So many places, so little time. Choosing where to go on vacation with your family is never an easy choice. The competition is fierce. France has Paris. Switzerland has the Matterhorn. Italy has the Coliseum. London has Big Ben … and the list goes on and on.
What comes to mind when you think of Spain? Still thinking? It may take awhile. Spain is not a country loaded with town after town of must see tourist attractions. Don’t get me wrong, Spain has some incredible sights, but while most people can recognize the Eiffel Tower by sight, few know much about the Alhambra.
Our two-week plus adventure through Spain was probably our best trip yet. See our recent articles on Madrid, Sevilla, Barcelona and Nerjas with kids for inspiration. Along with the Alhambra, there were the windmills of La Mancha, the beaches of Costa del Sol and a fabulous Flamenco show. But when I look back, it wasn’t just the planned activities that made Spain such a great trip. It was the little unexpected surprises that sold us. The spirit of Spain and its people can’t be beat.
Why we love Spain with children:
We’re a traveling family, with a lot of frequent fliers miles under our collective belts, but we’ve never been anywhere where we’ve seen so many local families out and about, enjoying where they live.From the beach front towns to bustling cities, families come out in masse for their evening paseo or walk. They talk and laugh, enjoying each other’s company.
Dinner at Midnight
A great dinner is a great way for a family to catch up – it doesn’t matter whether you’re at home or on vacation. Americans who’ve traveled know Europeans dine much later than we’re accustomed to. Not really a big deal, until you factor in a couple kids. Dinner at 9pm just isn’t usually an option. I can’t really explain it, but the late dinners weren’t such a big deal. Granted my girls are getting older, but I really think it had more to do with the fact they weren’t alone. In the U.S. late night dinners are a grown-up activity. In Spain, it’s a family affair.
We had pizza at midnight in Nerja, located at the eastern tip of Costa del Sol. You would have thought the restaurant was the only place open in town. Wall to wall food, families, music and conversation. It was a party and all families were invited.
Spain is full of tiny little towns, built long before the advent of cars, which can make for some tight turns every now and then. We were climbing the whitewashed hills in our Volkswagen Jetta rental. We’d hit the point where the cars mirrors were now turned in. It was tight, and I was glad my husband was the one driving, but took relief in the fact there was a large van in front of us. That is until the van got stuck at a turn. There was a brief moment of panic, but it quickly disappeared when out of the corner bar came a good half-dozen guys. Little by little they lifted the back end of the van, making the turn for it. It didn’t take long. 5, 10 minutes tops. (Now that I think about it, I don’t think the designated leader of the group ever put his beer down.) We got the impression it just might be a frequent occurrence.
My family loves finding, watching and supporting local artists when we travel. We have a wall in our house that is dedicated to art we collect on our trips. Thank goodness my husband has restraint, we could have covered the whole house. There was the young man who paints tiles in Madrid using his fingertips. The painter who takes his dog everywhere in Sevilla, and then there was Galeria de Arte in Arcos. From paintings, to pottery, to hand woven animals the size of my daughter — the store, and its owner were a delight.
Though she spoke little English, and my family speaks little Spanish, she filled us in on the various pieces throughout the store. (I bought one of the owner’s painting of Arcos, along with a fair amount of pottery!) Her tweenage daughter, joined in the conversation, explaining to my girls tomorrow was her first day of school after vacation, and that she wasn’t quite ready to go back. In dualing languages, they compared school “notes.” Priceless!!
What kid doesn’t like cookies and cupcakes? In Spain, they aren’t just a treat, they are the livelihood of cloistered nuns. In Arcos, take your kids into the lobby of the last convent in the city. You can’t see them, but the nuns can see you from behind a one-way mirror. Push the door bell-like button (or just say hello like my girls did) and from behind a walled lazy-susan of sorts, treats spin your way. They were sold out of magdalenas (cupcakes), so we went with the pine-nut cookies and savored every bite. In Sevilla, you can visit El Torno Pasteleria de Conventos on Plaza Cabildo.
The small store is the size of a large closet. The store is filled with things made by various orders of cloistered nuns. There you’ll find a large assortment of sweets, in addition to things like hand sewn baby baptismal gowns. The store is staffed, (not by one of the nuns obviously) so it doesn’t have the mystique of the convent in Arcos, but it’s still worth a peek … or should I say bite.
Ciao Bambino recommended Spain family hotels