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Portugal Day 4: A Marvãolous Adventure

sunny 80 °F

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We started our day by taking a taxi to the airport. We saw the somewhat less fashionable side of Lisbon on our drive, but also got nice views of the river. When we arrived at the Europcar office, they appeared to be closed. There was a sign saying that we should go to the office in the main terminal, so we did. Once we were there, they were very helpful. They didn’t have a car with WiFi like we had ordered, but they did find us one with a built-in navigation system that was a little larger than we had originally booked. We set out from Lisbon towards the east, heading first for the former Templar castle of Almourol.

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Before we arrived in Almourol we stopped in the little town of Tancos, where there is a restaurant called Restaurante Almourol. We strolled around the grassy area by the River Tagus, then went to the restaurant. This was an adventure all its own.the restaurant was very nice, but no one seemed to speak English. I told the waitress “Não falo Português” to which she replied “Mas percebes bem” and continued in Portuguese. The menu also was entirely in Portuguese. We ended up using Google Translate, which yielded that one of the menu items was “bunny” and that another was “potato punch.” So that was unhelpful. We ended up just ordering. We got fried river fish with rice and beans. Neither of us usually eat a lot of fish,but it was a good meal.
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Some views across the river to the towns on the other side. There was a beautiful view from our restaurant.
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The castle was a fortress used by the Knights Templar during the crusades. It formed part of a defensive line along the Tagus during the Portuguese Reconquista. It is a beautiful castle, and it’s fascinating to see how it would have been when the Tagus was the dividing line between the Christians and the Muslims.
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Some amazing views around the castle. We were able to climb the staircases and look out from the walls. The river is much narrower on the northern side of the island. It seems like a very defensible position since it is surrounded by water, but it is obviously better protected from the south, which of course is where the Moors were.
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The castle as we left in the boat. We missed the boat we were supposed to take, but thankfully it came back a few minutes later.
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After that, we went further East to the walled hilltop city of Marvão. It is near the border with Spain and had been used to defend against invasion. It is beautiful, and reminded us quite a bit of San Gimignano in Italy. There are narrow streets, hills, ancient fortresses and churches, and a cafe that sells gelato.
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The curious kittens of Marvão.
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There is a beautiful garden near the castle made up mostly of hydrangeas, Catherine’s favorite flowers. The garden has a beautiful view of the surrounding area, and you can see the surrounding valleys in Spain and Portugal.
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More of Marvão.
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A tactile model of the city.
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Gelato from the cafe.
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Given how close we were to Spain, we decided to go in. There was a former border checkpoint that was entirely unmanned, and the only signal that we had left Portugal and entered Spain was this sign. We went in to a gas station and got some snacks, and it was intriguing that all of the packaging was in Spanish. The linguistic nature of the border is fascinating: the cashier at the gas station spoke something that sounded like Portuguese to locals at she knew, but perfect Spanish to strangers.
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We then followed the GPS to Coimbra. Our AirBnB host, João, was waiting at a cafe. We met him and found a parking spot, then got everything set up in the room. We then met João at the tapas restaurant across the street from our flat. He gave us advice about what to do in Coimbra: he was a wealth of information about the city and the various things we could see. He left us to have a late dinner and listen to the singing of the Hungarian university officials in the next room (there is a sports competition between European universities going on in Coimbra).
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Our dinner, including a bottle of wine from our waiter’s hometown in the Douro valley.
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Our dessert: lime pie and a 1985 port.
We spent a long time visiting with our waiter, the Hungarians (who bought us a round of a Portuguese liqueur), and a few others who stayed in the restaurant late. We learned some Hungarian drinking songs and chatted with the waiter about the town, life in Portugal, and numerous other topics. It was a wonderful night. We went back across the street to our room at around 4 in the morning. We feel so lucky to be able to have these adventures and talk to such interesting people!

