So we’re going to Barcelona… for four days.

Ever have an overwhelming feeling that you need to jump on a plane and go somewhere?  Well that happens to us pretty regularly and more often than not we end up spending hours online looking up an amazing trip only to realize that there is something preventing us from going.  Well that cycle repeats and repeats until finally – like magic — we actually book something and find a way to make it work.

Yup, San Fermin, or the running of the bulls. This was the last time we were in Spain. Incidentally we also went through Barcelona that weekend.
Yup, San Fermin, or the running of the bulls. This was the last time we were in Spain. Incidentally we also went through Barcelona that weekend.

This time the constraints were our children.  Well, not in the way that you think.  We’re happy traveling with our twins – in fact they are super baby travelers (14 flights and counting!), so that doesn’t scare us at all.  What we wanted out of this trip though was a trip without kids.  There I said it.  An adults only vacation without the twins where we pretend at least for a few minutes that we can be wildly impulsive and go to Barcelona… for a long weekend.

And so we booked.  We just did it, recklessly without looking back.  Ok, so we did confirm the availability of some pretty amazing babysitters (err… Grandparents) for the weekend, but then we quickly pressed purchase. We looked at the incredible amount of frequent flier miles we’ve amassed in the last two years and decided that there is no time like the present.

But then there are those constraints to consider – the fact that my heart basically stopped when I realized we would be without our little munchkins for four days.  Yikes.  Four glorious and terrifying days. Flooded with excitement and yet already, months away from the flight, trepidation at being away from our girls for SO LONG.  I tried to wrap my head around it.  Because as a parent, a weekend can feel like an eternity.  That’s the paradox of parenthood.

So yea, we’re going to Barcelona for four days.

We’re crazy. 

We’re insane. 

We’re just in love with our constraints.

Tempting Tenerife – What’s Not to Like?

Over the years, Tenerife has developed a reputation as a place for holidaymakers seeking blazing sunshine and a party atmosphere. While much of Tenerife’s pull on tourists has been the beautiful climate and fantastic nightspots, it has so much more to offer if you take the time to explore the island. Take a look at the following ways you can get the most out of a trip to Tenerife.


Visit the Ancient Dragon Tree
No trip to Tenerife would be complete without experiencing the Ancient Dragon Tree. It is often referred to as the oldest tree in the world, with many locals believing it to be 1000 years old, but more accurately thought to be around 650 years old. Hire a car for the day and visit Icod de los Vinos to see the tree, and while you are there take in the Church of San Marcos and the Artlandya Doll Museum.

See the Highest Peak in Spain
Mount Teide is the highest peak in Spain, 3718 metres above sea level. An active volcano, Mount Teide is an impressive sight when viewed against the bright blue skies of the island. If you don’t fancy climbing in the mountains, you can still appreciate the beauty of the Teide National Park, a World Heritage Site filled with some incredible animals and plants. The stunning volcanic rock patterns and formations are worth the trip alone.

Experience the Local Cuisinefood-406473_640
You may be familiar with traditional Spanish food, but Tenerife has its own unique twist with some African influences. There are plenty of general restaurants catering to tourists, but try to seek out the more traditional restaurants with a local flavour if you really want to experience the regional cuisine . Many dishes will include local fruit, vegetables and fish, grilled to create a lighter meal which suits the warm weather. Make sure to try plenty of Tapas and the Papas Arrugadas potato dish, famous within the region.

Have Fun at the Carnival
If you can make it to Tenerife in February, make sure to take part in the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The people of the island are known for their warm, friendly nature, so be sure to mingle and make plenty of new friends. The carnival is known around the world and features lots of musical entertainment, dancing and a big parade. Prepare a fancy dress costume in advance if you really want to fit in.

Get Out on the Water
Surrounded by water, it is natural that tourists to Tenerife have plenty of options when it comes to water-based fun. You can charter a boat for a day out at sea, take a Submarine Safari and go diving in the Atlantic Ocean, swim in the rock pools at Garachico or look for whales in the surrounding waters. If you prefer to stay inland, there are plenty of water parks for some family entertainment in the sun, with Siam Park being the best known.

Consider Cadiz – an alternative option for Spain holidays

CadizThe warm Mediterranean sun has done something special to southern Spain, or Andalusia as the autonomous region is called. This region is home to some of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Spain, such as the city of Seville and the fortress of the Alhambra in Granada. That said, travelling the region in the summer can be overwhelming and tiring if you stay to the tourist trail. If the tourist sites are not on the agenda for your Spain holidays this summer and the focus of the trip is the culture, food and the scenery of the region, there are numerous options to just relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

Rather than starting the trip in Seville, consider flying into Cadiz. Somehow the tourist hordes usually overlook this beautiful and ancient port city. This is both unfortunate and a blessing. When food is on the mind, Cadiz should come to the forefront. While in the city, everyone should ensure that they at least try the tapa of Cazon en Adobo, which is a small shark marinated in spice, or consider an order of the shrimp fritters, called Tortillitas de Camarones. Being a port city, almost all of the seafood options will usually be good.

For those looking for a beach to relax on where the scene is a little more laid back and less packed with tourists from around the world, consider Los Canos de Meca, which is less than an hour from Cadiz. This beach and adjacent small town are slowly gaining prominence, but they still retain that small town Spanish vibe and lightly tourist-packed sand.

