Sunday, December 27, 2015

Portugal Trip: The City of Porto

Here are a few photos from walking around the city of Porto.

iconic Porto bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel tower fame.
near top of bridge
close-up looking across the river at Porto
from Porto looking back toward Vila Nova de Gaia
Shops sell Porto's signature tiles, as well all manner of items made from cork used for Port wine bottles.

cork bags are popular, although I don't think we saw anyone actually carrying one
We also spent a few hours in one of the more famous bookstores in the world, Livraria Lello & Irmão

JK Rowling spent time in this bookstore when she lived in Porto, and you can definitely sense the a Harry Potter vibe inside.

Still more Porto to come.  I think food is up next!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Portgual Trip: Tiles and Facades

(Merry Christmas!)

My favorite part of visiting Porto was definitely looking at all the gorgeous tile work all over the city. It is called azulejo and you can read more about it here. The "azul" part will tip you off that blue is the preferred hue for these traditional tiles. I couldn't stop taking photos of them.

And here are a few other photos of building facades from around town.  Even when tile is not used, the colors are lovely. Porto has a great "lived in" feel - it's a little run down, but in a very charming, approachable way.  

More Porto to come.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Portugal Trip: The Beach

In the fall of 2008 we brought our kids to the beach for the first time, in Oregon, and I wrote about how we are not really "beach people."  However, in the interceding years, I believe we've come around.

Spain finally sealed the deal - the Ts are now beach people.  Sure, the sand is still a pain and gets everywhere, but I think it also helps that the kids are older can can manage that better. The grown-ups don't even really have to get very sandy anymore. We've really grown to love the simple yet unending possibilities of the beach for vacation entertainment. Send the kids down to the water to stick their toes in, climb around on rocks, dig in the sand, find interesting objects, or even just watch the waves, and you've got yourselves hours of free and gorgeous entertainment, even when the weather and water is chilly. This is much more our speed than an amusement park or other form of manufactured fun.

Like in Spain, in Portugal we once again had a long stretch of boardwalk and beach to explore.  The actual water was not as calm or inviting as the Mediterranean sea, and this was was mid-fall versus late spring, but the large rocks and boulders on these northern Portugal beaches were especially good fun. 

And, even with hit-and-miss weather throughout the week, most days we found a decent stretch of time to venture down to the water in between sight-seeing excursions.  The beach, we've found, is such a great way to break up the sightseeing part of traveling for the kids.  Beach time bribes work wonders.

On one morning we drove down the coast 20 minutes to Capela do Senhor da Pedra, a chapel that's just about as on-the-beach as on-the-beach can be without being in the ocean.

We didn't even check the tide tables; we just hoped for the best.  We were lucky and could walk up to and inside the chapel, which is not possible at high tide. 
intimidating walk around the back
One thing we missed on our Spain trip, and something as born-and-raised-United-States-West-Coasters that we take for granted on a visit to the beach, is the sun setting over the ocean. After facing evening clouds each night of this trip, we finally got our ocean sunset on the last night.

More Portugal post coming, slowly but surely.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The T Family Band Plays the Christmas Market

I will eventually get back to the Portugal posts, but I need to tell you about a special milestone for the Ts.  Our developing family band had our first ever paid gig last month - at the Luxembourg Christmas Market!

Last year, when we saw a small brass band play at the market by the Golden Lady, Pete and I looked at each other and said, "Hey, we could do that!"  Little did we know at time that "we" would mean our kids as well!

A little plaque with the schedule of bands for the day was posted by the stage on Luxembourg City Tourist Office letterhead.  So in October this year I contacted the office and asked them what the procedure was to apply.

It turns out there weren't really any qualifications. They didn't ask for a sample recording or credentials.  We just described our band and they gave us a time slot the first weekend of the market. We signed a contract and we were set! 

Who said everything in a foreign country is more difficult?!?

(Um, that may have been me)

loading up the gear in our elevator
They gave us a two-hour time slot and told us we'd get a 10 minute break.  In our email exchange they asked for our "financials." Embarrassingly, I had to ask if that meant we were paying to do this or they were paying us (hey, I have no clue how this works!).  They came back and said they could offer us 300 Euros.  

Uh, sure!  Now that's just too easy, Luxembourg.

So over the next month we worked up an hour-long set of our favorite Christmas music with Dad on keys, guitar, and vocals, Mom on ukulele, auxiliary percussion, and vocals, Daughter on bass guitar and vocals, and Son on vocals.  The market provided microphones and other sound equipment and we provided the instruments.

We played through the set once and then took a break and played it again.  I had thought by playing in November we might get the warmer end of the market, but we ended up with freezing temperatures and even a little snow.  The kids dressed in full-on snow gear and we all wore several layers of socks.  But you can't play pianos and guitars wearing mittens.  Honestly, I don't know how Pete played 2 hours of music.  He said he really couldn't feel his fingers.

Holding a cup of glühwein/hot chocolate halfway through was an absolute finger-saver.
some kind friends braved the cold to come watch
break time
So, it was freezing cold, but I think it was worth it for the experience and memories.  In fact, we decided to play our set one more time this Sunday - but indoors, at church (85 Avenue Pasteur), from 2-3pm.  Come out and see us and stay cozy warm!