Itinerary Series: Andalusia, Spain

In October 2010, we travelled to Andalusia, Spain with our then 8 month old son and 2 1/2 year old daughter and we are still longing to go back!  It was a very relaxing trip with just enough sight seeing and culture to give me the travelbug fix that I needed.  I’ve had some requests from friends for information on our itinerary so here it is!

Arrival:  We flew into Malaga Airport, direct from JFK.   One word of caution- I know of at least 2 people that had small bags stolen from this airport, one in the car rental parking lot.   I knew this, so I was constantly keeping track of all our belongings but somehow a small black bag that was actually a child carrier went missing between getting off the plane and arriving at our next destination.  I admit, I have no idea how that could have happened, so these thieves are slick!

Week 1

We rented a house, approx 90 minute drive from the airport. The house, www.fincaalboran.com, was perfect for our family!  It was very private and peaceful, surrounded by farms and about 1km down a rough dirt road from the white village of Gaucin.  The village has a couple of great restaurants.  Our favorite was La Fuente.  The house itself came with everything we needed for the kids and much more than was listed on their site.  There were games, toys, books, movies, pool toys and more.  The pool is gated, so no worries with little ones and has a little pool house with a bed which the kids loved to play in.

We spent some days doing day trips to local town of Ronda and the beach town of Estepona (30 minutes).  Gibraltar would also be an easy day trip, but the day we headed out, we realized part way there that we forgot our passports and would not have been able to enter.  If I was to go again, I would also try the beaches closer to the Portugal border as I understand they are nicer than those closer to Malaga.

Many days we just went for hikes in the area, walks in the village to go to the market and then relaxed by the pool for the afternoon.  The house has an outdoor charcoal grill that we liked to cook on at night.

Week 2

Sevilla

I love Sevilla.  It was a very romantic city.  Not too big but lots of culture, delicious tapas, friendly people and everything was within walking distance.   The shopping would have also been great, but not so easy to do with 2 little ones!

We rented an apartment in the same building as the link below.  It was basic, but had a balcony (necessity when traveling with kids and parents need some time to relax after they are in bed) and it was in a central location.    I would spend at least 3 nights in Sevilla.

http://www.spain-holiday.com/rentals/accommodations/properties/6757/Sevilla/7/Sevilla/0/Andalucia/Sevilla.html

Granada

After Sevilla, I didn’t think I would be as impressed with Granada, but I fell in love all over again.  Granada has lots of character.  The Alhambra is worth the visit. Wandering the alleys of the Albaicin, buying sweets (dulces) and wine from nuns at a convent were highlights.

We stayed in an apartment that was very close to the main plaza and at the entrance to the Alhambra.  It was a safe street.  The apartment had a lot of stairs so caution for really little ones and a very small kitchen but overall we really liked it.

http://www.friendlyrentals.com/en/apartments/granada/apartment-3513-115.htm

Benalmedena (just outside of Malaga):

The last 2 nights we stayed at Sahara Sunset Club in Benalmedena.  I’m not sure I’d recommend it.  The positives-It was really cheap ($65/night for a 2 bedroom apartment with full kitchen), there was a lot for kids to do in the area, there was an indoor and outdoor pool, hot tub, hammam and more on the resort.  The negatives- It was quite run down, the town is very touristy and the beach was very dirty.  It was a relaxing way to spend the last 2 days after a lot of sight seeing in Sevilla and Granada and the kids were happy with it.

Hope this was helpful to somebody.  If you have any questions, send me an email.  If you have a trip itinerary of your own that you’d like to post, send it along!

10 Things My Kids Loved About Spain

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It is amazing the impact that family vacations have on our children. My daughter, two and half years old during our recent adventure in Andalucia, Spain has not ceased talking about it, even 3 months later. The most interesting part is finding out what she liked about it and what has made a lasting impression. In random order, here are the top 10 things she talks about regularly:

1. 1.  The Bidet- Also known as ‘the bum washer’. She was amazed when she saw the extra porcelain bowl in our vacation house. After we explained how and when to use it, she needed to use the facilities a lot more frequently than usual.

2. 2.  Architecture – We did spend some time pointing out to her the differences between homes in Spain and homes in Canada but didn’t realize it was sinking in until one day she saw a picture on a magnet and told us it was Spain. It was actually Italy, but she was recognizing the cobblestone streets, flowers in window boxes, narrow alleys etc.

