One Week in Lisbon!

     In honor of my brother's 40th birthday last summer,  two of his friends, my husband, my brother and I rented a house for a week in Lisbon, Portugal! I can't say enough great things about this beautiful city, and I'm not generally a city explorer. I usually like exploring more of the 'off the beaten path' type of towns. But because Lisbon still feels like a bit of a hidden gem, I absolutely loved it. Below are my recommendations for a week well spent there!
The City
Where to Stay:
We rented a former palace (not kidding) through Airbnb in the Principe Real neighborhood. 

Principe Real is a bit quieter and more luxurious than the surrounding neighborhoods. It has gorgeous gardens, beautiful homes (hello, palaces you can rent), and views for days. It also has the BEST ice cream and breakfast spot in the world (more on this in a second). I loved our house and I loved the neighborhood, but next time I go to Lisbon I think I will try staying in or near the Alfama district. It is the oldest part of town and feels most historical and culturally different. If you're having trouble deciding where to stay, don't worry- taxis and trolleys make it easy to get around the city. So just choose a home base and get ready to explore!
What to Explore: 
(In bullet form, and in no particular order... bc who has the time?!)
  • The Layout: As soon as we arrived, we took a taxi to one end of the trolley line and rode it all the way to the other end of the city to get a feel for the layout of the area. This was really helpful! We treated it like our own Hop On-Hop Off bus. We were warned to beware of pickpockets on the trolley, but I never saw anything fishy go down. As with any city (even my own!) I just stayed aware of my surroundings and my belongings throughout the week.

  • The Neighborhoods: Explore (read: meander slowly through) the Alfama and Barrio Alto neighborhoods (and all of the others!). My guide book was helpful because it listed self-guided walking tours of different areas that we followed throughout the week. I ordered Snapshot Lisbon by Rick Steves from Amazon. I love meandering, and Lisbon is great for that. Beware that the streets are windy and switch names every five seconds. I got lost a thousand times!

    •  The Views: Use a city map to find one (or more!) of the numerous lookout points around the city. Stop for lunch or coffee and take in the amazing views of the city and the Rio Tajo. 
    • The Architecture: Commerce Square is beautiful and ON the water. It reminded me a bit of a piazza in Italy and it is a must-see! Also, be sure and take note of all of the beautiful, intricate tiles that cover Lisbon. You can't miss them!
    • The Music: Spend an evening listening to Fado, a genre of music that originated in Portugal hundreds of years ago. The Portuguese translation of Fado is destiny or fate, and Fado has a mournful, soulful sound to it. You will see signs advertising Fado all over the city.

    • The Shopping: There is an enormous market called Feira da Ladra that takes place every Tuesday and Saturday. Many of the sellers are gypsies, and they sell everything from old CDs to beautiful pottery. If you're looking for local souvenirs, this is the place to go!
    • The Food: The food is awesome in Lisbon, so just resign yourself to the fact that you may put on a few LBs while you're there. Fresh seafood, namely sardines, are a staple. If you get a chance, you MUST go to a restaurant called Tease for breakfast. I happened upon this little restaurant my second day in Lisbon (our house was a block away) and it became my neighborhood breakfast place for the next six days straight. It is so cute and so yummy (think waffles topped with yogurt, granola and fresh fruit, whatttt?!) The people who work there are also so, so nice.  
    • The other food stop you must make is to Nannarella for ice cream. We came across this heaven-on-earth ice cream shop our first day there and fell in loveeeee. We literally went there every single day, sometimes twice (I see you judging!). Listen to me: my family can put away some ice cream. And I kid you not, Nannarella has the best cookies and cream I have ever had. There. I said it.
    Even if you don't stay in the Principe Real neighborhood, these cones of pure love and deliciousness are worth the taxi ride there. The shop is two blocks from Tease, so just spend half a day in that area gaining weight. You're on vacay.

    Day Trips
    • SinatraSintra is a picturesque Portuguese town 25 km west of Lisbon. The main attraction of the town is Pena Palace, and it doesn't disappoint! It is a multi-colored castle that looks like it belongs in a Disney movie. It is stunning! I loved touring the castle, walking around the grounds of the area, and exploring the town itself. Side Note: Make sure to bring a sweater on this adventure~ it was so cold and windy by the castle that we had to make a human sandwich to stay warm!
    • Cabo de Roca: Pack your bathing suit and towel and head to Cabo de Rocathe gorgeous, westernmost area of Portugal. Here, massive cliffs cascade into the ocean, carving out beach areas along the coast. It is a popular kite surfing area and we were able to stand at the top of a cliff and watch the kite surfers dart across the water, seemingly just missing each other. I have never seen anything like it! The area is relatively remote, but there are a few little delicious restaurants. 
    *See all of those tiny, colorful flecks? Those are all KITES!
    • CascaisCascais is a coastal area 30 km west of Lisbon. While the area is beautiful, and there is literally a palace on the beach, we could not for the life of us find an empty umbrella to rent on said beach. We actually ended up sneaking into a gorgeous hotel and using their pool for the day (#sorrynotsorry). We were only there during the day, but we heard that it is a fun place to be at night. If you have limited time, I would skip this and head for Cabo de Roca. However, you might want to use it as a home base for a few days to explore the surrounding areas.
        I hope you find these recommendations helpful and that I've given you some inspiration in planning your trip to Lisbon! 
    Make sure to leave me a comment if you have any questions.


