after our trip to france we hopped on a plane to portugal where my brother, sister-in-law & nephew were meeting us. portugal is such a bright, colorful, beautiful country. i loved the time that we spent there. the people are so kind & welcoming & all of the buildings are so bright & fun. the country seems so vibrant! 

i've heard a lot of people compare lisbon with san francisco, which i think is a pretty fair comparison. it has a lot of really steep hills like s.f., it's on the water, it has it's very own golden gate bridge that was build by the same company (it's just a little smaller), & fun fact- the trolley cars in s.f. come from lisbon! so there are quite a few similarities! lisbon does have trolley cars as well, but they aren't throughout the whole city just in the older parts & are mostly just tourist attractions these days.


we had two full days in lisbon & spent one of them going around to different towns, one of the towns that we stopped at was sintra. sintra was such a cool little town, full of color, really different architecture & multiple estates & castles. we stopped at two different palaces: palace of sintra & the pena national palace. 

the palace of sintra is totally different from pretty much any other palace i have ever seen. the entire outside is white while the inside is decorated heavily in intricate, colorful tiles & the two cone shapes on the roof were over the kitchen.
  the pena national palace, which is just above the palace of sintra totally blew my mind. it is built on top of a hill with gardens surrounding the lower area, with amazing views in every direction of portugal & was so bright & fun! the palace was commissioned by king consort ferdinand II to be a summer palace for the royal family. it's a mixture of midevil & moorish styles, which is a fun & differnt mix. it reminded me of something you would see in germany, so when we went back to the hotel i looked it up & it was actually built by a german architect! so i guess i was onto something, haha. the outside of the palace is really fun, painted in gray, white, yellow & red, which isn't very common for palaces. the portuguese really know how to brighten a place up! it is beautiful.

plus, it's a unesco world heritage site :)


^^took this exact same photo two years ago on our last visit to paris, so we had to get another one
we only spent a day & a half in paris while we were in france (apparently pitstops in paris are a thing we like to do) & while that's hardly enough time, we used our time up the best we could! our hotel was a a couple blocks away from the arc de triomphe which is a kind of perfect spot. the arc de triomphe is on champs elysées, a straight shot to the lourvre museum, & just a couple blocks over the river from the eiffel tower, so it made our visit pretty easy. i always think paris is a surreal place to visit i think. every time i'm there i fall deeper & deeper in love with it, there is something about paris that just really draws me in. 

our stop in paris was pretty easy & really relaxed which made it even more perfect. since we had all been there before we weren't rushing around trying to get all the sights in, but moving at our own pace doing our own thing & really just enjoying it. we did go to the eiffel tower though because i kinda feel like you have to go if you're there & why wouldn't you want to? no matter how many times i've seen it, i'm still blown away by just how big it is! we got crepes by the eiffel tower & cedar rode the carousel 3 times before we had to literally pull him off of it while he sobbed the entire time, he is obsessed with carousels, cute.. but not cute when he almost cries every time he sees one that he doesn't get to ride.. haha. it was really fun with cedar in paris. he pointed & "oohed" & "ahhed" at nearly everything & anytime he noticed th eiffel tower he literally would point & say "woah! cool!" he was sooo into it, i loved his reaction every single time. he never wanted to take his eyes off of it! 

besides venturing to the eiffel tower, we shopped along champs de elysees, i had a crepe about every 5 minutes cause, why not? & we wandered through the different streets just sort of taking it all in. i had really wanted to go to musée de l'orangerie to see monet's water lillies, but as fate would have it the museum was closed on our full day in paris, & we didn't have enough time the following morning before catching our flight to portugal, which was a bummer, but just means i have to go back to paris, right? right! 

& if you're interested, check out my previous posts about paris!


whenever i'm texting one of my friends about life & things get busy / complicated / crazy / etc. we always seem to end our thoughts with "LIFE, MAN." it kind of just engulfs everything into a small description, don't you think? maybe i'm crazy, but i feel like this statement of two words just explains things. life just happens. oh, & all caps is a must on this statement.

anyways, life has been gooooooing so quickly! it always does. the last few weeks from our trips during santa semana, to coming home & having austin's parents arrive, we have been non-stop around here. LIFE MAN! i have been getting tired of posting only about our trip, haha, so here's a recap of life after travel & having austin's parents in town!

austin's parents were supposed to get here thursday morning, but their flight was delayed so they didn't arrive until the afternoon, but it worked out for us because austin was home for school when they got here! we were really excited about having them come visit & showing them around madrid. the first night they were tired & no one wanted to wait till 8:30 for dinner (almost nowhere opens before 8:30 in madrid for dinner, it's a real buzzkill when you're starving & don't want to cook/don't have food to make), so we took them to our favorite: tierra burrito. the next day while austin was at school i was their tour guide around the city! i did my best to show them all the sites & give them background information, but i really don't know a lot of madrid's history (i'm working on it), but we had a good time. i took them to breakfast at this cafe i really like, bocados, then down to puerta del sol & plaza mayor, the palace, then back to our apartment for cedars nap. during his nap we had good old fashioned spanish bocadillos, which is litereally just spanish bread with jamón ibérico (a special spanish ham). austin met up with us at home & once cedar woke up went to retiro to where our friday playgroup was meeting. after playgroup & seeing the park grounds we went to dinner at a really, really good Brazilian restaurant.

we had a jam packed, busy day, but it was really fun. saturday we took a day trip to toldeo. toldeo is an awesome little town that's only 30 minutes away on the train. i had been yeaaaaars ago when my friend shannon & i went on our european adventure, but didn't really remember much & i truly don't know why austin & i haven't gone before, but it was beautiful! definitely deserves its own post :)


years ago i saw a picture of mont saint-michel (probably on pinterest..) & automatically assumed it was a photoshopped picture & couldn't be a real place. luckily for the rest of the world i was wrong & it is a very real place! & a gorgeous, unreal one at that. it truly doesn't seem like it would be real, it also looks as if it was built specifically for tourists with it's tiny alley ways, small shops, population of 50 (yes, you read that correctly), no cars & overall quaint-ness. mont saint-michel most definitely should be on your must-see in france list, it is definitely worth taking a couple of days to visit. plus, it's another unesco world heritage site to check off the list :)
i'm kind of obsessed with the picture of cedar in the sling.. i love his little leg poking out!
a brief history lesson:
 mont saint-michel has been in use since the fifth century under the name Mont Tombe, which changed to mont saint-michel after the monastery mont saint-michel was built between the 11th & 16th centuries. the abbey is gothic-style & dedicated to the archangel St Michael. the monastery gave support to william of normandy (it's even featured in the bayeux tapestry i mentioned in this post& suffered multiple attacks during the hundred years' war between the french & english. fast forward near the french revolution, there the abbey did not have many monks in residence & was closed & converted into a prison. the prison officially closed in 1863 & in 1874 mont saint-michel became a historic monument & in 1979 mont saint-michel & the bay were added to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

mont saint-michel is an amazing monastery & huge. my mind was blown while we were there, it was so beautiful, not the mention the views the abbey has. it's straight out of a fairy tale... or hogwarts, cause it looks a lot like hogwarts also. especially when you arrive. there's a bridge that takes goes to mont st-michel but you can't drive there, you take a bus & it shuttles people to & from the island everyday, once the last bus leaves the only people on the island are people staying in one of the hotels & the 50 residents that live on the island! we were staying on the island & while pretty much everything shuts down except for hotel restaurants, it was really cool to walk around what felt like a ghost town & really be able to take it all in without all of the people.