Thursday, February 19, 2015


If you follow me on Pinterest you may have noticed that my travel board was a little en fuego in January, and indeed I spent hours at the computer planning several different trips for the first half of this year.  Once traveling with kids became a little easier it dawned on me that we only have two more years of being in Sweden with the accompanying extended vacation time, so I want to take advantage of it.

Last year Pinterest introduced a map feature which has revolutionized my trip planning.  Not only can I collect a bunch of pretty pictures of exciting places on one page, I can associate a location on a map with each of them.  So before I had no idea what or where the gorgeous Alhambra is, so I kinda forgot about it after pinning. But once I saw it on a map I noticed that it's pretty close to Seville, where I had pinned a picture of the Giralda. And so it began.

Swedish schools have a week off in February for sportlov, but instead of persuing the intended skiing/skating/skijoring we chose to go someplace warmer.  Steve found direct flights from Gothenburg to Málaga, on Spain's Costa del Sol in a region called Andalucia, so that gave us the framework for the trip.  Speaking of Steve, bless his heart...  He works so hard and his idea of vacation is to go somewhere to relax, preferably at a warm beach.  My idea of vacation is to go see cool things since having the kids along isn't relaxing for me.  Italy was not relaxing, so for Spain we agreed to stay at a beachfront place and build in some down time between crossing items off my bucket list.  Also we returned on a Friday to have the weekend to recover from vacation.

The first day, Saturday, we walked along the promenade in Torremolinos.  Many of the shops and restaurants were still closed for the off-season or gearing up for tourists, but there was still plenty of fun to be had and places to eat.

There was a playground right in front of our hotel.
Monk parakeets nesting in the a palm tree.

When I was planning this trip I was a little concerned with what the kids would like at Spanish restaurants, but every place we ate had pizza, ham & cheese sandwiches, or would scramble eggs for us, so the kids were happy.

After lunch we took long naps, an important factor in a relaxing vacation with little kids. (I'm going to pretend like that's not an oxymoron.)  In Spain the restaurants aren't "supposed to" open for dinner until around 8, but we had no problem finding food wherever and whenever we needed it. Steve and I had tapas for dinner (at 6pm): gazpacho, calamari, and chicken croquettes.

Another key component to traveling with kids is the sleeping situation. We were thrilled to have a 2-bedroom suite so Steve and I could hang out together in the living room after putting the kids to bed in two separate rooms.
There was morning and there was evening, the first day.
Torremolinos is a built into a cliff, so on Sunday morning we ventured up The Steps to find the train and walk around Málaga.

Orange trees everywhere

Málaga Cathedral, inside and out.

Climbing the steps of the Roman ampitheater (1st century)
below the Alcazaba fortress (11th century)
Candy break, an important part of traveling with kids.
When I say we walked around Málaga, my Fitbit says I took over 16,000 steps that day, which is a personal record for me including the days I exercise.  We took good naps that afternoon as well.

On Monday we took a bus up to Granada. I didn't know much about the terrain in Spain (except that the rain stays mainly on the plane).  I knew that the Sierra Nevadas were around this part of the country, so I figured it would be rolling dry hills especially since it is winter. But once the bus climbed out of Malaga we started seeing craggy peaks, huge valleys dotted with miles of olive orchards, fruit trees blooming, and full sunshine like I hadn't seen in months. Since our trip to Italy in October maybe.  (Gothenburg has had a mild winter, with temps hovering around freezing but oh, so gray and dreary).

I figured we'd only have time for the Alhambra Palace complex on a day trip so I hadn't learned much about Granada itself. There ate certain types of city architecture that really do it for me, like that in Gothenburg. I knew about the Arab/Moorish influence at Alhambra, but I was surprised during the incredible cab ride through Granada. Iron balconies, fancy corbels, carved wooden doors... Sigh.

Plaza de Toros, bullfighting arena
Then we got up to the palace complex and I wasn't disappointed. Before you're even in the gate you see a system of aqueducts and waterways. In such an arid place it was quite necessary but parts of the complex date back thousands of years so that is pretty impressive.

Of course my favorite part was all the intricate carvings lining the interior of the palace.

It's amazing to think about the tools and craftsmanship involved.

Olivia recognized that all that carving must have taken "hours" to create. However, when asked privately about their favorite part of the Alhambra, both kids said they liked the wild kitties wandering around. Ah, well.  Something for everyone.

Watching the fish
Generalife Gardens
For brevity's sake I'm going to do like the movies and skip over the logistics of dinner and the trip back through the mountains.  You're welcome.  On Tuesday we had a relaxing day, then on Wednesday we took the train to Seville through orange and olive country.

Caminito del Rey (the world's most dangerous path)

In Seville we visited the Royal Alcazar...

...and the largest gothic cathedral in the world...

...Plaza de España...

Steve took this one - gotta give props for a great shot

...and finished up in Barrio Santa Cruz.

It was a little too ambitious to see Seville in a day, starting a few hours away.  On our last day we were planning to go see Gibraltar but it was rainy, the cable car was down for maintenance, and Olivia was starting to get a cold. We decided to scrap that excursion and just beachcombed by the hotel and found a great Irish pub for dinner (Guiness & steak pie - mmm). I admit that it's disappointing to come all that way and not get to see everything we'd planned, but that means there is plenty left to see another time.

Friday was our departure day, so of course it was warm and sunny.  We soaked up some Vitamin D before flying back to Gothenburg.

Spain was beautiful!  Lots to see and do, and much warmer than Sweden in February.

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