Ponte de Lima and Monastery of St. John d’Arga: Paulo’s Portugal (part two)

An exploration of the Norte Region of Portugal with a local

Monastery de St. John de Arga, an 8th century monastery in the mountains outside of Viana do Castelo
The ancient Monastery of St. John d’Arga, nestled in the mountains outside of Viana do Castelo


In our last post, I talked about touring Viana do Castelo with Paulo.  The remainder of our visit with our friend  was spent exploring the stunning countryside around his hometown.  We went to an ancient village and then to an even older monastery tucked away in a forest.  We also drove a winding road through the mountains.  The next day, Paulo drove us from Viana do Castelo to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where we would catch a bus to Madrid for our flight back to the U.S.  On the way to Santiago, he took us on a meandering path up the Spanish coastline, showing us some of his favorite Atlantic Coast beaches.

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Barcelona, Spain: Modernista works of art

An exploration of the most famous architecture in Barcelona

The original Stormtroopers? Statues on the rooftop of Gaudí’s Casa Milà that some say inspired the imagination of George Lucas (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


In our last post, I wrote about the inimitable Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and his masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia.  While this may be his most famous creation and one of the most visited sites in Barcelona, Gaudí and his modernista contemporaries have a whole slew of other works in and around the city that are also worth exploring.

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Barcelona, Spain: Gaudí and his Sagrada Familia

Barcelona’s bold Gaudi

The Sagrada Familia. Source: “Sagrada Familia 01” by Bernard Gagnon  (Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be a writer.  In elementary school, I wrote all the time, stories about my family and ghosts and about a talking cow name Betsy who had super powers and a knack for saving the world.  As I grew older, my desire to write didn’t lessen, but I developed something most people are familiar with–fear of failure, a death-knell to the creative spirit.  I abandoned the fantastical stories, instead joining the newspaper and writing articles about sporting events and the Homecoming Dance.  After high school, I gave up writing altogether, except for occasional attempts at a novel or a short story, all of which sputtered to a halt as soon as self-doubt entered the picture.  I had lost faith in my ability to create.

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Barcelona’s Roman roots and ruins

Funerary tombstone (Fifth century A.D.), most likely belonging to someone of importance in the church.


We love history, and we also dig seeing really old stuff; in Europe, there is no end to either.  Like all of the great cities we visited, Barcelona has a rich history stretching back thousands of years, and opportunities for exploration and learning were endless.  We especially enjoyed seeing the city’s Roman ruins, which seemed to be all over the place.

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Barcelona: Our introduction to the wonders of Spanish cuisine

Neither of us are foodies. That’s not saying we don’t love to eat–oh boy, do we love to eat.  But we can’t really tell you what makes a restaurant special beyond the fact that it has amazing food; we can’t tell you why a particular food trend is trendy, or exactly why Spanish cuisine is considered by many to be without equal.  But what we do know is that we had some of the best meals of our lives in Spain, and it all started in our first Spanish city, Barcelona.

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Barcelona, Spain: First impressions

A really cool statue in the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy, a Baroque-style church built in the 1800’s.  You go, girl!

Of all the cities we visited in Europe, Barcelona was one of our favorites.  There are so many things to love about the city, including a rich culture and complex history, some of the most important architecture in the world, a fascinating Gothic Quarter, beautiful beaches, wonderful food, friendly people, and world-class shopping.

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