We went to Spain.
Not the Costas, not Madrid. We went to Barcelona, and then to Basque Country and Galicia – Green Spain, unknown Spain.
Barcelona is of course very well-known. It’s a great city, and it’s an especially great city to tour with kids – think of Gaudi – his buildings could have come straight of any kid’s imagination and kids love them. The Park Guell, with its huge mosaic chameleons, is great for kids. Fantastic musical fountains. The metro works well and is easy to navigate. All in all, a great city. BUT we were there is summer, in absolutely crazy heat, and so take that into account – get going early. Take breaks. We struggled with the Spanish mealtimes – our kids wanted to eat at 6pm – just after lunch as far as most restaurants were concerned – in Spain dinner often starts after 9pm. So if your family is used to North American dinner times – be warned. For some reason our four-year old was always served last – no idea why – maybe its a cultural thing – but she waited and waited to get served, many times.
Leaving Barcelona, we drove to the Basque Country – driving was easy in Spain. We skipped Pamplona, famous for its running of the bulls, and made for San Sebastian – a trendy resort on the Atlantic. Nice, different. We found an old almost unused theme park on the top of a hill that the kids had almost to themselves – we walked on the beach, and explored the old town.
On to Bilbao for a visit to the incredible Guggenheim Museum, and then into the beautiful regions of Asturias and Cantabria. The absolute highlight were the Altamira Caves – and we only saw the copy. Altamira is the site of arguably Europe’s greatest prehistoric art gallery – the original caves were closed to visitors decades ago, but the Spanish government created an absolutely identical copy next door – if your kids don’t like art galleries don’t worry – they will love Altamira – huge bison, many extinct animals, hunters – the walls and ceiling are covered with scenes that would be almost impossible to even imagine today – scenes of a different world that existed around 12 000 years ago. If you have the opportunity, go to this place.
The Picos de Europa is Europe’s largest national park – an area of mountains and lakes, small towns and villages, and simply a great opportunity to get off the city path in Spain. We hiked, explored, and enjoyed the little towns everywhere. If you like ham, this is apparently THE place (we don’t eat ham in our house though). Hams hanging from ceilings everywhere – clearly hugely popular.
Heading west we entered Galicia – is this really Spain? – they speak a different language and it’s not hot. Galicia is an incredible area and not that well-travelled apart from Santiago de Compostela, the famous pilgrimage city and end of the Camino de Santiago. Our greatest discovery were the Pazo’s – palatial homes of the former nobility that have been turned into glorified B&B’s. We stayed at one where the house had its own maze in the garden, where the kids had hours of fun. The owner had plenty of toys available, the food was the best we had in Spain (Galicia is famous for its steaks and fish), and the rooms were something out of a fairy tale.
We spent time in the seaside town of Bayona – nice beaches and good swimming without the crowds. We also drove in to Portugal for the day.
To summarise – Spain was fabulous. And easy with kids. We had some elementary knowledge of Spanish but that wasn’t really necessary. Apart from the dinner hours we had very few problems as far as the kids were concerned. Not for the baby, not for the four year old, not for the parents.
I want to go back.
PS: These days I’m planning fabulous family trips to Spain.For more info on how I can help your family, visit here.