Back to Lisboa and the US.

After almost a week in Porto we returned to Lisbon for a couple of days before heading back to BFE USA via Dublin and Toronto.  This time we stayed in the Alfama neighborhood which is famed for places to hear the traditional Portuguese Fado music.  Luckily, the first place we stayed in Porto had lots of Fado CDs, which we listened to.  As much as I wanted to hear some Fado music live none of the bars that hosted the music commenced the festivities until 9pm.  When you are as old as we are that is late!  It is usually lights out by 10pm for us.

Lisboa.Alfama
Alfama, Lisbon.

Alfama reminded me of Venice, Italy without the water.  The streets are hilly and impossibly narrow.  One of the Uber drivers we hired had a mini van and the car literally scraped the wall on one side going down the street!  It is so charming that once there you understand why it is a must-see part of Lisbon.  One of best restaurants of our entire time in Portugal is there:  Alfama Cellar.  They specialize in cooking with individual cast iron pots and the dishes there will set you free!  The best was drunk rabbit; marinated in grappa and served with roasted vegetables that conveyed flavors beyond description.  We enjoyed the food here so much that we ate there our last two nights in Lisbon.  The staff was professional and fun, and the service was outstanding.  Alfama Cellar is located at Rua dos Remedios 127-131, 1100-451 Lisboa.  Www.alfamacellar.pt.

Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon.

Sadly, it was quite rainy and stormy our last two days in Lisbon, so we did not wander far from our Airbnb which was about 30 paces from our new favorite restaurant.  We strolled around a little and got to visit the Castelo de Sao Jorge on our last day which was an amazing piece of history and architecture.  Our Airbnb was tiny but efficient and the craziest thing about the building was the stairs up to an apartment above.  Well, look…

Crazy Stairs in Alfama!

If one was drunk, they would be downright dangerous, methinks!

Needless to say, we were sad to have to leave Portugal.  But now, we had a mission:  figure out how to move there!

On the way back, we once again spent a day in Dublin, Ireland.  This time we were lucky to dodge an historic snow storm that dumped 13 inches of snow on the city shutting everything down two days before we arrived.  We watched as 13 truck loads of the white stuff was removed from the tarmac before we could deplane.  We got to our Airbnb and headed for the nearest pub.  Severe disappointment ensued; there was no Guinness to be had!  Fresh out.  While the city was immobilized for two days, everyone was at the pubs and drank the city dry!  That’s an historic event:  no Guinness in the pubs in Dublin!  Crazy, but true.  Happily, we got to have one more pint of Guinness at the airport before we left.

We arrived at Dublin airport around nine am. After getting through security we went through the duty-free store and found that they were having a series of gin and whiskey tastings!  Ireland, what a country!  Of course, we felt duty bound to try the local spirits.  Ireland is having a distilling renaissance and the whiskies and gins are first rate.  We brought home some Tyrconnell 12 year old Madeira cask single malt whiskey.  Mmm, good!

We made it home with minimal delays and after thinking about it we realized that the only thing we missed while we were away:  our dog Jiva (aka Bubba).  Looks like there’s a transatlantic trip in your future little buddy!

On to Porto!

After four days in Lisbon we took the train to Porto.  We did have a little miscommunication with our cab driver who thought we wanted to go to the aeroPORTO!  When we realized that we were almost to said airport, we told him that we wanted to take the train, trem, trem!  To Porto, muita Obrigada! (Thank you very much!)

No biggie, only about 15 minutes lost there.  We stopped for um café (a coffee.  Must have coffee in the AM!) and made our way to the gate for the train to Porto.  It is about a three-hour trip on the express train which is very pleasant and comfortable.  Plenty of time for a good read, some study or a snooze.  They serve coffee on the train, we soon found out and it was really good and a screaming deal for one Euro.

What is that chick doing in the Porto sculpture?!

By the time we arrived in Porto, we were hungry.  So, after we checked into our Airbnb we took off to tour the town on foot.  Our hostess gave us a map with a list of the best places to eat, and we were off to seek delicious internal nourishment.

