Thursday, September 22, 2011

Castles, Cork, Land and Sea...and a CONTEST

One of my other staff members, Lori, has been away for two weeks on her annual vacation with her husband and two friends.  Each year they pick a country to visit and hit the road!  This year was Portugal and what follows are from her words and her experiences.  Enjoy the trip!

Traveling is one of our favorite things to do.  There's nothing like visiting a foreign place, so far removed from our everyday life and habits.  Going to a foreign land and experiencing life as a local is one of our greatest treasures.  It is what we love to do and delve into each culture for the two weeks that we're there with gusto!

We landed in Lisbon, Portugal and hit the ground running.  I knew from the first moment that we got to the airport and grabbed a cup of coffee (even better than Italy!!)  that we would fall in love.  Lisbon is a gorgeous and amazingly clean city and has so much to offer a tourist.  It was a veritable feast for the eyes.  Everything in Europe is so old and has great history associated with it.  The architecture in Portugal was just stunning and I found myself snapping hundreds of pictures each day.  Around every corner there was a treasure to behold.

This trip we traveled by foot 

We covered many miles on foot!

By funicular up some of the toughest hills!!

By train
By bus
By cable car throughout the city
And of course, by car.  This route was what we covered by car, over 1200 miles.  It does not take into account any of the other means of transportation!! 

One of the things that impressed us the most were the sidewalks throughout the city.

These sidewalks are made up of three inch cubes of cream colored limestone and dark grey basalt stones. The black represents the holy attire worn by the Lisbon's patron Saint Vincent, while the white represents the white outfits of the Christian Crusaders who vanquished the Moors. Each sidewalk throughout Lisbon (as well as other areas of Portugal) were works of art.  Some were done intricately, others were simple but just as elegant.  I took several pictures of my favorites.

Even if the sidewalks aren't a mosaic of black and white, they're still little squares of white
Robyn has me seeing McKenzie-Childs influence everywhere!!!

We found ourselves traversing the country in search of castles.  We were not disappointed.  We found MANY.  One of the most beautiful and picturesque was in a town called Sintra.  Sintra and its mystical hills dotted with fairtytale palaces and extravagant villas are a true sight to behold.  The Romans made it a place of cult moon worshiping and named it "Cynthia" after the goddess of the moon. They were followed by the Moors who also fell in love with the lush vegetation and built a hilltop castle, a palace, and several fountains around the town. Later it became the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and attracted a number of wealthy aristocrats who built huge mansions and villas. 

We found a castle in Tomar, Portugal in the process of renovation.  It was originally built somewhere around 1160 - can you believe it still stands!  It was just amazing as the pictures will show you.  The original detail is still so evident, it's already a beauty.  It has been in the process of renovation for centuries already and it's still incredibly rustic.  We found many castles to investigate but these were our two favorite.

A hidden doorway underneath the castle
This castle, like most that we saw on our trip, housed a chapel.  It is here that I saw the most amazing faux finish on the wall.  Look at these pictures.  If you look closely enough you will see that one side is an actual pulpit that protrudes from the wall.  On the other side of the hallway about four hundred years ago they realized that they should have placed a matching pulpit on the other side but since they couldn't rebuild they painted a matching one!  Unbelievable! 
The real pulpit with real marble and green onyx
The faux pulpit - pretty amazing.

Shopping.  Oh how I wish my pocketbook was bottomless!  I could have spent a fortune on many of the countries unique products.  Portugal is the second largest producer of cork.  Yes, cork, like cork for wine bottles.  However, don't let that fool you.  The Portugese make hundreds of products with cork.  Purses, ties, books, jewelry, lamps, was limitless and beautiful.  

The Portugese are also very well respected for their pottery, everything from traditional to contemporary was displayed and just beautiful.  
Ceramic, Iron and Pottery were at every turn

A more contemporary flair of pottery

Traditional Portugese Pottery

We drank wine like it was water - another of Portugal's gems.  And I discovered Port.  Liquid gold that you savor a sip at a time.  Vineyards lined the roads and we felt compelled to take a peak and a taste.

That's $166 euro or $232 American!!

We just missed the crush, a few lonely grapes left hanging
This was a gorgeous fountain at one of the winery's we visited
An entrance to one of the winery's we visited

The coastline was yet another stop along our journey.  Here every morning you could watch local fisherman set their traps for all sea creatures and at night when we went out to eat, nothing but the freshest of seafood was ever offered.  Some of the largest fish, shrimp, crabs and lobster I've ever seen!
Fishing boats

Fishing gear on the coast

This crab was over 5 pounds!!!
Goodness, after reliving my vacation as I wrote this I'm thinking I need another vacation!!!  I guess I'm going to have to wait another year!!  However, now that I'm home I'm thrilled to hear about all the new and exciting things going on at Robyn Story Designs.

There's a FANTASTIC contest brewing.  Get your creative MoJo going for Christmas.  Anything goes, as long as it's an inspired decoration, it's unique and you tell us how you created it.  Two hundred and fifty dollar gift certificate is waiting for the most creative idea.  We will feature the entries on the blog and we'll have the rules posted next week. Good Luck.  Oh, if you're looking for some kind of inspiration, check out a fellow blogger's post for Halloween.  This was so creative and so adorable I had to share.

Cynthia Keenan nailed the idea for inspired design using simple pumpkins for her Halloween Decorations.  Think Christmas!  Thanks Cynthia for such great Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Pumpkins!!!  Hope this helps get those thoughts and ideas flowing!


  1. Wonderful pictures and commentary of your vacation. Thanks so much for sharing your holiday.

  2. Thanks for taking us along on your trip...LOVE that wine glass fountain!!! (Marty would so want that for our home!)

    Hmmmmm....guess I need to start thinking Christmas. I'll be stopping in the store next week when I get back...
    Jane (artfully graced)

  3. Wow...what a fantastic trip. I can't wait to share her words and photos with my mom. And, Cynthia took the idea out of my head! (although mine never would have been as beautiful!...but thought it would be cool to paint a pumpkin in ASCP and send your way. Thanks, Cynthia! :0)

  4. Thanks so much for the shout out, Robyn. I'm beyond flattered!! You've made my day!

  5. wow, what an amazing getaway. wouldve been neat to see the crushing of the grapes though. beautiful sites. what a memory:)

  6. There are so many wonderful places to see in the world! I'm making my first tripmto Italy in April and everyone raves about it. Portugal next! I'll share your pic's with my travel buds.

  7. yup! that's my mom! she's awesome! such amazing pictures and so well written. great blog! thanks for sharing the experience. hope i can make it to Portugal someday. good luck with everything back at the store! see you soon!

  8. O my goodness these photo's just confirmed the fact that I want to get across the big water to all these wonderful places,I really enjoyed.

    I would love to have one of those cork handbags!
    I could fill it up with treasures!

    Thanks to your associate for a wonderful traveling experience.
    ~JO @ LazyonLoblolly

  9. This is a country I have always wanted to visit and now more than ever! Thank you so much for sharing all of these amazing images!

    Art by Karena

  10. Thanks for taking me along on this wonderful Adventure! I really enjoyed it!! We adore Italy, and Portugal is on our someday Vacation list!!

    Huggs, Nancy

  11. LOVING those pumpkins! What a grand adventure!