Our Portugal Adventure: Day 3

Morning came fast and bright and all that magical wine from last night wasn’t feeling so magical. But, there was zero time for hangovers in Portugal, especially when we were planning on getting to the Quinta da Regaleira before the mobs of people Showed up. But first, coffee and pastries at Georgios – how are Europeans not 400 pounds?! These sweets and breads and cakes would do me in for sure….although I think the key here is to walk everywhere. Sunday morning was sleepier around town as well – we walked in around 9:15 am and only a few older people were there.

Feeling slightly revived, we headed through town, up the hill and into Quinta da Regaleira. By far one of the most eclectic, mysterious, intriguing places I’ve ever been, this palace had extensive gardens with hidden nooks and crannies at every turn.

Paths that would lead you underground, swirling spiral staircases that plunged you deeper into the earth, tunnels that lead to lagoons and grottos, and a series of paths that would pop you out several hundred feet away from where you had been. A mysterious playground of mystical twists and turns.

There were several sections where claustrophobia almost set in….tight caves with narrow walls and lots of people. Luckily, the line to cross the lagoon on mere stepping stones moved fast and we popped out soon enough.

Traveling during the off season is how we usually plan international vacations (having been to Ireland, Amalfi Coast, Costa Rica, Vieques in October or November). I could not imagine the lines in the high season of summer. Regardless, this place can not be described accurately enough to give it justice!

The grounds were extensive and we spent almost three hours poking our heads into every nook, every tunnel, every grotto. It was truly a special place.

After a spectacular few hours, we had seen and explored it all, so decided to walk to Monserrate, another palace with extensive gardens and beautiful interior. Little did we know, it was almost two miles away – not uber far, but we had already walked almost 8 miles that day alone. Well, that’s how we do it, so here we went. Luckily, there’s not a ton of traffic and the weather held (looked as if it was going to down pour there for a minute!). We made it and after paying the 8 Euro per piece, we’re glad we came.

 

Created by Sir Francis Cook, the gorgeous palace consisted of two stories, ornate entryways and arches, a glowing purple ceiling, and beautiful fireplaces. The palace was magnificent, full of architecture wonder.

Looking down from the second floor, you can see the intricate tile and fountain in the entryway – while looking up gives you the glowing purple view.

 

As as gorgeous as the palace and grounds were, we knew we’d have a two mile walk back to town and we’re getting quite hungry. Contemplating the bus, where the ideal states would be to rest and zone out while we got chauffeured back to town…..but that wouldn’t be our style. So, we walked the two plus miles back into town to have a well deserved, albeit expensive, lunch. It was in the heart of town, so we paid for the views and ambiance. Ok by us!

 

The he way home brought us past a street artist, so we stopped to chat and buy a piece of art (the only souvenir I like to bring home with me) and we even got to see him finish and sign our custome piece. For only 10 Euro, this was a steal!

 

We put our feet up for a bit, the found a vegan restaurant, the only one in Sintra, and had a lovely plant based meal. Our time in Sintra had been well spent – we would be off to Odeceixe in the morning.

Our Portugal Adventure: Day 2

Holy exhausted batman! Daylight broke on our second day in Portugal and after an eleven hour sleep (we had only slept a few hours on the red eye the night before, so totally warranted!) we were ready to explore the castle scene. Day 1 in Portugal was spent traveling and scoping out the scene, so we were ready! Our Airbnb, the Wood House, had the perfect amount of amenities, so after showering in the almost big enough for Mike shower, we headed out to breakfast. Having slept until 9 didn’t feel like a waste – we were rested and ready for Sintra.

Our host had recommended pastelaria Gregorio- a small pastry and coffee shop less than a quarter of a mile from our digs – with amazing cakes, pies and empadas. She wasn’t kidding!

We ordered two goat cheese, honey & walnut pies, a sweet roll and two coffees – what a decadent treat!

Although we realized we’d be hungry in less than two hours, it was a beautiful breakfast, one we savored during our luxurious morning.

