Mar 28, 2008

Biggest Mistake in Spain.

The last thing I'm going to say about our trip to Spain is that we made one big mistake - or maybe I should say HUGE mistake!
Military bases all over the world (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines) have an ITT (information, tickets, and tours) office that provides discount coupons to local attractions and tourist information such as maps and brochures. We have used our local ITT at nearly every place we have been stationed.
While we were at the terminal in Dover I picked up an info sheet on Rota. It included hours for the chow hall, phone numbers for every facility on the base, and a cute little map. Listed right there on the sheet was ITT information. We arrived around 1pm on a Saturday - the office was probably open but if not it would have been open on Monday. However,
for some reason it never crossed our mind to stop off at the ITT office upon our arrival in Rota.
Instead of making our way to the 'ol ITT we ventured off with our map of Spain. It wasn't a map of southern Spain, or the Costa de Luz, or even better would have been Cadiz province. Nope a map of the entire country of Spain. So Matt navigated by it pretty well. Our plan was to hit the local tourist information office as soon as we got into each new city. That plan never worked though. Either we couldn't find the office - because we didn't have a city map - or we saw it but couldn't find parking anywhere nearby. So, we pressed on, used our guidebooks and the maps that they contained and had a great vacation with only a few minor "lost" incidences.
As we were getting ready to leave. Matt ran into one of the families that had come over to Rota on the same flight as us. They were comparing notes about the week in Spain and the gentleman told Matt that he stopped by the ITT when they first got in. Not only did they have a lot of great information and maps and such but they rented GPS systems set up for Spain for a mere $5 a day. This is the part of the story that made me throw up in my mouth a little. What? $25 for 5 days. Oh that would have been a really great investment.
Next trip: step one get off plane. step two find ITT office. step three GO INSIDE and take advantage of the English speaking person there just waiting for the opportunity to help us out!

Mar 21, 2008

Highlights of 6 days in Spain

Highlights of the trip for the kids were playing on the beach, riding the bus, riding a double decker bus, riding a cable car up to Gibraltar, seeing the apes at the top of Gibraltar, playing on the playground, and the best of all was watching a Semana Santa procession.
Since we were in Spain during Holy week, we had the opportunity to witness one of the Semana Santa processions. It was really an incredible sight and we all enjoyed the experience. From the first procession we saw on Palm Sunday until we left Gabriel insisted upon walking around as if he were in the procession complete with drum banging and humming of the procession music.
Driving in Spain proved to be an adventure! Matt drove the entire trip and did an incredible job! He navigated by an outdated AAA map of the entire country and reading very interesting and sometimes confusing signs. We need our GPS to get us in and out of DC but we managed to log a few thousand kilometers the old fashioned way in Spain. We were only really lost once, and slightly lost a few other times. Usually, we knew we were in the wrong direction very quickly after making a wrong turn. When we were lost, we were really lost.
One night on our way from Marbella to Moron we were tired, hungry, and had no clue where our hotel was in Moron. Upon arrival to the city of Moron we found huge crowds in the streets and nearly half the streets blocked off for a Semana Santa procession. Matt asked a police officer how to get to the Moron Base. As I was sitting in the car watching this conversation take place I saw hands pointing in 5 different directions. This was not a good sign. After getting out of the maze of the old part of the city we were still lost and feeling frustrated and hopeless. We pulled into a supermarket and I sent Matt over to ask a couple for directions. They ended up being our favorite people in the world that day. They couldn't speak any English, but they were kind enough to drive ahead of us and lead us to the base. At first they took us to the wrong place, then after calling our hotel and getting directions they got us where we needed to be. Matt was so thrilled because he was really getting tired of driving around lost, and I was excited because it was seriously an Amazing Race moment!
I loved being at the beach. The sound of the crashing waves and the warm sun shining down on me as I lay on the soft pillow of white sand was perfect. I could have stayed all day but could usually only steal about two hours before the kids and Matt were done!
I also really enjoyed just people watching and scoping out the architecture. The way the cities were built and how that determines lifestyles today was very interesting to me.
It was really great for us to be able to vacation as a family. This was the first time that the four of us had a vacation that was just us for more than a long weekend. We usually go to California or Washington and vacation with our extended family. But this was a special time for us to be "us".
My all-time favorite part of the trip was looking over at Matt on the third or fourth day of the trip telling him "I still have fun with you!" We have been married for 11 years and all the dynamics of our relationship have changed but I love him more than ever and I'm convinced we'll have fun together forever. We spent at least a few hours in the car each day with the kids strapped in the back seat and busy playing, Matt and I were able to spend that time just being the same goofy 16 year old kids who fell in love so many years ago. We laughed so much and had so much fun just being together!
The whole trip was truly a blessing!

