Oh man it’s been too long since I’ve shared stories from our family trip last year (which was four whole months ago, I can’t believe it), but I didn’t ever really finish sharing our adventures and I wanted to take a few posts to do so.
I can feel the memories slowly slip away… and I know that if I don’t capture them in writing right now that soon they will be gone. The little memories – like where we stayed, our favorite foods and what we loved about various towns – not so much the big ones which are definitely there to stay. The second reason is that I’ve received some emails from readers who are planning their own upcoming adventures to Ireland, Spain or Morocco and it’s high time I be as helpful as I can.
For those of you needing a quick catch up, you can check out this post. Our little family of three – contrary to popular believe, 20-month-olds can be great travelers! – embarked on a four week getaway (read about how we managed our small budget here) and have already shared our travel adventures in Ireland - complete with Liv jigs (here’s a round up of where we visited, where we stayed, etc) and half of our Spanish road trip as well. I’ll try to sprinkle in these last few posts on Spain and Morocco throughout the usual going ons around here, and I thought that today would be an excellent day to start.
Last we left off we had celebrated with Festival La Merce in Barcelona and were road tripping down the coast of Spain through a Paradores and Valencia. Let’s jump back on track with our trip to Granada.
We were fortunate enough to book the very sweet B&B Solar Montes Claros in the heart of old Granada. The courtyard (despite the rain) was beautiful, the rooms inviting, the style very authentic. Granada rooms are hard to come by last minute (this stop was part of our ‘go with the flow’ road trip portion of the trip) and I might give myself a few weeks for a reservation the next time around.
Nevermind the snack stains, Liv’s photoshoot as she checked the place out for herself was priceless.
We had only one night in this beautiful (but crazy) city of winding roads, industry and white washed walls. I recommend keeping it all in El Albayzín – the original Granada – and of course a visit to the Alhambra shouldn’t be missed.
There are three well known dinner-dance shows in the old town, one of which lined up with our schedule and arrival into the city perfectly. Ahhh what beautiful dance Flamenco is! You can’t miss out on the stomping and passion and melodic guitar strings.
Torre del Oro is a show that came highly recommended to us. Jardines de Zoraya ended up being ideal for a family though with plenty of room near the back for Liv to dance her own passionate number to the music.
The singers were also incredible.
Walking the old city was wonderful. There’s hardly room for cars (though they manage) and much of the shops are accessible only by climbing the steep cobblestone streets.
By the time we arrived at the Alhambra we were greeted with buckets of rain! I think maybe the one full day of rain in Spain, but we made the best of it.
The rain turned off and on and off again as we weaved through the incredible gardens and Moorish architecture of this 10th century palace. The fortress-turned-castle was conquered and reconquered many times over its long and lengthy life, but the original Berber Islamic architecture is ever present (and became even more recognizable after our trip down to Morocco where we found similar structures).
Liv, the photographer. The girl LOVES to shoot photos, the iPhone being her camera of choice.
A view of Granada from up high on the hill at the Alhambra.
If you plan a visit, make sure that you reserve your tickets several days (or even weeks in the high season) in advance as they sell out quickly each day. I was able to secure next day tickets by calling the box office directly even when the website said sold out (we ended up being able to change our visit date thanks to this little fluke, though we had to purchase two sets of tickets since they are non refundable).
Once you arrive, you’ll have to pick up your tickets from Will Call which may be on the other side of the huge palace. We entered on the west end and didn’t realize that our tickets were on the east end (and a 20 minute walk away) until we were there, thankfully we were about 45 minutes early. Arrive as early as possible .
Beautiful! Also worth a trip while visiting the Albambra is Generalife, if you don’t have a toddler and it’s not raining, that is.
Shortly after, we hopped back into our little speed wagon and headed for Sevilla. One day was far too short to truly enjoy Granada, but hopefully we’ll be back.
Next up on the travel list? Sevilla and then Marrakesh, Morocco.
PS More on our Ireland + Spain + Morocco trip right here.
Posted in Family & Friends, Ireland + Spain + Morocco, Travel Adventures | 4 Comments »
Happy weekend! I’m going to make you sit through just a few more travel-related posts… I feel a little guilty because I know that reading about other people’s vacations is not always the highlight of blogging, thank you for the patience as I attempt to unload and share all of the details and memories and images that are swimming through my head. They’re so relevant and so fresh, I’m sure I’ll lose them forever if I don’t capture them in time right now! And this being the giant journal of sorts that is our family’s life, I only hope I can indulge your interest with a few last posts on Spain and one giant, crazy post on Morocco. Plus, if you’re ever interested in traveling to any of the three countries we visited (Ireland, Spain & Morocco), are on the search for tips on traveling with toddlers, for extended periods or on a budget, I hope that these travel posts will be of use!
Back to Spain. On day three of our time in Spain (more on days 1 & 2 here, PS that video has finally loaded!), we rented a car from the Barcelona train station (rather than straight from the airport to avoid crazy parking fees in the city) and began our road trip down the eastern coast.
Because we left Barcelona later in the day, we ended up finding an impromptu destination about two hours out of town for the night. I was thrilled to come across a ‘Paradores’, or restored castle (courtesy of the Spanish government) in Tortosa with lodging available!
