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 August 16, 2017 posted by

Winter Escapes: Planning a multiple family vacation in Whistler

It may only be August, but this is about the time you should start thinking about your family winter vacation! One of my favorite places for a winter getaway is Whistler, British Columbia. Two years ago we had an incredible family ski vacation in Whistler, and I’m always trying to think of ways we can get back to that beautiful winter wonderland. While looking at some of these Whistler cabin rentals, I am very tempted to organize a multi-family trip to Whistler with some friends, or maybe even a girls ski weekend! Whistler vacation rentals are the ideal choice when looking for accommodations for a large group or a multiple family ski vacation. Choosing to stay at in a large cabin or luxury home has many benefits, but I believe the biggest benefit is that it creates a more engaging environment and a better holiday experience.

Multiple Family Ski Vacation

Now, before you book your multi-family vacation, be very careful in selecting who’s going on the trip. You probably have a pretty good handle on which of your friends you are best in-sync with, but you might want to ask yourself a few questions before you start throwing out invitations.

  • Do your families have similar interests?
  • Have you traveled with them before? How did that go?
  • Do you have similar lifestyle and parenting styles?
  • Have you at least spent an entire day out with them, where their any major conflicts?
  • Do you have similar taste, style and budget?
  • Consider the children’s ages and personalities

Whistler Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals allow for families to really unpack and settle in. When you are traveling with kids that all vary in age you will need more space then the average hotel room could ever allow. Some children in your group may still need naps or have a certain bedtime, while the teenagers may be up late and sleeping in way past the 7:00 am toddler alarm clock. A large home provides everyone with their own space, but sill keeps everyone together for meals and other daytime activities.

Renting a vacation home does not mean you will be stuck in the kitchen cooking and cleaning either. With many of these homes, you can arrange for extra cleaning and maid services. You can also inquire about a chef coming to cook for your group.  Another added bonus in vacation rentals, especially on a winter vacation, is the washer and dryer. It’s so nice to be able to pack less and wash things throughout the week. For anyone that travels with small children, you know how a washing machine can not only be a nice amenity, but a necessity.

This Sunridge Court cabin is what I would call perfection!! Although, I do love this stunning modern gem Nita Lake Estate too!

More Opportunity for Quality Time

The family time while sharing a cabin or luxury home is so much more intimate and personal. It’s like one gigantic family sleepover and everyone will have a much better time. Sharing a large home means the activities and bonding opportunities are endless. Each family can take turns cooking, and everyone can get involved. You can have theme nights such as Taco Night, Pizza & Pasta, or All American Burgers and Brats.

A large home also allows for entertaining game nights, movie night, baking cookies, roasting marshmallows, snuggling on the couch and even late night pillow fights. With a cabin or house there is also plenty of opportunity for off-the-slopes fun like snowball fights and snowman making contests! And let’s not forget relaxing in the jacuzzi or sauna after a long day on the mountain. Renting a large cabin or luxury home also helps you enjoy more down time on your vacation. Sometimes being in the center of it all or at a hotel there is a constant state of go-go-go.  You can be present and relax when you are a little removed from the hustle and bustle of the mountain.

Cost Effective

It can be much more cost effective to book a vacation rental, since you’re splitting costs between multiple families. One of the biggest savings is usually on the cost of food. With an entire kitchen at your fingertips, you can stock up and make breakfast, pop in from the slopes for a quick lunch, and have plenty of snacks for the kids on hand, as well as wine and beer for the adults. Eating out as a family while on vacation can really add up. You’ll save money even just making your own coffee and breakfast for the week. You can still plan on a few lunches on the slopes and maybe one (or two) special nights out for the adults, but making meals in the house will really help keep your costs down.  If everyone is willing to pitch in on the cooking and cleaning – kids can dry dishes too! – then it won’t be so overwhelming. You can also assign each family a specific day for the kitchen clean-up duties.

Planning a multiple family ski vacation to Whistler is a great way to save money and enjoy time with friends. A vacation rental gives families a lot of travel flexibility, as well as the chance to holiday in a cozy home away from home.

So, who wants to go to rent a cabin in Whistler with us!?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Luxury Retreats.  All my thoughts and opinions are my own. I share this with you because we truly enjoy vacation rentals and I would stay at many (if not all) of these cabins.SaveSave







Winter Escapes: Planning a multiple family vacation in Whistler
Andrea August 9, 2017 posted by

20 BEST moments of two weeks in England!

Spending two weeks in England this summer was definitely not the typical beach holiday, but it was refreshing to escape the Barcelona heat. We went to England for two weeks because our kids were going to sleepover camp for the first time. We thought it might be wise to stay in the same country as them, just in case anything should go awry, but we also thought –  why not take advantage of this time and explore the English countryside.

We had a great time and looking back I easily came up with my favorite moments, all 20 of them!

20 BEST moments of two weeks in England

1. Staying in Notting Hill

We rented and AirBnB one block from the famous Portebello Road and it was a great location for our few days in London. We only had two days in London with the kids and we were not doing any major sight seeing, we just wanted to keep it chill. We just wanted to walk to all the cute cafes, cruise the Portobello market, and wander the adorable and very colorful Notting Hill neighborhood. And of course we had to step inside the Notting Hill Bookstore from the movie Notting Hill.

2. London Escape Room

We love doing escape rooms in all the cities we visit! We promised the kids we would do one in London before they headed off to camp. Harris found one of the top rated and best escape rooms in London and it certainly did not disappoint! This might have been our families favorite of all the escape rooms we’ve done! Time Run Escape Room

3. Seeing School Of Rock with the kids

We did not get theatre tickets in advance and seeing a show was not on the agenda at all. Which I regretted once we were in London and I remembered, oh right – we should see a show! While walking around Covent Garden it started to rain heavily, we jumped down in the subway station to head back to Notting Hill and there was a discounted theatre ticket booth. Clearly it was meant to be. I darted across the packed station and said “What cha’ got for tonight!?” School of Rock was a really high energy show and the kids loved it!

4. Drinking from a BBQ grill

Yes, you read that correctly. My (now very good) friend Katja literally just moved to London from Mexico City. As in like five days before we got there. She is originally from England, but has been living abroad with her family for over 10+ years. We had an interesting meal at a the Eclectic Diner in Notting Hill, then we went for a cocktail at Trailer Happiness, a funky little tiki bar. We figured we might as well keep up the hipster theme. We somehow ended up ordering a BBQ grill filled with booze to share. This is why Katja is now a very good friend, you do not share large BBQ grill cocktails with just anyone.

5. Dropping the kids off  for summer camp

Dropping the kids off at the St Pancras train station was a top highlight, not because I was getting rid of my kids for two weeks but because this train station is such a beautiful historical landmark!  I had never been to St Pancras Station and had no idea it was such a gem. But back to sending my kids away to camp for two weeks, for the FIRST TIME. We spotted the XUK Camp sweatshirts on the counselors with swarms of kids around them right away. We checked them in, hung out for a bit but then hugged and said our goodbyes. It was so bizarre walking away from them. My gut felt like it had been slightly punched. 

6. Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace

In honor of the 20 year anniversary of Princess Diana’s passing there is a special exhibit at Kensington Palace, Diana: Her Fashion Story and it is beyond GORGEOUS. Seeing this was an unexpected surprise. I did not know about this exhibit before we got to London and I still can’t even remember how I saw or heard that this was happening, but it was a MUST for me. I did this solo while Harris got some work done. This is on display until February 2018 so if you are in London I suggest you go! 

