Friday, December 27, 2019


Welcome to my travel blog. To access specific entries listed in the Index below, go to Blog Archives to the right--Click on the year, then the month to access the blog entry of interest.

Most recent 2018 & 2019 blogs have pics embedded.  For prior entries, some photo albums now start with "" Copy the entire link embedded in the narrative and paste it in to your browser. To return to the blog, rather than close, hit the "Back" arrow, upper left on your screen.  If the pic link starts "http:picasa..." I haven't yet updated it, so it's not going to work--let me know what trip you are reading about & I'll try to make time to update the pic links to that album.

I love feedback/dialogue. If you comment at the end of the blog, I don't get alerted. So, while I welcome your comments here on the blog, please email me with your observations, pertinent information and/or questions.

John Lowry

BTW, my middle name is Ernest (That's Hemmingway next to me, at the Floridita Bar in Havana).


November 2019 - Portugal
March 2019 - Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato & Puerto Vallarta
February 2018 - Oaxaca and Huatulco
February 2017 - Oaxaca and Huatulco
January 2016 - Nicaragua
December 2014 - Italy, Greece, Turkey
November 2013 - Costa Rica, Nicaragua & Honduras
November 2012 - Cuba and Playa del Carmen
July 2011 - Puerto Vallarta, San Sebastian del Oeste
November 2010 - Thanksgiving Road Trip
November 2010 - Kaua'i
May 2010 - Teton Village - My Gemini 65th BD Party
April & May 2010 - Dispatches from Zihuatanejo to Oaxaca
October 2009 - Big Retirment Trip, N Italy, Posts 1 and 2
June 2009 - Ecuador in Ellensburg
November 2008 - Yucatan 2008
November 2008 - Cuba 2008
June 2008 - Remembering Harold
April 2008 - Sanny's Union
March 2008 - Hawaii, second and first
February 2008 - Blog creation day
November 2006 – Oaxaca
November 2005 – Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta
June 2005 – Cabo
November 2004 - Oaxaca
September 2004 – China and Tibet
November 2003 – Cuba and Mexico
November 2002 – New Zealand and Australia

Portugal, November 2019

Blog, Portugal, Nov 1 – 13, 2019
Danielle took us to Sea Tac, plenty of time to catch our first leg—To Chicago.  Next, redeye to Heathrow.  I watched a couple of movies, including The Art of Racing in the Rain—tears welded up a couple of times, knowing that  CoCo does not have much more time…
We kept waiting for our gate to be announced for our next flight—to Madrid.  After more than hour of delay, it was clear we wouldn’t make our connection in Madrid, for Porto (AKA Oporto).  We got to the Iberia desk in time to get on an earlier plane, that got us to Madrid in time to make our flight to Porto.  But our luggage didn’t come on that flight.  The process for applying for lost luggage was relatively painless & Iberia Airlines brought our bags to the hotel the next day.
Lucy has gone on several Knitting with Nicky tours.  Kate has gone on a couple (South of France, Florence & Venice), Nate on the one to Prague, Vienna & Budapest.  Providing I can add my own thing afterwards (4 nights in Barcelona), I agreed to come along.  A group of almost 30, there are 5 of us husbands, one making an effort to knit. 
In writing this blog, I am borrowing extensively from the itinerary Nicky sent.  Gate1 is our tour company. Ercillia (Celia) is our excellent Portuguese guide & keeps us moving.  I can’t remember getting up by alarm clock day after day since retiring 17 years ago!
We arrived a day early, as Lucy likes to do on these tours.  We visited the train station in Porto’s historic downtown, famous for its murals with Nicky, her husband Howie & Emily.

We then hiked up the street, bought our tickets & got in line to visit the bookstore made famous by Harry Potter movies.  Emily, with a career in publishing, found the bookstore over-rated.  They have certainly figured out how to cash in on tourism!

After greeting dinner in Porto Sunday eve, we toured Porto Monday, visiting a port winery, taking a cruise on the Douro River, got caught in a rain squall.

After cloudy & rainy weather, we were greeted with blue skies Tuesday as we bused north, to birthplace of nation of Portugal—towns of Guimaraes & Braga, visiting historic castles & churches.

Wednesday, after saying goodbye to the Crown Plaza Hotel in Porto, we bused though Buçaco National Park to Coimbra, the third-largest city in Portugal, to visit the University of Coimbra, among the oldest universities in Europe with more than 700 years of history. In the afternoon, on to Fatima, one of the most important Catholic shrines in the world, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Its Sanctuary welcomes millions of pilgrims each year, from all over the world. Fatima's fame is due to the Apparitions of Our Lady of the Rosary that appeared to three shepherd children in 1917. 

