Jordan: Day 8

This was going to be a long day with lots of driving, so our driver picked us up at 6:30am to start our day.

Midway Castle

We hit this rest stop after 2 hours of driving to grab some breakfast and use the bathrooms. We ended up picking up some snacks as well.

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Petra National Park

We got to the park and entered with our Jordan Passes. To our mistake, we didn’t opt for an official tour guide and just like at the airport, we got bombarded with unofficial guides and other services (you can have the tour guide shoo them away).

After walking 3km through a canyon, you arrive at the first building - The Treasury. This when we wished we had a tour guide because it was non-stop harassment for services from this point.

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We walked through the park, admiring the buildings and eventually made it to the last portion of Petra National Park - a pathway up a mountain to see the Monastery. We were running low on time so we ended up paying for some donkey rides up to the top and back to the Treasury.

 Mommy look, I’m on a donkey!

Mommy look, I’m on a donkey!

From there it was a brutal 3km walk through the canyon back to the front entrance with a sleeping Ava.

Wadi Rum

 Watching the beautiful sunset in the desert

Watching the beautiful sunset in the desert

After grabbing a quick lunch outside of Petra National Park, it took another 3 hours to get to Wadi Rum. Our driver parked the car in a guest lot and we were all driven, along with our clothing, to the Bedouin camp in the back of a pickup truck, where we would spend the night.

We dropped off our gear and took a short ride to a nearby site where we could watch the sunset.

 Yup, we slept in one of those!

Yup, we slept in one of those!

We walked back after and were served a dinner that was cooked similarly to the Pacific Islanders - on coals under the dirt. The food was delicious; it was far better than the food from the Bedouin camp in Dubai! After dinner, we showered and head to bed.

Jordan: Day 7

First day in Jordan and we gotta say, it was chaotic. From getting mobbed and harassed by people looking to direct you to a cab, or drive you, or hold your luggage (all for tips of course), to wasted time waiting for our Careem driver that got pulled over by police, it was not a fun experience.

After getting to the hotel, we had plans to hire a private driver to take us to Jerash but found out that the Roman ruins closed early at 6:30pm, even though the website said 8pm. We then wanted to go to see an old Roman citadel in Amman but turns out everything closed early in Jordan (despite the website’s information).

We looked at this on the brightside - this gives us some much needed R&R to prepare for the next two days. We did just that by lounging at the roof deck pool and sleeping early.

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Just chilling by the water... 

Leaving Abu Dhabi

 Ava and Mommy waiting patiently for Daddy =/

Ava and Mommy waiting patiently for Daddy =/

Our last day in the UAE! We had checked out and gotten ready to leave but then unfortunately, I realized I had left my sunglasses in the room =(. This wouldn’t have been an issue except for the fact that we had can hour and a half to get to the airport and checkin. They called housekeeping but it took too long, so they sent someone to the room and we ended up tipping the guy 10AED (he ran!). The taxi driver sped for us and the Etihad checkin was very efficient so we made it with about 30 minutes left. Jordan here we come!

Abu Dhabi: Day 5

UAE, we’re back! We tried getting smart cards this time at immigration but they guy didn’t want to set us up 😑 Guess we’ll never get them…

Sheikh Zayed Mosque at Night

As we rode our cab to the Ritz Carlton Grand Canal, we could see the brightly lit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. 

There were a few great views of the mosque from the resort as well, and upon learning that we wanted to see the mosque, one of the bellhops drove us around the property and to specific viewing areas. 

 View of the mosque from the Ritz-Carlton

View of the mosque from the Ritz-Carlton

Unfortunately, the mosque was closed and didn’t allow anyone on the grounds. We could only admire the beauty from a distance

 Too bad we couldn’t enter…

Too bad we couldn’t enter…

We ended our night after this. We needed to rest for the next day!

Maldives: Day 4-9

Once we arrived, we got driven to reception and had to sign a waiver for Ava, and then someone drove us to our rooms. We would spend the next four nights here on the island of Meedhupparu at the Adaaran Prestige Water Villas.

The Water Villas

There were only ten villas, with two rooms each. At most, during peak capacity, there would be twenty couples/families. We went during the tail end of the monsoon season, so there must of been only three to four couples. Our villa, #819, had a beautiful view of the sunset and enough coverage for privacy. #820 has a great view of the sunset as well but they are fully exposed.

At the deck, there is a lounge bed, as well as a jacuzzi and a set of stairs that leads directly into the water.

 Sunset

Sunset

The Beach

There were a few beaches on the island, but guests staying at the water villas had a private beach. Because there were only a handful of couples to begin with, it felt like having our own beach! Almost every time we were there, we were the only family…just us, the white sand, and the water.

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There’s also plenty of fish in the crystal clear water. We didn’t have to go far to see fish and coral, it was all right at the beach and by the villas!

The Pool

Just like the beach, the pool was virtually empty. We had it all to ourselves!

The Dining

We purchased the all inclusive option, which we highly recommend. The food, especially the seafood, was excellent. We ate multiple entrees each meal, along with tons of fresh pineapple and watermelon juice. Oh, and we drank lots of alcohol as well...

 Ava’s dining on the beach while mommy is playing with hermit crabs

Ava’s dining on the beach while mommy is playing with hermit crabs

The Island

The rest of the island includes the beach villas and their respective pools and beaches, a buffet restaurant, a small port for Dhoni rides, an activities center with shops, a spa, and a few beach cubs/bars. Other than the the boat ride, and a massage at the spa, we opted to stay in our private area (we had access to the beach villa facilities, but they were too crowded for our liking).

 Hanging out at the spa

Hanging out at the spa

And that was it….

It was simple, relaxing, and easy. I don’t like beaches but I loved it here in the Maldives! This is probably the only beach in the world that I would do a repeat trip to. Our experience at the Adaaran Prestige Water Villas was nothing short of heavenly!

