Wanderlust Living is a travel blog for those who love to journey the world and want to bring it home into their everyday lives. I'm just a girl trying to have a cup of coffee everywhere she can. Our family has moved to the bustling city of Barcelona, Spain, after living on the beach in Costa Rica for three years. Try to keep up!

Andrea Fellman of Wanderlust Living Travel Blog

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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.

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?
Posts December 12, 2016 posted by

Christmas in Barcelona at Florista Navarro

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Christmas in Barcelona

If you are looking for Christmas in Barcelona then you will want to head to Florista Navarro in E’ixample. I might be a wee bit obsessed with this place. I’ve even thought of asking them for a job, because I just want to spend all day in this flower shop. They wouldn’t have to pay me and I figure I could work on my Spanish, so it could be a real win-win!

There are Christmas Markets in Barcelona, and those are great too, but Florista Navarro is a florist and green house all year round so they have the advantage of already bursting with gorgeous flowers and green plants stacked to the ceiling. So it’s no surprise that with Christmas on its way this shop turns into a seasonal wonderland of holiday decor. They have everything you ned to deck the halls– Christmas ornaments, decorative centerpieces, candles, plush animals, glittery objects and even lighted snowmen and deer!  The shop is literally spilling out onto the street with red flower arrangements, poinsettia plants, mini Christmas trees, Santa gnomes and of course the Caga Tió.

Christmas Trees

Around the corner from their shop they have an entire space filled with Christmas trees. Best of all, this shop will deliver them to your home! They have a variety of sizes and vary in price. I recently helped a friend picked hers out. She bought a pretty large tree and it was $100 and that included next day delivery.

We had actually already bought ours at the La Sagrada Familia Christmas Market, but might come here next year to get the delivery!

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Walking up to Florista Navarro is impressive in and of itself, but wait until you get inside and find your way to the back of the store! This is where you will find all the holiday decor and everything you need to make your home feel festive. I loved that each holiday table display had a color theme (pinks, purples, blues, golds, white and red). There are the cutest woodland creatures – sparkly deer, little squirrels, and the most adorable penguins.

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We may not have yards in the city center of Barcelona but some of these holiday light up decorations would look great on any balcony or terrace!

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Florista Navarro is absolutely one of my favorite places I have discovered in Barcelona so far! When I am out and about running errands or meeting a friend for coffee near by I can’t help but stroll past. Florista Navarro is on Carrer de Valencia and Carrer del Bruc – just one block down from Mercato de Conception, which is a great market and even sells many items from Florista Navarro right out in front!

Christmas in Barcelona at Florista Navarro
Posts December 7, 2016 posted by

Caga Tió the pooping log!

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Caga Tió

Forget your Elf on the Shelf we have a Caga Tió the pooping log!

That’s right, while Americans might have their magical Elf on the Shelf, here in Barcelona they have Caga Tió, the pooping log.  The traditional name for this is actually “Tió De Nadal” – which translates to Christmas Log. However, the more popular and fun name is Caga (shit) Tió (Log). Some people (like me) mistake this for “shitting uncle” because tió is uncle in Spanish.

Catalan is not Spanish. Feliz Navidad may be Merry Christmas in Spanish but in Catalan it’s Bon Nadal.

On December 8th (the date of the immaculate conception) families put out their caga tió and the children are told to take care of it by “feeding” it each night and to keep it warm, so they put a blanket over it. Then on Christmas Day the children are told to go in another room to pray, when they come back into the room they sing the caga tió song and while beating the log with a stick. Then like magic, under the blanket they find presents. The traditional version of this is that the log is suppose to only leave candy, nuts and dried fruit, but like any great tradition comes great marketing.

This is one version of the Caga Tió song.

“Caga tió,
caga torró,
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
caga tió!”
shit, log,
shit nougats (turrón),
hazelnuts and mató cheese,
if you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
shit, log!

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Clearly we HAD to have one, and since we somehow lost our Elf on the Shelf this is a great replacement! Especially since I don’t have to move the damn log every night.

Do you know of any other odd Holiday traditions around the world?

