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My Trip to Portugal, Running, and Enjoying the Journey

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I’ve been traveling a lot. Since mid May I’ve been away from home 28 nights. Now that I am back home, it is time to reflect on my travels. I plan to blog about my other trips, but this blog will be about my most recent trip to Porto, Portugal.

We left for Porto, Portugal on June 17th. Three long legs: Portland to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Lisbon, Lisbon to Porto and 20 hours later we arrived. Our hosts had made reservations for us at a hotel near the beach as they knew that I was training for the marathon. They wanted me to have a nice path to run along.


Sunday I ran 8 miles before my dh woke up. Glorious running! Then we went out for a day touring the neighboring city of Gaia with our hosts and fellow travelers.

In addition to running, I managed to get a lot of walking on this trip, too. But I had plenty of opportunity to eat well. For example, at lunch Sunday we had a traditional “bread and shrimp” dish. Delicious. Calories? I’m sure they were plentiful.



After lunch we hiked up the hill to the top of Gaia so we could view Porto. Then we walked back to Porto across the bridge. A great day. Each evening we would go out to a late dinner. The dinners all week were fantastic. Lots of seafood. Great octopus, squid, fish. Very tender octopus. Not at all chewy. I loved it! Each meal was acccompanied by wine. And meals didn’t start until around 10 p.m. So we had very long days. Still I managed to get in two short runs during the week.


Monday I was busy co-teaching a tutorial all day. After that we had a late dinner by the waterfront. I gave the conference keynote talk on Tuesday, then another talk on Wednesday. My husband also gave a talk.

We had an impromptu party with the students and organizers after the conference was over. We drank Port wine (of course). One student played a traditional Portuguese guitar while others sang traditional songs. I thought it quite funny that that they looked up the words to the songs on their iPhones (these are computer science grad students after all).

We all sat on bean bags on the lawn and enjoyed them playing. Here's a picture of my husband enjoying himself.

Thursday was the festival of St. Joao. It was basically a big party that started at sunset and went to dawn. Everyone in the city of Porto goes crazy for a few hours. The tradition is to buy plastic hammers and walk around for hours bonking people (did I mention the hammers squeaked).

As it drew closer to midnight, the crowds really got large. After 20 minutes of spectacular fireworks at midnight, the partying went on until dawn. Many bands played on open air stages throughout the city. My dh says the band playing a couple of blocks from our hotel stopped promptly at 5 a.m.! I didn’t notice as I immediately crashed when we returned to our hotel at 2 a.m. We oldtimers had left the festivities early. It still took us hours to get back to our hotel as we walked up the steep hill in a crush of people.


Friday we headed to a 5 star resort in the Douro valley where we met and discussed how we would consolidate our work and over the next year or so write a set of articles (computer geeks at a really nice setting still can work—all you need to do is get us together, give us a meaty topic and connections to the internet…and we’re set). The Douro valley is where they grow all the grapes that go into the Port wine. We were welcomed to our room with Port and strawberries.


The grounds of the hotel were spectacular. While there I discovered my favorite new food: cold melon with “bacon” ice cream soup. The weather was very hot. That made the cold soup extra delicious. While there I also picked and ate an orange…and because it was so steep and unsafe to run, I did my long 11 mile run on the treadmill Sunday. Even at a great resort, running on the treadmill is still icky.


Sunday afternoon we took a two hour boat ride up the valley. (Of course there was more wine).

And then we drove back to Porto where we could be tourists for two days before flying home. Even though I enjoyed very much being a tourist, I worked a lot on this trip, too. A colleague of mine and I spent most of our spare time working on a course that he is teaching this past week in Korea. But the last day of our trip, my husband and I spent our time walking a lot, shopping for mementos and touring a couple of Port cellars.


All in all this was a great trip! My food choices were not totally out of control. But they weren’t restrictive, either. I ate and drank along with everyone else. When I left on my first trip in mid May, I weighed 138+. This morning I weighed 142. I am living proof that traveling and maintaining weight (even with a lot of exercise) is difficult..

I still need to work those few pounds off gained traveling. That has been hard to do for several reasons: I am out of the habit of tracking my food and being disciplined about my food intake. Also I am training for the Portland Marathon. And yes, it is summertime. So there are lots of opportunities to eat fresh fruit and indulge at home, too. My weekend long training runs have been my excuse to refuel on a good amount of carbs/fruits. Even with 20+ miles of running each week, excess carbs affect my weight and weight loss. Yet I can’t go really low carb and keep healthy with all my running. So I’m fighting to find that balance: keeping fueled for my marathon training while trying to lose those few pounds. I’m working on it. I know I can find my groove again while I continue traveling on this weight loss/weight maintenance journey.
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  • no profile photo CD6994021
    Great travel report! What marathon are you training for? I am registered for the Porltand Marathon this October--my 3rd time to run this.

    Running when traveling, especially overseas is not easy! Good job!
    3666 days ago
  • no profile photo CD6484093
    What a great trip, Rebecca. Love the photos!
    3667 days ago
  • THISTLEGIRL
    Great pics! Thanks for sharing!
    3667 days ago
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