From Lisbon to Faro

Today we left Lisbon, but not before checking out the last two things on our to do list: the oldest bookshop in the world and the Cathedral (Se Cathedral).

We first headed to the bookstore that opened at 9am. Google told us it would take about 10 minutes, so we went walking. Of course, its up on a hill and that required some steep hill climbing to get there, but it was worth it. The bookstore is from like the 1790s or something and has been in operation the whole time. It has been updated, but the location and idea stayed the same. They had a small English section, but I didnt find anything I wanted/needed so I ended up empty handed.

After the bookstore we walked back down towards our hotel, and headed up the other hill in town to the Cathedral. That opened at 10am, and we were a little early so we just sat and tried to take pictures from the outside. A construction crew decided to park their van right in front of the cathedral and not move it the WHOLE time that we were out there.

Once it was open we entered. This cathedral was like the life blood of the city. The money from taxes on the spices from Africa paid for so many of the religious buildings in the city, this being the main one. It has stood for hundreds of years and basically survived the earthquake from the 1770s. Inside the church is actually pretty boring, not gaudy at all! (which I mean I appreciate). However our little tour for $4 took us upstairs to see some of the artifacts of the church, including robes and other Catholic things I dont know what they are?!

After we finished at the Cathedral, we headed back to our hotel to finish packing and head to the airport – time to pick up our ride! We learned that the taxis we both took probably ripped us off a bit (I paid $30, he paid $19 on the way into the city). To the airport it cost us all of $12, very different pricing!

He dropped us off at the rental car facility, however I learned the hard way that we to go TO the counters INSIDE the airport in order to start the process. Their desks in the rental car facility are pointless. And the guys were rude. So Chris stayed with the bags at their remote desk and I headed into the terminal to get in what I thought was going to be a very long line to check in and get the paperwork taken care of. Thankfully Sixt rental car (our company) had a short line!

I had a really nice guy help me and talked me into upgrading (I NEVER do this). His argument was that we would save more money on fuel and have a more comfortable car if we upgrade. So….I did. It should save us over $100 in the end AND we ended up with a BENZ! So win!

I drove us out of Lisbon and over the April 25th bridge. It looks EXTREMELY similar to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. It was built in the the 20th century by the San Francisco bridge company. They are the ones who built the Bay Bridge (originally). Anyway, it was a cool bridge to drive over, and just experience, mainly because of the twinning factor with the Golden Gate. That and I love bridges.

We had about a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us. I was really trying to hydrate after another hot day yesterday, so I was guzzling the water and Gatorade. After a bit I needed to stop for a bathroom break – a perfect time to get some snacks! Apparently every single person on the road decided it was a perfect time to stop as well, so the stop was PACKED. They have gas stations, restaurants, car washes and bathrooms all in one stop, like America would have a rest stop. There were so many cars there we had to circle the parking lot! After my bathroom break, we hit the road again, with a nice cold bottle of water and some snacks!

Chris navigated me to what we called the “heart shape.” He found it on Trip Advisor or something like that and it looked so cool! A natural rock formation that would line up to look like a heart at the right angle. So of course, we must go! (That and we didnt have much to see in Faro anyway) So the heart shape is near a beach and the roads were PACKED! We ended up parking in a lot that others had parked in. We started what we believed would be a short walk to the rock formation. I decided NOT to bring water, and lets just say that was the dumbest thing I have done in a long time! Our little hike became an adventure that was about twice as long as we expected.

It didnt help that we couldnt find a marked path, so we just meandered around and kept going to where we thought it was, long after Google had told us we were there. Me being, well me, decided to climb the rocks instead of attempt to find a path, so Chris and I scaled the wall of stone in flip flops on a mission to find the heart. We had some amazing views of the ocean, tons of kayakers and boaters out exploring, some cave like things, etc. However, we just kept striking out, until finally we found it. On our way to it, we realized we were on the wrong side of the warning signs….oops! Surprisingly we saw one other couple up where it was and that was it….but also it was EASILY 100* wit NO shade and we had no water.

After we got our pictures for the Gram (instagram that is) we decided to head back to the car cuz it was so darnnnnnn hot! This most definitely did not go as planned! I ended up getting so hot, having to pee AND starting to feel a bit nauseous. I felt heat stroke coming in. So Chris watched out for people while I jetted off to potty in the dust/clay and then we got on our way. However at this point I was really struggling. Chris was so kind and was making shade for me with his shirt above his head, making sure I was doing ok and pausing at every bit of shade we passed. He was going to get the car to meet me but was afraid I would just stop – he was probably right. Until I knew where we were it was probably best he didnt leave me, I think I would have sat down and struggled to get up. Once we knew where we were, he ran to get the car and I continued on the path. It was only about 5 minutes from the time he left to the time I got in the car, but I had never been so thankful for a car ride (lets be real, it was for the AC and water).

