Three Countries In One Week

Hello, this is Henry.

We just left Neuwiller, France, it’s right next to the border of Switzerland. We were with our cousin Lucca who is sixteen and we hadn’t seen him in two years! When we were there we went to a restaurant to watch the first Bundesliga match, Bayern Munich VS Hoffenheim. BM won 3-1. I fell asleep halfway through!

After we went home Max and I went to bed. Lucca stayed up to play video games and he didn’t wake up until 11:50 am. But he usually doesn’t wake up until noon anyway.

One day we went to the pool and there was a slide and two diving boards. It was really fun even when it started to rain and a lot of people left but we didn’t.

Another day we went to a park in Basel called Schützenmattpark and it was HUGE and super fun and there was a slide and a swing and a spinny thingy.

Then we went to McDonalds and it was super expensive. At Lucca’s house I rode around on this little toy car that Lucca had. One morning my dad and I went on a bike ride from Neuwiller to Allschwil, Switzerland. On our last full day we went to a cool museum called the Vitra Design House with a HUUUUUGE slide and a play area!!!!!!! It was super exciting.

And we went ziplining and there was parkour and it was really fun. But I wish we didn’t have to leave. We are in Mengen, Germany right now.

Barcelona

Our time in Barcelona was super short, but we made the most of it. Kyle booked an overnight layover there on our way to Basel to visit Rachel, Tammo, and Lucca, so we had 27 hours.

The Vueling flight from Porto was short and easy. We arrived and checked into a hostel on the Passeig de Gràcia. The location was superb, the hostel was very so-so. Nice common area, but a tiny, stuffy bunk room. It was fine since we were only in there to sleep.

Kyle picked up lunch tacos down the street at Taquerias Tamarindo. Not the typical first meal in Spain, but it was close by, and open, and we were very hungry. It was a lucky choice, the tacos were delicious, and we ended up eating there again the next day before we left.

We had tickets to visit the Sagrada Familia in the late afternoon, and to visit the Nativity Tower. In a stroke of bad luck/timing, the elevator to the tower was broken that day, so our visit wasn’t possible. The basilica itself did not disappoint, though. The last time I was there was 1996, and a LOT has changed in 22 years. The plan is to finish all 18 towers by 2026, which seems aggressive given it has taken 136 years so far and only eight towers are complete. The building has a fascinating history – this 99% Invisible podcast tells the story much better than I could. Max and Henry were both awed by the scale and the beauty, at least for the first 15 minutes. It was a hot day and we had been up early to fly from Porto, so at about the 30-minute mark both boys were starting to wilt and asking every two minutes when we were leaving. In true Kyle style, he had wandered off taking pictures (which is occasionally alarming, but the results are always worth it).

When we were finally a four-person unit again, I promised we were leaving but just wanted to check out the museum quickly. That turned out to be worthwhile, especially the view into the modeling studio. The boys would have loved to try out the huge 3D printers they have in there.

We headed out toward Gasterea, a small tapas bar in the Gràcia neighborhood that came recommended (via his lovely mother Sara) by Ben, Max’s buddy since just about birth. The food was tasty, the beer was cold, and it was close enough to the hostel that we decided to walk back.

In that way that often happens when traveling, we inadvertently wandered into the Festa Major de Gràcia, an annual local festival that involves a competition among neighbors for the best decorated street.

In the midst of the surprise street festival, we also stumbled upon Cereal House – Vila da Gràcia. Max and Henry were dumbfounded – it was like all of their favorite things wrapped into one sugar bomb package. Even though I had sworn we wouldn’t be having dessert, I caved pretty much immediately.

The next morning we were up early for our 9:30am timed entry to Parc Güell. The park is impressive, and I think I could stay there many hours on a spring or fall day, when the heat isn’t such a factor. 

As it was, the when-can-we-leaves started up again so we took a car back to the Passeig de Gràcia. While we waited for the taco shop to open for lunch, we spent a good half hour at Lush, which both Max and Henry just loved. They got to try soaps and powdered mouthwashes, and even learned a little about mixing fresh ingredients for facials. Now if I could only get them to shower voluntarily.

After lunch we checked out Plaça de Catalunya, wandered around in the air-conditioned toy department at El Corte Inglés, and then made our way to the airport. Our flight to Basel was also short and easy, but this time on easyJet, so we had to do some creative packing to turn our already crammed five carry-on pieces into four. They do not mess around with their “one piece per person” limit.

The last few days have been spent enjoying family, relaxing, and appreciating the quiet of the semi-rural community outside of Basel where my cousin lives. We’ve leased a car for the next two months, so we’ve also had a crash course in the various and complicated signage on the streets and roads here. I may never figure out the parking signs. We leave today, which I’m a little sad about, but looking forward to exploring Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria in Germany over the next week or so.

