Trip Coach: Spain, Portugal, and the Azores
Spurred on by a generous gift, a couple is heading on a delayed honeymoon
The couple wants to visit San Sebastian, the Basque Country's culinary center, but since the drive is at least five hours, we suggest staying a night in the city at the Pension Itxasoa. "If it's clean and safe with a good bed, it'll be fine," says Sally. The Itxasoa is that and more, with ocean views and an old-quarter location. Nearby, there are plenty of bars--on Calle 31 de Agosto, in particular--with great pintxos, the Basque equivalent of tapas; the bite-size treats at Bar Bergara, a 20-minute walk from the old quarter, are so elaborate they resemble mini Christmas gifts.
The easiest way for Sally and Bob to get to the Azores is via Lisbon, so they're flying there from Barcelona (on Spanair, for only $62) to spend a couple of nights at another nice pension, Residencial Geres, before heading on to the islands. Bob plays traditional mountain music on banjo, guitar, and mandolin, and wants to hear fado songs, which are said to reflect Portugal's soul. The touristy fado clubs in Lisbon are easy to find, but for something more special, A Tasca do Chico is a great hole-in-the-wall bar where singers might include taxi drivers and waiters. "We also like quirky museums," says Sally, which prompts us to mention the Marionette Museum, with more than 800 puppets. As it turns out, Sally used to put on marionette shows.
First up in the Azores is the main hub, São Miguel. The island's Furnas Lake, in a forest of bamboo and Japanese red cedar, is perfect for a romantic walk, even if the smell of sulfur permeates the air (it's within a volcanic crater). At 12:30 p.m., locals remove pots of cozido, a meat-and-vegetable stew cooked in the steaming earth. "It sounds like something my grandmother would make," says Bob. Their lodging is the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel, which has a fantastic restaurant.
"I like seeing how things are made," says Bob. "As a kid, I always loved field trips to factories." He's likely to enjoy the Fábrica de Chá Gorreana, the island's oldest tea factory, in business since the late 1800s.
Bob's grandmother changed her name before emigrating to the U.S., and no one in the family knows her original surname, so he doesn't expect to find where she lived on their final stop, Flores. "We'd still like to learn about her roots," says Bob. "The food, festivals, traditions, and culture on the island." They have a few days to do just that, after checking into Aldeia da Cuada, a 19th-century village with cobblestone paths and ocean views that's been transformed into 13 black-basalt guest cottages. Each unit has a kitchen, so perhaps Bob can whip up one of his grandmother's favorite dishes.
"I'd love to surprise Bob with a culinary class," says Sally. And thanks to Barcelona's Cook & Taste, the newlyweds will get just that: a half-day, hands-on workshop focused on regional cooking, free of charge.
How was your trip?
"We had a wonderful honeymoon in Turkey," says Kristi Barnes, with husband Dave, who we coached on a trip back in September. "Cappadocia was unusual and breathtaking. The 'fairy chimney' formations are truly spectacular."