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Portugal

When planning our recent honeymoon, Lauren and I considered quite a few destinations. As the big day approached, we narrowed our list, and a mid-October holiday in Southern Europe felt like the perfect celebration of our marriage.

Sometimes the only tool for the job is a real guidebook & map.

Southern Europe provides many great experiences to the modern traveller. Visitors in need of a tan can venture to the Mediterranean coastline, which is home to world-class beaches in places like Crete (Greece), Sardinia (Italy), and Brac (Croatia). Those looking to satisfy their innermost foodie can find can't miss meals in the iconic culinary destinations of Spain (San Sebastián and Barcelona) and Italy (Tuscany, Bologna, and Sorrento). History buffs can spend days and days exploring what remains from some of our most important ancient ancestors in Rome (Italy) or Athens (Greece).

Ultimately though, we agreed to travel somewhere that neither of us had previously been: Portugal.

Raising a glass to our first evening in Portugal.

A country rich in history, but small in stature (geographically, it's only about the size of the state of Virginia), it has, in the last half-decade, carved out its niche as a go-to destination. We constructed an itinerary for our trip that would allow us have a little bit of all of various experiences Portugal has to offer.

Algarve

The Southern part of Portugal is flanked to the South and West the Atlantic Ocean. The region is known for its seaside cliffs, beaches, bays, and islands.

During the summer months it fills with tourists looking to enjoy a sunny holiday. October, however, is a bit quieter, and ended up being just the kind of place to relax for a few days to begin our trip.

At the recommendation of a friend, we chose to stay at Vilalara Thalassa in Porches. The resort was ideally situated atop a cliff, and had access to a gorgeous golden sand beach. We enjoyed our time relaxing by the water, strolling through the resort's gardens, and enjoying vinho verde poolside. And our single excursion took us to nearby Vila Joya for one of the stand-out dining experiences of our lives. For anyone looking for a resort experience on the Portugese coast, Vilalara Thalassa is hard to beat.

Sunset in Algarve was hard to beat.

The Alentejo

The largest region in Portugal, The Alentejo is made of rolling hills, wide open plains, and green vineyards. Some of Portugal's biggest vineyards are located here, and the landscape is dotted with marble towns and whitewashed villages. Come to enjoy the rich culinary traditions of Portugal (lots of pork!), while experiencing a varied history that dates as far back as the Paleolithic.

Wandering the streets of Évora.

Évora is one of Portugal's most well-preserved towns, as its walls date back to the 14th century. Inside those walls, we found ourselves wandering the narrow medieval streets, taking in the Roman columns of the Temple of Diana, climbing the cathedral's towers for a rooftop wander, visiting the lively town square, and finishing things off with a fantastic meal at a small restaurant that made us feel like we were family.

The cathedral of Évora, where we wandered around on the roof, and found a 360 degree view of the town and surrounding area.

While in The Alentejo, we also made time for a road trip, where found ourselves transported back in time to one of Portugal's oldest villages, Monsaraz. It would not have been a complete trip to The Alentejo though without a trip to a vineyard though, so we made sure to spend a couple hours in the tasting room at Esporao, where we had the opportunity to try some wine aged in clay barrels.

When it was time to check out of our hotel (the charming Albergaria do Calvario — we'd both highly recommend it!), we were sad to leave behind the charming history of The Alentejo.

A young couple takes in the view from atop the castle in Monsaraz.

Porto

It's hard to think of Portugal without also thinking about Port wine. Located in the Northern part of the country, Oporto is the home to Portugal's famous Port wine sellers. Their storefronts and cellars line the bank of the river Douro in Gaia, and the city of Porto steeply rises on the opposite bank.

Golden hour in Porto.

Câmara Municipal do Porto

It's a city with a unique charm, as well as a bit of an edge. It's also a city that caught in the midst of transition. The riverfront's historic buildings and port cellars are juxtaposed with the business of tourism happening on the river itself. These days, you're just as likely to see high-powered jet skis whiz by as you are to see a tree growing out of the side of a crumbling building.

After the relaxation of Porches and quiet streets of Évora, the bustle of the Porto was all the more apparent.

Lauren and I posing in the gardens of Serralves.