Our plan for the day involved Pena Palace & Pena Park in the morning (or early afternoon in reality, as we didn’t leave the house till 10!) then checking out Quinta Regaleira in the afternoon. Having WIFI at our Airbnb allowed us to download directions to Pena Palace, which was extremely convenient and extremely different than what we had tried to figure out a la wander yesterday.

The actual road we wanted was steps away from where we were staying, so we’re on our way in minutes, rather than miles. As we made our way up the hill, it was comical how off we were the day prior. We were staying on Bairro Andersen and the street adjacent to ours, R. Dom Joa de Castro, took you directly up towards the Parque Palacio Nacional de Pena. As we climbed, winding through narrow streets, steep one ways and trying to avoid the tuk tuks (which fly around the corners and stall on the hills) we realized how close we were to all of the historical sites. Crazy how a little perspective and a lot of google maps helps out!

 

After about 30 minutes of steep, humid climbing, we saw the swarms of tourists parking any which way along the sides of the narrow streets and knew we were close. The weather wasn’t exactly hot, but the humidity really gets you sticky when walking straight up!

At the top of the hill, we were slammed in the face with tourists – they were all visiting Pena Palace. Every last tourist in Portugal was in line to see the beautiful red and yellow wonder. Oh well, it was on the list of must sees. For only 28 Euro, we both were in! Around the palace lay 90 acres of park, with winding trails taking you to a holy cross, valley of the lakes, tank of the seven pines….but first the palace!

 

The ornate palace only had a few rooms to view, but was absolutely gorgeous. Immediately entering the palace, you walk around a tiled cloister, and could see up to the second floor. The line looped us through the rooms, with old artifacts of King Don Carlos I.

There was a chapel in the back of the palace, with beautiful stain d glass and a gorgeous alter. Then of course, the spectacular views on the terraces, in which you could wonder about. It was completely beautiful and worth the crowds!

For the next hour or so, we wandered around the park, climbing hills, winding down mossy paths….and zero crowds. A little tip if you want to avoid the rush: walk places and take the road less  traveled. Typically that’s how we roll when traveling- off the beaten path is the way we like to go!

Famished after 3 hours in the park (and miles of walking in the Forrest to get back down into town) we headed back into the town center for a wonderful meal at a terrace restaurant. White wine, Super Bach beer, breathtaking views. It had been an amazing afternnoon.

Lunch had revived our aching legs and spirits (when checking our mileage at the end of the day, we had racked up 10 miles on Saturday) so we decided to check out Quinta – even though it was after four pm at this point. At least we’d know where it was for the morning if it was too late to go in. And up the hill and around the bend we went, hitting the Quinta da Regaleira, a beautiful ornate palace with multiple steeples and dripping with goblins and creatures of all sorts. Truly a site to see. We were in fact too late, and would only have an hour to peruse if we decided to enter, so we passed, as we’d go fresh in the morning to wander at our leisure.

Headed back into towns center, we stopped at a local mercado for some vino – verde y rojo- & local Portugal beer.  The white wine is what they call green – and both red and white were under 5 Euros a bottle! And were actually really good!

We took the bottles back to our little wooden house and decompressed from the day. The nights dinner would be the fanciest we’d been to in Sintra – Tabernacle Criativa, with chef Vitor Rocha. Passing it earlier on Friday, while we were still getting our head about us in our new digs, I took note of the lovely ambiance and knew I wanted to experience what they were serving. It was delicious and where we sampled our first port – a dry white while we perused the menu. The night was perfect and we headed back to the wood house to listen to music and drink more wine!

Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Everyone knows the John Muir quote ‘The mountains are calling and I must go’ – especially if you live in Colorado. This year marks the 45th year of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where the gorgeous San Juans are the back drop for a 4 day music festival with Bluegrass legends, camping and all the outdoor adventure you want. And we answered the call.

Our amazing crew has been true festivarians for years, knowing the ins and outs of navigating the festival and we were lucky enough to be included in the gang. Mike actually got a gig working backstage security, a paying gig where he’d work a 6-8 hour shift everyday/night and in return get two meals a day, a free camping & festival ticket, and $400. It was a no brainer! Planning started months before the actual event so we knew what to pack, although there’s nothing that actually prepares you for the amazingness that is the Telluride Bluegrass fest, especially the way Whitney (Queen B of camp TC) does it.

