Day 1. April 11, 2013. Our multi-generation family trip to Spain starts at Logan Airport in Boston (Here are my Tips for Multi-Generation Family Travel). The group consists of my parents, myself, my husband Vit and our two kids: 13-year-old Dennis and 3-year-olds Vivi. While there is over sixty-year age difference between the youngest and the oldest group members we are determined to make the most of the trip!
Dennis is an experienced European traveler by now (Denmark, Italy, Russia, Greece, Germany, England and Spain all behind him), but this is a first air plane flight for Vivi and she is the most excited.
Here is the map of our itinerary:
Day 2. Arrival in Madrid.
From the airport, we take a taxi to our “old world charm” (and very centrally located) Hotel Tryp Ambassador where Olga, my old college friend from Russia, is already waiting. After a quick coffee break in a neighborhood café, we begin exploring the city. We walk a couple of blocks to Plaza del Sol (very busy and unimpressive) which we for a short “jetleg moment” confuse with Plaza Mayor, but then find our way to a “real” (and very impressive) Plaza Mayor- Madrid’s very central and very historical Plaza.
Another coffee/beer brake, quite a bit more walking, and we have made it to Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art, housing Picasso’s Guernica. It is starting to get dark when we leave the Museum, but this is the (first and most exciting) Day that Never Ends , so as we walk back to our hotel we find an almost charming (cheap, for sure!) dinner place. We are intrigued by Spanish-only menu (I get to practice my Spanish- fresh out of Sharon adult ed) – yet, suspiciously, we are the only ones there. All in all, exhaustion takes over and our (don’t forget!) multi-generational crowd finally reaches the designated hotel beds.
Day 2. More of Madrid.
After missing an entire night of sleep the day before, we almost did not make it to breakfast today. We walked into the dining room at 10:50am to realize that Spanish do mean it when they say “breakfast until 11”. That gets us eating and moving fast and at 12, at Plaza Mayor, we are joining an English speaking group for an official walking tour of the city (tour of Royal Palace included).
We finish the day trying out innovative tapas and admiring the trendy crowd at the vibrant Cava Bajas.
Some of us are then ready to end the day while others (including a three-year-old Vivi who must have inherited a hunger for celebrations from her mom) head out for some nighttime churros and chocolate at the old chocolateria San Gines right next to Plaza Mayor.
Day 3. Barcelona and Toledo.
Today the group splits in two: grandparents take Dennis on a side trip to their favorite Barcelona (speed trains make a day journey possible) and the rest of the group plans to sightsee in a nearby Toledo. After a busy day in Toledo (Cathedral, Sinagoga del Transito, Museo el Grego, Plaza Zacodover and multiple photo sessions at the Toledo’s panoramic bridges and viewpoints), Toledo group arrives at Madrid’s Plaza Santa Ana in the evening, in search of Spain’s literary heroes (Servantes and Vega), but instead, opts for some beer and tapas (and a playground play!). We just have to leave some things to come back to Madrid for!
Barcelona group had as busy a day with a 6-hr tour of the city and all the Gaudi sights and arrived back in Madrid Hotel (not without an adventure!), with enough energy only to make it to a hotel dining room and order some Russian salad (a “sure” thing on every Spanish menu).
Today we are leaving Madrid for our journey to the south of Spain (after some tearful good-buys with our friend Olga who heads back to Russia). Thanks to new Renfe speed trains it takes less than two hours to reach Cordoba from Madrid and another 40 minutes bring you from Cordoba to Seville. We board a Sevilla-bound train, and make a first stop in Cordoba to tour the old city with our own private tour guide Isabel (you may find contact information for all our tour guides at the end of this post).
We meet with Isabel at the entrance to the old Jewish Quarter (Juderia), and although not Jewish (“But who really knows, in Spain?”, she says), she tells us the Jewish story of Cordoba. We stop at the Monument of Maimonides and tour Museo del Jews Sephardica. The culmination of the tour is multi-religious Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba (“the Mesquita”). You can see more on Mesquita under the pictures below.
Day 6. Seville.
At 100F degrees, Seville made our hard work as tourists even more difficult- but she generously rewarded us with beautiful sights, delicious food and celebratory ambiance of the annual April Feria. We started our introduction to the city at Plaza de Triumfo, with our private guide Louis, who walked us through Seville’s Cathedral and Royal Alcazar (both Unesco’s World Heritage Sites).
