Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lisbon, Portugal with students

The pressing question of any senior class at Schutz is, "Where do we go for our class trip?" With some suggestions and nudging on my end and with a presentation by one of the students, Lisbon, Portugal received the most votes.    

Planning such an outing is always a challenge. We had to think about where to stay and what to do on an official level that jives with the school's learning outcomes. The rest is of the planning was devoted to how much consumerism and sleep the kids needed to keep the trip afloat. It is a delicate balance. In the end; we came, we saw, and we shopped. Hopefully horizons were broadened and new skills were acquired over a period of 3.5 days.  

My wife Ana and I have known this group of students for seven years. It is a bittersweet feeling that they will be graduating in two weeks and "break-up" as they move off to college in the fall. They have all grown up with each other and been through thick and thin. As our school mission statement declares: Schutz is Family...and like real families it can be dysfunctional at times. Being with this group has been the best of times and the worst of times. But what can I say, I love them all and wish them the best in the future.
Minutes after landing, we found ourselves at the Fados Museum located in the historic Alfama neighborhood. Detail of José Malhoa's O Fado painted in 1910.
Former math teacher, Mr. Ropke surprised the kids by showing up to dinner. Photo by Ms. Salli.
A trip to Lisbon isn't complete without an Fados show. However I would strongly suggest NOT attending a three hour Fados show/dinner after traveling nearly 20 hours.
A moon can be your friend.
Teenage selfies are always in fashion every 200 meters.
A view of Miradouro do Parque Eduardo VII.

Pena National Palace.
No trip to Lisbon is complete without a trip to Pena National Palace in Sintra.
A walk from Pena National Palace to Castle of the Moors weeds out a student or two.
Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra
Belém Tower.
Lisbon Oceanarium has penguin. A plus in my book.
Taking pictures of people taking pictures.
Makes you want to jump right in.
A jelly fish fan I am, unless I rub up against one.
Lisbon Oceanarium is billed as one of the best in the world.
Somehow a zoo or an aquarium is always on the itinerary for a senior trip.
  Free hugs.
Never seen one of these.
Lisbon Oceanarium hosts a 360 tank with many side exhibits.
Called "The Sexiest WC on Earth" this bathroom located in Praça do Comércio alongside the river and arch. Yes, you have many colors of toilet paper to choose from...and won't stain so they say.
And not to mention the fine art which decorates the walls. The company which owns the colorful toilets is Renova, the largest paper company in Portugal. At least that is what the attendant told me. Sadly the kids missed out on this landmark.
Praça do Comércio
  More important then helmets are head lice condoms. Segways are also an important ingredient of a senior trip.
Mirrored off the design of the Golden Gate Bridge, The 25th of April Bridge is equally as stunning.
No seats on the train to Cascias? no problemo!
Tell boys they can swim in the cold Atlantic and off they go.
Boca de Inferno in Cascais.
Parque Marechal Carmona in Cascais is the home to many peacocks, but we only saw one. However the roosters have taken over the joint.
Castle of the Moors
Ana and had missed Quinta da Regaleira in the past. It was one of the best sites of the trip. The caves, waterfall, towers, and well were amazing. Put this on your list when visiting Sintra. I have been to Salvador Dali's home in Spain, but this place was much stranger and more mysterious on a different level. 
Inside Quinta da Regaleira.

The staircase inside the The Masonic Initiation Well in Quinta da Regaleira. Most of the kids were pooped and sat on the benches at the entrance. They totally missed out. The adventurous were treated to quite an experience.
Looking up the well.
My partner in crime-Ms. Salli filling in for our beloved Ms. Kelly who is recovering nicely from her brain hemorrhage/surgery/coma. A true miracle that Ms. Kelly is still with us, not only that, but the fact she can talk/see/move with the prospect of near full recovery. Ms. Kelly, if you or your Massimo reads this, he owes you a trip to Lisbon.   
An outside view.
The outcome of wearing kids (and Adults) out on my monster walks. In the words of my and Chris Shary's band Robot Enemy: The process of weeding out is for real. 
So Salli and I were kidnapped (not really) by an old man taxi who had his own agenda on where we should go. We finally begged him to left us out in Alfama, but not after taking us to see other parts of Lisbon with stunning views of the city. He spoke to me in Portuguese and I communicated with him in broken Spanish. What should have been a 10 minute ride turned into a 30 minute adventure. Well worth every Euro. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Naxos, Greece

Naxos was our love/hate affair with Greece island hopping mainly for the reason of Ana's father contacting some sort of lung infection that put him in the hospital for three days. Ximena also fell victim to the same virus, but escaped with a round of antibiotics. Speaking of escaping, Ana's dad was ready to escape from the hospital. We all got a firsthand taste of how Government hospitals operate in Greece. They weren't bad, but then again we have been living in Egypt and Ethiopia over the last seven years. Blood tests, X-rays, checking in and out were mostly smooth and efficient. A tourist settling a bill has been a more complicated story.

The quality time we did have on Naxos was spent in a car winding up and down narrow lanes along the edge of cliffs with stunning views of valleys and waves crashing against rocks. As the driver, I didn't take my eyes off the road too many times. In the end, we left some unexplored terrain. At some point we will remedy our lost time and return to the beauty of Naxos to learn more about Bacchus and Ariadne.   

A small cup of local fresh wine helps with the nerves after driving around Naxos. Speaking of wine, I had several glasses of retsina during our trip. Retsina wine is of the white variety with a pine taste. While in Ethiopia, our friends Andreas and Lorna introduced us to it. I don't know many folks who like the flavor.
Naxos still life: goat cheese, fresh wine, aged wine, pizza, and olives is the perfect hotel room dinner. So, about the pizza. Pizzadelia serves up some of the best pies we've had. The owner uses local cheese and toppings on thin crust and bakes it with love. The owner and his brother also make a fresh red wine each season. We couldn't get enough. Another one of our favorite eateries that will leave you with a couple of extra kilos was Maro's Taverna. Tasty home cooking (the drunken pig) with excellent service. It was hard to try anything beyond those two places.      
The winds arrived and made the island shake.
Sweet ride.
The central part of Chora still consists of older building and a castle.
Sign painting is still practiced on the island. To gain entrance into the restaurant, one must duck under the arch as show by the painting. 
Plan on getting lost.
Who's there...
Another restaurant with romantic signage.
Bring your own brick, a knockoff of Egyptian architecture.
Another hand painted sign spotted next to our hotel. A cornucopia of goodness.
The internet states Olympic Air has ceased operations and was bought out by Aegean Airlines...I beg to differ.
When we were researching Naxos, this very parrot was on someone's blog. Now it is on mine too. Time to start a movement for Rusty the red parrot.
The castle from afar.
The port.
You can't escape Naxos without running into something associated with the Temple of Apollo.
Chora from the Temple of Apollo.
Agii Apostoli is a cruciform, domed Byzantine church of the 10th-11th centuries and of rare architectural style, being the only two-storey church found on Naxos. Source:
Just driving around.
Looking for bees.

If you look for it, you will find it.

A common sight on the road.
Someone loves the beach.
One of the many views from the road. We were surprised that we didn't roll down the hills.
Sand = Yummy.
Ximena's Greek pediatrician has cool art on her walls.