Travel Stories -Porto, Portugal

comment on Porto

Smallest streets I have ever seen, you can barely get out of the car, high ass curbs–destroy your car door. daredevil driving–man I would need a different road test to drive there. parking on the edge of cliffs–wtf.  manual driving nightmares come to fruition

guys diving off of the bridge for sport, fans, fame and money–we are back in the middle ages, oh wait, no we are in the right time–opportunity.  it shows that you cannot manufacture crazy, its all around you.

What to eat–fries are dead to me but they show up all the time in Portugal and with chicken-I would like to research the most common illnesses in Portugal.  Maybe I want to trade up.  All that bread cannot be that good-and I love all types of bread and pastries (as long as they have what I want or do not want on the inside)   At home we are all like, oh my carbs count, my this my that.  I see bread all the time there.  I can’t deal.  Its like its following me and laughing.

 

I also learned about cars and here are two I saw often enough ad because they were visually unfamiliar to me, I was scoping them out- T-ROC WV, and the Tiguan VW. They are big and ooze some luxury.  Yeah, to pricey for me.

 

Hope you enjoyed my adventures.

Trinidad-Bitter Sweet -reflections

So Trinidad for me, among other things is known as the

 

land of fun

land of the Carib

land of good food

land of want of things

land of vice

land of the peaceful

land of slowness

land to rip

land that is not mine

land of memories

land of beginnings

So the long and short of this story is that I lost my main connection to the Island back in the fall.  I have been losing my connection (figuratively speaking) for years but the place will still be dear to me.  A large bright spot is Tobago. (Fast forward 5 months later in another blog-coming soon.)  It is pretty and a little less fancy and I have already seen it from various angles.  Family is till a connection in Trinidad but the lack of really personal connections, on account of distance, history and preference keeps us as just acquaintance family.  That is a strange way to put it but that is the best way to put it.

I find enjoyment and ease in travelling and hanging out with my husband and daughter.  They are enough for me and as I travel through life and learn and grow I realize those connections. I have other connections in other places and they are keeping me whole.  I always joke about having to shop for new friends and “family.”  All the people my age have either moved away or moved before meaningful relationships could be formed.

So back to the lost connection.  It is what it is.

So I have a place I usually stay, except the last few years.  And that place now will not be my place.  As mentioned before, losing connections.  Who knows if I can ever feel cool there again.  Will I have much purpose to be there.  I guess only time will tell.

 

Until my next adventure.

273 Kitchen, take 1

During the week we sometimes just want to be outside of the home, and do less dishes. 🙂  So usually once a week we go out to any place we fancy, within reason. We got a Groupon and it was for Mediterranean Food.

We had our mind set or some good Mediterranean food. For some reason we were not  foodies that night.  We for the life of us could not find anything we wanted-I guess since we had eaten out and had parties etc, we were looking for something unique or probably just tired of eating but wanted to go through the motions..They had burgers and fish and chips on the menu as well. I was not impressed by that.  The Mediterranean part of the meal we had was the appetizer which had dips including roasted eggplants( baba ganoush), Tzatziki, avocado dip (aka guacamole) and some others. So there were only two people there that night. They did not announce anything special and we opted for the burger and fish and chips. Inside I died with quiet laughter when they bought in out. Jeez, what happened to curb appeal! What happened to being original. 1/2 …. on bread with burger and some creamy sauce and they could not find a way to make that Mediterranean. Some fries strewn about, what a mess!! The fish and chips-rolled fish with two giant (maybe hand made) tater tots, who is cooking here-a bunch of teens. I never pretended to be a better cook because I went to culinary school, eat out a few times a month and throw my own parties BUT I think I could have done a better with my “simple” skills.

So in retrospect, I cannot bust this place wholly for being devoid of food, as we truly did not even try anything that was remotely Med Food on the menu so in order to give a true review I need to revisit.  yup–our bad! However, what we did have was sad on taste and presentation levels. So until next time.

