Ryan and Erin Do Spain and Portugal

If you follow us on social media, you know we took an incredible vacation to Spain and Portugal to celebrate our 40th birthdays.  Here’s a little recap on the good, the not so good, and the food poisoning.

What Would You Consider A Successful Vacation?

For us, no hospital or police station visits means it was a success! Success was also getting to see everything that we had expected to see. I can honestly say that we had no regrets and were incredibly pleased with the package that our travel agent put together. We unexpectedly enjoyed our time in Spain more then Portugal – I don’t remember why we thought we would. We think we enjoyed Spain more because Portugal was the second half of the trip and we were ready to get home at about day ten.  We also had a few unfortunate situations in Lisbon, but let’s not dwell on that.  Barcelona was touristy, but even the most touristy spot (Sagrada Familia) was an incredible experience. Bike tours, bus tours, and walking tours was our version of “mixing it up.” A big benefit for staying in a touristy place was almost everything is translated to English. Since the menu at most restaurants was already in English, I didn’t get to speak much Spanish. When given the opportunity, however, I nailed it! La cuenta por favor?

A really unique option we came across – razor clams.

I should have seen the only real incident coming based on prior vacations. Halfway through the trip, while enjoying a day of leisure, I came down with food poisoning. The hotel buffet in Algarve was extreme. It had an omelette station, plenty of fruit, a lot European breakfast items, juices, you name it, they had it. I joked with Erin that it didn’t matter how grand of a buffet it was, because my loyalty is to Hampton Inn and the cheese omelettes that have satisfied me for years. The buffet gods must have been listening as 15 minutes after our massages that day, I was in bad shape. My initial reaction was that the masseuse moved something around that she shouldn’t have. Unfortunately for me, I spent most of that day in our bedroom, taking advantage of it’s world class bathroom amenities and wide selection of ginger ales. Erin had fun though – she spent that day by the pool!

View from our room of the pool at the Algarve resort where Erin enjoyed many more margaritas than me.

Prediction Results

Preparations – Was global entry worth it? Not really, at least not this time. However, TSA PreCheck saved our asses! On our trip home from Porto, we had a layover in Newark. We knew ahead of time that the layover was brief, maybe an hour at most. And there was really no need to worry, until we landed at Newark and then sat (on the plane) at the gate for twenty minutes before we could deplane. There was no line for Global Entry, so we walked right up to the facial scanners and after admitting to smuggling wine back in our checked luggage (which is acceptable) we were able to collect our luggage from baggage claim. Things got real tricky when our luggage carousel didn’t start spitting out suitcases for over half an hour!

By that time, everyone else who had to go through regular customs was waiting for their things as well. Erin and I still had to get our checked luggage, re-check it, go through security, and make it to our gate in fifteen minutes. Somehow, someway, we made it by the skin of our teeth. It helped that the flight to Indy was running late. And we thank God for TSA PreCheck, because if it weren’t for that, we surely would’ve missed the flight. Key takeaway – don’t fly United!

My first prediction was that we were going to go somewhere we shouldn’t go because of the language difference. I think this one was only partially fulfilled. Most recommendations from locals were clearly explained to us, often in English. And it’s not like we accidently walked into a strip club or brothel because of confusion over signage. We just learned early on, especially as it pertains to Lisbon and Barcelona, to avoid certain “high tourist population” areas. So when we did have to walk back to the hotel at 11:00 pm down La Rambla in Barcelona, while carrying four bottles of wine, we were on high alert of our surroundings.

 

While on the bike tour of Barcelona, our guide said multiple times that the city loved to imitate other famous sites. Case in point, the Arc in Barcelona

We never knew what was around the corner on this trip. It just so happened to be something eye catching every time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second predication was that even with apps like Google Maps, we’re definitely getting lost! Much to our surprise, we only got lost once. It was in Seville and we were trying to get to a Flamenco show. Because the buildings are so high and the streets are so narrow, we couldn’t get a phone signal and got turned around. We missed dinner, but arrived just in time for the show. The Flamenco show, by the way, was an experience in itself. We were not allowed to take pictures, but we highly recommend it. Especially if you’re into dancing, colorful dresses, and a storyline told in Spanish that may or may not include a philandering dragon that only eats meatballs. That’s according to may Spanish interpretation though, so take it for what it’s worth.