Goodbye Dubai, We're Flying to the Maldives!

We Uber’d it to the airport and which took about 30 minutes due to morning traffic. Four hours later and we landed in Male International Airport.

After Immigration & customs, we proceeded to the service booth of our resort, Adaaran Prestige Water Villas, at E2. They sent someone to take our luggage and to help us book our seaplane tickets. After getting our tickets, we took a short bus ride to the seaplane port, where we waited in the Adaaran lounge.

Not much later, we were finally on the seaplane! We made the mistake of sitting in the first row, right behind the pilots. It was a mistake because it was a bit loud. I had to keep my hands on Ava’s ears the whole 40 minutes. Other than that mild hiccups, we didn’t mind the ride. Just being on the seaplane meant that we were almost there!

Dubai - Day 3

We grabbed some light lunch at a place called Zest and proceeded to walk to the Miracle Garden, which was just a block away.

Miracle Garden

After walking over in the blistering heat, we were greeted with closed signs. We had totally forgotten to check the website but it turns out that the Miracle Garden closes during the summer. Luckily for us, the Butterfly Garden was open so it didn’t feel like a wasted trip.

Butterfly Garden

We were dying in the heat outside and was happy to see that the Butterfly Garden was indoors. There are four areas with different types of butterflies in each, with most of them willing to crawl onto your finger if you are gentle enough. Ava loved butterflies back home but being in close proximity to so many terrified her! I had to console her regularly until we got out.

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The Frame at Zabeel Park

We were running low on cash so we Uber’d it to Zabeel park. The driver knew we wanted to go to the frame so he dropped us off at the entrance. We had to park the stroller by the ticket office and  then walk a bit to get to the Frame itself. There were security checks and they normally don’t allow drinks inside but allowed us to keep it for Ava. 

Inside and at the the top, windows on both sides of the “Frame” reveal Dubai. One side looks at old Dubai, while the other side overlooks new Dubai.

The coolest feature in our opinion is a section of glass flooring that appears white initially but has some sort of motion detection builtin. When you walk on it, the white layer disappears to reveal street level under you.

Ava wasn’t scared at all (probably because she was still young) and ran back and forth on the glass!

Al Fahidi

A short Uber ride took us to Al Fahidi, the historical district in old Dubai. This area represents traditional life in Dubai during the mid 19th century.

This is also where the restaurant “Local House” is located. It is one of the few places that serve camel meat. Of course, we grabbed dinner there and had a nice camel burger.

Burj Khalifa 

After dinner, we Uber’d it to the Burj Khalifa. Since there is no direct entrance outside, we got dropped off by the ice skating rink again and made our way to the Burj Khalifa by following the signs in the mall. 

Observation Deck

The Burj Khalifa offers two observation points: “At the Top” & “SKY”. The former is the cheaper option and allows access to the 124th and 125th floors, while the latter is the luxury (and more expensive) option and allows access to not only the 124th and 125h floors, but access to the 148th floor as well. We initially wanted to just do “At the Top” but tickets were sold out, so we ended up doing the “SKY” option.

Lesson of this story? If you’re planning to visit the Burj Khalifa, purchase tickets in advance if possible!

The Fountain Show

The fountain shows runs every half hour or so and the length of the fountain show depends on the song chosen. The show we saw was to hero by Enrique Iglesias in Spanish, and for us, it felt perfect. We caught another show while leaving and they were playing an Arabic dance song which, while still awesome, didn’t have the same magic for us.

 Largest fountain show in the world

Largest fountain show in the world

That’s All!

And thats it...our last night in Dubai!

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Dubai - Day 2

We grabbed breakfast and the hotel grabbed a cab for us. We wanted to hit multiple spots before our desert safari. The hotel was helpful as they communicated all this to the cab driver, and then off we went!

Jumeirah Beach

Due to the proximity of the water, the weather out here was much more humid than where our hotel was. It was also scorching at a nice 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which would explain why the beach was totally empty. Despite the allure of the white sand and turquoise waters, we didn’t stay too long either as just a few minutes out there was already very uncomfortable.

Burj Al Arab

This is the seven star resort in Dubai. Due to time constraints we did not go inside. 

The Atlantis on the Palm Jumeirah

One of two palm shaped islands, the best way to see the palm jumeirah is to skydive from ...unfortunately, we can’t do that with Ava (maybe in 16 years or so 😏). We decided to drive out to the Atlantis resort instead, which is located at the farthest edge of the island. You have go through an underwater tunnel to get there.

Desert Safari

We booked this tour online via Viator and was in constant communication with company via email. The description on the website did not mention dune bashing so this is the one we picked out of numerous competitors. 

We got picked up by our driver at our hotel and upon seeing Ava, he said in his words “100% she will be ok” during the dune bash, which already started to raise alarms. He also said he would take us directly to the camp if it bothers her. How did it go? Read on...

Dune bashing

The driver told kept telling us that kids love it and that it’s not bad and that if we don’t do it, we would affect the trip for others. After some more peer pressuring, we agreed to try it out. What a mistake; the guy blasted music so he couldn’t hear us and then went on “extreme” mode. We eventually managed to get his attention and he ended up leaving us in the middle of the desert at a photo spot while he went and drove off with the other guests. They eventually came back to pick us up and then drove to a camel feeding spot. We made the best of the situation by taking some photos in the desert, and Ava enjoyed feeding the camels at least.

 Just feeding some camels with Mom!

Just feeding some camels with Mom!

Bedouin camp 

The camp itself was not as crowded as some of the other ones we drove by. We put our stuff down at our table and grabbed some water, then proceeded to partake in the activities of the camp.

Henna

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We tried convincing Ava to get some Henna, but she refused. KK ended up getting some done on her instead.

Camel Ride

The ride itself is maybe a minute at most. Still loads of fun for Ava though!

