I'm just a girl trying to have a cup of coffee all around the world. This is a blog about travel, expat life and our adventures living an international lifestyle, with two kids and two dogs!

Andrea Fellman of Wanderlust Living Travel Blog

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Posts by Category: Adventure

Adventure June 21, 2018 posted by

I may have liked Porto better than Lisbon!

Porto Portugal with kids

This is a long overdue post, I am sorry to leave you all hanging if you found my Lisbon with kids and visiting Sintra blog posts. Thankfully, a kind reader left a comment asking me where the Porto Portugal post was, which nudged me to get the final Porto Portugal with kids post done! Actually, it’s funny that I didn’t write about Porto sooner because I may have liked Porto better than Lisbon! So here we go…

We drove to Porto from Sintra and it happened to be Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend and traffic was insane! This is why I said I regretted driving, the main train station drops you right in the center of the city and later I would find out this was literally around the corner from our hotel. But we spent a nightmare of about an hour stuck in city traffic trying to get to the hotel. Literally an hour trying to go about 10 blocks and we were all starving!


Where we stayed

It happened to be Easter break when we were in Porto, so I decided that I wanted to stay at a hotel that would have a Easter brunch of some kind. We stayed at the InterContinental Porto and while I was initially totally turned off by the extremely busy street that it sits on I ended up loving this location; it is right in front of Liberdade Square and was perfect for accessing all the different parts of the city. I usually prefer smaller boutique hotels but in the end, I truly loved this hotel for the incredible service, the super cool lounge that became our family living room each day and the concierge who helped us get dinner reservations at two wonderful restaurants on a very busy weekend.

We booked the family suite which was on two levels. The kids thought this was pretty cool and when I got upstairs to our room and saw the huge bathroom and large bathtub, I was also impressed. Every afternoon they filled our coffee table with all sorts of drinks, fruit and snacks which was lovely as well. Their Easter brunch was also fantastic and my kids also got the chance to decorate their own chocolate eggs.


Discovering Porto

Garden Cordoaria 

After we got settled the kids and I went walking around and discovered this great park that was perfect for letting off some energy after sitting in all that traffic. From here you can walk up and see the famous twin churches Igreja do Carmo (known for the blue and white tile facade) and Carmelite Church that are joined by a house. From here you will also see the fountain of the lions and then you should make your way to Spirito Cupcakes.

Lello Bookstore

If you are a Harry Potter fan then Porto should be on your list of places to get to. J.K. Rowling lived in Porto and taught English for two years and there are two locations that helped spark her inspiration for the Harry Potter series.  The first one is Lello Bookstore and the moment you step inside you will feel like you are literally in one of the Harry Potter books. This is one of the most beautiful bookstores I’ve ever seen. You have to buy a ticket for about 5 Euros to get in, but that ticket can then be used towards a purchase. There was a line outside every day, so we woke up early one morning and bought tickets right away, then jumped in the line. They can only let so many people in at a time, so when people come out, they let more in. The line went quickly.

Majestic Cafe is the cafe where J.K. Rowling said she would write. There is always a line in front of this cafe as well, and this cafe isn’t cheap either. I went to check it out by myself one morning just as they were opening.  I had the traditional Nata pastry and a cappuccino. It’s a beautiful cafe, but if I’m being honest, my cappuccino wasn’t very good and I was a little unimpressed. I liked the tiles and the facade of the building from the outside better than inside.

*It has also been said that she took inspiration from the train station and the black capes that the University students wear in Porto.

Right next to Lello Bookstore is a very cool store called Vida Portuguesa that you should definitely go in to. It is two levels and filled with wonderful gifts, books, home items, accessories and toys.

The city streets of Porto are filled with beautifully tiled buildings, and I honestly thought I saw more here in Porto then in Lisbon. One of the streets you should not miss walking down is R. da Flores this street is filled with colorful buildings, cafes, restaurants and shops. This is also where we saw the CUTEST father and daughter street performing duo! They even had a live white chicken with them. I absolutely loved them.

Along the Duoro river is the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled stone streets are filled with small shops and restaurants. Walking around here you get a real sense of how merchants must have filled the streets back in the 14th and 15th centuries. In fact, the city center of Porto became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. This medieval riverside neighborhood is located inside a 14th-century Romanesque wall and includes the Porto Cathedral, one of the oldest and important Roman Catholic structures in Porto.


This is also where I found a great pottery shop and bought a few things! This pottery shop was right next to the restaurant we ate at called Jimão tapas e vinhos. I apologize, but I cannot remember the name of the shop nor can I find the business card the woman gave me!

The Porto Bridges

The only thing I really knew about Porto was that it produced Port wine, was home to the Lello bookstore and that one of its bridges, the Maria Pia Bridge, had been designed by Gustave Eiffel (Architect of the Eiffel Tower). When we arrived in Porto we crossed the Duoro River by driving on the Dom Luís Bridge, which I thought was the Maria Pia bridge, but it is not. I was so confused, and many people are. The famous double-decker metal bridge where pedestrians can walk across the top and where traffic drives along the lower deck is the Dom Luis Bridge. Gustave Eiffel’s bridge is further down the river and was a railway bridge, but looks similar although it does not have the lower deck. Porto actually has six bridges but these are the two of most interest. They connect the city of Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, the center of the port wine industry, where you can take tours and visit many port wine cellars.

We took a short riverboat cruise, that went up and down the Duoro river so we could see some of these bridges, it felt like the thing to do, it wasn’t very long and it was a nice boat ride.

We went into the World of Discoveries museum that taught us about Portuguese history and how Porto played a vital role in discovering routes to Asia. They had actors dressed up as explorers and shipmen telling parts of the story and engaging the kids. Then we took a small boat ride that told a story of one of the expeditions. This was actually sort of fun, the kids seemed to like it even though they were probably a little old for it, but it was well done. I’d recommend it for kids under 10 for sure, but even I was able to get a better understanding of Porto’s history so it was worth it and does not take that much time.

“Portuguese discoveries are the numerous territories and maritime routes discovered by the Portuguese as a result of their intensive maritime exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries. Portuguese sailors were at the vanguard of European overseas exploration, discovering and mapping the coasts of Africa, Canada, Asia and Brazil, in what became known as the Age of Discovery.”

 

Where we ate Porto

Steak n Shake (Ha!) – As expats, American food is truly a treat and we consider this “foreign food” so we totally indulged at Steak n Shake. Burgers and milkshakes and fries, oh my! The square where Steak n Shake is located is lovely and has a handful of other restaurants. One afternoon Hudson and I grabbed a slice of pizza at a little shop in this square and enjoyed just sitting in the sun.  We also ate at Jimão tapas e vihnos  in the riverside district; find this restaurant and you’ll find the pottery shop I mentioned! We also stopped in Spirito Cupcakes – yummy cupcakes, ice cream, donuts coffee and other desserts.