 

 

 

 

ChaiMaMa’s Noodles House, Queens NY

I liked the place  immediately because of the wooden furniture and walls (bright colored wood).  I am not about wood cabins but just this nice clean soft and bright wood.  There was a lot of sun beaming into the restaurant that day but it was shaded.  The restaurant was simple but clean.  I would say it could hold about 12-16 people.  They used real utensils–metal chopsticks.  At the end you were to clean up after yourself as they have a station, which they point out, for storing the dishes.

I had soup with noodles and then on the side, fried pork chops.  Yum but the chops were rather salty.  I was drinking up the soup to neutralize the salt.  I mentioned to the owner and he said that it was meant to be like that.   I mean the soup was rather bland.  He was nice about it and did not try to stop me from commenting as he asked several times how I thought the meal was.

Would I go back probably–I might choose a different dish but if I am in the mood for salty I could get the dish again.  It was not so bad just a little too salty.

 

Bazin Family Owned Restaurant VA

So recently I visited a friend  in Northern Virginia and and we visited a place called Bazin on Church for a late brunch.  We arrived around 2 ish so we were at the tail end.  There were only about 4 other people and then another person came in while we were there but for drinks.

What I observed:

nice sized plates, nice atmosphere, bar when walk in, step up–was remembering if handicapped accessible-not sure, sizable drinks

Food

Like the appearance of two plates, the third (french toast a little messy)

comfort food for me for breakfast

We had:

Chicken & Waffles
buttermilk fried chicken breast,

Bananas Foster French Toast
maple syrup, smoked bacon

Mustard Seed Crusted
Salmon Salad
romaine lettuce, chickpeas, green beans,
carrots, ginger-mustard vinaigrette

-chicken had a little bit of a kick, was a little addictive actually along with the syrup (sweet and salt combination)

-the plates were already filled with syrup (one less thing to do)

-french toasted coated in panko and served with friend sweet plantains

-salmon over a salad that had chickpeas and maybe chopped up tiny olives and red peppersIMG_5046

Good Host–asked if we needed anything.  Also the prices were decent.  We would return.  Parking is underneath the building and a few choice spots in the back.  Hummers need not apply downstairs or in the back.

Overall I give an 8 on my 1-10 scale.

Enjoying Portugal 1

move away from the touristy things and just do the local things–that is how you get the true feeling of a place

drive to local beaches–just drive in the direction of water (Costas Caparica is nice)

little towns (stop anywhere)-make an excuse like you need a chocolate

gated communities (beach clubs–just peek)–they do not know if you are buying and if you are a foreigner so they definitely are always interested, you may be independently wealthy or you will tell your story to your friends, etc

dine on the beach (there are numerous little beach restaurants and in a row)

sleep on the beach-you can bring your own umbrella or rent one

water views-even from central Lisbon

kids fun-everyone now has bouncy houses, indoor playgrounds, water parks (like you would not believe)

small weekend markets- like the LX Factory (food, shopping, people watching, relaxing)

 

 

We have launched a website-my best bud and I.  We have begun in Portugal: we-my best bud and I -me here (US) and she there (Portugal).  It is a site for foreigners when they prepare to and move to Portugal and also for people trying to really get to the local level.  It aggregates continually, local businesses and services that are key to integrating and enjoying your stay, however long, in Portugal. The phrase “live like a local” applies here.  No longer feel on the fringes.

the living abroad guide

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We are working our plump food eating butts off to fill the site with great content so check in occasionally to see whats new.  We hope to have a decent of content within the next 6 months.  We will always be working to keep it fresh and updated.  Our goal is a few more countries so maybe one day we will have TLAG Panama, TLAG South Africa, TLAG Vietnam, or even TLAG Jordan.

China the return

So we already discussed the hotels, lets just take a holistic view of the atmosphere we were part of.

China no glitz-just plain old non hyped up China is what I wanted to do on this trip. I wanted to walk in the neighborhoods and just observe.

