Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Bassoon

Have I ever told you about Charlie's preoccupation with the bassoon?

I have no idea where he picked up on the fact that bassoons exist. One of his Richard Scarry books perhaps. At any rate, it can be kind of funny to hear a 3 year old to talk at length about such an obscure instrument.

He knows about some of the other instruments, especially the trumpet and the violin, but the bassoon is by far his favorite. In his mind, most of the woodwinds are bassoons - including his bright green polka dot recorder.

I have to hide "his bassoon" because the most beautiful music that comes from it is him blowing as hard as he can through it. This gives mommy a headache and "the bassoon" finds itself mysteriously hidden in a closet.

Just when I think he's forgotten about it and our ears are once again safe, Charlie asks me where his bassoon is?? Over and over. And over. It's a tragedy. The recorder-that-is-not-really-a-bassoon is missing. Help Mommy, help!

And when I eventually give in and give it back to him? His response: 

MY BASSSSOOOOOOONNNN!!

I just..... have no idea. 

Summertime

Can I tell you how odd it is after months and months of walking out the front door with at least a coat (if not coat, scarf, gloves, hat, etc.) to leave the house in just what I'm wearing? I feel positively naked!

Summer has arrived in London. One of my friends who grew up here said it would arrive overnight at some point and we'd go from cold and rainy to hot and sunny. She was so right. That night was last Monday. Monday's attire included a fleece and rain boots. Tuesday I was hot in a t-shirt and capris.

Charlie and I have been outside almost nonstop ever since. This child lives to be outside. We went to the park near us for his sports lessons, we went out back to our shared garden and Friday we went with friends to have a picnic after school Friday in Hyde Park.

This weekend Charlie went to another part of Hyde Park with his daddy, back to the shared garden twice and once to Queen's Park, which is a couple of tube stops away. Despite my constant pestering with the sunscreen, he has red cheeks now.
There is something very cheerful and carefree about this city when it's warm out. Well, cheerful and carefree, but a bit whiny because of course it's too warm right now. Air conditioning is not common in London so it gets pretty stifling in the shops, the bus, the tube and our flat. I just ordered some fans from John Lewis. Counting the minutes until they arrive.

My parents also arrive soon - a week from tomorrow! They will arrive on the 3rd day of the 4 day Queen's Jubilee weekend, celebrating her 60 years on the throne. I think it's going to be like the 4th of July on crack around here. For FOUR DAYS. Brad has two days off from work for it! I've always been a big royal watcher, but I think I may have a bit of Queen fatigue by the time it's all over.

There is already British flag bunting tied on anything that stands still. There will be street parties, carnivals and festivals. And of course a big parade featuring the Queen herself. All the pubs and restaurants are planning special events and menus and cocktails. You can buy all sorts of themed food and party goods at the grocery and department stores.

Since the Queen has corgis, The Corgi is something of a mascot for all the festivities - on posters, bus banners, taxis etc. Every ad is Jubilee themed right now. I think my favorite ad is this huge sign at our tube stop for Old El Paso (the only salsa you can buy here). Bring on the Jubilicious Weekend. Salsa and Street Parties! With a hand that is presumably the Queen's (wearing a diamond bracelet), holding a soft taco. I love it.

After the Jubilee I assume everything will shift into full-on Olympics mode. That's going to be wild, all the tourists and visitors in town. Most of the events are in East London and we are in West London... but when not at events, people will be touring and most of the attractions are West. Not to mention it's where most of the hotels are. Charlie will be out of school by then so I'm going to have to figure out how to keep him entertained for 2 weeks while avoiding the crowds and public transport.

Some people here have been able to lease or sublet their flats for a week or two and make a killing. Like several times what they pay in rent or mortgage. They are cutting town, avoiding the chaos and taking a nice, long relaxing vacation. Doesn't that sound nice?