The concierge made us reservations for these two restaurants.

Ze Bota
– great traditional Portugese restaurant, we had a family style meal that was fantastic!
ODE Port Wine House – amazing dinner inside a tiny restaurant that felt like the inside of a boat. We left the kids back at the hotel for this one.

Bonaparte – Very cool pub – go here for a drink!
Honorato Hamburgueres Artesanais – stopped in for a cocktail and it was the best cocktail ever! I LOVE the smell of Lemongrass, and well this was like drinking it, but in a sweet good way!


This is the Old Warehouse Factory of Ceramics building and it was beautiful. Inside were a few restaurants, that we did not eat at, but they had the cutest and quirky decorations, one restaurant had motorcycles on the walls!

Comme Ca – Adorable restaurant in the old ceramics warehouse building – we did not eat here, but I wanted to.


Motorcycle Cafe – I cannot find the name of this place, but it’s in the Old Wharehouse of Ceramics building, too.

Restaurant Bar Galeria de Paris – a quirky cafe with all sorts of collectables on display near the Lello Bookstore.


I really liked Porto and wish that we had had one more day there because I didn’t really get to explore Vila Nova de Gaia. I think I may have liked Porto better than Lisbon because it still felt like a small town, it also felt cleaner and more organized than the capital, maybe because Lisbon had so much construction going on everywhere. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I thought Porto was just as great as Lisbon but Lisbon seems to get all the attention. I may need to go back without the kids to investigate a bit further…

 

I may have liked Porto better than Lisbon!
Adventure April 12, 2018 posted by

We Finally Did It – Venice with Kids

We just got back from spring break in Italy with the kiddos. Venice has been on the kids’ bucket list for a long time, so we thought we should probably make it happen. If I am being honest, Venice wasn’t at the top of my list. I thought perhaps it was overrated and going to be overrun by tourists. Although, Harris proposed to me on a gondola in Venice about 17 years ago, so I was looking forward to going back to see what I remembered and if anything had changed. The kids know that is where he asked me to marry him, so I was also excited for all of us to take a gondola ride and share this special place with them. So we did three nights in Venice with kids! Then drove to a family-friendly spa in Tuscany, followed by a few days in Florence.

Venice with Kids

We took the water taxi from the airport to our hotel, which cost about 60 Euros. One thing you should know right now is that Venice is not cheap, but it can be. The public taxi costs 6 Euros a person, but we opted for a private taxi and I am SO glad we did.

Once we got into the main city waterways we were able to open up the roof and the kids were able to see exactly what they came for “the floating city.”  I would pay double to see the look of amazement on their faces as they soaked it all in. Totally worth the 60 Euros to have that moment all to ourselves. Not to mention the chance to take some great photos! The rain had stopped and it was overcast, but perfect. In fact, we saw more on that boat ride than on the gondola ride – so YES take a private water taxi to your hotel.

When we arrived at our hotel, the taxi turned into a narrow canal. Hotel staff came out and lowered the small bridge (more like a plank) for us to walk across to enter the hotel. It was the perfect way to start our stay in Venice!



Where We Stayed

Palazzetto Pinsani is an historic palace that dates back to 1260. It sits right on the Grand Canal, but is perfectly tucked away from the crowds. In fact, it’s so tucked away that to get out to the main streets you need to walk through what appears to be part of the abandoned palace grounds. The main courtyard is complete with old statues and columns lining the walkway. Our room was one of the canal-facing suites and it was huge.  The main room had a full king size bed with a ginormous couch (that Hudson took for his bed). He loved making a fort out of all the cushions. Queen McKenna took the large four poster bed while Harris and I slept in the bedroom.

Not only was our suite large enough for all of us, but we also had a large sitting room just outside our room that also faced the Grand Canal. This was a shared common space with the others in a suite on our floor. The dining room, bar and main lounge area had all the old world charm you could ask for. I loved all the beautiful trays that my beverages were served on! I would highly recommend this hotel for families that want Venetian style and to be a little hidden from the highly trafficked areas.

My favorite things in Venice, Italy!

1. The first thing you probably want to know is where we got gelato!? Our favorite was Gelato Fantasy. The scoops were gigantic and the guy who helped us was so nice. It was so good we went back the next night! Another place to check out is Suso Gelato. We did not try it but the line was a mile long and the flavors looked insane.

2. Acqua Alta Bookstore is a quirky store. It keeps all the books that have been water damaged and has made a staircase out of them in the back. There is also a full size gondola inside filled with books! I would say this is a hidden gem, but the gig is up, we were not the only ones there. The bookstore is located in a great neighborhood, perfect for wandering. In fact, right next door to this bookstore is a wonderful art studio called Papier Mâché, a true artists studio. There were no photos allowed so I do not have a picture of her shop, but it was stunning!  I bought two beautifully hand-painted ceramic masks.

3. Masks  – Some of the masks around Venice are silly, creepy, weird or super cheap. I highly recommend the shop I just mentioned above but we also stumbled upon Le Maschere Di, Eyes Wide Shut. This is an authentic Venetian mask and costume shop that has such gorgeous masks.

4.  Magic –  Harris is currently obsessed with magic. When we were wandering around the Acqua Alta Bookstore he was supposed to be navigating us in the direction of our hotel, but he actually led us to the magic shop, Mystery & Magic. I am SO glad he did, because on the way we walked through the cutest area. So after visiting the Acqua Alta bookstore navigate to this magic shop and you can discover some cool things!

5. Osteria da Carla is a small trendy restaurant with only a few tables. It’s creative cuisine, but both my kids found something and survived. If your kids are not that adventurous, we also went to VinoVino which is more traditional and kid-friendly with great pizza. Everyone was happy with their meal here. In fact, Hudson was sick of pizza and they had a chicken curry dish – so he was very happy to have a break from pizza.

6. St. Mark’s Basilica First, I am not a church person to begin with, but I wanted to see inside since I don;t think we went in 17 years ago. I love the style of the design on the outside, but inside it was a really dark and I didn’t really care for it, other than the tiles on the floor. And really once you see inside La Sagrada Familia, no church will ever compare. However, the terrace up top gives you a great view of St. Marks Square and the Grand Canal. If it’s a sunny day, I say it’s worth going in for that.