Public bathrooms- I applaud them.  They could be found in most places from the mall to the subway and just in a neighborhood. They were always being cleaned. The regular public bathrooms are  usually small so there is never any lingering in the stall, just relieving oneself and running.  I just had a flash of their port a potty–kind of semi permanent looking canal bathrooms and I cannot even bring myself to visualize it.  We saw some really out of this world ones and I would not wish it upon even my worst acquaintance.  –TP everywhere and stuff everywhere and we would just imagine the smell.

We did the train and as before it was modern and now there were more lines and stops.  What is familiar to me is the electronic train system.  The doors just shut–human interaction is minimal so if you get caught in it, it hurts and then you have like 1 second to get on. It is a double door system like in Singapore.

I felt at ease on this trip as we used some free self walk pre-defined walking tours from the internet and some books.  Though they were not always spot on, we kind of muddled through.  We went to a neighborhood north of the Forbidden City.  We just entered the area and proceeded to make our way through.  We saw a beautiful river, some craftsmen, a new cafe, a hotel and repair shops.  The literal maze we fun to walk around in–no glitz, just regular people living and some people, the way they have lived for a long time. We ducked into a few walkways and dwellings (si he yuan) and just took it all in.  Some were better than others but it was just interesting to see how one large square in a sense was then subdivided into little homes and there were the meters and electrical wires so you can just imagine.  It was nice at times because it was so quiet.

Other things we saw was a barber doing his thing right in the town square with his cell phone close by.  He was legit, with his overcoat, supplies and chair.  you will not see this on  regular tour.  We even saw kids on a field trip.  We ate at a Western chain (Domino’s) but got a non-western combination.  That was fun and so much fun that we ate that for breakfast the next day.

We walked along the road to the train and saw the mix of old and new stores.  There are some places that gentrification missed and we were glad.  My family was able to experience the raw Chinese experience.  We even took the regular bus and that was an experience.  I had taken the bus a few times over ten years ago.  I remembered how it was but when I lived it this time, I really remembered.  We did not even know how to pay and when I went to pay, the driver just waved us on, either because of frustration that we were holding up the line or because we did not know what was going on.  Oh well.  We watched people gather and then hustle to get the bus and we only knew our stop from looking at the buildings.  Luckily we could see it before we came up on it so we had time to press the button.

We only did a few things on this trip, so we have to go back.  We did not really explore the BUND area and also there was a cool hotel outside of the city that would have been fun to see.

 

here are some pictures from our trip

 

China Hotel Stories

Oh so where do I start!!!!💆🏾‍♀️

We stayed in Beijing at the Ramada hotel. It was about an hour by train outside of Beijing.   The hotel was older but a normal comfort level.  It had  floor to ceiling windows and then it had a lounge chair and foot stool as well as above chair and desk large tv, and a fridge.  It had a bathroom with a tub and a shower, and marble fixtures.  So I do not care what people say, it is still a step up in terms of materials from what I have at home.  We liked the breakfast and it was varied. There were people (hotel staff) making omlettes and noodles as well a regular Chinese foods.

Not far from the hotel was a street of local food.  Most people did not venture that way but we did.  It even had a tradtional alley where people were selling meat, fresh made bread, pastry snacks and fruits and veggies.  The place we decided to eat had the pictures on the walls so it was really point and click for us.  We did want to know the ingredients inside so we played on our phones translating details.  We have come a long way since I first travelled to China.  Now we can somewhat understand each other in certain situations.

Hotel 2 was in Suzhou.  We flew from the airport in Beijing and went south to Suzhou at some late hour.  We arrived and then jumped on a bus for about an hour to drive and arrived at a Holiday Inn Express .  It was a smaller room but modern in a hipster kind of way so like a college kid who thinks his decoration is cool.  The room again had floor to ceiling windows.  There were  bedroom slippers (I wondered how many of those get thrown away every day. ) So it was pretty late and we all showed and just jumped into the kind sized bed. I must however note the following things. There were tons of accessories in the bathroom-combs, ear cleaners, brushes, sanitary bags and the normal soap, shampoo, and conditioner.  I grabbed everything from the room.  Oh, the bathroom wall was made of glass bricks,  so partially visible to the bedroom but no worries, you could not see through them. It was all asthetics.  I just wondered what happened if there was a leak.  Also a cool thing was that the bathroom door also doubled as the shower door.  Either you were peeing and had privacy that way or you were in the shower and someone else could be at the sink. The room was all brick and unfinished concrete.  It was cold but modern (in a different way than the room.)