Food

We didn’t have any pictures of this but it consisted of samosas for appetizers and various side dishes (i.e. rice, hummus, etc.) along with Arabic style barbecued meat. The food was overall, pretty decent, with a small desert at the end of it.

Performances

There were three performances; a guy that spins, a fire-breather, and a belly dancer. They were spaced throughout dinner. The spinning guy was a bit boring but it got Ava spinning as well. The fire-breather and belly dancing was pretty good though, and made the night go by faster.

 This picture was taken by Ava!

This picture was taken by Ava!

Dubai - Night 1

We cabbed it to the Renaissance Hotel after landing and didn’t waste any time. It was about 9 PM but lucky for us, the Dubai Mall and everything inside was still open.

The Dubai Mall

The mall was just a short cab ride away. We got dropped off at the ice skating rink entrance with the main goal being the aquarium and underwater zoo. We figured we could explore the mall as we made our way to the aquarium.

The Souk

We encountered an indoor souk (Arabic bazaar) as we made our way through the mall. We personally thought it was a bit redundant we were in a mall, but I guess this section was there for novelty reasons.

Mijlis

We stopped by the Mijlis cafe for some camel milk ice-cream while we were cutting through the Souk. It’s. Healthier than cow milk and you can tell from the texture (less fat)

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Aquarium

We ended up getting the night owl tickets (after 10pm) which were 25% off for the zoo and aquarium. They closed at midnight so it gave us enough time to see both attractions.

While it was cool, it was short. I can say that it is only worth it if you purchase the attraction as a combo. By itself, the underwater aquarium is just too short and provides only a few minutes of wonder.

Underwater Zoo

We had to leave the aquarium and go upstairs on the mall escalator to get to the zoo. 

The underwater zoo was definitely worth it. Not only did it have more sea animals, it also included birds and crocodiles. It took us much longer to go through all the exhibits. 

 Up high in the birds area. Ava’s getting a bit tired at this point was had no mood for pictures.

Up high in the birds area. Ava’s getting a bit tired at this point was had no mood for pictures.

Waterfall

The Mall also has a indoor waterfalls with human sculptures!

Kidzania

There was a kids park that we wanted to check out but unfortunately it was closed. Ava didn’t stay too bummed because then she saw all the bright lights in out next area.

PVRK

This was cool. It is a VR park - a giant arcade of sorts with nothing but VR games. They had a walking dead one with rooms built to simulate a typical building you would see in a zombie game. They also one where you played as John Wick. We didn't play any of the games as we were with Ava, but I'd recommend a try if you are ever there.

Back to the hotel

We grabbed some traditional Emirati cuisine at Milas for dinner and then cabb'ed it back to the hotel. For the first night, we got a decent amount in!

Portugal & Spain Day 12 - Barcelona part two

 

Montjuic Castle

Montjuic castle offers a gorgeous view of the city and port. There is also an exhibit with a detailed history of the castle and Barcelona. There were even some antique armaments on display. The downside? I had to carry the stroller up the stairs to get up on the battlements.

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Park Guel

The line to purchase tickets was ridiculous when we got here. Luckily, I pre-purchased my tickets online! 

 It's like walking into candy land!  (the boardgame)

It's like walking into candy land!  (the boardgame)

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La Sagrada Familia

The ticket lines were already closed when we got here, so it was a good thing that we purchased tickets online. Unfortunately, I purchased them for the next day =( I had to work with their customer service people to repurchase and get a refund. 

 Ridiculous detailing with an amazing  backdrop of construction machinery

Ridiculous detailing with an amazing  backdrop of construction machinery

 Gaudi never finished the church, as there was suppose to be eight towers instead of just the four.

Gaudi never finished the church, as there was suppose to be eight towers instead of just the four.

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In all honesty, the peak of this attraction was the facade. While the interior and exit was beautiful, it didn't stand out the way the entrance did.

Casa Mila

We grabbed some coffee and croissants at a cafe nearby and walked towards Casa Mila. We stopped by and took pictures outside but didn't go inside. I was not aware that you had to purchase tickets to go inside to see the light show and we were also tight on time. We walked a block down to the next and final stop of the night, Casa Batlo.

Casa Batlo

We showed them our tickets and were for the next day, and the ticket lady just let us in instead of making us repurchase, which was awesome (saved me the work of calling and fixing my mistake!) 

 Another wild candlyand house from Gaudi

Another wild candlyand house from Gaudi

 

They let you checkin your bags and stroller and provide headsets attached to devices that looked like smart phones.(self guided tour). Coolest part about those devices is the use of augmented reality for each room. I'm not an art buff by any means, so if you are interested in the design, head on to Wikipedia to read about the house.

Spain: The End

From there, it was roughly a two mile walk back to our hotel. We grabbed dinner at Senyor Parrelada and that was the end of our last night in spain. Goodbye Spain!

Portugal & Spain Day 11 - Barcelona part one

 

Gothic District

The Gothic district is the center of what they call Old Barcelona and while it looks 'old', some of the buildings are from the 19th and 20th centuries. If you're interested, you can read about it on Wikipedia when you're done with this post.

 Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulali

While wandering the Gothic quarter, we chanced upon the Barcelona Cathedral. There was a courtyard and a nativity scene. With the sun setting outside, the lighting made everything more beautiful.
 

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We left the courtyard and then started walking towards the Cathedral. Large and grandiose, we went in and paid our respects, then left for dinner. 

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Look at the ceiling!

We grabbed dinner and ended our night. Only one more night left in Spain!

Portugal & Spain Day 10 - Zarazoga

Central Market & Roman Murals

The market was closed unfortunately, all we could do was take a quick peek and keep on walking.

Our Lady of the Pillar Cathedral-Basilica

We walked around the corner to the basilica, which was less than a minute away from the Central Market and the Roman Murals. Once we got to the plaza, we were greeted with a view of the front of the basilica, which stretched one end to other, across the width of he plaza.

