Sixes in Spain: Week 4 (Sevilla and Sanlucar de Barrameda)

Chipiona

Notice anything different about the post title for this #SixesInSpain update? It’s the first time there hasn’t been three, four, and five cities in the list of places we’ve been for the week. And let me tell you, we can feel it. We’ve been in one spot for a week now, and it feels really, really good. Don’t get me wrong, I wish we could pack in as much of Spain as possible in this visit. But sometimes you have to know when to stop and smell the churros. And so we’re wrapping up the last leg of our visit by living like Spaniards on a typical holiday – in this case in the wonderfully charming beach town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. But more on that in a minute.

When we last left you, we were just beginning the portion of the trip where I fly (Figuratively, not literally. I’ve had enough of Ryanair flights for a lifetime, thankyouverymuch) solo with the kids. Mike returned to the states on Friday, leaving the kids and I on our own for the last 12 days of our trip. He made it home safely, and quickly stocked up on Kraft mac and cheese and Totinos Party Pizzas (whereas on this end I’m contemplating if I can feasibly devote one entire suitcase to Spanish foods and treats).

Torro del Oro

We spent a few more days in Sevilla with my cousin, Elena. In case you’re wondering, my Elena is named after her. We are only a few months apart, and I have many fond memories of spending time with her as a girl in Spain. Like every member of my mother’s family that we’ve spent time with here, Elena and her family are the most gracious and fun hosts you could have. We are so very lucky.

On Friday my Tito Alejandro took us, along with Elena’s daughter, Huga, into Sevilla. We visited Plaza de Espana and Parque Maria Luisa. These were both used as part of the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. The kids most enjoyed a section of the park known as Parque de las Palomas. It’s filled with pigeons, as well as strategically placed vendors selling bird seed. I tried to be a casual observer of the feathered frenzy, but this guy had other plans.

Parque de las Palomas

Saturday was a very special day. My favorite senorita turned 12! It was definitely a different kind of birthday for her. I didn’t have presents for her to open (although I did have a bakery wrap up her favorite Spanish pastry – a chocolate croissant with sprinkles on top). Elena and David had a little gathering for her, and David whipped up the most delicious paella. Probably not Elena’s first choice, but the woman that gave birth to her was happy! I was able to sneak out to a bakery and buy a typical Spanish cake to surprise her with, though.

Feliz cumpleanos

On Sunday morning we took the bus to Sanlúcar, where my Tita Hortensia and Uncle Bill have a home. It feels SO good to stay planted in one spot for more than a few days. For the first time since June we have unpacked our suitcases and put our clothes in actual closets! Sanlúcar is situated on the southwest coast of Spain, where the Rio Guadalquivir meets the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not the most beautiful beach, but it’s calm and shallow – perfect for young swimmers like Eli. We are just a block from the beach. The town of Sanlúcar, of which the heart is just a 5 minute walk from the house, is true Spain: wide pedestrian walkways for leisurely evening paseos (strolls), lots of bars, cafes and pastry shops, stores, and a wonderful market. Sanlúcar is a fishing town, and you’ll find seafood in this market you won’t see anywhere else.

Mercado Sanlucar de Barrameda

Our typical days have looked like this: Wake up whenever we feel like it (usually around 9:30 am). Eat breakfast at home, or walk a few blocks to a cafe for churros and chocolate. Sometimes we take a walk in town to see what the fisherman have brought to market or to buy bread. Sometimes we take a late morning trip to the beach. We eat a large lunch at home at the typical Spanish hour of 2 or 3 pm. Sometimes we hang around for a siesta or some reading time in my new favorite reading spot:

Spanish patio

Other times we head to the beach. We usually stay at the beach until 7 or so, and then come home to shower. Then we walk into town for a manzanilla (a type of wine only made in Sanlúcar) and a tapa. And, of course, the obligatory ice cream. Because the town is so small and easy to navigate, I often send Elena and Eli off with a few Euros and let them walk around together while we sit and enjoy the food and wine. And then we do it all over again the next day!

Today is our last full day here. Tomorrow we’ll get on the high-speed train (See! I told you we’d use virtually every mode of transportation available on this trip!) and head back to Madrid. We have one full day in Madrid to finish up a bit of shopping, eat as much as humanly possible, and organize the suitcases. On Wednesday morning, we fly home.

faro de Chipiona

If y’all are the praying time, I’d love for you to pray for safe, uncomplicated travels for us. I’m looking at 3 flights in one day, with a very short layover on the last leg. I’d really, really love to sleep in my own bed at the end of the day, not at the airport in Philadelphia!

Once we’re home, unpacked, and back on Hoosier time, I’ll get to work editing photos and sharing some of my favorites with you. Thanks so much for following along on this trip of a lifetime. I hope we’ve kept you entertained, but more than anything, I hope we’ve stoked a desire within you to visit this beautiful country and its friendly people very soon. You won’t regret it!

