Heather Parry

Joined August 2017Living in: Victoria, Canada
  • Day21

    Les Parrys en Paris

    June 26, 2019 in France ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Hello from very hot and steamy Paris. Forecast is for 38 degrees today. Fortunately, we are getting out of Dodge this afternoon and taking the Eurostar back to London where it is a very reasonable 19 degrees.

    We arrived in St. Malo last week. Lovely spot on the north coast of France in the Brittany region. We enjoyed wandering around the old walled city and had a couple of good meals - finally eating al fresco was a bonus. We particularly enjoyed the galettes which are a Bretagne specialty ( buckwheat crepes with savoury fillings) . Always followed by a sweet crepe for dessert. We tried the local cider as well. The 3 boys were able to start using their French as soon as our feet touched down in France. Our St. Malo hotel was good and the boys were pleasantly surprised by the extensive breakfast buffet. They just kept going back for more crepes and croissants until Niki and Ryan put the brakes on them. We spent a few hours on Saturday morning visiting the family DePrats who live 30 minutes from St. Malo . These are old family friends of the Logan clan from a time we lived in Fontainbleau. They currently live on an extensive property with alpacas and a number of relics from the second world war, as the Germans took over the large home and grounds during the occupation. Once again, it was great for the boys to be able to use their French. Ryan and Tara are also fluent so there was much lively conversation. Monsieur DePrat loves showing people around the property. Madame cornered me and we exchanged news of the 2 families. She was a bit troubled by the fact that I was the only offspring of M. et Madame Logan to have offspring. She herself did her duty for France and had 7 children. Her 2 daughters alone have 12 offspring between them. In the afternoon we headed to the oyster capital -Cancale -for a coffee . Tara committed to having oysters at supper. We then headed to Mount Saint Michel. Mike and I found a place with a view to sip a beer while the rest climbed up, up and visited the abbey. I think everyone was suitably impressed.
    The following day we took a leisurely drive to Bayeaux in Normandy which is the main centre closest to the D Day beaches. On the way we had a good walk around the medieval town of Dinan. For lunch that day, we picnicked on the steps of the town hall in the picturesque town of Villedieu les Poeles. (See picture of is drinking wine and eating baguette and cheese. )The group quickly adopted the French habit of grabbing a baguette, cheese and wine for a picnic. Sometimes we even included a nice French pastry, much to the delight of the boys..
    . In Bayeux we enjoyed the tapestry museum which houses a very long cloth with a series of embroidered pictures depicting the Norman conquest of England back in the 1000s . We also took some time to explore the magnificent Bayeux cathedral, knowing that we would be unable to see Notre Dame in Paris. On our full day in Bayeux we visited the Juno Beach centre at Juno Beach where we took a short guided tour given by one of the 4 Canadian guides who work there. The whole Normandy area was full of flags ( British, US, Canadian and French), posters and pictures as the 75 th anniversary of D day has just passed and there were many commemorating ceremonies. We also stopped for a walk through The Canadian war cemetery at Beny sur Mere. So many young, young men are buried there. We gave the boys the Veteran’s Affairs 75 anniversary pins that I picked up and asked them to place a poppy on a headstone of their choosing. We hope that they will remember the visit. As the generations pass, fewer young people will have contact and stories from war Veterans. I’m afraid young Mason found the Juno museum, especially the movie, a bit hard to see. Understandable.
    After two nights in Bayeux we dropped off the cars in Caen and took a train to Paris. We were all immediately bowled over by the crowds and heat. Seems we hit Paris just in time for an extreme heat wave. Our hotel, while well situated, did not have AC. We only had a day and a half so we spread out. Niki had visited Paris with her Mom Diane in the last couple of years so she knew what she wanted to show the family. First they did a tour on the hop on hop off bus to get an overview then stopped at the Eiffel Tower where they CLIMBED up to the second level. Hats off to them in the 34 degree heat. Mike, Tara and I headed to the Pigalle area and then up toSacre Cour in Montmartre. It was very humid, dirty and smelly given the temperature and crowds. We met the Yukon gang strolling along by the Seine and we had a quick picnic before enjoying a cruise on the Bateaux Mouches., a great way to see the sights from the river.
    Yesterday was our only full day in Paris. We joined Tara for a 20,000 step walk from the Arc de Triomphe through to the Bastille. A bit like doing the Caesar shuffle in Rome. The heat made it a long, thirsty and challenging day but Tara got a feel for the Paris and we saw the outside facades of buildings, at least. Tara felt the timings were too short to join the long queues to see any one attraction in detail. We enjoyed a typical French lunch with wine in the Marais. The boys found a better way of beating the heat and splashed around one of the large Parisienne fountains.
    Last night we met up with Al’s eldest son Chris who lives in Paris. He brought his two children Leo and Lilly. Lilly and Mason kept happily occupied playing cats cradle which has made a resurgence with the kids.
    This morning we bid au revoir to Tara who should be on her way back to Canada by now. Unfortunately, she is right back to work tomorrow morning. The rest of us are now hurtling along at 300km perhour on the Eurostar to London. The Yukon contingent leaves from Gatwick in the morning via Vancouver where they have an unenviable layover of 8 hours. Fortunately, no big plans for their weekend except playing with their dog Muddy and, for Niki I suspect, load after load of laundry.

