Monday, June 18, 2012

Portugal: Part 1

This year when thinking about Jim's birthday I decided to plan a long weekend getaway.  After many hours debating over locations and things Jim liked to do... Golf in Scotland, drink beer in Germany... I decided we should check out a place new to both of us, and since we'd be going on late March, preferable warmer than Geneva.  I settled on Port tasting in Portugal.  Jim seemed really excited when I told him about the trip on his birthday.  Just one week later we were flying off to sunny Porto, Portugal.

A 2 hour flight from Geneva, Porto is in in the northern part of Portugal.  The city lies on the banks of Douro river, which played a very important role in the manufacture and exportation of Port wine. 

The agenda was to spend two nights in Porto, then drive about an hour east into the Douro river valley and spend two nights there before heading back home. 

After picking up the rental car and getting downtown, we celebrated the start of the trip with beer and grilled meats.  Yumm!  Then we checked into our hotel, which had the most amazing original detail on the ceiling. Then we headed out to Porto and explored the city for a few hours.

Lost my sunglasses in Verbier, doh!

building across the street
Church of Saint Ildefonso

Livraria Lello (bookshop)

inside Lello

Carmelitas Church on the left, Carmo Church on the right

Things I learned while walking Porto.... it has to be one of the hilliest cities in the world.  Every where we walked, we went up and then down.  Up and down.  I felt really bad for people with strollers because there are also an incredible amount of stairs.  No. 2. there are ridiculous number of churches.  Practically one on every corner.

Our agenda for day 2 was a little more walking and sightseeing and then an afternoon of Port tasting.  

another new Fanta

Porto Cathedral


overlooking the river Douro

Front door to our hotel

Friday, June 15, 2012

Birthday + Verbier

March 23rd marked Jim's 29th birthday.  I can't believe how old everyone is getting and now "we" are in the end of our 20's (I say "we" because I'm still holding on to 28 for 3 more months ;)  I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but where has the time gone?!

Jim's birthday was Friday and since I had off I work up a little early to do some decorating.  He opened presents and before heading to work for a few hours.  This year I got Jim some fancy Lacoste tennis pants and wrapped up clues for our secret vacation.  I wrapped up his passport, sunglasses and empty port box.  Jim guess right, we were going to Portugal (specifically Porto)!

Anna and Andrew made the two standing cards, I love Anna's backwards J that looks like an L.

my homemade decorations

Later we picked up Dorothy and the three of us drove out to Verbier for the weekend.  Bob met us later that night with the dogs.  We were so lucky to stay at a private chalet (someone Dorothy knows) and everyone was looking forward to skiing on Saturday.  Except me.  My ski days were over for the season since I went to Zermatt.  But, I didn't mind.  I had heard Verbier was not the best for beginners and in the end the weather was so warm, the snow was slush in many places.  I know I would have been scared.  Instead I took the dogs for a hike and met everyone for lunch on the mountain (which is the best part!).

the guest room

view from the guest room

view from the guest room balcony

For dinner Friday we stayed in and made a raclette feast!  I'm sure most people know fondue, but raclette would have to be second in line for national Swiss dish.  It is so easy and delicious (if you love cheese).

First you get the machine, boil some potatoes, slice some meats, little pickles, onions and seasonings....and raclette cheese.  Here the raclette comes in slices that you place in little trays under the broiler of the machine.  

Jim and Dorothy anxiously awaiting their raclette

When the cheese is bubbly and maybe a little burnt, depending on how you like it.....

You scrape the cheese onto your plate and eat with the potatoes and other accoutrements.  And repeat multiple times.  I think I had 4 servings. 

Chalet living room
Jim's Birthday cupcakes w/ secret ingredient....Speculoos

views from Saturday's hike

Saturday I met the team at the restaurant Carrefour.   I put this lunch on my list of top 10 lunches ever.  Dorothy and I both ordered doe which came to the table cooked rare next to a blazing hot stone.  Then you could cut off pieces and finish cooking them to your desired doneness.  Loved it!  There is something really fun about cooking your own food.  Jim and Bob had the rosti with tomato, cheese and ham and which was also delicious.  Carrefour also has the most amazing salad dressing, which we also used to dip our fries in.  We all spent about 30 min trying to decipher every ingredient to recreate at home.

night time Verbier

Sunday everyone decided to pass on the skiing.  The conditions were warm and it they didn't want to pay for a full lift pass and then only ski two hours.  So instead we did what everyone should do at a chalet or mountain house.  Sit in the sun and nap.  

Then I made Jim do his favorite thing....take pictures together.  Actually they came out really cute.  And after that we walked around the town, stopped for a drink in the sun and had a BBQ for lunch.  Then it was back on the road and back to Geneva.

something being discussed