 

 The basilica runs almost the entire length of the plaza

The basilica runs almost the entire length of the plaza

Ascensor

Right across from the basilica is the Ascensor building. They charge an entrance fee but a short elevator ride to the viewing area gives you a nice view of the Zarazoga skyline. We just had to make sure not to fall while down the winding staircase!

Aljafería

We walked to the fortified medieval Islamic castle and got in just before they closed. Aljafería hosts an interesting history, go check it out on Wikipedia here

The interior was absolutely gorgeous. 

 Hanging out in front of the facade

Hanging out in front of the facade

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Plaza de Toros de Zaragoza

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We ended up grabbing food at the Casa Emilio, which was only about a mile away, and then walked it back to our hotel. On the way back, we passed by a bullfighting arena. The city lamps lit up the area and made for quite a scene, so we decided to take a picture.

 

 

Portugal & Spain Day 9 - Valencia

We had to wake up this morning nice and early because Valencia was a 6 hour drive. Right outside of the garage was a convenient store, so I picked up a few monsters and waters and went to grab the car. 

I had to drive out of the garage for the GPS to pick up a signal and didn't have enough time to search for my next location. As mentioned in my last post, we were literally driving in alleyways. There were other cars and tons of pedestrians(Monday) so I had to keep moving. My plan was to eventually find my way towards a major road where I wouldn't be in an alleyway and I could pull over. I eventually arrive in what seemed like a dead end. I could see the major road, but there were these little metal poles sticking out that prevented me from getting onto the major road. A car pulled up behind me and my emotions raised. I started to get aggravated at this point. I got out the car to tell the guy to reverse, but he was a local and tells me that I can keep going. He said he would help guide me, pointing out that if I went at an angle for a right turn, I could slip past between two of the poles. He stood there to prevent pedestrians from passing and KK went outside to help guide as well. I eventually made it out with one very minor scrape. My shirt was soaked with sweat at this point. I really hate driving here...with a passion. KK got back in the car and I started to search for our next destination on the GPS. I put in for a restaurant in the college city of Murcia called El Pasaje, as Mucia was the halfway point between Granada And Valencia, breaking up the drive in half. 

Murcia

After a long drive, we finally arrived. I found street parking nearby and put some coins into the meter. Lunch at El Pasaje was wondeful, but we left after and didn't check anything out in Murcia as time was short and quickly started our drive out to Valencia. The hotel didn't show up on my GPS, even though I could see it on the zoomed map. I ended up putting in for Some plaza nearby instead and started the next part of our very long drive. 

Once I entered the outskirts of Valencia, I tried searching for my hotel again. This time it popped up and I rerouted. It lead us to an alleyway again =(. The hotel sat on the corner of this alleyway street and a main road. I stopped right after pulling into the alleyway, getting ready to back out if I needed to. KK went inside to inquire where the parking garage was. She came back out and told me the garage should be a little further ahead. I drove up a few feet and we found the entrance. I saw the size of the entrance and I started to sweat. It was small. She pressed a button and the doors slid open. Looks like I had to drive the car into an elevator...an elevator about the same size as a hotel n a fancy hotel in the United States. I should of readjusted to get the best angle of entry, but I didn't. There was too much pedestrians walking around and I was already annoyed and aggravated, so I got impatient. We folded in the side mirrors and after some very rough guiding, we made it into the elevator with just a minor scrape. KK was hugging the wall of the elevator and pressed the button to get down. She guided me out and I parked the car. I breathed a side of relief and when I finally got out of the car. Two days in a row of this kind of driving was starting to stress me out. 

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We took the elevator up and I started to relax after seeing the very nice lobby. We checked in and made it to our room, fed Ava, and then we went back out shortly. We started walking to the Palace of the Marquis of Dos Aguas. Everything was closed at this point, but we were able to check out the outside for a few pictures. Then we went to the Louis Vuitton store which was just down the street. Ava and I waited outside while KK shopped. She eventually finished up, and we walked to our next location, the Valencia Cathedral. We went inside to take a few pictures, and dropped a small prayer of thanks along with a donation for our awesome vacation! 

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We ordered horchata and a thin bun called a Farton, both Valencia specialties from a shop called Berta's. We walked to Plaza de la Virgen and hung out for a bit to finish our little snack. Afterwards, we walked over to the Torres De Serrano and took more pictures. It was interesting because it was a giant ancient gate just sitting smack dab in the middle of a busy street.

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Afterwards, we decided to grab dinner at Arrocera Valencia. We ordered our authentic paella and wanted to try the aqua de Valencia, but they were out. The paella was delicious, you can read about it here.

 Ava can't gauge depth yet...

Ava can't gauge depth yet...

Next we started the walk home, keeping an out for somewhere that was open and still served the Aqua de Valencia. We eventually made it back to the hotel, not finding anywhere open. Luckily for us, we had a 24/7 bar at the hotel and placed an order, which only came in a pitcher. It was pretty damn good and Ava wanted some too (We had to politely refuse!) I finished up the pitcher cuz KK can't drink too much, and we went upstairs to finish the night.

 Just drinking some aqua de Valencia together as a family

Just drinking some aqua de Valencia together as a family

Portugal & Spain 2017: Day 8 - The Alhambra

The Drive

Right before starting the drive, I had setup a go-pro to wear around my head. When I look back, I really should of setup a dash cam instead, but I did not bring the accessories for it. The idea was that because drive to Ronda was so awesome, that we figured the drive out of Ronda would be awesome as well.

After driving for awhile, we spotted a beautiful body of water, similar to Rio Guadete. We puledl off into a dirt road, and drove onto a stunning beach with glowing turquoise waters. We took pictures and enjoyed the scenery for a bit before getting back into the car. That was the last time we pulled over and the rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. 

