Category Archives: europe

Azores Adventure

In an effort to try to continue to document some of the places we have been, I thought I would include a couple of thoughts about the Azores.

We had been planning this trip for a while.  By planning, I mean me fantasizing.  I am again gainfully employed by an airline, so I refused to purchase tickets even though they were ridiculously cheap.  To all, buy tickets to the Azores. Worth it.

We flew on Sata Airlines from Toronto to Ponta Delgada and then on to Pico.  Plan was to stay on Pico for a couple of days with a day trip to Horta, Faial.  I desperately wanted to climb the tallest mountain in Portugal.

First, the Azores are beautiful. Stunning. Absolutely. This can not be overstated.

Dani looking from the Madalena harbor
The two islets at the entrance to Madalena harbor, formed from a submerged crater

Another reason that I wanted to visit Pico was the wine!  I had read about Unesco Heritage site, Pico Vineyards and was curious to see these vineyards made of volcanic rock.  This is how we spent our first day trying to stay awake from the early morning arrival.


This was a short walk from where we were staying. Obviously, I wanted to wander through the maze of the lava rock.  Dani did her best to seem excited about it.


As we were spending only three days on Pico, the following day was my hike.  The weather certainly did not cooperate. It was raining unbelievably hard and the mist on the mountain was so thick that it was difficult to see the trail markers.  The lava rock was slippery and it was cold.  I went with a group of about 8 people, a couple of Germans, a few people from Porto and a few others from Spain. The group of 8 turned into a group of 4 with the Spaniards turning back after our guide suggested that it might be a good idea.  The rest of us carried on in the awful rain hoping that it would eventually clear up.  We made it to the top with a few moments of sun breaks.  The tallest mountain in Portugal (2,341-metres)! Done!

I wanted to celebrate this triumph with Dani with dinner at Cella Bar which I was extremely excited about visiting after reading about it.  Sadly, it was closed for the week we were there.  We still managed to admire the building and the sunset!

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After a short day trip to Horta where we did some lovely walks, we headed back to Ponta Delgada.

We drove our tiny little car (so tiny it only had one windshield wiper) to Furnas.  Here we were going to stay for five days thanks to SPG Points at the Furnas Boutique Hotel. We were excited about this hotel because it has thermal water pools to enjoy which we took advantage of!

Again, it can not be overstated how beautiful the Azores is.  The drive, although Dani found it a bit stressful and long, for much of it I felt like we were driving through a storybook.  We spent the next 4 days exploring including the Gorreana Tea Plantation, Vila Franca do Campo, Ribeira Grande.  We had some beautiful lovely walks thanks to the wonderfully marked trails.  This is more easily shared in photos.

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A day trip was also planned to Lagoa das Sete Cidades.  After seeing this in my Instagram posts for so many months, I was so excited to finally do this hike. Unfortunately, it rained.

One minor hiccup occurred in our travels. Fly standby is not always as amazing as it seems.  When checking the flight loads, I saw that all flights leaving back to Canada on our anticipated departure date were full. In fact, all flights to North America were full. In fact, all flights from Lisbon to North America were full.  We had to resort to a new back up plan.  Flying out a couple days early, to Porto, to Amsterdam, home.  Long journey and overnights in each spot.  Fortunate for us, we actually had some friends vacationing in Porto that were able to let us stay with them!

Unexpected day in Porto

Amsterdam, again thank you SPG points program for allowing us to stay in Schiphol for FREE!


Barcelona adventures continue

We are just about complete our week in Barcelona.  It has been incredible and really nice to have an apartment to stay in the entire time.

We just came back from the Dali museum in Figueres.  The museum was amazing with many exhibits and many of them interactive for a few Euro.  We only had enough Euro for a couple of exhibits – one of them where it rained in a car which was pretty amazing. I am so glad we made the trip out.

We have also had the opportunity to see a few of the Gaudi sites in Barcelona.  The awe inspiring Sagrada Familia – which is still not complete (anticipated completion is 2026-2028 – guess we will have to come back)  It is truly amazing to see.

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We also went up the Nativity Tower to get a wonderful view of Barcelona.


Then had to climb down the narrow spiral staircase. Yikes!


We also took part in the official visit of Park Guell.  The park was gorgeous but the Gaudi site itself – only okay.  On our walk back from the park we managed to see two other Gaudi buildings both lovely.

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After taking in the Sagrada Familia, we were lucky enough to run into a friend of mine from Toronto who now lives in Barcelona.  We went for drinks and tapas(bravas, peppers, bread, mini burgers, and a plate of cured meats) and wandered around her neighbourhood with her cute Yorkshire Terrier, Vincent, which obviously Dani loved right away.

The other exhibit that we were able to see that I really enjoyed was at the CCCB entitled Big Bang Data.  I have just finished reading “To Save Everything, Click Here” which also talks about the subject which interests me alot.  The exhibit was a great visual representation of alot of the things that I read in the book and also included some of the ‘conscious citizen’ type products that are being developed.  Really neat (and nerdy)

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Barcelona Recap

We arrived in Barcelona a few days ago which was different from our original plan so I didn’t have a ton planned. Instead of scrambling to figure stuff out we just booked an apartment for a week and decided to hang out.

Our apartment is in El Raval which is ideally located to many major sites. The area is not completely gentrified yet so a bit rough around the edges but that makes it a bit more interesting.

Highlight of the first day was the boqueria where we were able to get some delicious snacks. Figs are still in season so I am content with that. Dani was pleased to find they serve meat in paper cones. Tiny sausages and serrano ham. Obviously this will be a contained stop through out our time here


We then wandered down in the area taking in all the sights and sounds and obviously drink sangria.

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Prague Castle

The arrival at Alchymist Prague Castle Suites deserves its own post.  This was the part of our vacation that we were both most excited for because it seemed completely gluttonous and completely not us.

The castle itself is beautiful.  We were greeted at the door by a lovely gentleman who promptly seated us at a lovely desk to check us in.  On the same floor as the check in area was the library.  We arrived quite late so we didn’t have an opportunity to really see that.  We walked up to our suite.  It is GORGEOUS!

The bed has a heart of rose petals since we have the ‘romance package’  There is a lovely terrace just off the bedroom area as well. The headboard on the bed is the most amazing thing that I have ever seen! Not captured here but it lights up as well.

The room also has the greatest number of chandeliers (6) and mirrors (nearly every wall) that I have ever seen.   The closet has automatic lighting that turns on once the door has been opened.  Another feature that Dani enjoyed about the closets is that there is an inability to slam the drawers or doors shut.  Instead, the drawers steady themselves and close gently.

The bathroom is amazing especially after our sub par experience with the shower in the Amsterdam hotel. Yes, those are more rose petals.  There is also a stand alone shower in the bathroom. And much to Dani’s approval, the bathroom products are all L’Occitane first discovered by Dani when we were in Vancouver for the marathon earlier that year.  It should be noted that these products are made in France.

Our host leaves to go and collect our luggage for us and returns with two glasses of champagne.  He wishes us a pleasant evening.

Immediately, Dani heads to the bath with her newly acquired Sabon body scrub.  Evening one of the castle equals success.