7.  Re-connecting with a friend from South Africa

We met Lole and her husband (who are from South Africa) in Barcelona while on a food tour with friends. We have remained in contact and randomly she was in London! She messaged me and we got together for dinner with her and her lovely daughter. It was so great catching up and talking about life’s twists and turns, but a highlight for me was hearing her and her daughter tell the story of them biking the famous Camino de Santiago through Spain. So funny.

8.  Harris being told he’s a “Wanker”

While driving from London to Peak District we had been on the highway for about 20 minutes and we were in the far right lane, then Harris moved over into the middle lane and a car zoomed passed us…

Harris: That guy just called me a Wanker!

Me: What, how do you know!?

Harris: Well he passed me and did this – Harris makes a hand jerking-off motion.

Me: Oh, is that the international sign for a Wanker!? LOL

Harris: I think so!

9. The Monsal Trail and biking through railroad tunnels 

The Monsal Trail was awesome! I am not a biker, I prefer running, but when in Peak District there are a variety of trails and Harris likes biking, so we biked. The Monsal Trail is a trail that used to be an old railroad that has been converted into a gorgeous trail that includes six railroad tunnels that you ride through. I absolutely loved biking through the tunnels, it was very cool. I had so much fun on this bike ride that I may have even agreed to bike with Harris back in Spain… maybe.

10. Pub Dogs & Pints

I had some favorite pubs while in Peak District and some not so favorite;) Two of my favorites were The Bulls Head (near Eyam) and The Anchor. The Bulls head was adorable inside and it came with the cutest pub dog named Jack! Not only was the pub cozy and the waitress friendly, but the fish-n-chips was SO good and it was literally the whole fish! The Anchor was my other favorite because they serve food all day and the staff was really nice and welcoming. This place felt like the being inside the belly of a pirate ship with even a rum room included.

The thing with the pubs in the peak District is, they are strict about their food serving hours – you better get there between 12-2 if you want lunch and 6-8 if you want dinner.  There isn’t much wiggle room and it was a little annoying. However, when we were late or behind the food serving schedule we went to The Anchor and they happily served us. Another pub that took us even though it was 2:30 was The Ashford Arms in Ashford on the Water, this was another stand out pub that had a lovely garden.

11. Tissington Trail 

Tissington trail was beautiful but just not as unique as riding through the railroad tunnels on the Monsal trail. However, the real gem of this trail was at the end when you reached the village of Tissington. We parked our bikes and walked around the town wandering into the most adorable vintage candy shop, browsed a beautiful home store and then stopped for some coffee and homemade fudge next to Tissington Hall, which is a gorgeous historical estate. This estate is popular for weddings and since it was a Saturday we saw a large group of dapper groomsmen getting photos taken. 

12. Peak District, pretty much ALL of it.

Never heard of Peak Distric?  Yeah most people haven’t. I actually read about Peak District in an inflight magazine, if you can believe that! Peak District is a national park in northern England and apparently the step sister to the bigger and more popular Lake District. Peak District is closer to London so it’s a bit more convenient and it is also a very easy drive from Manchester and Cambridge. It is well known for their hiking and biking trails but just driving around and exploring the the countryside stopping at all the small villages was fun too! I loved it here.

13.  The Sir Williams Hotel and Barry the local bar man

We were driving around looking for a place to grab a bite to eat and we suddenly came to The Sir William Grindleford and from the outside it looked adorable! When we drive to the back to park, the views were fantastic and they had a little garden area with picnic tables. I went in to make sure they were serving food and as luck would have it they were! We were met by the nicest staff behind the bar, which included a young college kid from North Dakota of all places, and Barry, who seemed to be the the permanent bar fixture. He was hilarious and kept us entertained while we ate. I also asked to see a room upstairs, because I am totally staying here the next time we are in Peak District. There will be a next time.

14. Our cottage in the Cotswolds

Adorable. I felt like frickin’ goldilocks (with one bear) ha ha ha! This cottage was the cutest and even came with one of those iconic country doors that you can open just the top half, a small detail but one I loved! This stylish little cottage was in the town of Cirencester – one of the largest towns in the Cotswolds, but not in a horrible way. It was nestled behind one of the main streets in town so we could walk out our door and walk to everything.  The funny thing was, it was sort of behind a Thai restaurant so when we would leave we would get an intense smell of Thai food. Ahhh, nothing like stepping out your door in the English countryside to smell Thai food!;) 

15. Getting my running back in the Cotswolds

I have not been running. My excuses – the end of the school year was crazy per usual, lots of friends have been visiting, traveling and the heat in Barcelona. Lame, I know. So the one good thing about the weather in England was it made for some great running weather. I also found a cute store that sold the coolest workout clothing so I bought myself a few fun pairs of leggings, which may have also inspired me to get my ass up and go running.

16.  The Hare Trail

I spotted a couple gorgeous sculptures of painted rabbits, so I googled. It turns out that there are 85 of them throughout the 28 villages in the Cotswolds and this is known as The Hare Trail. They are decorated by different artists and are on display from March – September, then in October they auction them off and the proceeds go to a variety of charities. I of course wanted to find all of them, but probably only spotted ten.

17. Meeting up with a high school friend in the Cotswolds

What are the chances that a friend from high school was visiting her brother that lives in the Cotswolds the same week I was there!? Slim to none, but it totally happened! We met up for a pint at a pub (naturally). I was also able to meet her brother, his beautiful dog and her sweet family. They had already been to Iceland, spending a few days in the Cotswolds, then heading into London and then onto Paris. Catching up with her was such a fun treat!

18. Reading an entire book in a day

This was a first for me. I have never read a book in ONE DAY. I am not the type to sit still for that long, my mind and body just does not do that. However, if you put me in a cozy cottage while it’s raining, apparently my body can be persuaded to lay around all day and my mind can get wrapped up in something other than being productive. Yay!

19. Arguing about eating pistachios while driving 

Have you ever eaten pistachios? Well if so, then you know that this is a two hand job. Have you ever driven a manual car with the steering wheel on the right side of the car? Then you know that this is also a two hand job. Therefore, it is not safe to crack open pistachios, navigate the roundabouts while driving on the opposite side of the road and changing gears. Period.

20. Visiting Oxford – Wycliffe hall

The icing on the cake! Oxford is about an hour drive from where we were in the Cotswolds and so on the last day we took a drive to Oxford, so I could relive my youth! 20 years ago I did a study abroad program called EuroSpring and we stayed at Wycliffe Hall on Banbury Street in Oxford. Our walk over to the hall brought back so many memories. We passed by all the pubs we would frequent and the park we would walk pass everyday. Whoa – this took me back, way back. That EuroSpring trip opened my eyes to the world – and I’m pretty sure it was then that I decided I needed to see ALL OF IT.

The place where my wanderlust life began…

20 BEST moments of two weeks in England!
Posts June 16, 2017 posted by

Moving to Barcelona: Dear Mom of two in New Jersey…



First steps of moving to Barcleona  

As I lay in bed scrolling my emails hitting delete, delete, delete – I stopped at the subject line: “A fan in need of advice.” My head literally tilted to the side and I thought, “A fan, huh? Oh, this should be good… CLICK.

It was good! This sweet email was from a mom of two in New Jersey with dreams of moving to Barcelona. She has been reading my blog since we moved to Costa Rica. She complimented me on all our adventures and even the launch of Twist Travel Magazine. (Clearly winning me over with flattery already!)  She was looking for some advice and guidance on moving to Barcelona with kids, and politely asked me a few questions. She kept it short and was not too intrusive, which I liked.  I waited until morning to write her back. I sent her off a short email with an enthusiastic DO IT along with a few important first questions.

