Friday, February 26, 2016

From Lisbon, With Love

Except for the year I was huge and pregnant with Finley, we've gone skiing every February since we've lived in Luxembourg.  A friend and I joked that if there are aliens in space looking down at planet Earth on the Friday that schools in Europe break for the half-term holiday, they would see all major roads jammed with cars, ever so slowly queuing up to get to the Alps.

But we didn't do that this year.
We decided to visit a city we've not been, a place we've only seen in photos.

We went to Lisbon.

We flew from Brussels directly to Lisbon, took a cab to our hotel, got settled in and headed out to see the city.

Hannah and I sort of fell in love with the mosaic pedestrian sidewalks; each tiny, irregular tile placed faultlessly with purpose.

 We stayed at a beautiful little hotel near the city centre, with a big uphill climb.  
At the end of long days of sight seeing, we raced and lunged upwards, then collapsed onto the chairs in the lobby, hamstrings and quads on fire.

When visiting Lisbon with kids, the zoo and Oceanarium are must see spots.
The zoo is where Shawn and I had our first Portuguese "bica," which is what they call espresso, but from what I understand it's not the actual Portuguese word for it.
But it doesn't matter.  I'd recommend it all - the zoo, the Oceanarium and the bica.

Shawn loves public transportation and the Metropolitano de Lisboa did not disappoint.

 He also likes the Periodic Table of Elements, so this was the perfect backdrop.

Shawn: How often does this Chemical Engineer like to talk about elements?
Tina: Periodically.

If we've never given our children reason to think that we are nerds, well, that joke and this photo should do it.

The entire city is an art museum.
"Azulejos," from the Arab word for a small, polished stone can be found in the most inconspicuous of places.

Sintra is a quaint and whimsical little town, just a short train ride from Lisbon.  We boarded early and arrived with a list of things we wanted to see and do.

Someday when she's grown, Hannah will remember this as the day her dad taught her to navigate the train station.

Our first stop was Cabo da Roca, the Westernmost point of Europe.  
When the Greek philosophers first mapped the world back in 2 A.D. they noted that Cabo da Roca was the end of the world.
I showed Hannah where we were on a map.

"Oh, so right here in this spot, this is the closest we can be to America while we're in Europe?" 


From here we went to the Pena Palace, and despite the fog and rain (which I'm told is very common this time of year) I couldn't help but be a bit visually overloaded, not knowing where to look next, with all the vibrant color and cartoon-like features.

When we'd finished at the palace and made our way back to the entrance, we found out that we'd missed the last bus to the train station.  So we did the next best thing: we hired this to take us back.  I'm not even sure what to call it?  It was like a souped up golf cart, but way faster and lower to the ground.  It was rough and bumpy and not safe in the least, but the kids laughed the entire way.

And more public transportation!  This is Tram 28, a Lisbon icon.  We traveled the loop around the city, sitting on its wooden benches, careening around corners and screeching to stop for pedestrians that wandered into the way.

From the tram, Hannah and I spotted this: a wedding gown hanging in the doorway of an old building, beneath lovely azulejos.

It wouldn't be a vacation without a picture of "Vacation Shawn."  Relaxed, a couple of days worth of facial hair and genuinely enjoying himself.  Here he is at lunch in a Portuguese restaurant, finishing up with a bica.  (I didn't have one.  It was too late in the day for me to have caffeine.)

On our final day, we visited Castelo de Sao Jorge, which has an amazing panoramic view of the city.  The Portuguese have a word for describing places with a great view: miradoiros, which actually means golden sights.

I love traveling with these guys.  One of my greatest joys as a mom is taking my kids to a new place, showing them a significant piece of history, teaching them to appreciate someone else's culture. It can be demanding and exhausting and takes a level of planning that adult only travel does not, but man, is it ever worth it.  I read somewhere that travel is the ultimate education.  May each new country they visit, each new food they taste, each new language they hear somehow shape who they'll become.

We returned to Luxemboug, another country and city crossed off our bucket list.
Obrigada, Lisboa.
You're one of our favorites.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ohio Childhood, Luxembourg Childhood

January 16 in Luxembourg:
Hey, Mommy?  Where'd you learn to build a snowman like that?

Ohio, my dear.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Back From America

We spent a lovely two weeks in America, celebrating Christmas and ringing in the new year with family and friends.

From this year's family Christmas card

I hadn't been home in an entire year and I have to say that it felt very, very odd.  In fact, I felt like a bit of a foreigner in my own hometown.

I marveled at all the big cars; I'd forgotten how spacious roads and parking spaces are.
I was honked at multiple times for sitting at a red light, waiting for it to turn green before turning right.
I had a few moments of overwhelm when faced with the sheer volume of choice at the grocery store.
And then I tried to bag my own groceries.
On more than one occasion, I slipped in a French word or phrase like when the nurse at the doctor's office told me to have a nice day; I automatically responded with à vous aussi.

These things are purely habit now, a function of being away so long, I suppose.

An Ohio sunset

Our time in Luxembourg is quickly coming to an end, and we will soon return to the US, so Shawn and I spent a great deal of time getting things ready for our return.

Look out America!  We're coming back!

We took a tour of Hannah's new school, got her registered, tied up some loose ends with our house and a number of other boring details involved in a move.

When it was time to return to Luxembourg Shawn had to stay for work so Christine, one of our dear family friends came back with me and the kids.

It's hard to believe that she was the flower girl in our wedding when she was just about Hannah's age.

We didn't do a whole lot while she was here.
Because, you know, JET LAG.
If you know me in real life or you've been reading here for a while, well, you know how I feel about jet lag.  It swallows you whole and then spits you out into the sleeping pattern of a university student.  Except that you can't carry on with this pattern because it's just not practical to sleep from 4 am until 1 pm.
But we did get to show her some of the beauty of Luxembourg.

And of course, we never send any visitor back home without a trip to The Chocolate House.

Thank you, Christine, for corralling my kids through the airports with me, playing with them, helping Hannah with her homework and introducing me to my new favorite fruit: the pitaya.

We love you and will see you soon!