    It has been so much fun traveling all together on this adventure.We will have so many great memories of our time with Ryan, Niki , Tara and especially with the boys. They are such good travellers and hopefully the trip has ignited a love of travel in the boys. I will always have memories of Mason helping his Taid up the last steep pitch of Mount Snowden; of Kaleb’s wide eyes when he saw the breakfast buffets in France; and of Rogan confidently chattering away in French whenever we needed help with logistics. I think Rogan will also remember Natalie insisting that he drink some of her Gin and Tonic. All meant in good fun.

    Mike and I head to Helen’s tonight. After that we have 6 days with no plans although laundry will have to factor into our plans. We stay in England until the 8th as we have tickets to the International music festival in Wales from 4-7 July.

    That’s it for now. Signing off from somewhere under the English Channel.
    Love Heather / Mom xx
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  • Day10

    Palaces, pasties and more pubs

    June 15, 2019 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Hello from London.
    We’ve had an interesting week. Last Thursday we drove in tandem from the Northern parts of Wales down
    to Pembrokeshire on the west coast of Wales. For 3 days we rented a holiday cottage near the town of Cardigan, (as in the sweater. ). The cottage had a personal hot tub which we all enjoyed and there was a pool for the kids. Our first day in the area we hiked part of the Pembrokeshire coastal path. ( thanks Cathy and Doug for the very useful guide) It was very muddy and slippery in parts from, evidently, record rainfall this month. The hiking was scenic and a bit more challenging than the gang was expecting. We were rewarded for our efforts with a pub lunch in the very picturesque sea side town, Tenby.
    We spent our second day exploring the locale near our cottage including visiting a working flour mill that is still using a water wheel powered by the local river. Kaleb loves to bake and he really enjoyed seeing the workings of the mill with the very old grinding stones. We also visited a prehistoric burial site with the same rocks as in stonehenge. Unfortunately , the weather in Wales continued cool and damp but we managed to enjoy ourselves between showers. Mike and Tara ventured to the southern town of St,David’s for a day trip.
    On Sunday we dropped off the rental cars- much to our drivers’ (Mike and Ryan) relief- enough narrow roads and left-hand driving. We took a bus into London. It was more excitement than we wanted as our bus broke down on the M4 and the traffic was horrendous. But we finally crawled into London and Helen welcomed us aboard her lovely home.
    We’ve spent the past three days seeing different parts of London. Since the boys were first-timers, they did the hop on hop off bus for a day seeing the usual palaces, churches but mostly lots of London traffic. Mike, Tara and I wandered through Chelsea and NottingHill. It was very rainy yesterday so our choices were a bit limited. The London jail museum was a hit with lots of torture devices to play with! We’ve had the full London experience with lots of bus rides, packed tube stations and boat rides along the Thames. The family is spread between a 2 bedroom Air b and b and bunking in with Helen. Last night we headed to the Soho district to take in a musical theatre production, Matilda. We all thoroughly enjoyed the evening. A great show and always a memorable experience to see live theatre especially a good musical. A first for the kids but hopefully not their last.
    Today we all hit the British Museum to check out things like the rosetta stone and the Elgin marbles, the Egyptian exhibit and even a head from Easter Island. Mike and I split off to the Portrait Gallery while the rest of the Parrys did the Harry Potter tour. Tonight the adults are out for dinner and the kids will stay in with a movie.
    Tomorrow we head to Stanstead to fly to France for the next week of our trip.

    Mason says the best part of the trip so far has been the big castle and the Musical; Kaleb says climbing Snowdon and Matilda and the flour mill; Rogan says Snowdon, Matilda , the coast trail and all pubs ( 1 through 20)

    That’s it for now. More from France
    Tata for now.
    Heather xx
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  • Day8

    The Parry Family Summits Mount Snowdon.

