Tuesday, August 31, 2010

US Food Cravings Fulfilled

This past week Scott had to fly back to the US for some meetings at work. I took the opportunity to tag along with him so we could spend a few days on either side of his week catching up with family and friends. While he stayed in Chicago for work, I went to St. Louis to spend time with my family for a few days and then met him back in Chicago towards the end of the week. It was a whirlwind trip, but one that mostly revolved around eating lots of food that we cannot get over here, and catching up with friends and family. While I did not document all of our food and friends, these few photos are some of the treats I enjoyed with friends we caught up with while we were back home. Looking at these pictures makes me hungry already!
Lunch at Lion's Choice. A St. Louis favorite. Root beer to drink - what a treat!
A snack at Dairy Queen on a hot afternoon. Perfect.
I sure do miss good deli sandwiches. American-style Corned Beef on Rye and a Dr. Brown's Cream Soda at The Posh Nosh Deli.
Gourmet to Go chicken salad and an Arnold Palmer to drink.
Another St. Louis Tradition - Toasted Raviolis. The BEST!
Catching up with Amelia, Roxana and Liz at Kroll's in Chicago.
We had fried cheese curds (my craving, thus the request for the restaurant). Delicious!
A sweet stop in Chicago at Sweet Mandy B's Bakery. I adore their sugar cookies.

Finally a really good Mexican dinner! Catching up with friends Brad, Shawna and Michelle over a few burritos, enchiladas, and chips and salsa.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Despite the rough travel experience we had to go to Portugal, once we were there, it was a nice and warm summer break. We stayed in a coastal town called Cascais which is about 20 miles outside of Lisbon.
One of the main beach areas in Cascais.
Cascais is a fishing village (now more a tourist destination as well) and elements of the fishing village aspect can still be seen in the area. The fishing huts line the shores of the water.
And just next door to the fishing huts are the myriads of traps and materials to catch the fresh fish on a daily basis.
Farol de Santa Marta Lighthouse in Cascais.
We had a delicious lunch on the water, overlooking the lighthouse on our first day. I had grilled chirizo and the most garlicky prawns.
Scott had the fresh catch of the day....the whole fish!
The streets signs in Portugal were so pretty - painted tiles on every street.
We stayed at the Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel in Cascais. It was a lovely hotel and the rooms were huge for a European hotel.
Just down the road from our hotel was a local seafood restaurant on the water - Mar do Inferno. If you are going to Cascais, this seafood restaurant was a great find. It was filled with quite a few locals (all arriving between 8:30 - 9:00 so go early if you want the servers to yourself!). We had king crab legs, seafood soup, and a delicious sea bass that was dished out to us table side.
Outside the restaurant was the beach. The beaches along this part of the coast were quite rocky and not very sandy.
Scott on the boardwalk area of the beach before dinner.

One of our days while we were in Portugal, we decided to take the train into Lisbon to explore the city for a day.
En route to the train station, we walked towards the main area of Cascais.
Catching the train into Lisbon....
We got off the train at the Belem stop in Lisbon. Our purpose was in search of food....the famous egg custard pastries at Pasteis de Belem. While en route to the cafe, we passed by the President of Portugal's house - Palace de Belem.
The streets throughout Lisbon and Portugal were all quite pretty - lots of tiles and many different designs.
We arrived at Pasteis de Belem and the queue was out the door! People line up to order their famous pastries for take away. The counters were bustling the entire time we were there.
We opted to take a seat in their main dining room and enjoy our pastries in the restaurant. Each table has a cinnamon shaker and also a powdered sugar shaker on the table, for dousing the delicious egg custard pastries.
Of course we ordered a plate of the house speciality and doused them in the cinnamon and powdered sugar...MMMM....CAN YOU TASTE HOW DELICIOUS THEY ARE?!?!? MMM!
Architecture throughout Lisbon was quite neat.

Blue tiles everywhere throughout Portugal - these seen inside a church.

More blue tiles at a scenic point...
We went to explore the castle in Lisbon - Castle of São Jorge, which has a fantastic viewpoint overlooking Lisbon.

The views from the castle. The strongly-fortified citidel, which, in its present configuration, dates from medieval times, is located atop the highest hill in the historic center of the city
More European stairs to climb....up to the top of the castle walls.
Scott climbing around the upper castle fort walls.