We spent about half of our time in Porto along the riverfront, where we sipped port wine and snacked on calamari and fish (but unfortunately did not arrive in time to tour any of the cellars). A hop-on/hop-off tour bus helped us explore the rest of the city, where we first strolled through the gardens of Serralves, and then found our way to the ocean for some incredibly fresh (and delicious) fish. We even found our way to what can only be described as a [combination vintage shop-art gallery-tapas bar], where we quenched our thirst and cooled our brows with afternoon caipirinhas.

Gaia is home to Porto’s world-famous port cellars.

Porto has been described as a one of Europe's "second cities". I'm not one to bestow or validate that kind of label, but it is a city that in 2018, very much feels like it's on the rise, with its own culture and uniqueness, and one that I might imagine will be very different if and when we return.

Porto’s train station is a beautiful example of the tile that can be found throughout Porto (and Lisbon).

Lisbon

It wouldn't be a trip to Portugal without a visit to Lisbon. It's a city with a long, proud history that was almost completely destroyed nearly 300 years ago by a massive earthquake. That earthquake in many ways has come to define the city, and to this day there seems to be a struggle between the old and the new.

Museu Nacional de Arqueologia

Confusing, narrow (but charming) streets in areas like Alfama contrast with the wider avenues and crush of tourists of the Baixa downtown. The city's skyline is as dotted by construction cranes as it is by the famous white cathedral domes. The Castle of St. Jorge is a perfect encapsulation of this, as some of its original fortifications date back to the 6th century, yet much of what's standing today was restored in the early 20th century.

Lisbon’s tram depot

Our Lisbon experience began in earnest with a long, winding walk from our AirBnb through the Bairro Alto & Chiado to a dinner reservation. It was a bit of prescient start to our visit, as the ups and downs of the journey mirrored the rest of our trip.

A Lisbon sunset, as seen from Miradoura da Graça.

Lisbon at night.

We thoroughly enjoyed the history lesson we received from our walking tour guide. We were not disappointed by the Pastéis de nata from the famous Pastéis de Belém. We got lost (in all the best ways) exploring the trendy LX Factory. We enjoyed varied restaurant experiences, which ranged from the michelin-rated Belcanto to a small traditional eatery in Alfama. We fell in love with the city's scenic views, both at sunset and in the afternoon.

Seen in the distance here, the Ponte 25 de Abril, connects Lisbon to Almada.

In Closing

If the trip taught me anything, it's that in a place like Paris, romance can be found on nearly every street corner; in Portugal (Lisbon in particular), it's there, but at times needs to be sought out (or even unexpectedly stumbled upon).

Lisbon’s number 24 tram (not quite as famous as the 28, but you take what you can get sometimes).

Look past the street art and crumbling buildings, the overeager street vendors and purveyors of illicit goods, and the ever-present cranes and construction, and you'll find the sunset views of the miradouros, that unexpected neighborhood wine bar with delicious tapas, the winding streets of Alfama, beautiful beaches, delicious food and wine, and some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet as a tourist.

StoriesMark TegethoffTravel
West Sussex & Hampshire, UK

Labor Day marks the traditional end of summer here in the States. This year we joined Lauren's family in the UK for an end-of-summer holiday.

We could not have asked for a better week to visit, as the weather in Southern England was the perfect respite from the stifling heat and humidity of Washington, DC. Our days were marked by crisp mornings and delightfully warm afternoons, and we lived out-of-doors about as much as in.

It was a trip filled with quality family time, but also marked by its excursions to a series of delightful neighboring towns.

Chichester

Our home for the duration of the trip, Chichester, is the only city in West Sussex. It has quite a long history, with parts of its original Roman city walls still standing to this day. Additionally, the Chichester Festival Theater is one of the UK's flagship producing and touring theaters.

Staying just outside of Chichester with Lauren's aunt and uncle, this was our home base for the trip. Whether relaxing at the house and catching up over a glass of wine (or two or three), going for a morning run through the countryside with Caroline, or strolling through town, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Chichester, and look forward to our next visit.

Lauren and I relaxing on the lawn in Chichester.

Gosport

On a peninsula situated between The Solent and Portsmouth Harbour on the Southern coast of England, Gosport was one of the Allied staging beaches for Operation Overlord (D-Day) during World War II. Its 17 miles of waterfront include a pebble beach at Stokes Bay that offers views of the many passing ships and pleasure craft.

Families and sailors alike enjoy a late summer afternoon on Stokes Bay.

We spent parts of a few days in Gosport this trip visiting Lauren's grandmother. This included a Sunday pub lunch at the Anglesey Hotel, followed by an afternoon stroll along Stokes Bay.