Posted by danielcatherine 03:56 Archived in Portugal Tagged castles fish adventure rice port wine kittens tapas coimbra lime beans talk marvão almourol Comments (3)

Hawaii Day 10: Sunset

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We got up earlier than yesterday, and went back to the blowhole area to make sure we got the chance to try Julia's banana bread. We made it to the stand in time. We also bought some mango candy, and we were very tempted by the passionfruit butter. One of the sellers gave Catherine this plumeria to wear in her hair (he also offered a plumeria lei for $5 but we weren't sure how we would get it home). It was a beautiful drive and a fun stop. And the bread is delicious!
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We went boogie boarding at D.T. Fleming Beach in Kapalua. On the recommendation of Daniel's aunt and uncle who come here regularly, we also tried the "beach shack" affiliated with the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua. It was very good. Boogie boarding was fun, although it takes some time to get used to it, and the wind was pretty intense today just like yesterday.
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After boogie boarding and lunch, we headed back to the room and then out again to snorkel. We snorkeled near the resort, a little bit to the south where there were beautiful reefs and we saw a great many new varieties of fish. Unfortunately we didn't have any way of taking pictures of them, but we saw some amazing things. After that, we decided to go back to the hotel for the sunset, and sit out on chairs overlooking the water.
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One of Daniel's favorite pictures he's ever taken: a sailboat against the sunset.
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Our last sunset in Hawaii, "until we meet again."
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After sunset.
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We went to dinner at Prison Street Pizza, which is in Lahaina and was very good. It was a relatively small restaurant, but the pizza was good and we tried a couple of Maui Brewing Company beers. We have had a wonderful time in Hawaii, and we hope to be able to come back soon.

Posted by danielcatherine 18:36 Archived in USA Tagged fish sunset pizza snorkel sailboat blowhole boogie_board ritz-carlton d.t.fleming kapalua Comments (0)

Hawaii Day 5: Honu Adventure

overcast 81 °F

Today we have very few pictures because our main adventure was not documentable with our phones. In the morning we drove to Honolua Bay, north of Kapalua. We parked in a small parking lot, and then walked through the jungle to reach the rocky beach. There were "falling tree" and "falling coconut" warnings everywhere, but thankfully we did not encounter either. We did, however, encounter countless chickens, including hens with baby chicks. They made a great deal of noise, but mostly got off the path when people walked by. Though the path through the jungle seemed somewhat deserted, the actual beach was full of people, and there were three snorkeling/ scuba diving catamarans in the bay. We got our snorkel gear on and started snorkeling. There were beautiful, colorful reefs there, and there were tons of fish. We snorkeled for about an hour and a half to two hours. At one point we heard someone yell "turtle" and we went to where she was. There was a green sea turtle (honu in Hawaiian) eating algae on the reef. We kept snorkeling, and saw three more turtles. They would come up for air very briefly, then go back down for more algae. As we were looking at one turtle, we saw a giant eel swim by. Afterwards, we swam back to the shore and started to get ready to go. Daniel noticed a stand where a man was selling fresh coconuts and papayas. We didn't have any cash, so Daniel went back to the car to get his wallet and we bought a coconut. First we drank the coconut juice/ water, then the seller broke it and we ate the meat. We all liked it except for Katie, who felt that it tasted too different from the "coconut" flavor she was used to.

We went to the Times Supermarket to get lunch, and had the pineapple that Steve gave us yesterday in the field for dessert. It was Catherine's parents' wedding anniversary, so we had reservations at Duke's, which is within walking distance of our hotel.