    June 13, 2019 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌫 9 °C

    We are in the pretty village of Beddgelert in Northern Wales for 2 nights. On the way here from Al’s place we made a great stop at Caernarfon where the 3 boys raced around the castle. It’s a good castle if it’s your first one because it’s intact and you can roam up and down the various towers and hide in little nooks and crannies. Mason was heard to yell “ peasants” over the wall at the tourists below. We also took some time to check out the Museum of the Royal Welch Fusilliers which is housed in the castle. Interesting regimental history and the boys looked for all the Parrys. They also thought the “ mascot” ( a goat ) was pretty funny.
    We are in a lovely country inn in Beddgelert and have enjoyed the full Welsh breakfasts provided each morning.
    Yesterday we tackled the mountain - our reason #1 for visiting Wales was for Mike to climb Mount Snowdon with his 3 Parry grandsons - Rogan, Kaleb and Mason. The weather was looking very bleak but we headed out dressed in all of the clothing we had. It was a very tough climb made harder by the slippery rocks and very damp and windy conditions. We finally reached the summit after 3 hours of slogging and were rewarded with absolutely no view at all because we were in the clouds! But the cafeteria had hot tea and chocolate which we enjoyed. A few of us made the wise decision to travel down by train. The rest of the gang did the walk down on a much less steep track to Llaamberis. Last night we all had some well deserved drinks and pub dinners after long hot showers. Al and Natalie were with us and Al’s sons Dan and Mike ( the younger Mike Parry)

    This morning we visited Gelert’s grave and Al soulfully recounted the sad story of the dog named Gelert who protected Prince Llewellen’s baby son from wolfs only to be killed by his master who mistakenly thought Gelert had attacked the baby. A sad tale and a good example of why one should never quickly jump to conclusions. It’s also a great example of good marketing as the whole story was concocted as a way to attract visitors to the village. Al didn’t include that part of the story but I know that.
    Today we say goodbye to the UK Parrys and point our cars south to the town of Cardigan where we have rented a holiday cottage for 3 nights. That’s it for now.
    Heather x
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  • Day5

    The Parrys have Landed

    June 10, 2019 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Hello from Frodsham, England
    The Parrys have assembled.
    Mike and I had a long but smooth journey via Frankfurt then back to Manchester. ( long explanation than involves not wanting to fly Rouge). Al and Natalie met us and we had a fairly quiet first couple of days that included the required first trip to pub to help with jet-lag. Mike assures me this is evidence-based- [picture enclosed]. On Sunday morning , very bright and early , the Parrys from Whitehorse and Ottawa arrived bleary-eyed but smiling. Natalie and Al have been the perfect hosts and they filled everyones’ bellies with porridge, toast and bacon upon arrival. Sounds like Air Transat was fine to travel with but they didn’t waste extra money on a hot breakfast . We all managed a walk in the fields and some shut eye before we headed out to pub for a rendezvous with Al’s sons Dan and Mike and their families. It was a great evening with lots of laughter and photographs. Mike and Rian brought Welsh soccer shirts and hats for the boys which they have been proudly sporting. Tara mentioned over and over just how nice it was to see her cousins again and to meet their families. We returned to Al’s place for the “after party. “. Then we all crashed for a long rest last night. Rogan was first up at 5 am and completed a workout before the rest of us got up. He is committed to his training for paddling this summer.
    Today after another hardy breakfast we headed into Chester. Mike led the group to see the old Roman city walls. We then headed into Wales with a stop at another great pub The Eagle and Child for lunch. More large plates of hearty food including huge, stacked hamburgers. The boys are in heaven! We visited the village of Meliden and found the graves of Mike’s Aunty Joyce and Uncle Bill. Some of you will have met Mike’s Aunty Joyce. She died only 2 years ago. We also found Mike’s Grandparents’ grave in the church cemetery. Finally, we climbed the Gop ( a large hill) where Mike’s parents ashes were scattered. Beautiful views over Wales from the top. So it was a day for Mike to share his stories and memories. Tara, Ryan, Niki and I also have some memories from the area and it was nice to go back.
    We now have two rental cars. Ryan and Mike are driving with Niki and I taking the lead as navigators. Some of the Welsh laneways we were on today were very, very narrow and the car alerts were beeping often. Tomorrow we load up and head to the Snowdonia area. Unfortunately, weather forecast is not looking great for the “big Parry Mount Snowdon ascent” planned for Wednesday.
    More to follow from Bedgelert.
    Hope all is well at home.
    I’ll send pictures in a couple of batches.
    Love Heather (Mom) xx
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  • Day29