We will of course be here with Brad fighting a wicked commute and probably working insane hours, per usual. Most people we know are working from home during the Olympics. That is what is being encouraged by the Mayor at least. It'll be a cluster! Especially for poor Brad, who will be expected in the office.

Oh, and for those of you who care - word on the street is that the Queen will step down in 2013 after this huge, monumental year of hers. Whether she will be replaced by Charles or William is a matter of some debate. You know, between the ladies that work at my nail salon.

So anyways, that's what's going to be going on here. I ordered a new camera for my mom to bring over with her, so I will be back in full on photography and blogging mode soon. These photos are all from my iPhone. Not having good photos makes me less likely to blog I suppose. I'm excited about the new one - I think it will take better photos in low light, which was my only complaint about the old one.

We'll also be doing more interesting things while my parents are here. It's a great excuse to explore parts of the city we haven't been to, try new restaurants and just get out and about more. You know, be tourists instead of residents. It's finally summer in the city!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fifty Shades of My Week

I have no pictures to accompany this post since my camera died in Lisbon. It wasn't really the kind of week you're snapping photos of anyways. It rained. And then Charlie got sick. And now it's Friday.

It was a beautiful Mother's Day here last weekend. Sunny and 60 degrees. Still chilly in my book. We went to brunch and attempted to walk around Trafalgar Square with Charlie and go to the National Portrait Gallery. When I started to fear Charlie would actually pull one of the Tudors' portraits off the wall, we decided to go. However, my eggs benedict at brunch was spot on!

Mother's Day in the UK is celebrated in March, so it was kind of strange to be the only people celebrating. Since it would have been a shame for me to cook for dinner, that night we went to a pub and had Sunday Roast. It's like it sounds: roast beef, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy and a yorkshire pudding, which is basically a roll. It's yummy.

Charlie's had an awful cough lately that's made it hard for him to sleep, but I think he's past the worst of it now. Wednesday I kept him home because he was exhausted, but by 5pm he had a fever. The fever spiked at 4am so we stayed home Thursday, too. The fever departed, along with my sanity, Thursday afternoon. Small flat + sick child = not fun.

Today he was back in school for a couple of hours but was otherwise on fire and into everything. As soon as he stops moving I can tell he doesn't feel well. This rarely happens. Needless to say, bed time couldn't get here quick enough tonight. I think Mommy is going to need a little break tomorrow.

So the other thing that happened recently: I read the first two Fifty Shades of Grey books. I need to take a break before I read the third because it was all starting to... run together. Anyways, probably a spoiler in the next paragraph or two, so just warning you!

So at first I had to pick my jaw up off the floor, because WOW. Didn't see some of that coming. How kinky! After the 11th or 12th, ahem, intimate scene I kind of grew numb to them and started skimming. That's when their actual relationship started to really bother me. It also started to remind me of Bella and Edward, minus the vampire thing.

Edward and Christian are both super-controlling, self-loathing, overly-possessive, wealthy, good looking guys with these endearingly sweet adoptive families but checkered pasts.

Bella and Ana are both codependent, beautiful-but-don't-realize-it, over analytical, self-involved "old souls" (gag) who don't eat very much and hate exercise, with flighty moms who live on the beach in some other state and sweet dads who fish.

So the controlling male lead won't let the female so much as pump gas (or see her friends) without some kind of overly cautious "protection" in place from scary outside forces - all of which exist BECAUSE of the male. Female talks constantly of asserting her own independence but never actually does so and spends lots of time justifying how to accept the personality flaws of hot new boyfriend - because he's broken and he needs her. Friends and family of the female voice concern while friends and family of the male see nothing wrong with how controlling he is and is just relieved he found someone so perfect!

Which book did I just describe? I think Stephenie Meyer would like her cut of the Fifty book sales.

Can someone please tell me why we find reading about these unhealthy relationships to be so appealing and hopelessly romantic? I'm not throwing stones here, I found the story to be pretty hot. And I was always Team Edward. Why why why??? Is it because they're so different from your typical guy these days? I'm not sure. Enlighten me someone!