7. Do not take the kids on a tour inside Doges Palace. It’s not so much a beautiful luxurious palace with grand ballrooms, but more a government building, courthouse and prison. And the prison was not that exciting. Listen, I appreciate history and I like learning about crazy stories of the past but honestly, this was just a place where thousands of men made a bunch of laws and rules and sentenced people to be hung or sent to prison. We were all bored. Some of the ornate design and decorations were fun to look at but that’s about it. Beautiful architecture from the outside, so just stay out there and admire it.

8. Red Rose Restaurant, unfortunately, we were not able to eat here, but I tried – twice! Grrr. The restaurant is cute and the food looked amazing! Make a reservation. This was in our neighborhood of where we stayed which is a nice area to hang out.

9. The Rialto Bridge is iconic and beautiful, but unfortunately, it’s a hot mess. Filled with souvenir shops up and down and all around. I could not get off this bridge fast enough. Blah.

10. We stumbled upon an art studio that was sandwiched in between all these high-end stores. The artist came downstairs and gave us a demonstration of how he does his chalk drawings! This guy was great. We bought one of the drawings (only 20 Euros) and then he let the kids each pick out a small drawing for free.

11. Gondola Ride – Yes, it’s expensive at 80 euros for 30 minutes. But you’re in Venice, I say do it. The kids were so excited to do this and heck I was sort of too. It was a short ride, but very nice.

12. Zacaria’s is an eclectic shop with really cool light fixtures, jewelry, handbags, art and unique gifts. I bought a really cool handbag and I was tempted to buy some cool light fixtures but refrained. This is a great place to pick up a gift for someone!

13. Bel-Air Fine Art is a small gallery with modern, playful and engaging art that even the kids liked. I OBSESSED over the Rhinestone Buddhas. I purposefully walked the way of this gallery every day so I could visit them. They are by Metis Atash and are made up of 24,000 Swarvoski crystals and cost 13,000 Euros. OMG I wanted one so badly. I still want one badly. Sigh.

14.  Venice is expensive. The best way to save money is to eat pizza, pasta and sandwiches from the small shops and vendors instead of the sit-down restaurants. Trust me, you’ll be much happier and richer. Fresh pasta in a box from Happy Pizza was great. The owner’s face is on the box, and he was there working and handed us our box. I so wished I had taken a photo of the guy on the box, handing us our box. 🙂

Final Thoughts of Venice

I LOVED Venice and didn’t find it to be overrated at all. Yes, there were swarms of tourists, but that’s bound to happen when you go during spring break. We stayed on the outskirts and explored away from Saint Marks Square, so we found plenty of spots where there weren’t crowds of people.

Not everything we do or try is a winner, trust me. We ate at a few places that were pretty mediocre and paid a fortune. We also don’t mind letting the kids hang out back at the hotel while Harris and I wandered alone or went to sit in the sun and have a glass of wine. I really just liked hanging out in our hotel’s regal dining room area and out on the terrace, so instead of running around to find lots of cool spots (like I usually like to do) we just stayed in and enjoyed the hotel and overall atmosphere.

The only thing we could have done that I may regret not doing is heading over to the colorful island of Burano. Hey, maybe next time!

We Finally Did It – Venice with Kids
Adventure February 5, 2018 posted by

Send Your Kids to Summer Camp in the UK

Okay, yes, it’s only February. BUT if you are like us, you probably have already started plotting out your 2018 travel calendar. We might be slightly more travel-focused then the average family, but one thing that every family thinks about is summer travel plans. And if your kids go to summer camp, you have to start thinking about that sooner rather than later. I wanted to share with you the summer camp that our kids went to last year, because this was a very new and exciting travel chapter for us.

Do you want to travel in Europe without the kids for TWO WHOLE WEEKS? Then listen up. This is how you send your kids to summer camp in the UK.

 

Summer Camp in Europe

Last year we wanted to send our kids to summer camp. We thought the time was right, and it was an important milestone. We wanted our kids to have a full sleepover summer camp experience. We thought about sending them back to the US for camp, and as it happens, our school here in Barcelona partners with a camp outside of Washington, D.C. We almost did it, but then we thought, there has to be an English-speaking summer camp somewhere in Europe.

We first looked for an English-speaking summer camp in Spain, but we could not find anything. This makes total sense – we are in Spain after all. Why would there be an English summer camp? So then we had the bright idea to start looking in England, which is when we found XUK Summer Camps.

At first glance

This camp looked pretty great and it seemed to be reputable, it’s been around for 20 years. Harris even chatted with them several times via their online chat. We had the kids check out the website and printed out all the materials for the kids to look over and read.

McKenna was thrilled and super excited. Hudson not so much.

Hudson was nervous and scared about going to summer camp. He had nightmares and emotionally broke down at least a few times, asking us if he had to go. I almost gave in because I felt so badly about him having so much anxiety and stress over it. McKenna is two years older and maybe it was a great time for her to go, but perhaps Hudson needed more time? But Harris and I made the decision that we were going to force it and stay strong. It would be a real growth opportunity for him, although I still had some mom-guilt deep in my heart.

Camp XUK

XUK has a variety of summer camps to choose from. There are even day camps for smaller campers and a specific camp for kids to learn English. So depending on your kids ages and situation, you will need to pick the best camp for your child. Then there are certain field trips that they can take the weeks they are there, which are additional add-ons.

The camp provides a list of what to pack, and you can send your children with spending money which is given to the counselors to deposit. The kids have to go and ask to withdraw money from their account.  Parents and family members can send letters to the camp. We had the Grandmas send the kids letters in advance so they would get there upon arrival. You can also email the camp with a special message for your child, which are printed out and given to your child at lunchtime.

Dropping the kids off for camp in London

We were instructed to drop off the kids at Pancreas Station. While that may seem a little crazy – just check them in and hand them over in another country?! – it’s really okay. This wasn’t the first time we’ve handed our kids over to someone in another country. We did this both in Barcelona when they were 1 and 3 years old when they went to Kinder Barcelona in the mornings for three weeks. We did it again in Costa Rica when they were 3 and 5 at some random beachside school for a week, so we could go and explore without toddlers in tow.

When we got to the station we saw a large gathering of kids from the camp in large groups and a few counselor types with XUK shirts on. We asked where our kids should go as they were in the “Activity” specific camp for the under 13 set. I was very happy that our kids would be in the same age group at camp, so if nothing else they had each other. Someone pointed us to the right group. We were early so most of the kids hanging out had just finished camp and were waiting to be picked up. They all looked pretty happy (no one looked malnourished or miserable), so that was a good sign.