3. 3.  Fascination with Donkeys- While we were waiting for check-in time at our vacation house, we wandered around the quiet streets in the village of Gaucin. We came across a donkey tethered to a stoop in front of somebody’s house. We could hear the ‘hee-haw’ before we could see it. It must have been the excitement of hearing him and trying to find him that started this fascination. Once we found him, she didn’t want to leave and for the rest of the trip kept asking if we could go find the donkey. She still talks about him today.  (incidentally it also started an obsession with talking about donkey poop).

The Donkey, Gaucin, Spain

The Donkey, Gaucin, Spain

4. 4.  The airplane-This was a no-brainer. We knew she’d love it and all that was associated with the airport, security, luggage etc.

5. 5.  The moon- She has always loved the moon but actually seems to understand the concept of the world turning. In the daytime, she will say ‘Now the moon has gone to Spain’.

6. 6.  Mango flavoured ice cream- We were spoiled with daily gelato (Mom’s favorite) and she caught on quick to this daily ritual. She says she doesn’t like mangos, only mango ice cream? One gelateria, also gave her a chocolate cookie with her icecream and a clown on a stick.

7. 7.  Her special toy. Also a gift from a gelato stand. We bought various souvenirs throughout the trip, but this was her favorite. It was a free, red foam and plastic toy that you can pump. I believe it is to be filled with water and used for water fights but she doesn’t know that . She just imagines that it is something different each time she plays with it.

8. 8.  Patterns in the stone tiled streets and alleyways- It wasn’t too long before I noticed that she was examining the stone tiled streets very closely and would often decide to only walk on one particular shape or colour in the pattern. It was a game that could amuse her for ever. img_2415

9. 9.  Getting Lost- Ok, so this happened a couple of times. She picked up on it and is now forever wondering if we are lost again.

10. 10. ‘The Cottage’– This is the name she came up with for our vacation house in Gaucin. It was a beautiful whitewashed house in the country side complete with pool, pool house, many nooks and crannies to play, her own pint sized bed, toys galore and lots of farm animals in surrounding properties. She was in love. We could hardly tear her away. Whenever we went somewhere, she just kept asking to go back to ‘ The cottage’.

Many of the things she learned and loved were not those that I expected. I was excited that she was being exposed to a new language and culture. I thought she’d love the castles, swimming in the pools or maybe the horse and carriage rides.  She did, but they were not her favorites. When I asked her on the plane ride home what she liked the most about our trip, she said “ I liked that Daddy was with us the whole time”. What more could a parent ask for!

Family Fun and Celebrity Sighting at Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Our walk near Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Our walk near Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia

Weather in Nova Scotia can be unpredictable, but this past weekend we lucked out!  We had planned a family trip to Rissers Beach area to stay in a family friend’s cottage.  It was a 3 bedroom, winterized cottage with views of the ocean and surrounded by farmland, walking trails (and this may sound creepy but…) a beautiful graveyard from the 1800’s.  We went with my husbands parents and his sister, her husband and their daughter.

In the evening before bed and early in the mornings, Nana and Papa took the girls for a walk to find deer and they spotted some each time.  They apples from the trees along the way and loved their time being wrapped up in blankets and carried on their little adventure.  Saturday was warm and sunny.  Warm enough that when we went to the beach, my little bug immediately wanted to get in the water.  She gleefully ran in and out of the waves as if she didn’t even notice that it was freezing cold water!  The first beach we went to was Crescent Beach with white sands that appear to go forever.  It is one of the few beaches in Nova Scotia that you are allowed to drive on.  A few cars were there, and a small plane flew by but didn’t land.  Later there were people horseback riding as well.  One of them looked exactly like Nicole Kidman, but I’ve googled this fact and can’t find any information that she may be visiting this weekend.

Not far down the road is Rissers Beach, with a campground that has sites right on the ocean.  Sites 21,22 are good ones, because they have trees for privacy but are also still on the ocean.  Washrooms are nearby.  In between beaches there are antique stores and a kayak adventure business.  Kayaking would be perfect for families with older children as there are many coves and islands nearby to explore.  A little futher down the road is Petite Riviere where we visited The Maritime Painted Saltbox which was a quaint barn housing paintings, folkart and furniture created by the owners of the property.  There is also a vineyard and a river for fishing in the area.  Green Bay is a road leading along the ocean again, with many cottages for rent.  It offers beautiful scenery and small sandy coves to sunbathe, swim and walk.  This is where we ran across local celebrities, ‘Ricki and Julien’ from the Trailor Park Boys television show and movies.  They were apparently there to celebrate a friends birthday that weekend, but this picturesque setting was far removed from the trailor park we see them in on T.V.!