Also, please don't just me for reading this trash. lol

UPDATE: Just read on Facebook that Fifty Shades was originally a Twilight fanfic that was modified to be published. That explains SO MUCH... if it's true.

UPDATE 2: I saw the fanfic with mine own eyes. It is called - and I'm going to try not to gag as I type this - Master of Universe. Now I just feel dirty. I spent actual time and dollars on poorly written FANFIC! I'm going to go hunt down some literature written by someone who has been dead at least 100 years now.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ahhhh the Beach

It almost hurts to write this post. I want to be back in the Algarve so badly!! It was truly beautiful. Like I wrote earlier, not the warmest weather, but gorgeous beach, not crowded and very relaxing. 

We took a train from Lisbon to Albufeira on Tuesday morning. It took about 3 hours. The tickets were so cheap, we sprung for first class.... which meant a slightly bigger seat. But the train car wasn't crowded and we snagged the table area. Charlie thought it was fun and spent his time playing on the ipad, checking out the snack car and going to the bathroom over and over. 
I'd asked the concierge to arrange a car for us from the train station to the hotel and it only took about 15 minutes to get there. Charlie and I walked around the lobby while Brad got us checked in and I could feel the stress melting away. At least until Charlie had a potty accident - but EVEN THEN! It didn't feel as bad because we were checking into paradise - complete with spa-like music piped into the lobby. And we know how much Kara loves her some spa.

Since Brad has stayed at so many Starwoods, he was able to get us a free upgrade and they gave us this awesome two story suite with a big walk out patio. It. Was. Awesome. We somehow still managed to have Charlie in our room, though, since we had a babysitter come and sit downstairs each night while he slept. But it made the sitter situation work out beautifully.

The resort had a kid's club with a Pirate theme, so we just called it Pirate School for short. Charlie was signed up to go on 4 of the days, but actually just went 3. The first morning after breakfast we were walking there and he threw up all over me. Poor kid. So much congestion and then BLECK all over mommy's white tennis skirt. Clearly he was not up to being a pirate. 

It rained that day anyways. He and Brad took a nice long nap together while I walked to the pharmacy in town and then got a massage. I booked one for Brad for later in the day. If rain on vacation says anything to me, it says Get Thee to the Spa!

The rest of the trip was mostly sunny and warm and Charlie had a great time at Pirate School. There was a huge pirate ship playground, a bouncy castle, ride on toys, games, trampoline, you name it. He absolutely loved it and gave the ladies all hugs when we left. We'd take him after breakfast, he'd stay through lunch and then we'd pick him up in the early afternoon to go to the beach.
I'm not going to lie, it was so nice to have a break while knowing Charlie was having fun. Brad and I played tennis together, I got a facial one morning and took a long walk on the beach. It was great. 
There were a couple of outdoor pools, but both were kind of chilly. When we weren't at the beach, we were at the indoor pool, which was heated. That was where Charlie met his good friend Leo, who is from Scotland. Both 3 years old, both tons of energy, both very sweet - they really hit it off. They liked walking around holding hands. :) We played with Leo every day we were at the resort. 

Here are the boys having a lollipop on the beach. Leo is actually wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey! His dad is a pilot and flies to the states periodically. Leo sported quite a few jerseys from U.S. teams while on vacation! Charlie is still talking about his friend Leo. 
The beach was so nice, at the bottom of these huge red cliffs. We would actually take an elevator down to beach level and walk along a wooden plank walkway to get to the sand. Our resort had a really nice beach club with chairs and umbrellas, as well as a restaurant on a deck overlooking the water. I loved eating down there, just listening to the waves crash. 
The water was cold, but Charlie was mainly interested in playing in the sand, looking for shells and running from the waves with Leo. I could easily spend an entire week just sitting on that beach each day. Being by the ocean has a very calming effect on me - even while keeping my 3 year old alive. 
One of the other things I loved about the resort was that we could hire a sitter to come each night after Charlie had gone to sleep (in theory) and there were several restaurants on the resort we could eat at. So we didn't have to go far. 

