Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition

After fourteen days of intense travels through Portugal, I’ve decided to give an overview of the spots I enjoyed most, aka “Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition!” If you’re planning your itinerary or just want to learn more about what Portugal has to offer, then this is for you! So let’s take a look at the very Best of the West — of the Iberian Peninsula, that is!

First, let me plot the course of our expedition.

Where I Laid My Head

My most-recent Europe trip started in mid-June with five nights in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. The first two nights I spent on my own doing pre-tour independent explorationsThat was followed by three additional nights in Lisbon as part of a 12-day Rick Steves’ Heart of Portugal tour. Spoiler alert — Lisbon was a fave. More on that in a bit.

After those beautifully busy five days, it was time to say adeus to Lisbon. Our route continued on with a night’s stay in a town the Romans had occupied millennia before us:

Évora!

Praça do Sertório square in Évora
Praça do Sertório square in the heart of Évora

Évora is cute! It’s a whitewashed UNESCO-World-Heritage town with Roman-aqueduct remains.

Évora's old Roman acqueducts
Here I am, single-handedly holding up Évora’s old Roman acqueducts.
You’re welcome, Évora. You’re welcome.

But the spot that gets the most visitors is Évora’s Capela dos Ossos: a Franciscan bone chapel that’s on the macabre end of the spectrum, but fascinating!

In a morbid kind of way.

Capela dos Ossos, Evora
Those Franciscan monks of Capela dos Ossos had a real sense of esprit de corpse.

Continue reading “Stef’s Five Faves: Portugal Edition”

Is it Safe to Travel to Europe?

As humans, we are well aware of our mortality. Naturally, we are concerned about our safety. We crave the peace of mind, and that desire to feel safe plays a role in determining our behavior. And that includes deciding whether or not to travel.

In considering our mortality, well, the fact is — spoiler alert! — we’re all going to die! None of us are getting out of this alive!

So the real question should be: how are we going to spend our precious time? For me, the answer is clear: by doing things I love to do. Such as travel.

Terrorism, Safety, and Travel

With that in mind, let’s consider terrorism, safety, and travel for a moment.


These days, the safety issue pops up a lot. As Travel Advisors in the Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Center, we get questions on this topic regularly. 

“Is it safe to travel to Europe?” they want to know.

Continue reading “Is it Safe to Travel to Europe?”

Spiders & Driving: A Public Service Announcement

People are well aware of the dangers of texting and driving or of drinking and driving, but there’s another menace lurking in dark crevices and under closed car visors that we rarely ever discuss.

What is this creeping menace, you ask? (Okay, I know you already saw the title and featured image. Just humor me!)

[Insert dramatic pause here.]

It’s spiders and driving!

Gasp!

As a potentially hazardous threat to public safety, we could all benefit from greater awareness on this issue. For example, what should YOU do when faced with an eight-legged stowaway aboard YOUR vehicle?

If you wait till this scenario happens before thinking it through — before coming up with a concrete game plan — it may be too late!

Keep Calm and Refrain from Freaking Out!

Not long ago I was about an hour into a three-hour drive from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon. That’s when it happened.

Dun. Dun. Duuuun.

The dreaded tickle. Continue reading “Spiders & Driving: A Public Service Announcement”

Gluten-Free Travel Tips for Europe and Beyond

When people would ask me what happens when I eat gluten, I used to joke: “You really don’t want to know!” Wink wink, nudge nudge! But when a coworker (on whom I’d already used my little line) asked me yet again to clarify, I realized that my polite reply was more evasive than explanatory. People were not “getting it.”

So now when they ask, I give the straightforward answer: 

Really. Bad. Diarrhea.

There, I said it. 

And that’s a great segue to the topic of being socially awkward.

It can be socially awkward having to ask for “special” food whenever dining out or with friends. People often assume that you’re just being picky or that you’re into annoying fad diets.

But I’ll tell you what’s even more socially awkward: The panic of Continue reading “Gluten-Free Travel Tips for Europe and Beyond”