Warming up in Porto

After that stunning — but chilling — visit to Iceland the first week of November, we knew we’d need a little dose of sun and warmth before diving into the long, dark Upper Palatinate winter.  We came back for basically a weekend at home in Regensburg before turning around and departing for Porto. 

Airport / Transport

Porto subway schematic showing where we got on at the airport and where we got off at Bolhão or Campo 24 de Agosto
Porto Metro, E-line goes to the airport

I thought we were just lucky with the place that Sarah picked out for us, but upon closer inspection of the subway schematic, it’s easy to get to much of Porto from the airport with few or no Umstiege. As it turned out, our place was smack in the middle between two stops along the Stammstrecke (man, is there a name for that in English?). For all that simplicity, it was still kind of hard to understand what kind of ticket to buy for what kind of travel (3-day pass, all-day, one-way, short hop, multi-zone?). A kind soul of a security guard at the airport metro kiosks pointed out that we were likely buying tickets way overblown for what we needed, and we should go talk to the woman over there (behind a little podium which looked nothing like a ticket counter) to get more appropriate ones.

Thomaz Palace Apartment

View from our window

Sarah found us a gem of an apartment. We paid less than 70€ a night.

  • 2nd story apartment with elevator
  • whole building was only 4 months old after recent renovations
  • nicely equipped kitchen
  • pleasant shower
  • excellent location regarding public transit, bakeries, mini/super/regular markets

The only complaint might have been somewhat flaky wifi; it disconnected our devices frequently.

Cuisine

Pasteis de Nata class

A pal, occasional travel buddy, and fellow Portophile recommended a Pasteis de Nata baking course she took through AirBnB. Since we couldn’t stop eating these wonderful custard tarts every morning while in Lisbon on a previous trip, we thought it important to at least learn how to make them on our own. That way, if a craving strikes at home in Regensburg, we

  1. don’t have to leave the country, and
  2. do at least have to commit to the effort of making them

Going to be in Porto? Like to bake in a mixed-skill-level (both baking and ESL) environment? Take the course. It was a great way to spend a morning.

Meat, Fish, Sandwiches

Alheira in various forms

Eat some of this sausage while you are in Portugal! There’s a fascinating socio-cultural-political origin story waiting for you there. For our last night in Porto, we ate at Tabafeira, a restaurant that specializes in modern remixes of the dish.

Francesinha

Don’t tell your cardiologist about this one. Beef, pork, sausage, cheese, a little bread, beer sauce, and maybe even a fried egg under that top cheese layer, and a side of french fries will make your health insurance premiums go up. This “sandwich” is native to Porto, after a transplant was inspired by the croque-monsieur. There are countless variations on this theme. Do not try them all. But for the not-yet-hard-of-artery you can take a course on making these from the same docent offering the Pasteis de Nata course.

Bacalhau

It’s dried, salted cod. It’s everywhere. We saw a lot of it in Porto from Icelandic waters. It’s almost like they were following us. Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacalhau

Douro Valley / Wine stuff

This is the origin of port wine, from back when the British were trying to get good European red wine without having to deal with France. I wonder what innovations are in store this time around.

We booked an all-day excursion — also through AirBnB. Fortunately the meeting point was quite close to our Ferienwohnung. We rode in a van with about 10 other tourists about an hour north and east, headed inland, up one side of the Douro valley and down the other. We got some hillside views and took a short boat ride, admiring the vineyards on both sides before taking a winery tour, and getting lunch at a fancy place with plenty (too much, really) of excellent local food and wine.

This was the worst weather of the trip, which meant a lot of gray and brown landscapes under dark skies. It didn’t detract from the less visual parts of the tour — those things were great. But the scenery would have been dazzling with a little sun.

So instead, we made the most of some indoor wine appreciation. We booked a tour of Graham’s Port Lodge, with some sampling and bottles to be shipped back home.

City Scenes

We had a lovely time just walking around exploring on foot, both day and night. Here are some of our favorite shots.

Porto in mid-November was a really nice time and place to stave off the onset of winter. Let us know in the comments what attractions we missed so that we can follow up on them in our future plans. We’d love to go back.

Visit to Iceland — Day 4

We did four full days in Iceland in November 2018. Here’re the write-ups for Day 1 and Days 2 and 3.

