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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!

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.

Small town Mom hits Fashion Week

If somebody else were writing a story about the fact that I attended an event at Fashion Week in New York City, I suspect that is the headline they would use. I have never been anything even close to a fashionista. I could barely stand reading ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ because I thought the main character was absolutely ridiculous and it would infuriate me every time she bought another outrageously priced scarf despite the fact that she was broke. It’s not that I don’t appreciate fine clothing and accessories, it’s just that I am by nature much too cheap to indulge in any piece of clothing more than $100. ( disclaimer: I would however be willing to pay airfare to Asia, to then shop for inexpensive clothing)
Despite, my unwillingness to purchase high end clothing, I was still really excited to attend the Ports 1961 show at Fashion Week in NYC last week.  It was a totally unexpected bonus to our last minute trip to the city.  We stayed with my sister and her boyfriend, Dion Roy to celebrate his 30th birthday.   My sister managed to get tickets to the Ports show from Bob Bland, designer of Brooklyn Royalty clothing.  Thanks Bob!

The first thing we had to do was figure out what to wear to the show.  I hadn’t brought anything dressy with me, so I opted for a pair of black Mexx dress pants, a silky black and white top and a pair of $60 high heels that I bought the night before.  My sister loaned me a vintage purse that belonged to my grandmother and off we went.  When we arrived there was a crowd gathered outside the tents at Bryant Park.  We walked up the steps past the on-lookers and told security we were headed for the Ports show.  Inside there were cameras flashing left, right and center.  People were even coming up and taking pictures of my cheap shoes.  There were people dressed in everything from jeans to purple feather boas.  When it was time to go in, we again were ushered past crowds of people and found our seats.  We watched the photographers granted access snap photos of Olivia Palermo, from ‘The City’ seated a few rows away and facing us from the other side of the runway.  Anna Wintour, the alleged inspiration for the Devil Wears Prada, was also present, wearing large dark sunglasses.  Her expression didn’t change throughout the show and you could not see her eyes, so it was difficult to tell what she thought.

The show itself was short, as models walked the runway to a live band.  The clothes were of course beautiful.  Afterwards we went backstage and watched people talking with the designer, however we really didn’t have much to say so we just wandered around.  All and all, it was an experience, I wouldn’t miss!

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Travel to Addis Ababa showed me the shocking reality of HIV

In 2004, my husband and I as well as another couple found ourselves with 12 hours in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  We were flying Ethiopian Airlines from Dar es Salaam to Frankfurt with this long stopover in between.  The airline provided a hotel room for us at the Hilton in downtown Addis, as well as 2 meals included at the hotel for the day which we thought was incredibly generous!  We were shuttled from the airport to the hotel on a large bus and there were two elderly gentlemen sitting behind us.  They were very distinguished looking men, of African descent speaking English with what sounded to me like British accents.  One reminded me of the actor, Sidney Poitier.  During the 15 minute ride to our hotel, I admit that I eavesdropped  on their conversation.  It went something like this (names of course are not the actual names used):

Gentleman #1: ” I saw poor Mrs. Smith last week.  She just lost her son last month.  He was going to school and planning to be a doctor. ”

Gentleman #2: ” Oh I’m sorry to hear that.  I was talking to Mr. Johnson.  He’s lost his daughter, a niece and two nephews in the last 6 months and his grandson is not doing to well.  He was getting along pretty well though. ( pause )  There’s a new community hall being built I hear. ”

Gentleman #1: ” Well isn’t that wonderful.  They’ll be able to use that.  How’s Mr. Wood doing, I haven’t heard from him in ages?”

Gentleman #2:  ” Not too bad.  They have 5 grandchildren that they are taking care of now.  Both of his daughters are gone but his son is still around to help out.”

The conversation continued like this for the rest of the ride to the hotel.  The cause of death of so many young people was never mentioned, nor did they seem shocked to hear the news of each of these families.  I don’t know what country they were traveling from, but I can only assume that it was one in Sub-Saharan Africa and that the loss of so many young lives was due to HIV/AIDS.  It was sobering to hear the number of people that these men knew that were impacted by the disease.  I’ve heard many horrifying statistics* about the prevalence of HIV in countries around the world however, this real life example put in perspective the impact this would have on individuals, families, societies, the workforce and the future.  There are countries that as of 2007  had more than 20% of their population between the ages of 15 and 49 infected with HIV.  Imagine the people you know in your life, and think about what would happen if 1 out of every 5 of those people was HIV positive with very little hope or money for treatment.  This is the reality that many are facing around the world.