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We saw a plumeria tree on our way, and there were a lot of flowers on the ground, probably due to the aforementioned fiercely-blowing trade winds.
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We picked up some flowers for Catherine and Katie to wear in their hair.
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Anniversary dinner.
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Some pictures from our dinner. The restaurant is right by the ocean and we were there for sunset, which was beautiful.
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The food was delicious: taro rolls before the main course, then our dinner: chicken and mashed potatoes, and Maui onion soup (suspiciously similar to French onion soup, but made with Maui onions).
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The famous "hula pie" which we had for dessert.
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We went for a walk on the boardwalk after dinner. The stars were coming out and it was a beautiful night. It started raining as we were walking back.
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Pictures with the statues in the lobby of the hotel.
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We stopped at the gift shop and picked up this souvenir. We got a metal sign in Ireland last year, and this year we bought this one. We can add them to the same area in our garage to decorate.

Despite the lack of pictures, today was a wonderful day and we loved everything that we did. Seeing the turtles was spectacular, and we had a pleasant and happy day overall.

Posted by danielcatherine 02:34 Archived in USA Tagged fish rain adventure reef snorkel coral stars turtle honolua eel honu duke's Comments (0)

Hawaii Day 2: Our Car is Bugged!

all seasons in one day 86 °F

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Our flight was at 10:20, so we had to get up early to get to San Francisco and get through security on time. Daniel's mom drove us to the airport, and we made it just in time to get a couple of coffees and get on the plane. Hawaiian Airlines names its planes after stars or constellations that were important to ancient Polynesian navigators. Ours was called Keali'iokonaikalewa, which is the star Canopus. Daniel appreciated the astronomical connection.
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Catherine arranged for the lei greeting at the airport. Kahului Airport is interesting: very open and outdoor-feeling. It was very hot and humid and extremely windy. The palm trees were bending in the wind, and everything looked like the quintessential tropical destination.
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We landed at about lunch time, Hawaii time. Catherine's parents had not yet eaten, and we had only had a little food on the plane. Catherine used Yelp to find a parking lot with several food trucks and a place to eat, very close to the airport. We all found food to eat from the various trucks, and enjoyed a delicious first meal in Hawaii.
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We were especially excited about "Thai Mee Up," a Thai food truck. The spiciness scale went from 1 to 10. We asked for a seven. It was spicy but edible, and delicious. Both of us thought it was some of the best Thai food we've had. After we finished, we headed to our hotel in Kaanapali.
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Catherine's dad thought he had found such a good, empty parking space. At first he couldn't see why we all objected to him parking there.
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Some pictures of the hotel where we're staying. It has a similar open design to Kahului airport, and seems very comfortable. Currently, only Catherine has spotted lizards. Her current count is two.
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The view from our room. No ocean view, but the side of the mountains and a beautiful double rainbow (which isn't technically permanent, but was present for most of the day today.
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Catherine and her mom with matching leis and matching hats on the balcony.
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We went to the beach to wade into the water, and saw a lot of people snorkeling. Since we had, courtesy of Daniel's parents, all of our snorkel equipment in the room, we went back to the room and got it, then went snorkeling. We hadn't expected to do so much on our first day, but it was a fantastic experience. Catherine's dad went with us, and we saw (judging by the "Snorkel Bob's" fish guide available in the room), a couple coronetfish, many varieties of butterflyfish, a humuhumunukunukuapua'a, a few redlip parrotfish, some unicorn surgeonfish, and some others that don't seem to appear on the card. And this was in the later part of the day, when the hotel staff said there would be lower quality snorkeling.

After this, we decided to go to the store to pick up some supplies. We went to the parking garage and got in the car. As Daniel was about to sit down on the seat, he noticed what he thought were flower petals from the leis. He went to pick them up, and they moved! As it turns out, they were small, flying cockroaches. Catherine was especially disgusted, and screamed when she saw how many there were. We decided not to go to the store tonight, and we will call tomorrow and hopefully get a new rental car. Rather than going to the store, we walked to the hotel bar/restaurant for dessert and drinks, then back up to the room to write our blog for today. Hopefully tomorrow we will have a non-bugged car!

Posted by danielcatherine 01:08 Archived in USA Tagged fish ocean mountain car maui rainbow bugs reef snorkel hats kaanapali thai_food leis kahului lizard_count:2 Comments (0)

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