He kindly drove us to the Faro hotel (which I navigated us to the CENTER of Faro before realizing that wasnt the hotel – but hey I was out of it when I typed it in!). Its a little B&B that is almost more like a hostel, but we have our own private bathroom, and we are only here for the night. Once we checked in we cooled off in the AC since it was still well over 100*. Around 7pm we headed out for dinner at this place on the water thinking it would be cooler. It was NOT! But it was a nice restaurant. We got a cheese and meat platter, Chris got sangria and I got a Sprite. Chris got an omelet for dinner and I got the “cod and cream” which was really more like a cod cake – that was DIVINE! Apparently if you dont finish your cheese tray they dont think you are ready for dinner so we waited over 40 minutes for our dinner until we grabbed someone’s attention and they apologized because they didnt think we were done. All in all, very good restaurant though!

After dinner we walked through the old down, it was so quaint and pretty at night. We ended at a gelato place near the hotel, got our daily scoops and headed back to the hotel for the night.

It was a HOT and fun day. Note to self: ALWAYS BRING WATER.

Swiss….cheese? Chocolate?

Thursday, August 15

I had to get up at a reasonable time today to pack up and head to the train station – because I am going to Buchs, Switzerland! I was texting with my friend Heidi and she mentioned her dad loved Liechtenstein – so I thought well I should go there! I couldn’t get a train into the country but considering it’s only about 7 miles wide that makes sense, so I went to the town that boarders Liechtenstein and has buses that go between the two cities and countries.

I found an Airbnb that looks promising, I got my train tickets and realized I am going to the German-speaking portion of Switzerland – so wish me luck – German is not an easy language!

I checked my train ticket one last time on my walk to the subway and I am glad I did because I would have ended up at the wrong station! I have no officially used all three train stations in Paris. Because of this change, I opted instead for an Uber because I did not feel like transferring trains. My uber came quick and I was on my way.

I got to the station about an hour and a half before departure. Unlike planes, there are no security checks and if someone ever does something violent to change that, the industry could or sure take a hit.

Anyway, I decided to wait at the tables until my train was assigned a platform then headed to get a croissant (when in Paris and all) and headed to the train.

This train is headed to Zurich and somehow it is not that busy in my car. I am not sure why trains assign you seats right next to someone when a whole lot of other seats are open, but they do. Luckily, all the seats have a little screen above them to tell you when other ticket holders take them – so after about 30 minutes and two stops I moved to the open four seater with a table.

It was a very uneventful ride to Zurich. Once there I had to switch trains to get to Buchs. A quick four-minute transfer and I was on my way. This train was much busier and I had two Americans across from me and an English woman next to me. The American man worked for Amazon and they had lived in Luxembourg but honestly they were both snotty and not that bright. For living around the world for the last 5 years, you would think they would be a lot more street smart in Europe, but it sure does not seem like it.

They got off about halfway to Buchs and some new people came on – new people with a toddler! Therefore, I realized no one was sitting across from us anymore and I moved over to let the little family have all the space. (And to escape a sticky handed child on a train)

I made it to Buchs around 4pm and headed to the ticket counter to make sure I could buy my ticket form Vienna to Prague (as I was unable to do this portion before). For some reason there was no way to buy a seat reservation on the train I wanted so I asked for the next day, but then realized I’d have to pay for it since my pass was going to run out – so back to the original day, but just taking a longer transfer in Vienna, all of 30 minutes longer.

With my ticket in hand, I was ready to find my Airbnb. The host, Markus, had said it was an easy 10-minute walk and was not kidding – 2 turns and a walk down the main street. He had left the key in the post box – it is funny because only outgoing mail is locked, not incoming!!

I let myself in and the space was updated and modern – perfect space to sleep for a few nights. I was getting ready to head out and walk around when Markus came home. He told me to head over to this old little village about 10 minute walk from the flat and I would see a pond and old houses. It was a great little walk – even though it was raining (again, rain jacket to the rescue!) I wandered around, walked up to the old castle and when I got there the rain stopped and a big rainbow appeared over the valley.

I hung out on the hill top for a bit then decided I was hung so I found a Thai place down the street. I have decided to listen to podcasts when I am walking – but often find myself not paying attention – so I am not exactly sure what is going on in them – and during the rain, I paid even less attention. That walk from the castle to the restaurant, not a clue what the podcast was about.

