Miracles That Happened In Spain

Amid the mishaps and missteps of traveling, sometimes things go right.  The first thing to go really, really right was the ferry.  We were told to get there an hour early.  We did.  But there seemed to be an awful lot of cars for a such a small boat.  And there were about 15 cars waiting to be scanned in front of us.  The time of departure was quickly approaching, but the security line was not moving.  

Out of nowhere a marshall motions our car forward, past all the other cars.  I was skeptical. People around us were angry, honking their horns, but we were only doing as we were told.  They motioned us past the scanner, past passport control. They motioned us past other diplomatic vehicles straight to the front of the line. And there, at the entrance to the boat, they told us the ferry was full. No more cars.  Oh dear.  We didn’t have a plan B.  But wait, it looks like there is room to squeeze one more car! Yep, it was a miracle.  We were on!  I felt slightly bad for all the cars we passed in line, but only 5 minutes max.

Rough seas?  Yes.  Did I get barfed on by a kid who drank strawberry Nesquick?  Yes.  Anyone in the Stephenson family care?  No.

The second miracle?  Valencia.  It was a huge hit.  And the big surprise star of Valencia was the park system.  Right before we left, Matt started having misgivings about driving so far.  This is normal for Matt.  He has misgivings about traveling anywhere over 5k (especially if it involves a ferry and a new country).  But the concern rubbed off on me a little.  Valencia isn’t particularly known for it’s old town or Spanish charm (although it does have those things).  It is, however, known for The City of Arts and Sciences and its nightlife.  Hmmm.  Will this place be worth the 12+ hour drive?

Well, yes, overwhelmingly, it was.  Everyday, we had the same schedule.  We woke up, ate and played indoors.  When William took his morning nap, we took turns walking Carolyn to Turia gardens.  Turia gardens is amazing.  It is set along the former path of the River Turia, a river that ran through the heart of Valencia until 1957 when it was diverted after a major flood.  Thus, Turia gardens is now the heart of the city.  Our favorite attraction was a giant sculpture of Gulliver that children symbolically climb and conquer.

Climb up Gulliver’s lapel and slide down his coat tails. Or his locks of hair.

Carolyn playing in the folds of Gulliver’s clothing.

Among other sights in Turia gardens–trees appear to be mysteriously load-bearing.

And there is a speedometer for bicycles.

Below a bridge, the arches are reminiscent of a cathedral.

The old walls and drainage from the former River Turia remain.

The City of Arts and Sciences comprises the east end of Turia gardens.  It is architecturally more magnificent than I could have imagined.  It is awesome, in the least colloquial sense of the word.

We spent one day at the aquarium portion of the City of Arts and Sciences.  What fun to witness both kids enjoy something at the same time.  Though William was a bit young to understand what was before him, he was mesmerized, and laughed and smiled with a joy that only young children possess.

In the afternoons, we explored other portions of the city together, came back for a late nap, and then headed to a place called Canguro Verde for a snack dinner.  How can I describe Canguro Verde other than…well…awesome, in the most colloquial sense of the word.  

Canguro Verde, aka Green Kangaroo

The tag line for Canguro Verde is “cafe cultural para todos los edades”…it means for all ages.  And they mean it.  The atmosphere is lively and there are toys and activities for kids, enough to make them (and by extension, us) feel welcome.  It was normal for kids to crawl around on the floor.  Normal for a certain amount of mischief, squealing, and crying.  But adults without kids were there too, which was surprising and refreshing.  During our week long stay, Canguro Verde hosted an art exhibit, a clothing line, a bilingual meetup, and a free children’s music class where the children learned Queen’s “We Will Rock You” on electric guitar, keyboard and drums.  As for us, we were just happy to end our day with a glass of wine and tapas while the kids played happily(ish) without disturbing other people.  As far as we were concerned, there was no better place in the city.

Carolyn dominated this IKEA rocker and fell into desperation if another child happened upon it.  She basically sat on it the whole time to prevent other children from getting the wrong idea.

Did we require food/diapers/wipes/other essentials everyday during siesta time?  Yes.  Dinner at 9, are you serious?  Yes.  Did this cramp our style?  No.  Not after we discovered Canguro Verde.

And here is miracle #3.  Post Valencia, we settled down at a resort just outside of Marbella.  Marbella is a fancy, high-end town with a charming old quarter and a bustling beach front.  For whatever reason though, Marbella didn’t do much for us.  The miracle is that on a whim, and without researching it, we took off to the nearby mountain town of Mijas Pueblo.  What a gem.  It’s set on a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean.  Stunning views everywhere.  Lots of parks and plazas.  Quiet and off-season.  Just perfect for our family.  And though our guide book said there wasn’t much good food here, we had our best meal at an empty restaurant on a roof terrace.

Will’s diaper overflow onto said terrace?  Yes.  Did he subsequently scream bloody murder while carrying him, poop-covered and naked across restaurant for an ice-cold bath in the sink?  Yes.  Did this get us down?  No.

Mijas pueblo

The town is dotted with these blue hanging pots.

I love taking pictures of Carolyn stuffing her mouth with things. It’s all good and well until…

…someone takes a picture of ME stuffing my mouth with things [gasp].  Here are Carolyn and I sharing churros con chocolate.

The town is known for old fashioned burro taxis. Carolyn had zero interest in them.

But she loved riding the burro statue, which saved us 10 Euros.  Matt and I are still o0h-ing and aah-ing over this rare moment of sibling harmony.

For me, half the fun of traveling is discovering things you didn’t expect to see.  If you under-plan, you might miss a treasured sight.  If you over-plan, there is nothing to discover.  Somehow, with kids, we managed to get the balance just about right.  Now, onto Morocco and life as we know it.