Browsing: Portugal & Spain

Christmas Letter 2018



The Christmas season is upon us. As I speak Doug is roasting his 4th or 5th turkey for an event that he caters each year at this time. Our first Christmas of 2018 was in November celebrating with Doug’s co-workers at Petals West. He loves the hustle and bustle of his work and is already sourcing roses for Valentine’s Day!

My second Christmas was with my precious sisters earlier this week. We celebrated early because Kimberley and Michael are leaving soon for a six week visit in Australia to visit Danielle, Dylan and Dylan’s family. Our third Christmas will be Monday evening with the dinner that Doug is preparing for. At the end of the evening we light white tapers and sing Silent Night with the dinner guests.

We started the new year of 2018 in a flurry, taking down the Christmas tree on Boxing Day because we flew to Mesa, Arizona a day later. I went with Jer, Jen and the girls, Bekah and Seb and Grandma Jean. Doug and Kate arrived on the weekend.


Doug found us a great condo where a Christmas tree was still up when we arrived. The occasion was the wedding of Doug’s nephew Justin.  All the Grisims were together for a rehearsal dinner on Friday Dec 28th and then the beautiful wedding the following day. The venue reminded me of a Tuscan villa and not surprisingly the food was fabulous. The next evening Doug, his Mom and siblings with a couple of nephews and nieces thrown in for good measure celebrated New Year’s Eve together, an event that has not occurred in a very long time.


I arrived back home in enough time to throw a load of laundry in the washing machine and repack my suitcase because Doug and I were off to Portugal with good friends. Unfortunately the good friends did not make the trip due to unforeseen circumstances. In spite of missing them and feeling sheepish about it all, Doug and I had a wonderful time staying right on a beach in the Algarve.


We took an overnight trip to Seville, Spain but otherwise stayed along the southern coast.


The weather wasn’t tropical but it was pleasant and I am happy whenever I can walk along a beach.

We celebrated Doug’s birthday in late January and then Sebastian’s and Josie’s second birthday in February. Bekah’s May date came next with Jen and I following close behind. July brought Kate’s celebration as well as Isabelle’s, who turned five. Jeremy takes up the rear with a September birth date.

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In May there will be another milestone to celebrate as Jer and Jen are rounding off their beautiful family with another baby at that time. We never tire of our role as grandparents. We adore the Wee Ones and find joy again in every little thing when we are with them.


Late February and early March was our annual sojurn to Isla Mujeres.


Along with lots of family and good friends we reconnect with each year, long-time friends Melinda and Richard spent most of a week with us and it was a special time.



When our traveling days were curtailed for the early spring, we focused on another wonderful blessing to our family. Doug and I drove back and forth to the lake meeting with a cottage renovator and hauling bead board and flooring in the back of Doug’s truck. By May long weekend we were able to set beds up and even though it is not yet finished, we felt luxurious with all the space and rooms and beds for everyone! I was also able to ask some girlfriends out for the occasional weekend.


We attended four wonderful weddings in the summer-two of them in the same family!

Grisim Wedding

The first three were young members at our church and the fourth was that of our nephew Bronson.


Since I had been so sick the summer before, Doug gifted me with a summer do-over and I spent a couple of weeks all by myself out at Lester Beach. I cannot adequately express, how drawn I am to our special piece of heaven.

In August Kate and Doug flew to Toronto so that they could attend the Rogers Cup together. Kate’s fav tennis player didn’t make the finals but Doug’s Nadal did.


Come September, we had the traveling bug again and taking advantage of cheap flights out east, we visited Charlottetown PEI for our first time. Both the hospitality of a friend we met on Isla and the quaintness of the island ensures that we will visit again in the future.


Another trip to Toronto for the Food Bloggers Canada conference and extended stay with Richard and Melinda rounded out the fall. Thanksgiving was once again at the beautiful lake home of Kim and Michael.



The first weekend of November Bekah, Seb, Doug and I took a road trip to Minneapolis. Doug found us an Air BnB in a neighbourhood we loved and we explored many of the breweries and restaurants. Doug’s brother Jim and fam met us for breakfast and then Jim met us again that evening at Surly, a favourite Minneapolis Brewery. Bekah and I went to a Idina Menzel and Josh Groban concert and Doug and I took in a Vikings game. We not only had “nose bleed” seats, we were in the very top section in the very last row! Since then, it seems like Christmas preparations began soon after, which brings me full circle.


Going backwards for a moment, Kate graduated with her Masters Degree this spring and we used it as an excuse for a family party. Little Brown Jug where both Bekah and Jeremy are employed allowed us to throw the party there and it was a wonderful celebration.


Jeremy is head brewer at LBJ and acknowledges the blessing of being employed in a career which he loves. Wife Jen has launched her own business and is a certified pre- and post-natal fitness instructor. In some classes the participants carry their babies in a front carrier, soon Jen will look just like them! They love their little house in Wolseley where Belle’s school is a short walk away and the park where I used to take the kids when they were toddlers is just down their street. Isabelle is a beautiful, sensitive and kind wee one who adores her little sister. Josie is a character who loves to tell long animated stories and always goes for the big laugh just like her Daddy.