    Back on the Algarve for a few more days

    April 22, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Hi folks,
    Last Wednesday, Mike and I left the Douro Valley on a postcard perfect day. Bright blue skies, sunshine on the vineyards and the sound of the village’s old men arguing at the local cafe- likely over a strong coffee with a side of muscatel, as is their custom. We pointed the Peugeot south to find more sun and ended up in the town of Evora located in the south Alentejo region. Mike wanted to get some miles in so we wouldn’t have a huge drive on Friday. Our drive took us up, up out of the Douro onto an expansive plain. Earlier on this trip I was wondering about the source of all the cheese and milk, and beef. We found it on this huge plain. Hundreds of kms of cattle and grazing lands.
    Evora was a nice surprise considering neither of us had even heard of the place. Lots of historic sites including the ruins of an old Roman temple, an impressive ancient aqueduct and the second oldest University in Portugal. In fact there were so many ancient/historic sites in Evora that we came across a castle that wasn’t even on the tourist map- ho hum, another castle.
    We lucked out and got a room in a small funky hotel with a roof bar. Nice place to sip some local wines. And we caught some great weather. Wandered in the countryside to see the area’s cork groves. This area of Portugal produces over 50% of the world’s cork. It comes from a specific oak tree which has actually adapted to produce a thick bark to survive forest fires. The bark of the lower trunk areas of these trees are harvested every 7 years or so. Much of the cork goes to wine stoppers although you wonder if that’s a good future source of income given the move to other products and screw tops.
    Another interesting thing about the Evora area is the number of neolithic or prehistoric standing stones or (new word...... cromlechs). Mike is excited that he has a new crossword word and one with which he can baffle his friend Burns. We hiked up to a couple of these cromlech areas and wondered at the ingenuity it must have taken to create something so precise in 6000 BC. Mike said it was the structure he’s been most impressed with so far in Portugal because it was all built without EU funding ( zzzzing)
    On Friday we blasted the last 200km back to the coast to the town of Albufeira on the Algarve. We were met by our Air Band B host and some wet, rainy weather. We are reminded often that this country needs the rain as they suffered terribly from forest fires only 2 years ago and this will give them some protection. Can’t argue with that since we have experienced the same on the west coast. Anyway, the forecast is looking up!
    For the next few days we are staying in a condo within walking distance of the old town of Albufeira. Unfortunately, our first impressions of Albufeira when we biked through a few weeks ago have turned out to be pretty accurate. Lots of stag and hen parties, loud bars and sunburnt Brits. On Friday night the town felt like a bad all- inclusive resort. Lots of signs for full English breakfasts and Sunday roast beef dinners. Mike said, why don’t they just stay home? I replied, the weather of course. But the weather has actually been warmer in the UK this week. Enjoy it up there, Al and Helen. In fairness, the beaches here are beautiful and we have easy access to lots of lovely small villages which we will visit over the next few days. We have a number of recommendations for restaurants and places to see so we’ll stay out of trouble.
    Yesterday we “headed for the hills” and spent some time visiting the super well preserved castle at Silves that is the best example of moorish, military architecture in Portugal. If Helen were here she would describe it much more eloquently no doubt. We then drove up, up to the hills and had a lovely meal in the village of Monchique. Wildboar stew for me and a huge“mature bull”steak for Mike. We had lots of leftovers tonight. Away from abundant seafood on the coast, Portuguese cuisine is very heavy on meat, loads of carbs with hardly a vegetable in sight. Yesterday, the waitress asked me THREE times if I really wanted a salad with my meal as the portion was so large.
    . We head back to Lisbon on Friday to drop off our trusty Peugeot and then we take the milk-run flight route home Saturday via London and Toronto. We hope to see the girls and Malcolm enroute.
    Well that’s about it for Portugal. I don’t expect much more excitement or news over the next few days.
    We’re looking forward to getting home as much as we’ve enjoyed this latest adventure.
    Thanks for traveling with us,
    We look forward to seeing most of you soon. Until then........
    Signing off from Albufeira, Portugal.
    Love Heather/ Mom.
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  • Day24

