Spain - Spring Break 2012
"Go with the Flow"
This year we decided to take the kids "across the pond" for Spring Break. After our trip to Puerto Rico last summer, we felt they were ready for a bigger trip and culture emersion. Over Christmas Break we booked our trip and found fantastic prices on Airfare. Now all we had to do was wait a few months. This trip was going to teach the kids to "go with the flow". We only booked the 1st nights hotel in advance. The remainder of the 8 days was going to be on the fly. The plan was to arrive/depart from Madrid, pick up the rental car and cover the Coast from Valencia to Malaga for the remainder of the trip. We rented a wifi card for the week and plan to pick it up on Madrid. Usually I pack the week prior, but things have been a bit crazy and we had some last minute packing. Due to the "mobile" nature on this trip, we opted to use our back packs rather than suit cases. The day finally came for us to go and it was off to the airport in the afternoon. Up to Philly for a quick lay over then on to the 7 1/2 hr flight to Madrid.
The plane was 2 seats on each side and 4 in the middle. We were luck enough to have 2 seats for Anya and Me with Alan and Lars directly behind us. The kids were so excited to be on such a big airplane and yes, most of all, they each had their very own TV Screen. This was all great because they could watch what ever they wanted while plowing through the snack bags we packed. You would think we have never fed these children. Eating was non stop. Oh well, they were happy and quiet. We all slept for just a a couple of hours and then around 8:30am Madrid time it was off the plane. We breezed through customs and the car rental as well. We rented the cutest little car, a white Citroen Berlingo, as all cars in Europe are little. It was like a little mini van of sorts. All I cared about is that Alan had enough leg and head room, the kids had space to "not touch each other" and our luggage fit. All boxes were checked and it was off to our Madrid hotel "Hotel High Tech Arturo Soria". They allowed us to check in early and had our wifi card in a package waiting for us. We were all asleep by 10am with the alarm set to wake up by 2pm. We didn't want to waste the entire day sleeping and needed to get on Spain time.
Friday - Day 1 - Madrid
Beep Beep Beep! 2pm and time to get up. We all moved a little slow, but once outside and roaming around we felt the energy of the city and had no problem being excited. We grabbed a little food and then off to the Metro heading to the Madrid Real Soccer Stadium (ALAN will insert a story here) Anya and I roamed the city and snuck a popsicle while the guys were on the tour. We walked past a mother and daughter on the street and the little Spanish girl was singing her ABC's in English. It was so cute. We found a small "city park" and Anya played for a while. We needed to use the restroom, so we hopped into a clothing store and asked in Spanish "Donde esta los banos?", The clerk was most helpful and escorted us over to the "bathing suits". I laughed and ended ups saying "toilet". He kindly said "no" and Anya and I were on a mission. We found an eating establishment and did find the restroom. Lesson 1 - restroom isn't Banos in Spain, you need to say "Aseos" which literally means "restrooms". Banos means "bath". Then back to the stadium to find the guys. We headed back towards the hotel area and stopped for dinner. Then back to the room to get a good nights sleep. Of course hoping we don't wake up at 3 am or something. We all slept and slept and finally woke up around 9am. Time to log on to the computer and plan the day...
Our daily routine: (a little rocky on the 1st day and stressful, but with minor adjustments it work out better than anyone could plan)
Saturday - Day 2 - to Costa Blanca (Madrid - Javea)
Travel days to/from Madrid were going to be our longest days in the car with not as much stopping. Mission was to get to the coast to explore. The terrain was very desert like along the way an not too much to see or comment on until we get to the coast. 1st stop was in Gandia, we just had a quick bite to eat and then headed out as we weren't "feeling it". Next stop was Denia. It was a small port town and was very quaint and cute up in the hills, but the downtown area looked like a port. Not much to do and a bit empty. On we go on a small windy mountain road over and down to Javea. This town was adorable. It was nestled between the hillsides and was a small beach town. The hills were loaded with small homes, trees and it was very picturesque. We logged into the wifi and found a great little 2 bedroom apartment on booking.com for a wonderful price. (Aparthotel Bahia Pinosol) Off we were into the hillside and checked into our apartment. We settled a bit, and then headed to the beach/boardwalk area for dinner. It had such a great feel, so many people were out and about and the town had such a good energy to it. We ate Italian that night and also enjoyed a wonderful caramel and ice cream crêpe (creppe in Spain) for dessert! Oh did we love the desserts. We walked along the boardwalk, people watched and the kids played on the playground at the beach. We apparently had no trouble adjusting to the Spanish time for eating/sleeping. We were out until about 10:30 or 11pm, then back to the room for a snooze.
side notes: dinner starts about 8pm and most of the beach towns we experienced had a boardwalk and jungle gym play areas on the beach for the kids. We hit them all.