Porto Top 5 List

Max
1. Piscina das Marés
2. Jumpers
3. Beaches at Espinho and Granja
4. Passenger Hostel
5. Park at Quinta do Covelo

Henry
1. Passenger Hostel
2. Park at Jardim da Cordoaria (with the spinny thing)
3. Park at Quinta do Covelo
4. Jumpers

Tania
1. Beaches
2. Sunset at Luís I Bridge
3. Passenger Hostel
4. Pepper salad at Pedro dos Frangos
5. Porto Walkers Tour

Kyle
1. Luís I Bridge
2. São Bento train station & Passenger Hostel
3. Castlelo de Guimarães (in Guimarães actually, not Porto)
4. Gardens at the Crystal Palace
5. Piscina das Marés

Gardens at the Crystal Palace:

Spinny things at the parks at Jardim da Cordoaria and Quinta do Covelo:

Castlelo de Guimarães:

Eu bebo cerveja!? (not really)

Hello again it’s me Max with another blog post in Porto, Portugal 🇵🇹 Yay¡!¡!😄. It has been really fun staying here in Porto and we have done some really fun things since the last blog post (thanks for the views!). We have also been using DuoLingo to study Portuguese and a lot of the lessons include writing “eu bebo cerveja” (I drink beer) or “o cachorro bebe cerveja” (the dog drinks beer) which is very hilarious for me and Henry. On Thursday we went to Jumpers again and that was really fun. My dad got a video of me doing backflips on the really bouncy trampoline.

We also went to the park later that day and played for a while. The next day we went to Ramos Pinto, the famous port winery, and got a tour and tasted some wine. I did taste some of the wine and it was not as bitter as most wine because port wine is sweeter than other wine because they stop the fermentation process of the grapes so the wine will not go bad when it gets shipped out to other places.

20180817-IMG_6501.jpg

We also went to the same park again and got some ice cream from a place called Mo-Mo. I got the flavor pineapple and ginger which was actually pretty good.

On Saturday in the morning we went to a park called Quinta do Covelo were we played for a while and spun each other around in this funny circle spinning thing which was probably built by a crazy person but it was actually really fun (if you don’t throw up first).

We also climbed on the play structure and swung on the zip line.

20180818-IMG_6571.jpg

After we ate lunch in the park Henry and I got some ice cream from a soft serve stand that was so good that when my dad tried mine he had to go get his own! When we left the playground we went to walk around the park and we saw a little man-made waterfall that was cool. When we took the Uber home Henry was excited by the fact the it had free candies so we each got one.

Yesterday we went to a beach called Praia da Granja that had a lot of big rocks in the water and good skipping rocks in the sand. We stayed at the beach for a while and dug some holes in the sand but covered them up when we were done. After we left and had some lunch, we took the train back to São Bento train station and walked home. Today is our last day in Porto because we are leaving tomorrow to go to Barcelona and then to Neuwiller, France where my second cousin Lucca and his mom and dad live. The funny thing about where they live is that it is almost on the border of Switzerland and Germany so you can walk over to Switzerland from their house and it is only a short drive to Germany. I can’t wait to get there and see them again and and I will probably write another post then. For now we are just packing and we might go to the park so keep in touch and I will write a new post soon!

Poor Toe

Hello everyone! It’s me, Max, finally writing my first blog post on our website! Right now we are staying in an airBnB above All In Porto, a cheese, meat, and wine restaurant in Porto, Portugal 🇵🇹. Before we came to Porto we were staying in an apartment in Lisbon, our first destination. After Lisbon we took the train to Porto and didn’t have to leave the train station because we were staying at The Passenger hostel (in the train station). While at the hostel we were given free breakfast including coffee and hot chocolate. We also had the choice to go on a free Porto Walkers walking tour with a very nice tour guide named David who happily showed us around Porto.

On our first day here in Porto me, Henry, and my dad (Kyle) took the metro to Jumpers trampoline park were I did flips and jumped of the cliff (a very exciting drop off onto an air bag) while Henry tried the ninja challenge (a combination of monkey bars and hanging foam blocks that you use to climb to the other side of a mat) and my dad sat nearby watching us. Jumpers was really fun and I would recommend it to any kids who are traveling to Porto any time soon.

img_9691

Another fun thing we did was going up the Clerigos tower which is part of one of the many churches in Porto and was very tall and the steps were very steep and skinny. It was exiting to go all the way to the top and look around even though it was really crowded.

20180810-IMG_5928

On Saturday we went to the Piscina das Mares swimming pool in Matosinhos at the beach which was really fun. It was a pool built on the beach using part of the big rocks on the beach as part of the walls. The architecture was really cool and the water got pretty warm (after swimming in the ocean at least) and the beach itself was nice to. It had big waves and the sand was very smooth and was good for swimming, if you’re ok with cold water. We swam and played in the sand for a few hours and then went home and we were very tired.

20180811-IMG_5984

The next day we went to Guimaraes on the train and went to see a castle and a palace that were very old and falling apart. It was really cool to see how the people lived back then and how they thought. The architecture was very old and there were a lot of fireplaces. It was really funny that the beds were so short because the people were much shorter back then. After the castle and palace we ate lunch and went back to Porto on the train to relax.

On Tuesday we didn’t do much but we did go to the mall to walk around and eat lunch. Yesterday we went to a beach in Espinho where it was very foggy. I had a lot fun body surfing and swimming (it was too cold for every one else). We also went to another beach nearby with big waves and Henry got trucked by them.