Porto is quite hilly and reminded me a lot of San Francisco.  Oh, and beautiful, beautiful, wish I was still there!  I had done a little research myself (Thank you Rick Steves!) and we set off to find Casa Guedes which is famous for its pork sliders.  It was a bit of a hike, but we found it and, of course there was a line out the door.  We were tired and hungry and almost blew it off to go elsewhere, but there were only four or five others ahead of us, so I insisted, we’ve gotta suck it up and try these.  After about ten minutes we reached the counter to order.

The place is TINY and when you get to the register, you had better know what you want.  This is what you want: pork slider with cheese and a glass or bottle of the house sparkling rose, which was not on the menu, as near as I could tell.

We sat at the three-seat bar and waited for our food.  Behind the bar was a man with a giant side of pork swimming in roast pork juicy deliciousness.  We were getting high on the fumes.  This was going to be good.

Magically delicious!

Holy mother of the best pork sandwich you have ever had!  And the rose wine with it, heaven.  There were only about three or four small tables inside, most of the seating was outside on the patio.  It was a little chilly, but we sat outside and enjoyed our gastronomic bliss.  Joe had a Super Bock beer, which was good with the world’s best roast pork sandwiches that melted in our mouths, but the sparkling rose really was the perfect pairing.  This was one of the best meals that we had on our entire trip.  Simple, taste treat sensation and all for about $17 Euros for the two of us.  This is what I’m talking about!  Welcome to Porto!   When do we move in?!

How we got to want out.

Ever since #45 was elected, or mango unchained, (Thank you Trevor Noah!) as we like to say, I have been on a mission to leave the country. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?! My husband and I are on the downside of middle age and ever since the last recession, gainful employ has eluded us. (Not for lack of trying, mind you.) We can no longer afford to live in the Mile-High City, Denver, Colorado, that we have called home for the past 25 years. We have been hanging on by our fingernails and the generous support of family and friends for years. It seems that once we hit 50, nobody wanted us. Add to this that advancing age has caused me to loathe the extreme bipolar temperatures in Denver and, I have been trying to figure out where we could go to have a better quality of life for several years now.

I traveled a lot throughout western Europe in my youth, but my husband Joe had never been out of the country. In 28 years of marriage, we had never had a vacation together. Chalk it up to something else always taking precedence, work trips, to see family, and the like. So, given our advancing age and general dissatisfaction with our lives, I decided it was high time we got the hell out of Dodge, so to speak.
It is high on my bucket list to relocate to Europe and after a year of research, I decided that Portugal was the best possible choice. When friends asked, why Portugal? My answer was food, wine, and weather. Also, the cost of living is much lower and, to make residence there is a lot easier than most European countries. So, I decided, we need to plan a trip. Again, sounds so simple, until you start to consider the cost of a trip like this from BFE USA. How shall we pay for this, I asked myself? With our good looks?! Oh, yeah, those left the building a long time ago! As my Dad used to say, I wish I was born rich instead of good looking!

Gold23

I was a professional harpist in L.A. for ten years, and have played professionally off and on since then. However, in the past several years, I have done maybe, two or three gigs total. As much as I loved my gold 23, Lyon & Healy concert harp, it was just collecting dust in our house. After much agonizing, waffling, and false starts, I walked into the wine shop where I work and announced, to no one in particular, “I’m selling my harp”. Now, selling a gold concert harp is no small endeavor. Replacement value is in the neighborhood of $53,000. The market value for mine was about $20,000. This could take some time. But here is the crazy thing, one of my co-workers knew a customer of the store who might be interested, one Eddie Roberts, a Welsh jazz guitar player who is a successful gigging musician and has always wanted a harp like mine. Victor asked me to text him the info on the harp, which I did, and he sent it on to Eddie. Long story short, the deal was done in a matter of a couple of days and concluded shortly thereafter. This is a testament to the power of intention, I’ll say. It was nothing short of a small miracle that I sold my harp so easily and, I took it as a green light from the universe to start packing my bags and planning our little trip.

The long and winding road ahead!