Sunday, June 29, 2008

Friendly Faces

We’ve been lucky to meet many new friends here in Portugal, but when living so far from home it is very nice to see some familiar faces again. We’ve recently been able to host several friends and family over the last month. The first arrivals were Laura, Katrin’s cousin from Oregon, and her boyfriend Hunter. They stopped here for a few days after spending a semester abroad in Cyprus. They were able to stay for a few days, and their visit overlapped with that of Karen, Katrin’s mom, and her husband Kevin. The six of us spent a cold day (a common theme for all of our visitors, unfortunately) exploring the mountains of Serra da Freite and the town of Arouca.

Laura and Hunter then had to leave for the US, but we had Karen and Kevin for a few more days. We decided to go to the Galicia region of Spain for a long weekend. We found a great B&B outside the town of Santiago de Compostela, and from there explored the coast out to Cabo Finisterre and up to A Coruna. It was a beautiful area, kind of like Vermont but with an ocean, although we did have to brave some pretty strong hailstorms to enjoy it. Karen and Kevin were good sports and we all managed to have fun, especially at mealtime. Whether it was Katrin’s homemade stuffed squid, seafood rice at our local neighborhood restaurant, or tapas in Spain, we had some great food. This marked the end of Karen and Kevin’s round-the-world trip, but they’ll be back when our little girl is born and liked our hometown of Aveiro enough to put a deposit on an apartment for the winter so they can be closer to their granddaughter.

Soon after we got to see our friends Val and Bryan from Burlington. Val’s work took her to England so they were nice enough to add us into their plans. We only had a few days with them before they were off to see the rest of Europe, but we did have a lot of fun doing a port wine tour in Porto, exploring a nearby castle, and experiencing the local dessert of ovos moles (sweet eggs). Mostly we enjoyed catching up with some old friends again.

Our most recent visitors were my parents, Mary and Pierre, who also included Portugal in a European vacation. We picked them up at the airport in Lisbon and went straight to Sintra, a town up on a hilltop where the Portuguese royalty used to go to escape the summer heat. There we explored a Moorish castle from the 11th century, many fabulous gardens, and a Portuguese palace that seems straight out of Disneyland but without the rides. Coming back to Aveiro, we joined some friends for a typical Portuguese sardine barbecue, which is a tradition at this time of year. It was a nice opportunity to give them a taste of Portuguese culture with some locals, and the language barrier wasn’t too bad with my Dad getting by with his Spanish and Katrin and I doing some translating from Portuguese. Finally, we capped off their visit with a sunny boat ride down the Douro River, in the heart of port wine vineyard country.

We are expecting a couple more visitors in July and August, and then we’ll probably lay low for a few months after our little girl is born. But to the rest of you, we would love to see you in Portugal. And for all of you who have come to visit recently, thank you so much. It’s a wonderful way for Katrin and I to stay close to everyone and still feel connected to home.

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