Valencia, Spain

Vacaciones en Valencia

Mi amiga, Aisha, y yo fuimos a Valencia para Feriado bancario en Mayo. Yo necesito practicar español en ‘past tense’ así que voy a escribir en español en la blog ahora. Buena suerte a mi!


Dia Uno: Nosotros fuimos a nuestra airbnb.  Yo comprende mas acerca de la casa porque hay contexto cuando la Señora explico cosas en la casa.  Estoy feliz…pero cuando no hay contexto en las calles de Valencia, mi español mas menor!! Pobrecita!!

Después nosotros ponimos las maletas en la cuarto, nosotros tenemos hambre. Fuimos a Mercat Central!  Muchas personas estaron en el Mercat Central compraron comida y bebidas.  Hay mucho jamón ibérico, vino, aceitunas, fruta y verduras. Compramos pan, aceitunas, jamón, y vino y sentamos cerca de el mercado.

Claro, era un buen dia asi que nosotros caminamos en el barrio. Hay mucho graffiti y edificios bellos.

Yo monte una bicicleta y era mi tiempo favorito en Sábado.  Nosotros montamos a La Ciudad De Artes y Ciencias.  No visitamos en museos en este viaje, pero esta bien.  Los edificios están futuristicos.   Estarlos en un gran parque también.  El nombre es Antiguo Cauce Del Rio Turia porque fue un rio pero ahora el rio es una calle larga en el parque!  Es muy verde en el parque y la gente son muy amables.

Porque nosotros estamos sudados, nosotros necesitamos las duchas.  En la noche, nosotros comimos tapas.  Los hongos fueron mejor que la carne.  Nos vimos una boda también en la plaza.  Fuimos a Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar también pero la música era como jazz en la hotel ascensor.  La señorita puedio cantar pero ellos fueron asi asi– ok, aburridos.

Dia Dos: Fuimos a La Playa Malvarrosa acerca de una hora en el autobus.  Un poco lejos, pero era un day bonita de nuevo.  Hay muchas personas que se viven in Valencia en la playa también!  Nosotros nadamos y tomamos sol.  El barrio cerca de la playa no era como Valencia central.  Yo vi las calles fueron un poco sucio y desgastado. Me gusto los azulejos y calles pequeñas.

Caminamos a Valencia central y Aisha quieria paella.  Buscamosla en una restaurante pequeña que se llama La Valenciana.  La restaurante como una escuela de cocina.  Era una noche fresca y la comida era muy bien!

Dia Tres y el dia final! Primero, porque nosotros comimos mas pan y arroz en Domingo, nosotros ejercitamos.  Despues, compramos cosas en un mercado local.  Hay cosas como maletas, sandias, pan, alfombras, y mas ropa.  No mas comida asi que fuimos a un restaurante cerca del mercado.  Pare Pero era muy delicioso.  Pienso era mi restaurante favorita!  Yo comi atun y mas hongos.  Un joven profesor de ingles hablo conmigo por dos horas!  El vivio en America por dos anos y el le gusto mucho. Tu quieres saber si yo hable en español por dos horas? Lo ciento, no! El hable conmigo en ingles, pero esta bien porque Aisha quería hablar también y ella hablo en ingles. Yo engañade– oi 😦

Nosotros visitamos Plaza de la Virgen, y vimos muchos edificios grandes y bonitos.  Valencia es una cuidad relajada.  Yo pienso gente retirada viajan a Valencia porque es una ciudad fácil.  Si quieres una vacaciones con las playas y la ciudades pequeñas, Valencia es una lugar bonita.

Provence, France

Marie?! The Baguettes! Hurry Up! (Provence)

We are KIPP Infinity, and we are a team and a family!  Not only was vacationing in Provence like being in a postcard the entire time, but I also got to prance amongst the poppies and sip rose wine with some of my favorite people on the planet.

I was greeted at the Avignon Train Station by Mr. Glenn K. Davis, Caitlin Emery and J9!  I seriously couldn’t stop smiling and we were only in the car park at this point.  We drove to the Papal Palace in Avignon to meet up with the other two cars.  Admittedly, the first place to visit, after being reunited with my friends, should not have been a historical palace.  I passed every placard, didn’t watch a single film, and was too giddy to learn anything in the galleries.  Jules (our representative from the non-KIPP world) was trying to tell me about the history of how a Pope might be in two different countries at once, but I was bouncing around from friend to friend giving out hugs as if it was everyone’s birthday.  It didn’t help that Ev told me she was pregnant right outside the ticket counter!!!