The breakfast here was negligible.  There  was cereal, some bread, some meat and some fruit.  There were maybe dumplings  and sausage but that was it.  We ate up but were not amused.

The next hotel we stayed at was in Wuxi at the Days Hotel Baile Wuxi. It was a regular hotel room with a decent sized bed and a little bit more trimmings on the bed linens.  The bathroom was small but all the space was used well.  The closets had glass.  I think I remember almost leaving my and my kids jacket in the closet. I came back to the room while waiting for my ride.

Next was the Liang’an International Hotel.  So this hotel had a mall downstairs. I did not get to walk around as my kid was asleep and I volunteered to stay inside while my husband went out for food.  We had a great view as it was like the 20th floor.  However there were cigarette buts in the carpet and the bathroom was like a dancing pulpit and it was floor to ceiling glass.  There was a curtain that could be opened for privacy.  Yay.  The bathroom was tight with the door opening in such a way that no one else could be in that area.  Also there was some unused space and the space in general was ill placed.   The food here was on the 27th folor and there was tons of variety.

The food cafeteria wrapped around the top of the building.  You could get a seat along the window.  Unfortunately it was too early and foggy for us that morning to see anything.  There were lots of pastries and waffles and the like, so we ate our bellies full.

The next hotel we stayed at was the Lian’gan International Hotel.  It was a small hotel and the breaskfast room was downstairs.  We ate  in a cafe of sorts and there were lounge chairs.  There was a small but decent selection.  I think we grabbed a tad much so we threw  out some stuff.  We ate quickly as we were to be on our way soon to drive for most of the day.

The last hotel was the Venus International Hotel Shanghai Wild Animal Park.  So this one was a smaller room and barely any room for our bags.  I made use  of the cabinets for my book bag.  Our room was right across from another room.  No joke–open the curtain and you could see the other people in their bed.  Yeah that flipping close.  So we closed the curtains.  The bathroom was no frills but had a shower, toilet and sink.  It was okay and though tight, did not have an ick feeling.  We were to be there two nights.  In the morning we were getting ready and guess what–the fuse blew so it got dark immediately and I opened the curtains, and got the cell phone lights on.  I was like, really, really.  So we called down to the front  desk and using a translation program tried to communicate that our electricity was gone and that we needed someone to come and fix it now.  That took a while so we went to breakfast and in the mean time,  my husband dealt with them and eventually they gave another room.  He had to move everything.  Luckily we are not used to spreading out.  We never unpack and we only take out what we need and store the rest.

The breakfast here was non existent almost beyond negligible.  There was only some bread, some dumplings and fried bread and I cannot even remember–maybe cereal.  That night for dinner we brought home pizza.  So the following morning we ate cold pizzza.  That was infinitely better than the stuff they were serving for breakfast downstairs.

 

hotel adventures

food shortages

fun times

When can we do it again!!!

 

 

 

 

Lantern Festival

On our first go at the lantern festival it rained and the event was cancelled. We were already there so we just enjoyed the pool, hotel, eating out and visiting the outlet mall.

 

Lanterns revisited–2 weeks later in fact

still some rain but the show must go on

tons of people

parking for like 1000 people

a walk to remember–so it was not that cold previously but in this place–real jackets were

needed,  open field and about 10 degrees colder

let me set the scene-looks like what I imagine Woodstock or a large tailgate party would be:  tons of fire pits and people huddled around it, since like the sun was out,  we arrived and it was almost dark.

we had some equipment fails and then some impatient children (smores please)

we tried to launch 4 lanterns and were successful after a bunch of false starts

now about the open flames and runaway lanterns–yeah this is some dangerous stuff, kids need not apply but it is so made for kids

lantern 1

One of the other things we did was visit the dollar store.  That is always fun.

Until the next adventure. Stay safe! Don’t play with fire!