Regardless I made the quick walk to Thai and was the only one there, but the best part about Thai food is it is the same in every country, including Thailand! I ordered my food and started reading my book (it is very long, very, very long) and all of a sudden people started filing in. Clearly, I picked a good spot – I just got there a bit early. While I was there, the rain came down in buckets – it was crazy! I am glad I was inside for sure.

After I paid and the rain let up, I decided to walk back to the flat. On the way, back I passed a gelato shop – so of course, I had to stop – but it was the most expensive gelato ever – thanks to the Swiss. Everything is about 30-40% more expensive in Switzerland (I learned they do not have free trade) Regardless, it was good gelato and a great way to end the day. Tomorrow I am going to Liechtenstein and I cannot wait!

Tonight Markus came to get me to check out the fireworks happening in Liechtenstein, but the cloud cover made it look like bombs!

Ketchican, if you can: July 3, 2019

This our first stop since we left Seattle. Julia hadnt slept well so she was out on her own when I got up. I got ready and got off the boat. Here is where I met up with Becca (we met her on the first day) and her roommate. Everyone else in our group was doing excursions.

The town of Ketchican is super cute. The downtown area is quaint but completely supported by tourism. In fact, many of the tourist shops close down during the winter months. The town has about 3,000 people in the summer – about 1,400 during the winter (I should point out, these numbers change depending upon who you talk to). The cruise ships can bring up to 14,000 additional people during the port days.

Becca and I wandered around town checking out all the little shops. We found a little tram that takes you up to the top of a small mountain about the town. there is a restaurant and hotel at the top, along with a gift shop. After we checked out the top we ended up meeting up with some other cruise mates.

We all grouped together and continued to follow the elevated walk around town over the stream. We made it to the salmon ladder and I texted Julia to see if she wanted to join us for lunch. I ended up leaving the group to go back and get Julia at the ship. The two of us added Gina to our group and walked back to the larger group so we could all go get lunch together. We found a seafood place to sit and eat and chat. Of course I had to get crab legs – because when in ALASKA!!

We ate lunch and then continued to shop on our way back to the boat. Some of us just went back to the ship to hang out and the rest of us had to keep shopping – because we are tourists afterall!!

I decided to go get my cousin a Harley Davidson poker chip. He collects them from all the places he has been – but I feel like a little baby HD store in a little bitty town deserves a chip!

There was a card game meet up so Julia and Becky (who we met last night and I went to play. We played with about 5 people – playing UNO and SkipBo.

We headed from cards to a scavenger hunt. I was separated from all my friends – but man did I have a good time! We ended up winning! I love scavenger hunts!!

After the scavenger hunt we went to this Gen-O meet-up. Gen-O is what Olivia calls anyone under 40. It was just a get to know you meet-up – but we met some cool new people. There arent as many Gen-O ladies as over 40s – but everyone here is just so welcoming it doesnt even matter!!

Our group at this point became: Jess, Julia, Becky, and myself. We all went to this “fashion show” for Haute Butch – a female owned butch clothing company. We all left after the fashion show and went to play cards while we waited for dinner.

The rest of our group ended up meeting up with use for dinner (Julie, Becca, Lori, and Gina). After our usual dinner laughs some of us headed to karaoke – it was funny – but nothing really to write home about. Following karaoke – it was bedtime!

Aloha Maui!!

My cousin is getting married in Maui and that afforded me the perfect opportunity to head to the islands for the first time. With all the traveling I do I have acquired quite a bit of airline and hotel points and finally decided to use them. I first splurged on AA.com buying myself first class tickets to and from the islands for 40,000 points each way. Next up, the hotel. Since Hilton is my brand of choice, I choose the Waldorf Astoria – Grand Wailea.

Wednesday was my travel day, I set out to San Jose airport around 630am. Even though I booked using American points my flight was an AlaskaAir flight. I checked in, checked my bag and headed to the gate for an on-time departure.

First class was pretty amazing, we got a menu for our breakfast options and a great flight attendant serving us. I went with the omelet with cheese, onions and tomatoes. It did not disappoint. Sadly I fell asleep before the snack basket came around. You have to fill out a form declaring any produce or animal products – clearing trying to keep down the contamination. I’m actually shocked they D idnt spray/treat the plane like they did when I landed in New Zealand.

Upon landing I headed to baggage claim to meet up with my other cousins: Amy, Mike and their kids Phoebe and Juniper. We all collected our bags then headed out with the rest of the crowds to the rental car shuttles. I learned a few things about Maui airport that day, mainly that you can walk to the rental cars. If you have multiple people in your party send the driver to get the car and come back to get the rest of the group.