Caga Tió the pooping log!
Posts July 15, 2016 posted by

Leaving Costa Rica

La Paz Community School Costa Rica morning WLL
A  week ago I sat and watched my kids walk over the bridge, under the Guanacaste tree at La Paz Community School for the last time. Not only did I watch my kids, but I watched many kids walk onto this incredible campus in the middle of Costa Rica. It was the last day of school and for Hudson and McKenna it was the last day of school not just at La Paz but in Costa Rica. I tried to keep it together, but as I swatted flies from my face, tears started to roll down my cheeks.

Our time in Costa Rica has come to an end and one of the main reasons we had such an exceptional experience is because of La Paz Community School. There is a solid foundation of passion and purpose at La Paz. A clear vision, a vision that Harris and I both responded to right away and the reason we had to be apart of it. It’s not just what the school stands for and believes in, but the type of people that it attracts. Passionate, giving, supportive, caring, smart, friendly people. Families that see the world just as special as we do and people filled with a real zest for life.

Harris and I stayed for the morning meeting with a group of other parents that are also leaving Costa Rica, we sat to soak up every last ounce of La Paz energy that we could. We sat and listened to kids stand up one after the other and express their gratitude to their teachers and other students that made their year special. A few parents and teachers shared some beautiful words of gratitude as well. I could not stand to share anything because I would have been a total mess. I was a mess. But, I need the La Paz Community and everyone who we have met in Costa Rica to know just how much they mean to me. Without being too over dramatic.

So, I created this video as a keepsake for our family, but really my hope was to capture what living in Costa Rica FEELS like, because even though I cannot put it into words – I have the pictures! 😉

 

After three years of living in Costa Rica we are ready to move on, but we’re taking a piece of all of you with us – so THANK YOU.

Leaving Costa Rica
Costa Rica May 17, 2016 posted by

Sailing with Serendipity Charters

Serendipity Charters Wanderlust Living Andrea and Kids
A few weeks ago, my husband and kids took me on a wonderful sunset sailing trip for Mother’s Day. Okay let me rephrase that – I booked a sunset sailing tour for me and my family on Mother’s Day. Because let’s face it, if you want something special to happen on Mother’s Day sometimes you have to do it yourself.

Serendipity Charters offers private and semi-private sailing tours out of Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica and when I saw the Mother’s Day special that Serendipity Charters was promoting online, I booked it!
We hadn’t been out on a boat in a long time; we usually save these trips for when friends or family come to visit. It’s a fun way to spend the day with friends or a large group of people.

Serendipity is a great boat for people that want a more private and relaxed boating experience. They take private groups of up to 20, but will only do 13 for their semi private tours. There are larger boats in the area that take out 40-50 people that can feel more like a party boat and can get a bit crowded. We were on the boat with only 8 other people, so it felt more personal and enjoyable.

Serenipity Charters Hudson in Boat Costa Rica Sailing Wanderlust Living

We happen to be friends with the owners of Serendipity Charters. Our son Hudson goes to school with their son and they are very good friends. Captain Brad and Geneva sailed Serendipity down to Costa Rica from the US Virgin Islands and have been running their successful Costa Rica sailing business for four years. That is one of the biggest benefits of living in a small expat community; you get to know everyone – especially if they have a business in town. Naturally, we love to support our friends and all the local entrepreneurs. They are a great example of a family that went against the norm and set out to create a beautiful life they love.

Serendipity Charters Hudson Snorkeling

Our journey included sailing over to a small hidden beach to put down the anchor close enough so that we could swim over to the small private beach. The crew provides all equipment for snorkeling and fishing as well as lunch, snacks, fresh fruit and all drinks (beer, wine, cocktails, soda, juice). We had the most delicious chicken tacos for lunch and later they brought out champagne at sunset as part of the Mother’s Day special.

Serendipity Charters Hudson Jumping Costa Rica Sailing

Serendipity Charters Mckenna Jumping Sailing Costa Rica Wanderlust Living
After swimming and having some lunch, the crew pulled up anchor and we started to make our way back to shore while watching the gorgeous sunset. Our family was huddled on the front part of the boat and of course I was trying to take photos of both the the kids and the sunset, and as usual, everyone messed with me. It clearly didn’t matter that it was Mother’s Day, but I have to admit – this was probably my favorite part of the day. Watching my kids fooling around and having fun together, Mother’s Day made! Even if it was mostly at my expense.