Overall, I highly recommend this area of the province.  There is lots to do with the kids in nearby towns of Bridgewater and Lunenburg.  On the way home on Sunday, we took the Lahave Cable Ferry across the river and took the scenic lighthouse route back towards Lunenburg.  In October the leaves are brilliant colours of orange, yellow and red.  It is a great time of year if you enjoy hiking and outdoor activities.  Alternatively July and August would be great for a beach holiday.  If you want any more information about the area, feel free to post a comment!

Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach

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Open Farm Day in Nova Scotia

This past weekend, the government of Nova Scotia, Canada, hosted an event called Open Farm Day.

photo courtesy of Nova Scotia Agriculture website.

photo courtesy of Nova Scotia Agriculture website.

There were 52 farms across the province participating featuring all different types of farming and various activities planned at each site.  We chose to visit this one.

Farm: Sunni Knoll Farm
Type: Dairy
Host: van de Riet family
Civic Address: 234 Mill Village Road., Shubenacadie
County: Halifax East Hants
Directions: Take exit 10 from highway 102, come to 3 stop signs and turn right at each. Drive approximately 1 km down Mill Village Road until you reach civic number 234

There were lots of activities for the kids at Sunni Knoll Farm! It was a beautiful afternoon, bright sunny and not too hot, not too cold.   As we rounded the bend on approach to the farm, we were overlooking bright green pastures as two horses came bounding along pulling a wagon of laughing kids and parents up and down the rolling hills.  We parked and got out to meet our friends who had been there a few minutes.  A fellow Mom was quick to inform me that she wasn’t sure about the llama, but the farmer taking her around to the kids was worth a second look, so we headed in that direction first!  My daughter wasn’t so sure about petting the llama, but she really enjoyed saying the word over and over again.

Next we went to visit with a goat that a young girl was showing off to the guests.  We thought it must have been pretty cool to have your own goat, and she told us that she actually had 6 goats of her own (and was quite proud of that fact).  I had to make a quick escape from the goat because my ‘little bug’ became fascinated with its rear end and started trying to stick her finger there.  The other adults pretending not to notice as I quickly pulled her away.  Luckily the next area had a bottle of hand sanitizer for public use.

The cows were pretty exciting for all of the kids.  They fed them grass and moo’d back and forth.  The baby calves were also very sweet.  At 4pm they started to milk the cows and you could go in to watch the process.

The cows

The cows

I loved this whole experience but was a little disappointed with this because I thought we’d see a demonstration by hand.  I guess that is rarely done these days.  It was all done by machine.  I think the highlight for the kids was the display of antique tractors.  They got to sit on them and pretend to drive and none of them wanted to get off.  There were also chickens to visit and a really neat version of a sand box.  Instead of sand, the box was filled with dried corn (feed) and it had plenty of tractors and farm toys to use to dig around and play.There was some art for sale including traditional hooked rugs and painting exhibits and a BBQ provided by the local Shu-Mil 4-H Club as well.  The trails and the fields made for a beautiful place to take a stroll with some peace and quiet.

All and all it was one of the best afternoons we’ve had in a while.  I will definitely be taking our family to visit some more farms at next year’s event!  It has also inspired me to look into some more fall activities in Nova Scotia and I found a great website for U-pick farms and associated activites.  It lists farms in U.S., Canada and several other countries.  Check it out and let me know if you have any other suggestions for fun fall family outings!

Serious tractor driving going on!

Serious tractor driving going on!

The farm version of a sand box.

The farm version of a sand box.

Educational Family Travel

There seems to be a new trend in Family Travel and I love it!  It’s Education!  Parents of this generation see travel as an opportunity to provide their children with an education they can’t get in school.  I am excited about the topic of Educational Family Travel because I believe that the insight and education we can acquire from travel is meaningful and enduring in the minds of our children.

I have a number of tips for engaging your children while visiting your destination:

1.  Before your visit, search the local library database, for fiction books that take place at your destination, either past or present.  Tales of adventures in a foreign destination will spark the imagination of your child and create interest in the location.