As I drove deeper into Granada, my heart sank. The majority of the streets were practically alleyways, shared by both driver and pedestrian alike. After finding my way to the hotel, we were directed to the nearest parking garage, which involved me going through more alleyways to get there. We make it to the garage eventually and park the car.

We walked back to the hotel and the first thing I noticed was that the lobby smelled like a portable toilet. I took Ava outside to get some fresh air while KK checked in. This day was not starting well at all!

We got into our room and quickly unpacked, heading out as soon as we were ready. We grabbed some gelato at a store right outside our hotel, then started heading towards the Alhambra, with Ava in the uppababy. On the way there, we walked by the St. Jerome monastery, which happened to be closed, so we kept going. 

The GPS eventually took me to some old ticket center, which was 15 minutes away from the actual Alhambra. It was near a park, so we spent some time there to relax, change and feed Ava. After resting, we started walking towards the actual location of the Alhambra. 

We eventually made it to downtown, Granada; there were restaurants everywhere and heavy foot traffic. We didn't need lunch because we ate Jamon and chips during the drive, so we walked past all the restaurants and towards the park entrance.

After entering, we looked at the map. The entrance to the Alhambra was at the top of a hill. There was a section with stairs but I wasn't going to lug a stroller up several flights of stairs, so we took the road meant for cars instead. After about 10 minutes, we made it to the top.

Passed out from the ride up the hill

We walked towards the ticket office and the lady tells us tickets are sold out. Confused by the, we asked what she meant, not believing what we heard, and she repeated, "no more tickets for the day". We were pretty bummed and annoyed at this. I should of booked online but I didn't think it was necessary, so I was pretty upset with myself. Luckily a gentleman told us that a large portion of the Alhambra was free and that the tickets covered inside the palace and the gardens. That gave us hope.

We walked down a path that brought us by the palace walls and garden. It was a pretty idyllic walk, the only drawback being the big cobblestones that made up the road, leading to a very bumpy ride, which bothered Ava. We ended up taking her out of the stroller and carrying her instead. The road ended at a river, so we turned around and walked back up the hill. We got back to the ticket booth and started walking towards the park entrance again. From there we wandered into the free areas of the Alhambra taking pictures of anything scenic. We finished up near the entrance and proceeded to walk back home.

We didn't feel like eating out tonight, so we headed straight back towards the hotel, where there was a small takeout place. We ordered 3 paellas then grabbed more dessert at the gelato place next door, and went back to our room. The food was ok, it nothing mind blowing. We didn't expect much, so no disappointments there. The three of us relaxed and ate dinner in bed, then proceeded to end the night with the usual routine. 

Portugal & Spain 2017: Day 7 - Ronda's Puento Nuevo

Waking up

Woke up super excited because we were heading to Ronda, which was the reason for we decided to goto Spain. We had seen a picture of the bridge there and decided that it was our next destination. We quickly went through the morning routine and started our drive.

The Drive

The drive took us on to a smaller road, where there was only one lane of traffic each direction. To pass someone, I had to wait till the opposite side was clear and then go as fast and as furious as the little VW Golf can go. Get stuck behind a slow car and it could be an annoying drive for stretches at a time. 

Eventually, I had to get diesel, so I stopped at a gas station. It was a welcome break, because I was stuck behind someone slow and had gotten very frustrated. After gas, bathroom, and snacks, we got back on the road.

This was by far the most beautiful and scenic drive so far in Spain. We passed by mountains, plains, olive trees, etc. We drove by one area so beautiful that where my wife was insistent that we pull over so that she could take pictures. This was not an easy task because there were no breakdown lanes at all. Eventually I found a dirt path that I was able to drive off onto. The road eventually got very rocky so I stopped at some point and just left the car on park. We went out and enjoyed the scene of Rio Guadete.

 Stunning Rio Gaudate

Stunning Rio Gaudate

Ava started crying so we went back to the car and changed her diaper. Fifteen minutes after driving, she started crying again. We stopped again at a viewpoint and while Kakrasna fed Ava, I went out and took some pictures.

Once she was done, I changed the gps to point to Villa Chinchilla. It was a highly rated vineyard and they offered food as well. It was close to 4pm and we were both starving. We drove up a mountain on a very rocky road, only to find out it was closed we we got there. TripAdvisor said they were open, so we were a bit dissapointed. 

After giving ourselves a few minutes to sulk, we put in directions to Ronda again. The winery was near town, so it was a short drive(about 10 minutes). We made our way up the mountain that Ronda sits on, happy that we finally made it. I dropped off Kakrasna off to check in while I parked the car.

Ronda

This hotel was very nice and fancy. After unpacking, we went to check out our balcony and was blown away by the view. We feed Ava some again, and left to begin our sightseeing. It was pass 4pm and no restaurants would be open; we also didn't want to waste any more sunlight, so we planned on sightseeing and picking up a sandwich at wherever we could find one. 

First stop was a mirador of the mountains. A 5 minute walk brought us to a little park, where at the edge, it overlooked the bottom of the mountain. It's really hard to explain in words. Even pictures don't do it justice. The view was breathtaking.

From there we made it to the bullfighting ring, which was already closed. This is suppose to be one if the oldest in Spain. I'm not really a fan of bullfighting, but love the historical aspect. I decided that I would come back early morning to check it out.

We walked from there to the Puente Nuevo, which was absolutely packed. We took a few pictures, then kept walking towards the hiking path, which was after the first white House past the bridge. Right before we stepped onto the hiking path, we bought a sandwich to snack on. There was snow on the sloped stone steps that began the trail, so i would lead and Kakrasna would follow with Ava in the Miamilly, holding my hand. There really wasn't that much snow, it was more the lichen and moss combined with the slick rocks in the path made it slightly slippery. There were a lot of other tourists who were completely freaked out and some never made it past the first few steps before turning around. 