During Camp

Families can keep up-to-date with the kids’ activities via the Camp’s Facebook Page. The camp posts photos of what the kids have been doing every day. I’d be lying if I said I was not checking this page hourly at first. The kids were allowed access to wi-fi but it didn’t work so well. But we were able to Whatsapp with our kids on a few occasions. Of course, we don’t know everything that happened at camp, but our kids had some funny stories about some of the campers. What would camp be without some awkward things right?

I was really worried about the food – McKenna is vegetarian and Hudson can be picky. When I asked them about the food they both said without a beat “The food was good.” What? Camp food was good?! I assume they just ate pasta and pizza for two weeks, but whatever – if there were no complaints I don’t really care what they ate.

Another great reason why your kids should go to the XUK Camp is because they get to see a unique side of England. They’re traveling with other kids, and take field trips to attractions in London and cities like Oxford. How cool is that?

Picking the kids up from Camp

It was really bizarre to be going to the Heathrow Airport to pick up our kids, and from there directly fly home to Barcelona. The pick up and drop off of so many kids going so many different places was impressive to me. The camp coordinates all of this and gets your kids where they need to be and on time, whether it’s back at Pancreas Station, Heathrow, Birmingham or the Cardiff airport. Some kids literally take the EuroStar in and out by themselves. This is also why we love living internationally, travel is just a more natural way of life for all these kids.

I tried to not make a scene when we saw our kids with the counselors and other campers with them, but I was freaking out! I wanted to know everything. But most importantly, did they like it?! They LOVED it and not 10 minutes into the conversation they said they wanted to go back next year! I was ecstatic.

After Camp

McKenna and Hudson are still talking to the kids they met at camp last year. They even made plans to attend camp the same weeks as their friends this summer. Many of the kids come from all over Europe, and there were even a couple from the US. In fact, one friend of McKenna’s has been in Barcelona twice this last year and we got them together while she was in Barcelona.

Two thumbs up!

The reason I think I was so ecstatic was because I felt that we had really given our kids an opportunity to grow and be truly independent from us for the first time. Our kids are used to traveling the world, moving around and being flexible in life. But this experience was 100% their own, totally apart from us. Hudson conquered a HUGE fear and more than just survived, he truly thrived. The benefits and learning lessons we gave to our kids were the most important, but it also gave my husband and I two weeks to have our own fun and recconnect as a couple. Priceless!

We already live in Europe so this is an easier jump for us. Coming from the States it might be a stretch but if you are an expat family living in Europe I highly recommend it! Or if you are a digital nomad family, you may want to temporarily move to England this summer. Keeping in mind that it can rain a bit. 😉

I really can’t say enough about this new turning point for our wanderlusting family. I am so grateful that we found XUK Camp and that we made this happen for our kids. Let the countdown begin – we are all signed up for this summer!

 

Disclosure: I was not paid in any way to write this, but my kids better get the best bunk this year. 😉 LOL I share it with you because I want more kids and parents to have awesome experiences. Counting the days until they go back…

Send Your Kids to Summer Camp in the UK
Adventure December 13, 2017 posted by

Finding Christmas in Chamonix, France

Last year for Christmas we wanted to do the idyllic European ski thing. So we headed to Chamonix, France, because after doing some research this seemed to be the place to experience the French Alps. I ignored friends who’d said that there were better places that were cheaper and more kid friendly. I had my heart set on spending Christmas in Chamonix and I figured we were going to do it at some point, why not now? And why not for Christmas!?

I imagined a perfect vintage snow globe with me inside it; snow falling, happy children ice skating and sweeping views of the luxurious French Alps. It was going to be Christmas card perfect!

Where we stayed

We booked an AirBnB and it was in a perfect location, right off the main street in Chamonix. The apartment itself was nice, though not the most charming building, so my vision of the perfect Chamonix experience already had a bruise. I wanted to see a festive lobby, a Christmas tree and maybe a fireplace welcoming me. Nope. After entering through the backdoor through the parking lot, we crammed two people and two suitcases into the little elevator, while the other two waited their turn. The apartment was spacious, modern and very nice.  It had a full kitchen and a little bunk room for the kids. I would recommend it to other families, because the location is ideal for walking through the village and convenient to all the restaurants and shops.

However, after poking around the town and going to get a massage and enjoy the spa at Hotel ‘Heliopic, I know where we’ll stay on a future visit. The ‘Heliopic had the cozy, family-friendly lobby, an indoor pool and spa that even had treatments for kids, and a cute cafe to grab quick meals. They say it’s “Retro Mountain Chic,” and that it is!

As much I enjoy AirBnB, I realized again why hotels are sometimes the better option. In any case, we were here, in Chamonix!

Where the hell is the snow?

Once we settled into the apartment we went down to find a grocery store to stock up on a few things. This is when my European winter wonderland dreams began to look bleak. I mean, I enjoy nice weather and would prefer not to be freezing but the town was grey and damp. There was no snow to be found. Instead of focusing on no snow and how exactly we were going to snowboard, I opted to enjoy the kids playfulness with the photo props they found outside a store. The absence of snow didn’t seem to be bothering the kids, so I started to relax a bit and hope for the best!

After dropping our groceries off at the apartment, we walked over to rent our snowboards, boots and helmets. It was there that our snow concerns were confirmed. They told us that the conditions were not good, and that only a few chairlifts and runs were open.

It doesn’t look good this week, everyone is heading to the Italian side where there appears to be more snow.”
(Inside my bratty head: But I came to the French Alps, I want to ski in France. Sigh)

 

The next morning we put on our ‘positive’ boots and headed to catch the shuttle to get to one of the two areas that were open. When we arrived we were met by a long line, as this was where everyone had to go to get up the mountain. We walked across the bare parking lot, some brown grass and waited. There were two large gondolas taking groups of about 40 people to the top.

I didn’t even want to post this photo. It’s just so depressing. But that’s the gondola we took to the top – and shockingly there was actually some snow on the other side.

Once at the top we arrived and it didn’t get much better. We were met by a very small unloading zone, which was crowded and not much of an area to get situated, and put on our boards. I was trying hard to put on my best face, but um, this was not what I had envisioned and this was not Keystone, Mammoth or Whistler. (oh gosh, I’m an North American ski snob)

Sigh. Let’s go down and see what we can do.

I’ll keep this short. We went down maybe four runs and left. The few runs that our kids can do were wet and soggy and crowded. McKenna usually needs to start out on the wide green runs to feel comfortable and get her snowboard legs back, but there was none of that. It was steep, wet and there were rocks exposed. Not the fluffy ideal powder we had back in Whistler last year. Maybe it’ll snow tomorrow… or not. 

 


Let’s try the Italian Alps

So we decided to head to Italy for the day. It took a one hour bus ride there, and then we stood in line for another hour to get up the mountain. Conditions were only slightly better. Actually they were worse. It was very icy – I literally thought one of us was going to take a spill and end up needing medical attention.

