesday and all that, so we will steer clear of museums and churches, all of which are likely to be closed. Maybe we will take a ferry to the ocean.
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  • Day2

    In Tavira

    February 11 in Portugal

    About 29 hours after we left the house, we pulled up in our little rental car in front of our hotel in Tavira.

    All the travel went well, and I even got several hours of real sleep stretched out across three seats. Heaven.

    IMO, this is the prettiest town in the Algarve. We are in a hotel on top of a hill with a pretty view down over the town, the river, and the ocean about a km away.

    Joe takes a nap to get over jet lag, but I power through. Did my elliptical workout and now it’s time to go wake up the husband and go find a good supper.Read more

  • Day1

    Getting out of town

    February 10 in the United States

    Thanks to Tina and John for giving me a heads up about a huge storm coming through Chicago this weekend. I was able to change our tickets to re-route us through Dallas, and so far so good.

    We thought we were going to have a 6 hour layover in Dallas, but when we got to the airport in Champaign this morning, it started to spit ice from the sky. After 3 hours, two de-icings, and multiple heavy machinery trips over the runways to get the ice off, we finally took off!

    With our layover in Dallas cut in half, I still had enough time to go to the Hyatt Hotel Gym, where for a mere $30, exercise addicts can get their fix. I am now back in the airport where Joe patiently babysat my carryon at the Admirals Club, with just enough time for a snack and glass of wine before we head to the gate. Our last meal on American going overseas was completely inedible, we'll see what we get tonight.

    Hard to believe that tomorrow, we will be in Portugal, heading to the Algarve for a week on the coast before my class begins. It's been five or six years since we've been to the Algarve, and having 60 degree sunny days will be a nice respite!

    Ps. On the plane to Madrid and it looks like I have a row of three seats all to myself. 👋👋👋👋👋
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  • Day11

    Last day in Mexico

    January 28 in Mexico

    Today was one of those low key but very enjoyable days. No rushing around, no major sites, but a really nice way to end the visit. First off -- no more horrible coffee, so we headed to Starbucks to start the day. I would have preferred a good local shop but none presented itself. Then to the Arte Popular museum, and then off to the market, where we were shocked to find that we saw not one other foreign tourist.

    Our one visit was to the Borda Gardens, with a nice little museum of contemporary artist exhibits off to the side. The one I liked the best was the Mexican "still life" that added an unusual element to the normal array of things to eat that you find in a still life. As we were sitting in the garden, a man about our age came up and started talking. Turns out he is a poet, and as we were having a nice chat and as he began reading his poems, a young aspiring poet heard one of the poems and came up to join the group. A half hour later, with many poems having been read by both, we went back to the main square for a great lunch up on a balcony overlooking the Square and all its activities. Really one of the best meals I have had on this trip.

    After lunch, we enjoyed watching the crowd as the local police put on a comedy routine for kids and adults alike. There is surely no political correctness here, but everyone seemed to be enjoying it. I assume this is good PR for the police, whose reputation in Mexico is pretty bad.

    On the way home, I was sorely tempted by the mango on a stick sprinkled with chili pepper, but my guts have been fine so far, so why tempt fate?

    Now back to chill out and exercise before our last foray into Cuernavaca.
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  • Day10

    Xochicalco saves the day!

    January 27 in Mexico

    The weekend getaway to Cuernavaca took a definite uptick today. At 10 am, Enrique showed up in his car to whisk us away to the ruins at Xochicalco, dating from about 700 AD. They had some earthquake damage, and some parts of the vast city were closed, but all in all it was pretty well open for business. Great museum, really well designed, but of course it's walking around that is the most fun. Lots of ruins to climb, and one particularly beautiful pyramid that had four walls of carvings of the Plumed Serpant and other deities. Really something.

    After that, Enrique took us to a 17th century hacienda, now fancy restaurant and hotel complex, for a good lunch of local specialties. We are not used to traveling around this way, kind of fancy for us, but it was a nice treat and felt very luxurious.
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