Too exhausted to move on our own after the tour, we take a horse carriage ride to Plaza Espana. We are then back at Plaza del Triumfo for a gourmet lunch prepared by chiefs in training at restaurant Bulo nearby.
After a brief rest in our hotel, some of us come back to the city for the “traditional” evening Paseo: Calle Sierpes, Calle Tetuan, Plaza Salvador, Plaza San Francisco. (While others- following an “ultimatum” to never come back to Europe again – are “allowed” to enjoy the kids balloon park adjacent to a hotel).
Day 7. More of the Seville.
This being a Feria week, the city is overwhelmed with the groups of Sevillianos dressed for the occasion in special “Feria” dresses and suits. We decide to follow them to the Triana neighborhood to check out the Feria scene. We cross the Guadalquivir river by foot via pedestrian bridge near famous Torre del Oro (a starting point for Christopher Columbus’America trip).
Feria…happens to be nothing but a collection of party tents and horse carriages parading around them, so it was only appropriate to hire a horse to take us back to the city. The day was still “young”. The girls spent the afternoon at the Flamenco show and (some of the) boys went to the Bullfight.
Rejuvenated by the show, the girls walked all the way from the Flamenco Museum to meet the boys near the Maestranza Bullring. By then it was the perfect time for the (midnight) Arabic baths for Vit and myself.
Day 7. Granada.
We rented two cars and started a self-driving part of our journey – to Granada -early in the morning.
Our tour guide Margarita waited for us at the Alhambra entrance in Granada. The rest of our Alhambra story is better told in pictures.
In the afternoon we saw Europe’s famous sunset over Sierra Nevada mountains in the Albayzin Arabic district and enjoyed a local dinner. In the evening we strolled the Paseo del Triste for more of the magnificent Alhambra views followed by the tea in the Moorish tea room. We laughed late into the night remembering the details of the day.
Day 8. Nerja. Torremolinos.
Our road trip continues along the hilly coastal road to beautiful Nerja and Balcon Europa. The heat finally subsides to allow for a pleasant coastal stroll and outside lunch overlooking the Mediterranean.
We then head to our next overnight destination, Torremolinos, where the SEA theme continues with a thermal SEAwater spa in our SEAside hotel. We end the day with a SEA walk and a SEAfood dinner. For us, there could never be too much SEA!!!
Day 9. Gibraltar. Marbella.
In the morning, the group of four younger travelers drive to la Linea to cross the Spanish boarder (by foot!) into the Gibraltar- a geo-politically unique UK territory at the tip of Iberian peninsula. We show our passports at the check point, then find ourselves in the middle of the airfield. It turns out that the passway to town also serves as this tiny country’s only airfield. Needless to say, everything stalls when the plane arrives. We proceed to see the famous St. Michael’s limestone (stalactites and stalagmites) caves inside the Rock of Gibraltar, WWII tunnels and, of course, the monkeys.
In the aftrenoon we meet up with the senior group members back in Spain, at the posh resort town of Marbella. Despite its crowded popularity we find the town and the boardwalk not without charm. We take pictures in the background of Dali sculptures and have ice-cream at the leafy Plaza de Narranjos (Oranges in English).
Turns out, the Plaza is quite popular with local pigeons- however, our mellowed out group meets this seemingly misfortunate encounter with nature with loads of good humor and bowls of laughter- as we head out to buy the new hats for the kids.
Day 9 and final. Torremolinos Beach.
This is our last vacation day and we take it easy at the beach. After the beach massages, sangria and calmares (which in Spain are served each way how), we take the train back to Madrid to spend the night at airport’s Hilton before catching our flight to Boston.
Until new travels, asta luego, amigos!
Going to Spain with the family? Look for some helpful multi generation travel tips in my post Spain 2.
European train tickets: www.raileurope.com (For the train tickets we used rail Europe, a US based European train tickets sellers and found the web site and phone help very helpful (much more helpful than spain’s based www.renfe.es). They also sell famous euro passes and are very knowledgeable about savings (we ended up buying three passes for the group members who went to Barcelona).
Small group and private tours in Seville www.reallydiscover.com
Private tours in Cordoba: Isabel firstname.lastname@example.org
Private tours of Alhambra and Granada: www.alhambratours.com
Bus Tours in Spain www.barcelonadaytours.com (although we prefer to hire smaller company or solo guides, for a side (6-hour) trip to Barcelona we simply had no choice. They did the job)