We eventually made out way down to an overhang, which allowed for amazing pictures of the bridge. From there it continued onto a dirt path, which would lead to the other side of the bridge, at the bottom of the el tajo gorge. 

There were some slightly dangerous moments, but we made it to the bottom. Ava even passed out during the hike. After a few minutes taking pictures and enjoying the view, we started the journey back up.

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After making our way back up, we walked through the historic district, making our way to Plaza Duqeuessa. From there we followed along the towns medieval walls, walking towards the Puente Viejo. An interesting note was that this is the first town in Spain we've seen with snow. We noticed tourists playing with and taking pictures of themselves holding snow, treating the snow as if it were a rarity. Growing up in the New England area, this was a pretty entertaining scene.

We arrived at the Puente Viejo, which was near the old Arabic bathhouses, and took a few pictures. This area was not as hectic as the Puente Nuevo, with a lot less visitors and was much more quiet. 

From there, we walked back towards the Puente Nuevo. At this point, we were pretty beat, not to mention hungry. We went to a few gift shops near the bridge, and picked up a shot glass, some jamon and wine for home. we walked back to the hotel to feed Ava, as well as drop everything off. 

We didn't stay log and headed off to eat dinner at a restaurant called Ceres Grado. They opened at 8pm and we wanted to be the first people there. They were highly rated on yelp as a local spot to eat and drink, and it was noted that if you don't get there early, you won't be able to get a table inside. On the way there we stopped by El Casa de Jamon, and picked up some more Jamon as well as some potatoes chips.

After eating a very filling and very delicious meal(you can read about it here), we walked back to the hotel, stopping by a grocery market to pick up a few bottles of water.  They were so cheap, that we picked up four bottles for only a dollar. I was craving fruit so I ended up buying a few oranges too. The total bill came out to a ridiculously low $1.25. 

Once we made it back to our hotel, we cleaned up. We had an orange first and WOW, I swear that at that moment, it was the best orange I ever had. That ended our night and we went to bed.

Portugal & Spain 2017: Day 6 - Flamenco in Sevilla

We went through the morning routine and took a short drive to Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia. We Parked our car at the hotel garage, which was same hotel chain as before, then checked in and went to our room. There was no upgrade this time, so our room was much smaller. We were hungry so we walked over to a little restaurant called Vineria San Telmo to eat. We got there just before their first closing(4pm) and had a wonderful meal. You can read about it here.

Ava hung out and enjoyed the views as we strolled her over to see our first destination, the house of Pilates. They offered two types of tickets,, one for both floors, while the other ticket was just for the first. Both options come with an audio guide. We opted for just the ground floor as it was a pain to lug the Uppababy to the top floor in the house's narrow stone steps. The house had an open courtyard with rooms along the sides. After looking at the different rooms, we entered the garden, which Ava enjoyed very much. After taking our fill of pictures, we left.

After leaving the House of Pilates, we walked to Los Gallos, which was supposed to be one of the oldest tablaos in Spain, hoping to purchase tickets for the night's show. To my dismay, there was a sign on their front door saying that they were on vacation and closed. We decided that we had to see Flamenco somewhere in Sevilla, but decided that we would deal with this issue later. 

Next, we walked down to the Cathedral of St. Mary (Seville Cathedral) in downtown Sevilla. It was large, too large to take pictures, and like all of the other churches we have seen so far, absolutely gorgeous.

Right next to the church is the alcazar, which was large, almost like a castle, and connected to large stone walls. Unfortunately it was closed and we couldn't look inside, we still enjoyed the medieval walls and stone entrances in the immediate area and took a few pictures. A note to other folks who might go here with a baby: Those horse and carriage drivers were pretty wild. One of them almost drove right into us!

Just in time to catch the sunset at the Plaza de Espana

Our next stop, the Plaza Espana, wasn't far, and we were there in a few minutes. It is a very large circular plaza, with tile murals and tiny alcoves to relax in throughout the outer ring. We grabbed an open alcove to change and feed Ava, while I tried to find a flamenco show and dinner. I called a central ticket office (yes it costs money) only to find out that most tablaos don't allow baby's. Luckily for us, Tablao de Arenal does, so I booked tickets via the phone, and we took a MyTaxi there. We would normally walk, but the next show was starting soon and we didn't want to be late. 

The tablao was located on a narrow street in a very compact neighborhood. We entered and gave them my name to pick up tickets. After being told that we have three options for tickets, tickets only, with food, or with a drink, we picked the ones with a drink. The dinner option was relatively pricey compared to everywhere we have been eating so far, so we had opted not to do it. We asked to be seated by the door in case Ava starts crying and the lady at the from was very accommodating, giving us a table on a raised platform in he back, right by the entrance/exit. It was a great table because we could see the stage very well, had an area to put the Uppababy. The entrance/exit was relatively close in case we had to go outside or use the bathroom. I ordered a beer while KK ordered her wine. Ava sat there calmly and patiently; it was almost as if she knew we were at a show!

Pictures weren't allowed; my slick wife snuck some in...

The lights dimmed to dark, and we see the silhouettes of three men walk out from the stage entrance to the opposite end of he stage to sit on three stools. They slowly started to play their guitars and sing as the flamenco performer walked onto the stage. The show had started and we were all excited. 

There was four different performers, each of them with different personal styles. I'm not a historian of dance, but I'd wager that there are different lineages of instructors that these folks studied under, similar to martial arts. Unfortunately we aren't allowed to take photos or videos, but you can find them on YouTube. We had to feed Ava during the show, but other than that, she was quiet the entire time. She was entranced if anything, and it seems like she enjoyed the show very much. Once the show ended we applauded and one of the guests next to us complimented Ava. He said that she deserved an applause herself for being so quiet during the whole show. 