    Exploring Northern Portugal

    April 17, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Last Friday, Mike and I left Porto and turned the Peugeot north to the Minho Region known for its vino verde. Minho is a very mountainous region which borders Spain and has been fought over many times over the centuries. It is also the area which first broke free from Spain and became the original territory of modern day Portugal. I won’t explain any more than that because as best I can make out, the history of Portugal is about as convoluted as Italy’s. Well maybe not that bad, but more than I can take in on this trip.
    Mike planned the week and wanted to focus on hiking first in the National Park which covers much of the north area and includes a number of mountain ranges including the Serra Peneda where we landed. On Friday we arrived almost at the end of the road in the village of Soaja where long- horned cattle and their droppings were plentiful. Turns out tourist season doesn’t start until May when the weather is better. So we were the only guests in a big, stone house - Casa do Andro. They threw us the door keys and told us to report to the cafe for breakfast in the morning. We found the one place open for dinner and then shivered the night away in our very cold, personal casa. Those stone walls sure do retain the cold. Must be great in the summer.
    Next day we drove further east to the very , very end of the road. Up, up,to Peneda where we visited the huge church dedicated to Our Lady of Peneda - mostly a day trip for people coming from other places.
    . There are 12 very elaborate chapels -each one displaying one of the stations of the cross. I guess in September, the place is so packed with pilgrims that you can’t get past on the road . There are lots of well signed walking trails and We bundled up against the cold and did a beautiful hike through the forest. That night, once again , we were the only guests rattling around in the Peneda Hotel.And again, given the remote location, we only had a single choice for dinner - the hotel- but everyone fussed over us and the proprietor was very chuffed that we were Canadian. In a combination of Portuguese and French he explained that he has three relatives in Montreal (or maybe that he had been to Montreal 3 times, not sure. Three of something. ) We just kept nodding enthusiastically and he treated us to a very nice Reserva red from the Douro Valley and then Port. We left Peneda with woolly heads the next morning. Also we didn’t pay the bill because their bank machine wasn’t working but they didn’t seem too fussed . We paid it yesterday as soon as we could find the correct bank.
    Mike has been doing such a great job driving on these roads. They are very steep and there are loads of switch backs and sheer cliffs where we’ve been the past few days. In the park we saw lots of wild horses that roam around the area. ( I’ll enclose a picture of the wild horses for Malcolm and Mason)
    On Sunday we made a stop in the very well preserved town of Guimares which was the first capital of Portugal but was moved because of all the attacks on the area and from the Region changing hands. It is a lovely medieval town a bit like Colmar in France. There was lots to see just walking around including the requisite drafty, medieval castle.Brrrr
    Finally , yesterday we found the sun and warmth back in the Douro Valley. We had a day visiting this area with Laura and Helen and have had another 2 lovely days in the village of Provezende - a very twisty, 12 km drive outside of Pinhao which is the main tourist spot. Wére comfortably settled in a very old country house which is the family home of the vineyard owners. They’ve converted some of the buildings to host visitors. We have done 2 very challenging walks in the area. Each one about 10km with punishing climbs and then steep tracks down, down. They’re is a reason I go to the gym! On every hike we have been rewarded with spectacular views over the wine region. Miles and miles of vineyards on the slopes , all the vines so perfectly lined up and held back on old stone walls. Small villages clinging to the edges of steep slopes. It is very peaceful walking around this area. We’ve met no other walkers and all the Riverboat cruisers get bused directly to the vineyards for tastings. The prevailing sounds are of tractors plowing the areas between the rows of grapes and theunceasing sound of yapping dogs - and their owners yelling at them to shut up.
    Today our hosts gave us an area map that included 5 small chapels and we hiked up and down to see each one. This afternoon we braved the roads again to visit Favairos which is famous for their muscat wines (a bit sweet for me but nice in small doses) and also their bread cooked over very old wood-fired stoves so it comes out more like pizza crust than bread. Tonight our hosts provided a full meal with wines from his vineyard. An enjoyable evening. We have certainly had a chance to taste lots of local wines and ports and to chat with many Portuguese people. Interestingly, our French has come in very handy as it seems that many Portuguese of non-professional classes have immigrated to France, Switzerland and Canada and then returned to Portugal.
    Tomorrow we head south and we’ll be following the sun. Mike is checking the weather forecasts as I write this. I believe he is suggesting hiking around Evora. Our aim is to be back in the Algarve by late Friday
    That’s it for now. Sorry to heat about snow in Alberta, rain in BC and ice in Toronto.
    Love Heather/ Momx
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  • Day20

