Spain & Portugal Adventures 2019
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Picture it: The Emerald Coast. April. 2019.
Because that's what we've got lots of ... pictures.
Rather than try to tell you a chronological story of what we did each day and all of that, I've gathered the photos together into groups.
From all of this I hope you'll get an idea of what happens when Vince and I travel. Especially when it's an international adventure. Laughter and tears. Tortilla and Bratwurst. Pulpo and Paprika Peanuts. Goats and Monasteries.
Let's start with the best first.
Pulpo a la Gallega.
This is octopus, steamed, cut into pieces and drizzled with olive oil and paprika. GOOD olive oil. AMAZING paprika. Fresh pulpo. I'm not usually a fan of octopus, but this changed the game. Perhaps it was the freshness, or the delicious paprika, or just that it was cooked correctly. No matter what, I can't wait to have it again.
The ultimate sandwich. Secret sauce (a peppery tomato sauce), bread, cheese, beef, fresh sausage, linguica, york ham, cheese, chorizo, bread, melted cheese, fried egg. Often smothered in sauce. Usually with fries on the side. We found this on the last day we were in Portugal. And it's impossible to find outside of Portugal. We were heartbroken. I loved it so much that one of the two tourist shirts I bought is the 3D split/build of the sandwich. This way I always have the recipe - from the funky artist t-shirt shop in Porto.
The Breakfast of Champions
Fresh squeezed orange juice, a fish pie, a ham and cheese pie, coffee, and complimentary corn muffin and churro-like twists. You would think that fish pie isn't a good breakfast, but you'd be wrong. And the coffee was so good. We always sat outside at the sidewalk tables. Watching the world go by.
This amazing cod dish in Porto. At a hamburger place. I wish we had eaten more of this, because it was incredible. It's pickled cod with onions and spices. But it's not sweet pickley. It's salty. And just perfect.
Cuttlefish in Ourense, on my birthday. Again, I'm not usually a fan, just like octopus, but it was fresh, and expertly prepared. Drizzled with balsamic and olive oil. Grilled to order. The seafood in Galicia was beyond compare. (They are known for it, I just didn't expect it to be this incredible.)
On our way home, we had 18 hours in Frankfurt. We found an out-of-the-way super authentic German restaurant and ordered the sausage platter and the herring platter.
What's so sad is that about 5 minutes into dinner, Vince's food poisoning from earlier in the day kicked in (we didn't see it coming). He ate nothing. I had some of everything, but it barely made a dent. The first time we're in Germany and we can eat the real food of our ancestors ... and he can't. ((We did take the leftovers to go, but Vince wasn't better until we landed back in the US. The leftovers didn't have a chance.))
Other Food of Note
The most amazing snack food ever. We bought about 10 bags when we were in Frankfurt on the way home. I'm slowly enjoying them. If anyone goes to Germany and wants to mule some back for me ...
I don't remember when or where we had oysters. I just remember they were delicious (as with all the seafood in Galacia)!
This is cheese, a soft Galacian cheese. It was as big as my hand. Covered in local honey and 4 anchovies. It was incredible. I didn't even pretend to put it on toast. I just ate it.
Parting thoughts in Vigo
We stopped in Vigo on the way back north-ish to Santiago, on the way home, and went to the seafood area. You order whatever fresh seafood you'd like from the vendors in the middle and then sit outside at tables or inside at restaurants. The restaurants charge you for alcohol/ drinks and plates. It's a lovely system. And this kind of thing happens.
Galicia is rich with Celtic history. Go read and learn.
Race Day. Read the full race report over here.
Only one comment here: Yes, we did see Queen in concert. It was amazing.
Goats in Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal
We went on a huge adventure in the largest national park in Portugal. It was incredible! Death-defying roads and hairpin turns. One lane around dangerous curves. Amazing vistas. And then, out of nowhere, goats.
The hills are alive, with the sound of goats.
Kind of funny?
