Tag Archives: Cascais

Threatened Childhood…not here.

Recently,  I read an article that rated Portugal as one of the top countries in the world to raise children.  Initially, this article struck me as odd. My daughters would tell you that the children of Portugal, in general, can be pretty physical.   Both of my girls have been involved in minor altercations this school year, with my younger daughter getting into a serious beat down.

Of course, addressing aggressive children isn’t one of the main criteria in determining the value of a country for families.  I am sure they used some scientific way to determine that Portugal is an awesome place for kids.  Today, I witnessed a pretty solid reason.  It was the Day of Children in Portugal.  In towns and cities across the country, free festivals celebrated kids.

When I decided to take the girls to the festival, and some of their friends, I had loaded my wallet with small change to pay for rides, bouncy castles, the standard ‘fair attractions.’  When we arrived in the main square of Cascais, we were greeted by a serious party.  Balloons everywhere, music, bouncy houses, bikes, trains, skateboards, wooden stilts, homemade wooden board games…the list continues.  My children’s eyes were like enormous pancakes scanning the scene and preparing to conquer.  I braced myself for crazy.

They first saw a skateboard/scooter/rollerblade course and headed over.  Maggie has never rollerbladed before, but she waited in line and got suited up.  This included a hairnet so that there was no chance of getting lice from the helmet sharing.  This brought tears to my eyes.  I fear nothing more than lice (sadly, this statement is pretty much true).  The young girl who assisted Maggie was awesome.  She looked genuinely pleased to have my gigantic daughter lean on her and she was truly excited when she finally seemed to skate alone.

The girls won prizes at another booth and even planted pots of vegetables to take home and grow in their own gardens.  All of this cost me nothing.  NOTHING.  There wasn’t even vendors selling crap.  No food trucks.  Just tent after tent of free activities and games.

I was starting to wear down because normally I tell the kids that I will only spend so much money and then we leave. I didn’t have a good barometer as to when I should escape this festival because it was costing me nothing.  They ran from one cool thing to the next.   Maggie was even interviewed by a Portuguese radio station that allowed her to answer in English and praised her when she spoke the little Portuguese she knows well.

If today is any indication, children are celebrated in Portugal.  I didn’t witness one parent yelling at their child, nor did I see any kid acting bratty.  I am sure it happened, but thankfully I avoided anything that might mar my glorious afternoon.  People were happy.  They were enjoying a sunny day with their offspring.

The only downside was that I never found food to feed my kids because there were no commercial elements at all.  At first, I was thrilled to not spend money, but we did get hungry.   If my priest had been with us, he would have gone insane seeking out food….the man gets hungry.  We satisfied ourselves with some churros (Portuguese invention) and ate lunch like Euro trash at 3 pm.


According to Save the Children:

Top 10 Places Where childhood is least threatened

1 Norway
1 Slovenia
3 Finland
4 Netherlands
4 Sweden
6 Portugal
7 Ireland
8 Iceland
8 Italy
10 Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, South Korea

Half marathon…Portuguese style

I have run many marathons and half marathons.  It was my thing for awhile.  After kids, a full marathon seemed like too much work.  Lots of training, lots of recovery.  I shifted my sites to half marathons.  Less distance equals less recovery time and much less training time.

There is a boy at church who needed some motivation.  He was told he had to slim down some because of a medical condition he has.  I told him we would do a half marathon together to help him get in shape.  We signed up for the Cascais half.  At home when I signed up for a race, I did so online.  I paid my money and I got an email confirmation.  It was fast and easy and usually costs anywhere from $50-$100, depending on the course and location.

In Portugal, you sign up on line, then you have to go to the bank and transfer money from your account to the account of the race.  Bizarre.  The ATM machines can handle the task, but since my bank card is Portuguese, it won’t operate in English, so I had to get help.  The whopping cost of the run €14 or about $17 USD.  Pretty sweet price.

Now, I would not say I properly trained for this run.  I ran, but never for that long.  I did run loads of hills, but I never got a chance to cover any serious distance.  It has been a busy few months.  I was anxious, but I knew the run wasn’t about me, it was about helping out a friend.  This made it all more manageable.

