Daily Archives: April 14, 2016

Eu amo Portugal!

 An afternoon flight from Amsterdam to Lisbon got us to our overly-hipster 5-star conceptual hotel Fontecruz Lisboa.

Wall clock in our room

But the view from the top floor in Baixa near Rossio was spectacular, with Barrio Alto on one side and the Alfama on the other.  

A view towards Bairro Alto


We unpacked ourselves, gathered our gear, and headed out for our first adventure in Portugal, an exploration of the Alfama. Grabbing a taxi nearby we wound our way up the crooked and cobbled streets of the Alfama towards Castelo De Sao Jorge. As the streets wound tighter and more narrow the taxi driver suggested a place to let us off and walk the rest of the way. It was a stunning viewpoint of Largo Santa Luzia with sweeping views of the Rio Tejo and the Sao Vicente De Fora Monastery. 

We walked over to Sao Vicente only to find that it closed at 6pm and didn’t allow entry after 5pm – it was 5:10. So we turned ourselves around and threaded ourselves up through narrow streets towards the Castelo De Sao Jorge. We didn’t go to the castle because the narrow and winding streets were just the experience we were looking for. From here we had escaped the Football fans partying in the Baixa in support of Portugal playing Germany later that evening in Lisbon.


As we wound our way up, we wound our way down and dropped into a small restaurant called Ao Pé Da Sé for a rest, drink, and snack – a pint of Sagres and an incredible plate of cheese.    


We stepped out to explore the Igreja de Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa and then wandered the streets of the Alfama looking for a place for dinner.  After wandering around aimlessly and turning down tourist restaurant after tourist restaurant we ended up at Cruzes Credo Café which had rave reviews on Yelp. It’s 8 tables packed, we waited 30 minutes for a seat on a couch and chair with a tiny table not large enough to hold our plates. It was simple fare and satisfied our craving for an introduction to the flavors of Portugal – which apparently are heavily laden with salt. I ordered my first (and possibly last) bacalhau (salted cod) which was good, but just so salty that my low sodium diet forbids me from ever ordering it again.    

Bacalhau (salted cod)


After dinner we headed towards Baixa and up the Rua Augusta back towards Rossio and our overly-hip hotel. But not before we stopped to buy some inexpensive Portugese shoes, a nightcap of port and second dessert of Portugese marzipan. 

 So far Portugal is doing very well by me. Eu amo Portugal!

Categories: Portugal | 4 Comments

I AMsterdam

Our bio-clocks woke us early, which was a good thing, as we wanted to line up early at the Anne Frank House, having heard the lines and wait times could be long. We arrived by 8:15, 45 minutes before the museum opened. By 9:30 we were inside, a somber journey up steps and across the timeline of Anne’s short and tragic life. Photos were not allowed inside, and it’s just as well, because images can’t capture the intense emotional experience of ascending into the secret annex which held the Frank and Pels families for 2 years before they were betrayed, discovered, and shipped to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen like so many other European Jews, gypsies, disabled, and homosexuals. The Anne Frank house is a powerful reminder of a horrible chapter in human history. While we want to believe such brutality can’t happen again, I can see how Trump (#RealDonaldTrump) and his buddy Ted Cruz are sowing the seeds and cultivating hatred, bigotry, and using Islam as a scapegoat in the US Presidential Campaign. You don’t have to stretch your imagination far to see how a movement like this becomes one like the Nazis.   

We purchased a few paintings from a local street artist named Baker outside of the Anne Frank house. Then meandered through the Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam making our way towards the Van Gogh Museum. On the way we stopped at a small bar/restaurant called Brasserie Blazer where we had a couple of delicious beers and excellent broodjies for lunch.  


We had 3pm reservations for Van Gogh and had some time to kill when we noticed the Moco Museum nearby had an exhibit of Warhol and Banksy. It was a smaller but interesting exhibit demonstrating the strong connection between Warhol’s Pop Art and Banksy’s Street Art and how they both celebrate and criticize popular culture and consumerism.


Andy’s Marilyn


Banksy’s Kate Moss



Then on to Van Gogh, who’s work is truly beautiful to behold. To see his brush strokes up close and the thickness of those strokes play off the intense complementary colors set side-by-side made me appreciate the artist and his vision that much more. Unfortunately the museum was crowded, and our feet sore from walking so we focused our time there on his most important works with an audio tour. 


After the museums we stopped for beers and patat frites (with copious amounts of mayonnaise) to rest our feet and gather our strength for the long walk back to our hotel were we rested and researched restaurants for dinner. One that looked good was Restaurant Max (an Indonesian Rijsttafel (rice table)) restaurant which are common in Amsterdam due to the former Dutch colonies there. As we set out for dinner a sudden storm arrived with thunder, lightning, hail and torrential rain with an angry sky inflamed by the setting sun.


Restaurant Max turned out to be absolutely delicious, with perfectly tempered heat from the spices and intense flavors of lemongrass punctuating every dish. We must search for Indonesian food when we return to Seattle.


After dinner the rain had stopped and we wandered through back streets and over canal bridges past red lit windows with ladies of the night displaying their wares (or wears?). To bed, as the wall of sleep came upon us quickly.  

Categories: Amsterdam | 1 Comment

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