Serendipity Mothers Day Sunset Sailing Tour

Mckenna Serendipity Costa Rica Sailing

Serenipity Charters Sailing in Costa Rica Playa Flamingo

Serendipity Charters Costa Rica Sailing Private adn Semi Private Tours
Serendipity Charters offers two half day tours. The morning charters depart at 8:30am – 12:45pm; the afternoon sunset cruises are from 1:30pm-5:45pm (or after sunset. They also offer full day charters that depart at 11:00am and return at 5:45pm or after sunset. For more information or to book your tour contact Geneva at Serendipity Charters.

photo on boat

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Captain Brad and Geneva –  read their story!

Sailing with Serendipity Charters
Posts May 2, 2016 posted by

Playa Ancon, Trinidad Cuba

Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Travel Beaches Wanderlust Living small
If you’re traveling to Cuba and are going to be making your way down to Trinidad, I highly recommend taking a day trip out to Playa Ancon. This breathtaking peninsula is only 7 miles from the city center of Trinidad and well worth the $8 cab ride.

We actually stayed on Playa Ancon at Club Amigo Costasur Hotel. We decided to stay outside of Trinidad at the beach because we have children, and thought they would appreciate some beach time in between walking the streets of Havana and then Trinidad. Even if you don’t have children, staying at the beach is an excellent option.

Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Lagoon pool Club Amigo Costasur Hotel

Playa Ancon Club Amigo Costasur Hotel Trinidad Cuba
Club Amigo Costasur hotel is a 3-star all inclusive hotel that was pretty basic and very dated, but it’s Cuba – nothing here is very fancy. There are only a few hotel options on Playa Ancon and we thought this one looked like the best option. We booked one of the beach view suites and we were literally steps to the beach with a gorgeous view. We had to book two suites because they only allow three people to a room in Cuba. (yes, it’s frustrating but you have to let it go.)

The suite had two rooms, a sitting room with a couch, chair and a TV and the other room had the two double beds. The double beds were comparable to an American full size bed. The room furnishings were very basic and the bathrooms were very small but it was indeed clean. Our suite came with two hours of free internet which was pretty much a joke, it was dial-up and Harris couldn’t even get into his email because they didn’t have the latest version of Internet Explorer installed.

*Please do not travel to Cuba if you cannot truly unplug and laugh at some of the modern conveniences they are lacking.

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Club Amigo CostaSur Hoel Pool Trinidad Cub Hotels

The hotel has a large pool, chess game, pool tables and two bars, one in the lobby area and one out by the pool. All the Rum you can possibly drink. There is a small snack bar by the pool that makes pizza, burgers and french fries in the afternoon. They did have some entertainment around the pool at night, but we missed these. There was a lady selling some clothing around the pool and I ended up buying a linen crocheted cover up for $10. I wear that cover up in Costa Rica and get complimented every time I wear it. I wish I could buy more of them!

Club Amigo Costasur Hotel Food Wanderlust Living
The food here is not great, but food in Cuba is not the greatest overall. Club Amigo’s buffet had fresh vegetables for making a salad, pasta salads, potato salads, rice and beans and a variety of meats and cheeses. My daughter loves salad and pasta so she ate well, but my son pretty much ate french fries and bread and butter for two days. Eating here one day was fine but be sure to head into Trinidad for the rest of your meals.

Also, while we were staying here two large busses filled with Russian tourists came in. So it is important to get to the food as soon as the restaurant opens, to avoid long lines and while it was still fresh and not picked over. If you show up later in the night, it does not look appetizing.

Playa Ancon Club Amigo Hotel Exploring the Grounds
There are not a whole lot of beach activities, but we did manage to find the guy that was renting snorkel equipment!

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Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Travel Beaches Snorkeling Wanderlust Living
Trinidad Cuba Playa Ancon Wanderlust Living Andrea and Kids
Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Hotels Beaches Wanderlust Living Kids

My husband and I debated over going to Trinidad or going to the popular beach area of Varadero, but we were so glad we made our way to Trinidad. We were able to explore Trinidad and still spend some time relaxing at the beach. Playa Ancon wasn’t filled with tourists, it seemed to be more of a locals, and I rather skip the crowds and go where the locals go.

*If you are traveling to Cuba with kids, make sure to bring some cards, small games, books and other things to keep them busy back in the hotel room. Internet is not always available and as nice as it was to go off the grid and get the kids off their electronic devices, you don’t want to kill each other.

Playa Ancon, Trinidad Cuba