    Porto

    April 13, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    On Monday the 9th Mike and I picked up a rental car at the airport and we headed out of town with Laura and Helen to our next destination - The Pena Palace on the hilltop above Sintra, not too far from Lisbon. This is a big tourist attraction and we were part of a large flock of cars, buses and camera toting tourist to visit. We made a strategic decision not to wait in line to visit the palace but instead wandered around the gardens and the outer areas. The palace is relatively new (mid1800s) and is still used for state functions. I think it is best described as romantic in appearance. Although Helen, the architect, said it reminded her of the Disney castle on steroids. I guess that is not surprising because Ferdinand II, then King Consort to Queen Maria II of Portugal was German and had the castle modeled after the Rhine river castles, as did Disney when designing his main castle.
    We left the crowds of Sintra and headed to the medieval town of Obidos for the night. The castle at Obidos is a beautifully preserved medieval castle and there is a pousada that operates out of the castle. A pousada is like the Spanish Paradores, buildings of historic significance that have been preserved and repurposed into hotels or hostels. So we had our night in the castle! Only 2 challenges: Mike had to thread our rented Peugeot in and out of the medieval walled town with inches on each side to spare, and we had many, many slippery steep steps to climb even to get to our breakfast. Before dinner, We enjoyed a beverage and a quick read at the Literary Man Hotel which features a bar amongst thousands of books built into an old seminary. Very unique and worth a return visit. We had another memorable meal in the small town. Mike and I both enjoyed dishes made from codfish, which is like the national dish although no cod is actually caught in Portuguese waters- all of the catch coming from northern waters.At the end of the evening the very chatty waiter served us a Portuguese brandy called Lourinha. Mac, I think we are taking your perfect vacation.
    We arrived in Porto on Tuesday with a stop for lunch in the picturesque town of Aviero. It is like a little Venice on the coast with small, old fashion wooden boats which are no longer used for trade but only to take tourists out. They were cute but with surprisingly, hmmmm crude cartoons painted on their sides. Laura talked us into the best fish restaurant even though we arrived after lunch hour. They quickly rustled up two large grilled fish with sides.
    Then is was on to Porto where we have spent the past three days. We braved some really rainy, cold weather and saw lots of sites. Pretty much wore all the cold weather clothes we brought each day! One day we headed on a small tour to the Douro region for some wine tasting and a boat ride on the Douro. The Douro river is very scenic and reminded us a bit of the Danube with vineyards on steep hills on each side. We came close to capsizing as a large cruise-style river boat steamed by very quickly. With some quick action by the Captain we were saved from disaster or at least a chilly swim. As part of the vineyard tours we were treated to a homemade lunch which included many courses, too much food and lots of wine from the Douro area. Tasted some interesting blends and some dessert wine from Muscatel grapes (sorry if I got that wrong you wine experts)
    We enjoyed many things about Porto even though we did not see it at its best. There were a number of things we would like to have visited but lining up in the rain was simply not appealing. Lisbon and Porto are now very popular and quite busy with tourists. Places that the discount airlines fly are now quite crowded, even this time of year. We did walk a lot and tasted some ports, ate more great tapas and Laura picked up some nice Gifts.
    Our highlight in Porto had to be last night. Laura contacted a friend from her time walking the Camino de Santiago and Carlos picked us up and took us to a lovely oceanside restaurant for a meal. Laura, the intrepid traveller finally tried the one Portuguese dish that noone else has been brave enough to try. Named Francesinha, it can only be described as a grilled sandwich containing cheese, various meats, perhaps seafood, smothered in cheese, grilled and then served swimming in a piquant, tomato and beer based gravy - yup served with fries. Some stories say that the providence was Napoleon’s army needing calories etc. I think the story about some guys trying to emulate the French Croque Monsieur is likely closer to the truth. Anyway, our Laura soldiered on and ate about half of this concoction while the rest of us had fish/ seafood. We had a defibrillator standing by!

    This morning we cleared out of our Porto digs, said goodbye to our very companionable companions Helen and Laura who must return home and resume normal life. Aka work. We will miss their optimism (« I’m pretty sure the rain is lighter than an hour ago, don’t you think? »). Wé’ll miss Helen’s informative descriptions of all the structures that we see. I was just getting my Baroque and Neo-classical sorted out.We will certainly miss Laura’s enthusiasm for everything and her great restaurant picks.
    Mike and I are taking a break from the cities and are headed for a week of back country Portugal. We’ll try to walk off a bit of the excesses of the past few weeks and see some of the countryside where there are no tour buses or line-ups. More to follow.
    That’s all for now,
    Love Heather/ Mom x
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  • Day15

    Lisbon's Many Sites and Tastes

    April 8, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ 🌧 9 °C

    On Thursday we completed our cycling trip across the Algarve with a triumphant arrival at the very windy Capo St. Vincent, the most western point of Portugal and mainland Europe. After a look at the beautiful vistas and a celebratory beer, we were transported by van to the lovely hillside town of Loule. We enjoyed another excellent Portuguese meal where Helen and I had cuttlefish done in lots of olive oil and garlic. Can’t go wrong with that. We all really enjoyed Loule the next morning. It felt much more like a real working town and not simply one that was overrun with visitors. It seems that the secret is to get away from the coast a bit.