We had two different sitters - one that worked in the golf shop and one that worked in reception. Both so sweet and would come over and say hi when they saw us out and about during the day.

Brad and I don't typically get so much time alone together with his travel and work schedule, and having that to look forward to each night was so nice. We had some great food, delicious wine and could just take our time over dinner. Such an indulgence when you have a small child! 

I think my favorite was when we went and had the tasting menu. It was several courses with wines to match and we were the only people there that night. Our waiter was lots of fun and brought us all kinds of fun extras to try and we stayed pretty late, talking to him about Portugal and wine over - big surprise - a glass of port. 

By the last day we were all sad to leave. We had one final play with Leo and then packed up and took a car to Faro to catch our flight. The airport was just 30 minutes away and flew directly into Gatwick. So convenient minus the part where Gatwick takes over an hour to get to from West London!

In some ways I wish we'd spent our entire trip down at the beach, just given how much fun we had there and how relaxing it was. I'm glad we saw Lisbon, but it was a learning experience for us about what's reasonable to do with such a young child on vacation and still keep your sanity. 

We never really left the resort, though I understand there are a ton of awesome things to see around the area: vineyards, fishing villages, lookout points, etc. I hope we can go back one day when Charlie is older and can explore with us more. Until then I will be dreaming of this beautiful coastline! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sintra

Oh Sintra. How you break my heart. Sintra was our major fail of the trip. And I say this as someone who left her son's entire suitcase on the dining room floor.

Let me provide a few definitions of Sintra:

a) a beautiful mountain town of ancient castles about a 30 minute train ride away from Lisbon
b) the reason we left for the beach Tuesday instead of Monday, so we could spend the day there
c) the place Kara was most looking forward to visiting in Portugal
d) why Kara will not be buying any more Rick Steves travel guides

When talking to people who had been to Portugal about our trip, almost all of them highly recommended Sintra and got somewhat dreamy eyed in describing it. I pinned some amazing photos of the castles/palaces on Pinterest and could. not. wait to see them in person.

I have usually consulted Rick Steves' books when traveling and until recently found them to contain good advice. I've been somewhat disappointed in his London and Great Britain guides, especially the sections on the Cotswolds. But I had read that England was not one of Rick's favorite countries, so just attributed it to that.

However, I found most of his advice on Portugal to be poor and/or not conducive to family travel. The advice on Sintra was so bad, I can tell he hasn't been there in person in years. So I'm done with Rick.

Rick's primary piece of advice was to go to Sintra on Monday. Sites are closed in Lisbon and it's just the best day to go he said.

It was so clogged with tourists on the Monday we went (which was not even high season) that I guess either other guides have repeated this advice (not many of the tourists were American, so I don't think it was due to his book) or it has just become such a hot tourist destination that congested is the new normal there. Another reason that just occurred to me is that people were there as part of cruise excursions that they booked.

At any rate, Rick usually warns his readers about towns that are particularly touristy. That's why I think he hasn't visited in a while. He made it sound like this serene, relaxed, easy day trip. Which is why he is now on my "bad" list.

To start our day, we waited close to an hour at the train station in Lisbon to buy our tickets. There are four automated machines that are so confusing to use, the train station assigns agents to help each person who uses them. It was just a giant mob of people all trying to get tickets - no lines and no order.

The only good part about the train station for us: there was a Starbucks, Brad's lifeblood.

The train trip was fine, but it was full and they drop people off every 30 minutes, so you can do the math on what that translates into for a small town. We walked with the mob from our train to the town in about 15 minutes and started looking for a way to get up the mountain to the two major attractions: Pena Palace the Castle of the Moors.