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Sixes In Spain: Week 3 (Jaen, Granada, Ronda, Sanlucar, Sevilla)

If the first part of our trip was all about planes, the next leg was all automobile. Don’t worry, we’ll have trains covered by the end!

As much fun as it was to visit London and Barcelona, we were ready to be done with flying. I wouldn’t have done the trip any other way, but still … 6 flights and 3 countries in 11 days is pushing it.

We rented a car for a week so that we could see more of Andalucia (southern Spain) on our own timetable. I’m so glad that we did. The drives between the towns we visited were spectacular. Mountains, hillsides covered in olive trees, fields of endless sunflowers, tiny white towns nestled in the valleys … it was crazy beautiful.

Jaen, Spain

I have to give Mike major props here. He drove like he’d done this a zillion times. We got turned around so many times, and trying to drive in some of these towns, on streets barely big enough for a car, let alone other cars and people, is strictly for crazy people. But he did it time and time again, leaving his sanity and the rental car intact. The car came equipped with the sensors that beep when you’re getting too close to an object. There was one particular street in Granada that set off a symphony of sensor beeps in our poor little VW Polo. The kids thought that was the funniest thing ever.

Parador Jean

On Friday we drove from Sevilla to Jaen. Thanks to the recommendation of Mackenzie, we booked a room in the Parador of Jaen. Paradors are government-run hotels that can be found throughout Spain. They are often located in historic buildings. This particular parador was part of a castle. It was a bit of a splurge, but it’s probably the most luxurious place we’ve ever stayed in as a family. It was at the tip top of a mountain overlooking Jaen. Our room was huge, and had a big terrace that overlooked the valley. We wandered around a bit in Jaen, but we mostly enjoyed walking around the Parador. In the morning they brought a spread to our room fit for a king: coffee, drinking chocolate, pastries, fresh orange juice, toast, cheese and jamon. I could’ve spent a week in that room!

Alhambra

Saturday morning we made the short drive to Granada. Granada is home to the Alhambra, a Moorish palace known around the world for its beauty. We stayed in a guest house just steps away from the entrance to the Alhambra, and within close walking distance to the medieval Moorish streets of  Albayzín. While not nearly as fancy as our previous digs, it was awesome to be steps away from everything. The Alhambra is a jaw-droppingly amazing as I remember. I can’t wait to show you some of my “real” photos. In the evening we walked up to a famous lookout point with great views of the city and the Alhambra. We ended with a visit to a local ice cream shop (Los Italianos)  that’s rumored to be a favorite of Michelle Obama’s. If that’s true, lady knows her ice cream. I had their specialty, a cassata. It’s basically an ice cream cake made of ice cream studded with dried fruits and chocolate. Terrible, I tell you. Terrible.

cassata los italianos grananda

Sunday we drove to Ronda. Ronda is known for its spectacular views. The city is perched on the edge of a giant gorge. There are two bridges spanning the gorge … the “New” Bridge (finished in 1793) and the “Old” Bridge (built in 1616). It’s also home to one of Spain’s oldest bullrings. We really enjoyed Ronda. It’s small enough to wander about without feeling overwhelmed that you should be doing more sightseeing. There are tons of lovely cafes and beautiful views. Our hotel was pretty sweet, too. It was very funky – lots of upcycled art. It had a tiny rooftop pool that the kids loved, as well as an aviary and a fish pond. Our favorite part was the 24 hour open bar. Our room was 2 stories! The kids couldn’t believe it, and wanted to stay for at least another week.

Ronda

Ronda bullring

On Monday we drove to Morón de la Frontera, which is the town my mom is from. We were able to see my aunt, uncle, and many of my cousins. Everyone is so, so kind and accommodating. Elena broke out of her shell a bit and went off with my cousin’s daughter and her friends for a few hours. I was finally able to get my hands on some caracoles. These snails are a specialty in southern Spain and only available for a couple of months in the early summer. I’ve been craving them since I last had them over 20 years ago!

caracoles

That evening we drove to Sanlucar, which is a beach town where my Tita Hortensia has a home. This wasn’t originally in the plans, but Mike really wanted to see it. It was raining buckets in the morning, which gave us a few hours for a much-needed chill session. The kids and I will head back here in a few days – it’s the perfect place to just relax and live like a local.

Italica

Wednesday we headed back to Sevilla to return the rental car and spend some time with my cousins and uncle that had visited us in April. We’ve mostly been walking around Sevilla and enjoying family. My cousin drove us to Italica, a spot outside of Sevilla that has some really well preserved Roman ruins. Yesterday was Mike’s last day with us. On Thursday evening we put him on the high-speed train back to Madrid. This morning he returns to the States.