The first one being, what will you do with the boys, put them in school!?  Because seriously, that is the FIRST question any parent should be answering when moving their family abroad. Homeschooling, road-schooling, non-schooling are of course perfectly fine other options. I don’t want to impose my opinions and I do not know anyone’s financial situation. But it is the first thing you should think of because this determines when you will actually start your process to move. If you are enrolling them in school, you need to apply at least 9 months in advance.

Then I immediately thought – gosh, I do not write enough about being an expat. About being a mom living abroad and what it takes to get here, what it’s like living outside the US and how we handle all the crap/red tape of living this international lifestyle. Not only does it take some preparation and organization to get to where you’re going, but then there is figuring out life in your new home country, which can be just as overwhelming. I should probably share more of the nitty gritty of it all, but sometimes I wonder who the hell wants to know. Is some of that stuff even interesting?

But if a mom in New Jersey wants to know the details of moving to Spain, there is probably someone in Ohio, Nebraska and Seattle that might want to know too. Not to mention, some of the information that is out there is so not helpful. It can be very vague or it’s on a website from 1999 and a robot wrote it.

Here are the four main things I shared with her about moving to Barcelona with kids.

1. International Schools in Barcelona

There are two International American Schools, the American School of Barcelona (ASB) or Benjamin Franklin (BFIS). We looked at both, liked both and applied to both. Benjamin Franklin is a little smaller and we were actually put on the waiting list. We were accepted to ASB and so that made our decision for us. Benjamin Franklin is a little closer into the city, so we liked that location better. ASB is in a beautiful location just on the outskirts of Barcelona. This is also the neighborhood where the German School of Barcelona is located. There is also the British School of Barcelona, but that is a bit further down the coast in Castefells and St. George School (which is a British based school, but not IB) and St. Peters School. I am sure there are more, you can google.

Why do we not put them in a local school? Well, first of all a local school will be in Catalan not Spanish. We want our kids to learn Spanish. It is more useful around the world then Catalan. No one speaks Catalan outside of Catalonia. They can take Catalan as an elective if they want, but we’re happy they focus on Spanish for now. Our kids are 10 and 12 and so throwing them into a local school is not an option for us. We want them to learn and not struggle with the language and have social anxiety. If your kids are very young and just starting school, then maybe go for it –  but it was not for us.

If you are moving to Spain for just a year, then I’d say go with an International school, as it will be easier on everyone. Now, just because we go to the “American” school of Barcelona does not mean it’s all Americans. It is a melting pot of nationalities. Families from Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, Norway, France, Italy, Germany, China and more. This is also what we love about International schools. We get to meet so many different people from all over the world, and our kids do too!

2. WhatApp

WhatsApp is literally the Holy Grail for expat life and international living. This is how we all communicate, it’s like a secret society in WhatsApp. What is talked about, mentioned, recommended and discussed in WhatsApp, stays in WhatsApp. Just kidding, it’s the opposite actually – all the helpful information that is passed in WhatsApp should be shared with other parents and expats in your city!

Our school set us up with Neighborhood WhatsApp groups, and we also have specific class WhatsApp groups so all the parents can chat. Kids birthday party invites come through WhatsApp, ladies lunches, dads bar hopping groups, running groups, and other random social outings. On some days my WhatsApp is pretty quiet. Other times, it’s on steroids. WhatsApp is really just texting, but the beauty is you can use it with any international phone number and you can create these private group chats.

This is the place where everyone asks for recommendations for English speaking doctors, dentists, house cleaning, pet sitters, therapists, you name it. Everything from medical emergencies, concert tickets for sale and getting some pants hemmed is brought up in these groups. If you need help with anything, someone in the WhatsApp group will be able to help. Sometimes these chats and messages can take a hilarious turn too. This is why moving abroad is easer than ever before. Technology is your friend, people. Yes, there are expat Facebook groups, but these people are very specific to where you live and nothing is as good as having a community of local expats at your fingertips.

3. Barcelona Neighborhoods

We live in E’ixample (in the center of the city) and we love it. However, our kids do take a 45 minute bus ride to and from school. The school is only 8 miles away, but with the stops and morning traffic it takes that long. ASB has many buses that run through the city picking up kids from all the neighborhoods, so it’s not an issue. (We pay for this service of course). However, many families live close to the school in Esplugues and Sant Just, so many of these kids walk to school. There is also Sant Gervasi, La Bonanova and Sarría which are a little bit closer to school. I hear Sarría is gorgeous and has some beautiful homes. Then there is the Turo Park area, aka expat central and a really hip area called Gracía.

There are even families that live at the beach in beautiful Castelldefels and Sitges and commute in which takes about 30/45 minutes as well. Some families live out in San Cugat and there is even a bus for them too. So which neighborhood you choose to live in is really about your lifestyle, budget, and if you want to have a car. Also, if you are working, keep in mind where you’ll be working in the city. Apartments can range from a small, semi-furnished 3-bedroom, 2 bath for 1,200 Euros to a fully furnished apartment with underground parking to 6,500 Euros.

4. VISA Process

This will be a brief overview because this is an entire post on it’s own (which I have started….). This is just the basic primer of how we are here. This is not the only way to be here, nor is it how everyone does it and I am not a lawyer. First, you need to look for the closest Spanish Consulate to you. This website has a listing of all the Spanish Consulates in the USA. From there you will want to click and read up on their “Visa Information”, because believe it or not, things can vary from each consulate.

My husband and I own companies in the States, therefore we are here on a “non-lucrative visa,” which means we do not work or take in any income here in Spain. A.k.a., we have enough money to live here without needing a job or to work in Spain. Meaning, we do not take jobs away from Spanish citizens. We had to show that we had enough money in the bank to live here without working.

For this type of visa you must show at the time of applying for your visa, the sum of 26,500 Euros for the primary person and 6,500 Euros for each dependent. For a family of four it works out to 26,500 + 6,500 + 6,500 + 6,500 = 46,000 Euros. If you just gasped, and I killed your dream of moving to Barcleona because you are about $10k short of that amount, borrow it from Uncle Steve. Where that money goes after you are approved is your business.  But if you are not working and you don’t have enough money to live for the year… no visa will help you. There is also a “self-employed visa”, which is actually different then a non-lucrative visa, so you will need to find the right one for you.

Dream still alive!?

Next comes a bunch of paperwork that includes a full background check with fingerprints for the whole family; bank statements; newly issued birth certificates of your children; and a newly issued marriage license. Everything will all need to be translated into Spanish and Apostilled. Which is sort of like an international notary. They will affix a big gold sticker and/or stamp on your documents. These newly issued documents must also be gathered no more than 90 before you apply for your visa. Visa applications can take 2 weeks to 60 days. But wait! Because if you are approved, then you have 90 days to enter Spain. Yup. So you have to work backwards from when you want to start our life in Spain.

Say you want to arrive in Spain on August 1st, then back up 90 days to May 1st. That is the absolute earliest you want to get approved. So you should apply about mid April. Which means you should start collecting all your documents and getting things in order in March. Oh, and for all those papers, you will need about two copies of everything for everyone. We even had to have copies of our bank statements for the children’s applications. We also had to have an enrollment letter from the school, as well as stating and signing a document that we would not be working in Spain. Of course, you’ll need to make an appointment for your Spanish Consulate, so book that in advance.

We did have some help. We hired an immigration lawyer here in Spain that was recommended to us by our school. She helped to make sure we had everything we needed and were not missing anything. She helped us the most when we actually arrived in Spain, because the visa you are issued is only temporary. Upon arrival, you have about five more things to do (and prove) to actually get your real NIE card. (NIE is short for Número de Identificación de Extranjero/Foreigner Identification Number.) 