    Friday afternoon we arrived at one of Lisbon’s many rail stations. The entrance to the city was quite impressive over a bridge like San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge . Lisbon sits by a large, natural harbour that is at the mouth of the Tagus River. Much of what happens in the city is centred around the waterfront.

    Helen has been in charge of our Lisbon visit and she has kept us going at a very fast clip. She even wrote notes for the blogs- she took her job of Lisbon convener very seriously indeed. She rented us a large and well appointed 2 br apartment in the Estrela area which sits on one of Lisbon’s 7hills. Wéve been walking up and down cobbled roads for the past 2 days. Thank goodness we decided not to bike this. Would have been impossible!

    Helen writes: We arrived Friday a bit north of our rental flat and, after a bit of argy bargy, found the cab stand. More argy bargy while the cabbie discussed our address with his fellow cabbies - pointedly avoiding us or our gps - and we set off and shortly were settled in a very stylish flat overlooking the old town.

    By the time we headed out for dinner it was late so we were modest in our ambitions. But we had found a promisingly well reviewed restaurant in the neighbourhood so set off down the hill to explore. we found the restaurant but it was fully booked, sigh, so we repaired to a wine bar next door. Only to discover that at the wine bar we could not only sample the best regional wine but order anything we wanted from the restaurant (too full to accomodate us) next door. Private party! Great food and an absolutely brilliant bottle of Douro red.
    The young server also gave us some interesting incites into lofe in Portugal these days.

    Saturday we had a leisurely start at the well appointed flat and then set out to explore old Lisbon. We started at the Basilica nearby - v grand- then caught one of the old trams towards the old fort. The little wooden tram was a great way to chug through the twisting and narrow old streets. We then worked our way on foot through several alleys and, pausing for coffee and portugese pastries, to emerge at the gate of the fort...rebuilt on similar lines by all the armies that occupied lisbon over centuries.

    Despite the historic importance of the site, we were put off by the VERY long ticket line, and decided to just walk through the district up to one of the viewing points on one of the seven hills of Lisbon. We ambled through the flea market, took in the Pantheon, and enjoyed the view. We also entertained ourselves watching a freshman pickpocket trying to work the crowd without skill or success. Poor chap - we nearly asked him to pose for a photo under a sign that warned tourists about pickpockets.

    Time to tackle more transit....quite a bit of head scratching and we finally cracked the metro tickets and headed north to the site of the 1998 Exposition to indulge in a little modern architecture. ( ps Heather immediately recognized the architect as Santiago Caletrava). We managed to dash into a restaurant for lunch as the heavens opened. But rain was to be our fate for a bit. We hopped into a cable car to get an impressive if watery view of the longest bridge in europe - the Vasco da Gama bridge. There are a lot of significant things named after Vasco Da Gama.

    A bus ride back towards town and we ended the cultural part of the day with the National Tile Museum. This may sound dry but was absolutely stunning - a beautiful old monastery adorned with Portugese tiles in the most imaginative of expressions.

    Our feet were cold and sore by this point so we headed home to dry out/warm up. A bit later we headed out to eat simply in a nearby place. Our first choice - a convivial Italian - was full. Or so we thought. Turns out they were happy to accommodate us in another room across the street! We finished off with a limoncello and headed ´homé. Belem and Baixa await tomorrow

    Update from Sunday. Helen had another full day (23000 steps worth) for us today and we walked around a couple more of the interesting barrios in the city and made a quick stop to sample the Regional cherry liqueur known as Ginjinha. 10 am was A bit early to be sampling liqueurs but we were too pooped to go out last night and Helen and Laura are purists and insisted that we go to THE little shop for a tasting. It was actually not unpleasant. Next we were off for more squares, statues and then made a stop at Time Out Market which is a food market set up in an old market building. There are a number throughout world and the idea is for people to sample excellent regional food and drink. We tasted some delicious fish cakes made with salt cod and potatoes. Kind of like a croquette. After that, we were off to the Belem area which had been the Centre of Portugal’s former maritime glory. It is now a residential district but has a few good things to visit including an ancient tower guarding the harbour and the beautiful monastery built to celebrate - yup you guessed it - Vasco da Gama’s successful journeys to other parts of the world, including India, He is buried in the church there.
    We have only touched on the many things to see (and eat) in Lisbon. It is an interesting city with nooks and back alleys to explore as well as some significant museums and sites. The food is wonderful, the weather is normally better than the rain we’ve had and we’ve had no problems getting around. It feels like a safe city with the obvious cautions. They could do a better job on the dog dirt front and also get the graffiti under control. Certainly worth another visit.
    Tomorrow we set sail north. We pick up a rental car at the airport and will overnight at a Pousada in Obidos. We are expecting luxury for one night in the castle. ( Mike thinks for what we paid that he’s actually bought the place)