Sunday - Day 3 - Costa Blanca (Javea - Alicante)
The kids were up around 8am and attempted to watch TV, of course it was all in Spanish. They did have a good time laughing and trying to guess what it was saying. The shows were familiar to them, but Spanish dubbing, so it was fun. We packed up and were on the road around 9:30am and were heading towards Calpe. We passed along the coast high up in the hills/mountains with incredible breathtaking views at almost every turn. It was so tempting to look, but no room to pull over on the road. I didn't want Alan to take too long of a look, serious fear of driving off the cliff (LOL). We did see a spot to pull over and take in the view in a little town named Benissa. We were way up high on the hill, below us rolling hills of farm land and fincas, with the Mediterranean Sea off in the distance. It looked like a perfect picture to be on a wine bottle. Actually we had many views that were perfect for a wine bottle. Sticking out of the Med in the distance was this enormous rock and a small town near its side. Let's get down there to check it out! We wound our way down the mountain and into the town that was in the distance. It was Calpe and absolutely adorable! We found a place to have some breakfast "creppes and Zumo" on the beach. (Lesson 2 - Zumo = fresh squeezed juice) It was magical. We hung out in this town for a couple of hours and played on the beach as well as walked the town, gawked at the pink flamingos and even took a tour of the local youth hostel. (This may be a good place to crash for the night, but we would drive on and come back if needed.) The kids loved it and didn't want to leave. We convinced them to explore more and hopped into the little Citroen and off to the neighboring town of Altea.
We stopped at a grocery store to buy some water and met a very nice Scottish woman, Suzie, in the check out line. We had a good 5 min conversation with her at the check out saying how we loved Scotland and had lived in England sometime ago. She and her husband had moved down to Spain a few years prior and she gave us many tips for things to do/see. She wanted us to go out to the parking lot to meet her husband, so we did. We continued chatting about another 10 minutes out there and made the best new friends ever. They invited us to stay with them in the 4bedroom apartment on the hillside with nothing but sea views, but we were still in explore mode. She gave us her number and said to call if we wanted to stay in Altea. We continues on and checked out La Nucia, which had an animal park and loads of things for kids to do. (Lesson 3 - the "s" type of "c" is pronounced "th" La Nucia = La Nuthia, Gracias = Grathia, Cinqo = Thinko) We didn't feel like staying there and thought we would continue on and check out Benidorm. Benidorm is a bigger city and "touristy", so we had a quick drive around an moved on to the next small town. It was starting to get late in the afternoon, so we found a place to stay in Alicante (the nearest big city). We found another 2 bed apartment for rent for the night and it was perfect. (Alicante Hills Apartment)
After checking in we went to hit the nearest beach and let the kids burn some
energy. At this point it was later afternoon and the clouds rolled in. It wasn't
too warm but that didn't stop the kids from swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.
We watched a guy kite sale and then walked along the boardwalk. Around
6:30 or 7pm, we were getting a bit hungry and opted to go into downtown Alicante
to see what dinner choices we had. Of course after parking we noticed so many
people out and about on the boardwalk with street vendors and all kinds of food
choices. We of course decided to snack along the way and enjoy our time
outside. We had Gyros, Churros, Pizza etc... Oh man it was good. We
noticed a crowd up the side street with some chairs lining the streets.
Turns out in just a few minutes the Semana Santa procession was to begin.
We kept lucking out and happening upon such really cool things. The kids were
entranced with the procession and people kept giving them candy too. It was just
too perfect. Once that was done, we roamed the city for a while then back to the
apartment for "nonners" / sleep. What a perfect day, we truly could not have
planned this perfect day, with the events and meeting new people. Everyone has
been so nice and friendly with us. Everything just happened and worked to our
Evening in Alicante - Semana Santa Procession
Monday - Day 4 - Costa Tropical (Alicante - Almeria)
We were going to head south along the coast and hit the natural mud baths, but it was cold and a little rainy. We couldn't justify the 2 -3 hrs of extra driving time, so we'll just have to come back to do this activity another time. There was a section of coastline we decided to skip, so we just made a bee line to Almeria and decided to check into a hotel early and just let the kids have a free day to play. We actually found a place in Roquettas del Mar and it seemed like the perfect "retirement resort beach town". (Hotel Citymar Bellavista) I think we were the only ones under the age of 70, but we still had fun. We played Bingo and a shuffle board type game with the best. The kids and I had fun while Alan was resting back at the room. We played games and had to do it all in Spanish, so it was extra fun. Turns out Lars won 1st place for the kids and I got 2nd place for adults. One older woman yelled and sassed me in Spanish and then laughed. It was cute. We went back for the "disco" at 9:30pm and the hostess called Lars up on stage and gave him a prize (free non alc. drink). She then called all kids (about 8 of them) up to the stage for a 30 min disco and kids dance. Then 10:00pm time for Bingo with about 100 60-90 yr olds. LOL We cashed in Lars' prize for a Zumo and the Hostess called out my name on the mic and said "Heidi don't you and the kids want to play Bingo?" We said yes, hid behind the pillars and slipped out the back.