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<p class=The kids and I have just under 2 weeks left. We’re spending a few more days here in Sevilla before heading back to Sanlucar and the beach. After that we return to Madrid to pack up the rest of our things and come home. While we’ve seen so many amazing things, and I’m sad to see Mike go, we’re looking forward to some slow days of exploring and relaxing. Tomorrow we’ll celebrate Elena’s 12th birthday Spanish style – with a party and some paella!

Until next week – ¡Hasta luego!

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Sixes In Spain: Week 2 (Madrid, London, Barcelona)

Alright … new strategy here. Whatever notion I had that I would be able to edit and upload all my photos, and subsequently write in the detail each destination deserves, while we were on vacation … and actually enjoy our vacation as well? Well, that notion went out the window a few days in. Instead I’m going to give some highlights from our week, let you know what we’ve been up to, and share a few iPhone photos. Then, once we’re back and I have some time to give each of these amazing places the time they deserve, I’ll share my thoughts and favorite photos with you. In short, welcome to the summer of 2014 and the Six Family extended slide show. At least you can get up, get drinks, and go to the bathroom without offending anyone!

Overall, the trip has been amazing and everything is going really, really well. There have been a few bumps and tense moments (as expected), but there have been far more moments that will be treasured family memories. I’ll admit, I was nervous about traveling with the kids. They are amazing travelers, though, and they’ve been troopers through some endless days of sightseeing. At the same time, they’ve opened windows with their curiosity that many adult travelers probably miss. I will treasure these memories
forever.

Spain World Cup Match Madrid

So I left you after our visit to Toledo. The following day, Friday, was our last day in Madrid. We hit up the Royal Palace. It was cool to be there and know that in just a few days, a coronation would be taking place. Earlier this week King Juan Carlos turned the throne over to his son. The palace is amazing, but what blew our minds the most was the Stradivarius room. One room housed a full quartet of authentic Stradivarius instruments, with each instrument valued at $15 million! We finally had churros. I’m not sure why this isn’t a daily habit, but I do know that we’ll probably spend over $200 in ice cream alone this trip. We eat it at least once a day, if not more. That’s my kind of vacation. We also visited the Reina Sofia museum, to see Picasso’s Guernica, and strolled through Retiro Park. That evening we watched the first Spanish match of the World Cup in a bar with my cousins. After that terrible outcome, we significantly expanded our repertoire of Spanish insults.

Regents Park London

On Saturday we had our first experience with flying Ryanair. Let me just say, I’ve flown many times in my life, and I’ve never felt like I might have a panic attack and vomit at the same time like I did this day. Our first mistake was not encouraging my uncle to get us to the airport a little sooner. We basically had 45 minutes to check a bag, get through security, and make it to our gate. With Ryanair, if you’re not there when they close the gate (usually 20 minutes before taking off), you lose your seat. We go to check our bag, and it’s 7 kilos over the weight we paid for. Fine, you think, right? No. It’s 10 Euros per kilo you’re over. So basically, it was going to cost us more to check our bag that it was for our entire family to fly to London. Insert mad dash to redistribute items in other bags. We finally get that situated, only to face a long line at security. After we got through security, we had 15 minutes to get to our gate. Insert mad dash to gate. This is all on little sleep and empty stomachs. Not good. We made it though, and learned a few valuable Ryanair lessons along the way.

Flake bar ice cream

London was amazing, and I fell in love with the city. It was impossible to get more than a taste in only 3 days, but I really hope to return some day. A few highlights: strolling through Regents Park with Eli, the wonder that is an ice cream cone with a Flake bar stuck in the middle, watching the Changing of the Guard, a Beefeater tour at the Tower of London, dinner with my cousin, and visiting the Warner Bros. Studio where Harry Potter was filmed.

Barcelona Sweets

We left London on Tuesday morning and landed in Barcelona. In my previous travels to Spain, I’ve never been to Barcelona. But after only two days, I’m smitten. It’s a beautiful city. Everywhere you go, there’s something gorgeous, whether it’s architecture, a shop window full of pastries, or a terrace spilling over with flowers. I also loved all the ramblas, wide streets with space in the middle for cafes and strolling. We stayed in the loveliest guest house, which after our extremely cramped quarters in London, was just what we needed. Besides our stroll along Las Ramblas and through Barri Gòtic, we loved visiting the market (La Boqueria). There are no words for Sagrada Familia, it moved me to tears. We also spent an afternoon on the beach. After days of go, go, go sightseeing, the kids needed some down time. What we probably didn’t need was the full male nudity! There are things we can’t unsee!

Barceloneta

Thursday afternoon we flew to Sevilla, the last of our flights until we go home. We rented a car for a week. Thankfully, my cousin Elena met us at the airport and drove us in the rental car to her house. We had a lovely dinner at her home. We’re spending the next few days on the road, driving through the little white villages of Andalucia and finishing up the next week in Sevilla.

In the meantime, you can continue to follow along on Instagram. Until next time, hasta luego!

 

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