It’s been a week since I got home so I’d better post about my trip before I forget everything!
I left on Tuesday, and flew the long leg with Deborah and Erica, which was nice, since I had a five hour layover at Newark. We spent that time doing our nails and I got my boots shined and okay this part isn’t exciting.
We got to Lisbon Wednesday morning and got a tiny coffee and my first pastel de nata at the airport. Got to the airbnb, but the owner was running late meeting us so we stocked up on groceries in the store below our apartment (very handy, that!) Once we were in and settled, we…well, I don’t remember. Took a nap, I think. I was exhausted. Mahangu arrived and we went to walk around and get some dinner.
We walked down to the Time Out market, where I had another pastel de nata (this one warm from the oven and even tastier than the airport Starbucks one. Go figure.) We noticed flocks of Uber Scooters around, so Beckett, Mahangu, and I hopped on them while Erica decided it was best not to. We found a flat plaza and rode around and around and around.
Then dinner up a hill. It was yummy. There was ham and cheese and various other good food.
The next day was my birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!
We went to the bigger grocery store to get more provisions, and ended up having a very unsatisfying breakfast there. But we did get me a candy birthday cake! And we got followed around the store by security people. Turns out you’re not supposed to take photos in grocery stores. Weird. And then outside the grocery store was a pretty yellow tiled wall, so I made Mahangu take pictures of us all.
I’m a rebel and took this picture
Back to the apartment where we got some work done. We were going to have lunch but then we decided to wait for Karen, who was arriving that afternoon. And by the time she got there we just waited for dinner. But that was fine because we had lots of ham and cheese and other delicious snacks to eat.
We had a call early in the evening with some other colleagues around the world, and then it was time to eat again!
Dinner was at a lovely restaurant on top of a hill. We had to climb a lot of stairs to get to it. We dined on delicious Mozambiquan-Portuguese food. Happy birthday was sung to me in Portuguese. We walked around some more after dinner.
Friday was a work day – we left to get lunch at the Time Out market. I had a prego steak sandwich. So yum. Later, Erica and Mahangu and I went to the Benfica game! It was pretty cool, even though I knew the boys weren’t exactly happy with me for going to a professional game without them. I did bring them presents back, at least. Benfica won, thank goodness, but it was close. After the game we got these amazing pork sandwiches (bifana) and Erica and I split the most amazing waffle with Nutella on it.
Saturday we worked. And walked around some more between working. I found my favorite book in Portuguese at a book market and of course bought it. We also found a fabric store (shocking) where I…bought fabric.
After that we went up to this elevator that basically just goes up a hill. The line was too long to wait, but someone told us about a free elevator we could use that didn’t have a line. No brainer! The views were beautiful. Didn’t hurt that it was a gorgeous, sunny day.
We ordered in for dinner that night. And Erica and I finished a puzzle Beckett brought.
Sunday we worked some more, and in the afternoon, Beckett and Mahangu and I went to a different part of the city where he was meeting up with someone. Beckett and I went on this little gondola thing and then over to a mall that was like Black Friday packed. It was nuts. But it had a ginormous grocery store in it as well, and I do love a grocery store. Picked up some souvenirs to bring home (but didn’t take pictures, of course.)
Monday we decided to bring our work on the road. We took a train to Sintra, which is west of Lisbon. There’s a palace (Pena Palace). We had a driver bring us around, which was a great idea since it was cold and VERY STEEP. After the palace, we had lunch and the driver gave me a birthday present! (I mean, like I didn’t tell him my birthday was a few days prior? Do you even know me?)
Another pastel de nata
Some cod dish
That’s a palace down there
My birthday present
The westernmost spot of Europe!
After working for a little while at a coworking spot, the driver took us on a very winding and nauseating ride out to the coast, where you can stand on the westernmost spot of Europe. It was cold and windy, but beautiful!
We headed back to our apartment after that and got all packed up. Karen and Beckett and I had 5:20am flights, which was horrible. I slept for about an hour and a half, and then traveled for 24 hours and then made it home. Hooray!
It was a great, productive trip. Lisbon is beautiful! But thank goodness I practiced for the hills by power walking at Orangetheory. Those hills are no joke!