Still up for the dream of moving abroad!?

If you are concerned about where your kids will go to school, where you will live, how will you meet people and navigate the city, and what the main steps are to getting a VISA, I hoped this has helped. It may sound a bit overwhelming at first, but we’ve proved that this can be done. Plenty of people have come before us and you, and we’ve all made mistakes and have stories to tell. The key is that you are not alone. If the paperwork and visa process doesn’t scare you off or kill you, you’ll make it here just fine. Come join us!

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer or an expert on immigration. What is stated here is our own personal story and experience, which is accurate to the best of my memory and understanding. You should seek additional help and expertise from a lawyer, professional immigration service or moving abroad company if you need more information or advice. And I say this again, each consulate is different with their dates, forms, copies etc…. So please do not attempt this without reading your specific Spanish Consulates page and instructions first. 

Moving to Barcelona: Dear Mom of two in New Jersey…
Posts June 9, 2017 posted by

A look inside Sagrada Familia

I have not been inside Sagrada Familia in over ten years. The first time I went inside I had two very small babies with me. To be honest, all I remember was there being a lot of scaffolding inside, and me trying to navigate my stroller through the narrow walkways trying not to bump into anyone. The Sagrada Familia is the very famous basilica in Barcelona that has been under construction for 130+ years. It is the masterpiece of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. If you are coming to Barcelona it’s truly a must see.

Since moving to Barcelona I have passed the Sagrada Familia on many occasions, but I have been anxiously waiting to get back inside. I have been waiting for some friends to visit, knowing that it was sure to be on their list of things to see. Last week, I finally had the opportunity. I bought our tickets online for a 6:30pm entry and for a small fee, added going up in one of the towers. I am not sure of the difference in the towers, but I booked the Tower of Passion. Some of our friends did this with their kids and liked it, so I wanted to see what the tower was all about. Our entry including the tower cost 29 Euros total. You can purchase online through a variety of vendors. In the summer months, you should do this well in advance.

Inside Sagrada Familia

Upon entering the Sagrada Familia, I headed straight for the doors. A friend had shown me their intricate details, so I wanted to get a closer look. The main large doors are decorated with leaves, and as you got closer you could really see just how detailed the leaves are. Not only were there leaves, but flowers and even little bugs or bees, and what looked liked worms or centipedes. This amount of detail starts to give you an understanding as to why this architectural gem is still very much under construction.

The moment I was inside Sagrada Familia my mouth fell open and my eyes were probably the size of golf balls. The entire inside of Sagrada Familia is completely open, incredibly bright and stunning! I did not remember the inside being like this ten years ago, at all. The interior looked so polished and fresh. It was breathtaking, all of it.

The Tower of Passion

Visiting the Tower of Passion was not as exciting as I thought it might be. I thought we were able to step out onto a balcony of the tower and have a great view. But really, it was very small enclosed bridge in between towers, and the views were quite limited. However, making your way down the spiral staircase was impressive. You take an elevator up but your only way down is through the small staircase. Windows within the staircase allow for views as you descend, so we did get to see up close the higher sections of the outside. The view of the pillars, set with bunches of fruit at the top of them was well worth the visit.

Some might wonder if going inside Sagrada Familia is worth it. Not everyone is into visiting churches, after all. However, this is unlike any church you will ever see (I promise!) and no, it is not overrated. I am not a huge fan of going inside churches either. I’d just rather be outside exploring a park, garden or the city streets. I appreciate churches and cathedrals for their architecture, design, and workmanship. Many of them are really something to marvel at.

To me, the Sagrada Familia is less about it being a church and more about the design eye candy. While looking up at the pillars, stained glass, and all that is going on, it reminded me of looking inside one of those kaleidoscopes as a kid. As you walk around looking up at this masterpiece it’s just like twisting the kaleidoscope. You will see different shapes, colors, textures and details with every twist.

I hate to spoil it for you, but take a look for yourself.



A look inside Sagrada Familia
Posts June 6, 2017 posted by

Twist Summer Issue + {Hotel Stay GIVEAWAY!}

Twist Summer Issue

It’s HERE! The Twist Travel Magazine Summer issue is here and well, it’s pretty bad ass if I do say so myself. This is Twist’s second issue and if you thought the first one was great just wait until you flip through this one! We have even more incredible travel experts that have contributed to the Summer issue and honestly, they are the reason this family travel magazine is filled with such valuable content. 

So just where are we taking you in the Twist Summer issue? Well, we have the inside scoop on two hot US Summer destinations, San Diego and New York City from local moms who know just where to go. We’ve also got a very detailed itinerary for a Southwest road trip and an off the grid family vacation spot just over the border in Tofino, British Columbia. We also hop over to Europe for a unique visit to London and I give you a quick guide to taking the kids to Lisbon and visiting the many castles and palaces of Sintra in Portugal.

Also in this issue our “She Gets Around” feature (which is my personal favorite) highlights a special mother and son trip to Hawaii from the founder of Flytographer, Nicole Smith. You will not want to miss this endearing story about the magic of traveling with just one child. I believe that this is something every parent should consider making time in their busy schedule for. These trips do not have to be to some far off destination either, it can be a simple weekend getaway within a few miles of where you live. Just as long as you are both off the computer, away from the devices and spending quality time together doing things you enjoy. These trips will bring you closer together and the memories will last a lifetime, I promise.

Oh but wait, there is also Summer beauty must haves, weekender bags, fabulous hotel picks, ice cream trucks around the USA and much more! 

Just GO READ IT!  

{pro-tip – hit the square icon in the lower right corner to go full screen for better viewing!}



Cape Rey Carlsbad Hotel and Spa, a Hilton Resort- GIVEAWAY

We are also very excited to have partnered with Cape Rey Carlsbad for the Twist Summer issue to bring you a special hotel giveaway! 


Cape Rey Carlsbad

Nestled along the coast in northern San Diego, just 150 steps to the surf, Cape Rey is a top choice for resort travelers and family-fun seekers. Cape Rey boasts beautiful ocean views, award-winning coastal cuisine from Chandler’s Restaurant, and total relaxation at the award-winning Ocean Crest Spa. Grab your family and explore the nearby beaches or attractions including Legoland, The Flower Field and more, or relax in a private poolside cabana with ocean views and coastal breezes.  

Chandler’s Carlsbad

Spectacular sunsets are served daily at Chandler’s. Local, coastal and unexpected, relish in farm-to-table handcrafted cuisine with Chef Teri McIllwain’s fresh and flavorful approach. Whether it’s breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, or dinner, every bite is California-inspired with a signature twist on favorites that makes Chandler’s a unique experience every time you visit.

Ocean Crest Spa
Ocean Crest Spa inside Cape Rey Resort is an intimate retreat where personalized spa treatments meet mindfully-selected, pure ingredients. Indulge in an organic facial, relax in a therapeutic bath, destress with a custom massage, seek comfort in a body wrap with seasonally-inspired ingredients, revel in one of our signature body rituals, or make the ultimate escape for two with one of our couple’s treatments.

Experience exclusive products you’re unlikely to find elsewhere, including their own Ocean Crest Spa line (crafted with locally-sourced ingredients); Margaret Dabbs London for pampered hands and feet; topical vitamin C with antioxidant properties by Phyto C, 100% vegan sea products by Osea Malibu; California’s own Tasha & Co. Organics; and Organic Male OM4 – a complete organic skin care system for men.  