Once we climbed up, of course we had to find our way down....
Streets of Lisbon.
From a main square in Lisbon, looking up towards the castle on the hill.
While in Lisbon, a stop by another local bakery to sample more pastries was of course necessary....not quite as good as the egg custard tarts but good for an afternoon snack.

After our day in Lisbon, we headed back to Cascais and went out for another seafood dinner. We ended up at a restaurant that did not have any English menus (always a good sign in our book - not as many tourists!) and so the one waiter who spoke some English waited on us for the evening. As their main dishes were seafood, we asked for his recommendations. He then took us to the seafood display and pointed out various seafood items and we chose them based on his recommendations.
For the starters, he suggested a few grams of three various seafood items - the first being the "barnacles" above. We are still unsure as to what they are actually called but they seemed to be popular with the locals. They were interesting to say the least...they looked like sea fingers and then in order to eat the insides, we had to pull apart the barnacles and take out the insides which seemed to resemble black squid parts. After a few bites I decided I was a bit unsure about eating more of these local treats!
The other item our waiter recommended as a starter - "witches" was the English translation (or so he thought). I believe they are better known as crawfish to Americans.
And then for our main course we had another whole crab for dinner...2nd night in a row and we enjoyed every bite of it!
The pool at our resort. We spent a full day just reading our books and drinking fruity smoothies pool side to unwind...
Not quite a model but he sure does look good strolling in these beach towns! :)
A late afternoon stroll into the beach and town are of Cascais.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Scare in the Air

I hope after our recent trip to Portugal and our flight experience in getting there, we have now become two of the safest airline passengers out there.

It all started with a drive down to London Luton's airport to catch our flight to go to Lisbon, Portugal, for a short holiday break. Our flight to Lisbon was due to be fairly short, only about 2 and a half hours gate to gate. We boarded our flight (slightly delayed due to a mechanical issue - only later did we find out there was a REAL mechanical issue with this plane!), buckled our seat belts, and the airplane took off on its way.

As soon as the plane took off, I was fast asleep and slept for about an hour into the flight. I was woken up by a sudden jolt to the plane, and immediately after I woke up I heard a message on the intercom that said:
and then with that announcement, the jungle of oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling and no further instructions were given. Meanwhile the flight attendant at the front of the plane was in tears, so the signs were not positive

Scott was seated next to me, and so we both immediately put our masks on and tried to remain calm while breathing through the yellow nozzle masks. The entire plane and passengers were eerily quiet during the entire time we were wearing our masks. After about 15 minutes of wearing the masks, the lady seated on the other side of me started to panic as she said she was smelling something burning.....I smelled it too, but wasn't going to say anything...at that point, I was not sure there was much we could do about it. I tried to talk to the lady sitting next to me, to help calm her down, and then finally after a while later, a flight attendant FINALLY came on the overhead PA system to say it was alright that there was a burning smell - it meant the oxygen was working.

(AFTER we landed) I took this photo of my view of the plane with the oxygen masks hanging down.
After about 30 minutes of wearing our masks, another flight attendant (not the one in tears from the front of the plane) came on on the PA system and finally said he thought the pilot was trying to get the plane down to a lower altitude level so we could breathe without the oxygen system. When we finally reached the lower level, we were allowed to take off our masks. At this point the plane started to get very warm, as the air was not working and we had been inside the plane for nearly 45 minutes without air circulation. After about an hour since the masks came down, we finally landed back in London at the airport.
Post landing - Scott holding our two oxygen masks...
While I fully expected fire trucks, ambulances, etc. awaiting our arrival back to the airport, I was shocked to not find anything waiting for our plane's return! In fact, we had to land, and then wait on the runway for about 20 minutes while the airport found a staircase for our plane, and then another 15 minutes after that for the airport to bring buses for all of passengers so we could return to the terminal.

Overall, WE ARE JUST THANKFUL to have landed SAFELY back on the ground without any real issues. It was the most frightful flight experience I have ever had and hope to NEVER experience another flight with such issues! In the end, we never really had a full explanation from Easy Jet airlines, other than there was a failure of the plane's cabin pressure and so oxygen was needed during flight. We did actually get on another flight after we landed that night (a new plane and new crew) and so we did make it to Portugal for a few days. We surely were glad to have a few days of rest after this incident. Someone had to be watching over us and I am very thankful for that.