Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nyanya and Babu's Visit

At the end of last month, we enjoyed a two-week visit from my parents, known to our boys as Nyanya and Babu ("grandma" and "grandpa" in Swahili). We so enjoyed hosting them and introducing them to Benjamin and our life in Portugal! And we managed to pack a lot of fun experiences into the time they were here.

For the first few days, we showed Mom and Dad some of the sights in and around Lisbon. We spent an afternoon in Belém -- having lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, the Estrela de Belém, seeing the Monument to the Discoverers, touring the Jerónimos Monastery, and sampling yummy pasteis de Belém (the world's very best custard tarts).

The Monument to the Discoverers
Another day, we went to Sintra. While my parents toured the Pena Palace, Rusty and I hiked some of the trails on the palace grounds. We then met up for a picnic lunch on the grounds. Mom and Dad also toured the Moorish Castle before we headed home.

The Moorish Castle
On Saturday, with all the kids in tow, we went to Sobreiro. The boys enjoyed showing Nyanya and Babu around the craft village, and Mom even got to do a little souvenir shopping!

Nyanya and Stephen on the playground at the craft village
Sunday, of course, was church... followed by lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant.

Let's face it -- this is the real reason Nyanya and Babu came to Portugal!
Then, for the entire next week, we enjoyed a trip to Spain! Early Monday morning, we loaded up the van we had borrowed from our friends, Ricardo and Diana, and headed out -- destination: Málaga, Spain. Around lunchtime, when we were still in southern Portugal, the van started having problems, so we pulled over. After losing a few hours visiting several different mechanics to determine the problem, we realized that we were going to have to stay the night and continue on our way the next day. Ricardo drove down from Lisbon with the church van (bless him!), arriving later that night, and then took his van back to Lisbon to his mechanic there.

We found a quiet pension in the sleepy little town of Olhão in southern Portugal. It wasn't a bad place to be stuck for a night! The boys enjoyed playing in a nice park right on the waterfront; we had a yummy seafood dinner; and the next morning, we discovered what Rusty called "the best breakfast in Portugal" at the cafe around the corner from our pension. Then we were on our way again, finally arriving at our condos in Málaga later that afternoon.

We enjoyed swimming in the pool... hanging out on the beach... playing games... reading... I even managed to find some time to write on two different afternoons while everyone else was napping! We did most of our own cooking or got take-out, but one night, we all went out to eat.

Alex and Babu in the pool
At the beach
Mom and Dad wanted to visit Morocco, so they took a day-trip with a tour group, while our family headed for Gibraltar. I half-expected Gibraltar to be really lame, but it ended up being totally cool, and we wished we could spend more than just a few hours there! After we finally got across the border (we sat in traffic for an hour because a plane needed to take off and they had closed the road, which crosses the runway), Rusty decided he wanted to drive around the island -- just for fun! We had the quintessential British lunch of fish 'n chips at a fun pub called The Horseshoe. Then, we took a "taxi tour" of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Highlights included St. Michael's Cave, the Apes' Den, the Great Siege Tunnels, and of course, the Top of the Rock, with fabulous views! We were really glad we did the taxi tour rather than trying to hike everywhere with our three kiddos, plus our guide was pretty funny. The only thing Alex was disappointed about was that he didn't get to ride the cable car.

At the Apes' Den -- and no, I wasn't too happy about the monkey being on my back!
The view from the Top of the Rock
Another day, we all went together to the town of Ronda, one of the old frontier towns of Spain. The town straddles a deep gorge, and the two sides are connected by three gravity-defying bridges. It was a lovely town to just walk in, all the while admiring the stunning views. Rusty and the boys also toured the bullring, the oldest in Spain, while Mom and Dad and I did some souvenir shopping.

The New Bridge -- Ronda, Spain
Back in Lisbon, we spent the two days before Mom and Dad left doing more sight-seeing. We spent one day downtown, driving through the Alfama district, going to some of the miradouros (viewpoints) and having lunch near the Praça do Commercio. The next day, we visited the Tile Museum, a really fascinating place, and had a lovely lunch in the museum restaurant afterwards. Then, it was back home so they could pack for their flight the next day.

Looking over lovely Lisbon
For more pictures and commentary, you can click on either of the two links below to view my Facebook albums. These are public links, so even if you don't have Facebook, you should still be able to see the pictures.

Nyanya and Babu Visit Portugal
Spain and Gibraltar

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