Two-Night Weekend stay for a family of four
US residents only
Age 18+ to enter
Blackout dates: July & August 2017
Expires March 31, 2018

Please enter through the Rafflecopter below.

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Twist Summer Issue + {Hotel Stay GIVEAWAY!}
Posts May 19, 2017 posted by

Barcelona Travel Writing Workshop with Lavinia Spalding

Like me, you love to travel. I know that because you’re here, reading about our family’s wanderlust adventures.  If you’re keen on traveling, perhaps you’ve thought of writing about it too? I hope that may be the case, because I’ve got an exciting announcement that combines traveling + writing, with bonus of Barcelona AND some fab ladies in the mix. I’m planning a travel writing workshop in Barcelona with award-winning travel writer Lavinia Spalding, and you’re invited!

 The Background

Let me tell you the story about how Lavinia Spalding and I became friends. This goes back a few years, after I bought her book Writing Away. I love to travel and always thought I wanted to be a travel writer. I mean, what a dream job! After reading her book, I looked her up online and found her website, which lead me to her Ted Talk. I loved it. I loved her.

Fast forward to moving to Costa Rica and putting on a small blog conference with my friend, Nadia. I wrote Lavinia an email asking her if she would want to speak at the ROAR Retreat. This was a total shot in the dark. I was very prepared for her to say, um who are you and politely decline. Although, I do have a pretty good sales pitch when I want something bad enough. And who wouldn’t want to go to Costa Rica!?

She was intrigued by the idea, and wanted to talk and get some more information. Long story short, she came to ROAR, hung out like one of the girls. She spoke eloquently about the art of travel writing, and my girl crush on Lavinia grew even more. Since the ROAR retreat we have become friends, and have kept in touch. Lavinia and I had tossed around the idea of possibly doing a a fun travel workshop together, but life got in the way. She had a beautiful baby boy and moved from San Francisco to New Orleans. I sold my original blog and moved from Costa Rica to Barcelona.

Travel Writing Workshop in Barcelona

A few months ago, we started chatting about that travel writing workshop idea. The result? We are producing a travel writing workshop in Barcelona this September! It is sort of the perfect match. Lavinia is an extremely talented, award-winning travel writer, who loves to teach the craft of writing and stroytelling.

Then there is me. I am not a travel writer. Lavinia is a travel writer. I am more of a travel show-n-teller who loves traveling. My entire lifestyle is all about seeing the world, and showing people what I see. I am very good at the art of traveling, but I have a hard time calling myself an actual travel writer. That is not meant to be self-loathing, it’s just that this is not where I excel. I am better at other things, like planning, organizing and executing. Which is why I believe our individual talents for this sort of travel workshop are a perfect match. Lavinia will create the curriculum for the workshop and teach, while I create the itinerary and set up the adventures.

So here is what you get….

The Art of the Travel Essay

Experience vibrant Barcelona the best way possible: as a travel writer. In this dynamic five-day workshop, you’ll learn the art of the narrative travel essay through daily writing sessions, craft discussions, innovative journaling prompts, and close readings. Your days will be filled with inspirational experiences, and you’ll come to recognize your most meaningful travel moments, delve deeper into them, and turn them to prose. During the workshop, you will start, revise, and aim to finish an essay or a collection of short works. Meanwhile, there will be plenty of time to immerse yourself in the culture—to relax, roam, eat, drink, shop, take tours (on your own or as part of our optional excursions), take siestas. Travel has the ability to make writers of us all, and this trip will turn that potential into reality.

  • Five nights accommodations in an elegant Spanish flat in the E’ixample neighborhood
  • Welcome dinner with tapas & sangria
  • Daily writing sessions with Lavinia Spalding
  • Local cuisine cooking class
  • Bike tour of Barcelona
  • Optional micro-workshops: walking tutorial with professional photographer and fine-tuning your social media game with industry expert
  • Catalonia National Day, an unforgettable experience
  • Rooftop happy hours
  • Light breakfasts
  • Tour Gaudi’s world-famous architectural phenomenons and other UNESCO sites
  • Local coordinator & guide
  • Limited to 10 students
  • Cost: $1,250.00
  • More info at: travelwritersworkshopbcn.eventbrite.com


Lavinia Spalding

Lavinia Spalding is series editor of The Best Women’s Travel Writing and author of two books, Writing Away and With a Measure of Grace. She introduced the e-book edition of Edith Wharton’s classic travelogue, A Motor-Flight Through France, and her work appears in numerous national and international publications. Lavinia has taught all over the world, from South Korea to Southern Utah, Mexico to Machu Pichu, and points in between. Visit her at www.laviniaspalding.com and be sure watch her popular Tedx talk.

If you or anyone you know is interested, please register on the Eventbrite page.



Barcelona Travel Writing Workshop with Lavinia Spalding
Family May 13, 2017 posted by

Visiting Sintra with Kids (25 Photos!)

Sintra with Kids

When you tell people you are going to Lisbon usually the first thing out of their mouths is, you have to go to Sintra. Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for the colorful Pena Palace, Castle of the Moors, Palacio Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace and Park. Not to mention the actual palace of Sintra, Vila Palace which sits right in the city center. Sintra is about 30 minutes from Lisbon which makes it an easy day trip. However, I’ve heard a few people say they wished they had more time in Sintra. We decided to stay over one night, and I am so glad we did. Visiting Sintra with kids is easy and a lot of fun. But there is a lot of walking, so be prepared.

We actually rented a car and drove to Sintra because from there we planned to continue north to the city of Porto. You can also take a train to Porto, but we thought a car would allow us to be on our own schedule. Looking back, I may have skipped the car, but more on that in the next post.

Porto Portugal with kids!

Where we stayed in Sintra

When we arrived in Sintra, our navigation lead us to this cotton candy pink little gem of a hotel. I was already thrilled (I didn’t remember booking a pink hotel!). I couldn’t wait to see inside. There weren’t a lot of hotels to choose from, as we booked at the last minute so I was happy with whatever color it was. We went in and no one was in sight, but there was a bell to ring for service on a small dresser at the entrance. We rang and a nice blond woman came bouncing down the stairs and welcomed us. She told us our room wasn’t quite ready, so we parked our car next to the gardens, walked to town, ate some lunch and returned later.

Quinta das Murtas is a small bed and breakfast in a historic Portuguese villa. The main building has traditional rooms while behind the main house is a few cabins and family suites that sit next to their small garden and pool. We booked one of the family suites and it was a large studio-type room with three beds and a full kitchen. While the accommodations are not necessarily fancy, our cabin had large windows that faced the garden. We were surrounded by such lush green scenery that it made us feel like we were in a green house. This hotel is in a great location and only a short five minute walk to the center of Sintra.

When we arrived in town, it was very busy and swimming with tourists. I saw a few large tour buses and sighed a little, as it was Easter/Semana Santa week. We were gonna have to rub a few elbows.

Sintra is a very small village with narrow streets and some fun little shops, and restaurants. We walked for a bit trying to find a place to eat but most restaurants were already packed. I jumped on my phone, did a quick search and found Tascantiga, which looked lovely online, so we headed there hoping for a table to be open. With only two families in front of us, we waited about 15 minutes and were seated outside at a lovely table in the sun. I just told my husband to order a bunch of stuff so we could sample a variety of tasty Portuguese tapas. I am not sure what everything was, but we liked almost everything. Even my son loved his octopus blade!

Palacio Quinta da Regaleira

After lunch we headed to the tourist office to ask about tickets for visiting Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. These are the two of the most popular attractions in Sintra. We bought our tickets from the tourist office for both the palace and the castle so we were all set for the follow day. I recommend doing this to ensure you avoid any long lines in the morning. That said, the line at Pena Palace the next morning was not horribly long, and there was barely a line at the Moorish Castle by the time we arrived, mid-afternoon.