2.  Involve your children in your family travel planning choices.  I would recommend picking 3 or 4 destinations of choice and collecting some information about each one.  Let your children take a look and tell you what they think looks interesting about each one.  You can even let them have the final pick on which one you go to.  Once they’ve traveled a few times, and done ‘educational trips’ they will likely be more enthusiastic about future trips.

3.  If your child has specific interests, try to combine them with the activity.  For example, if he loves food,  get him excited about the traditional food available at your destination.  If she loves Soccer, bring along a ball to play with in the park after the visit and invite some local children to join in.

4.  Make time for play and creativity during the visit.  If they like to draw, bring crayons and a small art supply kit along, so that they can draw what they see.  For younger children, you can bring play-doh and they can sculpt.

5.  Music makes the world go round!  If you plan to rent a car, find international music, appropriate for your destination on itunes and bring along a CD or i-pod adaptor for the car.  Older children and teens can choose their own music for the personal stereos or MP3 players.

And most importantly!

6.  Make a game out of it.  Make the trip a scavenger hunt!  I have created a the ‘Amazing Family Race‘ for My Little Travel Bug.  Once you know your destination, you can add some more specific challenges to the list.  They can be designed so that your children will need to research, learn and observe while they are away, to be able to complete the list.

I hope these tips are helpful!  If you have specific destinations in mind which you would like me to provide advice on activities etc, I’d be happy to help.

Hit by a Motorcycle, Kicked by a Horse, Attacked by a Monkey

Have you ever watched, ‘Christmas Vacation’ with Chevy Chase? There’s a great line by cousin Ed, that goes something like ” Kicked by a mule, eyes go crossed. Fall down a well, eyes go un-crossed.” There was a day in November 2002, Siem Reap, Cambodia, where my husband and I repeated this over and over, laughing hysterically because that was basically how the day had gone!

Early in the day, we were in a taxi in the city of Siem Reap, when a motorcycle came out of nowhere and ran into the car we were in. The driver of the motorcycle went flew off the bike which skidded across the street. Shocked we started to jump out to see if he was ok, but he just got up, ran to the bike and off he went again. The driver of our taxi seemed indifferent to the event and muttered something like ‘idiot’ and off we went again, on our way to spend the day at the ancient ruins of Angkor.

The entrance to Angkor Wat

The entrance to Angkor Wat

The day before, we had a guided tour, so this day was going to be to ourselves to wander around and explore. My husband, Sean, loves animals. I like animals, but have an underlying mistrust for animals, I don’t know. As we walked the path towards Angkor Wat, we admired a horse tied to a stone, in the middle of a grassy field. There didn’t seem to be anybody around with the horse. Sean wandered over and gave the horse a pat. He kept trying to coax me over, to say hello to the horse as well. I said, ‘No thanks-I’ll just watch from here’. He kept insisting that I come, so finally I gave in and headed towards the horse. As soon as I was within 6 feet of the horse, he started to turn around so that his back was to me. Before we knew it, he was winding up for a kick. Sean, was between me and the horse, and our camera bag, was slung across his shoulder and sitting at his waist. The horse connected with the camera and therefore his hip which then slammed him into me and I went flying. We quickly retreated and luckily he was tied. The horse must have sensed that I was uncomfortable. In the end, we were a bit sore but no worse for wear and we continued to explore. Our camera, however did not survive and we had to take the rest of our photos with a disposable camera. (The camera was insured, and I’m sure ‘kicked by a horse’ must have been pretty funny to an insurance adjuster somewhere!).

The horse!

The horse!

Later in the day, we came across a tribe of monkeys, hanging out on the side of the road. The looked friendly enough and interacted with people at a distance. There was a roadside foodstand not too far away, and my husband spotted some bananas. Jackpot! We bought some bananas to give to the monkeys. Again, I was a bit nervous so I kept my distance. Sean was about 20 feet away, and he squatted down and pulled out the bananas to give to them. I wish I could have captured this on videotape. Probably the most terrified I’ve ever seen him look. One of the friendly monkeys, suddenly beared his fangs (who knew they had fangs?!) and started running at him full speed. Sean jumped up, tossed the bananas and ran for his life! Once a safe distance away the monkey gave up and went back for the bananas.

What a day! Lots of drama, many lessons learned, but not a scratch to show for it. It’s one we won’t forget.

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