Bekah too loves her work as the General Manager of Little Brown Jug. Having gone to school for International Development Studies, she is surprised that she loves business the way she does. Sebastian’s workplace is in the same neighbourhood, he is on the front lines of Siloam Mission and has signed up for the Reserves! They too have a home in the west end and it is big enough for all of us and additional guests to stretch along one long table for this year’s Christmas dinner.

Kate is carefully considering her options for her career but is leaning towards a not-for-profit where she can serve the minority communities that she is so passionate about. The gang collects together at Life is Good (the name of our beach house) all summer and for Sunday suppers the rest of the year.

I am chugging along with my small business, always delighted when a new client approaches me. Each day holds a different set of tasks and I amazingly still absolutely love what I do.


Doug and I are still devoted to our neighbourhood church and we host a small group in our home, a couple of times a month. They too make up our family.

If you are reading this, you are important and loved by Doug and I and we can never adequately express the gratitude that we have for our many friends and enormous families. Peace and Christmas blessings to you all.

Kath’s quote: “God bless us everyone!“- Charles Dickens


Love never fails.


Leaving the Algarve-Highlight on the Pestana Dom João II Beach Resort


We were absolutely delighted with our hotel.


Smack on Alvor Beach, the location of the Pestana Dom João II Beach Resort was perfect for us. As was the hotel itself.


We spent many hours on the elevator lobby of our floor, as did many other groups, especially golfers from the United kingdom.


The cozy spot was perfect to catch the setting sun.


We also spent a lot of time on our balcony which had a southeast view of the ocean.


Some days we enjoyed the sunrise and others like this day, the mist rising off the cliffs.


I loved the bathroom and not just because it was my favourite colour! It had a big soaker tub as well as rain shower and if you wanted to leave the blind up between the bathroom and the bedroom, you could see the ocean from the shower.


In addition to the comfy beds there was a chaise where we would read, write and share a sandwich or a glass of wine.


This was the outdoor bar/dining room when the weather was warmer. BTW we quite enjoyed the moderate weather, but remember we travelled from the centre of Canada and escaped -50 wind chills.


On rainy or chilly days, the lounge was often filled with readers, card-players and beer drinkers.


The green grounds were well taken care of and absolutely lovely.


I have already written in detail about how much we enjoyed the breakfast buffet each morning.


The front lobby was stylish and spacious and the front desk staff spoke perfect English and were extremely helpful.


If I had to pick my favourite place on the property, it would be here-with the beach house in the foreground, one of 3 swimming pools to the right and the most beautiful beach I think I have ever been on.

I took many of these photos on the morning of our departure. We were picked up by a comfortable shuttle, whisked off to Faro, where we connected to Lisbon. We had enough time to head into Lisbon for the afternoon. Stay tuned for my last post.

Kath’s quote: “There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart”. -Mahatma Gandhi


Love never fails.




Alvor Trip Report


The day we returned from Seville, we were kind of pooped so we had a very early dinner in town at Ciao Baby.


D’s pizza was pretty good.


My seafood pasta as compared to the version that I loved at the Windsurfer right on the beach was okay. Our server who was also the owner’s son was exceptional.


The next morning we realised that time was escaping us very quickly, so we took advantage of the sun for a couple of hours, then drove to Portimao. For me the town was a lovely surprise. I had only heard other hotel guests say that it had a shopping mall which I wasn’t interested in quite frankly.



The streets in the old city were cobblestoned and narrow.



We walked until we could find the church and the town square as that is typically where all the action is (but not on this day).


We circled back and discovered many locals enjoying the sun by the harbour.


We hadn’t yet found a place to savour one of our favourite drinks back home-sangria!


The trip was winding down and we sat and reflected about the wonderful time we had together.


Upon our return to Alvor, the sun was still brightly shining so we had one last beach/sunset walk.




The evening was lovely and quiet as we strolled along enjoying this new place (to us) in the world.





We lingered until the very last moment, and then begrudgingly went and packed our bags, as our wonderful last evening was still ahead.

During our busy time in and around Alvor, we would be in daily contact with Canadian friends Jana and Kristy. They had recommended a Tascado Taberna Restaurante to us and we had such a lovely dinner, we wanted to return for our last supper.

We had a designated time to meet at the hotel and walk with them to the restaurant. A little past the appointed time, one of the women dashes into the hotel to tell us that they were still at their 4 pm spa appointment. We went on ahead of them and they joined us later. The crazy thing about this spa was that it was so affordable and the staff came in on their day off to take care of services. Amazing hospitality in Portugal!


When we arrived, we scooped up the last table that had not been designated for a reservation. The restaurant was certainly busier than the Sunday previously.


We were content to share some wine while we waited for our new friends. But there came a point where we decided we had better something into our tummies as we were certainly feeling the effects of the wine.


We started by sharing Shrimp Vol au Vent which was lovely and rich and so delicious when mopped up with the bread from the basket.