From the tourist office, we walked up the main road in Sintra to Palacio Quinta da Regaleira.  It’s about a 15-minute walk, and you can just buy tickets when you arrive at the front. We grabbed a map and started to make a plan. Then just as quickly, we decided to let ourselves wander and explore randomly. The grounds are filled with walking paths, old ruins, and a few towers for the kids to climb up. We eventually found our way into a cave and the underground walkways, a series of tunnels that lead to the cave of the Orient, an inactive well and a waterfall. This was one of the coolest areas of the palace grounds to explore!




We woke up early the next morning, had a light breakfast and headed straight to Pena Palace. Don’t worry about not having a car, there are tours that will pick you up and take you up to the entrance.  There are also tuk tuks that you can hire for about 10-15 Euros to drive you up to the top. We found parking pretty easily, but I suggest getting there early to be able to get a spot.


Pena Palace

Walking up to the front of the palace was a nice 10 minute steep climb. It wasn’t as horrible as it may appear. It’s a short walk, truly. I loved seeing the palace from a distance, and as we got closer all the layers started to reveal themselves. It was a little lighter in color than I had imagined it. Perhaps that is from seeing too many filtered photos on social media.  The color palette is interesting. While I would never put these colors together, they somehow work! The Royal family built Pena Palace on the site of an old monastery, as a summer palace. Dom Fernando of Saxe Coburg-Gotha and Queen Dona Maria II acquired the old monastery and the surrounding land, as well as the Moorish Castle and a few other estates in the area in 1838.

We made our way all around the palace walls looking out at the gorgeous views. We could even see the Moorish Castle in the distance. The palace is an eclectic mix of colors, textures, tiles, and Romanticism architecture . One of the stand out pieces is the large angry-looking statue that sits above an archway leading to a large courtyard. Kids will love this guy! Apparently, he is a depiction of the Greek God, Triton.

After we made our way around the palace we headed down to explore the palace gardens. I believe we spent more time wandering the palace grounds then the actual palace.  When looking at the map of the palace gardens it can be overwhelming. There is a lot to see and I don’t think we even saw half of the grounds.

The map showed a section called the valley of the lakes, so we made that our goal and I was so glad we saw this series of lakes. It was a beautiful walk and probably my favorite part! We followed the path around the lakes down and ended up at a nice resting area with bathrooms, a snack bar and a ticket office. You can actually start your journey here and walk up through the grounds to the entrance of the palace too. This was the perfect spot to stop and take a break. It also sits right next to the road that we needed to walk up to the entrance of the Moorish Castle. Perfect!

The Moorish Castle

By winding our way down the the bottom of the Pena Palace gardens, we walked up the steep road a little ways to reach the entrance to the Moorish Castle. This was not a long walk – maybe 15 minutes, but it is a little steep. Once at the entrance, take a gorgeous walk along a paved road. You’ll come across some ruins and eventually walk up a small hill to the official ticket entrance. From here you can either go to the right which will take you to the smaller hill top lookout first. I recommend doing this side first, because the other hillside is the highest peak and look out. By going to the right first, you end up walking the entire distance of the long wall which takes you up to the highest point. If you don’t do this first, you may skip this side, having already been higher.

There is no wrong way to explore of course, so just watch your step and take in the incredible views! Along this walk, you will be able to see the city center of Sintra, the Sintra Palace, and of course Pena Palace. This entire climb with the kids was fun and it is not too intense. My daughter was tired but my son was just so excited to reach the top. I had to make him wait for me.  I was also stopping to take a million photos of the views.

The Muslims built the Castle of the Moors/The Moorish Castle as a military fortress in the 10th century. The castle was strategically built high up in the Sintra hills to protect the local territory and Lisbon. It also served to control access to the sea.

I did wondered if seeing Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle in the same day was doable with kids. Let me tell you, it totally is. You can easily do both the same day and I highly recommend it. They are very close to one another and you are already up there so just knock them both out back to back!

If you are traveling with young kids that you can carry or are pushing a stroller you will get a work out. However, a stroller at the Moorish castle will be useless if you want to climb the walls and get to the top lookout spots. It is very narrow and with rocky stairs. So bring a baby carrier for the babies and you may need to carry toddlers alongside you carefully. If you are traveling with younger children I would definitely pack a backpack with some water and snacks.

Finally Thoughts

So, which one was my favorite? It’s hard to say, but I’d have to say climbing along the walls of the Moorish Castle was my favorite. I really enjoyed the climb and the incredible views. They have preserved the old fortress very well, it’s unbelievable. We spent the least amount of time at Pena Palace itself, and more time actually exploring the grounds. I also loved the mystical gardens at Palacio Quinta da Regaleria and the kids liked the underground tunnels a lot. I’m actually glad that we were able to see all three attractions. I wouldn’t change a thing about how we spent our time.

Visiting Sintra with Kids (25 Photos!)
Family May 4, 2017 posted by

Visiting Portugal: Lisbon with Kids

Visiting Portugal

Ever since we moved to Barcelona people have asked us, what are some of the top places in Europe we want to go? My first answer has always been Portugal. I mean, it’s right next door and Portugal was picked as Travel + Leisure’s Destination of the year in 2016, clearly we must go! We have actually ended up visiting our neighbor France quite a bit this first year. But finally for Spring Break, we created a week long itinerary for ourselves that would take us to Lisbon, Sintra and Porto. We figured why not hit them all in one trip? This will be the first of three posts. Here’s how we spent three days in Lisbon with kids!

Lisbon with Kids

Lisbon is a smorgasboard of action. In fact, I had a slight case of sensory overload. Lisbon is definitely having a moment, and it knows it. The weather is fantastic, prices are very reasonable, the city has a rich (and very traumatic) history, the people are kind (most speak English), and it has a creative vibe that just oozes into the streets. There are a lot of renovations happening. When you walk around town, you will see and hear a lot of construction. But it’s all for the sake of polishing up an already vibrant city. The real challenge is to not shine it up too much. Like any European city, we still want to see it for it’s authentic cultural self – with all its bumps and bruises.

The same day we landed, we hit the ground running with a walking tour of Lisbon from With Locals. This was the first time we did a city walking tour with our kids. I figured they are old enough now and they should learn a little bit more about where they are. More than our quick and random Google searches at the airport before boarding the plane. This also took some pressure off me to know where to go and what to see.

We met up with our guide Jorge at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara in the Barrio Alto neighborhood. This is a fantastic promenade and park overlooking the city, and a great way to kick off our time in Lisbon. From up here he was able to explain in detail about the devastating 1755 earthquake, flood and tsunami that demolished the city. We spent the entire afternoon walking with Jorge as he explained the different areas, shared interesting and significant stories about Lisbon’s history and even engaged with the kids. When we all got hungry, he didn’t even mind stopping to let us grab a quick bite to eat. 

When our official time was up Jorge kept going because he really wanted us to see a few more hidden gems and end the tour at a lookout point. He took us to see some very cool street art that decorates a parking garage. Each level was done by a different artist and was a competition put on by the city. This parking garage actually brought us to the lookout point just as the sun was setting. On the way down we took a small street that lead us to Chapito. Chapito used to be just a very small circus school, but has now turned into a full performing arts school and venue for performances. Around back is a restaurant where you can dine under the big top. (We were not able to eat here – so make reservations).