This is a bidet, but we couldn't figure out HOW you're supposed to actually use it. It's the same size as a toilet, and the water comes out vertically. We called in the pros (friends who live overseas) and they didn't know either. I used it to wash my feet. It worked really well for that.
As seen in the Frankfurt Airport. I don't know why this strikes me as funny. Part of it is that it's in Germany, and it's written in English and Korean/Chinese/Japanese (I don't know which it is). Are we the only nationalities who need to be told that we can only play if we are good? Do all other countries just *know* that you don't sit down at a public piano unless you're good?
The first few days we stayed in Pontevedra we were at an AirBnB about 2 miles outside of downtown proper. And the way you walked into town was along the Pilgrims' Trail; the Camino de Santiago (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago). Each night we would come home to our private room and meet 5-6 new pilgrims (staying in the hostel section of the house) who were walking from somewhere south (usually Porto, sometimes as far as Lisbon) to Santiago de Compostela. It was incredible to learn about, and amazing to meet so many amazing new people from all over. We learned how to communicate without knowing a common language (hint: bread, cheese, fruit, and coffee are universal).
Now that you know the background, here is a photo of a vending machine along the trail. It gets lonely on the road, no matter what road you're traveling.
I love grocery shopping when I'm traveling. Especially if it's outside of the US.
Swedish and Portuguese? Yes please! This was by far the coolest IKEA I've ever been to. The layout, the restaurant, the food. It was gorgeous.
OMG. Shoes. Of course we stopped.
The mall in Frankfurt had a huge tunnel through the middle of it. It brings natural light into the center of the mall and it looks very cool. It is tough to get a cool picture of it, but it looks like a giant optical illusion. And we went to this mall because it had a Lego store. ((Note: this was before Vince's food poisoning kicked in.))
How about a leg of Spanish ham? These are HUGE. We didn't think it would fit in our luggage, or we would have brought one home.
You think there is one, maybe two types of paprika? Oh no. There's a million. You could smell this store from a block away. Heavenly.
In Portugal, we stayed at an out-of-the-way fancy hotel that was converted from a monastery (Pousada Mosteiro de Amares). We took our days slow. We spent one driving through the Peneda-Gerês National Park. We spent another hunting down the hot springs in Geres (they were out of order for the season. Some sort of maintenance. We still had a nice adventure.). And we spent a lot of time wandering around the little town of Amares and the monastery. They had a pool table. We are both terrible at pool. We bought a bottle of local Vino Verde and played for an hour or so. We didn't keep score. As usual. (I'm pretty sure I won though.)
We got dressed up for fancy dinner at Pousada Mosteiro de Amares.
Port from Porto, looking out from hotel room at Pousada Mosteiro de Amares.
In Porto, Portugal, at the top of the giant hill, looking down to the river.
In Porto, Portugal, looking/ pointing up to the top of the hill where we were.
In Ourense, at the public hot springs, on my birthday.
Some representing in Pontevedra. They lined up all the flags from the participating countries. It was beautiful.
We had pre-arranged transport from Santiago de Compostela to Pontevedra and the driver met us WITH A SIGN WITH MY NAME ON IT. I felt like royalty.
The first selfie of our trip, at O'Hare in Chicago.
We're still at O'Hare. There was a whole deal about getting to the international terminal that actually wasn't in use, so we had to take a shuttle, with all our luggage and it was annoying. Vince said I looked "cute" and snapped this photo.
We had some time to kill at O'Hare. Of course we played games.
Vince took this video as we were walking to our gate in O'Hare. It was pretty cool.
On approach into Santiago de Compostela. They call this coast (Galicia on the Atlantic) the Emerald Coast because it's always green. The photo doesn't do it justice. It was breathtaking.
Peggy the Peugeot. Our trusty stead for our journey in Pontevedra. We switched to Ronnie the Renault when we started the second half of our journey (to Portugal and such).
Welcome to Portugal.
The inclinator up the giant hill in Porto. We walked back down, but not up. I had just done an Aquabike ... I was in recovery.
