It's been a great summer for us.
We spent most of the summer in Saudi and Bahrain, but Lisa did make a trip home to see her mom in Ontario, including a Michael Buble concert, also known as "Lisa's next husband".
We met up in Lisbon and spent a week in Portugal, then spent a week in Paris touring the city and also spending a couple days at Disneyland Paris, Lisa’s first time going to any Disney park.
After that, we needed a week of relaxation on the beaches of the French Riviera. This relaxation included a break from the internet, social media, and the camera. Only one pic from here...at the end of the blog page.
Enjoy the stories and pics of our summer...
Summer in Saudi
Once again, the summer heat and humidity set in, forcing us inside for air conditioning or out to the chilled pools. We spent many afternoons in pools with friends and also at some brunches in Bahrain and the Rugby Club in Bahrain. We even spent a night or two at Hayden's place, where he and DJ ChunkyLuv mixed some tracks for our upcoming Oman trip in November.
Every summer, at some point, the wives all head home so the compound and most of the Middle East is mainly filled with guys. Still not sure why they leave us unsupervised!
Then around the second Eid holiday, the guys take off to meet their families and enjoy some vacation time.
Lisa spent a week back in Ontario, visiting her mom. They had a chance to go see a Michael Buble concert, which Lisa says is the "best sounding concert she has been too". Jeff still isn't a fan. It was great to get home and see mom and other family!
We loved Lisbon. What a beautiful place. As with most European cities, it is filled with amazing history and architecture.
You can enjoy the city life, but also get out into the countryside and see some amazing places and fantastic beaches. (see the blog a bit lower for places outside Lisbon). The Hop On, Hop Off bus is the way to get around - it even takes you out of the city to the great beaches and sites nearby!
Some highlights from Lisbon:
- what is really impressive is how the city looks, considering that it was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of the city.
- it is situated along the Tigris River and has a beautiful bridge, the April the 25th Bridge, which is modelled after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco.
- Cristo Rei is a monument in neighbouring Almada that faces Lisbon to bless it. It is inspired by Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- there are many rooftop bars that provide great views of Lisbon and Lisbon Castle, officially known as Castelo de S.Jorge.
- street cars (Tram 28) are everywhere and are a symbol of Lisbon.
- the grilled chicken and seafood paella is amazing but you really have to try the Pastel de Natas, which are a tasty custard pastry. See below, as the famous version is from Belem, just on the outskirts of Lisbon.
- Portuguese wine is amazing and cheap and you need to try Ginja - it is a cherry flavoured liqueur they pour into a chocolate cup. Pop it in your mouth and the chocolate mixes with the cherry. So good!
One of Jeff's co-workers says Portugal is "Europe's hidden gem". You can see why!
We took a high-speed train for a day trip to Porto, about 3 hours north of Lisbon. What a beautiful port city situated along the Douro River.
We didn't know what to do besides port tasting so took the Hop On, Hop Off bus to sightsee before hopping into the port houses.
What an incredible city full of history and old buildings that definitely had stories to tell. It had a very 'old' and beautiful feel to it...maybe it was the cloud cover and light rain. Beautiful city!
Now...on to the port tasting. The view of the buildings along the Douro River is incredible. At lunch, the waiter, born & raised in Porto, had recommendations for tasting port - saying to go with the vintage port.
We stopped at Sandeman and Calem to sample their tasty port and instantly became fans. Too bad we can't bring some back to Saudi! We rushed back to the train station and had a nice "sleep" before arriving in Lisbon later that night!
Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Cascais, Estoril, Carcavelos, Belem
Portugal is much more than just Lisbon and Porto. Here are some highlights outside of the 2 largest cities:
Sintra - a beautiful little town with castles, the most famous being the colourful Pena Palace, as shown below. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site completed in 1854.
Cabo da Roca - the easternmost point of continental Europe.
Cascais - beautiful town with lots of shops, restaurants, bars, and great beaches. There are nice ones downtown and Guincho beach, which has a shoreline of almost 1km. Many surfers travel here to hit the waves.
Estoril - we didn't actually stop, but there's a nice looking Casino for the gamblers out there.
Carcavelos - another amazing beach area - lots of beach bars and restaurants here. We hopped off the bus to enjoy lunch and a few beers here. Beautiful!
Belem - the home of the famous Pasteis de Belem pastries and Belem Tower (Torre de Belem), another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery in Belem is amazing to see.
This city was on our bucket list for a long time and did not disappoint!
Checked into our hotel day one and sampled the "Honesty Bar" (pic below).
Yes, we were complete tourists, checking out all the tourist places (and a few more)...some highlights:
- Notre Dame looked amazing - wish we could've see it before the fire. So sad.
- Palace Garnier is the Paris Opera House...beautiful! Gold everywhere!
- Moulin Rouge and the red light district proved to be good for some shopping and sightseeing. Could not imagine we would ever see Eiffel Tower sex toys but a souvenir is a souvenir!
- The Crazy Horse show was a great night out!
- the Avenue des Champs-Elysees was something to see, running for a long distance ending with the Arc de Triomphe
- the Eiffel Tower. Stunning. Night & Day! What a sight.
- the Seine River cruise is something you should do - see all the sights from a different perspective.
- there are so many churches - Pantheon, Sacre-Coeur Basilica, just to name a couple.
- we tried using electric scooters for the first time - such a great technology to get around a city. Simple - download the app, load some money on it, scan the QR code on the scooter, and drive away. Fun too!
- we did a 3 hour skip-the-line guided tour of the "Best of the Louvre". Can not believe how busy it was so we were glad to have a guide to see the famous pieces, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. The Mona Lisa is actually quite small but the iconic painting is still impressive to see. A couple of facts:
- Did you know that if you wanted to see every item in the Louvre, it would take you 100 days
and you could only see each item for 30 seconds? That is assuming you stayed there all day, every day
for those 100 days!
- There is a myth that Mona Lisa's eyes follow you as you move...it is just a myth and is done by the
way the artist shades the painting and uses lighting in their eyes. Check the video below on a
Paris was a great city and we hope to visit again soon! Now off for a couple days at Disney!
We cabbed about 45 minutes out of Paris to go visit Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios. We were very excited to go there - Jeff because he loves acting like a kid, and Lisa because she has always wanted to go to a Disney park. The first thing we did was buy Mickey ears to wear!
It was an amazing couple of days. Jeff rode his first roller coaster and actually rode three different ones! After the first one, he faked that he passed out to get back at Lisa for 'trying to kill him'.
Funny but not funny!
Note to self - August is not the best time to go to Disney in Paris. Most of Europe, especially France, takes vacations then and it was SUPER busy. Even with Fast Track tickets, some rides had lineups 2 hours long.
But, as always, we found a way to have a great time!
We returned from Europe, worked one day, and made a quick weekend trip to Dubai to meet up with friends of ours from New York, Chad & Morgana. They were finishing their vacation in Dubai, after visiting Maldives and Sri Lanka. It was great to see them and hear about their vacation and thoughts on Dubai. Chad was very intrigued with life in the Middle East and it seemed that wearing Lisa's abaya made his day!
It was a great summer touring through Europe.
We've now got a couple weeks of downtime in Saudi/Bahrain and will be off to the Ukraine for a few days mid-September and then Lisa meets up with our friend Anita in Ireland for a week.
Stay tuned for more updates. Happy Labour Day weekend everyone...GO RIDERS!
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