    The Best Ride

    It's 6:50 am on my first day of summer. 
    I should clearly be a. asleep or b. if awake, luxuriating in the idea of not working for the next eight weeks.
    But the truth is, I woke up with knots in my stomach. 
    I miss my students. 
    I have spent more time with these kids over the past two years of my life than with anyone else. 
    There will undoubtedly be a great void in my heart and my life for weeks to come.

    This group of students is literally the best ever. They are bright and witty and so, so helpful. They are kind and responsible. They love to learn, they love my stories, and they love to make me laugh.
    And oh, how they have made me laugh every single day this year.

     They have shared so many of my recent adventures and accomplishments. They saw me get engaged, helped me reach my goal of teaching AAP, helped me tackle teaching a new grade level and have helped me plan my wedding (adorable). 
    They have also demanded my most creative ideas and challenged me professionally.
    Most importantly, they are the reason I have jumped out of bed and raced to work every. single. day. 

    We came to school to work hard & play hard, and that we did.
    I mean, we literally started each day with a dance party.
    The joy in our classroom was so palpable that other teachers commented on it regularly. The 27 of us, in our little cocoon, shared the magical bond of joy.
    The joy of learning, of taking risks, of trusting each other to do what's right. The joy of being liked for who you are, of pushing yourself, of leaving everything at the door except your best self.
    My joy-filled classroom.

    These kids are going to take on the world one day. 
    I shared my Life List with them and dared them to create their own~ to dream big, and they have. They want to travel to all seven continents, to go to the Olympics, to skydive.
    They want to be teachers and lawyers and doctors and chefs and President of the United States.
    And they will be

    So, Fourth Graders of 2013:
    Teachers dream of having a class like you.
    A class that inspires them, challenges them and reminds them of the importance of their chosen career path. 
    You are that class for me.
    I believe in you, I am proud of you, and I will miss you.
    "Many leaves, one tree."

    It has been The Best Ride.



    The Big 3-Woah

    (Written 4.9.13)
    So... two days ago I turned 30.
    The Big 3-Woah.
    And after months of anxiety about how it would feel, it came, it went, and I conquered it :).
    It sounds so weird.
    In the past two days no one has asked me how old I am.
    And for all I know, when it happens, I will pull one of those 'cough as I say the number' type deals so they can't understand me. 
    But right this second I am so full of the joy that is still overflowing from this weekend, that there is simply no room for anything else.
    If I had gotten over my anxiety long enough to think about how I actually wanted to spend my 30th birthday, this past weekend would have exceeded every single wish.
    It was amazing.

    The whirlwind began on Thursday afternoon when I got home from work to find this:
    My friend Sabrina had realized that it was exactly four days until my birthday and four months until my wedding, and painted this sign herself!
    How cool is that?

    Then, before work on Friday, my third grade teammates surprised me with breakfast and a sparkly '30' tiara that I was made to wear all day :).
    Later that morning, my classroom door swung open to reveal a group of my students' parents singing 'Happy Birthday' at the top of their lungs and wheeling in a cart full of homemade cake, cookies, balloons, flowers and cards from my students.
    Little did they know they were walking in on my 
    Vice Principal's formal observation of my classroom.
      It was amazing and SO hilarious. 

     When I got home from work, Chris had fully committed to the 'major birthday signage' Robinson family tradition by decorating the entire house with balloons, streamers and signs. 

    He then revealed my first surprise of the weekend, which was that a secret crew of people were coming over and coming with us to the Legwarmers concert~ a fantastic surprise! Next thing I knew, my New York City-based brother was walking in the door (cue tears), followed by my friend Katie from Michigan and other local friends. 
    We had a great night dancing our hearts out to our favorite 80s tunes.
    On Saturday morning Chris told me that I didn't need to be ready for my next scheduled event until 7:00 that night, so we spent the day relaxing and exploring Georgetown. 
    Before I started getting ready for the 'event' that evening, I asked Chris two questions: whether or not I should a. wear heels and b. curl my hair, both to which he answered yes. So I assumed we had reservations with my family somewhere for a nice dinner.
    Why in a million years I ever thought that my family would do anything but go big or go home I have no idea, but what I walked into at 7:15 instead of family dinner was a 
    HUGE SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!!! (Cue tears again!)

    The party was Uh-May-Zing!
    We're talking laughed 'til I was hoarse, danced 'til I was sweaty amazing.
    I didn't wipe the smile off my face all night.
    It was the absolute best.

    Sunday was my actual birthday, and my final weekend surprise was that Chris had planned for my entire family to go on a Cherry Blossom cruise along the Potomac for brunch!
    The boat and the food were both great, and the views of DC from the water couldn't have been better.

    That night I ended my weekend with a low key pizza dinner at my parents' house with my family, Chris, and a couple of my friends. Of course we also dined on my annual birthday cake~ Baskin Robbins cookies and cream ice cream cake.
    It was the perfect ending to an absolutely perfect, exhilarating weekend.
    Thank you again to my family and friends for showering me with unbelievable amounts of love this weekend and making this 'woah' birthday not so scary after all. You make me feel so incredibly loved every single day, and spending the past thirty years with you has been the
    greatest joy of my life.


    We ARE

    We are the Robinsons.
    We are tradition and identity,
    support and friendship.
    We're roots and camaraderie, appreciation and affection.
    We're reliance, acceptance, and sometimes slight dysfunction. 
    We are thirty-five strong.
    We are home, we are unconditional, we are forever, and we are

    I am so proud to be a 
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