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A while back I wrote about my 3 Key Ingredients For A Great Vacation. The ingredients are Exciting Destination, Quality Lodging, and Memorable Activities (all geared in some way to accommodate me, Mrs. R, and our twin 5 year olds). And now it’s time to tell you about how this works in practice. In April, you see, the Rich family took a 2 week vacation to Spain! Exciting Destination? Check.
Our vacation was essentially 2 trips combined into one. We started off with one week in Barcelona and then flew south to Andalucia for the second week. These are completely different areas of Spain, they don’t even feel like the same country. I won’t get into the details but Barcelona is part of Catalonia, which has grumbled off and on for independence for many years, while Andalucia is solidly Spanish, the “real” Spain, as it were.
We started in Barcelona.
I’d always wanted to visit Barcelona, so I was pumped to spend a week there. Our arrival, however, wasn’t entirely smooth. During the flight over, we noticed one of our boys had a finger that had turned into a giant red balloon. He’s a tough kid, but it was bothering him and kind of freaking us out because we didn’t know what it was. Broken? Sprained? Bee sting? Cat scratch? No idea.
Our hotel called a doctor who kindly came to our room to check him out (another perk of a nice hotel), but Mrs. R had to take the boy to the emergency room anyway, and yadda yadda we got a bunch of medicine and lotions and still don’t know exactly what it was. We lost one day of activities, and eventually the swelling went away, probably on its own. Added a little spice and annoyance to the trip. All part of the fun!
In addition to this medical situation, we had the normal 2-3 days of crazy transition. The boys always test our limits in a new environment. Thankfully, the environment was awesome, the epitome of quality lodging. Our hotel, the Alma Barcelona, is one of the few in the city that has an indoor pool. It was the perfect temperature and depth for kids, while being stylishly located in the hotel spa. It wasn’t the Fargo Holiday Inn, if you know what I mean. We were often the only ones there and it was an oasis of fun.
Our suite encompassed 2 separate rooms — one for the kids and one for us. Each room was huge, with its own bathroom and sitting area and complimentary snack fridge. Yes, pricey, but there is no way we will sleep in the same room as the boys while on vacation because it’s impossible to actually sleep with them jostling around.
Lodging was good, so what about memorable activities?
It took us a while to get rolling in Barcelona. The first day gave us the finger, ahem, and the second day we had scheduled a visit to the Aquarium. The Aquarium was nice, but honestly there are great aquariums everywhere. Probably wouldn’t do that again.
It was much more fun to find lunch in the nearby neighborhood of Barceloneta. We stumbled on a cool fish place that was chaotic and crazy and awesome and happens to be a gastronomic icon: La Cova Fumada. The boys downed octopus like it was candy.
Fun. And then we just wandered. I think we stopped at a playground where the boys played with some random kids. Cool part of town.
Another highlight was the anniversary dinner for me and Mrs. R. Our hotel provided a babysitter — a nice Spanish lady who, in true Spanish fashion, lets kids stay up until midnight — and we went to a restaurant called Con Gracia. We had 5 or 6 or 7 courses if I remember, and a few drinks, including a red vermouth I’d never tried before. It was vert nice to have a long evening to ourselves.
The neighborhood that the restaurant was in, also called Con Gracia, was so interesting that we went back another day for brunch with the kids. A random fish store guy showed the boys how to cut into a huge fish. It strikes me that one of the best parts about traveling with kids is they are interested in everything, and the locals enjoy letting them in on new experiences. Well, the locals in Spain did. Some countries aren’t as warm to our loud, crazy kids (I won’t name names but France comes to mind).
Another fun activity was Labyrinth Park — just as it sounds, we had to find our way through a life-sized maze. It wasn’t easy, but it was really fun as an afternoon excursion.
We visited several sights and cathedrals and other neighborhoods, but our final highlight in Barcelona was definitely the Montjuic Magic Fountain. It’s a huge fountain that becomes the center of a light and music concert in the evening. The fountain blasts streams of water to go along with the music, which ranges from classical to pop to rock. Remember when people used to listen to music on their computers and set their screen save or equalizer to display colors moving around to the tune? It was like that. Except with water. And literally thousands of people turn out to watch. It’s free.
As an extra perk, staying up late to watch the show got us all on Spanish time (they sleep late, they eat late — very, very late).
Well Pen, I’ll write up Part 2, Andalucia, in a couple days. It’s past my bedtime. I’m not in Spain anymore!