On to Tomar, staying at Hotel Dos Templarios.
Thursday, 11/7, after a nice breakfast buffet, we visited hilltop Convento de Christo, Celia giving us the history of the castle.  After first few days of intermittent rain & only brief periods of sun, a beautiful, sunny morning.  I took so many pics my camera battery died, so I had to return to the hotel room to charge it, before visiting historic center of Tomar in the afternoon.  'Spent a 2nd night in Tomar.

Friday, continuing on our Mercedes Benz bus, we stopped at Castelo de Vide.

On to the cork factory.  Celia talked up the great buys to be had there.  My wallet, purchased in Istanbul almost 5 years ago, is beginning to age.  The cork ones at the factory were not designed to securely hold credit cards.  Lucy was excited about making a deal--having cork fabric shipped to her. 

Night in Evora.  As we entered our “non-smoking” room in the hotel, it had a noticeable smell of stale cigarette smoke.  Fortunately, we got a differed room, which is fine—big, nice view toward historic town on the hill.  Celia took us on a walking tour the next morning, starting with the castle, then along cobblestone streets with shops.  We got Rowan a cow bell.

Saturday we got to know Evora, it’s walls, cathedral, cobbled streets.
Sunday we arrived in Lisbon.  We began with a view of the16th century Belem Tower, a monument to Portugal's Age of Discovery.  Next, we visited the Jeronimos Monastery, an impressive symbol of the country's power and wealth and resting place of explorer Vasco de Gama. We then walked through the winding cobblestone streets of Alfama, the old Fisherman's Quarter.

Monday we bused to the countryside near Lisbon. ‘Was raining on arrival in medieval Obidos, with its walls, labyrinth of cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses, and beautiful vistas.

The bus continued on to Alcobaça, to visit the Church of Santa Maria. It was the first building in Portugal to adopt the Gothic style and is the largest church in the country. We viewed the decorated tombs of King Pedro I and his lover Inês de Castro.

 Lastly, we stopped for lunch at the charming fishing harbor of Nazaré before heading back to Lisbon.
Tuesday, after knitting class & shopping at yarn shop, we bused to quaint Sintra, the “Glorious Eden” of Lord Byron, and ancient summer retreat of the royal court, highlighted by lavish romantic castles and stunning monuments. 'Visited 15th century Sintra Royal Palace, containing one of the largest tile collections in Portugal. 

Lunch in the Village Historical Center.  I enjoyed the house pizza.  During a visit to the bathroom, I felt a slight brush, as a guy passed by, while I was old man taking extra time to fully finish voiding.  On return to our table, I discovered that my wallet, that should have been in my zippered pocket, was not there!  I didn’t immediately recall the close encounter in the bathroom, hoping I had left the wallet in the hotel room.  But, on return, it was not there.  Contacting Chase bank about the Visa & debit cards that were in the wallet, I was informed the thief had already tried to go wild with it.  Attempts for larger purchases, including a 4500 Euro purchase at a jewelry store, were denied.  Fortunately, the bank readily held me harmless.  I should learn—I had my wallet lifted while getting on a train in Naples a few years ago, as well as separated from my wallet & camera on a crowded bus in Mexico City years ago.  Third time's the charm, right--I declare I'm now immune to future pickpocketing!
Farewell dinner Tuesday night was delicious.  I was sad I didn’t have a better appetite.  This trip has involved lots of big meals, beginning each morning with breakfast buffets.
Before leaving home, 12 & ½ year old CoCo was ailing.  A few weeks ago, her left eye socket suddently began receding.   She began losing her appetite. After the vet prescribed steroids, her appetite came back gangbusters.  But she began panting a lot & having problems with control.  Christina, our apartment manager, has always been fond of CoCo & is one of the most devoted dog owners I’ve ever met. If her Lab, Louie, hasn’t had at least an hour’s exercise for the day, she feels totally neglectful.  As our trip progressed, Christina reported CoCo became increasingly weak, in spite of being in good spirits.
With CoCo failing fast, we decided on Tuesday to cancel the 4 days in Barcelona that I had planned.  Both of us were also suffering from colds.  We were able to get flights home, overnighting near Heathrow.   We didn’t make it home it time to say our goodbyes to CoCo.  Dustin was there, with the gentle assistance of pet hospice.  CoCo now rests on the Chrisella hillside, with our pets spanning 4 decades.
While I looked forward to our 4 days in Barcelona, it’s fortunate that we didn’t extend our Iberian stay.  My research is a foundation for another trip.