Harris Family European Vacation :)

Well I’m back from my first European vacation – we spent a week in Portugal in honor of my Mom’s 60th Birthday. We started our vacation in Lisbon, then traveled to the eastern coast to a small hilltop town called Marvao, then drove down to the south western coast to visit Sagres, and then back to Lisbon via Sesimbra. We had a fun time despite different travel styles but it’s always good to be home 🙂 Prepare yourself for an onslaught of photos!

We arrived in Lisbon on Sunday morning. Mom was a bit tired so while she took a power nap Jon and I went out to explore the hilly, cobble stoned streets of Portugal’s main city. Up on the hill where we were staying the streets were very narrow with endless twists, turns, and small paths running between. You had to be quite careful because Lisbon’s drivers often drive very fast and like to play chicken with pedestrians. We took a cab the first night to dinner and I wasn’t sure we’d make it out of there! They also like to drive at fast speeds approximately two inches from your bumper…very fun 🙂

Everywhere there were beautifully painted doors – some in better repair than others. It would have been a dream to shoot an engagement shoot in this town!

Jon volunteered to stand very still while I snapped away with my new Canon G9. I realized that I really didn’t want to lug around my 5D or risk damaging it or getting it stolen so finally purchased the point and shoot that I’ve been meaning to upgrade for over a year. The camera is so lightweight and small but is also much slower than my DSLR so that was an adjustment. It does allow you to shoot manually which I liked although you can only do so using the screen- not using the viewfinder. But overall I was pleased with the photos and the quality.

A local wine bar with sardine wrappers on the wall

Glory light! Jon snapped this one of me and my Mom walking back to the hotel.

Sun flare!

At the beginning of day 2 Jon agreed to be my foot model and show off the sign 🙂

The view from the Castle of Sao Jorge atop the highest of Lisbon’s hills. Notice the terrace near the bottom with the colorful couches. We had drinks and watched the sunset from there both nights we were in Lisbon and it was beautiful.

Jon conquers the castle (and Amanda stays on the ground due to her fear of heights!!)

A cute pooch watches us go by.

Jon snapped this of a couple dining at the next table – it seems very European to me 🙂

The Monument of Discoveriesin the Belem district of Portugal. A beautiful statue that “celebrates the Portugese that took part in the Age of Discovery.” Beautiful up close and just enormous – the figures must be 20 feet tall! You can get a sense of the scale by seeing how teeny Jon looks next to it!

On Tuesday we rented a car and headed to the eastern coast of Portugal – stopping in Evorafor lunch. Here we visited the Chapel of the Bones. You enter under the inscription: “We bones that are here – we are waiting for you.” Yikes! Jon had visited a bone chapel in Rome and said it was much bigger, but this one sufficiently freaked me out thank you very much!

We saw a lot of peacocks in Lisbon and beyond just wandering around. These birds are just so unusual looking and you wonder what could have possibly made them evolve to look like they do!

The stunning view from Marvao – a town near the Spanish border. This is a small town built at the top of a mountain with ripping views. We asked our waitress who lives there and she answered tourists and old people 🙂 It was so uncrowded and it made us happy to be visiting in April – the very very beginning of the tourist season. One thing that struck us at almost all the places where we visited was how unregulated tourism was. It was so refreshing to be able to wander freely around most of the sites and not be bombarded by gift shops and ticket sellers. The Southern coast is definitely more touristy than the eastern but even so it was nothing like site seeing in America.

The other thing is that most of the western coast is a National Park so while in America you would see million dollar condos for miles in Portugal it is all wild and undeveloped – very beautiful.

An Orchard Cove like tree 🙂

Before heading south Jon and I walked around the entire city on the ramparts (I think that is the right word). As we did I had visions of what it must have been like to defend this castle back in the day and see your enemies slowly advancing towards you.

This purple plant (not lavender…we don’t know what it is!) was in full bloom and just carpeted the meadows as we drove south to the coast.

Jon’s Portugese friend recommended we drive by Arrifana – a little known surfing beach on the western coast that is not yet in most of the guidebooks. What does this mean? Not many people on a mile of beautiful beautiful beach – I think we all agreed it was our favorite spot.

After Arrifana we drove further south to Sagres – the south western most point in Europe. Again there were very few people around so I was able to take time and walk out to the point where I saw nothing but ocean. I walked by this graffiti on my way out.

Portugal is known for it’s colorful fishing boats so Mom was happy to drive by the harbor in Sesimbra.

Sibling happiness 🙂

Some individual photos at Cabo Espichel– a promontory overlooking Lisbon.

Inside the chapel on the cliff (information from THIS WEBSITE):
“Situated precariously on the edge of the Cape, a few metres from the main church, is the primitive little white chapel at the heart of the legend of Our Lady of the Cape. Various versions tell the same basic tale that many moons ago a brightly lit image of the Virgin would appear and save sailors from shipwreck in storms. One such lucky soul sold all he owned to build the chapel in her honour, where he would live the rest of his days alone and requested that his crew visit his hermitage every year, hence the annual pilgrimage which continued for many centuries. Cabo Espichel also attracts dinosaur enthusiasts, especially for the rock containing a footprint attributed in the legend to the mare which carried Our Lady of the Cape, but in fact apparently belonging to a dinosaur of which there is much evidence in the area.”

Let me just say that Portugal has A LOT of roundabouts. Jon drove and I was navigator and may I also say that I didn’t always know where I was going. Thus sometimes I would tell Jon to “Big Ben it” which meant drive around the roundabout two or three times while I figured out what the scoop was. This clip was what inspired the expression 🙂 (from National Lampoon’s European Vacation) – Hey Kids – there’s Big Ben!

Now I am even more super psyched for Jeff and my honeymoon in Italy which we are hoping to take next spring. 🙂