I got my rental car for a steal, $126 for 5 days. That can often be the single day price. The rental car process took about an hour and a half. But after I got my car, I hit the road for the 30 minute drive to my hotel. Upon arrival I got a lei and greeted very warmly by the staff. Since I arrived around 2 my room wasn’t quite ready, so I checked my bags with the bellman and headed to Mike and Amy’s hotel – Wailea Beach Resort – a quick 10 minute walk along the ocean. We got the, settled and immediately my room was ready, so back I came to get checked in. I was upgraded to am ocean view room, and I can hear the waves crashing from my balcony.

Amy I went to Costco and Target after we all unpacked to get some food for our stay. It was perfect – we were able to split lots of stuff and get snacks for during the day. We are probably the least efficient shoppers, but in the end we got what we needed. We all ended up crashing early, since the time change is 3 hours and we were all up very early.

NAB Las Vegas

I came. I saw. I did NOT conquer. I tagged along to the NAB convention with my friend and her husband. But before NAB started we had a fun day with my friend and another friend.

I flew out from Oakland on Southwest – always an enjoyable and fast flight from Oakland. My flight arrived 20 minutes early at McCarran Airport. I arrived in terminal 1 so I had to get over to terminal 3 for my friends – they flew JetBlue. There is a terminal transfer bus that comes like every 15-30 minutes. Im not sure why it doesnt come more quickly, because it was only like a 5 minute ride from one to the other. Terminal 3 was DEAD. I walked in and didnt see a soul other than the people who were on the transfer bus with me. I walked over to the baggage claim that is JetBlue’s to wait for them.

Once they arrived, NAB had a badge check in at the terminal, so we grabbed our badges and headed out to catch our Uber. We headed to our Airbnb. Our Uber driver was super friendly, he drove us to the house, we dropped our bags (we got there early and it wasnt ready yet) and then took us to the Container Park for some food. He actually recommended another place but the line was far too long. We got some tacos and walked around. The Container Park was a pretty cool place, little shops, little restaurants and a park to entertain the children. I would recommend swinging by – its at the end of Fremont Street Experience, two blocks down.

After lunch we headed out to Fremont Street so I could do some gambling! Kristi and I tried our hand at Roulette – she won a couple bucks, I lost. We were heading out and she put $20 into a Wheel of Fortune machine and won a couple more bucks! The lucky streak was on Kristi’s side!! After our quick gambling experience, we snagged an Uber and headed to a grocery store to grab some grub for our quick 2 night stay. Our driver was awesome! She waited for us to shop and then we were able to walk out, load the car and then head off to the Airbnb and check it out.

Turns out, our Airbnb really is a party house. It was apparently advertised as such, but the pictures didnt necessarily represent what we got. This is for sure one of the risks with Airbnb. The condition of the house isnt all that great – tons of beds, randomly created rooms with many beds. It was picked because we each get our own room – so thats a perk!! And we havent spent any time there really.

We came, settled in and then had to head out to the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur. Kristi’s brother is in the show and he got us tickets to check it out. Sadly, he wasnt performing last night, but we enjoyed the free meal and the show. We got called out for not being excited enough and had to act excited in front of the whole audience. The experience is like Medieval Times. For the meal you get a cup of tomato soup, a Cornish game hen, potatoes, broccoli, a biscuit, and apple cobbler- but no silverware! Which means you sip the soup and no butter for the biscuit! Hen was a bit dry (ok lots of dry) but I was hungry, so I finished most of the white meat. The soup was the best part for sure!! The show was pretty good!

After the show we headed back to the Airbnb for the evening. Getting ready for another day in Vegas.

Today we got up and we all had to work – conference calls and paperwork. We had a picnic outside near the pool because the weather is just fabulous here this week. After our morning at the house we headed over to NAB.

I had no idea what to expect!! And I wasnt ready!!It is the largest convention in Vegas – anywhere from 90 – 100,000 people show up for this show. The National Association of Broadcasting. So many people!! They take up the ENTIRE convention center at Las Vegas Convention Center. People come from all over the world for this. We saw like a tour guide set up from Asia. There was a lady with the flag for the group and then another gentleman who was translating for the rest of the group who had ear pieces in their ear.

We spent only a few hours walking through the South Hall portion and about 45 minutes in the Central Hall. We only saw about 20% of the show!! And thats just seeing – not even learning, just SEEING!! So many languages, so many people, so much technology.

We left for a late lunch and headed to Maggianos! I love that place!! Apparently many locals dont go there, but the food is consistent, and if you have a food allergy they take it very seriously. Its a great place!

We went to the North Las Vegas outlet mall after lunch. It’s a big mall that allows plenty of shopping! We got our 10,000 steps in between the two places today – and I spent far too much money on things I dont really need at the outlet mall.

Sadly tomorrow is just a day of work before we have to head to the airport and back to reality!