We waited in line for a while for the bus, but every bus that came by was already full and could only allow a few people on it. It was going to take quite a while to get a ride. It's a very steep climb up the mountain and I doubt we could have made it with Charlie on foot.

The taxi drivers wouldn't even talk to us; they all said they were on break. Same with the horse drawn carriages. Every once in a while you would see someone negotiate with them in Portuguese about what it would take to come off break. I shudder to think what the fare was.

While waiting for the bus, we heard a few people who came back down the mountain talk about the line to buy tickets to see the palace or castle. Apparently those were quite lengthy as well.

Finally we waived the white flag. Brad and I agreed that none of this was fun or a good experience. We decided to walk around the town and then get some lunch.

The owner of the apartment we rented in Lisbon recommended a restaurant called - and I'm not joking here - The G Spot Gastronomia. We never could find it for all the throngs of people in the narrow streets, but I think Brad was really hoping for a t-shirt to take home.

We settled on a touristy patio restaurant that served mediocre food, but had beer, wine (whine?) and a milkshake for Charlie. We relaxed and I pouted.

Sintra had some shops and we checked a few of them, but they mostly had the same touristy junk we'd been seeing in Lisbon, but the prices were higher.

After lunch we took the train back to Lisbon and called it a day. We all took a nap and went to dinner near our apartment.

I'm still feeling quite pouty about Sintra. But I guess you can't win them all. Maybe I'll get another chance some day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lisbon

We left for Lisbon last Friday night after Brad got done with work. I thought it would be nice to go then instead of early Saturday morning. The flight is direct from Heathrow and is about 2.5 hours. Not too bad. 

On top of the baggage drama, we had a flight delay, a longish wait at customs and a VERY long wait for a taxi at the airport. I don't think we got to the flat until midnight or so. The flight also just felt so long after a long day. If it was just Brad and me, that would have been no biggie - we'd just sleep in the next day. But it was hard on Charlie and took him a couple of days to recover from it. Because you know regardless of the bed time, he was up at 7:30! 

When we were in the taxi on the way to our rental, Charlie got upset. Even though I'd been telling him we were going on vacation to Portugal, he seemed to think that since we were flying we were going back home to Richmond. He kept saying he wanted to go to the house. I asked which house, just to see - sometimes when we see a stone house here he asks to go to Nana's house. Her house has stone on the exterior. 

He said the house with the pink door and brought up Zoe and Ringo. Brad and I had just been talking on the flight about how we had both been homesick and really missing the dogs. It was a weepy Spooner moment. Anyways. :(

We stayed in a one bedroom apartment in Lisbon that I found on VRBO.com. A very nice guy named Joe who lives in Riverside, California owns it. Before our trip he sent me about 10 emails with different tips - itineraries, restaurants, side trips, etc. VRBO is such an awesome web site. I highly recommend. 

After realizing at airport check in that the only clothes/supplies we had for Charlie were the ones on his person or in my carry on bag, shopping for him was the first priority the next day. Well, after we found the closest pastry shop. 

Google told me there was an H&M in the shopping district of Lisbon (Chiado) so that was promising. There was also a Zara across the street and they have way cute kids' stuff - though pricier. 

Both were strategically located next to Starbucks and what a life saver that was. Make mine a double bartender. 
We did a blitz job of shopping and while H&M felt kind of overpriced and not very cute, it was enough to get us through a few days. And we found the all important swimsuit. I tried not to think about all the adorable things I had bought him back in London for the trip. Sniff. 

Brad and Charlie also picked up some Portugal soccer gear at the Nike store and we checked out the city some more. We rewarded ourselves with a long afternoon nap back at the apartment.

When we woke up it was raining again, but we left the apartment in search of dinner. After walking around for a while, we were all grouchy and cold and wet. Not my favorite vacation memory. We ended up in the Alfama area of Lisbon at a restaurant I found on Tripadvisor. 