To give some context, there were enough of us to fit into three cars, which meant that folks could pick and choose their own adventure as long as they could convince a driver to go along with their plan.  Some of us hit up the Pont d’Avignon bridge while others stayed in the marketplace or courtyards to do some shopping and snacking.  We danced a ‘ring around the rosie’ type step on the Avignon bridge, led by Caitlin singing ‘Ponte de Avignon’.

The drive back to St. Saturnin Les Apt was breathtaking- valleys and vineyards with short shrubs, red poppies, and rock formations staking their claim amidst it all.  The little villages seemed to grow out of the hillsides as we wound about the curving roads.  Of course, TravelAgent Ad booked us a ridiculous vacation home.  It was our own chateau in the South of France.  First things first- inspecting our kitchen!  Full of cheeses from the local markets as someone brought home at least a wheel a day.  Peter generously stocked the place with bottles of red and white wine from his travels in Italy.  It was unreal!  We poured glasses for wine o’clock right away, dove into baguettes with cured meats, and tested the rounds of soft white queso.

Each night, someone made magic in the kitchen as well.  On the first evening of my stay, Peter whipped up a veggie pasta with red sauce paired with a yummy salad.  Zach deftly set up our ‘table scape’ and we cracked open more bottles of red.  Was this the night that we wrapped ourselves in Turkish towels and sat outside to gaze at the stars and sing musicals at the top of our lungs? Oh yes.  We started with tunes only set in France.  Clearly, classics like Beauty and the Beast, and Les Mis to name a few.  I’ll always remember Addie questioning if one had to be able to sing to join the Infinity family, as Glenn and Caitlin can really put it together!  The rest of us joined in mainly because you can’t help yourself when Disney is queued up on the playlist.  Our poor neighbors!  Was this also the night, as we retired to our rooms, that I’d be talking Evie’s ear off while she was trying fall asleep?  Yes times ten.  She was such a good sport about it.

The next morning, Peter, J9, Caitlin, Jules and I took off for a market in the super cute town down the road.  The village was perched on the side of a small hill, and it was a quiet walk amongst the stalls.  We got a bit carried away with our Provincial photo shoot and then couldn’t help ourselves at the local patisserie.

Our main goal of the day was to find rose lovely enough for Janine’s scheduled rose tasting later that afternoon at our chateau.  She found two spots in her wine of the month periodical.  Yep, she’s got wine vintage running through her veins.  The first spot, Domaine de La Citadelle, included a cork museum, full of wine openers from around the world.  The gentlemen at the front desk insisted that we tour the cellars on our own before we started our tasting! Just us… breathing in the barrels of vino. Que Romantica! Our tasting here was top notch because we were the only people in the whole joint.  Plus we had expertise from Peter, J9, and the gentleman pouring for us.  Did I mention I felt like I was in a daydream and that I couldn’t stop smiling?

As we were on a mission to collect bottles for our rose tasting, we needed to hit another winery before returning to our house.  Our second stop was also nice, but included a few more American tourists who must have read the same vintage magazine as Janine.  The wine here was a bit peppery but tastings need variety, so we bought a couple of bottles here, too.

Then this happened…I still pinch myself.

J9 actually led on dinner this night as well.  Veggie frittatas and salad to follow up our amazing afternoon.  I seriously love the people we love.

Friday was the final group trip as it was Glenn’s last day.  We caravanned to a large market full of food, crafts, scarves, and miles of stalls.  We really couldn’t help ourselves here.  Then we hit up Aix, a college town with some beautiful tree-lined shopping lanes.  I took off after Jules who always has locations mapped out at each stop, usually churches or notable architecture sites.  Traveling with Jules means you get a first class masters course in these two areas.  I laugh out loud when I remember our trip in Prague together. After about two full days of Jules leading us through churches, Corey exclaimed “Jules, did you like study this or something?!”