Technically this was taken on January 13 (in US time anyway) but it was 3:04am in Lisbon. This is one last view of our street when the Uber came to get us for a 5:20 am flight. It was so quiet. (Because smart people are sleeping at that time.)
At this point I still had 24 hours until my last flight landed in New Orleans, and I had slept about 90 minutes. So that was a fun day.
I went to a Benfica game with two of my teammates last night. It was fun but nerve wracking. They are the top ranked team and they played the bottom ranked team and were losing for much of the game. Pulled it off and won 2-1, thank goodness.
In related news, I think the boys are mad at me for going to a game. But I did get them souvenirs, at least.
Today I am 45 years old. I like sewing and pizza and sweet tarts. My best friend is Kristina.
It was a good birthday. We worked a lot but also went grocery shopping which is my favorite thing to do in foreign countries. We also ate yummy food. They sang Happy Birthday to me in Portuguese at dinner. It was nice.
I already blogged our road-trip-within-a-road-trip, and now it’s time to post about the rest of it. I’d better start with Part 1: Getting to Virginia.
Kristina flew down Sunday night, and we spent Monday getting ready for the trip. Packing, laundry, making sure we had a plan for our roadside attractions. Oh, and eating delicious meals at Picnic Provisions & Whiskey and Molly’s Rise and Shine. Highly recommend both. Also visiting Terry and taking the boys to Dollar Tree to pick out road trip snacks (I gave them each a $5 budget.)
Monday morning, we hit the road with my new cargo bag on the roof. First stop, the giant catfish in Slidell! (Huge thanks to the website Roadside America for all of our stop ideas.)
A couple saw us pulling off to take a picture with the fish, and thought it was hilarious, so pulled over as well and offered to take a picture for us. Thanks anonymous Slidell couple!
I’m blogging this from the back seat of Kiki and Mike’s car as we head back to Virginia. We left New York City a couple of hours ago, and while I’ve been terrible about blogging our trip so far (I mean the one to Virginia) at least I can get this one down now, while it’s still fresh.
We arrived yesterday (Sunday) a bit after noon (it’s about 4 hours from their house and we left bright and early.) Got the car parked and dropped our bags off at the hotel (a Courtyard by Marriott that we got for an absolute steal) and headed out to explore.
We decided to walk to Rockefeller Center since it wasn’t too far away, and one of our ideas was to go to the top.
The east coast was going through a nightmarish heat wave this weekend, so we didn’t want to do anything that involved being outside much. But when you are in a city where you walk everywhere, it’s an impossible goal. But at least we could duck into air conditioning as often as possible.
After we baked on top of a skyscraper, we headed to the Nintendo store.
Oh and we ate pizza before going up, and the boys were not happy that it was square instead of traditional NY pizza. It was delicious though. 🤷🏻♀️
Afterwards, we walked around Rockefeller Center a bunch because there was ice cream and air conditioning. And then went back to the hotel so we could check in. We rested for a while in our rooms, then headed back out for “real” pizza and to see Times Square.
Went to John’s Pizza for dinner. Was delicious but hot. Like, my shirt was soaked with sweat. 🔥 But the pizza was fantastic. The boys were thrilled to have “foldable” pizza.
It was getting dark by the time we left, so it was time to see the lights of Times Square in all of their glory. The boys loved it.
My favorite part was the group of Sri Lankan men who asked me to take their photo. And then wanted everyone in the picture. 😀 They were adorable and pointed out a few times that they were politicians back home. I had to get a picture with my phone as well, of course.
Next, we went back to Rockefeller Center to make use of its facilities and got some dessert for the boys. We were all exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel and I slept like a rock. (I have said “rock” a lot in this post.)
This morning, we woke up and went to stand in line for bagels at Ess-a-Bagel, which was handily right by our hotel. I was nervous about ordering, but I did okay and didn’t get yelled at. The boys loved the bagels (they got butter, I got lox spread.) They were totally worth the wait.
After eating, we walked up to Central Park and we all climbed on rocks. The temperature was much lower today, thank goodness.
Our next stop was a cookie dough shop that Oliver had been dying to go to ever since we decided to make this trip. We took the subway down to Chelsea, and when we got there, it was closed! 🤬 Poor kid was heartbroken. There was another cookie dough shop around the corner, but it took a while for him to recover. (As an aside, as fond as I am of sampling cookie dough when I make it, these places where they scoop it out to eat raw – it’s egg-free so safe – make me want to retch and I honestly couldn’t even look at it. But I’m weird.)