Our caravan headed out of Arvada late morning on Wednesday June 20, packing Mike’s F250 to the gills. Our girlfriends, Stacia & Anna, carpooled with us, making the 6 hour ride super fun, with car games galore! We stopped at Eddyline, in Buena Vista to break up the trip & grab some delicious lunch and beer. A citra IPA & quinoa salad hit the spot!

Telluride welcomed us around 5:45pm, the perfect lighting to unload. Our site was in Warner field, a converted baseball field that would serve as home base for the next four days. Navigating to left field with loaded wagons and wheel barrels, we shuffled back and forth unloading all the gear, food & booze. The views were absolutely amazing…We had arrived! Whitney, Dusty & Kelly had taken the gondola to mountain village for a free Little Smokies show, so we grabbed brews and set up our camp. The compound the early crew had assembled was nothing short of phenomenal. Complete with a kitchen, cooler tent, multiple hanging lights and decorative lanterns, our camp was by far the most impressive setup I had ever seen! The crew had come in early to line up at 6am Wednesday to set up shop and damn their efforts paid off! Instead of being crammed into a small patch, our compound spanned 25 by 50 feet, with 10 tents, 5 sunshades and an open space where the grills and kitchen was set up. Glamping isn’t even the right word to describe the fabulousness!

After our tents were pitched, we headed to get our wristbands (our tickets for all 4 days of camping & music) then headed to High Pie (where we had watched the Birds victory at this years super bowl). Huge pizzas were ordered, beers were drank & gratitude was felt all around for making it safe. Back at camp we found the early crew and decided to head over to Town Park, another campground that had authentic dirt, trees, rolling grounds and elaborate shanty towns set up. In a number of these were musicians strumming, picking and singing Bluegrass.

Small hippie dressed crowds gathered round to watch and sing along, creating a woodland concert. A really beautiful and unique night!

The next morning we arose early for the first tarp run. If you’ve never been to TBF, this is a foreign concept, but the seasoned veterans have it down to a science. You stand in line to receive a ticket, which gave you a spot in line later in the morning to run inside the venue to reserve your spot for that days’ lineup. The lower thre number, the better chance at reserving a good spot! Whitney had teamed up with another group to ensure we’d get the best position for the day.

This year they randomized the numbers, giving the first person in line just as much chance for a decent number as the 200th person in line. And they had 750 numbers! Once Larry (the ticket handler) arrived, the crowd arranged into a semi-straight line, we got our numbers (47 was the day’s winner!) and headed back to camp for more coffee and burritos. Whitney had made over 90 for the group (although I packed all my own plant-based food) so we munched and conversed about that day’s activity before the music.

A few of us decided to mountain bike on Telluride mountain, so headed to the gondola (which was free!) to ride up. The trail would take us all the way back to town, flowing mostly downhill. A super fun, not too technical, 11.6 mile ride, with some loose turns, rocks and roots to navigate. A wonderful way to spend the early afternoon, pre-music. Heading through town on bikes was super fun too and so convenient to be able to bike straight to camp without touching a car.

I got lunch together when we got back: Bahn Mi rice noodle bowls with homemade pickled veggies and baked tofu. Totally hit the spot! Mike had to work the 4 to 11:30 shift, so after lunch headed out while we got ready for the afternoon of music. Our campsite was a stones throw from the venue, making it extremely convenient to shuffle back and forth for more water, booze, snacks or reprieve from the music and sun.

Our tarp runners had reserved two clutch spots, one up front and a sun-shaded spot in the back, equipped with blankets, tapestries and chairs to enjoy the scene out of the Colorado sun. We had quite the hookup, courtesy of the TBG veterans in our group.

The Wood Brothers were the first set I caught that day & they did not disappoint! We saw them last summer in Steamboat for a free concert…they were awesome! I’m with Her followed, a beautiful women group with amazing harmony.