The food was good and we had the best 8 Euro bottle of wine I think existed in the world. Was it so wonderful because we were exhausted, traveling with an overtired 3 year old in a foreign city in the rain? We'll never know. I forgot the name of it.
Sunday was better, it only rained in short bursts so we decided to ride some cable cars! They go all over the city and it's a great way to tour. 
We got off at one stop next to a beautiful park and had some pastries and coffee overlooking the duck pond. There was a big playground that Charlie enjoyed until he slid down a wet slide and there goes one of his 3 pairs of pants. Ugh.

Later that afternoon we toured Castelo St. Jorge, which was about a block from the apartment we rented. It was amazing, with views of the city and the water. We watched some of the cruise ships that frequently dock in Lisbon. 
While we waited in line for tickets, a man playing music for tips saw Charlie staring at him and invited him over to play. Charlie thought he was pretty hot stuff! 
A few minutes later, though, a security guard came to fetch us so we could cut in line because we had a child. I guess the castle doesn't see may kids? Whatever the reason, it was awesome to avoid a 30 or 45 minute line! 

After touring the castle, we found ourselves in Alfama again, walking through the winding paths looking for dinner. We stumbled upon a little basement restaurant that was advertising Fado singers performing that night. Fado is traditional Portuguese folk music and a big tourist draw. We knew there would be music over dinner, but that was the extent of our knowledge.

They had room for us without a reservation so we went in and sat down. After we ordered, the waiter told Charlie that he must be quiet during the music or they would have problems. He said it in jest, but I kind of wasn't wild about the waiter talking that way to my child. I knew Charlie was going to love the music.
And love it, he did. He sat mesmerized through most of the first lady's performance. Towards the end he stood up because I think she was blocking his view of the guitars! She sweetly walked over and sang to him and we thought that was so nice. But as soon as she was done, she picked him up, plopped him in his chair and told him to stay put. I guess she didn't like him stealing her thunder. I didn't like her picking up my son.

Overall, Charlie did great, though, and we got to hear most of the music. It was perfectly quiet in the restaurant during the singing. Like, I was scared to cut something on my plate for fear I'd make a noise. They are very, very serious about their folk music, I tell you what. It is not background music or something to accompany your dinner. Your dinner accompanies the music.

Monday we took the train to Sintra, but I have a special rant-y post all planned for that.

For the most part, I really loved Lisbon. It is charming and still a little rough around the edges - not polished to a high shine like most tourist destinations. Apart from pickpockets in the touristy areas, it was very safe. The #1 crime there seems to be... graffiti.

There was graffiti everywhere we went. On every building. Maybe it never gets cleaned off or it gets put back up the minute it's cleaned. Who knows. There was a parking garage near the castle where each level was painted by a professional graffiti artist, so it may also just be quite popular. Most of what we saw on the street, though, is very far away from artwork. Some is political, mostly about the financial crisis. Greece seemed to get its fair share of graffiti.

There is also quite a bit of construction going on all over the city. I feel like Lisbon is trying to catch up with all the tourists that want to come visit, so there is lots of building and improvements going on. I imagine the cruise traffic alone is driving some of it, as the waterfront is not much to look at right now.

I also thought the food was really good My favorite part was at the beginning of each meal - they bring you out a platter of cheese, salted meat (like parma ham), olives, bread and butter and a sardine dish. You eat what you want and that's what you pay for. For dinner, there was lots of fresh fish, but by far my favorite was the whole grilled sardines. They were amazing.

There were pastry shops on every corner and we indulged regularly. Cinnamon, coconut, cream filled - all flaky and perfect.

Lots of good wine, too, though we had no idea what to order since we'd never really had wine from Portugal before. I thought we'd be drinking Spanish wines. But no, they have their own, they just never leave the country. All small production family stuff. The Vinho Verde (green wine) was really good with the seafood. It was like a sauvignon blanc.