The next stop was the one I was most excited about….MOOD!!!!!! You know, the fabric store from Project Runway?
No one else was excited, though. 😆 So I very thoughtfully made my choices as quickly as I could. But I mean there are 3 stories of fabric! I had a list of patterns I want to make dresses with and the amount of fabric I needed, and tried to decide fast. It was actually good for me because otherwise that place would have sent me into a tailspin of indecision. I ended up getting a few yards of cotton voile (a light woven cotton) for a dress:
And then went to search for swim fabrics, because I wasn’t thrilled with what I’d bought at Joann’s. And I hit the jackpot! I found these (the blue is for contrast):
And I love it, but after it was cut out, I saw this, and was all 😍😍😍 so got some of it as well.
Dreamy, right? And the blue will work with it as well.
The people at Mood were so nice, but sadly we did not see Swatch the dog. 😢
This was happy Pam:
It was time to head back to get the car and go back to Virginia to beat a bad storm that was coming. But first, more pizza! The boys wanted to try 99 cent slices, and the cheapskate in me was happy to oblige! They said they liked it best of all. Of course.
We made it back to the car just before the sky opened up, and that is the end of our New York adventure! I’m happy that writing this post has taken up a good part of the journey back to Kiki’s. Woo hoo!
Considering the number of pina coladas I ingested over the course of the week, it’s likely this recap will be somewhat incomplete. But I’ll give it a try.
Just two of the many
pina coladas I drank
Sunday: Get on board!
We boarded the ship. Got checked in to our cabin (thank god we were able to score a cheap upgrade from a coffin windowless inside cabin to one with a balcony) and went off to explore the ship and meet up with the other dozen family members aboard. We boarded fairly late, so it wasn’t too long until the ship left the dock.
It’s pretty great that our neighborhood is across the river from the cruise terminal, so my friends Jenn and Heather went onto the levee, and waved goodbye. I mean, okay, I couldn’t really see them but they turned on the flashlights on their phones and waved them around, which I could see. I waved back with my phone. Exciting stuff!
Couldn’t find Oliver, though. Oh well. There were only 14 decks he could get lost on, I figured he’d turn up at some point. (He did, but this was an ongoing theme for the week.)
When I unpacked later, I realized I only packed one pair of shorts. I left a pile with four or five more pairs on my dresser. Ugh.
Had dinner, some wine, sailed down the Mississippi.
Monday: Day at Sea
Hmm. There was definitely some lying in the sun that day. Definitely a bloody mary at the beginning of the day. Then some other tropical adult beverages throughout. Lunch in the Garden Cafe, which is the giant buffet where the boys preferred to eat as often as possible. Eventually it was simply called #garden, because we are all dorks.
Had dinner together as an entire massive family that night.
Oh yeah, that morning, my sister and I went to work out, and I realized I also left one running shoe at home. Sigh.
Tuesday: Cozumel and THE MAGIC FABRIC STORE
Disembarked. Went in some of the shops. Met up with my siblings and their families, and they took the boys back to the boat so George and I could wander off alone. He had scoped out a cigar bar and I had a fabric store in mind if it wasn’t too far away.
Had margaritas and George had a cigar, and then I discovered that the fabric store was only a block away! Wheeee! I went to check it out and was immediately confused and overwhelmed. I realized I had data on my phone in Mexico so I texted my friend Terry to ask what to do. (I knew she had bought fabric in Mexico the day before, coincidentally, for her daughter’s upcoming quinceanera.)
The store was not necessarily huge, but it definitely wasn’t catering to tourists. No signs were in English, and the prices were all in pesos. I was doing a quick calculation in my head but was pretty sure the margarita was messing with my math skills because surely…these fabrics weren’t $2-3 a meter?!?!?
BUT THEY WERE.
I figured out that algodón = cotton and poliéster was pretty obvious. As usual, I was paralyzed by indecision so didn’t buy a million meters of fabric like I would have liked. Plus, I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t see a cutting table anywhere, but there did seem to be a lot of clerks wandering around. And then there were two glassed-in booths. One seemed to be a cashier, but I wasn’t sure what the other one was for. I tried to watch to see what other people did, but the store just wasn’t very busy.