It has been very awesome to get to travel around Portugal a bit and see all of the people and places. It has also been fun to learn Portuguese and try to talk to people but sometimes it is kind of hard to understand them when they talk fast. One of the things that I don’t like is having to walk to most places and having to move around all the time to different apartments or hotels. Well there’s my blog hope you guys liked it I will make sure to write a new one soon so keep in touch and see you next time!

P.S. I got a Pizza Hut fidget spinner!!!

Oh, Porto

Our trip to Porto was a fast, easy 2.5 hour train ride from Lisbon. The picturesque approach into the city over the river had us hooked, and so far we’ve been loving Porto.

We are staying this week at the Passenger Hostel, inside the São Bento train station. The train station was once a convent, and the story we’re told is that the ghost of the last nun to live in the convent (it was closed when she died) still haunts the station at night.

The hostel is much nicer than any I stayed in during my university backpacking days. It’s beautiful, the staff is super helpful and kind, and a trained chef offers a fun dinner each night in the communal kitchen.

I was a little unsure how the boys would weather a three-hour guided walk, but the hostel had suggested Porto Walkers, and we wanted to get a feel for the city center. It turned out to be just the right blend of historic information and intriguing tidbits about the current life of Porto residents, and we all enjoyed it. Henry stayed right up in front the whole time so he could hear what David, our guide, was saying. It didn’t hurt that we stopped halfway through the tour at a tiny shop called Cozinha Doce for a slice of chocolate cake and a serving of Natas do Ceu (Approx. translation – “cream from heaven”).

I visited the Livraria Lello (considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and said to be an inspiration for Hogwarts) with Henry, who thought the hour long wait to enter was a bit much. Upon entering, however, he was duly impressed and would have liked to stay, “if there was anywhere to just sit and read.”

We all climbed the Torre dos Clerigos for a magnificent sunset.

On Saturday we took the 500 bus to Matosinhos. The bus, part of the regular public transit system, is a double decker, and if you sit up top right in the front it’s just as good as the hop on / hop off tours, minus the pithy commentary. While we were waiting for the bus, we noticed a garbage truck lifting a huge bin out of the ground to empty it. The bin sits just under a very small (bottomless) trash can. Henry watched the whole process until they returned the bin to the ground and closed the cover with the “fake” trash can on top. He turned to us and deadpanned, “My whole life is a lie.”

Max has made a list of things he would like to do in Porto, and the Piscina das Marés in Matosinhos was second on the list. It did not disappoint – the pool is beautiful, the people watching is quite entertaining, and the free water aerobics class that Kyle joined was a delightfully funny bonus.

Number one on Max’s list, unsurprisingly, was Jumpers – a trampoline place. Kyle took them to do that on our second day here. Not exactly on the tourist circuit, they were the only non-Portuguese kids there. Max mentioned that he had a funny experience with one boy who tried to talk with him. He says he tried to tell him he didn’t speak Portuguese (Eu não falo português), but realized only after the boy walked away with a very confused look on his face that he had been earnestly telling him “Eu não falo ingles.”

We have spend a fair amount of time just walking. Every corner turned reveals something beautiful or surprising.

 

Até mais, Lisbon

It was hard, and easy, to say goodbye to Lisbon. While the city definitely feels vibrant and lively with so many people from all over the world here, if I lived in Lisbon I would flee for quieter shores in August, too. Everything feels crowded and a bit overwhelming. It is amazing, however, what a 30-degree temperature drop can do for a body. The boys have taken an interest in photography, and Kyle’s been giving them some suggestions but mostly letting them try things out.

We visited the Feira da Ladra flea market, where you can buy everything from toothpastes to veritable antiques.

The last two days in Lisbon we spent walking and enjoying some of the many parks and viewpoints.

What has already become apparent is that, whether in the heat or not, traveling with a 10 year-old and a 12 year-old requires a lot of snacks, and a limit on museums. Noted.

Lisbon

IT. IS. HOT. Record-breakingly hot. Today’s high hit 110 (thanks, North African hot air mass). As we walked, Henry aptly noted that the wind felt like a hair dryer blowing all over his body. Yet the streets of Lisbon are still packed with tourists like us, taking in the sights and trying not to melt. We’ve been seeking out as many air-conditioned options as possible, which I’m not embarrassed to admit include the mall.

A favorite so far has been the Oceanário de Lisboa. We wandered through it for almost 4 hours, and not just because it was climate-controlled.

We also took the train to Cascais for a morning at the beach. The water was bracingly cold, but the sun was punishing and we only lasted a couple of hours. After lunch we managed a short walk through the town before the oppressive heat and some residual jet lag sent us back to hide in the relative cool of the apartment we’ve taken for the week.

This morning we struck out early for a walk through Alfama, the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, and then a ride on the 28 line of the tram, in service since the 1930s. By 11am, however, the temperature was in the triple digits so we again retreated to the apartment for lunch and a break before venturing out again.

 

We spent the afternoon at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – a museum and garden complex – and then to the Corte Inglés to see a movie (Incredibles 2). The kids have requested a low-activity day tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with a book.