    That’s all for now. Boa-noite for now,
    Love Mom/Heather
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  • Day11

    Hello from Praia da Luz, still smiling

    April 4, 2018 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    Hi folks,
    It’s Wednesday afternoon and we are safely ensconced in a lovely hotel in Praia Da Luz called the Belavista. Yes, lovely vistas as the name implies ( see enclosed photo) but we had to climb up to get them! We’ve had 5 days of varied cycling. Our first 2 days were not too long and relatively flat. On day 2 we actually biked back through Faro where we started our trip. We were able to check out the Igreja(church) do Carmo) an 18th century Catholic church known for its small chapel built out of the bones and skulls of over 1200 monks. The ossuary called the Capela de Ossos or chapel of bones has an inscription above the door « stop here and think of the fate that will befall you ».

    Speaking of befalling, so far, knock on wood, no one has come off a bike without intent. Laura tried to tangle with a bus two days ago but it all ended amicably. Helen is a fiend in the round abouts( traffic circles) of which there are many. Her daily London cycling requires a certain....shall we say, assertiveness that is needed in cases of traffic circles. Overall, the drivers have been patient and courteous.
    Day 3 had more distance from Olhao to Vilamoura and more climbing. Vilamoura is quite a resort town although still quiet at the moment. Loads of shuttered apartments and lots of empty tables at the hotel breakfast buffets. Must be the weather which is not quite beach weather but it is perfect for cycling. Our hotel in Vilamoura was one of the large chains - Vila Gale and we were able to enjoy the spa! We also cycled through a very large and deluxe golf community that day. Reminded me of Phoenix with 4 courses, lovely manicured areas, palms, shopping centres etc. Mac, it looked like your kind of place.
    Laura has been right on the job as co-navigator with me and also restaurant researcher. At Vilamoura we took a different culinary route and enjoyed excellent Mexican with guacamole made at our table. Yuuuuuum. Only problem was the very large mains which none of us could finish even with our biking appetites,
    Yesterday, Wednesday was a tough cycling day. It was a long distance made longer by unexpected detours, tough times navigating through various towns including Albufeira and a relentless headwind that felt like someone pushing you backwards. Not surprisingly The wind is howling from west to east, opposite of our cycling direction and it picks up as the temp rises in the afternoon. If anyone is tempted to bike the Algarve, you might want to look at going the other direction, just saying. We finally, literally staggered into the beautiful seaside town of Praia ( beach) Da Rocha ( of the rocks). We stayed in a small B and B with a very chatty proprietor who tried to convince me that a 2night stay would be preferable. Agreed, but we have to keep moving. Laura guided us to a cheap and delicious pizza place last night but the highlight of Praia Da Rocha besides the beautiful views was the late afternoon drink at the beach.
    Today is Thursday and our ride was much less demanding and we literally breezed into Praia Da Luz and were having our post ride drink by 230. Wéve really enjoyed such varied scenery. Lots of trails near the ocean, often skirting large estuaries. Small villages and lots of countryside. We’ve also has to do some road cycling to get from area to area. Less scenic but efficient.
    Tomorrow is our last day cycling and God willing, we’ll make Sagres and then Cape Saint.Vincent on the very western tip by 3. We are getting picked up there and driven back to Loule which is mid-Algarve. On Friday we train to Lisbon. Our bike days have been fewer this trip to allow Helen and Laura time to see some other sites.
    To answer a couple of questions: weather has been fine. Better than Helen’s very pessimistic weather app forecast. The sun is out but the heat is not an issue, so perfect. Are we having any trouble communicating? No, this area relies on tourism and with few exceptions everyone has some English. Our little bit of Spanish is useful in understanding most signs. People are exceptionally friendly and very willing to help us. See attached picture at a garage yesterday outside of Albufeira and Mike’s tire troubles,
    We have not done too much site seeing although Helen, our tour guide and historian, has briefed us on each area as we pass through. But we’ll have to come back to take in the many castles, Roman ruins and the wax museum of Portuguese historical highlights.
    Must run and get ready as Laura has another great restaurant idea for tonight.
    Hope all is well wherever you are........thanks for your notes.
    Love Heather/ Mom
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