Outside the cigar place
The fabric store!
Fortunately, Terry came to the rescue! She told me that the clerks walking around would measure the fabric right off the roll with the meter sticks they carried around. So I found a young man who worked there, and would point to the fabric I wanted and would use my elementary Spanish to ask for “tres” of each. I would have bought more, but I felt like I was taking up the clerk’s time too much (so dumb of me) so I only bought five different fabrics. (Three polyester Christmas prints meant for tablecloths, some black cotton/lycra blend, and a dark teal twill that unfortunately was only a remnant, so not enough for the teal twill Cashmerette trench coat pattern I covet.
I wandered over to the threads, and again, used my basic skills to get thread – whatever colors I could remember. 😀 It was 8 pesos! That’s under 50 cents a spool! I’m kicking myself not for not buying more – it was the same brand I buy here!
All in all, I walked out of the store with 16 meters of fabric and a half a dozen spools of thread for under $35.
Later, we…ate dinner again. Maybe George and I went out for our “date night”? I can’t actually remember.
Wednesday: Belize City
We went to Belize City on the previous cruise, and I knew I didn’t want to get off again. There just wasn’t much to see right there at the port, and getting there involved a 30 minute tender. NO THANKS. I spent the day going down water slides and drinking more pina coladas than should be allowed. I took a nap in the middle of the day and hit my head on the bunk bed before lying down, so I was pretty sure I wasn’t ever going to wake up. (Spoiler alert: I did.)
That evening, we had a little birthday party for the boys. Mostly so my brother and sister could give them the Mexico soccer jerseys they’d bought for them the day before. Cake!
Thursday: Harvest Caye, Belize and Thanksgiving!
This was a new stop for us – a private “island” which of course was like Disney Belize, but there was a little shopping village and daiquiris and tons of chairs on the beach and a splash pad and a pool, so it was delightful. I hung out with my stepbrother and his girlfriend, and the boys played with her son, Beau (as they did all day every day on the boat.)
They collected over 100 shells, which they had to throw back. It’s slightly possible a few shells were smuggled back onboard. But probably not. We would never.
Thanksgiving dinner was…interesting. We were split up into two tables, not quite next to each other, the kids at one, the adults at another (as it should be.) There was some drama when the kids were apparently being rambunctious by going around the table saying what they were thankful for (how dare they?) and some woman from the next table yelled at them to be quiet, then came and yelled at us for parenting such heathens, then went and yelled at them again.
Delightful! I mean, otherwise, it was a nice meal for most of us. I had pumpkin for every course – pumpkin soup, followed by some kind of pasta dish involving a pumpkin cream sauce, and then of course, pumpkin cheesecake. Yay, no turkey for me! Oliver actually ordered and ate some pumpkin cheesecake, he told me later!!!
After dinner, we hit the ice bar on the ship where our thin Southern blood gave up after 20 minutes. It was 17 degrees! I had on a skirt! Well, my brother in law is from New Jersey, he probably could have stayed there all night. Anyway, it was pretty cool. (GET IT?)
Friday: Costa Maya, Mexico – Pam is a sucker!
By this point, handwashing my one pair of shorts in the sink was getting old, so I decided I’d get off the boat and buy a dress or a skirt or something in one of the shops. I also needed to get Linus a souvenir. In one shop, I found an undoubtedly authentic Mayan mask with the Real Madrid logo carved into it. I even haggled the price down five bucks. Perfect! And then I saw a cute cotton embroidered dress. Perfect! The man who was helping me brought it up to the register and told the cashier “$20 for the mask, $85 for the dress, so $105.”
I started hyperventilating. EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS for a cotton dress and the seams weren’t even finished?!?!? The sewist in me was appalled. So I told the guy, “no, I’m sorry, I can’t, I can’t, I just can’t, I can’t, I’ll buy the mask, but I can’t get the dress.” I was freaking out. But I suppose he thought I was being a shrewd negotiator and knocked the price down to $60.
Well, I mean, I guess I could have kept on freaking out, but whatever. It’s my souvenir of Mexico, but hopefully I can do something to finish the seams. I also hemmed it by hand on the boat because it was a bit too long, so I need to do that properly as well, now that I’m home.
