Friday, July 03, 2009
Summer Vacation In Spain
If you had noticed that I had been a bit light on posting to the blog in late June, it is because my family spent eleven days in Spain. I had planned to blog from the road from my "Netbook", but there was not much free time, the internet connectivity was not ideal, and the netbook keyboard is really small. Thus, I just enjoyed the time with my family and our friends.
Additionally, I do not like to openly blog or tweet that we are away from home. Not that anyone who reads my blog is a robber... but I still like to keep it on the down low!
This was our third trip to Europe with the Morris family. They are life-long friends who have three daughters whose ages match up exactly with our girls. They rent a house somewhere in the world every couple of years and invite others to come along and share the experience. Leslie does an amazing job of finding large houses, with swimming pools, that are close to lots of sights to see. (here is her blog post on how to orchestrate a multi-week, multi-family vacation).
Four years ago we were in Sienna, Italy. Two years ago we were in Provence, France. This year.... This year was Malaga, Spain.
Traveling with other families and staying in a big house is a wonderful way to see the world. The kids are still young, but even four years ago (my youngest and the Morris twins are now seven, but in Italy they were three-years-old) they understood that it was a "special" vacation. Plus, traveling with your mom, dad, and sister can get rough, but when there are a pack of kids with whom to run, the world is your playground.
We joined the Morris' for the second week of their vacation along with their friends, the Kupers, from Boston (who also had a seven-year-old daughter, bringing the count to six kids ages 12, 11, 7, 7, 7, and 7...all girls).
One family who was with them "week one" blogged about the vacation. Therefore the week before we left for Spain we could read Neeracha's blog and look into a crystal ball about all the wonderful places to go and food to eat! It helped us map out our travels to ensure we made the best use of our limited time in Spain.
We began our trip with three days in Barcelona. We lost most of the first day because of Delta Airlines delays. We had the worst experience with an airline going both directions over the Atlantic. Overall 30 hours of delays. But the trip was so wonderful, I do not want to ruin this post with those details. I will write about that later.
Barcelona is now tied for my favorite city in the world (I still LOVE Venice). The people, the architecture, the food, and the overall vibe of this town makes it wonderfully unique. We stayed directly on Las Ramblas, and we walked for miles everyday.
The kids were adventurous with trying the food (mostly Tapas at every meal), although they liked the "bikinis" best (ham and cheese on white bread tapas, cut in triangles). They also enjoyed the elimination of "bed time" in Spain, since restaurants don't start serving until well after 8 PM or later.
We then flew to Malaga in the south of Spain where we joined our friends at Rancho Del Ingles. The Rancho was a hillside farm with a large house and several other bunking houses. It was a rustic old house, but a beautiful place to sit pool side and read a book. Some nights, after returning for a day-trip, we would go to local restaurants. Other evenings we cooked at the house.... and the last night we hired a local chef to come and cook for the group of twelve.
The rule of the house was the first person awake needed to drive to town to buy fresh churros for breakfast. Since I am an early riser, I happily did this trek daily. The guy who made the churros spoke no English, and I speak no Spanish, but we developed an understanding of my need for LOTS of churros for a big crowd. Again, the kids were thrilled that the normal nutrition rules of our home were suspended and they were eating fried dough for breakfast and were welcome to ice cream any time they saw a place that sold the cold treats.
We day tripped to several Spanish cities and landmarks including Granada (The Alhambra is the most visited attraction in Spain, and one of the most impressive historic palaces and gardens you could ever see), Ronda (hilltop town), Gibraltar, Torre Del Mar (Father's Day was spent playing on the beach along the Mediterranean with the kids), Marbella (fancy shopping, lunch and more time in the sea), and Tangier.
Besides hanging around with wonderfully amazing people, Tangier was the highlight of the trip. Sara and I were very apprehensive about taking the girls on a boat to Africa for the day. The guide books and internet research made Tangier sound dangerous. Everything warned that Americans should not eat or drink there, as diarrhea was common from the food (yuck.. not the best way to spend your vacation), and that pick pockets were pervasive. We wanted to go, but did so with some trepidations.
As it turned out, while we had to be conscious of our surroundings, the day in Tangier was a fantastic. I never felt threatened, and we packed peanut butter sandwiches and other snacks for us and the kids to eat (diarrhea was just not something we wanted to deal with on this trip!).
We spent about four hours touring the "old city" with a hired guide, who kept from getting lost through the winding streets and crowded shopping areas. If you ever go to Morocco, hiring a guide is the key. Once we were with him, nobody bothered us, as it was clear that we were with him for our tour.
Life for the people of Tangier is very different than it is for those who live in Austin, Texas. But there was joy, laughter and entrepreneurial spirit around every corner. These can be found to be pervasive throughout humanity.
Many people advised that with the economic downturn, and my launching out on my own business this year, that we should have not spent the money on an extended European vacation.
To have missed this trip would have been the worst money I ever saved! I find that I learn so much when we travel. Seeing different cultures, experiencing life in various countries, and traveling with others (especially other families!) is the greatest gift I can ever give my children.
Have A Great Day