Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sintra City and Pena Castle

Golden Dome

There is this wonderful castle about an hour outside of Lisbon up in the hills.  It is very Moorish in design and we were able to go through it, although no pictures were allowed inside.

Castle Defense 3

I was fascinated by the walls that look like they are covered in spikes.


Main Castle

When I think of a castle this is what I have in mind. 

Pena Castle - First Impression 2

This is the first impression as you arrive.  It was a Monastery first and added onto when it became the quarters of the Royal Family.

View to the Sea

As you can see, there is a view all the way to the ocean from Pena Castle.

Sintra Town Offices

This is a view of the city hall in the town of Sintra.

Monday, April 13, 2009

First Time in Portugal


Belem Tower

We took a short Spring Break and flew to Lisbon for three days.  We really had no idea what to expect--first time for both of us.  One of the first things we discovered was that there are no "really old" buildings in Lisbon because a devastating earthquake leveled the city in 1755.  Next, I think I had forgotten from my history classes, that the history of Portugal is all about Navigation and Discovery.  This beautiful Belem Tower sits on a river which flows out to the Atlantic Ocean.  It used to be on an island in the river.

Henry the Navigator - 32 Explorers

At the front of this monument to Portugal's navigators is Henry, the Navigator.  Then they had to choose only 32 of the other significant Discoverers to depict with him--not the least of these, Vasco de Gama.

Gate to Lisbon

This is the gateway into the city from the water. Every street and sidewalk that we saw was of tile.  Better wear flat shoes.

Up the Lisbon Hills We were happy to take one of these cable cars up the many steep hills whenever we could.

Sao Jorge Castle

Panoramic view across the city to Sao Jorge Castle.

I'll finish our trip to Portugal next post---

Sunday, March 29, 2009


 Steve and Mary

Since we attended this event last year we have been looking forward to it's return.  We braved rain, winds and unbelievable crowds to enjoy the work of local Chocolatiers. 






 South American Cocoa Bean God


We think this must be the South American God of the Cocoa Bean.  There were unprocessed Cocoa beans there which I have tried before and tried again.  Processing definitely makes the flavor better.




Artisan at Work




This artist spent a long time getting the various parts of the rabbits exactly where he wanted them.





Mary is Sampling

I am trying a sample of one of my favorites--Pave.


Chocolate Treats

These look tasty but we didn't buy any.  We did pick up a lot of business cards and know where to find all these wonderful shops.


Chocolate Egg



Not your ordinary chocolate egg.  We were told once in a local shop that "Chocolate is very important to the Swiss".  I'd have to agree.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Beautiful Saturday in Bern



Bern is an interesting city architecturally.  In the Old City, the shops are under colonnades down both sides of the street.




This clock tower has a great "show" of moving parts, but the best time to view it is at 12:00 when all the characters do their thing.

   There are fountains down the center of the street--each has a different statue on top.

Check out the Bern Bear between the legs of the soldier.

The reason for our trip to Bern was to attend the Temple, located in Zollikofen just outside Bern.  The day was truly beautiful, but also very cold due to the strong winds that blew Friday and Saturday.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring Will Come

As if magically, life begins to return to the city streets with the coming of March. Temperatures may be only slightly warmer and the sun and clouds are definitely mixed, yet the changes have begun. Cafe tables are back on the sidewalks, as are the walkers, joggers, and bicycle riders on the promenade along the lake. The Gelato shop across the street, which remains closed for six months of the year, is now open. Nature has produced no signs of Spring yet, but people are anxious to be outside after a long dreary winter--no matter that they must remain bundled up to sit outside and have something to eat or drink. It doesn't matter. These are all hopeful signs of warmer days to come.

As I look out the window today I have seen rain, rain mixed with snow, clearing skies, more rain, puffy clouds with blue sky--it must be time to hurry out and get a walk in before the next feature on the Geneva weather channel presents itself.

Saturday Steve and I attended the Geneva Auto Show where I was excited to see how far the electric automobile has come in the past year. Great things have transpired--now if we can just get the cost down so we all can afford to drive one.

This Opel has a great design with a generator that recharges the batteries. The speed is good and the range is getting better all the time--about 300 miles.

But this is the new electric car which I choose for my dream car. Impressive! It might cost as much as a house, so I may only be dreaming, but it's fun to dream.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Look What We Walked Into

We planned a trip for when our friends, Henry and Lari would be visiting us. We traveled by train to Luzern on Saturday, February 21. As we exited the train and walked through the station we noticed that many of the people we passed were wearing costumes. Some were very elaborate. Left-over confetti was everywhere and we wondered what celebration we had just missed. Having just left Geneva, where nothing out of the ordinary was going on, we were not expecting anything exciting. But we had walked into the middle of "Fasnacht" From what we were able to learn it is a version of "Carnival". There were lots of different bands from the area--all gathered in the "Old-Town" section of the city. These bands were all percussion and brass and all very loud. We had booked a small hotel in the center of Old Town (not knowing about Fasnacht). Each band seemed to have a costume theme that went with their band name. All ages participated.

These elaborate masks were in a store window and many more of this type were seen being worn by those on the street.

More great costumes--this was much better than Halloween.

Each participant certainly seemed to enjoy really getting into the celebration. Whole families dressed in matching costumes. We loved the chicken brood.

The partying did not stop in the evening. It did not stop at midnight. We had heard that it would stop at 3:00 a.m. It did not stop at 3:00 a.m. but went on. There was a quieter time around 4:00, but the "clean-up" crews began their noisy tasks by 6:00 a.m. No sleep--but lots of excitement and fun. It also was very cold and when we looked out the window Sunday morning it was snowing. We boarded the train Sunday morning for Lugano, but that's the next blog.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Not So Common


When most people think of Switzerland images of Snowy Alps come to mind.  The reality, however, is that it rarely snows in Geneva--especially by the lake.  Saturday, though, we woke to snow falling after it had rained all night.  As you can imagine this made for a slushy mess.  I insisted that we get out immediately and record what may be the only snow that I will see on the ground by Lake Leman, where we live.  I had been feeling so sad about missing the beautiful snowfall in Pinehurst last Tuesday, that being able to enjoy some snowy moments Saturday morning was some consolation.  Enjoy the scenes from our neighborhood as we recorded a fairly uncommon event.


Despite our soaking feet, I was glad that we had made the effort to take these pictures on our morning walk.  The snow was completely gone by mid-afternoon.