We went to the expo to pick up our race numbers.  I expected what I would expect at home.  Vendors selling everything to do with running.  What I got was nothing.  You just line up and show them your receipt and get your number, your time chip and the race shirt.  Alright then.  Easy and not at all commercial.

The run was on Sunday morning.  It started at a very civil 10 am.  My priest was at church during that time, presumably praying for his wife.

There were a few porta potties near the starting line of the race.  We lined up to use them.  When it was my turn, I entered and the entire thing started to move.  I thought I was going to fall over or worse have the toilet fall over and cover me in its lovely contents.  I exited alive, but it was touch and go.  I made a bold announcement for everyone to avoid that toilet because I nearly died….the runners started laughing.  Apparently, all the toilets are like that because of the uneven tile.  Not embarrassing…at all.  Ugh.

The race began like any other except we had a moment of silence before the gun went off in memory of a woman who died.  It was literally completely silent.  No one was chatting with their friend, no one was adjusting their shoes…they just stood there.  When it was over the race began.  So quietly.  It was impressive.

The course had some major hills.  It was tricky, but it was also stunning.  We ran beside the ocean for over 10 miles.

There were very few water stations, but when they had one they gave out full water bottles.  It was bizarre.  I didn’t want to waste, but I couldn’t drink a full bottle and I didn’t want to carry it with me while I ran.  There ended up being miles littered with water bottles (I went back the next day to show the kids where I ran and I couldn’t see evidence of even one water bottle.  Excellent clean up crew.).

There were also very few women running.  It was largely just men and unlike the other races I have done where you see all types of fitness levels and all types of people, here it was a pretty fit looking group.  The course had a 3 hour time limit.

We finished with 15 minutes to spare.  My friend had never run farther than 8 kilometers before, so he pushed himself and he triumphed. I admit he did want to stop a few times, but I held his hand and I ran with him.  It was a great feeling to forget about myself and my exhaustion and to focus on him.  I wanted him to accomplish his goal and in doing so, I got to experience a different kind of joy.  I was happy to finish, but I was much happier to finish hand in hand with a friend who needed some encouragement.

Maggie’s perspective

Maggie loves to take pictures. She tries to call them Tumblr. She spends too much time looking for unique shots, but I must say I think she does do a pretty cool job.

You can see more of her cool pictures on Instagram: @magnificent_maggie32

Maggie’s new penny board on a cool Lisbon sidewalk.

Flowers for sale

Carousel ticket in Cascais

Stairs leading into the only vegetarian restaurant in our neighborhood.

Ferris wheel in Lisbon

Carousel of death…I may just be a hero…maybe.

I took Pippa to the beautiful antique carousel in Cascais. We bought €10 worth of tickets in October…which gives us 12 rides.  No one else was there, so we turned in a ticket and Pippa hopped on the ride.  At the last minute, this lady put her approximately 18 month old kid on a stationary elephant…it was a basket on top of an elephant to be exact.  Then she proceeded to go and talk on her phone on a bench near the carousel.

I was enjoying watching Pippa.  She was quite thrilled and then I noticed the little boy attempting to escape from the carousel.  The first time he passed me he just seemed agitated.  The second  pass he was getting pretty determined to escape.  By his third pass, I was freaking out.  I ran to where he was and I tried to tell him to not jump out.  The kid spoke no English, so I just shouted no in Portuguese.  This did not make him happy.  Meanwhile, his mother is clueless, still chatting on her phone.  I am running beside the carousel trying to convince this kid to not jump out.  My hands were full, but I threw everything on the ground, including my purse, and tried to grab the kid as he tried to jump.  He was screaming at me and trying to kick me…finally… the mother heard and casually, while still on the phone, restrained him.  She said nothing to me about my valient rescue attempt.  She didn’t even flinch.