The wonderful dancers that performed when we at the El Arenal

After leaving the tablao, we decided to search for food. There was a restaurant nearby, which was highly rated on Yelp, but the line was ridiculous. We decided to walk to another restaurant and the issue was the same.

We changed our strategy, deciding to walk back to the hotel instead and hoping to find something along the way. The neighborhood we were in was very lively and had restaurants or bars everywhere. We saw one with a decent crowd and empty seats so we went in. Food and service was great, which you can read about here. After we ate, we walked back to the hotel. We finally went through our nightly routine, the cleaning and feeding of Ava, and me reading or doing homework. 

Portugal & Spain 2017: Day 5 - Drinking in Cordoba

The Morning

We got up and dressed at about 1030 am. KK started to feed Ava while I brought the luggage to the car. We checked out and left once Ava finished eating,. I was a little nervous as we got into the car; I hated long drives, and today was going to be a long one. It also doesn't help that I do schoolwork late into the night either. Unfortuntaly I only got one IDP and registered only 1 driver when i picked up the car. 

Just to make sure I had enough energy for this drive, I stopped by a gas station near the hotel and picked up some monster energy. KK picked up some Doritos and then we drove off.

The Drive

The drive was pretty simple for the most part, just two highways that were two lanes wide; one passing and one driving. I have to say, the spaniards use this setup pretty well, much better than I've seen in the states. This made cutting people very easy. In what was maybe 3 hours later, I finally arrived at our hotel in Cordoba.

Arriving in Cordoba

I dropped off KK and Ava at the front door, so that she could check in first while I parked our car in the Hotel garage. I brought all of our luggage upstairs and met her at the lobby (I needed to register the car). We took took the elevator up to our room and was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. We had gotten a free upgrade from Orbitz, which gave us a bigger room, fancy water and complimentary dessert. We didn't stay long to enjoy the luxuries of the room though, after feeding Ava, we left.

The Route

First stop was La Casa de las Cabezas, or the "house of heads", which was aptly named because some prisoner named Gonzalo Gustioz was presented a plate with the heads of his seven sons, which were then hung and displayed as trophies in the alley now named Calle Cabezas (Street of the heads). Click the link if you want to read more about the house of heads.

We took a look and stuck our heads inside, but they charged for tickets, and we were a bit short on time, so we took a few pictures from the exterior and kept walking. We made our way to the Roman bridge, which wasnt far (roughly 5 minutes). We crossed over the bridge, towards the tower and took pictures. Looking across the river, we could see the old waterwheel and the fringes of the historic district. After a few pictures, we crossed back over the bridge to check out the historic district. We walked through, with Ava enjoying her little stroller ride, taking pictures here and there. We kept walking, eventually entering the Jewish district, where there were many restaurants and shops, and continued walking until we got to the alcazar. 

We arrived in the courtyard, which was delightfully filled with aromatic orange trees, and proceeded to purchase tickets. At this point it was after six and they let us in for free. Yay to saving money. We walked in and just past the entrance, we noticed how stroller unfriendly the place was. Small cobblestones and narrow stone stairways were just a few of the many stroller unfriendly features. We parked our stroller next to another one near the entrance, and switched Ava to the MiaMilly instead. 

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The Alcazar was absolutely beautiful and a must see if you are in Córdoba. There was a tower where you could go up to enjoy the view of the palace gardens, and the entire town as well. The spiral staircase inside the tower was narrow and had to accommodate people going up and down. KK decided to stay down with Ava, since her legs were tired anyways, while I went upstairs. After a few pictures from the top of the tower, I went back down and we headed to the garden. 

The gardens looked gorgeous from the tower, but walking into them from ground level was breathtaking. It's really hard to describe just how beautiful the place was with just words, and even my pictures can't do it justice. We spent a good amount of time there, taking pictures and relaxing. 

It started to get dark and we left to get dinner. I read about a place called cervizas califa which was suppose to be very good and everything they served was made with Córdoba only ingredients. Lucky for us, they were also across the street from our hotel. 

We walked in and found out the kitchen wasn't open yet. Little did we know, in Spain,most places don't serve food until after 8pm. It was roughly 7:30pm, so we grabbed a seat and asked for the menu. I enjoyed the atmosphere and eventually realized that this place was a brewery! Excitedly, I ordered two of their beers, which were only about 2 euros each, and then browsed the food menu. It was a tapas styled menu geared towards bars, so no entrees at all. We ordered a few plates from their small menu, with one of the items being a Córdoban specialty, the Sarajevo. They also gave us chips while we waited for our food. I started drinking the beer while KK started feeding Ava. It was probably because I had good beer, but it felt like In no time at all, our food came. While we ate, I also ordered all the other beers on the menu. I drank all five of the beers they offered and we headed back to our hotel.

We went back to our room and ate some pastries that we purchased earlier on the walk back from the Alcazar to our hotel. We cleaned Ava up and KK put her to sleep while I worked on some school work. I was happily buzzed during my 2am team meeting. All in all, another good day in Spain.

Portugal & Spain 2017: Day 4 - Walking around Madrid

After waking up, I enjoyed a cup of tea and mapped out our walking route for the day, while KK did some laundry. Once Ava woke up, we dressed and fed her, leaving shortly afterwards. We didn’t use a stroller when we were in Lisbon, but since we were planning on doing so much more walking this time, we put Ava in the Uppababy G-Lite Stroller, and left the apartment.

First stop was to get brunch at a place called the Alhambra, which was recommended to us by our friends, Linda, Ryan, Galang & Tu. It was short walk and along the way, we found a convenient store where we picked up a bottle of water.

Lunch at the Alhambra no.9

We arrived at the Alhambra, which was just a few streets down from the convenient store. There looked to be two Alhambra’s side by side, numbered seven and nine. After doing some reading, I learned that they were both the same place, but one was setup for dine-in, while the other was more an in and out type place. The food was supposed to be the same quality on eitherside, so we walked into number nine, where they sat us down to a table.