I’m not usually a cautious person, but I did not see a single mountain worker, ski patrol or anyone that we could ask for help had we needed it. Not to mention, we do not speak French or Italian. I felt uncomfortable having my kids snowboarding on these steep icy slopes and on a mountain I knew nothing about. So I made them take off their boards, and they played in the snow outside, while I found my happiness drinking beer in the cute 1972-style chalet. At one point Hudson’s board went flying down the mountain, got lost in the woods and Harris had to go search and retrieve it. I laughed so hard as he finally reemerged from the woods with the board about 15 minutes later.

Harris was not laughing. But hey, smile – we’re in Italy!

 


Running in Chamonix, France

Lucky for me, I actually had something else to do in Chamonix, run. The weather conditions were perfect for that! I was in the middle of my training for the Barcelona Marathon, and I could run as there was no snow or icy roads. (I was just going to slack off for the week and figured all my snowboarding would be good enough). And this is where my spirit was lifted and my outlook on Chamonix was restored. Had it not been for no snow, I might not have experienced running in Chamonix. I saw more of the town and found a beautiful path with trails down by the river. It was breathtaking.

Christmas Day in Chamonix

Harris managed to hurt his leg somehow and he was in pain, so after our Christmas crepe breakfast he went back to the apartment. So it was just me and the kids to figure out how to enjoy Christmas day in Chamonix. We walked around the town and did some shopping. I was feeling guilty because there were no gifts to open on Christmas Day (because I thought we would have mountains of snow to be playing on as a distraction!) so I let them fill up bags of candy. Thirty Euros later and with two happy kids hyped up on sugar, we wandered around a bit more and then sat down for lunch.




And then… this is where my IDYLLIC Christmas picture appeared.

Watching my kids laughing and having fun together, in France, eating pizza and spaghetti on Christmas Day. It was right there that my kids were literally illuminating CHRISTMAS. With the quaint French-ness behind them and the mountains surrounding us, we were in my snow globe. It wasn’t exactly what I envisioned, but what it lacked in snow was made up in laughter.

Then just like the Grinch – my heart grew two, three, four sizes bigger!  (It could have also been my enormous beer) but Christmas was sitting right in front of me!

This trip is filled with so many memorable moments, and I have SO much more to say and tell you. From me leaving dinner one night because it was taking too long (no really), to drinking mulled wine wandering the village; to these kids hanging candy from a string from their balcony and my kids jumping for it and grabbing it over and over; Hudson and his damn moose hat; and of course McKenna breaking out in hives after eating a huge meringue. We have no idea why this happened.

To be fair to Chamonix, it was early in the season and the snow conditions (or lack there of) was rare. Usually there should have been more snow, but last year it was shockingly dry. This is also a lesson in be careful when planning your epic ski vacations too early in the season, mother nature can be unpredictable.

So here’s to managing expectations, keeping a grip on reality and making the most of it! I wouldn’t change a thing about our Christmas in Chamonix.


 

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Finding Christmas in Chamonix, France
Adventure September 20, 2017 posted by

3D Art Gallery Budapest: Where you become a part of the art

While we were recently in Budapest, one of the best things we did was visit the 3D Art Gallery Budapest. My kids actually found out about this attraction while they were researching things to do in Budapest. Now, you may be wondering what exactly is a 3D art gallery? Well, I was too! Essentially, the 3D Art Gallery Budapest was unlike any other art museum that we’ve been to, because here you become a part of the art!

Someone in our family was really good at this…

3D Art Gallery Budapest

I was not sure what to expect when we arrived at the museum. It’s not that big, and when we entered we came to the desk and paid a small entrance fee. A guide explained that we had to find creative ways to insert ourselves into the paintings. It took us a little while to warm up and get the hang of it.  It wasn’t always obvious how to position ourselves in the paintings. My husband is trained in improv and my kids are definitely not camera-shy, so they all seemed to have an easier time then me. So I was pretty much the photographer, as usual. As we we moved to each painting we quickly realized that this was not just about standing in front of the painting. You had to react and make facial expressions as if the paintings were real. By the time we got to the third room, we really started having fun with it. The kids were fighting over who got to jump in the painting first. They even competed with their dad on who could manage the best pose!

Striking the Pose

Once we walked through all the rooms of the museum, one of the staff then took us back through to get some family photos of us! I so appreciated this service, and am glad that they did this. He was able to direct us on where to stand, how to react and he knew where to stand to make the photo look the most realistic. I liked that they waited until after you went through independently the first time,  because that gave us a chance to loosen up and allowed our kids to use their own creativity. Then it was nice to go through again with a more professional eye, and with someone helping us get the best possible shots. This also allowed me to get in some of the photos too.

Scroll through our photos and tell me your favorite!

 

 


 

Sometimes it pays to have your kids do some of the travel planning and research!

Visit their website and be sure to check them out if you find yourself in Budapest.

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3D Art Gallery Budapest: Where you become a part of the art
Adventure June 27, 2017 posted by

School’s Out For Summer!

First Year at the American School of Barcelona 

School is out for summer here in Barcelona! Our kids finished school on June 22nd and I think I may have been just as excited about it as they were. The morning routine can get old no matter what country you live in and making lunches for my kids can be a frustrating experience in the morning. I have to say, we had a pretty incredible first school year at the American School of Barcelona. The kids settled in pretty easily and made friends fast, which is such a relief as a parent. When you move to a new country and a new school there is a lot of uncertainty, but luckily our kids were able to adapt and transition without any major problems.

Hudson was a little behind in reading, so right away he was put into a reading group with an aid to get those students all up to the reading level they should be at. Hudson does not like to read and this was his biggest challenge this year, so finding him books he liked and getting him to read was our main focus. McKenna was a little behind in math, so she was also put in a group for extra math help once a week until she got up to speed. We appreciated that this was assessed quickly and that there was a process already in place for this situation. When you have international kids coming from all over the world, it’s not uncommon for them to all be in different places. Seeing that the school was so proactive and had a successful system to get both our kids get up to where they needed to be in these areas was reassuring.

The 7th grade class kicked off the year with a team building trip to the Pyrenees Mountains which I think was brilliant and was a great way for McKenna to get to know her new classmates. Then the 5th graders went to the Pyrenees for three nights at the end of the year as their “step up” trip, as they would be entering 6th grade and heading to middle school next year. This was a fantastic way to end the year but this trip specifically helped Hudson prepare for the two weeks of sleepover camp in England this summer. Which he has been a bit nervous about, but McKenna on the other hand cannot wait and even asked to go for four weeks!