The ancient castle has been converted into a hotel and it’s very neat to wander the hallways and various rooms as if you were an occupant hundreds of years ago. And check out the beautiful city!
We probably wouldn’t choose Tortosa as a city destination but I thought it was very cool to be lucky enough to try out a castle experience (the ‘jovenes’ rate to attract younger tourists didn’t hurt!).
We continued our journey down to Valencia and enjoyed lunch and drinks in one of the main squares. I captured an angel in this shot.
Olivia could have entertained herself in that square for hours! Running, chasing birds, visiting the fountain, saying hi to strangers.
She would just sit herself down next to a group and lean in to be a part of the conversation until she was noticed. They would laugh and smile and she would smile back.
For the most part I’m happy to report that traveling with a toddler was not such a big deal, not in the ways you expect it to be, anyhow. We actually really really enjoyed being together as a family for such a consistent amount of time. But I’d be amiss if I didn’t say that it had its share of toddler moments! like this one after Liv realized that the crepe was allll gone.
But shortly she was running with the birds in the square once again. You’ve just gotta roll with it.
We wandered the streets, took funny pictures of our shadows (check out that Liv hair – she won’t allow any rubber bands or bows or headbands, so it stays pretty crazy 99% of the time) and had a beautiful afternoon in the city!
Hope you have a LOVELY weekend and see you soon! I have a new window seat project (involving and awesome fabric) to share from the kitchen… Have to take a few after shots this weekend.
More on our four week adventure starts here.
Posted in Family & Friends, Ireland + Spain + Morocco, Travel Adventures | 6 Comments »
We happened upon (part by chance – the days worked out perfectly) Barcelona in the very middle of their huge Festival La Merce, Catalonia’s (of which Barcelona is a part of) annual extravaganza to honor Our Lady of Mercy. Festival La Merce involves parades, building ‘human towers’, concerts until the wee hours and packed streets. It was part wonderful, part totally crazy.
Much of our respite was found in the adorable apartment we rented just outside of Las Ramblas (the main street with shops and restaurants a plenty, it’s also very wide and almost all-pedestrian).
There’s the cute flat (with original beamed ceilings and a wall of all brick) above – at night unfortunately, and our neighborhood on laundry day (first opportunity! a plus of renting an apartment).
Before we jump into Barcelona, check out this madness! This is a highlight of Festival La Merce, and somehow we ended up right below one of the crazy towers.
Video of the ‘Castellers’ – if it’s not loading check back in one moment!
We also witnessed a few Gigantes in their customary parade. These giant figures dance with one another and parade in long lines through the streets.
Outside of the festival, our first tourist visit was to the stunning cathedral, which was partially blocked by one of the huge La Merce stages. And these stages rocked all night long! Many a night we came out from our late dinner to hear great music, and it was still playing long long after we went to bed.
PS The schedule, speaking of late dinners, is one of our favorite parts of Spain . A small first breakfast, a late larger breakfast closer to 11, a big lunch at 2ish followed by a long siesta, and dinner around 10pm at night. As an entire family! We loved having tapas and sangria, followed by a heartier meal, so late at night but surrounded by Spanish families doing the same, babies and all. Liv of course slept in super late in the mornings, but it was okay but us to have a lazier start on vacation.
Extra long straws from the waiter to entertain the little ones (and maybe some adults)? Why not.
Another must-see in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, architect Antoni Gaudi’s magnificent church that he spent much of his life dedicated to (and the last 14 years for in isolation). He passed before just one tower was complete, but construction continues to this day and will until 2026. Unfortunately the holiday meant that the church was closed to the general public, but we circled and circled and took many pictures.
Each side (or facade) is dedicated to a momentous occasion in Christ’s life. The first is the Nativity, the second the Passion (or the crucification) and the last (and yet to be complete) the Glory of Christ (or the Ascension).
Another of Gaudi’s architectural designs includes Casa Mila, or La Pedrera.
Kevin, who’s studying architecture, was all about being behind the camera on this day, so I’m in a few of the pictures for a change!
While we’re at it, another amazing Gaudi moment.
One of the treats of traveling with Liv is our frequent park exploration. We visited Park Guell (also by Gaudi – but the camera battery was dead at this point – bah!) as well as this little guy whose name I don’t remember.
Sometimes it’s the little stops that are so fun.
Speaking of travels with Liv, she LOVES the cousine of Spain! She’s all about the preserved meats, cheeses and veggies that make Spanish food so yummy. It’s definitely a plus (and a whole lot cheaper) when Liv can eat off our plates and we don’t have to order a special meal (or even worse, seek out a special restaurant) for her little appetite.
Check out this face:
Here we are, back to strolling Barcelona. With Liv napping nonetheless. Nothing like a nice long walk to take you to dreamland.
On our last night in Barcelona we enjoyed a delicious dinner of tapas underneath a brightly lit up Church (in all sorts of colors). Liv napping again at our side. But alas, none of those pictures really turned out (darn iPhone and night time photos…). Next up on our Spanish adventure – a road trip down the eastern coast.
PS our entire trip is being chronicled right here.
Posted in Family & Friends, Ireland + Spain + Morocco, Travel, Travel Adventures | 6 Comments »