I have to describe our next move, as we had to make some logistical decisions when heading out of Aix.  In true KIPPster form, we created a bar graph to determine which car would take Glenn to the airport, who would return back to our accommodation, and who would drive to Marseille for sightseeing.  Then imagine us all lining up to physically create the bars of the graph to vote for to ride in each car.  Peter drove Glenn.  Addie drove home.  Perri was a trooper and drove our group all the way to Marseille to do a bit more sightseeing.  We saw an abbey which would have been a bit more exciting if we hadn’t sat through rush hour traffic to get there.  We hadn’t predicted that part and this experience in the large seaside port felt miles away from our sleepy, dreamy Provincial town.  And it was miles away.  After parking illegally in a Lido lot, and getting stared down by the parking attendant, we did get some beautiful shots in the dimly lit abbey by the blue waters of the Mediterranean.

For Friday’s dinner, we quickly found out that our NYC lifestyle of late meals and drinks didn’t really align with the lifestyle of the folks of St. Saturnin Les Apt.  All restaurants closed by 8:30pm.  But we did luck out when the local pizza joint still had its lights nearing 10pm.  Just spending the last evening with my dear friends, doing things like we did back in NYC, made me feel on top of the world.  How lucky to be traveling together in Europe.  I loved hearing the stories about work, and I loved being caught up on the jokes and on the adventures.  Was it really time to go home the next day?

Saturday: I was dropped off in Avignon to catch a train back to London.  I took a leisurely lunch in a posh restaurant, Etienne, surrounded by my backpack, numerous wheels of the remaining cheese and the eight leftover bottles of wine from Peter. Since everyone else was flying back, I was the only one who could take these items, which I could not complain about one bit!

I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in croissants, baguettes, and baked goods each day in the South of France.  I enjoyed my 03s (one-on-ones) with each friend on the trip, and I can’t wait for the next travel dates to be released.

Porto, Portugal

Uma Porta Em Oporto

Oporto, locally known as Porto, definitely gives Lisboa a run for its money when it comes to charm and relaxation.  Both cities are nestled along beautiful rivers, and have miradouros (viewing points) that take your breath away. Oporto, however, feels a bit more ‘untouched’ with its narrow lanes unfit for cars, and with the wonderful number of family owned restaurants. It’s December, yet the sun was shining down making each day feel longer during this short weekend trip.

We quickly found out that our airbnb was just minutes away from Cafe Santiago, the best restaurant to score a francesinha, a sundae-sized sandwich bursting with ham, chorizo, steak filet all covered with cheese, a fried egg and smothered in beer sauce. Yes, it was absolutely worth forgetting that we may have been vegetarian in recent history.

We purchased our first piece of art together from a local artist who had charcoal on canvas pieces dedicated to the fado culture in Portugal. We also discovered the American store, complete with hard-to-find, quality imports from the States like fruit loops, snickers, twizzlers, marshmallows, and other sugary junk food.

It was exciting to see the Se Cathedral near closing time when selfie sticks were off duty and tour buses were pulling out of the parking lot.  Those visiting were peacefully praying under the sky-high arches made of stone. Behind the Se, we wandered down residential paths and peeked at families having dinner, and smiled up at the laundry hanging out to dry.

Because it was dusk when we reached the Ribeira district, the Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge was lit up, along with the welcome signs of the port taverns on the other side of the Douro river. The architect who built the bridge, Téophile Seyrig, was Eiffel’s assistant and created the bridge design from this influence. We couldn’t have been more relaxed at the Wine Quay bar where our waitress allowed us to taste four different wines before choosing a bottle, and also told us the stories of the vineyards and the names of every grape used in each bottle.  She was incredibly sweet and kept saying we could try as many vinhos as we liked since she liked happy customers! We finished with an inventive meal at LSD, where the pulvo and sweet potato dish spoiled me, and Corey’s dessert choice, called La Infancia (Childhood), was served with a spatula of cookie dough.

On Saturday, we knew we’d need to hit up at least one market, and Mercado do Bolhao was an easy walk from the flat. There weren’t breakfast pastries as one website promised, but wandering about the various fruit and veggie stalls made me wish I was bringing groceries home for a big meal. The women running these stalls cupped their hands around the colorful treasures like tangerines and peppers to offer customers a try.