A few other school highlights this year was the incredible Halloween parade and the performances that the middle schoolers and high schoolers had to collaborate and work on to perform. McKenna’s class was assigned popular TV shows and her group did a little skit and dance as the girls from the show, Pretty Little Liars. They all dressed up as the character A and it was pretty awesome. The International Fair had everyone contributing dishes form their home countries and a foam party!

We also loved Hudson’s meet the artist presentation and the 5th grade end of the year beach party in Castelldefels, and of course the 5th grade promotion / graduation. Group lunches with our neighborhood Whats App group, 7th grade parents dinner and a handful of other events, sleepovers, and Birthday parties with new friends. We also received the ASB yearbook which is beautiful and so creative! The cover is of Barcelona’s iconic Parc Güell and inside the entire book is themed with social media pages. Each grade/section is either Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr or YouTube, complete with search toolbars, hashtags, and follower counts. 

Summer Travel Plans

Originally we were “not really traveling this Summer” (ha ha ha) just two weeks in England, but then things/people happened and well, we couldn’t resist! So here’s where we are headed…

Relaxing in Stockholm, Sweden

Tomorrow we are heading to Stockholm, Sweden to see one of my best friends Christine, her husband Kirk and their beautiful son Oliver. They live in New York City, but did a home exchange with a couple in Stockholm for a few weeks and well, if they are going to be this close to us – we have to go! We have rented a little house in the same neighborhood where they are staying.  I really have no big plans for Stockholm other then to spend some quality time with our friends and play with Oliver. I find these trips are some of my favorites – “having no plan at all, makes the best plan of all.” If that isn’t a famous quote already – I’ll claim it!

Work & Play in Budapest

Why Budapest!? Well there is a very special man in Budapest, Rob Toth. Rob is the business broker that sold my website and he happens to live in Budapest. Rob has been asking Harris and I to come and visit him so we are finally going! Since selling my website we have remained in close contact with Rob for a variety of ongoing business reasons. I have actually referred a few people to Rob and a few of those partnerships were very successful. I even got an email from one of the business owners thanking me for literally “changing her life” and expressing her gratitude for her new found freedom! It’s THAT, that right there – I love connecting awesome people and if I can do more of that then hell to the yes! So we are going to Budapest to play but also do a little work.

Summer Camp in England

Then at the end of July we go to England for two weeks. We wanted to put the kids in camp this Summer, and we thought about heading back to the States, but then we found XUK Camp just outside of London. We thought – we live in Spain, they should go to a camp in Spain or at least Europe, but we wanted an English speaking camp. Why? Well, it will be there first time going to sleep over camp and we wanted our kids to have fun and not worry about the language, it’s summer after all. Many of the camps we were finding around Barcelona are in Catalan and other camps in Spain are obviously in Spanish so we thought a amp in England is great!

So what will Harris and I be doing while they are in camp? We will be roaming the English countryside. We will be in London for a few days, then staying at a charming bed & breakfast in Peak District (one of Britains beloved National Parks) and then staying at an adorable cottage in the Cotswolds.  From both of those places we’ll be dong lots of day tripping!

Once home from summer camp we will spend the rest of August sweating amongst the tourists here in Barcelona. Well, we will probably head up the coast to Costa Brava a bit to hit some of the beautiful beaches but other than that we will be home (siting in the air conditioning) trying to rest and prepare for school to start up again! (we go back to school on September 4th) The Summer is sure to fly by and then I will have two middle schoolers, which is totally crazy to me! It also makes me think about how time is moving so fast. Even though the summer time is crazy, we have to make sure we slow down and enjoy them. However, right now I have to pack…

Hasta lluego!

School’s Out For Summer!
Adventure April 10, 2017 posted by

Winter Canyoning with the Tech 21 waterproof iphone case!

This past winter while we were in the French Pyrenees for ski week I was offered a chance to participate in something called winter canyoning.  Without knowing exactly what winter canyoning meant, I jumped at the chance to experience another wild and crazy adventure!  This would be the perfect opportunity to use my new Tech 21 Evo Aqua waterproof iphone case, because if you don’t have photos –  then it never happened, right!?’

What is winter canyoning?

According to our hosts at Adventure Creators, winter canyoning is much more than the physical activity you’d think it might be. Here’s their description of the adventure that awaited us.

“The biggest challenge in winter canyoning is psychological. It is after all counter-intuitive to immerse yourself in freezing cold pools of mountain water and to ‘go swimming’ when there are icicles hanging off the rocks! The rivers also run fast in winter so security is taken seriously by your fully qualified and experienced guides. This is not an activity to be taken lightly. Your first plunge into the icy water will take your breath away, but you’ll soon find yourself jumping from icy ledges into deep rock pools, abseiling down icicle-edged waterfalls and sliding down natural toboggans into the chilly waters below. This is an exhilarating and intoxicating activity like no other.”

That description either excites you or frightens the hell out of you. I was excited. My husband not so much. So I went on this activity solo.


Suiting up for Winter Canyoning

The week we were visiting the Pyrenees, they were having a bit of a heat wave, so my winter canyoning experience turned out to be more like Spring canyoning! This was nice, because even I was a little nervous about “plunging into freezing water.” While wild activities are definitely my thing, I’m not a fan of being cold.

My guide and I hiked had about a 15 minute hike to the rivers edge with all of our gear, then once we arrived we then started suiting up! I was literally dressed in a wet suit onesie, my entire body was covered including my head, only my face was seen! I was given rubber boots, gloves for my hands a helmet and of course a safety harness. I also had a backpack for ropes, some other gear and a place to put any of my personal items. 

The top pocket of the backpack is where I put my iphone that was safely secure in the Tech 21 waterproof case. I was excited to get some photos and maybe even take some video without worrying about ruining my phone, because when we came to the first waterfall I knew everything was about to get wet! 


My guide went over all the gear and how to handle the ropes and made me feel very safe. This was not my first time waterfall rappelling so I knew a bit about how to make my descent and I think he was happy that I was not new at doing these types of activities. Before I headed down the waterfall, these were the last few words we said to each other….

Me: So am I connected to you the whole time!?

Patrice: No

Me: Am I connected to anything?

Patrice: No

Me: Okay, this should be fine.

We rappelled down three waterfalls and my guide was very patient with me stopping to take photos along the way. We were in a narrow canyon with huge rocks all around us, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the river was rushing at a nice comfortable speed. The biggest challenge was not the waterfall rappelling but actually climbing over some of the big boulders in the water. Many of them were slippery so watching your footing was important. 