Many on our flight, stayed at the Hilton for the day, but we were not going to miss out on this incredible opportunity to see a part of Ethiopia.  We set out on foot to visit the National Museum where we would visit with Lucy, our ancestor of 3.2 million years ago.  When we arrived we also found that the museum was featuring an exhibit called “Positive Lives”  which showed the life, strength, hope and courage of people living with HIV/AIDS.   The life size photograph exhibition depicted stories of lives of people living with HIV/AIDS around the world and was probably one of the most moving museum exhibits I’ve ever experienced.   Twice in one day, I was given a glimpse into the lives of the millions affected by this epidemic.

*The horrifying statistics I referred to above as taken from www.avert.org :

Sub-Saharan Africa is more heavily affected by HIV and AIDS than any other region of the world. An estimated 22 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2007 and approximately 1.9 million additional people were infected with HIV during that year. In just the past year, the AIDS epidemic in Africa has claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people in this region. More than eleven million children have been orphaned by AIDS.1

© Lisa Woodill and Storytime @ My Little Travel Bug, 2008. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Woodill and Storytime @ My Little Travel Bug with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dreaming of Street Meat

The world is full of tasty delights.  While sitting down to a meal in a nice restaurant can be a great way to end the day, there are lots of other options that are easier on the pocket book and sometimes end up being the food you remember most about a country.  In many places ” Fast-Food” doesn’t involve looking for the golden arches, it is available direct from a local entrepreneur and prepared fresh in front of you.  My husband and I , affectionately call this ” street meat ” because the first time we encountered it, we were terrified that it would make us sick.  It turns out however, that every time we have been sick while traveling, it was after eating at a nice restaurant.

There are of course some guidelines, you need to follow, to ensure that the food is safe for your family to eat.  Always be sure that meat products were properly stored.  Watch to see if it is removed from an ice chest and make sure it is cooked fresh in front of you and hasn’t been sitting out for a while.  When possible, bring your own mug or glass, because re-usable drinking cups may not be washed in safe or hot water.

The following is a list of some of the best street food I’ve enjoyed.  Whenever I get home from traveling, I always want to eat like this but it seems that the key to these regional specialties is the availability of fresh food which we don’t often have access to in North America.

1.  Fresh Fruit, Bangkok, Thailand.- Fresh pineapple and melons on ice are peddled around in glass carts and sold on street corners.buying-fruit

2.  Corn over charcoal- Chaing Mai, Thailand.

3.  Donairs, Halifax, Canada- Atlantic Canadian version like the usual doner kebab, but uses a slightly sweet milk-based garlic sauce and tomatoes/onions. It should be very soaked and sloppy when served.

4.  Grilled mystery meat on any street corner in Asia.

5.  Fresh Seafood on the beach in Oualidia, Morocco.- The fisherman will come around to take your order then set up a BBQ and grill it right in front of you. Oysters are also on this impromptu menu if you are so inclined.Fish in Oalidia

6.  Orange Juice in Djamaa El Fna, Marrakesh- freshly squeezed but I recommend your own glass.

7.  Red Tea Djamaa El Fna, Marrakesh.

8.  Mint Tea, Fez, Morocco.- Made with green tea and fresh mint leaves steeped in you own tea pot with lots of sugar and poured using a special technique into what look like large shot glasses.

9.  Cheese, bread and sausages-Portugal, Spain, France and Italy- A staple found in any market, bakery etc.

10. Gyros,  Corfu, Greece.  – Consisting of meat (typically lamb and/or beef), tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce, and is served in pita bread.

Photo Friday and Travel Savvy Mom

Today is Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Jamie at Travel Savvy Mom has graciously offered to post my story “ An Education in Cambodia” to participate in this weekly event.  I am really excited to be getting to know the travel blogging community.  Jamie has provided some helpful tips and there seem to be a lot of resources out there to get me started.  I’ve wanted to start telling my stories and now I’ve finally got my chance!

The adventure that inspired ‘An Education in Cambodia’ was a 2002 trip to Southeast Asia.  At the time we had no children which is strange because now I can’t imagine a time when we didn’t have our little bug ( from now on I’ll refer to her as Bug).  Angkor Wat in Siem Reap was one of the highlights of the trip.  I was enchanted by this lost city and found myself thinking that someday I wanted to bring our children back to see it.  Even in those days, I was always thinking about where I wanted to take my children and what experiences I hoped they’d have.

If you are looking for a unique adventure for your family, I would recommend it but do some research into the current political situation. Over the last few years there has been some instability.  Probably best for children eight and over to truly appreciate the cultural experience, however children of all ages will enjoy the magical atmosphere as they climb up giant stone steps and over ancient tree trunks entwined in the ruins!


 

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