12 September 2014

Being an Expat on 9/11/2001

Just 2 months earlier, we'd arrived in our new home of Prague, Czech Republic.  I was working around the house when Jerry called me from his office to tell me to turn on the news.  To learn of the events on 9/11 was so gruesome for us all.

Being halfway around the world from my beloved home country was gut-wrenching.  I wasn't from New York or DC nor did I know anyone living there, but at that moment I wanted to be home.  To hug my loved ones tighter and to support my country and it's people in this time of need.  It was hard to be away!!

On the flip-side, what I was able to witness was a heartwarming experience!

"Victims of Terrorism" displayed on the St. Wenceslas statue, one of the most iconic statues in Prague, in the days to follow.  A site that's witnessed many important events in Czech history was now a memorial to the lives lost on that fateful day.




The front of the American embassy was equally filled with flowers, candles, tokens and notes of sympathy.



A book was set out in front of the embassy for people to sign expressing their love, sadness and prayers for the people of the United States.


It was so hard to be away, but I was so proud to be an American and so proud of my host country for the love and support expressed during the days and weeks that followed.

It's easy to go about our day as the years go by.  However, I don't think any of us will ever forget where we were or what we were doing on the day of September 11, 2001.

11 September 2014

Portugal's Exotic Food

 Gooseneck Barnacles

 

I had no idea you could eat these things!!  It was SO funny when this plate arrived at our table.  We had to ask what it was.  We then had to look up online how to eat it!  Ha!  Here is a great tutorial if you should ever need it.

I then started researching and found that it is quite dangerous to harvest them.  They grow at the base of jagged cliffs where the waves are the roughest.  The dangers of collecting the barnacles combined with the fact that it's not been possible to mimic the atmosphere of where these barnacles live make this a pricey delicacy.   This article explains how these guys risk their lives and sometimes lose them.  They can earn €1000 (that's almost $1300) in a day!

We lucked out and got our plate of barnacles as part of an array of appetizers. 

Were they good, you might wonder?  They weren't too bad!  I like seafood and I'm willing to try new things (within reason).  I kept reaching for more as did Jerry.  I can't say I'd be paying big money for them, but I'm so glad we had a fun cultural experience of eating barnacles and learning something new.

Have you tried barnacles?  What's the weirdest food you've tried?

09 September 2014

Cabo da Roca and Pena National Palace, Portugal

With the help of friends we were able to plan a 5 day getaway, just the 2 of us to Portugal to celebrate 20 years of marriage!


Not looking too bad for 20 years of marriage, eh?!

Jerry had been wanting to go to Lisbon for a long time.
Get me anywhere near the sea and I want a place with sea views!  I scoured hotels and all kinds of rentals.  We decided on a nice 2 bed apartment outside of Lisbon in the small town of Caxias with coastal views.

Let me tell you!!  Stay at Anabela's place and you will not be disappointed!!  We received such amazing hospitality!!  This is her family's apartment they use to get away from the city, as well as renting it out.  It is such a lovely, homey place that it was like staying at a friend's house.  So comfortable (I didn't think to take pictures of the inside, bad blogger...you can find photos at the link I provided), great location and beautiful views!!

Just look at that!!

Caxias, Portugal, sea views, travel,

On the beach in front of the apartment.

Caxias, Portugal, beach, travel

Anabela gave us a wealth of information on the area.  You can tell she just loves people and loves to share her beautiful country.  She made herself available and checked on us to make sure we were doing ok.  We left feeling like we'd made a friend for life!!

One of her suggestions, Cabo da Roca.

Cabo da Roca, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean, cliffs, travel

The most western point of mainland Europe.

Cabo da Roca, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean, cliffs, travel

Cabo da Roca, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean, cliffs, travel

Cabo da Roca, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean, cliffs, travel

Within days of our trip we decided to rent a car, at Anabela's suggestion.  I am so glad we did.  We got to see so much more because of it, like Cabo da Roca.  You can reach the cape through various tours if you do not have a car.  You just have to do some planning.  Since we're not much for planning, having a car worked out great for us to just go when we wanted.

Cabo da Roca, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean, cliffs, travel, lighthouse

Within easy reach of Cabo da Roca, and another suggestion, was Pena Palace.

Pena Palace, Portugal, castle, fairytale, hills, Sintra, travel, Seven Wonders, Unesco World Heritage Site

Isn't it gorgeous?!

Pena Palace, Portugal, castle, fairytale, hills, Sintra, travel, Seven Wonders, Unesco World Heritage Site

Pena Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.  Set on a hilltop in Sintra, it's understandable why the palace is the most iconic and photographed in the area.  Although this area is not hurting for beauty!!  Everywhere you look is amazing!