Day 4: South Shore

It felt significantly warmer on this, our last day of adventure in Iceland. Unfortunately, that meant also it rained cats and dogs. Really would have loved my rain pants here. It was too warm for the ski pants but not dry enough for just jeans.

Reynisdrangar rock formations and hexagonal basalt cliff walls

Continue reading Visit to Iceland — Day 4

Visit to Iceland — Day 1

We met my parents, sister and brother-in-law halfway: in Iceland. We finally managed to get the six of us together on vacation in the same place, scratch off another country on our list (and crack into Scandinavia along with it), and see some really cool (and cold) stuff.

We opted for a travel company’s package instead of doing all these things ourselves:

  • accommodations and breakfast
  • car rental and driving
  • admissions, scheduling
  • POI-selection based on weather, etc.

We had a limited amount of time and the travel agency packed in quite a lot to see for the time available. I don’t think we could have done that better than they did. But that also meant a lot of time spent on the bus. Was it worth it? Continue reading Visit to Iceland — Day 1

¡Puerto Vallarta otra vez!

We returned to Puerto Vallarta again in January 2018 for a break from winter.1 It was glorious, like usual.

Corraled in Houston

Except for the getting there, which (predictably) was nicht so toll.  But we didn’t let that wreck the mood. Our buddy from Boston and several-time visitor to Ye Olde Parental Condo flew in shortly after we did and the Good Times™ began to roll.
Continue reading ¡Puerto Vallarta otra vez!

  1. Actually winter hadn’t been all that wintry by that point, but those last couple weeks of February — hoo boy; that was winter like we don’t often see ’round these parts. []

A Long Weekend in Liège and Maastricht

We needed to get the heck outta Dodge. Well, I did. With no travel from Mallorca until last weekend, it felt like we hadn’t been anywhere in ages. Don’t get us wrong, we’re enjoying the new place. But a whole lot of work intensity and no change of scenery to break it up made for a very real need to escape for a bit.

So here’s what we did: Continue reading A Long Weekend in Liège and Maastricht

A week in Eastern Italy

October was a big month for us. Really big. Yuge Enormous, even.

  • We went on vacation at the beginning of October.
  • We moved from our beloved literal island in the Danube onto a figurative island in the city.1
  • I changed jobs and office buildings at work.2
  • We went on vacation again at the end of October.

It’s almost the end of November now, and it feels like we’re still trying to catch up from October. We’d planned this trip many months in advance, coordinating with my parents and their friends in several different countries, and so bailing or rescheduling it to let us concentrate on our impending move across town and adjustment to a working kitchen again was not an option. Not that we wanted too, anyways — after getting the details mapped out with the new landlady and previous tenants in our new place, it was good to get away from a stressy bit at work. Continue reading A week in Eastern Italy

  1. More on that later, maybe. []
  2. Same boss, same employees, but new, old, and different stuff for me. Probably no more on that, ever — here at least. []

Italy Road Trip May 2016, Part IV: Naples and Pompeii

It’s been a little hectic around here since we got back.

Our story thus far:

  • Sarah flew down to Venice to meet up with our pal Rachel
  • Cliff drove down to Piombino Dese to pick them up at the train station and eat and sleep at Ca’ de Memi
  • The three of us drove to Siena and explored for a few days
  • Then we made our way to Rome, where we walked A LOT and ate a lot
  • After five days in Rome, planned a route through Gaeta, tried some tielle there, and braced ourselves for Neapolitan traffic

It. Was. Bad. Continue reading Italy Road Trip May 2016, Part IV: Naples and Pompeii

Italy Road Trip May 2016, Part III: Exploring Rome on Foot and Departure

We walked our feet off in Rome. And why not? We had great weather the whole time we were there, and armed with some offline Google Maps marked with stuff we wanted to see or eat, we navigated on foot a lot after taking the Metro in from Cornelia to someplace more central, like Barberini or Spagna.

One glaring and super-convenient exception to that: our hotel offered a shuttle service from their reception to the entrance lines of the Vatican Museums. It was dirt cheap but classy door-to-door service — one of our favorite things about the hotel.1 Continue reading Italy Road Trip May 2016, Part III: Exploring Rome on Foot and Departure

  1. Alas, they were pretty disappointing in some other ways. See the previous post. []