The view of Portsmouth and its Spinnaker Tower from across the harbour in Gosport.

Portsmouth

A short ferry-ride from Gosport, Portsmouth has been a significant naval town for centuries, and its historic dockyard contains the world's oldest dry dock. Its the birthplace of Charles Dickens, the home of Portsmouth FC, and the Spinnaker Tower (one of the UK's tallest structures).

After a brief ferry ride from Gosport, our visit to Portsmouth was marked by a walk around the Historic Dockyards, and meal with a view at a Wagamama's in the Gunwharf Quays.

Arundel

Home to Arundel Castle, seat of the Duke of Norfolk, Arundel is a small town in West Sussex. It's situated along the River Arun in a steep vale, and offers visitors a wonderful afternoon of visiting shops, touring the castle and its grounds, or enjoying an afternoon tea (or coffee).

Arundel Castle

While we arrived a bit too late in the afternoon to tour the castle on the day of our visit, we did visit a few of the shops, and spend a few moments relaxing over cider along the river.

West Wittering

A small village in the Chichester District of West Sussex, West Wittering boasts an unspoiled sandy beach with views of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs.

A panoramic view of West Wittering Beach

Our visit included a peaceful and pleasant walk along the large beach, and was a perfect cap to the trip.

The dunes on West Wittering Beach

StoriesMark TegethoffTravel
All Ours

When a team in your city wins a championship, your city gets a parade. I can't be sure, but I'm pretty confident that it's in the Constitution somewhere, at least on the state level. Unfortunately, in our nation's capital, we don't get those types of parades too often. I've spent 35 years living near this great city, and trust me, we haven’t done it often at all. The last time the entirety of DC was able to celebrate like this was 26 years ago (Sorry DC United, I'm a season ticket holder, and I hope that you someday could generate this kind of glee, but you're not quite there, yet).

To the delight of throngs of Capitals fans, Alex Ovechkin hoists the Stanley Cup.

Sure, Inaugurations happen every four years, and at times one social cause or another political gathering gets the city's skyline on CNN, but this is different. This was ours. It wasn't about a group of carpetbaggers coming in to celebrate a national election, a massive protest of the ruling party of the time, or about the swamp or the lobbyists or the interns or the representatives of other cities and states on the Hill.

Two long-time season ticket holders, known to most as The Horn Guy and Loud Goat, began the festivities, and led the parade.

A Caps' fan in his Nicklas Bäckström jersey looks to take in the view from up by the Washington Monument.

This one was about us.

It's been a rough 26 years since the last big parade. I could talk about a trip to the now-shuttered Carpool in Arlington to watch them fall to the Penguins. I could talk about watching in-person, Ovi's first trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs end in an overtime Game 7 defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers. I could talk about any number of deflating losses, where they hit crossbars, missed empty nets and let the puck crawl through their legs to the back of the net. I could also expand the scope of deflation, and remember Robert Griffin III, crumpled in a heap. I could reminiscence about throwing things in frustration at Justin's Cafe as a Game 5 against the Cardinals slipped through the Nats’ fingers, or when Clayton Kershaw came in late to best Max Scherzer with me looking on in horror from the stands. I could talk about a lot of moments. Frankly, I could even talk about this year, when I gave up on watching OT hockey games entirely. The result has always just seemed so damn inevitable. Always.

And then suddenly, it wasn't quite so inevitable.

A few of the Washington Capitals (Brett Connolly, Jay Beagle, Andre Burakovski, and more) pose for a photo atop their parade bus.

When they came back from two games to none against Columbus, it felt a little bit different. When Evgeny Kuznetsov lit the lamp, flapped his wings, and sent home the Penguins, we were overjoyed that the piano was lifted. When the collective team effort suffocated the vaunted Tampa Bay offense into Game 6 and 7 goose eggs, we wondered. When Braden Holtby made "The Save" in Game 2, we started believing. When Jakub Vrana, Alex Ovechkin, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Lars Eller netted goals in game seven, we were all champions.

Fans celebrate with posters of the Washington Post Sports section's recent front pages.

TJ Oshie salutes the fans.

It most definitely does not "be f*ing suck!" as the team's bearded Russian grizzly bear of a captain so succinctly put it.

"We are Stanley Cup Champions!"

Local alcohol laws didn't stop parade participants from distributing beer to the crowd.

After the majority of the parade had passed by, attendees eagerly awaited The Cup.

