After our week in Dubrovnik, three weeks in Croatia were complete, and it was time to continue our adventure. Next stop: Barcelona, Spain. Five months into our adventure now, it’s become very apparent that the world is becoming much more of a global community. Our time in Spain has been the first time we’ve encountered more people who don’t speak English than do, including the months we’ve spent in Vietnam, Switzerland, Italy & Croatia. It’s been fun and refreshing for us all to be forced to practice our Spanish skills rather than be the ones the locals flock to to practice their English.
We’ll spend the month of October split between Spain and Portugal, beginning with four nights in Barcelona. From Barcelona, we picked up a rental car and drove west, stopping to fill our bellies with Pinxtos for two nights in Bilbao en route to Santiago de Compostela. In Santiago de Compestela, we enjoyed a wonderful week in an old restored farm home where we had a surprise visitor.
A four-night stay in Barcelona would be the first stop of our Spanish tour. Having enjoyed the city as a cruise port, it was one we were excited to experience for more than just a day, and the city didn’t disappoint. The highlight of our visit being our tour of the Sagrada Familia organized through Family Twist.
We rented a 2-bedroom apartment in the area of Grafas, the former “hipster” area of town. Located in the middle of the city and within walking distance to many of the main attractions, the area had the feel of a small neighborhood – streets lined with restaurants, bars and market shops between the residences.
Family Twist is a one stop shop for private luxurious family breaks in Europe who takes pride in turning your family travel expectations into unforgettable experiences. They provide in-house designed fun-filled cultural tours and hands-on activities for the whole family in cities throughout Europe. After meeting with the owners of the company during Travel Week the past couple of years and learning about the companies’ offerings, we were excited to experience their service first hand. We are happy to report that our expectations were exceeded.
Our guide, Andrea, was waiting for us at the entrance to the Sagrada Familia. Andrea had done his homework on our family before spending his afternoon with us, reading through the posts and stories from our travels to date. Because he already knew our appearance and had an idea of our preferences, he was able to identify us quickly and tailor the tour to our preferences, keeping the kids engaged while we learned about the architecture of Gaudi.
We began with identifying the many decorative elements on the Eastern face of the church, the various stages of Jesus’ life, the many animals, and the elements of nature that influenced the design of the building and were carved into the stone. The tour then continued inside the amazing church to where we could see the interior painted with light through the stained glass. We stood beneath the giant columns shaped like trees and felt the intended effect of being in a forest, surrounded by nature. Slowly, we worked our way through the church learning about the various elements along the way, concluding on the western exit where the designs have much harder lines, and scenes depicting the death of Christ.
From the church, we continued our afternoon in the Park Güell where we could see more of Gaudi’s architecture in the neighborhood he designed. Our few hours on tour flew by, and at the end, the girls didn’t want Andrea to leave. The church and park are amazing; having a guide that could explain the elements in a way that kept the kids engaged and learning throughout made our tour much more memorable.
A four hour drive brought us to Bilbao, home of the famous “pinxtos” tapas bars and Guggenheim museum. For two nights we rested well in the Gran Hotel Domine while exploring the city.
Inspired by the Guggenheim, which it faces, Gran Hotel Domine, refurbished in 2018, features a whimsical concept that places smart, 20th-century artworks and furnishings in ultramodern spaces, like the skylit Atrium with its 85-foot-high Mariscal sculpture, and for your comfort, in the 145 recently renovated rooms. The lobby bar is ideal for relaxing with a drink and meeting with friends. The teakwood terrace offers astounding views of the Guggenheim and the countryside beyond while enjoying breakfast. We especially enjoyed the Virtuoso Amenity of the complimentary 3-course lunch one afternoon. A full meal at lunch followed by an evening of tastes at the Pinxtos bars left us filled and happy.
With the art exhibits currently on display, we actually preferred exploring the outside of the museum more than the inside. The museum contains interesting architecture inside and out, the girls enjoyed running beneath the giant spider outside, and playing in the fountain and playground set beside. There were a couple of interesting exhibits inside, they were more geared towards adults than kids though.
Our drive across Northen Spain led ended in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Spain’s Galicia region and the ending of the many pilgrimage routes. In Santiago de Compestela, we rented an old restored farmhouse for a week and loved every minute of it. The home itselffelt like a museum, filled with decorations of old equipment. The owner left us many tasty treats including eggs form his chickens, honey from his bees & a freshly baked loaf of bread on arrival. Throughout the week, he stopped by with fresh honeycomb, and peaches he harvested and escorted us through the organic garden behind the house where we could pick the cherry tomatoes, carrots, apples, really anything we wanted was there for us to help ourselves to. The girls especially enjoyed making soups and smoothies with the products from the garden. Each day in the afternoon, a truck would drive past selling freshly baked bread so we could restock our bin.
As nice as the house and town were, the highlight of the week was a visit from Ange, aka “Ma”. It was great to share our explorations with and spend time together on walks though the woods to town. With fall weather moving into town, we had our share of rainy days, but it didn’t matter. The week flew by, and before we knew it, ma was headed back home, and it was time for us to continue our adventure in Portugal.