Tuesday - Day 5 - Costa Tropical/ Costa del Sol (Almeria - Nerja)
We started our day a little earlier today and were on a short drive to Almuñécar to start. We could tell we were now in the Spanish Province of Andelucia, due to all of the Pueblo Blancos (White Villages) along the hillside. We made it to central Almuñécar along the coast and parked the car. We happened upon a "pedestrian only" area and began to explore the labarynth of streets. Winding our way around and looking in on little shops. Being surprised around each corner with a plaza or fresh croissants or a local artist. We were all "feeling it" here. We stayed a few hours walking around. We stopped for the Menu del dia and had a wonderful Chinese lunch along the beach. After lunch we stopped at the park and the kids played with the locals. It felt very natural as if we belonged. I have had several "Spanish only " conversations this week and the kids are blooming! They played with a kids at the beach today and were speaking SPANISH with them. The played hide and seek with a 9 yr old girl that wanted them to teach her English. She had Anya count to 10 in Spanish while she and Lars hid, then they each took turns counting in their non native language. It was adorable. Oh, Alan and I were some very proud parents. gave me the goosies!
After a lovely afternoon, we continued along the coast to Nerja. This was a
busy little town and a bit difficult to find any parking. We headed to the
small inland Pueblo Blanco village of
Frigiliana. It was
adorable and the roads were so small and narrow. We found ourselves in a
bit of a pickle when trying to make a right hand turn and the road wasn't wide
enough. So, Alan had to back up the road we were on until there was room to make
a turn on another street. It was beginning to rain and getting late, time to
find a place to crash for the night. We ended up going back down the hill
10 min to Nerja and stayed at a lovely Blanco hotel
on the beach. Marinas
Wednesday - Day 6 - Costa del Sol (Nerja - Malaga - Granada - Sierra
Today we woke up and the kids and I explored around the hotel a bit in the morning. There were some little pony's nearby too. We headed back to the room to get Alan and check out of the hotel. On the road again about 25 min away to the big city of Malaga. We decided to explore this one via car and drove all around. We were going to find a place for the night, but thought that we would head 1 hr north into the Sierra Nevada's to Granada. This way we would be 1 hr closer to Madrid for our final day's drive. We ended up in Granada and weren't really feeling like exploring the city in the cold rain. So we opted to keep on driving north until we were tired. We then just ended up driving all of the way to Madrid and get the driving over all in one day, so we didn't have to drive the following day. We did make a reservation at a cool hotel near the airport for the night prior to our flight, so we went there to see if they could take us for 2 nights. Yep, no problem. Hotel Axor Barajas, was way cool.
Back in Madrid for 2 nights. Cool Murphy bunk beds for the kids
Thursday - Day 7 - (Madrid - Bank Holiday)
Had a great time exploring Madrid today. It was a bank holiday so almost everything was closed, even the grocery store. We opted to drive into the city rather than take the metro, so we could see the city. The buildings are gorgeous! Once again, this worked out so well for us. We found a street market and couldn't find parking, so we moved on ahead and found a garage to park in. After coming up out of the garage, we found we were in the pedestrian only zone for Madrid and things were open, Food! We had fun roaming around and it was a bit chilly too. After the city we were meandering via car back towards our hotel. I noticed on the map there was a bull ring, so we made it over by the ring and got out to take a closer look. Lucked out again, English tour in starting in 5 min. We loved the tour and luckily missed the bull fight. I attended one in Mexico City years ago and did not enjoy. At least after this tour, I now have an understanding of what was going on and why. Apparently this is "THE" place of dreams for a Matador to fight and be carried out "The Big Door".
Pedestrian area of downtown Madrid
Friday - Day 8 - Madrid - Flight home :-(
Our flight landed in PHL about 1 1/2 hrs early, so we had a longer lay over than anticipated. The kids did so well and never complained, making the best of every moment. Anya even made a friend and played in the airport kiddie play area.