It was jubilation. It was local. It was diverse. It was everything that those of us that live here know Washington, DC to be. It was for those of us that grew up here. It was for the players and coaches, who all thought that they missed their chance last year, and year before that, and year before that, and weren't sure if they'd ever get there. It was for the season ticket holders that have watched for 43 seasons of disappointment. It was those of us that root for the Nationals on hot summer afternoons, the Redskins on crisp autumn Sundays, the Wizards through frigid winters, but most of all, those of us that don a sweater, "Rock the Red", and fill Capital One Arena, season after season. We all took part in the festivities. I don't think a single person that wore their sweater on a warm, but not-too-hot June day regretted that decision, and I think we'll all remember the scene of overdue and well earned triumph for the rest of our lives.

Stanley Cup Champions.

Congratulation, Washington, DC — your Capitals now hoist the Stanley Cup.

We got our parade, for everyone this time.

Christmastime in London

England during the holiday season is a delight.

A retired call box in Chichester

A retired call box in Chichester

I don't know the reason or the history, but I don't think I've been to a more festive place during the holiday season (I'm sure the Christmas markets in Germany give it a run for its money, but I've yet to have the opportunity to visit there). Everywhere you turn, there are light displays, trees, ornaments, and holiday cheer.

I returned late last week from a week-long trip there with Lauren and her family, where we had a wonderful time.

We spent a fair bit of the trip in Southern part of the country visiting family, and even got to attend our first Premier League football (soccer) match (in Southampton).

The second half of our trip was spent an hour and a half train ride away in London, which, turned out to be the photographic highlight of the trip.

London

Waterloo Bridge & Trafalgar Square

We braved the chilly evening air to make our way from Waterloo Bridge, and it's dusk views of the city, to Trafalgar Square. From there we enjoyed the Christmas lights that adorned the streets and retail shops along Regent, Brook, and Bond Streets before finishing our evening with dinner at gastropub near where we were staying. It was all quite festive and fun.

London, full of holiday spirit

London, full of holiday spirit

Sky Garden & Covent Garden

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Our second and final morning in London, we awoke to forecast of rain, but made the most of our day, with a visit to the Sky Garden, which despite the weather and low visibility, gave us some fun views of the city.

Rainy London

Rainy London

A late morning breakfast and wander through Borough Market (I never knew that 'Shake Shack' sauce was something that I needed on a bacon sandwich) was a highlight of the day. We also managed to sneak in a visit to Covent Garden before the rain sent us packing.

Our brief London stay ended that evening with a festive bang at the Royal Albert Hall for a performance of Christmas Classics by the London Concert Orchestra, Royal Choral Society, and Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Logistics Corps. A late evening pint at the pub near our hotel was the evening's finale, and we went to sleep quite content with the week that was.

See these all these images (and a few more) on my Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmaUZmiG

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall

Barcelona

The fourth most densely populated city in the European Union; Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, and is one of Europe's leading tourist, economic, and cultural centers. It is a city known for the art of Picasso and the architecture of Gaudí, and is home to the Blaugrana and their Nou Camp. It sits on the Mediterranean sea between Llobregat and Besós rivers, and is protected by the Serra de Collserola mountains. It was also, the destination we chose for the second-leg of our trip to Spain.

Barcelona from Sagrada Família's Nativity Tower.

Pamplona & Montserrat

With our time San Sebastián coming to an end on Wednesday, October 11, we checked out of our hotel, got in our rental car, and began the journey to Barcelona.

Pamplona

First stop of the morning led us through Pamplona's ancient city walls, and into its medieval city center. After just missing the opening of the market on Plaza del Castillo, we checked out the exterior of city's famous bull ring, Plaza de Toros de Pamplona, and then made our way back towards our parking garage, and before long were on the road to Montserrat.

The next few hours were spent driving through more mountainous Spanish countryside of Aragon and Huesca, passing though Parque Natural de la Sierra y Cañones de Guara, and ultimately arriving in the early evening at Montserrat.

Yesa Reservoir in Aragon.

Montserrat

Since we arrived late in the day, Montserrat's activity for the day was already beginning to slow. We explore the monastery grounds, and made sure to take the funicular up to the top of Saint Joan, where we looked out over Catalonia in the day's fading light, but after a full day of driving, we were beat, so off to the airport we headed to drop off our rental car. Once there, we hopped in a cab, and headed to our hotel in Barcelona's El Born neighborhood. We checked in, cleaned ourselves up a bit, found ourselves some tapas, and called it a night.

