Lisbon, Portugal: Babymoon Part I

Pin It To kick off our babymoon, Paul and I jumped on a plane to Faro, Portugal, where we then jumped in a car and headed to the oldest city in Western Europe, Lisbon, Portugal.  Lisbon is a beautiful city, which (in parts) still has that old town feel, something not a lot of big European cities still have....
Starting with the vintage trams that connect the city.  It is mandatory, when in Lisbon, to take the famous Tram 28.  Unfortunately, as this is not a little known secret the tram is pretty packed (like Portuguese sardines).  I suggest to take it later in the day, after the cruise ships have left and you might have better luck snagging a seat.  Fortunately for me, the Portuguese are very kind to pregnant woman, and the second I walked on a mother and child scooted together so I could share their seat with them (I have yet to see this kind of courtesy on the Brussels Metro).
As people cleared out, we got a chance to sit together.

Showing it's Moorish influence, its still common to see buildings covered in mosaic azulejos or tiles.  The ones shown below, are typical Moorish fashion, consisting of geometric shapes.  Some of the facades can get really fancy, as shown here in this post of Lisbon Lux Magazines most beautiful facades.  I think I prefer the geometric shapes.
No where in Lisbon feels as original as the typical Alfama district.  This is where the streets are still small enough that one needs to walk single file, where the houses could be too small to contain a shower and you will meet your neighbors in the public showers nearby (talk about getting to know your neighbors!), where people use laundry-mats from a different time (without washers and dryers, shown below), and where everyone knows your name.  Our guide José, from Lisbon Chill Out Tours, showed to us the real Alfama.  As we walked through the area, he greeted everyone, it seemed by name and explained to us the ins and outs of the area.  We even (well not me) got to try some homemade Ginja (a Portuguese licquor made of sour cherries) from Tina, a woman who sells her homemade concoction outside her living room window in the Alfama district for one euro.
We spent the afternoon walking around Lisbon with  José.  Not only did he show us the Alfama district, but he showed us the main non-tourist attractions Lisbon has to offer, sometimes taking us back in time, by having us close our eyes and painting a picture for us.  At one time, I felt like I was really at the Onion field market, being introduced to an onion for the first time as an adult, eyes watering, wondering what this strange item is (as this is how items from all over the world were introduced to the people of Lisbon hundreds of years ago).  If you are in Lisbon and want to see the sights from the perspective of a local, I highly recommend Lisbon Chill Out Tours!
Stay tuned for our day trips to Sintra & Cascais from Lisbon or check out how we spent the second half of our babymoon glamping in the South of Portugal at the Yurt!

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Life's Better at the Yurt - Glamping in the Algarve

Pin It I was never much of a camper.  Sure, I went camping once a year as a kid with my grandparents (and always had a blast), but after that I did my best to avoid it.  I am not sure why.  Maybe it's the fact that I hate waking up in a hot and sticky tent or sleeping on the hard cold ground.  Or maybe it's just that I am a true cottage girl.  A cozy bed, a beautiful lake, lounging in the hammock.  That, to me, is relaxation.  Well, I have to say my eyes have been opened to a new form of camping, Glamping.  Paul and I went glamping in the Algarve for our "baby moon" and let's just say we were two three happy glampers.

