Tonkotsu Ramen Attempt One: Not Very Porky

Well, a small break from the past year of travel style blog posts.

While traveling through Japan, Lindsay and I really fell in love with Ramen and decided that on the top of the “things to do when we’re home” bucket list we’d put “make real-ass ramen.” I want to take a second to point out that this was very much a team effort, though I may have spent a bit more time reading/researching/asking questions about what recipe to follow, which steps to follow, etc. But the point is, this was a team activity, even if I don’t write it up as such.

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Barbados

As you may recall (I’m actually not 100% sure we talked about this on the ol’ blog), the choice to come to Barbados was based on a few things.

First, we had expected that sometime in this year of travel we’d have had some opportunities to swim around in some beautiful water somewhere. India we figured that Goa would be this experience, but Goa was not exactly that experience, and we quickly ran into fall and winter in Asia and Europe without ever having any “go to the beach and go swimming” experiences. So, we figured on the way home we’d stop somewhere tropical.

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The rest of Portugal!

I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table in Michigan, Tristan and Izzy are to my left and right working on homework. We’ve been home for three weeks. I mention this because although I know it sort of ruins the whole “reading a travel blog real time” thing, I feel like my memory is already fading and so I’m going to write as I remember things, which may not be perfect. After we left the mountain home, we headed to Porto. The drive was somewhat long, but not particularly eventful. Porto was pretty great. I think it was probably all of our favorite city in Portugal. It felt touristy, but perhaps also a bit more casual and a bit more approachable then Lisbon.

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Fatima, Grândola + Covilha (Serra de Estrella).

When my parents first got to Lisbon, we really had very little in the way of concrete plans set for the next 2 weeks. Initially, my mom and I planned to take the brunt of it, and the she got really busy with school and passed the task to me, and then I, knowing my lovely mother would want more input than she cared to admit, decided we would just “play it by ear” and plan as we went. That turned out to be a great idea, as it was that mentality that led us here. Originally, in our basic sketch of the trip, the plan was to head north and then take on the south, lounging on the beaches just before they arrived back home. Thankfully, our lack of concrete planning gave us the mobility to look at the weather, head south first and on our way up to Porto, stop in Serra de Estrella. It was my mom’s suggestion, and it turned out to be a highlight of the trip for all of us.
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The Algarve.

After a few days in the country, we headed to the Algarve, specifically, Lagos + Sagres. The city of Lagos was quite small and it was great for easy exploring. My parents went to the fish market, my dad waking up around 6 am one day headed down to pick out some delicious tuna for us for dinner. We celebrated Easter (Kev and i standing the entire mass from the balcony, my parents sitting at the alter) and found about 15 items wrapped in tissue paper hiding in various places around the house. We had a gin + tonic tasting event, “sponsored” by Kevin, who claimed (and was correct, sadly!) that given the chance to have 4 drinks, we couldn’t tell the difference between them. We went sea kayaking and swam in the beach. We went hat hunting for my mom (which turned out to be quite a feat!), and ate a delicious Indian dinner. My dad tried gelato for the first time, and they ate their first salted sardines (another Portuguese specialty). We ran on the beach, looked at cool urchins, played paddle ball while Kev practiced his card trick. We went to Sagres and ultimately to “the end of the world!” aka, the south-eastern most tip of Europe. We geo-cached and ate egg salad sandwiches and chocolate seashells on the side of the road. Needless to say, we killed it.IMG_6123
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Foupana + Tavira (Ihla de Tavira).

So, we drove south. Our ultimate destination was a little city called Tavira, and more specially, a tiny island off the coast called Ihla de Tavira. The plan for my exhausted parents, after weeks of preparing for this trip, was to chill out on the coast for a while, run on the beach, read a book, and relax. Knowing that we were going to be on the beach for the next few days, we opted to check out the Portuguese countryside, and man, what a great decision that was. We literally were in the middle of NO WHERE, or at least it felt like it, and it was a total change of pace from the busy city. We stayed in this amazing log cabin, were greeted by the world’s biggest dogs, and chilled out on the giant porch overlooking the desert-esque landscape. It was pretty cool.

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Lisbon.

So, needless to say, we were pretty excited that my parents were coming to visit. We ended up coming in to Lisbon via bus around 11pm the night before their arrival, and were picked up by the world’s most hospitable host (yet another Airbnb success story). Right off the bat, we were feeling quite spoiled, as it has not been the norm for us to have someone PICK US UP from anywhere, let alone in a car. Normally we’d be dealing with following our GPS god-knows-where and walking normally 1-4ish km from our stop to our place with our packs in whatever city it was that we happened to land. The fact that we had a real, live person meeting us to ease our transition into Lisbon was pretty damn awesome to say the least, especially after the 8+ hour bus ride in the back of a giant, bumpy bus with no air. On top of him being just a really wonderfully warm person, he also bought us dinner after explaining that he remembered “how difficult it was, traveling in the past, when [you’d] get somewhere late, and were starving and everything was closed…. ” Honestly, if there could have been a more perfect way to enter a new city, bellies full, warmed with the kindness of this man who we were only paying $22 per night to stay with, well, I don’t know what it would have looked like other than this.

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Spain

Well, my last blog post left off with us on the train, on our way to Barcelona. It was an update-to-the-minute blog post. I don’t think this makes sense, but I think perhaps I got too close to the sun. My wax blogging wings fell apart. Also, I might mention that a certain somebody I may or may not be traveling with/married to hasn’t been pulling her blogging weight lately. Regardless, as I type this Spain blog post, I am nearly done with PORTUGAL. But, I want to write a few things about Spain before I forget them! So, here we go.

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Carcassone

We took another very enjoyable train ride from Marseilles to Carcassonne. Carcassonne is a city, and in this city there is “Le Cite” which I believe is something like “the citadel” – basically, to a non-history expert such as myself, a giant walled city. This is a very famous thing, but I had heard of it because of the board game Carcassonne. I’ve been playing this game for a long time with friends from the Bay. It was a monthly-ish event, playing the game. This board game is 99% of the reason we went to this town, along with the fact that it happened to be roughly on the way to Barcelona.

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Southern France.

Jean Jacques, Elsie, and Christoph

After the weather in Palermo, Lindsay and I were both really excited to be seeing and staying with a family once again. So after flying to Marseilles and taking a bus to Monasque, we were so thrilled to get out and see Jean Jacques waiting for us.

Jean Jacques (JJ) is my very, very dear friend Nicola’s father, and Elsie (who we would see in half an hour later) is his mother. I had the brief pleasure of meeting them in San Francisco last year when they came to visit Nicola, but it was only that once. They are, in short, incredibly enjoyable people to be around and Lindsay and I both agreed that not for a second did we feel uncomfortable, awkward, or anything but filled with warmth, and thrilled and lucky to be getting to know them better.

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