Our amazing hotel room at Pousada Mosteiro de Amares. A bathtub! For the first time in our trip. I definitely enjoyed a bath or two. (And yes, this bidet pointed down... The yoga required to use this bidet as intended was even beyond me.)
Welcome home. To a 3-hour long wait in customs, for US citizens. This was the hallway OUTSIDE the main room. Pro-tip: don't make O'Hare your first point of entry into the US.
Again, you can read all about race day here: https://www.gobig.life/post/it-s-time-to-wake-up.
These are just a few photos from the day before the race. I went for a dip in the ICY cold river (I cannon-balled in!). I had a quick bike. I went to have the Team USA Aquabike photo taken. I went to the pre-race briefing where they talked about the contingencies for a cold swim, which included delaying the start and shortening the swim (both of which happened). There was no Parade of Nations (the race planners had promised a second one (the first one was a week before. Many of us weren't even in town yet.) but did not deliver.). I got an adjustment with the team chiropractor and got my wrist and elbow taped. All in all a good pre-race day.
The millenium bridge in Ourense. The swoop up and down is a pedestrian walkway. More like an amazing stair workout. It was incredible.
Each year on my birthday I take a photo at some sort of historical/ cool/ noteworthy place. It started with my 35th birthday at Notre Dame Cathedral. That's me all the way at the top.
And this is the view as you look down from the top.
We also went to the hot springs and ate cuttlefish and cheese and amazing wine. It was a great day.
In the National Park, at the top of one of the mountains we crossed. Before goats. After the dam (below).
From the room at our hotel at the monastery.
Porto, Portugal, from the top.
The cafe where we had the amazing cod dish in Porto, Portugal.
I went out on a scouting bike ride on the course. This is where I turned around; about mile 6 of a 23 mile (total) out and back. I had climbed enough hills for one day. The course was absolutely gorgeous. And challenging.
One of the plazas in Pontevedra. Full of old beautiful buildings. Around every corner is history and amazing architecture.
The swim course. If you look on the left side of the photo you'll see the fancy bridge that is in downtown. That's where the swim started. That yellow buoy on the right is the turn around. About a mile total. Against the current. With a receding tide. Very cold. It was the hardest swim of my life.
We went to Mogor Beach for lunch one day, just outside of Pontevedra. There are ancient Celtic rock carvings there; petroglyphs. Again, full of history. Go learn about it.
The pickup center for Tri Bike Transport. You can't see too well, but all along the left side is just bikes. Probably a couple thousand. From all over the US, Canda, Mexico and the UK (and a few other countries). It was so very cool. What was awesome was saying "Yes. She's the one with the rainbow spokes." And everyone knowing exactly who Delores was.
Another gorgeous plaza and old church in downtown Pontevedra.
Let's end this story with some simply beautiful things we saw.
The Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. The place where all the pilgrims are journeying to. It was a rainy day when we were there, but somehow the fog just adds to the magic of this place. By the time we were there tours had closed, however I know we'll be back.
The Azulejos tiles from Portugal. Each was individually painted and fired and then assembled. The level of craftsmanship and attention to detail is astounding. And al done by hand; no computers here.
Up the mountain from Geres (the hot springs) on the edge of the National Park. It was quite the drive to get up here. One-lane-but-not-really-because-there-were-cars-coming-down-as-we-were-going-up winding road with very steep hills. So much fun.
The Celtic rock carvings/ petroglyphs at Mogor Beach.
THE bridge in Pontevedra. The one it's known for. Also, the swim start for the race.
The view from our AirBnB in Pontevedra (the one along the pilgrims' trail). It was really a cool place to stay. This photo is at about 5:30pm. The sun set around 9pm. It was a quite the interesting time switch.
I'll leave you with this. It was a public installation along the major walkways in downtown Pontevedra. Photos of female athletes; regular ones, not pros. It showed women of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The text alongside the photos was inspiring. All around the globe women are fighting for representation and equal access to sport. To see something like this, to see a celebration of women, here, at an international event ... it touched my heart. It gives me hope.