We have been doing our best to be more kind to Mother Nature, but one of our big downfalls is the amount of travelling we do.  Thankfully there are places like the Eco-Lodge Brejeira in Southern Portugal, where you can have a relaxing and eco-friendly holiday.  It's like having my cake and eating it, too (and lately I have been a big fan of cake).
How about waking up to this view right outside your yurt door?  Not another soul in sight.  Just you, your book, your coffee and the sunny blue skies of the Algarve.  Yes, it's that simple.  Life was better at the yurt.  And I am having trouble adjusting to reality.
This was our home for the three nights we spent in the Algarve.  The authentically decorated yurt (with a comfy bed!), an outdoor mini kitchen perfect for al fresco dining, a deck with a spectacular view of the hills and valleys, and an outdoor shower (also with a view) just for us.
Every morning our friendly hosts, Claire and Sander (who live in a yurt on the property), brought breakfast to our yurt. Breakfast consisted of fresh breads, homemade fig jam, honey from the region, yogurt, muesli, fresh fruit, special cheeses and ham, fresh squeezed OJ (which may have been the best I ever had) and fresh coffee.  You see why adjusting to reality is hard after a few nights at the Eco-Lodge?!  Not to mention the view we were dining with.  Please forgive me in advance if I mention the view one more time.
When we weren't hanging at the yurt, we were out exploring the rugged beaches of the Southwestern coast of Portugal. It was beach weather everyday. In. Love. With. Portugal. <3  (and the views!)
Paul took a surfing lesson.  Check out that mean up dog.  Yowza!   Who knew?!  I spent some time reading and walking on the beach.  Unfortunately, no surfing (or attempting to surf) for me and Charlie.

I am seriously considering living in a yurt, just not sure I can handle it in Wisconsin?  In the mean time, I will look for more yurts to stay in and glamp.  The Eco-Lodge Brejeira was truly glamping at it's finest.  A big thanks to our hosts, Claire and Sander!  We'll be back! Pin It


Istanbul - Not Constantinople

Pin It A few weeks ago we took a long weekend trip to Istanbul.  It's been on our list for a while, and we were in the mood for a different kind of travel experience.  We arrived to some rainy conditions but made the most of it and because of the rain, took in a lot of the sites (much more than usual, which was actually great because Istanbul is like no other place we have ever been before).  We started with the Blue Mosque.  I think it was the first time I have ever actually been in a mosque and this one was beautiful.  I was surprised at its beauty, maybe because I didn't do a whole lot of research and wasn't sure what to expect.
The detail was incredible and like usual, pictures don't do it justice.  The Blue Mosque is not just a tourist attraction, there were many people praying while we were there.
The only negative was visiting on a very wet day with soaking wet socks, as you must take your shoes off out of respect.  It smelled a little like wet feet, but its beauty made up for it.  I had some trouble getting my shoes back on in the rush of leaving the mosque - the big belly kind of gets in the way.....

Afterwards we enjoyed some amazing Turkish Moussaka.  And that tortilla thing... I don't know how they do it.  Light, fluffy, delicious.  Turkish cuisine is nommm nommmmmm.

The next day, we hoped for better weather, but had no such luck.  We started the day off by checking out the Basilica Cistern, which was also quite impressive.  The Cistern was built in the 6th century and was used to supply and store fresh water.  Walking through the Cistern, you realize what a marvel it was for its time (and still is!).
Here is where I made Paul dress up like a sultan so we could get a photo as sultan and sultana... normally I don't fall for this kind of stuff, but I couldn't resist!

It was still raining so we went to the Hagia Sophia.  This was also very interesting because at one point in time it was an Orthodox Church, then later converted into a Mosque and is now a museum.  You can see the influences of Christianity and Islam as you walk through the museum.  Many of the old frescoes from when it was an Orthodox Church were actually preserved when they were covered by plaster when it was turned into a Mosque.  You can see influences from both periods in the photo below.

See what I mean?  We did a lot of sight seeing.

Next stop was the Spice Market.  I had planned on buying some spices and tea......
 but only bought Turkish Delight (the special Turkish Candy).  Oops!
We headed over the Galata Bridge to the New part of town for some St. Patty's Celebrations.  Lots of fisherman were out on the bridge, waiting for their catch of the day.

Then we found on of the only Irish pubs in Istanbul that had a pretty awesome 12 piece band on a tiny stage.

The next day, the sun was shining and we took a boat cruise on the Bosphorus Strait, that connects European Istanbul to Asian Istanbul.

A view of the New Mosque (I think), the Galata Bridge and the European side:
A view of the bridge to Asia:

Finally, we made a stop at the Grand Bazaar.....
and bought nothing!  What kind of girl am I?

The next day before our flight we spent some time walking around some parks near our hotel and I got my boots shined!  First time they have been shined in a year and a half!
I think you can see the difference:
In front of the Hagia Sophia
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