Barceloneta Beach, Parc de la Ciutadella & Catalunya Square

The next morning, we got an early start, and after coffee at a neighborhood cafe, we spent the morning learning about the life of Pablo Picasso, at his museum. While many of his most famous works reside in galleries throughout the world, the museum's curators have done an admirable job of telling a story about the career and life journey of one of the 20th century's most famous artists.

Barceloneta Beach

Morning in Barcelona, near the beach.

Our next stop was a walk to and along the beach in Barceloneta. We dodged the many street vendors, did our fair share of people-watching, grabbed a vacation cocktail at a beachside bar, and ultimately had a delicious lunch of tuna tartare and grilled octopus at Agua on the beach.

Parc de la Ciutadella & Catalunya Square

With bellies full of delicious seafood, we made our way inland to check out Barcelona's downtown area. Our route took us around and through Parc de la Ciutadella, under Barcelona's Arc de Triomf (European's love their arches), eventually leading us to Catalunya Square, and the top of the famed Las Ramblas. Here we encountered the only real bit of political demonstration (outside of the ever-present Catalonia flags hanging from balconies) during out time in Spain: the remnants of a morning pro-Spain unity demonstration, which mostly consisted of a few groups carrying flags and chanting, "Barcelona is Spain; Spain is Barcelona".

The leftover stage from a morning political demonstration on Catalunya Square.

By this point, our feet were starting to tire, so we found a tapas bar recommended to us by two different friends, [Tapas 24], where we shared a pitcher of sangria, patatas bravas, croquetas, and more. Our evening ended with a walk back through El Born to our hotel, and an obligatory dinner of Paella at a local restaurant.

Park Güell, La Boqueria & Sagrad Família

Park Güell

Our final full day in Spain started with a metro journey through town to visit Gaudí's Park Güell. The park certainly has its merits, but to me, the story of Gaudí's vision was more fascinating than the park itself. While I appreciated the intricacies of the mosaic work throughout the park, the crowds of people have turned what should be a peaceful escape in the city into something a bit more hectic.

Part of the ceiling mosaic in Park Güell's market area.

Part of the ceiling mosaic in Park Güell's market area.

La Boqueria

After doing our best to relax in the park for a few, we journeyed back towards our hotel, and walked through the Gothic Quarter to La Boqueria. We'd heard that Bar Pinotxo was not to be missed, and we made sure not to miss it. A bar that has been open for nearly 100 years, and continues to be family-owned and operated to this day; it was not to be missed.

'Pinotxo' (Juanito), himself!

On the day we visited, we counted three generations preparing the food, including the patriarch of the family, Juanito (Pinotxo, himself). After a brief wait, we were able to secure two of the fourteen bar stools, and sat down to wonderful lunch of freshly prepared specialties. The white beans with baby squid, prawns, and chickpeas were all delicious. We washed lunch down with a couple of beers, vacated our stools, and started to make our way back across town to see the final attraction of our trip: Sagrada Família.

Sagrada Família

Despite the fact that we were, at this point, beginning to run our steam from constantly being on the move. We decided to head to the famous, in-progress basilica on foot, stopping on the way to see a few of Gaudí's famous apartment buildings, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera.

After admiring these two sculpture-like dwellings, we made a pit stop for some local souvenirs, and made it to the basilica just-in-time for our 5:15 entrance time.

Sagrada Família

A truly grand structure, Sagrada Família's construction commenced in 1882, and is still in-progess to this day. Estimates suggest that the structure might finally be finished in 2026 (the centenary of Gaudí's passing), but despite being unfinished, the basilica truly is an impressive piece of architecture.

Our tickets gave us entry to the basilica, as well as access to the Nativity Tower. After a bit of a wait, it was our turn, and up we went. The details of the cathedral from above, as well as views out over the city were truly stunning. We began our descent, making sure to take in the views that the tower had to offer. Once more on the ground, we came away from our visit feeling like we had found an appropriate finale to our trip. Sagrada Família is a beautiful structure, and deserving of its must-see status.

A tip for future travelers: Make sure to try to book your tower visit for later in the day, as the late afternoon sun makes the city and towers glow.

We ended our trip with a dinner and drinks a few blocks from our hotel, and went to the sleep feeling like we got the most out of our week in Spain.

For more photos from the Barcelona leg of our trip, take a peak at the full album on Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7r4L7r.