As for taking a child to Portugal... I don't think I would take a child as young as Charlie there again. There isn't a whole lot of green space or parks, though he did enjoy the castle and the cable cars.

The cobblestone sidewalks and streets are very challenging/almost impossible with a stroller - not to mention the steep hills. We ended up leaving the stroller at the apartment and just carrying him a lot when he got tired of walking.

I also didn't feel like we saw many children there and it felt like the restaurants weren't terribly welcoming to us because we had him. I think older kids would probably enjoy the city more.

So that's kind of the gist of our trip. The apartment worked out well - Charlie slept in the living room and we were in the bedroom. It had a crazy shower, but the washer/dryer made up for it. It pretty much saved us from having to buy any more clothes for Charlie.

At the end of our Lisbon adventure we took the train South to the coast! More on that later...


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And We're Back

We got back from our vacation to Portugal on Saturday night and had two days of recovery time before Real Life started again. Monday was a bank holiday here. I have no idea what that means apart from nobody going to work and everybody asking me if I had a nice bank holiday weekend. If the day off was to mark some occasion, I have yet to find anyone who can tell me what that occasion is.

I don't know what it is about vacations that makes them so tiring, but it was really all I could do after we got home to make laundry and perishable food happen. I also zombied out on my computer to edit the 500 or so photos we took. I put an album of 100 or so on Facebook if you're interested.

All in all it was a very good trip and VERY much needed, especially for Brad. I guess for all of us, though, as we have barely seen Brad in 6 or so weeks. He needed a week of relaxation quite badly. I would say we mostly accomplished that.

We spent a few days in Lisbon, which is obviously a big city. We found out the hard way that it is not a particularly child friendly city. I also think big cities with small children without any type of help  are a challenging way to seek relaxation. We saw a lot of neat things and stayed very busy, but it was tiring and kind of hard.

The rest of the trip we went to the beach in Southern Portugal and stayed at a resort. It was amazing. And so easy. It was truly relaxing. I think in the foreseeable future it is probably the type of vacation we need to pursue with lots of activities and restaurant options all on the same property. Big thumbs up.

I have a good friend who always has us do Highs and Lows at dinner each night when we have a girls' weekend. I've been thinking about her lately because she is about to graduate with an interior design degree (now I want one too), so in honor of her, I present the Highs and Lows of our trip:

The Highs -

1. We got to see Portugal, so that was pretty awesome! I have always wanted to go. It's a beautiful country that probably gets tired of being overshadowed by Spain.

2. Brad and I got to have some time on our own or with just each other thanks to a wonderful kid's club at the resort (that Charlie loved) and a sweet babysitter from the golf shop who came by each night after Charlie went to sleep. We had grown-up dinner each night!

3. I got to go to the spa while we were at the beach. Heaven.

3a. Also, as a tie, Portugal has really good wine! And not just port. We had a wine pairing dinner one night at the resort and it was really fun.

3b. Ok, 3 way tie: the pastries. There are everywhere and they are amazing. Bakeries on every corner. I could have eaten them for every meal.

The Lows -

1. Somehow in all the mayhem of getting our luggage out to the street to take the car to the airport and grabbing the strollers, the preschooler and everything else, we managed to leave one duffel bag on the dining room floor and not realize it until we were at Heathrow checking in. It contained all of Charlie's clothes. Yeah.

2. The weather in Portugal was kind of a bummer. It rained in Lisbon a lot and some at the beach. The temperature at the beach was about 10 degrees below average for the time of year. I shivered my way through vacation because I wasn't going to let the forecast tell me how to pack, no sir!

3. My camera met an untimely and premature death while we were touring Castelo St. Jorge in Lisbon. While Canon cameras are awesome, they are no match for a centuries-old cobblestone walkway. And a 3 year old who insists on taking pictures with it.

Anyways, I'll of course be writing more about the trip, but there are the cliff notes!
A fellow pastry lover