Throughout the afternoon, I’d pop over to see Mike at his post, which was at the entrance to backstage: total VIP. The crew headed back to fix some food before that evenings’ headliner Tedeschi Trucks Band…which was an amazing show! Susan has the most beautiful voice and with the lights, sky, and amazing crowd, it was truly a spectacular Day 1 of the festival.

The night was low key after the shows’ end, but some went to Town Park in search of strummin’ & pickin’. A day for the books!

Friday arrived with coffee, burritos & talk of another MTB ride. Holly, Jaime, Janine, Steve, Mike and I headed back up the gondola to headed down Village Way, to Jurassic Trail, to Meadow way. Well, while taking a loose turn, my back tire fish tailed, I braked and flew over the handlebars, scraping and bruising quite a few places on my body, including my chin, both palms, ankle, knee, inside of my elbow and upper thigh. A mess!

Shaken, but not defeated, I got back on the bike and we rode down, this time going a short ways to make it to the Telluride Brewery.

Oh sweet nectar to wash away the pain! This small brewery had over 20 beers on tap, including a kettle sour, Senor Gomez, that was absolutely thirst quenching. Thoroughly watered, we hopped on our bikes and rode the 4 miles back to town. In one of the pavilion areas we happened upon a beautiful sounding violinist. The beauty of the TBF weekend – music everywhere!

Back at Camp we decided to hit the river after our lunch, so changed into swimwear and jumped into the icy waters. Woah, it really wakes you up!

Refreshed and rejuvenated, we sunned ourselves dry & headed back to camp, where Mike changed for work, and I chilled with the crew until heading in for the Infamous Stringdusters, followed by Emmylou Harris. I headed up to the front for the legend Emmylou, who is still rocking it at 71. Back to camp for fresh libations & food before heading in to see Greensky Bluegrass- Whitney’s favorite!

Mike let me know that he’d be allowed to get 10 of us into the pit, which was the VIP section in front. So, at 10:15, a few of us were ushered to the front to watch the best act of the weekend! A total once in a lifetime experience!! We hung for awhile that evening, Mike having just gotten off his shift, then headed to bed to snuggle (it was 40 degrees out!)

Saturday was a little slower getting up, although Mike had to giddy up to work….so, Amanda and Kelly stood in line for the tarp run, Mike went to his security detail, and I hung in camp and drank coffee!  Afterwards, I headed into the venue, our co-team lugged in a couch & we all hung to listen to the tunes. The weather was phenomenal!

A few took a short hike up to some small waterfalls – so I joined, thinking I’d save my energy for the Via Ferrata we were planning to do later (unfortunately, we didn’t end up going, dang it!). That left me sleepy, so I headed back to the compound and laid about….in our amazing spread of a camp! The crew came back to grub, Mike got off work (although he went back to the VIP area to eat dinner, which was apparently gourmet, and he completely rubbed it in!) then we all headed back into the venue until about 8ish, when we headed back to give our girl Nicole a surprise birthday celebration.

She was ringing in her 30th, a new decade, in one of the most beautiful towns, with one of the coolest crews (ok I’m biased). A really remarkable night for a remarkable girl! We had some brownie cake then headed into the front row for Leftover Salmon – which Mike was able to get us dead center yet again. It’s good to know people with orange hats. The night was incredible!

Sunday morning was even slower than Saturday, as you can imagine after 3 days of bluegrass, early mornings, late nights, camping shenanigans and fumanchoos (don’t ask!). My girl Stacia and I headed to hike Bear Creek falls, a beautiful 5.6 mile hike to a waterfall, steep without being unbearable, and just enough to get the heart pumping, sweat dripping, landing us in one of the most beautiful valleys in Colorado just gorgeous!

Mike, Dusty, Jaime, Holly and a few others biked the same trails I ate it on….and all met back at camp, where another river bath ensued. Mike then left for work and I, beat with happiness, hung back at camp. I only made it in for a bit that evening, knowing we’d have to leave uber early, but with a happy, full heart. Monday morning we hit the road to reality….leaving one of the best festivals, best weekends, best feelings I’ve gotten from a group of people gathering in one place to celebrate life, music, love, and the beauty of nature. It was my first Telluride Bluegrass Fest, but won’t be my last!