Prior to the trip, this is what I envisioned a Spanish town to look like. And it looks like Seville.

Can you spot the bullring? We didn’t see the inside but this view from the Cathedral did it justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third prediction, we were going to drink too much wine at least eight times. I can’t believe I guessed only eight! The wine in Spain and Portugal was so affordable. My only hangover came from a night where I had two Old Fashioneds. I should have known not to drink bourbon outside of the states. They had this white wine in southern Portugal called vinho verde, or green wine. That stuff gets four thumbs up from us. As for the port wine in Porto, the aged wine was delicious, but I think I’ll stick to my more traditional reds.

Porto wine barrels. I don’t think we had a glass of port of wine we didn’t love.

Douro Valley Portugal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legs of cured meat. I thought for sure would be a popular pick this vacation, but it just wasn’t my jam.

Next predication, Erin was going to eat meat She did, but not by accident! All of the places we visited (Barcelona, Seville, Algarve, Lisbon, and Porto) were close to the water. So she didn’t have a lack of seafood options. There was a lot of pork in Barcelona, the majority of which was cured. For some strange reason, I wasn’t feeling it and so with that, Erin’s curious palate would sample some of the meat dishes I had.  Overall though, neither of us ate much meat.

Fifth and final predication, I was going to make an ass of myself one way or another. Ok, so I gave this a lot of thought. Surprisingly, neither one of us made fools of ourselves in public. At least I don’t think so. The couple that had the galgo in Seville probably thought we were off our rockers when we ran into them. We were so excited to see that sweet dog. And there was the time I bought a corkscrew in a convenience store and because of an experience in another convenient store, was told they were called “puerta sabers.” Puerta saber in Spanish means doorknob. No wonder the clerk was confused and laughing at me. I think I fully completed this prediction on the first night. I thought I knew how bidets worked, but I was clearly wrong. As I was showering and trying to figure out where they kept the washcloths (FYI, they don’t supply them in hotels), I grabbed a rather large cloth from above the toilet area, thinking it was just a big washcloth. It wasn’t! It was the cloth you are supposed to use after you use the bidet.  Oh well, live and learn, and I learned that if you don’t see a washcloth with the towels, there’s no washcloth and to just use my hands!

I didn’t take a picture of the washcloth so here’s a beautiful Barcelona sunset.

Erin was most excited for the couple of days planned at the Algarve. This prediction held up for Erin as she’ll deem most vacations a success if there’s a beach and drinks by the pool. Throw in a massage and some alone time (while I was praying to the porcelain gods) and her time in Algarve was pretty enjoyable. I think a close second place was Seville.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for me, I was looking forward to the sunset sailing cruise in Lisbon. The sunset sailing cruise didn’t disappoint. Extremely picturesque, wine was served throughout (naturally), and the captain and his first mate were colorful and entertaining. There were four other families there as well and naturally, one them wanted to be our best friends. So because of that relationship, we didn’t get as much privacy as we were hoping for, but all told it was a memorable experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Except it wasn’t the most memorable experience from Lisbon. That happened after we got back to our part of town after the cruise. On our way to a late dinner, we stumbled upon an indoor cosmic putt putt golf course. Of course we had to do it, but we had to finish the 18 holes in a half hour because they closed at 11:00. I was victorious and we finished with five minutes to spare. The bartender was so impressed that he poured us both a shot of Portugal’s cherry liquor. In that respect, we were both victorious!

Final Thoughts

We were so excited to cross Spain and Portugal off of our bucket lists. We both agreed that as memorable as this trip was, we don’t think we will plan a return to any of the destinations we visited. Maybe if they finish Sagrada Familia in our lifetime a return trip to Barcelona may be in order, otherwise, on to the next destination and Ireland in the fall of 2023!

Don’t anyone worry about Six and Callie while we were away….they were living a pretty spoiled life at Grandma’s!

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