June 2014

The Duoro Valley, Portugal

Chuck Mon, 2014-06-30 07:30
We've been staying in the Dão valley of Portugal, which is not as well known as its neighbor to the north, the Douro valley. The Dão valley feels more centrally located, convenient to the university town of Coimbra, the coastal beaches of Aveiro, and centrally located between the capital of Lisbon and all of Northern Portugal. And while there's plenty of winemaking in the Dão, the Douro valley is famous for Port wine. In fact, at least in Europe, if you buy a bottle labeled "Port", the grapes were grown and the wine was made somewhere in the Douro valley. Even if you aren't a fan of Port (we...

British-American English Cheat Sheet

Chuck Sun, 2014-06-29 07:30
"We are two nations divided by a common language." -Winston Churchill Churchill said it well. The quinta where we've been staying during our time in Portugal, Quinta dos Tres Rios , is owned by two British expats, Hugh and Jane Forestier-Walker. They are adherents to the "Queen's English", yet sometimes we have to think about what they've just said, and sometimes we even have to ask for an explanation. Seem's the Queen's English isn't quite the same as English in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, so we put together this brief cheat sheet of some of the more common terms we've...

Conimbriga: Roman Ruins in Portugal

Chuck Sat, 2014-06-28 07:30
The Fountain House, Conimbriga Just a few minutes south of Coimbra, Portugal are the Roman ruins of Conimbriga. Not ones to pass up seeing Roman ruins, we were pleasantly surprised with our visit. It wasn't a surprise that there were Roman ruins in Portugal: after all, the Roman empire covered most of Europe, and there are indeed Roman ruins halfway from England to Scotland. What was a surprise, however, was how extensive the ruins at Conimbriga are; the only more impressive ruins we've see were in fact at Pompeii and in Rome. The site at Conimbriga is only partially excavated, but what has...

We've Become Fluent in Metric

Chuck Fri, 2014-06-27 07:30
Portuguese might still allude us, but we have become fluent in metric. Despite the efforts of years of elementary school teachers, metric never "stuck" with us, as is the case with most Americans. Like Portuguese or French, it takes immersion, and we suppose we've been to Europe enough now that we can actually think, even dream , in metric. At 20 degrees, perhaps even 19, it's been quite comfortable for me, but Lori's been a bit nippy. Yesterday we did some wine bottling up in the village of Parada de Gonta, which is only a kilometer or two up the road. We bottled 50 or so 5-liter carafes (we...

Coimbra, Portugal

Chuck Thu, 2014-06-26 07:30
Coimbra, Portugal The university town of Coimbra is worth a day visit when traveling in central Portugal. We visited this past weekend and, despite its steep hills, found it to be a wonderfully walkable town. Coimbra--once even the capital of Portugal--clings to a hillside overlooking the Rio (River) Mondego and offers sweeping views of the neighboring valleys. We parked across the river, and the walk across the Ponte (bridge) de Santa Clara gives a hint of the views once you reach the top. After a quick stop in the Tourismo office, we headed through the main square and up the picturesque...

The Quinta Experience of Portugal

Chuck and Lori's Travel Blog - Quinta dos Tres Rios, Portugal
Chuck Wed, 2014-06-25 07:30
Quinta dos Tres Rios , Our Homebase in Portugal I've mistakenly defined Portuguese "quintas" (pronounced KEEN-tuh) as B&B's, but they're a bit more than that. A Bed and Breakfast, simply put, is a lodging option where you pay for a room and receive breakfast the next morning. As that definition also fits Holiday Inn Expresses and Fairfield Inns, we tend to extend the definition to mean a privately owned business, often where the owners also live. Staying at a B&B sometimes feels like--if it's not actually the case--staying in someone's home: they are your host, and you are their guest...

Touriga Nacional: A Fantastic Wine Discovery in Portugal

Chuck Mon, 2014-06-23 07:30
Travel discoveries are always exciting; for vinophiles, a wine discovery is especially exciting. That we will come across spectacular wines and entire varietals that we've never experienced before as we travel should be expected , but that doesn't take anything away from the "ahhh" moment. Hugh, the host of the Quinta we're staying at in Portugal , makes his own wine. In addition to his late harvest dessert wine (aka Port wine), the principle varietal he grows is an indigenous grape called Touriga Nacional. Hugh's current Touriga was harvested in 2007 and bottled in 2009, with 12 months...

Afraid of Heights?

Chuck Sat, 2014-06-21 07:30
We saw on the news last week before we left that there was a little "issue" with the sky deck at the Sears Tower (or whatever they call it nowadays) in Chicago. Seems the plexiglass cracked under the weight of a few daredevil viewers. It reminded us of this visit in 2012 to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, where you can stand over the holes once used to drop nasty things (like boiling hot oil) on attackers and miscreants hundreds of feet below. It's a great way to quell political dissent.

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

Chuck and Lori's Travel Blog - The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, London
Chuck Fri, 2014-06-20 07:30
Visitors to London's working-class east side are required to pay a visit to the Mayor. It's obligatory. Chuck--being a multi-tenure mayor back in the states --is especially obligated to call on the Mayor, as something of a diplomatic courtesy. The Mayor's Front Door The Mayor is shy, perhaps owing to his days underground, avoiding the more official policies and taxes of the city dwellers above. Calling on the Mayor thus requires a unique procedure: you approach the fridge and wait for one of his attendants to ask how they can help you. We had arrived early, so my query was, "Is it too early...

Dali and Picasso at the Tate Modern, London

Chuck Thu, 2014-06-19 07:30
Metamorphosis of Narcissus, by Salvador Dali We're not always big fans of modern art. We just don't "get" random objects strewn across the floor of a museum, or piles of what look like dog poop next to a couple of pieces of wood, that are labeled as "art". Maybe the artist sees something there or has in his mind a point he wants to get across, but that doesn't mean I want to look at it or that I want to understand his point. But we really like the modern art that is interesting , that is challenging , not only to our senses but in the sense that it was obviously technically difficult for the...

A London Must-Do: A Walking Tour

Chuck Wed, 2014-06-18 07:30
London has no shortage of great things to do or see, from great shows (we still rave about "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", which we saw in 2004 soon after it opened) to free world-class museums (blogs to come) to the pub scene. One of our favorite must-dos in London is to take a walking tour. London walking tours work this way: you pick the tour you're interested in (from the tour company's website), you show up near the designated tube exit at the appointed time, you find and pay your guide, and for 2 hours or so you enjoy the wit and wisdom of what we've always found to be a great tour guide...

The 747, Still Impressive at 40+

Chuck Tue, 2014-06-17 07:30
Our ride to London For travelers of a certain generation (that'd be ours) the Boeing 747 is a symbol of the modern, globally-connected world. We remember when it debuted in 1970, and it was a big deal: a source of American commercial pride as the Vietnam war raged and oil crises began. What made it so unique and novel was not its 4 engines (the 707 before it had that distinction) or even its intercontinental range (several aircraft models were in regular transoceanic service in 1970). What made the 747 unique was its passenger capacity, a mind-blowing (at the time) 400+, which would only be...