After nine nights spent split between six different hotel properties on our drive through Portugal, we were excited to unpack and put our feet down for a week. Our last full week in Spain we spent in the small town of Alcalá la Real. We were excited to stay in one place for over a week, So excited, that we drove the four hours from Anantara Vilamoura over to Alcalá la Real, and had entered our rented home before realizing we had skipped our final reserved hotel in Portugal and arrived a day early. Luckily, the rental home was clean and prepped for our arrival the following day, so all worked out.
Located within an hour or two drive from Seville, Cordoba, and Granada, Alcalá la Real provided us with a chance to experience small town Spanish life while making a few day trips to the surrounding cities. After Alcalá la Real, we continued on to Madrid, where we spent our final two nights in Europe before heading off to Africa.
Alcalá la Real is a small city, surrounded by olive trees, about an hour from the well known cities Granada and Cordoba. Being much less touristy than the surrounding cities, Alcalá la Real gave us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in daily Spanish life over the course of our last week in Spain.
It is a town where the shops and restaurants all shut down around 2:30 PM, and then reopen again later in the evening, most restaurants not before 8:30 PM. Grocery stores are closed on Sunday, so if you haven’t planned ahead, you are either searching for an open restaurant or driving at least 30 minutes to find an open market. The majority of the restaurant owners and shop keepers speak only Spanish.
Over the span of the week we tested several restaurants and were presently surprised with how inexpensive most were. Each round of drinks ordered at most bars were accompanied by a round of tapas for the table, at some of the better tapas bars, a different tasty tapa was served with each round. Most nights, our total dinner bill was around 40 Euros, quite inexpensive compared to some of the other cities we’ve recently visited. We were surprised to hear in one of which told us we were the first family from the USA who had ever dined there.
It was mostly a quiet week for us, spent catching up on work and school. We enjoyed our daily walks down the hill from our apartment into town to play in the park or see what tasty treats we could find.
Arriving in Alcalá la Real on October 24th, one of our first matters of business was to figure out what we could do to celebrate the fast approaching Halloween. We were excited to see several stores in town decorated for the upcoming holiday and selling costumes, however after asking some families we met in the park and a few of the shopkeepers who sold Halloween decor, we were sad to hear that other than some school parties, to find a true Halloween party, we’d need to visit another city.
After a little more research, we decided on making an overnight trip to Seville where we spent our evening at Isla Magica, dressed in costume, riding rides with hundreds of other families. It was very different from our normal filling up the bags of candy that we are used to, but a fun experience that we were glad to participate in.
We spent our last three nights in Europe in the city of Madrid in the Westin Palace, Madrid. The hotel, located steps from the Prado and several fun areas to explore was a great place to finish our European tour. Over the course of our last few days in Spain, we took another tour with Family Twist, this time through the Prado Museum where we learned about Goya, el Greco, and Velazquez, ate at some tasty restaurants including Sobrino de Botin, possibly the oldest restaurant in the world, and repacked as we prepared for our visit to Kenya.
Our house in Alcala la Real was two stories and we had a rooftop terrace! Angela and I each have our own room- yes! We ate at some good places. One night, we were ordering and asked if and item on the menu was recommended. The waiter said it was amazing. We said, ok, we’ll take it, and he asked us which one? Luckily, he was right and all the food was amazing.
In the park not far from our house, we played Marco Polo and made a nice new friend. We also went to a cool castle where some parts were carved into a mountain, and others were made from stone. The castle had a good audio guides.
On Halloween we went to a fun [amuzement] park. We got on a water ride and got the best picture ever. My eyes almost popped out of my head. The hear on dads wig was flying in the wind. Mommy’s hair looked like it was chocking her. Angela just sat there grinning with her eyes closed. That night we ate at a delicious Mexican restaurant. I got the best taco in the world and had our pictures taken with a Mexican hat on. It was a killer night.
In Madrid, we went to a cool art museum called the Prado. We saw a bunch of cool paintings. One picture of Charles III’s youngest son in front of a table. The table was held up by lions with one of their paws on a ball. First we saw the table in the painting, then we saw the actual table in the museum. Then we walked in the street and some of the same lions were carved in stone on the front of some of the buildings in the city. That day I had a tasty stir fry for lunch.
On our last day in Madrid we ate a humongo lunch! We at a roast pig and lamb at a restaurant daddy ate at when he came to the city when he was 12. After lunch, for dessert, we at something killer called churros! it was sugary bread dipped in hot chocolate that was made out of literal melted chocolate. What an awesome eating day!
On our first day back in Spain, we got settled into our apartment only to find that we were not supposed to be there until the next day! We were able to just pay for the extra night and stay, but we had a hotel reservation that we never made it to. Pretty crazy, huh? That night we ate at a place called Rincon de Pepe, and ordered lots of tapas. We raced back from dinner.
The next day, we walked around the town and played in the park. That night we had dinner at a brew pub. Emily and I played school on their chalk board while we waited for our yummy food.
On Saturday, we hiked up to the castle we could see from our apartment. We rented audio guides there, and learned some cool things. One time, I even got lost listening to my audio guide. I went up a set of stairs, and when I turned around, everyone was gone. After going up and down the stairs a few times, daddy came and got me to take me through a hole in the wall that I hadn’t looked behind yet. It was an exciting and scary day.
The next morning, we went out in search of a few clothes for our upcoming Safari, but instead found Halloween costumes. Emily and I are both Dracula, Mommy is a skeleton, and Daddy is a mad white haired man. We had a pre-Halloween party that night, starting with a movie, A Witches Ball. We then played catch before eating roast chicken, potatoes, broccoli & bread for dinner on our rooftop terrace. After dinner, we played hide and go seek.
On Halloween, we drove about two hours to Seville. We ate lunch at the hotel, but it wasn’t very good. My avocado toast was served on a cracker and was topped with sardines! After lunch, we put on our costumes and walked to the amusement park. When we got our tickets, this lady jumped out and scared me half to death. If that wasn’t enough, she practically strangled me in the picture!.
Our first ride that day was a mini-water ride. Then we went to a ride called Captain Balas, where we could shoot the green lights along the way. Next, we went on a bigger water rice, and Emily’s eyes almost bugged out of her head.. We then went on a little roller coaster followed by one more water ride, the last one had several drops. It was a fun way to spend Halloween.
On our first day in Madrid, we went to a museum called the Prado. I was wasn’t feeling great, so I probably would have liked it ore if i was feeling better. We took another tour with a great company called Family Twist. We learned that King Charles the 3rd ordered the construction of the Prado in 1785. It was originally meant to be a natural history cabinet, but it turned out to be an art museum.
The first thing we saw was called the Table of the 7 Deadly Sins: Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Wrath, and Envy. For each sin, there was a picture of someone committing it. The painter who made it, Bosch, also made several other paintings, one of the most famous is the Garden of Earthly Delights. Many of the paintings had interesting things in them. One was called, “The Washing of the Feet”. Jesus was off to the side, instead of in the center like he normally is. We learned that the painting was made to hang in a church near the entrance, so that when you entered the church and looked at the painting, from the angle, Jesus would be in front. We visited several more paintings before we left, but I don’t remember their names.
On our last day in Madrid we ate a huge pig lunch at a place Ma went, and daddy had visited with his grandparents. It was awesome.
Many of our cruise partners visit Spain. Many of the Ocean cruises include stops along the Mediterranean Coast. Several of the Douro River Cruises offer land based extensions into Northern Spain.
While a cruise is a great way to see several areas and decide which you’d like to return to, land based tours will offer opportunities to get even deeper into the country.