We visited the tallest Catholic church in the world! it was called Sagrada Familia. It’s been being built now for over one hundred years, still worked on today. The name of the man who build this was Antoni Guadi. This guys church even had plans for an elevator way back then. One side of the church was blue and green for life, the other was red and yellow for death. There was also a cool spiral staircase. There were statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. There was a statue of a man who killed a huge dragon. It was cool.
After the church, we went to Park Guell. Now at Park Guell, we saw a home for the really rich people. It was in the shape of a wave. One of the posts to hold up this wave was in the shape of a lady carrying her laundry. The recycled everything. Teacups, pots, plates, saucers and stuff like that, they made the tiles from. We had the best tour ever – especially the guide, it was a great day.
On Sunday, we went to a famous museum called the Gugenhigh Museum. We went in a room where we went through lit up words that disappeared into cool mist. Right outside of the museum were fountains I ran through. They were freezing and I got sopping wet. On our way back to the hotel. we saw a huge awesome dog made with flowers. At night we ate at some fun tapas bars.
On our first night in our new town, we went to a restaurant. Our server said to everything on the menu, “something really good, really good”. He was happy we came to his restaurant. All the food was awesome! That dinner was worth the money.
The next day we walked around and found a market. We found dinner and some carrots. The carrots we washed off and ate them while we walked through town. We ate at a pretty good restaurant.
On Thursday, we drove to the airport and picked up Ma! She is our grandmother! Once we picked her up, we walked to town and ate lunch. It was good. I got beef. We all shared some calamari. Then we went shopping and walked around town a bit more. On our way back to the house, we played in a playground. it was a great day.
On Friday, we went to a pizzeria. We got three pizzas and one salad and then went to the beach. The water was too cold, so we had a sandcastle making contest. I made a moat and a drawbridge and shells as decorations, and I actually won. What a great day!
On Saturday, we ate at a market. We bought the food and they would cook it. Pretty good deal if you ask me. We got this terdichanal [traditional] dessert. It was chocolate and sprinkles and cake bread on top, and then at the bottom – custard! Sounds good, doesn’t it?
The next day it was rainy do we did a dance party. We all had some sweete moves – best Sunday ever. On Monday, I made carrot soup. We played hang man and tic tac toe. That night, we had to say goodbye to Ma. Daddy took her to the airport early in the morning and then we left town for Portugal.
On our first day in Barcelona, we went on a tour of a Catholic Church named Sagrada Familia. Our guide gave us a ton of info on it such as:
The church was so cool. There was a side for Jesus’ life, and a side for his death. On the life side, there were blue and green stained glass windows and on the death side, there were red, yellow & orange stained glass. When the sun rose, the church would be blue and green on the inside. Then, in the late afternoon before the sun sets, it lights up yellow, red and orange! Antoni also built a school right next to the church so the builders children could be close. Pretty cool huh? Next, our guide took us to a place Park Guell.
We learned that Park Guell was started by a rich man who hired Antoni Gaudi to design a neighborhood, but only one person bought a lot because most people wanted to live closer to the coast. Antoni Gaudi designed the public areas, and couple of buildings before the rich man decided not to pay him any more. In many of the decorations, Guadi used old bits of coffee cups and saucers to decorate.
It was a very interesting park, and I plan to return with friends one day.
It was almost a five hour drive to Bilbao but we made it. On our first day, we went to a museum but I don’t remember the odd name [Guggenheim} It looked like tons of ribbons from the outside, but the inside was pretty boring. Up the steps from the museum there was a huge dog made out of flowers. Emily and I liked a playground just behind the big dog. The hotel we stayed at was amazing. There was a huge thing of rocks that went up to the top floor and a super cool clock that put its’ hands together to show the time.
On our first few days, we explored town, and then Ma came to visit! On our first day with Ma, we walked down to town and ate at a place called Don Quixote. Then we went and bought dinner at a supermercado (Spanish for supermarket) On the next day, we took Ma to the Beach. We ate at an Italian pizzeria for lunch and it was goood! Then we walked or more like ran across the street to the beach. Emily and I had a sandcastle contest. Emily won. I was happy for her, but I still wanted to win. It was a great day.
On Saturday, we took Ma down to the market and bought pork and some smoky cheese. rE took the pork to a restaurant that would take the carne (meat) or seafood you purchased at the market an cook it for you. We then ordered a dessert that had custard on top and cake on the bottom. It was amazing. After dessert, we walked to a Cathedral in town where daddy and I held the bags while Em, Ma, and Mommy went inside.
The next day was real rainy. We mostly just hung out. We had a dance party where we listened to music. and I made a slushy out of strawberries and melon. later that day, Emily made us soup. I’m so glad to have Ma with us. On our last day with Ma, we threw a giant party to say good-bye. Ma and I played tic-tac toe. Emily, Ma and I played hangman. Emily made her soup, and I made face snacks out of melon carrot and apple. Ma snuggled me to sleep that night. I love you ma!
Many of our cruise partners visit Spain. Many of the Ocean cruises include stops along the Mediterranean Coast. Several of the Douro River Cruises offer land based extensions into Northern Spain.
While a cruise is a great way to see several areas and decide which you’d like to return to, land based tours will offer opportunities to get even deeper into the country.