My wife ordered from the set menu, while I ordered Madrid styled tripe. You can read more about our experience with the Alhambra here.

After wolfing down the food, we started walking to the Prado museum. It started to get windy, and we had forgotten to bring the wind/rain shield for the Uppababy. We decided to put her in our MiaMilly baby carrier because it would be warmer for her. We initially had her facing us, but after a few minutes of walking she would start crying. Turns out that she wanted to face outside, so that she could see. Ava has a curiosity for new experiences, just like her parents! 

Prado Museum

We arrived and entered a small building adjacent to the museum to purchase tickets. I tried using my student ID to get access to the discount, but they told me that there is an age limit as well, which means that the discount only works for undergrads. This was a bummer because the tickets cost 15 euros per adult. Not all was lost however, as the girl behind the ticket booth told us to come back between 6-8pm, and tickets to the regular exhibits would be free. Special exhibits would still need purchased tickets, but we were only there to see their Goya collection, which was part of their regular exhibit.

 

Retiro Park

It was now 3pm, and we had three more hours before six. I adjusted our route to maximize time, and then we walked over to Retiro park, which wasjust behind the museum. It was a decently sized park, and there were plenty of attractions to see; a few squares/plazas with carved statues, a glass dome, anda rose garden. After spending about two hours there we headed to our next set of locations.

 

Puerta de Acala, Plaza de Independencia, & Grande Via

I want to point out that I’m guilty of doing this when tourists are in Boston and take pictures of random statues; I ask myself what is so interesting that they would take a picture of. The irony is that we are guilty of doing the same thing when we travel too! When you see landmarks regularly, you almost forget they exist. Anyways, the next set of stops is basically that – us stopping by plazas and taking pictures of things that locals forgot even existed.

We stopped by Puerta de Acala, which was located on the northern exit of the park, and took a few pictures. We then walked down to Plaza de Independencia and took a few more pictures. I stopped by a cafe to pick up an espresso, while KK ordered a Bonton. From there, it was only a few minutes to Grande Via, so we walked there too.

It’s been pretty cold and windy in Madrid, and since I did not bring a jacket, KK was adamant that I buy one. I told her I’d only buy one if it was 20 euros or less. It just happened that there was a Primark on Grande Via, and the store was huge. I found a zip-up hoodie lined with Sherpa or something similar for only 18 euros, so I ended upgetting it. Here is a great tip. Primark is awesome; stuff there is so cheap that if you are ever worried about luggage weight and overpacking, I’d recommend you not pack some things like sandals, shaving gear, or even underwear, and just purchase them at a Primark if your destination has one near your hotel. The quality is cheap, but that’s the point – by the time you go back home to the USA, this stuff has fallen apart and you can trash it.

We left Primark at 6pm and headed back towards the Prado museum.

 

Back at the Prado Museum

We arrived back at the ticket office and received our free tickets. Once we got into the museum, we took a quick bathroom break, then fed and changed Ava. She’s been happily sleeping most of the time, and had woken up just in time to see some fancy art. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the museum. If you care nothing about art history, you can probably skip this place in Madrid, but since it is free at night, I’d say this museum is worth a look for anyone going to Madrid. At around 7:45pm, they start kicking everyone out; lucky for us, we just saw just about everything our tickets offered.

Once we left the museum, we went back to doing the tourist thing and taking pictures of plazas/squares. We walked down to Puerto do Sol, snapped a few shots, then down to Plaza Mayor, and snapped a few shots. By now, Ava started to get cranky, so we tried finding a place to eat. There were a bunch of highly ranked restaurants on yelp that either did not exist or weren't opened, even though Yelp said they were. After a walking to a few closed restaurants, I started to get frustrated as well. It also happened to be my birthday, and having to spend that much work walking back and forth to different restaurants only to find them closed aggravated me..a lot. We found one that was open but there no open tables, and they told us that they didn't do waits. At this point I said screw it and we went back to our AirBnB first. 

We were less than 5 minutes away, and made it back to the apartment in short time, where we fed Ava and played with her on the bed a little. After I warmed up, I yelped three restaurants that were nearby, just in case one of them was closed. 

We made our way back out, this time with just a Miamilly because the restaurants were less than 5 minutes away. 

Hanging out in the lobby of the Museum, the only area where we could take pictres

Dinner at Taberna Del Chato

My first pick, Taberna Del Chato, was open, and there was no wait (according to Yelp, it gets pretty packed). We got a table in the back and ordered the tapas sampler. You can read our review of Taberna Del Chato here. The waitress loved Ava, and for the most part, Ava was good in the restaurant. We did the usual - one played with her while the other ate. KK walked away and I suspected she was up to something, and I was right. My wife had told them that it was my birthday so they came out with ice cream and a brownie while singing happy birthday. 

All in all, this was a great experience, so we left roughly an 18% tip (large in Spain), due to the excellent service and left to get more dessert. 

Maestro Churro

In spain, it's customary to eat churros dipped in hot chocolate

On the walk back, we stopped by Maestro Churro to see how good the churros in Spain were. I read somewhere that it was a dish that you have to try. 

We ordered a regular churro with hot chocolate dip (they actually sold out many of the other varieties). Since they were closing, they also gave us the last of their unsold Churros; we ended up with a chocolate covered churro, all chocolate churro, and a regular churro.  

Free tickets to the Prado museum, then free Churros? Pretty good day so far!

Here we are, the last customers of the night!

Back at the AirBnB: The Night Finally Ends

We took the churros back to our apartment, which was just around the corner. We ate them while relaxing on he couch. The churros were quite heavy, and the chocolate dip was very rich. We weren't able to finish them and packed them up for tomorrow's drive. Ava had experienced many wonders in a very long day! My wife went off to bed with Ava, while I stayed up to get some school work done.