Every European city has their sweet treats, but in Lisbon they are known as “convent sweets,” as they got their name because the nuns would make them with all the left over egg yolks. The yolks remained as the nuns used egg whites to starch their whites and to clarify the convent wine. This was another interesting fact we learned on our walking tour with Jorge.

Alfama Neighborhood

The next morning Harris and I let the kids sleep in and we got up to check out the Alfama neighborhood. This is the oldest neighborhood that was literally built to protect the castle, São Jorge Castle. The streets are very narrow and maze-like, which was intentional to make it difficult for enemies to attack the castle. Local people still live here. We passed one woman and her husband carrying their laundry down a small alleyway. We also saw all sorts of unique and random things, such as a mannequin leg hanging from a window and a little pink cut out of a house hanging over head.

While Harris made friends with a little dog I wandered happened upon a little ceramic shop. We walked what seemed to be the opposite way as we saw many people coming down, as we were making our way up, to what we had no idea. Eventually we came to a gorgeous, and very popular lookout known as Miradouro Porta das Sol.

We started our walk up to the Alfama neighborhood from the waterfront, and I spotted Brunch Cafe and Reina Dona Amelia Confeitaria (Queen Amelia – in reference to Amalia Rodrigues the famous fado singer from Lisbon). These are both two great places for brunch or coffee.

Next we grabbed the kids and went for lunch. We tried to go to the popular Time Out Market, which has a variety of food stalls with some of Lisbon’s top chefs. But we were not the only ones with this idea, and it was packed. So just behind the market, we passed a nice open courtyard that had some restaurants. We actually ended up eating at Mez Cais. This is a Mexican restaurant (LOL), but we were glad to have a seat in the sun sipping on our margaritas and virgin mojitos!  I obviously wanted Portuguese food, but when traveling with kids you have to choose your battles and well, tacos and guacamole won.

There was also a nice Portuguese tapas restaurant in the same courtyard that was fully booked and looked pretty good, Taberna Tosca. But whatever you choose to eat, there is always room for gelato at Gelato Davvero that is conveniently right on the corner.

Time for a Tuk Tuk Tour

Since the kids walked all over the city the day before and they kept seeing all the colorful tuk tuks whiz by us, we of course promised them a ride in oneThis was another great way to see the city, even though this tour repeated some of the things we saw on the walking tour. It was nice to just sit and cruise through the streets, taking in the city’s charming rhythm and vibe.

As luck would have it, our tour took us up to a different lookout spot. This spot was called Lady of the Mountain, and apparently it’s the highest in the city. Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills (even though there are more than seven hills), and I think we may have stood atop four of the seven lookout spots in our short three day visit. Which was fine with me because I’d much rather look out across a city then be taken inside another old church. 😉

Travel Tip: Be sure to hire an electric tuk tuk – the old ones are really loud and bumpy and the ride is not as enjoyable, trust me.

We enjoyed a nice authentic Portuguese dinner at the tiniest restaurant I’ve ever been in. We happened upon Lisboa Chica de Graça and just took a chance. I felt like I was in someone’s house, which I’m pretty sure we were. All of the restaurants in the Barrio Alto neighborhood were similar in style, small and quaint. Both of our meals were good, but not out of this world. In fact I can’t really remember what mine was. However, the apple dessert thing we had was fantastic. We almost ordered another one, but feared we did not have enough money. This place is cash only.  Another option a few blocks away that I wanted to try was Rosa Da Rua, but they were already full of reservations for the night.

After dinner, we dropped the kids off back at the hotel and Harris and I went to wander some more and check out The Pharmacy. This cool little wine bar that used to be an old pharmacy, and has kept most of the original shelving and architecture. We also stopped for one more glass at By The Wine. It’s only a few doors down from our hotel, and had the most beautiful arch of colored wine bottles. It was like being in a beautifully lit glass tunnel.

The next day we promised the kids they could go to Kidzania, which they had done in London and loved. Kidzania is a solid 20-minute cab ride outside the city center. We dropped them off and then went back to explore a little off the beaten path. It’s in a very cute neighborhood called Estrela E Campo de Ourique. We found beautiful streets with some boutiques, and then ran right into Jardin da Estrela. This is a beautiful oasis, and a nice change of scenery from bustling city streets. This is an excellent park for kids. It has a nice playground and plenty of green space to run. There was even a man renting out some pretty cool-looking modern tricycles. Too bad we didn’t have our kids with us, but it was nice to walk and enjoy the park just the two of us.

Then we had our evening family photo shoot with Flytographer!  We met up with our photographer at Elevador da Bica. This is where you can get one of the iconic trolley car shots in Lisbon since it goes up a hill and you can get the river in the background. Our photo shoot gave us another opportunity to wander the streets and take some fun family photos. This was something I have been wanting to do forever and thought Lisbon would back such a fun backdrop!

Where We Stayed

We enjoyed a stay at the Martinhal Chiado Family Suites. This is a brand new hotel in the center of Lisbon that is excellent for traveling families with young kids. They have modern, apartment-style suites that come with full kitchens, washer and dryer, high chairs, booster seats, cribs and even bathroom necessities like toddler potties and step stools. We had a one bedroom deluxe, that had a enormous living room and a bunkbed room for the kids. Breakfast was included in our stay, and there were a variety of food options to choose from. I loved their kid-friendly dining room. It’s got large tables, booths, pillows and even a car for the little ones to play in while they waited for their food.

The best part about Marthinal Chiado Family Suites is their childcare facility right on the property. It let’s you go out an enjoy the city for a kid-free day or allows you to have a dinner out with your spouse. The kids center has activities for kids up to about age nine, but they will of course watch older kids as well. The hotel has movie nights, the kids can play Xbox, or you could drop them off with their own electronic devices.

Our kids were a bit old for the kids center. We are very comfortable leaving our kids in a hotel room together on their own for two or three hours. My daughter has a phone and can message us using WhatsApp. We have a very mature 12 year old. The location of Marthinal is in the Chiado neighborhood and is very centrally located, it was very easy to walk and access so much of the city. The entire staff at Marthinal was very helpful throughout our entire stay and I highly recommend this property for those traveling with young children.

For more information read my full review here: Parental Paradise at the Martinhal Chiado Family Suites

Final Thoughts on Lisbon

We had a great three days in Lisbon. I think three days is a perfect amount of time to see the city with kids. It felt like a mix of San Francisco and Cuba, probably because of the hills, trolley cars, and construction. My husband and I agreed that this is probably what Cuba would have looked like if it hadn’t got stuck in the 50’s. Lisbon is a funky little city, and I was happy to see that even though it’s growing, it’s preserving its history, tradition and charm. Thank God the only Starbucks we saw was at the airport. I was also really glad we did a walking tour on the first day. I felt that I had a better understanding of Lisbon before we set off to explore on our own.

We did not get to some of the kid-friendly museums that were recommended to us because we opted to send the kids to Kidzania for the day instead. I am not a huge museum traveler anyways. I prefer being outside and parks so that was okay with me. We did not plan our dinners as I think we should have. We sort of just left that to chance. This was a mistake since it was Easter week and many restaurants were booked.  One restaurant that our tour guide Jorge tried to get us into was Maria Catita. He’s a local so I’d trust his recommendation.

Another thing I’d recommend for your visit is to please wear quality, comfortable shoes. The streets and sidewalks are hilly and made of small stones, which are actually pretty smooth and can even be a bit slippery. With the cable car tracks, uneven sidewalks, and construction, you need to watch your step and have flat shoes on!

Travel Tip: We had fantastic gelato at Gelatiamo – twice!