Our trip to the Museu Serralves gave us the opportunity to ride the tram, and ask the locals about the bus system. My favorite part of the museum was an exhibit called “Tree School” where two schools, one in Brazil, and one in Pakistan, discussed and shared ideas about the ancient Baobab tree.  The tree connected people from different places and highlighted how we can learn from one another even amidst displacement, oppression, and loss.

The gardens surrounding the museum were stunning and I highly recommend visiting the grounds even if other parts of the museum were a bit too abstract for me.

I loved our lunch in Foz because we sat outside with a river view, and ate yummy tapas.  Vinho verde, people! Drink up!

We were a bit rushed to the port taverns because of our long lunch, and thus missed the cellar tour at Taylor’s. But hey, we still tasted the ports as if we went on the tour because you can’t beat a 5 euro tasting-YOLO!  We rushed over to Croft Cellars and squeezed into their last tour, adding another port tasting to our line up. Learning the differences between a ruby and a tawny port was really great….read on for the differences or skip down if you already know. I should note that this explanation is what I remember after two tastings in a row, with an additional glass of the tawny 20 year and the ruby LBV.

A ruby finds a home in a large vat where almost all of the port doesn’t come in contact with the oak container, leaving it with a sweeter taste like strawberries and cranberries. An LBV, or late barrel vintage, means that the ruby was left in the vat for an extra year (6 years compared to the average 5  years).  A tawny lives in a oak barrel, where the wooden slats are smoked to get them to round into the barrel shape. The smokiness on the inside of the small barrel mixes with the sugary port, and one tastes caramel when drinking a tawny. The years listed are an average of how long the tawny has been in the barrel (10, 20, 30, 40 …years!)

After a walk along Vila Nova de Gaia’s cobblestoned waterfront, we crossed the bridge along with other tourists leaving Gaia for the day. The weather was just gorgeous. I couldn’t stop feeling like we were on an island somewhere. I’m hesitant to post this, but we found ourselves at another wine bar, Prova, with a server from London who provided a short list of more restaurants and landmarks to visit. So nice! We stopped in for a late dinner at a restaurant called Traca and again, the pulvo was amazing, and I forget what Corey ate because my dish was so good.

Being in Oporto just puts you in a good mood- maybe is the vitamin D in December or maybe the vinho?! We spent the last day visiting the cathedral district, seeing the detailed azulejos artwork at Sao Bento station (painted ceramic tiles), and visiting a small palace that was actually housing a discount book fair (Palacio de Cristal).

Around every corner, you’d spot street art, small shops, or even the famous Lello bookstore that inspired JK Rowling.  Our last lunch was a traditional meal of fresh fish at Adega Salmao, a family owned restaurant where the son and mom hold down the kitchen, and the father as the head host and server.

A delayed flight at the airport couldn’t dampen our spirits as Corey reconnected to fantasy football line ups, and as I purchased a bottle of vinho verde for 5.50Euro from a duty free shop!


Quick Shot:

Day 1 (Friday)

  • Lunch at Cafe Santiago for the infamous francesinha 
  • Walk off your lunch along Rua de Santa Catarina and find local artists, and clothing shops
  • Visit the Se Cathedral right before closing time so you get a more peaceful experience, and you also see the rooftops as the sun is setting
  • Wind your way down to the Ribeira (water front path) and find Wine Quay bar for a bottle of wine for about 10 euro, a baguette, and pickled sardines
  • Gaze across the Douro River at the various port taverns you’ll be visiting tomorrow and also feast your eyes on the Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge 
  • March back up the hill for a slightly more posh and inventive dinner at LSD 

Day 2 (Saturday)

  • Covered marketplace at Mercado de Bolhao
  • Bus to Museu Serralves for contemporary art and a gorgeous garden!
  • Tapas style lunch at Casa de Pasto da Palmeira in the Foz do Douro neighborhood (yummy pork cheek!)
  • Vila Nova de Gaia for port tastings at Taylor’s or Croft or both!
  • Gaia waterfront and walk across the Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge
  • Wine tasting at Prova
  • Dinner at Tasca (we walked in without a reservation at 9:30pm but folks should try to get a reservation if they can)
  • Roll home

Day 3 (Sunday)