I chose Spain as the destination for my 6 year old son’s first overseas trip (and overnight flight) and I could not have picked any better. We planned travel around his Thanksgiving school break and found that traveling in Europe in November is relaxing. The summer crowds are gone, great values abound and the weather is still good, in the temperate Mediterranean climates anyway. His requests were that he wanted to 1) sleep on a plane and 2) ride a fast train, so with that in mind, we booked flights into Madrid and out of Barcelona. We traveled between the two cities on the Ave train, a pleasant and easy experience that takes about 3 hours.
We stayed in the city center in Madrid, enjoying the luxurious Hotel Villa Magna. They have wonderfully quiet rooms, even though they are located in the middle of the city and just blocks from prime shopping. Our first night we enjoyed dinner at Oter, a spot on recommendation from a good friend as well as the hotel concierge. We had several amazing meals in Spain, so it is all relative, but this one stood out as one of our favorites. Despite being tired from our journey, we managed to stay awake long enough to toast our arrival with some cava and we feasted on fried eggplants with honey, risotto with truffle oil and octopus. We ate octopus and ham at almost every place we visited. Thank goodness my son is an adventurous eater, although I think even picky eaters might do well in Spain. Most restaurants put bread, cheese and ham front and center. His favorite dish was pan con tomato. This is traditionally served as grilled bread and roasted tomatoes and garlic that you put together yourself at the table and is delicious! Black paella from the market was also a big hit. We didn’t mention that it was black from squid ink, as far as he could tell, it was very tasty rice! Our stop at the Mercado de San Miguel was a hit for all of us. The sights and smells (and tastes!) were overwhelming in the most wonderful way.
We tried to limit our touring to half day adventures and geared our stops towards what might interest all of us. Tucker enjoyed taking pictures of Gaudi’s tiles in the Park in Barcelona. He also loved the hop on and hop off bus tour. We liked being able to listen to the guide while he thought it was fun hanging out on the roof watching the world go by. Needless to say, we learned a lot about his stamina level (and ours) when it came to tours. Less was definitely more and even the best tour guide cannot make a stubborn six year old walk further if he is done for the day. Churros and Chocolate were special treats more than one afternoon. They are fried doughnuts and hot chocolate that just melt in your mouth and one of our favorite Spanish delicacies!
We all loved our time in Barcelona. We were accommodated on the club floor of the Hotel Arts and we enjoyed hanging out in the lounge and eating a leisurely breakfast there every morning before setting out for the day. While the location is not necessarily ideal, it is down by the coast and a short taxi or metro ride or long walk to the best shopping and the historic city center. It is a spectacular hotel and the service is really amazing. We toured three of Gaudi’s major sites, Park Guelle, Casa Battlo and Sagrada Familia . In retrospect, it was too much in one day with a little person, but I would not have wanted to miss a single one of them. Sagrada Familia is breathtaking. I cannot wait to go back and see it again once it is finished. We all enjoyed watching them construct stained glass windows inside. We could have skipped the Picasso museum. The highlight of the chocolate museum is the gift shop which you can enter without a ticket. Neither of those would I do again. I cannot wait to go back, I loved it so much I am returning for a girls shopping weekend! Emily
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