Travel Stories

More Paella Por Favor

Eating in a foreign country can be the highlight of your trip, or it can be the downfall. Picky eaters are what they are, but don’t let them stop you from dabbling in a little culinary adventure. It might just be the best thing that happens to your kid’s diet since peanut butter.

We were lucky enough to spend two weeks in Spain this fall. One of the top things on the list for my husband and I was paella. Emphasis on for my husband and I – it was all about churros for the girls.


Paella is a common thing on Spanish menus. But good paella – the kind you come home wanting to go to cooking school to learn how to make – that’s what we were after. We found it on the Costa del Sol, at Nerja’s Burriana Beach.

Playa de Burriana

Playa de Burriana is Nerja’s most popular beach. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Balcony of Europe, Nerja’s waterfront center of town. It’s a nice walk, winding along the water, with lots of things for young eyes to spy. When you get your first glimpse of Burriana Beach don’t be surprised if your kids break into a run. It’s a sea of color with restaurants, paddleboats, playgrounds and warm waves.

It was about 2p when we dug our toes into the warm sand. We hadn’t had lunch and were starving. But we had a final destination: Ayo’s famous all-you can eat paella for 6 euros. We had prepped the kids all day. Talking up delicious paella. Raving about having lunch on the beach. It was a full court press, I admit it. I had granola bars and pretzels hidden in my beach bag fearing what I thought was the inevitable “I’m not eating this.”I thought wrong.

Ayo’s is like lunch and an action packed show all rolled into one. For more than 30 years, local celebrity chef Ayo has been cooking paella on Burriana Beach. Using the biggest pan I’ve ever seen, he cooks over a wood burning fire in the corner of the open air restaurant. Stirring the bubbling delicacy requires a tool the size of a small rake. Folks crowd around his outdoor kitchen to watch him work and wait for one of about 100 tables to open up.

Once our table was ready, my husband and I sat down to a pitcher of sangria, but our kids wouldn’t leave the open kitchen area. They studied how their lunch was being made. Rice, seasonings, shrimp and clams – they watched everything go in, snapping pictures at every stir. Then the moment arrived. It was time to eat.

Ok, so the shrimp with their heads still attached were not a big hit. But if I peeled and decapitated them, then returned them to the plate, they quickly disappeared. My oldest daughter couldn’t get enough of the shrimp, until she found clams buried in the rice. My youngest went for the chicken, trading the shrimp to her sister. When we wanted more, we just walked up to the open kitchen and they scooped onto our plates. The paella was a hit. The sangria was fabulous. It’s a family dinner we won’t ever forget.What a memory.

Isn’t that what traveling is all about?

Relevant Links:

Ciao Bambino recommended Spain family hotels

Madrid with kids

Spain with kids – visit Sevilla

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