The alternative vibe of Barbate-small and lonely beaches blending with their tuna-based gastronomy, with Mojama, the seafood equivalent to Spanish cured ham, as the highlight, would satisfy the tastes of all travellers and be an even further flung destination for most tourists. Once you are wandering around Barbate, you could also try and visit other spots such as Zahara de los Atunes.

When in the area around Cadiz, a wonderful option for taking in a bit of nature is the Bahia de Cadiz Natural Park. The park has numerous walks or hikes ranging from easy to challenging. A moderately challenging walk that is worth the work is the Sendero Pinar de Algaida. This 12km walk begins at the University of Cadiz and follows along the river. It is a truly peaceful walk that provides a glimpse of the southern Spanish natural bounty while also allowing for some quiet reflection.

And if you are interested in trekking, remember to take a look at Los Alcornocales Natural Park, one of the most unique natural parks in Europe. From the “canuto” forests to its strange animal life, Cadiz Natural Park per excellence is the ideal place to escape from the city while we learn more about the Tardigrada or waterbears

Often when people are thinking of Spain, holidays are focused on seeing the big sites, however a more relaxed trip focused on the area around Cadiz can be more memorable and rewarding, particularly when it comes to food and scenery.


About the Author: Samuel Stokes is a British travel writer. He spends most of his time planning or writing about finding the best budget and backpacking holidays in the Mediterranean coast, after spending most his youth living in different parts of Spain.


Photo Credit: Image by Michael Osmenda used under creative commons license.


A Dream or is it Just a Night in Barcelona?

Groggily stepping off the plane in the middle of the night, I was shocked to find Barcelona awake.  So awake in fact that when I checked in to my accommodations, the desk clerk asked me if I wanted to have my luggage stored behind the desk until I came back from dinner.  Where am I? I thought as I checked my cell phone and saw that it was already well into the next day.  Needless to say, I never forgo a local travel tip and I headed out with my travel partners.


Las Ramblas-Barcelona

If you’ve never been out in Barcelona you need to be prepared for the joie de vivre that is Barcelona at night.  Every café we went to was packed, literally to the brim with people that seemed to be enjoying a happy hour like atmosphere at midnight.   Musicians strolled the boulevards, stopping at tables of unsuspecting tourists and lovers, serenading the entire café with music before moving off into the darkness to the next café.  A large extended family sat next to us at a café, their joy and laughter was infectious and even with my very limited Spanish and even less Catalan we soon found ourselves sharing mystery liquor from a clear bottle.  I was exhausted and yet enthralled by the scene.  It was like a dream you never wanted to wake up from.

Like dreams, there are some places and some experiences that you just can’t recreate.  The next time I search out the dream hopefully it will be from the interior of one of the terrific Barcelona apartments dotted across the city.  That way when I wake up and look out across the city, I’ll still feel like I’m in a dream.

Photo Credit: Flickr user dweekly via a creative commons license.

adventure travel

My First Solo Trip Abroad

I needed to study Spanish and I figured there was no better place to do that than the Costa del Sol in Spain.DSCF0012

That was after my parents strongly objected to studying in Central America.

As part of my undergrad degree I had to learn a language. Spanish was a natural choice because I was from South Florida and already understood a good bit of the language. Naturally, I wanted to go and study in the jungles of Central America but my parents didn’t feel so good about sending their 18 year old into the jungle to learn Spanish.   Instead, they paid the airfare to Malaga, Spain and so I was off.

My first morning of Spanish school I woke at 2 a.m. Not because of the excitement of class.  A newbie to travel, I had plugged my alarm clock in without a converter and the different electrical currant wrecked havoc on the timepiece.  Welcome to life abroad!

School was simple and I found myself picking up Spanish easily.  More importantly I learned what Spain was like. We enjoyed our siestas and then went out for tapas. I tried sherry for the first time and at one restaurant I chose my fish for dinner from a bucket held by the fisherman himself. The beach was always packed and I had an awful lot of time to spend on it given that classes were part-time.

Malaga is something of a holiday town for all of Europe and lots of people flock south for holidays to Costa del Sol. DSCF0089I happened to choose the week of the annual Feria for my visit and a full 10 years later I can still remember the Flamenco in the street and the gypsies trying to pick the pockets of people as they passed along their way. The party literally lasted all night long and was simply unlike anything else I’d ever experienced back in the USA.

Without question, the most amazing part of my first solo trip abroad was the weekend I spent in Morocco. The weekend trip was $150 all inclusive without drinks.   As a student, I agonized over the decision to spend that much money over a weekend but somehow forced myself to take the plunge. Years later I still look back on that lesson as a turning point.DSCF0070Money is just money, but using it to create great experiences for ourselves, that’s what counts. That weekend in Morocco was like being in another world. Walking through the markets, seeing an actual snake charmer for the first time, felt to young—naive—me just like the start of Disney’s Aladdin.

I had a great time in Malaga and all along the coast of Andulcia, but I  had an even more amazing time stepping out of my comfort zone and into the great unknown. What I learned on this trip though, aside from some basic Spanish, was that it really was easy to travel to live a completely different life than the one I’d always expected to live.

On my refrigerator is a birthday card with an Abraham Lincoln quote: “It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”