When we got to the point where the canyon opened up a bit we took our first plunge into the water and let our bodies just float down stream. I giggled like a kid and tried to just lay back and relax. The backpack was actually great for balancing on, as I tilted my shoulders and head back it was like a pillow.

Meanwhile, my iphone was in that front pocket and fully submerged in water! We stopped a few times along our journey so I could take photos and even shoot some video. The Tech 21 Aqua waterproof case is a great case to have for any adventures where you are in or near water. I would suggest testing the case at home as the directions say. We had a small hiccup installing the case properly so we were glad we worked that out before I went out into the wild to use it. The photos and video using this waterproof case turned out great!

I could feel the water against my wet suit, but I wasn’t cold. The water was refreshing, and it felt so amazing to just be floating on my back, looking up at the blue sky, drifting along so freely.  We had to swim to the side from time to time, and climb over more rocks as we floated along. In one section, we literally body surfed down a mini waterfall that had our bodies bumping into rocks a bit. I giggled again because it felt as if we were like human bumper boats! Then the river opened up again into a calm flow, and so we floated freely again.

Once we reached a pretty shallow part of the river, Patrice turned to me and said “we get out here”. I was a little disappointed because I just didn’t want it to end!

I sat in the river for a few more minutes to really pause and take a mental picture. I looked back at where we had just come from, I looked around at all the natural beauty one last time, took a deep breathe and got to my feet as I exhaled. We made our way up the hillside and back to the truck where we took all our gear off and shockingly I was completely dry! 

Check out my video of Winter Canyoning in the French Pyrenees!

 

Disclosure: This is a post in partnership with Tech 21 and I worked with the Adventure Creators for my winter canyoning in the Pyrenees. My epic experience is all my own and I share this with you to help you get out and have your own epic experiences!

Winter Canyoning with the Tech 21 waterproof iphone case!
Adventure February 10, 2017 posted by

Nomad Together: A podcast for digital nomad families

Digital Nomad Families

So you want to be a digital nomad, but you have a family? Well good news, you can be a digital nomad family!

Digital nomads are not just twenty-something year old guys roaming the world with nothing but their laptop and flip flops. Yeah, we’ve all seen those shirtless dudes posting photos working poolside in Bali. But, guess what… there are hundreds of families circling the globe with their brood, so don’t think that just because you have kids you can’t travel the world, live abroad or have a location independent lifestyle. 

Paul and Becky Kortman host the Nomad Together Podcast that interviews digital nomad families and gives you the inside scoop to what it takes to become a digital nomad family and how many are achieving this nomadic lifestyle. Harris was recently interviewed on the Nomad Together Podcast and talks about how we choose to be nomadic a little differently. (I was not able to be on the interview unfortunately) Three is definitely not a one size fits all for being a nomadic family, and everyone does it their own way and on their own terms. Paul and Harris talk about how we are able to live abroad and work from anywhere (aka, money $$ what we do to sustain this lifestyle), putting our kids in international schools, learning another language, applying for Visas, health and medical insurance and a whole bunch more! 

Nomad Together Podcast

Episode #46: Long-Term Nomadic Life with Harris Fellman of WanderlustLiving.com


Some of our friends are waiting for Harris and I to write a book, and I’m not saying that’ll never happen – but until it does, Paul and Becky Kortman have a book, the Family Freedom Guidebook and a ton of resources on becoming a digital nomad family! They also have a great Facebook group for digital nomad families, so if you are thinking of jumping on the digital nomad bus, it’s a great place to start!

 

Nomad Together: A podcast for digital nomad families
Adventure January 12, 2017 posted by

Climbing the Roman walls of Girona

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Barcelona Day Trip to Girona

Girona is a very popular day trip from Barcelona and is just about an hour train ride to the north. The first country house we rented was about 30 minutes from Girona so it was easy for us to go and spend the afternoon exploring this historic city that dates back to the first century, BC. A few of the top highlights for visiting Girona is the Cathedral of Girona, the Forca Vella (old roman fortress), the Jewish Quarter and walking along the Roman walls that once protected the city.

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Barcelona to Girona

Girona is a small very small city that is easily walkable, you do not need a car. Barcelona to Girona by train takes about 45 minutes and only costs 12 Euros. However, if you do happen to have a rental car you can easily park it at the train station for the day and walk o the city center, which is what we did. The walk from the Girona train station to the historic city center is a 10 minute walk. We explored the old city, the Forca Vella and walked along the Roman walls and then walked back to the train station with only a moderate level of complaining from the kids. 

Our main goal was to see the Cathedral and walk the Roman walls, so we did not spend a lot of time investigating the restaurants, shops or the Jewish Quarter. I hope to go back another time without the kids so I can take my time stopping in some of the shops and exploring the Jewish Quarter a bit more.

Eiffel Bridge Girona Spain

Eiffel Bridge

When walking to the city center from the train station you will follow signs and eventually come to Rambla Llibert which is a pedestrian only street with shops and restaurants. This runs parallel to the Onyar river and there are a few bridges, one of those bridges is the famous red bridge in Girona named Eiffel Bridge. It was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1877 before the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

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Cathedral of Girona

The Cathedral in Girona is officially named The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, but to keep things simple everyone just says The Cathedral de Girona. It is not hard to find once in the city center, and there are signs to point you in the right direction. We simply found our way to the side of the Cathedral and then followed a large staircase and pack of people around to the front.

Fun Fact: The Cathedral of Girona was the location for a major scene in Game of Thrones, which was incentive enough to get my husband excited to see a Cathedral.

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I’m always been most impressed with the doors on cathedrals.

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Roman Walls of Girona

From the Cathedral we just kept wandering around and found ourselves among the Roman walls just naturally and when we saw a staircase we took it up. As we navigated our way along the walls, and climbed more stairs, we started to see some pretty incredible views of the valley. We just kept along the path and continued exploring until we reached a beautiful courtyard, where we did a little resting in the shade. Across the courtyard there was a large bell tower to climb that gave more stunning views and an impressive vantage point of just how far the Roman walls went!

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As you can see, we made the kids do a lot of walking that day, but they survived.
(It really wasn’t that bad, my kids like just like to be dramatic). 


There is a small trolley that you can ride around to see the city, so if you are with anyone that has any health conditions or are traveling with have very small children, and hey – there’s no shame in hoping on just for fun! 

If you are in Barcelona and looking to get outside the city to see a bit more of Catalunya I would highly recommend this day trip. You can easily take the train up int he morning and spend a day wandering the old city, have lunch, enjoy some gelato and be back in Barcelona for a late Spanish dinner! The city of Girona website has a lot of great information about the history of Girona and other interesting things to do and see when you visit, be sure to check it out before you go.