Upshot is, I asked Terry how much she pays for those dresses, and she said, “$15-20 in Mexico City or El Paso.” Blargh.
But it’s cute!
Saturday: Day at sea
My sister in law and I created a scavenger hunt for the kids for that day. It was fun. I spent a lot of the day sitting in this one spot on the boat that was pretty peaceful (until the bars out there opened.) It was on the 8th deck, and there were big comfy chairs and sofas and I’d sit there and sew (I brought stuff to hand sew scrunchies) or read. Or maybe have a cocktail.
Family photos came later, but ours will be on Christmas cards, so not posting them yet.
Sunday: Time to go home!
We missed Ziggy.
Okay there’s actually a lot more to the cruise. Like, there was a ropes course! It was fun and not too scary, even the part that went out over the water. I was up there when we were leaving Belize, I think. I had to borrow my brother in law’s running shoes because as noted before, I left one of mine at home. Derp.
And a rock climbing wall! The harness does ugly things to your bottom half in photos, but I’m pretty happy with how high I got. And I like to pause the video to see the muscles in my legs. But MAN it’s hard on your hands!
The boys spent 90% of their time either on the sports court where they played soccer (are you surprised?) or in the #garden where they ate ice cream. Or were in the room watching soccer, because we got some channel that showed soccer 24/7 (or so it seemed.)
Before too much time passes, I have to blog about this year’s Grand Meetup! It was my fifth, can you believe it? (In a way, it’s my sixth at Automattic, but I didn’t go to the 2013 one – but I was on trial and I sure did work my butt off while it happened.)
I hate to say it, but I wasn’t as excited about the GM this year as I have been in the past. I mean, Orlando? It’s hot, whine, whine. One of the greatest things about the GM for the past four years has been the weather. Actual fall weather! In the mountains! And the forecast for Orlando was hotter than New Orleans, bleh. And the only mountain around was Space Mountain, and I wasn’t going to be going near that. And I wouldn’t go on it even if I could (THANKS DAD FOR SCARRING ME FOR LIFE.)
On the bright side, the flight was under two hours and direct! That almost made up for the weather. I mean, not having to take two long flights to Vancouver and then sit on a bus for two hours to get to a (granted, gorgeous, luxurious mountain) resort was amazing. And I did sew all of the clothes I wore (with the exception of my bathing suit and workout clothes and one team t-shirt) so that was stressful fun.
But once I got to the airport in Orlando and started seeing friends, and then to the hotel, well, you know, it was awesome. The whole thing.
We arrived on Saturday and the opening party was around the pool at the hotel. We got fancy water bottles and fun buttons to attach to our lanyards. Needless to say, there was plenty of food and drink and lots of people to catch up with. Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, the boys were at a soccer game, and Miles scored his first goal of competitive soccer! This mama got pretty weepy at having missed it. (Thanks beer!) Sigh. But still, a great night.
Work started the next day – we spent it with our team. Actually, I spent the whole week working with my team, but some people spent other days in classes or working on projects. And then we did have some downtime for socializing. Like in the party suites. And at Disney Springs. Even went to Orangetheory one day.
But the VERY BEST PART of the whole week (erm, aside from, you know, uh, hanging out with my amazing colleagues) was Tuesday night.
Dinner at Harry Potter World!
After hours – so we had that section of Universal to ourselves! It was seriously magical. Of course, I had special outfits for the entire day. My day outfit was my Harry Potter t-shirt with a pinafore, and my evening outfit for HP World was a Harry Potter skirt. We got to ride the rides and there was food and drinks and we could get free ice cream and wander around Diagon Alley and eeeek, it was so awesome. Words can’t really describe. Fortunately, I took pics. Natch.
Day Harry Potter
Cashmerette Upton Skirt
One of the best parts about the GM for me (and the most nerve-wracking) is meeting all of the people I’d interviewed and/or hired over the past year. One of the days we had a Happiness Hour, where all of the Happiness team got together and did some activities (like writing cards that were delivered throughout the GM) and got t-shirts and hung out. The crazy thing is that Happiness is now the size (or maybe bigger) than the whole company was when I joined. Insane!
Sadly, I had to leave a day early because of the boys’ soccer tournament in Pensacola (yes, also Florida) but that’s a post for another day….