Lagos, Portugal

September 17, 2014, no comments

A quiet off-season.

After four nights in Lisbon, we piled in the car and drove down to oceanside Lagos in the Algarve. On a previous trip, Mike traveled solo through the Algarve and was eager to experience it again. When we arrived, it was easy to see why Mike enjoyed the region so much. It’s gorgeous.
Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal
Mike’s parents were able to snag us a great deal on ocean view rooms. It’s never a bad morning when you wake up to this view:
Lagos, PortugalWe headed into town in search of dinner. Because it was the off-season (early spring), many of the bars and restaurants were closed down. We enjoyed a quiet meal and then headed towards the water. It was too chilly to take a swim (even for Mike!), so we walked along the cliffside path back towards our hotel. We ended up losing the race with the sun and walked the remaining mile or so in the dark.

Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, Portugal Lagos, PortugalThe cliffs and grottos of Lagos reminded me so much of the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Boat rides along the rocks are offered for about 10 euros. Mike took a tour on his previous trip and I really wish we could have done one too. Unfortunately, the prospect of being splashed with cold ocean water was absolutely not appealing. Maybe next time.

xo, jill

Pena National Palace

September 16, 2014, no comments

Second stop in Sintra.

As I said before, our time in Sintra felt like one of those old Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks. After finishing The Adventures of the 9th Century Moorish Castle, we traveled further along the bus route to Pena Palace. It was time for The Tale of the 19th Century Portuguese Palace. 

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

Pena National Palace is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and a very popular spot with tourists. I mean, look at it. The color alone is enough to get my attention. According to Wikipedia, the palace is one of the best examples of 19th Romanticism in the world. That’s pretty impressive. This is also where I wish I knew much more about architecture.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

The palace was constructed by Ferdinand II during the mid 19th century. His aim was to build a summer residence for the royal family. Well done. Personally, I think I would be quite happy spending a summer or two in the palace. Currently, the palace is used as a venue for state occasions by the government.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal

In addition to visiting several rooms in the palace, visitors are also welcome to stroll throughout the surrounding Pena Park. This would have been lovely on a warm summer’s day, but not so enticing on a chilly late March afternoon.

Sintra, PortugalIt was walking back to the train station that I started to notice I really wasn’t feeling well. I just could not get warm. However, it took me being bundled up in our hotel room later that evening to realize I had the chills… and a dreaded fever. I spent the evening trying to speed along my recovery by watching Blue Bloods cozy in bed. It didn’t work!

xo, jill

The Castle of the Moors

September 14, 2014, one comment

First stop in Sintra.

On our last day in Lisbon, we ventured even further out and took the train to Sintra. This little day trip is very popular and highly recommended. The pleasant walk from the train station allows the first few peeks at the lovely and picturesque town.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, PortugalBeing in Sintra felt like a real life Choose Your Own Adventure fairytale. By studying our map we determined our choices for the day were: The Adventures of the 9th Century Moorish Castle or The Tale of the 19th Century Portuguese Palace. We settled the question by getting off the bus (take the 434 bus loop from the town center, worth it!) at the first stop, the Moorish Castle.

Sintra, Portugal

Pena Palace  /  Moorish Castle

The Castle of the Moors was first constructed between the 8th and 9th centuries. At that time, the Iberian Peninsula was largely under Muslim rule. The castle served as one of the primary military points in the area. Through the years the castle was remodeled, expanded, and damaged by battle and earthquake. By the mid 19th century, parts of the castle were in ruins when Ferdinand II called for its restoration. Several projects over the years continued to restore the castle and now it is one of several lovely tourist attractions in the area.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, Portugal Sintra, PortugalVisitors are welcome to explore the area freely. However, word of warning, if you are scared of heights beware. You can get right up next to the walls’ edge. Seeing the village below only amplifies the height of the castle.

Sintra, Portugal Sintra, PortugalNearing the end of our visit, we stopped for refreshments in the garden. This little cat caught my attention. Don’t you just love that tail?

Sintra, Portugal

Next, we hopped back on the bus and headed for Pena Palace.

xo, jill

Beautiful Belém

August 20, 2014, 2 comments

If you survive the tram ride.

Our second day in Lisbon, we decided step further afoot and explore outside of central Lisbon. After one of the most jam packed tram rides of my life, (I swear I thought I was going to pass out due to lack of oxygen), we arrived in the scenic neighborhood of Belém.

Belém sits along the Tagus River and is full of monuments to visit, plus some very famous pastries. (More on those later). We visited the Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the Belém Cultural Center.

Thankfully, the sun decided to join us that day, making the neighborhood that much lovelier.

xo, jill

A first look at Lisbon

August 19, 2014, no comments

She’s a pretty one.

After spending a couple of days in London with my sister, I met up with Mike in Lisbon. It was the beginning of an 8 day road trip through parts of Portugal and Spain with his parents.

Question: Do you know one of the worst times to get a nasty cold?
Answer: When you are on an 8 day road trip with your boyfriend and his parents.

So, yep. Unfortunately, I was sick for most of this trip and feeling quite miserable. It was a blessing to be able to fall asleep in the back of the car while Mike’s dad did all the driving. (Except, of course, when I got car sick… that felt like double punishment!)

These photos are from the first few days of the trip (pre-fever) when I was still feeling pretty good. Lisbon is a lovely city. During our trip the weather was a bit chilly and wet at times. I suspect that on a bright sunny day the buildings look even more enchanting.

We stayed at an excellent newly opened guesthouse in a convenient location. If you visit Lisbon, I highly recommend staying at MyRoom Lisboa. It’s run by a friendly young couple and is like staying at your friend’s expertly decorated apartment. Fair warning: Make sure you get the exact address because there is not a sign outside on the street, just a beautiful green door.

xo, jill

London: Sister Edition

August 18, 2014, no comments

Using all my restraint to not reference Winning London.

When my sister and I were planning her visit, we really wanted to squeeze in a side trip to another country. My goal was to find a place that would be: 1. new for the both of us 2. easy to connect to Lisbon (my next destination) 3. easy to connect to Amsterdam (her next destination). It turned out that the city that most closely fit the requirements was London. (I’ve been before but I was 16 so I was happy to visit again).

We stayed for three nights at St. Athan’s Hotel in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of Central London, which was the perfect location for us. We were able to easily get everywhere we wanted to go. We also went ahead and rode one of those silly double decker bus tours. It was the best way to relax, see the main sights, and get around town. Plus, now we have a new memory of Jana narrowly escaping pigeon droppings!

Luckily, the spring weather was gorgeous for most of our stay. When the chilly wet rain finally did creep in, we headed into the British Museum for a bit of respite.

Thanks to our mom, dad, aunt, and uncle for sending some special “sister spending money” our way. We indulged in some delicious meals on this trip and thought of you with every bite!

Again, here’s a collage of photos from Jana’s phone:

xo, jill


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