Clams in a garlicky broth were named after Bulhao Pato, a 19th century Portuguese poet. They too were amazing.


When the girls finally did arrive, they quickly caught up to our wine consumption and added grilled chorizo to the tappas selections. There were others but I neglected to get their picture.


D opted for a grilled tuna steak with salsa verde which he enjoyed very much. I can’t for the life of me remember if I ordered my own entrée.


I do know that one of our friends selected the house specialty -Shrimp Atascado. All dishes were piping hot and perfectly prepared.


They were oohhss and aahhss when we all tasted the brownie with chocolate ice cream. We also imbibed in our first tastes of Port along with a treat from the server -fire water with honey. The combination of all of the above, made me very happy that we were walking home.

Kath’s quote: “The great thing about new friends is that they bring new energy to your soul”.Shanna Rodriguez


Love never fails.






Trip Report- The Beach at Alvor, Portugal


I am a beach junky! I need my regular beach fixes. My heart literally aches to be by the water.

I have been to many beautiful beaches: In Tel Aviv, Sicily, Southern France, Majorca Spain, Galway Ireland, Veradero Cuba, Paradise Island on Cozumel, Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, Torfino Beach on Vancouver Island and Grand and Lester Beach on Lake Winnipeg where we have our summer home. The beach at Alvor, Portugal is not the nicest beach I have ever visited because the colour of the water is not like the Caribbean, but it certainly ranks high on my list!

The surf is beautiful, the water crystal clear and the sand like a fine brown sugar. The cliffs and grottos at the far east of the beach or picturesque as well as the grasses and low furrows of sand. The walkway at Alvor is brilliant and means the maximum number of beach walkers can enjoy it including those who are mobility impaired.

All of these photos were taken on my hour’s walk along Alvor Beach.



To appreciate the enormity of the beach, can you see the figures walking along the water’s edge in the middle of the shot above?



This pic is my personal favourite.






Our hotel was smack on the beach. Our room was second from the end on the top floor.






Kath’s quote:

“for her

the ocean

was more than a dream

it was a place

she needed to visit

to find herself.”-Jose Chaves

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Love never fails.


Trip Report, Seville Spain, The Real Alcazar


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The next morning we walked around the magnificent cathedral again. This time we were headed for the Real Alcazar right when their gates opened for the day. D had been given a great tip about purchasing on line tickets for the tour which included the part of the palace where the Spanish royal family stay when they visit Seville, called the Cuarto Real Alto (Upper Palace). This also got us past the crowds waiting for admission.


These three arches link the Patio del Leon to the Patio de la Monteria.



From the moment we entered, we were enthralled. The second floor of the photo just above is where we awaited our private tour.


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The artistry of the architecture was exquisite as well as the juxtaposition of styles.


The House of Trade was established to regulate Indies travel between Spain and the New World in the 16th Century.


The Palace of Peter the first.

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All of these photos were taken through the milky glass of the second floor vestibule. No photography was permitted during the private palace tour. But let me tell you that the rooms were absolutely splendid and well worth the extra money & time.



I loved all the intricate tile work and discovered: “The geometric models used in Islamic art are not mere decorative motifs but the expression of a philosophical principle revealing divine beauty”.


The Patio del Yeso with a beautiful reflective pool.




The 12th century Almohad Palace.


The side section of hall is formed with multi foil arches displaying diamond pattern panels.


The Upper Gallery in the Court of Dolls added in the reign of Isabella the Second.

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The Pond of Mercury is so named for the statue of Mercury pictured here.

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Three views of the columns and arches adorn the windows (sorry about the smudge on the lens of the camera).


A window seat in the sunshine drew me to linger.



Rubber trees grew majestically in the palace gardens


as well as these beautiful palms.


Intricate iron gates were strategically placed in the gardens.




From a second floor vantage you could appreciate the geometric hedges of the gardens



My favourite views of the palace and gardens were through these archways. We had spent a splendid morning but by then it was time to check out and walk to the car park where we had stowed our vehicle. We were a bit peckish and decided to have a meal before we got back onto the highway but we discovered that most lunch spots did not open until at least 1 pm. Instead D ran back to the pastry shop that was right next to our hotel. This decadent treat held us why we began to navigate our way “home” to Alvor. We stopped for lunch just before the border of Portugal.


D had a pasta craving and chose this monstrous portion of penne in a bolognaise sauce


and I a “rock shrimp omelet”.  I was asked if I wanted fries with my omelette and that sounded like a lovely idea. It was the strangest omelet I had ever seen or tasted. It was mostly flour and I could not detect any egg. Apart from the embarrassment of ordering a mass of deep fried items, the “omelet” was actually pretty good. When we arrived back in Alvor, I really felt like I needed a very long beach walk to work out the stiffness from being in a car for 3 hours and that full feeling from all of the deep fried food. Stay tuned.

Kath’s quote: “The air soft as that of Seville in April, and so fragrant that it was delicious to breathe it”. -Christopher Columbus


Love never fails.

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