Climbing the Roman walls of Girona
Adventure November 3, 2016 posted by

Renting a Country House in Spain

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Renting a Country House in Spain

Let me just start by saying that this will be the first of many posts about renting a country house in Spain, because I plan on staying in as many as I possibly can. I am obsessed with them. I want one.

There are hundreds of these country houses for rent all over Costa Brava, the northeastern region of Spain, in Catalunya. Costa Brava is the gorgeous coastline just to the north of Barcelona that has one postcard perfect beach town after another. However, going a little further inland you’ll find the quiet rural countryside with quaint little villages that eventually lead you to the Pyrenes mountains. So clearly, an amazing part of Spain.

Renting a country house in Costa Brava was not on the major to-do-list when we first moved to Barcelona, but some friends of ours were in Barcelona for a few weeks and they actually gave us the idea. They wanted to get out of the city and see a little bit of the countryside, so they booked a room at Pasteral Hotel Rural, a charming little hotel that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere – but we were up for the adventure! They had actually booked the last room, so while searching for a place to stay near our friends we happened upon this old country house for rent, we booked it and away we went!

Getting from Barcelona to Costa Brava

This particular country house we rented was in the town of Pasteral which is about 30 minutes outside of Girona. It is an area more well known as La Cellar de Ter, a very rural area known for miles of biking trails. These biking trails are called Vias Verdes (which means “green-ways”) and are old railways that have been covered and have been turned into beautiful biking paths throughout the countryside. This area is also popular for fishing because of the Ter River. The river actually sits right behind this house and we went for a few walks by the river and each time we spotted men fly fishing.

One of the most popular destinations in Costa Brava is the city of Girona and it is very easy to get here from Barcelona by train, it only takes about an hour. You can either rent a car in Barcelona and drive yourself to your country house or you can take the train and rent a car right at the Girona train station. Car rentals are cheaper in Girona then in Barcelona, so to save some money you may want to go this route. We needed a car to get out to the country house, to explore the area and to get to the stores to do some food shopping, but if you are staying in Girona you may not need a car.

*There are other trains that hit the coastal towns of Costa Brava, however I have not taken them yet.

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Can More Pasteral Country House

When we arrived to the Can More Country House, the owner and his daughter (who spoke english) were there to greet us and show us the property. The owner only spoke Spanish, and while we understand a lot of Spanish, it was nice that he had his daughter there to help translate anything we did not quite understand or if we had any specific questions. As he showed us around he kept looking at us for some sort of sign or nod of approval, I think he genuinely wanted us to be very happy with the house, I could sense the pride he had for it. He was so sweet and kind.

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The Can More Pasteral Country House was built in 1496 and used to be an old barley mill. The owner made sure to reference that this was about the same time as Christopher Columbus had discovered the Americas. Which was an important time since he was introducing many of these European crops of wheat, rice, barely, and oats to the new Americas.  I just wished I spoke better Spanish to have been able to ask him even more questions about the history of this house.

There is a small farm on the property with chickens, goats and a few large white ostrich like animals, called rhea’s. The kids naturally wandered over to the animals right away and the owner went and got some bread to let the kids feed the goats. Later that afternoon the owner brought us over a dozen farm fresh eggs, I’m assuming they were probably just hatched from his chickens that morning!

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This is a rhea, a flightless bird related to the ostrich and emu. There were several of these walking around and while they don’t look all that friendly, he stood near one of them and told the kids that is was safe to pet them. But i still kept my distance. The wings on these things were gigantic!

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This house has four bedrooms, three of the bedrooms were upstairs and one bedroom was downstairs. The beautiful stone walls made it feel a bit like sleeping in a cave. There was a window in each room, but the windows were small  so the rooms were a bit dark. There were also two bathrooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. The house was very clean and very well kept.

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I assumed that this was a place where maybe there was water and the men tied up their horses and hung up their hats! But I really have no idea and that is probably not what they did. This was inside the house, so clearly not a place horses came, but perhaps it used to be outside…? It obviously has something to do with the barley being processed here, but I am still wondering what this was used for.

If you know what this is or what it was used for – please share in the comments below!

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The kitchen had everything we needed and  I loved digging through all the old plates and bowls, there was such an eclectic mix of floral patterns and colors. I love old ceramic dishes, coffee mugs, silverware and glass bowls. There is just something about these things that make me very happy, they’re like little vintage treasures. I wonder how long some of these things have been with the house!?

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There is a BBQ grill and we made dinner with our friends both nights. We also just enjoyed sitting around having delicious snacks, enjoying wine and watching the kids run around and play. On the last nigh they even put on an entire show for us.

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This was the view from the the side patio where I enjoyed a glass of wine as the day just started to get that warm dusk glow. Perfection.

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Walking around the neighborhood we saw a few other country houses too! (However, I am not sure these are is for rent)

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Waterfall in Costa Brava

A waterfall in Costa Brava, Spain??  This isn’t Costa Rica!

The only reason we discovered this waterfall is because the friends we were with (who we met while living in Costa Rica) saw some people in swimsuits, carrying a bunch of bright floatation devices down a random dirt path – so they assumed there must have been a place on the river for swimming. So being the curious types, the next morning we put on our swimsuits and went to see what those people were walking to, and sure enough it lead us to a waterfall.

The only way I could describe how to get there was take the main road up the mountain and when you see a huge manufacturing like building, park and go behind it and follow the path. (I know – crazy!) It was not marked at all, so clearly this is a “only the locals know” type of spot. A lesson in keeping your eyes open and be sure to observe what the locals are doing or where they’re going!

(I have tried to research this waterfall on the internets, but I kept coming up short, sorry!)

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I had posted on Facebook joking that we bought this country house and people took me very seriously, because clearly it is totally something we would do.

So I shot this video explaining that we did NOT buy it and gave a small tour. Enjoy!

Since staying at our first country house, I have been planning my escapes to stay in more of them!

There are larger country houses to rent if you are traveling as a group, some have been renovated and more modernly updated, some are more luxurious and have pools!  I’ll gladly stay in some of those fancy ones too, but at some point they are no longer a quaint little country house but large estates or Spanish villas. Nothing wrong with that – but with all those modern updates I can’t help to think that it might take away some of the charm, simplicity and authenticity of a true country house stay. But hey, I’m willing to do the research to find out!

I am looking forward to staying in a variety of country houses, but I know that this first one will always have a special place in my heart!

You can find some country houses for rent on most booking sites like HomeAway, VRBO, Bookings, and even AirBnB. Just search Costa Brava or Girona. There is also Catalunya Casas / Charming Villas  / Holiday Houses Costa Brava.

Renting a Country House in Spain