Andalusia, Spain: Marbella

Next stop… Marbella!  We took a public bus from Granada to Marbella.  We were pleasantly surprised by the bus ride and found it enjoyable and relaxing.  The countryside was almost entirely olive groves and much greener than I had expected.

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She’s got this figured out!

Pool time at last!

The pool was far too cold for me (and everyone else).  I don’t know how the kids braved it!

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The resort had given them a sticker activity book at check in.  It was quite a hit!

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The beach near old town Marbella had a great playground.

It was cold and windy and there were several people on the beach determined to sunbathe.  They looked so miserable.  I wish I had gotten a better picture — this was before the weather turned really nasty.  They still toughed it out.

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Throwing rocks in the sea and finding shells is always a joy.

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Time to warm up — coffee con Bailey’s hit the spot!  Benny and Clara chose to warm up with gelato instead.

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The beach was getting far too cold so we took shelter wandering Marbella’s whitewashed alleys.

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This could possibly be my favorite wall of all time.  I adored the blue flower pots clinging to the walls.

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This is one of many, many paella samplings.

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Old town Marbella is incredibly picturesque!

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By this time, Clara was ready for a good nap.  She sleeps well in the carrier though it gets  painful quickly.

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We spent the most splendid afternoon in this little bar sipping sangria and munching on more paella.  We visited with Germans at the next table while all of the kids played soccer in the street.  When the rain picked up we moved the party inside while the owner played his Spanish guitar and our waitress burst into song.  It was perfect!

The kids ran up and down the street over and over and never seemed to tire.

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Finally some sunshine!!!  Time to enjoy the beach.  Benny loved finding jellyfish on the beach and immediately found a “bellyfish” sword.

Poor Sissy was knocked down by a wave and was so upset.  She looked cute in my jacket though!

We tried  the pool again, but the weather was just not on our side.  It was even to cold for Clara this time.  Benjamin braved it a little, but it wasn’t long before we were all in the hot tub.

It was a perfect night for bubbles!

More paella!  We ate a lot this trip! The truth is neither one of us are crazy about sea food, but feel guilty for not eating it when we are sitting on the sea.  We finally had to search YouTube for directions on how to eat the shrimp out of its shell. Pathetic. I know.

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Next up in Andalusia…excursion to Ronda.

 

Andalusia, Spain: Granada

We’re off to Andalusia! It doesn’t seem too far from Italy, but with a fairly long layover in Madrid, it was a full day of travel.  Luckily, the Madrid airport had a few playgrounds to ease the waiting time.  Why aren’t these more common in the states?

The lobby of our hotel had ancient ruins on display.  The kids enjoyed imagining what this would’ve been.  Benny decided it was a good lion cage.

Granada was quite vibrant and bustling with an exotic feel.  I loved the spice markets on the streets!

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We stopped for an aperitivo to get our bearings and unwind a little. The cafe came with a view of the cathedral, flamenco dancers performing on the corner, and the sound of a spanish guitar across the street.

No European Square would be complete without a carousel ride!

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I was worried about going to Spain since I’ve heard they eat so late at night (even later than Italians), but the tapas bars were open so we always had options.  Our server recommended this tower.   Everyone in the restaurant seemed awestruck as it was served to us.  The French people at the next table asked to sample it. That was a first!  We couldn’t figure out what it was and finally concluded it was squash battered and fried with a molasses based glaze.  It was good, but I think we were all expecting french fries?

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Derek couldn’t wait to sample the famous Jamon Iberico or Iberian ham.

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Apparently we were early risers by Spanish standards.  Somehow, all four of us managed to get ourselves ready, eat breakfast, and STILL take to the streets before anyone!  That’s an accomplishment! We killed time by chasing pigeons…

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Strolling through tiny sleepy alleys…

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And best of all… getting Clara decked out in a flamenco dress! I don’t think the shop was technically open, but she was nice to let us come in.   And yes, I was secretly wishing I was the one trying on dresses!  They were all so colorful and exotic!

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The cathedral of Granada is magnificent!  Mostly done in Spanish Renaissance style, its design is based on the triumphal arch and it is built over the site of an ancient mosque.

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I love how Benny truly seems amazed by these incredible structures. The interior was spectacular!

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The plaza outside of the cathedral was full of gypsies pushing bunches of rosemary.  I had encountered a particularly pesky lady who simply wouldn’t take no for an answer.  While my  hands were occupied carrying Clara, she attempted to stuff the rosemary into my purse while screaming “regalo, regalo”(gift)!  Fortunately, I had a purse that zipped and managed to escape without a forced palm reading and a 20 euro loss.

We grabbed lunch at what is supposed to be one of the oldest restaurants in Granada.   This tapas dish had eggs, spicy sausage, potatoes,  and some other kind of meat.  It wasn’t my favorite, but Derek seemed to enjoy it.

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A cheese plate is always a good idea

It was time to do something for the kids so we ventured out to the Science Park – Museum for Children.

They did some drivers ed …
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Worked on a ball track …

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Studied a giant globe  (actually, Derek and I were the ones fascinated with the globe)…

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And constructed and tested a boat made of corks …

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We had to leave the science museum as we couldn’t be late for the main attraction of Granada:  Alhambra! Tickets are hard to get and they sell out fast.  In fact, I had dropped the ball and didn’t order tickets in time, but a tip from Rick Steves saved the day!  In that situation, he suggests purchasing a Granada Card which includes a visit to Alhambra.  It worked out beautifully.

We had a delightful stroll through the gardens. The gentle sound of water trickled throughout garden’s water features,  Clara was sound asleep on my back, the sun was shining; it was tranquil and beautiful! 20160408-DSC00886

I loved the intricate designs of the walkways and the beautiful flowers.

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Now for the main attraction: Nasrid Palace! Nasrid Palace is very restricted and each entrance ticket is assigned a visitation time.  We dutifully arrived about 15 minutes early and were one of the first in line for our time.  Naturally, a few minutes prior to the doors opening, we hear Benjamin shout “I need to go potty”! We were stuck.  Had we gone to  find the potty, we would’ve missed our time slot.

So, we then did the great sprint through the Nasrid Palace (our entire reason for stopping in Granada)! We were basically elbowing and pushing our way through throngs of people.  It was a giant maze that never seemed to end! I managed to snap a few photos with my phone as we plowed through the crowd.

Clearly these pictures don’t do it justice, but the detail is absolutely stunning! I wish we could’ve taken our time and learned something about it, but… alas, it was a great parenting failure and it served us right for not thinking about it.  It took us a moment to recover from the shock of missing the very thing we came to see.

Carrying on, we explored the last of the grounds. We climbed a steep, twisty, narrow, crowded staircase to the top of  bell tower plaza.  My legs almost gave out on me with Clara on my back.  I’m fairly certain I was climbing with all fours at one point!  There was wonderful view of the Albayzin Moorish quarter at the top.  I wish we would’ve had time to visit this area…oh well, we definitely have good reason to return! 20160408-DSC0095020160408-DSC00951

We finished the evening with dinner in a touristy plaza where the servers tried to swindle us and we were constantly interrupted by pesky salesman.  They didn’t bring us our glass of wine, charged us for it and also seven coffees we hadn’t ordered!  We learned a good lesson — always study the bill!

Moving on to the next Andalusian stop:  Marbella…