Pena Palace, Portugal, castle, fairytale, hills, Sintra, travel, Seven Wonders, Unesco World Heritage Site

Be ready for quite a hike!!  You can pay for a shuttle to take you up and down if you so desire.

Pena Palace, Portugal, castle, fairytale, hills, Sintra, travel, Seven Wonders, Unesco World Heritage Site

Pena Palace, Portugal, castle, fairytale, hills, Sintra, travel, Seven Wonders, Unesco World Heritage Site

The very STEEP steps to view the palace.  I have a bit of a heights issue and was just going to let my hubby take the photos.  He yelled down at me saying that I had to do it!!

Pena Palace Gardens, Portugal

I'd say the hike, and pushing aside my heights issues, for this view was worth it!!

Pena Palace Sintra, Portugal

Pena Palace Garden, Portugal, castle, fairytale, hills, Sintra, travel, Seven Wonders, Unesco World Heritage Site
Pena Palace, Portugal, castle, fairytale, hills, Sintra, travel, Seven Wonders, Unesco World Heritage Site
Pena Palace Garden Sintra, Portugal, travel,

Our first full day and one of our most favorite days of our trip!!

More to come of Portugal, so stay tuned!

Linking up with my favorite gals for Travel Tuesday!

Travel Tuesday

03 September 2014

Mayfield Lavender

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

When I learned that England had lavender fields I knew I had to see if there was one close by!

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

That's when I stumbled upon Mayfield Lavender in Surrey.  You can wander through the fields for free!

The kids and I went with some friends from church, took a picnic and romped through the rows of lavender.

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

We went at the end of a July, which is a perfect time to go.  It was so bright with color!!

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

The field will be closing by mid-September, so there's still a chance to go if you're in the area.  It's easily accessible by car or bus.

We wandered through the gift shop and grabbed some lavender bundles and a treat flavored with lavender!

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

lavender, Mayfield, Surrey, England, UK

Mayfield Lavender

Do you like wandering through flower fields?

01 September 2014

London Taxi Tour

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK

My friend, Robyn suffers from fibromyalgia, so tromping through the streets of London was not an option for her.  I ended up pushing her a bit in the end (I felt horrible), she was a trooper!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we both had originally considered a bus tour.  Years ago Jerry and I took a bus tour and loved it.  Once I discovered that taxi tours existed, Robyn was all kinds of excited!!  

I contact 2 different taxi tour guides and David from Love London Taxi Tours worked out with our time schedule.  

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK

I'm so glad he did, he was incredible!! His Trip Advisor reviews support that with nothing but excellent ratings!  Accommodating, fun, informative and I felt like we were fast friends in the end!

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK

The London taxi driver test, known as "The Knowledge," initiated in 1865 has changed little since.  It is amongst one of the most difficult tests in the world.  Cabbie wanna-bes need to know no fewer than 320 routes, 25,000 streets and approximately 20,000 places of interest.  It can take a few years to prepare just to take the test.  Even further testing must be done to become a taxi tour guide and a certificate is awarded upon completion.  It's like a London Intersect in your brain (any Chuck fans out there?).
  
We met up right before the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  David dropped us off for a few minutes to bump our way through the crowd to catch a glimpse of the ceremonies.  It's a crazy place to be!

Look at those crowds!!

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK, Buckingham Palace


London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK, Buckingham Palace

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK
  
Robyn wanted a close up of a Queen's Guard.  David took us just around the corner to St James Palace and we happened upon a changing of the guard.

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK, changing of the guard, St James Palace, Queen's Guard

I giggled a bit when seeing the guy on the left (below).  I can't imagine he could see very well!

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK, changing of the guard, Queen's Guard, St James Palace

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK, St James Palace, Queen's Guard, changing of the guard

 Just around the corner is Pickering Place.

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK, Pickering Place

This courtyard, said to be the tiniest in Britain, is packed full of history.  Once home of the Republic of Texas' embassy and the last duel was fought here!!

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK, Pickering Place

We took a 3 hour tour, stopping to get photos.  Such a great way to see a lot in a short time.

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK

A dragon boundary marker near The Tower of London.

London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK, dragon, City of London, Square Mile, dragon marker

The dragons mark the boundary of the City of London, where gates to the City once stood.  Did you know there is London, or Greater London and then the City of London, or the "City" or also known as the "Square Mile" which is a county of London and houses a large trade & financial district.

We ended our tour at Covent Garden.

Chinatown, Covent Garden, London, Taxi, Tour, travel, England, UK

If you're interested in a tour of London with David, you can choose from a wide variety of tours.  From a Harry Potter to a Secret Tour, from an all day tour to a day trip to Stonehenge/Windsor or Hampton Court.  I don't think you will be disappointed!

This was my first time in a London taxi.  What about you?  Have you ridden in one of London's great taxis or want to come do just that??