Travel Tip: Yes, Pink Street is pink. But don’t expect it to be as bright and shiny as all of those over-photoshopped photos on Pinterest. There are a few bars but sadly it’s not as exciting as one might hope.

Enjoy Lisbon!

Disclosure: The Marthinal Family Suites was a fully comped media stay for the purpose of my review. Read my honest opinions over on Walking On Travels. I share this with you because I think it is a fantastic property for anyone traveling with young children.

Visiting Portugal: Lisbon with Kids
Family February 16, 2017 posted by

Date night at 4 Gats Barcelona

Many years ago I’d heard of the 4 Gats, a famous restaurant in Barcelona. I’m not sure how or why I knew about it, but it was on my radar. Even though I didn’t know the exact details of its history or what made it so famous, I took a chance and had Harris make us a dinner reservation for Valentine’s Day.  I thought, “why not just go in a little blind and see what happens?!”

Sometimes the less you know the better, it cuts down on disappointment if it’s not what you expected and if it’s great, then you’re pleasantly surprised!

Before leaving for dinner Harris quickly read aloud the story of 4 Gats from their website. I was sort of listening, but I was finishing up dinner for the kids so I really only heard two things – the restaurant dates back to 1897 and it is where Pablo Picasso had his very first art exhibition.

Great, grab your jacket and let’s go…

As we walked up to 4 Gats I realized I have walked by this building many times, not even realizing it was El Quatro Gats (gats is Catalan for cats). The design of the building is gorgeous and has its own importance, Casa Marti, a modernista building designed by Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. If you happen upon this building while wandering around Barcelona it will definitely grab your attention. There is a statue mounted on the corner and one of the most elaborate balconies you’ll ever see. You surely can’t miss it.

(In fact, I had already taken a photo of it on one of my walks earlier this year!)

4 Gats Barcelona

Els Quatre Gats was founded by the Catalan artist Roman Casas and opened on June 12th 1897. It was a bar, restaurant and social club that was inspired by Le Chat Noir, the bohemian nightclub in Paris. It was a meeting place for emerging artists, architects, musicians, intellectuals and even some politicians. A young Pablo Picasso was known to hang out at 4 Gats and had his very first art exhibition in the main room. Barcelona’s beloved Antoni Gaudí was seen here on occasion as well.

We made a dinner reservation for  7:00pm (early for Barcelona) but when we arrived the hostess politely told us that the restaurant does not open until 8:00pm, and she had made a mistake over the phone. She sat us at a small table in the front room and offered us some complimentary Cava. This actually turned out to be for the best, because Harris and I were on a date after all, not need to rush!  So we sat and sipped our pre-dinner Cava and I really enjoyed the vibe of the front room, it was like sitting in a funky little art history book. 

There are two reproductions of Roman Casas paintings that hang on the wall at 4 Gats. One is “Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem” and the other is “Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu in an Automobile”. The original paintings are over at Barcelona’s Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

For Valentine’s Day they had a special six course tasting menu, which we didn’t know about –  but we loved it! It was a lot of seafood, but all of the dishes were so fresh and delicious. By the time the last one arrived, which was steak and mashed potatoes, I was actually pretty full. Then to end the night they brought out the sweetest dessert, which was a bit like an ice cream cheesecake pastry of some sort, it was fantastic, but I was so full from all the courses that I couldn’t even finish it!  

8:00pm is early for dinner Barcelona, but there were about six other tables with couples there and more started to trickle in around 9:00pm and the front room was actually full as we were leaving. The service was great and I even admired the variety of blue plates they used for each course. After our meal they told us to relax and stay awhile, but it was now 9:30, on a Tuesday, our kids were home alone and we needed to get back to make sure they had brushed their teeth.

I can imagine a place like 4 Gats can get a bit touristy at times, but lucky for us we were able to see this place very light on the tourists (February is not exactly high season here). I would highly recommend visiting 4 Gats even if you only stop in for a cappuccino or glass of Cava in the front room.  Although, based on our sampling menu, I’d recommend dinner too! 

Date night at 4 Gats Barcelona
Andrea January 10, 2017 posted by

Is there such a thing as too much travel?

Hello New Year

It’s the beginning of the new year and we just got back from our holiday travels to Chamonix, France and London, England (which I am sure I will write about some time next January, the way this blog goes;)

The kids went back to school this week and I am still getting caught up on all the unpacking and the laundry that goes along with a ski vacation and being gone for two weeks. I did manage to de-Christmas the apartment over the weekend, but our very dried up Christmas tree is still in the corner looking pretty pathetic. Not sure when Harris will get around to hauling that thing down the stairs, but he has mentioned just throwing it over the balcony (more than once), so we’ll see how that goes.

It feels good to come home to Barcelona, but we are getting into the new year about a week late and I’m already feeling a little behind, but of course discussions about our 2017 travel plans have been popping up already! To be honest it’s making my head spin a little. I’m already leaving for Costa Rica on Monday to go pick up our dog Canela to bring her to Barcelona. Don’t get me wrong –  I am SUPER excited to get back to Costa Rica, but bringing Canela back should be interesting, since I have never traveled with a dog before!

2017 Travel Planning

With the new year comes a fresh calendar to fill up with travel plans, and while that’s exciting, it can also be a bit overwhelming. I mean we just got back, put down our suitcases and the laundry isn’t even dry and we have to start thinking about where we are going for ski week (yep, our school has a week off for skiing) Spring break and Summer plans. Not that we HAVE to go anywhere, but when you live abroad, there seems to be a little bit more of an urgency to get out and see all the places that are so close and available to you. As one mom said to me “Since moving here, I feel like I’m a damn travel agent”. And of course like most parents anywhere, we have to take advantage of the days the kids have off from school.

Not only is this planning necessary for us, but we are also coordinating dates with friends and family that are planning to come and visit us in Barcelona this Spring and Summer. We also have a family wedding in July that we would like to possibly attend back in the United States. Not to mention Harris has some business travel too, yep he does manage to still work amongst this traveling circus.

So I pulled out our brand new calendar, got my sharpies and started marking off all the weeks and dates for our 2017 travel plans.

And now I’m sick. This happens to me a lot after we travel, I come home and a day later I get sick, I think it’s by body’s way of saying “okay girl – you’ve done enough running around, now go lay down”. So we just got back from seeing the “English Doctor” – no really, that’s what his business card says in bold letters and yes he’s British. So I am on the couch resting and hoping that I get over these nasty flu like symptoms by the end of the week (because I got another plane to catch).

Which brings me to my POINT. Can you travel too much?

Is there such a thing as too much travel? 

I love to travel, that is obvious and I’m the first to jump at the chance to go anywhere, anytime!
However, I wonder if too much traveling causes you to not fully absorb and appreciate the places and things you just did. I wonder if coming home after a trip and reflecting about your experiences gets totally missed because you are already thinking and planning about the next destination.

Or when does travel start to lose its specialness, because it just becomes so normal. Or when you travel so frequently and trips are so close together maybe one destinations might not get your full attention or one might over shadow another. Or perhaps you did not get to prepare as well for a trip because you didn’t have as much time in between trips?

Maybe this is just a time issue – time is just moving too fast for me. Or maybe I hate that fact that I just had a brand new empty calendar and in 10 minutes that shit got crazy!

Maybe I’m feeling this way because I can’t seem to keep up with writing about all the places we have gone and things we have done. Not that I have to write about any of it, that is just me putting pressure on myself. But I do think that you can get burnt out with just about anything and too much of anything is usually bad. Or maybe this is all just because I can’t keep up with the laundry?

What do you think, can you travel too much?

Is there such a thing as too much travel?