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    After leaving Porto, we began to make our way down the Portuguese coast visiting a few beach towns along the way. Chris was hoping for a chance to surf, but it never worked out. It was pretty cold out and, with no wetsuit, I don’t know how enjoyable it would have been anyway.
    Portugal Coast 1
    One of the towns on our “must see” list was Nazare. Up until fairly recently, it was a very traditional, somewhat untouched, fishing village and I was really curious to see it. Unfortunately, when we got there it looked more like a typical American boardwalk than a Portuguese fishing village. Lining the beach was store after store selling the same generic trinkets. Nearly gone were the old women in plaid skirts, knee socks, and fisherman’s sweaters that I had heard about. It is hard to say if people like me are the problem, “invading” the village to visit the ocean or if tourism is a huge benefit to the local economy. I’m guessing the latter. While the curiosity of seeing a traditional village is gone, I sensed that tourism was important to the locals.
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    We did not spend much time in Nazare because we were pretty crunched for time by that point in the trip and we had committed to a hotel room in Lisbon that evening.

    The next morning, we got started bright and early exploring Lisbon and Chris was feeling super enthusiastic, practically dancing in the streets.
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    One of the things that I was especially drawn to in Lisbon were the mosaic sidewalks. Most of the city was destroyed by fires that started as a result of the Great Earthquake of 1755 and, when the city was rebuilt, this type of sidewalk was installed with beautiful and intricate patterns. I can’t even imagine the work that must go into making one of these!
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    Our first stop in Lisbon was the Tagus River waterfront. It was sunny and warm there with a great musician playing for tips. We might have stayed there for hours had Kai not gotten impatient for us to keep going. By this point in the trip, I think she was starting to get a bit tired of riding around in the stroller so much. I don’t blame her, in fact, I was delighted that she tolerated it for this long.
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    Next stop was to see the “World’s Sexiest Bathroom” before we continued our journey through the winding streets of Lisbon. Obviously I needed to see why it was so great. I paid my 50 Euro cents and went in. It was nice and clean and had some pretty cool wood paneling on the walls, but I don’t know that it was deserving of such a bold title.
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    After climbing many hills and carrying the stroller up more staircases than I can count, we arrived at the top of the city. A whole neighborhood full of breathtaking views and plenty of cafes to enjoy them from.
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    We tooled around there for a bit and grabbed some lunch before heading back down the hill and over to the Belém neighborhood to taste pastries from the most famous pastry shop in Lisbon. In many ways, it reminded me of going to Cafe du Monde in New Orleans for beignets. The Pasteis de Belém is a pastry shop that was opened by a group of monks who needed to fund their monastery. The shop has been in business since 1837; it sounds like this gig is working out for them.

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    Next up was the Jeronimos Monastery, home of the famous pastry making monks. Of all the monasteries that we visited on our trip, I think this one was my favorite. I did like the frescoes that we saw in Madrid, but I had much more appreciation for the architecture at Jeronimos.
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    After hitting a few more sights, it was clear that Kai was finished and, quite honestly, I think we were too. We took a cab back to Baixa for dinner, but first there was the matter of getting Kai to sleep so we could eat in peace. I had high hopes that she would easily fall asleep after riding a few bumpy blocks on the mosaic sidewalks, but no such luck. We had to employ more advanced techniques. A pashmina from a street vendor and an ultra pasteurized “milk box” later, she was zonked out, I was eating more grilled fish, and Chris was eating yet another “tipico” meal of octopus over rice.

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The first thing that struck me about Portugal was how welcoming the people were. It is one of the friendliest countries that I have ever visited.

Our first night in Portugal, we ate dinner at a small family run restaurant in Porto. Although the proprietor and his sons spoke very little English, it was clear that we were welcome, Kai was even more welcome, and they were excited for us to taste and enjoy their food. I played it safe by ordering grilled fish, I think I had dorado, while Chris asked for a house specialty. The tripe stew.

If you have ever been in the kitchen with Chris, you have probably seen that he can be a little bit over the top with food safety precautions, so I was pretty surprised to hear that he was going to eat tripe that he did not prepare himself.

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We started dinner with bread, then salad, chouriço, and soup. So that we could taste both of the traditional soups on the menu, I had ordered the Sopa de Legumes, while Chris tried a Caldo Verde, a creamy kale and potato soup. Not being a huge fan of soup to begin with, Chris left about half of his soup in his bowl. As he was clearing our dishes, the restaurateur’s son asked if Chris liked the soup. Always honest, Chris tried to politely explain that it wasn’t really his thing. I’m not sure how much of that was lost in translation, but suddenly our consumption, or not, of every morsel of food that was delivered to the table was being scrutinized. It was clear that this family took their food seriously and that, as their guests, our opinions mattered.

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Remember the tripe on order?

Finally, my fish and Chris’ tripe arrived at the table. After his first bite, his face said it all. Luckily, Kai saved the day. It was probably the first time that Chris has ever been eager to hear her cry during dinner. He immediately took on the role of doting dad, entertaining Kai while I ate every bit of food on my plate as fast as I could. All the while, the restaurant’s owner was checking on us and how Chris liked his dinner. At the very least, we needed to take Chris’ meal to go and make a huge fuss over how good it was. On cue, Kai’s tantrum escalated and we were able to get Chris’ meal boxed and gracefully leave without eating any additional tripe.

Although he was left hungry, I’m sure Chris felt quite relieved.

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Looking back on this experience, I am recalling that much of our stay in Portugal involved eating things that were new, different, or unexpected and breakfast the following morning was another example of this. We set out for the day with an eye out for somewhere to eat breakfast and quickly found a small bakery/cafe that was packed with people, taking that as a good sign, we grabbed a table and ordered two Americanos and the server’s two favorite items out of the deli case. A few minutes later, our breakfast arrived. A fried salted cod sandwich for me and a pastry of meat, cheese, and phyllo dough for Chris. Initially, I was rather turned off by the idea of a cod sandwich for breakfast, but by the time I finished it, I was vowing to cook more fish for breakfast at home. Don’t knock it until you try it, I guess. 

I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon for breakfast, why not salted cod?

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It was time to continue on to the most important part of the day. We were on a mission to walk across town and cross the River Duoro to visit the port cellars on the other side.

I did not realize how much I had to learn about port wine until we toured a cellar. In fact, I would have told you that I did not even like port wine until we did a tasting. It turns out that I love it, unfortunately, I seem to prefer very fine port wines, aged 40 years. Needless to say, I will not be taking up port drinking on the regular anytime soon.

While Porto might be an interesting city for wine enthusiasts to visit, I didn’t feel like it offered a whole lot in terms of general tourism. Perhaps we missed some hidden gems, who knows. I was glad that we visited, but would probably not rush to go back there.

Next up: Nazare and Lisbon