Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Three Sisters in Portugal

Sunny homeland
We finally coaxed Aunt Simone to come visit by promising her a huge palace penthouse overlooking a castle and several trips to Portugal, our homeland (“Rico,” after all, does come from the Azore Islands, part of Portugal; my great-grandfather stowed away on a boat to California!).  Before she arrived, Tia and Sasha stole off to St. Tropez with Aunt Suzi and Uncle Ethan while Aunt Steph whipped Ado, Grif , and Todd into shape at her home military academy. 

Beach beauties

High Style in St. Tropez

Aunt Simone arrived at the end of September to the delight of her nieces and nephews,  and we showed her a good time around Puerto, Cadiz, and even hit the last of the ferias in Arcos de la Frontera! 

Speaking of ferias, we also made it to the feria in Villamartin, which holds the honor of being our very first feria when we got here in 2011.  This year we took Suzi and Ethan along with the boys to hang out with our friends Begoña and Carmen.  Highlight of the evening:  Ethan learning the sevillanas with Begoña! 

¡Óle Sasha!

¡Que maestra excelente!

But the highlights for all of us was our trip to Portugal.  Todd and I had only made it as far as the coastal resort of Albufeira, a former fishing village now dolled up for tourists.  This trip packed the nine of us into a 7-seater Renault Espace, complete with a bucket seat made out of—yes—a bucket squashed between the two back seats to provide an eighth seat.  Yes, you counted correctly: with Aunt Simone we squashed NINE of us into the Renault!

(picture of  us in the car)

We drove out to Huelva first (not much to see), and stopped in Palos de la Frontera, home of the museum housing replicas of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria (named for the Virgin but also because it was from Puerto!).  The museum is worthwhile and you can climb all over the little boats, marveling at the chutzpah of sailors willing to travel in these tiny wooden tubs across an unknown sea.

This is what they dared cross the wild Atlantic in!!!

Then off to the golden sands of the Algarve we went.  We’d found a outrageously cheap condo on in a little, unknown (to us) town called Manta Rota.  There we found a stunningly beautiful wide beach a five-minute walk from our condo, as well as some of the most delicious food we’ve had since being in Europe.  A little beach restaurant called Cha Com Agua Salgada (“Tea with Salty Water”) (!!), owned by an architect couple-turned-restauranteurs, was not only beautiful but also a delightful dining experience.  Paolo, the owner, catered to our every whim, creating dishes for the kids not on the menu and making us feel special. 

Sun god and godesses

Overlooking Tavira, Portugal

We love Aunt Simone

Back in Puerto, Aunt Simone babysat while Todd, Steph, Suz, and Ethan dressed up for the Navy Ball.  Suz gave Ethan a new haircut which went terribly awry—only to be saved by some creative trimwork. 

All dressed up...

...and lookin' sporty

Finally, Aunt Simone’s month in Spain came to an end just before Halloween. We had one last big Moroccan dinner at El Jardin de la Califa in Vejer de la Frontera. 

Moroccan dreams

She would have loved the party we threw for all of the girls in the 5th and 6th grades as well as a bunch of the boys from the 1st and 3rd grades; what a cultural exchange!  Come back soon, Simmie!

Quite a troop

The pumpkin contest was a success

Happy Halloween!

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