At home, kids are not allowed on a carousel alone until at least 3.   How do I know this? My children have been obsessed with carousels forever and I have had to pay admission to ride them in order to keep them safe.   I have no official tally of how much money I have wasted, but as I said before I am a sucker.    When the woman eventually hung up her phone call, she made eye contact with me and mouthed the words ‘thank you.’  I told Pippa I was a Higglytown hero… if you don’t know what that is just google it.  Apparently there are no rules in Portugal as to how young a child can be when they ride alone on the carousel.  Just another example of my North American sensibilities screwing me over.  Maybe Portugal will teach me how not to be so over protective…then again it might also make me crazy anxious for even more kids than my own.

 This photo was taken before my heroic rescue attempt.


I am a sucker for Mary.

Maggie’s school just had their Christmas show. To say I had low expectations, would be an understatement. In my experience, Christmas shows are painful. Long, endless productions where you watch your kid and look at your watch.

Maggie was chosen to be Mary. I am not sure if this is because she is the best actress, or because her dad is a priest and they wanted to win favor…either way, she was thrilled.

She practiced relentlessly.  She sang non-stop.   She was nervous.  We crowded into her school auditorium.  Standing room only.  As we waited for it to begin, I heard countless different languages being spoken around me.  I always love that.  People from all parts of the world, living in Cascais, Portugal for various reasons, all choosing to send their precious kids to this Christian school.

The play started with kids welcoming the audience in 15 different languages.  Kids proudly speaking in their native tongues.  Then the narrators took over.  One was Greek and the other American.  They did a comedy bit where the Greek pretended to not believe in Jesus and the American moved the story along until the Greek believed.  Cute.

Maggie shined as Mary.  You could see her true goodness radiate from her onstage and she was not alone in her enthusiasm.  Her classmates sang and acted their hearts out.  I was brought to tears to see teenagers and 6 year olds singing beside each other.  They all appeared happy.  I saw no embarrassment.  I saw no resentment.  I saw joy.  A delight.

Being around people from all over the world has been so good for my daughter.  She is understanding that Christmas is celebrated differently everywhere, but for those who believe the importance of the holiday is universal.


I am wearing shorts people, not a bikini.

I let to get dressed in work out clothes every morning.  It is a visible message to myself that I am going to excerise at some point during the day.

My husband, the priest, said that work out clothes are the standard apparel of every mom at every Episcopal private school he has ever served as the priest for…and it’s true.  I never felt out of place dropping off my daughters in my running shorts and t-shirt.  So, I was unaware that my ‘uniform’ was going to cause such a stir.

In the warmer months, like even up until late October, I saw people in shorts.  Most of them were tourists, but this area is also filled with surfers.  Cool dude Portuguese surfers.  Waves here are consistent and there are loads of different beaches that offer wave sizes for all levels.  I had no idea Cascais was a surfing destination.  Anyway, near the ocean wearing shorts might mean you are there getting ready to surf.  Wearing shorts going to Starbucks…not cool.

I went for a run, put on a sweatshirt and headed to the mall.  It is a 10 minute walk from my house and has everything to make me feel at home…Starbucks.  My first warning should have been when my neighbor pretended not to know me.  I waved as he walked past me, but no acknowledgement was shown on his side…odd, but he was walking with a friend, so okay, fine.  Then I get to the mall and people are openly gawking at me.  No shame in shaking their heads at my attire.  The barista at Starbucks doesn’t seem to take note, but she might be used to weird foreigners.

I felt naked.  I may as well have been walking around in a bikini.  I was given dirty look after dirty look from women, kids, old people…no one even tried to hide their disgust.  I started enjoying it.  It became more than amusing to me.  I was a symbol of crazy.  A freakish red headed, short wearing, freckled face lady out in the mall alone enjoying my frappucino. Joy.

Then next day, I was walking Piranha, our 15 year old Bichon Frise, in our hood.  I see our neighbor again, this time alone, and he acknowledges me.  He apologized for ignoring me the day before, but he tells me the Portuguese have strict dress code rules.  Shorts are not appropriate when the weather turns cold…point of fact, it was 72 degrees when I wore shorts to the mall.  He said my exercise shorts are very frowned upon.  Really?   I guess the Portuguese are going to have to get used to seeing me in my exercise shorts, because I have no plans on changing my wardrobe now.  I mean, honestly if I don’t put on my shorts, I may have to start dressing fancy.  Portugal is not ready for that…neither am I.