Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Cabo de Roca and Belem

One of the tricky parts about traveling with a baby is that your day is broken up into Before First Nap, Post First Nap and After Second nap (sometimes even After Third Nap!). Forget AMs and PMs - we had a whole other time system to maintain, which would sometimes present a fairly complex scheduling problem. We had to sync long bus or train rides with nap times so that we don't waste precious daytime sitting somewhere and waiting for Babes to finish her nap (been there, done that, would not recommend)

Cabo de Roca is the Westernmost point of Europe, once believed to be the edge of the world. It has beautiful oceanside cliffs, a lighthouse and some seriously epic views. It is also about 30 minutes past Sintra - the place we spent so long traveling to and from just the day before. The thought of doing the same trip again and trying to get as lucky with trains and sleep schedules was daunting, but we decided to go for it since it was our last day in the area.

It did not disappoint!



There's not a whole lot to do in Cabo de Roca other than checking out the lighthouse and the cliffs, so we only spent about 30 minutes there.

From here, we headed back to Lisbon and beelined straight to Pasties de Belem to offer our services in Pastry Quality Assurance. After paying our dues standing in line (no baby fast pass here!), we finally got to experience the fuss. This place had 13,992 reviews on Google Maps! You could definitely tell the difference between the pastries here and any of the other locations we've tried. These were THAT MUCH MORE delicious!


Since we were already in the area and Babes had a few more daylight hours left in her, we went inside the Church of Santa Maria de Belem.



And then spent the rest of the day relaxing by the Tower of Belem and enjoying our pasties.



I think she got upset that we ate all the pasties and all she got was a banana.






Thursday, 25 January 2018

Sintra

Portugal is absolutely phenomenal for traveling with a baby. 5/5 would recommend. We didn't quite realize the extent of this until our day trip to Sintra from Lisbon. Sintra is an easy 1-hour train ride from Lisbon, with great signage and accessible transportation. The only not-so-easy part was buying the train tickets. Luckily for us, wearing a baby on your chest is the equivalent of holding up a huge sign saying "Please Help Me / Let Me Cut In This Line / Tell Me If I'm In The Wrong Line". We had a few people approach us offering help, and letting us know that babies (and elderly) get priority and are allowed to skip all lines everywhere. This included the 23452345 person line to buy the tickets to Sintra, as well as the 234098098 person line to get on the train.

Sintra is a gorgeous town on the west coast of Portugal, with lots of historic monuments, Moorish castles and royal villas. All these attractions are conveniently connected by both local busses and hop-on-hop-off tours. You definitely need several days to see all the sights, but most people just fit in all the major spots in one day.

We visited The Moorish Castle, which was constructed sometime between the 8-11th century as an observational stronghold to guard the town of Sintra. It was eventually taken over after the Christian conquest of Portugal.





Our second stop was Pena Palace - THE major highlight for most tourists coming to visit Sintra and Lisbon. The bright, eccentric colors of the palace contrast the surrounding green of the Sintra forest and make it stand out among all the other architecture in Sintra. This palace was built for Queen Maria II by her young German consort, Ferdinand II.  We walked through the palace, and to be honest, liked the outside much much more. The comical architecture and bright colors made it feel like a Disney castle set.




This is one of the initiation wells of Quinta de Regaleira. The wells were never used, nor intended for water collection. Instead, they were used for secretive initiation rites.


Once we were ready to head back, we were greeted with several bus-loads' worth of people waiting in line for the bus. With our heads down, and our baby held up high, we confidently marched right past the whole lineup of people, all the while avoiding eye contact. No one said a word except for the first man in line who was extremely vocal about how much he disagreed with this whole babies-get-priority thing.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Lisbon

We debated for a while were we wanted to go for our honeymoon. Given some of the safety-related restrictions we were facing with a baby in tow, we decided to stick to something more familiar and take a 3 week vacation in Europe like all good tourists. This trip was going to have its own set of challenges - Babes is no longer exclusively breastfed so we have to find food for her, she is getting pretty heavy so we have to carry around a stroller, AND she is now a full on crawling-almost-walking machine! No more Japanese-style-thin-floor-mats where we could just lay her down and have her stay there for the night. We now needed a proper crib at each place! We considered bringing our own pack n play but it would've been such a hassle to carry around between destinations, given that we like to be able to carry all our luggage in our backpacks.



Our itinerary included a roundtrip flight to France, with stops in Lisbon, Lagos, Sevilla, Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, Nice and Paris. The overnight flight to France was pretty smooth and we arrived in the morning. Much like the Japan trip, the first day was a complete write off full of heartbreaking cries and a solid 24hrs of on and off sleep. But unlike the Japan trip, this time we were prepared - a hotel reservation at the airport for the first day and night and no events planned. Even though I saw a meltdown of this magnitude coming, I still struggled and doubted myself as a mother, partner, human... and looked at next day return flights. But at least this time there was no fever involved and I knew the language so I felt a lot more comfortable with our decision to travel.

The following morning we boarded our 1hr plane to Lisbon. Babes was able to catch a few more z's thanks to the kind people who let us have two seats together.


From the airport we took a couple trains to get to Alfama, the historical heart of Lisbon, where we booked our Airbnb. From the train station, it was a beautiful uphill walk on narrow, pretty-sure-pedestrian-only-but-not-sure-how-some-cars-got-here cobblestone streets and views of the ocean.





Since we were a bit early for checkin, we stopped for a coffee at a cafe nearby. Danny went in to order us two lattes and a pastry, while I sat down to feed Babes. A few minutes later, our two .. lattes.. came.


I guess we got what we paid for; two glasses of hot milk. Danny mentioned that he thought it was weird they asked him if he wanted the lattes hot, and... just in a glass? But regardless, the hot milk was delicious and we enjoyed it just as well without the caffeine, making a note for next time to make sure to say ***CAFE*** latte. These pastries though - Pastel de Nata - are a signature Portuguese dessert. There's a lot of disputes about which bakery shop in Lisbon makes the best and most authentic Pastel de Nata. Some say it's Pasties de Belem, others claim it's in Manteigaria and I'm sure there are quite a few other runner ups. We only had about 2-4 each a day, so we didn't get to try all of them. We're not fatasses.

Soon enough we were able to check into our Airbnb, where we were greeted with yet another round of Pastel de Natas. After digging into these ones, we very quickly went from 0 to full on Pastel de Nata snobs.



After a quick break and nap for Babes we ventured back out into the streets of Lisbon. Our CFO (Chief Food Officer, Danny) found us a cute looking restaurant (which had the mandatory 4.5+ star rating, of course) where we tried some traditional Bacalhau fish, as well as beef stew. It was delicious!


Since highchairs were unheard of in such small restaurants, we let Babes roam and entertain herself by playing peek-a-boo with the cooks.



After dinner we headed over to Castelo de Sao Jorge for some gorgeous sunset views over Lisbon.