Postcard Perfect Porto

In February, we finally made it back to Europe after an 8 year hiatus. While trying to decide on a destination, I was lucky to stumble upon Porto, Portugal in a random forum and as they say... the rest is history. I would never have thought of traveling to Portugal but thanks to a whim and open flights, we found ourselves in a land of Port wine and cobblestone streets. While there, we learned that Porto just won the title of best European Destination for 2017 voted by world travelers from 174 countries. Can I pick them or what?

This was the first photo I took in Porto. I can't resist a bright colored mural especially when it's on a Steak 'n Shake.

Street art has a huge presence here. "Legal murals" get commissioned by the city and artists can also submit proposals. 
Our hotel was a short walk from the beautiful Jardim do Palacio de Cristal. The view of the Douro River was breathtaking!

Porto is known for its beautiful blue tiles. 15,947 azulejo tiles cover the wall of the Capela de Santa Catarina.       

Yes, Porto is pretty but there is definitely an edginess found in pockets of the city.

You can easily reach the beach by taking a quick streetcar ride to the Foz district. The crazy epic waves at the break point are a site to see.

If you walk up the coast, you will run into the Forte de São Francisco do Queijo.

From Foz, we walked our way up to Matosinhos and encountered "She Changes," a huge installation of a sea anemone by artist Janet Echelman. Definitely view it in the dark when you can see the movement and purpley blue colors. In the daytime, it just looks like a giant red net.  

After walking into a restaurant we found on Yelp that turned out to be a huge disappointment (and shall not be named), we moved onto another restaurant that was recommended by a local. Marisqueira dos Pobres, resembled a seafood market in the back, and had that welcoming family feel we were hoping for.  The staff, which included the fishermen, was excited to have us there. Not only was the seafood super fresh, but they had crabs as big as your head! 

More beautiful blue tiles...

We wandered into this cute kids' clothing store while walking around the area near our hotel. Of course, we had to bring back something for the kiddo!

On the last day of our stay in Porto (and the day with the best weather), we made sure to experience the Douro River in all its glory.

We also walked across the Dom Luís I bridge which connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, the home of the port wine houses.

Although I have never been a fan of sweet wine, learning the history of port wine while walking through a 120-year old wine lodge is truly an experience in itself.

If you're looking for a European vacation spot for a 2-3 day excursion, I would highly recommend Porto. The city's charming personality will capture your heart, but the relaxed atmosphere and variety of things to do and see will make you want to come back for more. I was surprised that we were able to pack in time along the river, the beachfront, a wine house, and strolls around the city in a few short days. 

Below are some additional places we enjoyed while there:
  • Museu Serralves- A world renown contemporary art museum made up entirely of temporary exhibitions like The Guggenheim. The museum is surrounded by a beautifully landscaped park with modern sculptures.
  • Catraiao- A hip little craft beer bar in the center of town. 
  • For you wine nerds out there. Ok, not a place but still interesting... The documentary, "A Year in Port," is a good introduction to the port wine-making business in Porto. It happened to be available on our flight from America to Europe. Both Bryan and I watched it, and we both felt like we were already friends with the major wine house owners.  



This Magical Place called Mexico

After three months, I finally got around to posting these photos from our trip to Playa del Carmen and Tulum. If I find myself craving the beach or somewhere tropical, it's nice to know that Mexico is just a quick 2-hour plane ride from Houston. You might remember that my babymoon back in March of last year was in Cozumel. Well, since we love Mexico so much, we ended up returning for my post-baby vacation a year later. 

We stayed at the All-Inclusive Riu Tequila, which I highly recommend. It's one of several all-inclusives nestled in a resort community called Playacar. Beach access is literally across the street and shared with another Riu hotel.

We visited several cenotes, or swimming holes, on our drive down the main thoroughfare between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Okay, can anyone identify this creature? These guys were permanent residents of the resort.

After studying the Mayan culture in college, I finally got the chance to see the beautiful ruins in person. These are at the archaeological site in Tulum.

I could stare at this water all day.

Oops, we interrupted an intimate moment between these two iguanas.

Floating in the waters of Tulum's Gran Cenote.

This ceiling of this mystical cavern is covered with bats. Swimming underneath them was both thrilling and risky, as you never know when you might get some bat guano in the eye!

Wish we could have spent more time in Tulum to explore the cool roadside boutiques and eateries. I was steps away from Hartwood, but right when we got into the more popular area, I was overcome by food poisoning, or should I say bat guano poisoning. I accidentally swallowed a bit of the cenote water and felt the effects for the next two days.

Despite suffering the ill effects of swallowing cenote water, I had a wonderful trip. Because really how can you not enjoy yourself when the water is five shades of blue and the coconut is aplenty?
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