A trip across the Ocean – A week in Portugal.

Anyone who knows me knows I Hate. To. Fly. Nothing makes me more stressed out than the thought of stepping on an airplane and going I-don’t-even-want-to-know-how-many miles up in the air. On the other hand, there is nothing I love more than a good adventure in a far away place. And luckily Jeff shares that love of travel. If we had an unlimited budget and the wherewithal to home-school our kids, maybe we’d be traveling the world with them, uncovering all kinds of fun and adventure. But that’s pretty far fetched, isn’t it…  So we made a choice a long time ago, to live in a not-so-big-house and try to travel as much as possible with our kids before they leave us for good!

As much as I wish that meant yearly trips abroad, it doesn’t. Because airfares are expensive. Crazy expensive when you are talking about four tickets. So we save, and we plan. And, everytime we go away, whether it’s across the ocean or just a few hours drive, I’m reminded not only how much I love to experience different places, but how much I love my family. We have fun. We don’t have to argue over homework or who’s turn it is to fold the laundry. We just wander and explore and keep our eyes open to everything new around us.

Two years ago it was Paris, and this year it was Portugal. Why Portugal? Well, because we wanted to go in summer, and airfares to anywhere else in Europe were crazy expensive, but Portugal was more reasonable (slightly). I questioned this choice many times over the months leading up to our trip. Maybe we should have saved and gone to Barcelona like we had hoped. Or London, which I’m sure the kids would love. But I was antsy for a trip abroad, and we had a budget, so Portugal it was.

And guess what? We loved it. Beautiful country, kind people, great food and unique history. We started off in Sintra. In an adorable little flat called “Casa Rosa”, 1/2 a block from the center of town.

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Sintra was the summer place of Portugal’s royalty once upon a time, when they wanted to escape the heat of Lisbon. It’s situated in the mountains, not too far from the Capital. But it is closer to the sea, and benefits from cool breezes at night. And it’s sort of a magical place – with mysterious palaces to visit, like Quinta da Regularia and the Pena Palace.

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And because of its proximity to the sea, you can hop on a trolley — yes, an old school trolley! — and take it 40 minutes down steep and winding mountain roads to a place called Praia das Macas. Or “Beach of the Apples”, in Portugese. This Praia was much like any you’d see here in the US. Families set up with beach blankets and playing in the surf. Little ones wading in the shallow water that washes in from the river– the place that used to wash apples down the hill to the beach.

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We spent three nights in Sintra, getting to know that little hill town and exploring the area around it. We enjoyed its castles, and restaurants and shopping and beaches.

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And then it was time to move on to Lisbon.

I knew pretty much nothing about Lisbon before we arrived. Aside from the fact that there was a massive Earthquake, tidal wave, and fire in 1755. Tough times. But we got to know this city, staying in an apartment in the heart of the Chiado, with plenty to see, to buy and to eat, all within steps from our temporary home.

In Portugal, just like in Paris, my kids ate things they would have lost their mind over if I had put on the table at home… um… SALTED COD in cream sauce?? Really!? Can you imagine if I’d dished this out on a Tuesday night in Andover? Though I will say, none of us are die hard seafood eaters, so we did not partake in sardines, or anything with eyes, and we did have our share of Italian Food. But they ordered for themselves at restaurants, even where the waiters did not speak English. They were so nervous about that for some reason but they did great. And they did learn the Portuguese words for butter, and chicken, and most importantly “Thank You” and we did just fine.

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We left the city one day, taking a train along the sea to Caiscais. A lovely beach town with a Mediterranean feel.

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And then it was back to Lisbon for a final day of exploring.
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My two gals missed the first couple of days of school while we were away and there is no doubt in my mind that they learned more with us than sitting in a classroom. I always say, I want my kids to understand their place in the world. We are separated from so much by vast oceans, but once you cross them you realize that people are so much the same. Friendly people raising families, all trying to do the best we can and live a good life. This is what I want them to know. Now, the next time we stand on Martha’s Vineyard and look East, they’ll know that they were on the other side of that Ocean, looking in the other direction and that there is so much more out there than what they can see in front of them.

Where to for our next adventure? Well, we had a few conversations about that over dinner several nights in Portugal. We’ve got a list going, but we’ll just have to see where we end up. Meanwhile, I’ll end with this poem by the Portuguese Poet Alberto Caeiro (a heteronym for the poet, Fernando Pessoa). (And, If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and looking!!)

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Based in Andover and available

North and West of Boston.

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