“Have baby. Will travel.” This was the mantra going through my head in the days leading up to our big overseas trip to Spain. Sure, I’m adventurous… but I’m also conscientious and a people pleaser. I was already dreading the stare downs from other passengers when I boarded the plane with a 7-month-old. I geared up with a bag of 20 toys for distraction, 10 pacifiers, and a jumbo bag of ear-plugs to pass out in a 3-aisle radius. He surprised us all, and even got some praises from fellow travelers. Even with the teething and his first cold, he was a total champ as we schlepped him all over northern Spain. The travel bug must be in his genes.
Following is a photo recap of our trip…
Day 1: Arrived in Bilbao (northern Basque region of Spain) while our luggage took a mini-break in Paris. We wandered the streets in a fog, and tried to figure out what we could stomach for our first meal. Squid served in its own ink or sardines atop a mayonnaise spread? Tough call. How about a baguette and cheese in our hotel room?
Day 2: We fulfilled Carl’s dream of watching the Vuelta a Espana (one of the big bike tours, similar to the Tour de France). We hung out at the 500 meter line in the 90-degree heat, rubbing shoulders with the other fans. Afterwards, we toured the Guggeheim Museum and decided that their collection of modern art was perhaps a bit too modern and not enough art. The structure of the building was incredible though.
Day 3: We rented a car and loaded up our GPS and got to know the lovely British woman navigator who we nicknamed Pippa Middleton. (Her Spanish was terrible, but for the most part, she kept us on track.) On our way to our next destination, we drove along the coast to a medieval village called Santillana del Mar… supposedly one of the most beautiful in Spain (which is probably why it was bombarded with tour buses = bummer). We enjoyed the windy cobblestone streets and a siesta break of hot chocolate and churros before we hit the road for San Sebastian. Oh.. and that night we ate dinner (with Noah) at midnight. We are such good parents.
Day 4: We settled into our apartment across the street from the beach in the amazing town of San Sebastian. Our first day there was the day of a huge regatta race, which brought in thousands of Spanish fans. The race was not much to look at, and we were a bit perplexed by the whole thing… but later realized it was just another excuse for people to party. The old part of town was packed with crazies… which of course we were a part of as we had pinxtos (tapas) and sangria. This time, dinner was at 9pm. Parenting of the year award, right?
Day 6: Most definitely my favorite day of our trip. We took a drive to the wine region of Spain – La Rioja. Pippa (our GPS) did take us the long way over a windy mountain pass, but she did provide some breath-taking views of vineyards and olive trees. We spent the afternoon in another medieval village called La Guardia where we sipped wine at a cafe (it’s cheaper to order wine than water here), and toured the underground caves of a winery. The good news is that the tour buses didn’t know about this place, so we pretty much had the village to ourselves.
Day 7: Timing our meals and trips in Spain was more than difficult for us with the siesta thing… oh, and having a baby. But by day 7, we were smarty-pants. During siesta (around 2:00pm – 7:00pm), we took a 30-minute drive to France to little ocean-side town of St. Jean de Luz. The place was hopping. Stores were open. Crepes were being handed out left and right. And we made sure bebé fit right in with a red beret. By the time stores were closing up in France, we drove back to Spain as siesta was ending and life was coming back to the city of San Sebastian. Perfect.
Day 8: We said good-bye to San Sebastian, and packed into our tiny Skoda for our road-trip to Barcelona. We stopped in Pamplona for our own running of the bulls. But the only bull we came across was this cute one:
We definitely pushed the bebé’s limits that day (and mine too). 7 hours in the car and hungry and shrieking… stuck in major Barcelona traffic… and a frustrated Pippa who could not find our apartment on a small alley off of Las Ramblas. I would say this was my one big breaking point in the trip. But I’m here to tell you that we all survived… and I still believe it’s possible to travel with a baby.
Day 9: Are you still with me on this journey? Impressive. We met up with Carl’s parents for a few days together in Barcelona. We walked Las Ramblas and the open-air market where we picked up fresh food for our dinner that night. If only we could do that every day. Carl and I ended the day at the beach with a dip in the Mediterranean.
Day 10: Places to put on your bucket list – La Sagrada de Familia – Gaudi’s architectural masterpiece of a cathedral. We toured the cathedral in the morning and were in awe of the creative genius.
As new Gaudi fans, we had to see his house and creations at Park Guell…
And then we took in the rest of the sights of Barcelona on a double-decker bus. We feel like we got a good overview of this amazing city, but just scratched the surface. I must come back. (Plus.. I need to do some serious shopping there… which was just not possible with bambino in tow.)
We left Barcelona in the wee hours of the morning for the airport (as people were just coming home to go to bed after dancing all night). We lucked out and had a 24-hour layover in Amsterdam, so we were able to visit with Carl’s relatives. This was a huge highlight of our trip. I feel so blessed to have married into such an incredible family. They spoiled us with yummy Dutch food and we even got to tour our cousin’s work at a Gerber daisy farm.
We soon learned that my Dutch-language skills were severely lacking. The words Carl had been teaching me could only take me so far in conversation. I mean, what can you really talk about when the only words you know are car keys, wallet, sunglasses, sleeping bag, and slippers? Fortunately for me, their English was impeccable.
Day 12: A 10-hour flight in a middle seat with a baby. Sounds fun, right? Thank goodness for a bassinet and nice travel companions. We were all crawling out of our skin by the 8th hour, but again… we have a little travel-monkey on our hands. Carl and I were giving each other high-fives when we landed. We did it. We traveled with babe and would do it all over again. And… in terms of family bonding, it was a great way to spend Carl’s paternity leave.