6 Days in Spain

I'm not quite sure how to go about detailing our trip to Spain. I could give you a detailed travel journal, I could just give you the highlights, I could give you our itinerary, or I could just say "we had fun" and leave it at that. You all know I would never choose the last option, it just isn't my nature.
We had three goals for this trip: to keep it cheap, kid friendly, and to be happy we get to see what we see.
Cheap: obviously our airfare prices fit into this category! We also rented a car on post, stayed at military hotels, ate as much as possible at the post chow hall, and bought gas and groceries on post. This saved us a ton of money. On post we used the dollar, off post the euro. With the exchange rate of $1.60 to a euro this was really important. We were buying gas and groceries in Spain for about the same price we would have bought them here. The chow hall is the post dining facility. It is nothing fancy but we were able to feed the family for $8 - $16 per meal. Not per person per meal but for all four of us! Those are fast food prices for a sit down, healthy meal. We also didn't buy any souvenirs (sorry everyone) and resisted the urge to stop every time we passed by a really cute cafe.
Kid-friendly: although watching a Flamenco in Sevilla, dining on traditional Spanish fare, and wondering through the streets at night would be high on the list of things to do for Matt and I, it just isn't that practical for our kids. We passed on these things as well as limited the tours of Cathedrals and other tourist sights. Every city we went to had at least a few beautiful parks in the center and often a playground. We tried to mix our walking and taking in the city with running through the plazas and sliding down slides. We could keep the kids interested in what we were dragging them through as long as they were promised a beach or a park when we finished.
We'll be happy with what we see: Matt and I really enjoyed just being in some of the towns in Andalucia. We liked people watching, trying to figure out some cultural norms, and getting a taste of life in these places. Sometimes we were able to walk around for hours, other times we were satisfied with a drive through of a city. We didn't have a solid itinerary, which is odd for me but we just were not sure of what we wanted to see or do until we got up that morning. There were places we would have liked to stay longer and things we would have liked to do, but in the end we really were just happy with what we got to do.

Mar 20, 2008

All Good Things Must Come to an End

We've had a great time here. I'm calling it a sampler platter of Southern Spain . . . we were able to see a little bit of a lot of stuff. We saw enough to decide what we really liked and would want to see again and also cut out the things we could do without.
We have been camped out at the terminal for about 2 hours now and have about 3 more before the plane is scheduled to leave. The boys are playing in the on-site playroom and Matt and I are making the best of the time by using the free internet and relaxing a bit.
If all goes well we'll be home tomorrow - if not we won't be home until Sunday at the earliest. I'd be happy either way!

Mar 15, 2008

Hola! Estamos en Espana

Just when I accepted that there were no flights to Spain . . . . a flight popped up and we had plenty of time to get our bags ready and get to Dover. Upon arrival at the terminal it was pretty clear that if this plane left we would be on it. It took a few hours to get signed in, to the gate, out to the aircraft and in the air but once all that took place all four of us each had 3 seats to ourselves. We all slept for most of the 7 hour flight. Talk about a red-eye. It left the US around 1am and arrived in Spain around noon local time.
Our rental car is adorable. . . . a characteristic you would usually choose for a doll or photo NOT your mode of transport. It is this little Chevy Matix. 4 passenger skateboard. It has a mini trunk-like device which is more like a cubby but we managed to get ourselves and luggage in and to the hotel.
After showering and changing we headed into Rota to drive around a bit and check out the beach, came back to the base for dinner, and to pick up some groceries and then drove to Chipiona to see what it was about. We saw our first castle (a promise to the boys) and got our feet wet in the ocean - my biggest goal!
It is sunny and warm. The wind makes it a bit too chilly for a swim but we'll see if it dies down over the next few days.
Today was a bonus day. I didn't expect we would get in early enough to do anything so even though we just familiarized ourselves with the area it was still nice. I'm sitting in the laundry room waiting for clothes to dry and using the free wifi. Gabe and Eli couldn't resist the call of the ocean even though they were fully dressed so I figured I should get these clothes washed and dried now before the real vacation begins!
We are planning to head to Gibraltar to see the rock and all that comes with it and to spend a day or two in Sevilla. A bonus is that it is Semana Santa or Holy Week and they have big parades and all sorts of excitement associated with it. Everything else is still up in the air.
Matt was dragging his feet with regards to this trip and even though he was grumpy about it when I was planning everything I knew if I could just get him here without any hassle he would be happy we came . . . and he is! He looked over at me and said "I'm so glad we are here!". After walking through the streets in Chipiona he also leaned over and said "being here kind of makes we want to live in a foreign country". Hola! How long have I been trying to convince him to move to Germany? Maybe this little vacation will be the trick to getting him on board for an overseas tour!!
Enough for now. The clothes are dry. Hasta!

Mar 13, 2008

Space A . . . Again?

As promised in my November post, we are planning for our spring space-a trip to Spain! We have passports in hand, warm weather clothes packed, and the adventure was scheduled to begin tomorrow. Notice I said "was".
I've been meticulously tracking flights over the past two months and it was safe to say that between 1-3 flights leave Dover for Rota everyday! Great! Well, wouldn't you know it, tomorrow there are no scheduled flights leaving for Spain! Not a single one from any airport within a four hour drive! The good news is, we know this now so Matt will go to work tomorrow, Eli will go to school, I'll do whatever it is that I do, and we'll officially start trying to travel on Saturday.
I won't know until tomorrow or late tonight if there are flights to Spain on Saturday but we know of a flight to Portugal and are more than willing to check out Terceira instead.
Stay tuned - it us sure to be an adventure.