Fulltime Family

Comments 11 Standard

So, our family has a little announcement.

Okay, so maybe it’s not so little. (And no, I’m not pregnant… how many of y’all thought I was headed in that direction?)

We’re leaving Spain! And that’s not the half of it.

You see, I’ve always done things a little differently and what I’m about to tell you is no exception.

Where do I begin?

Let me just get right down to it…

12 years ago I married my husband and we high tailed out of our small (population less than 2,000) hometown. We moved to Florida and fell in love with the area. Two weeks after I turned 18, we ended up leaving the country and living in Japan for three years. We took a two year break from overseas life and returned to Florida. For these past 5.5 fun-filled years we’ve found ourselves exploring Spain and the world around us with our three globetrotting chicas.

Moving back to America is a big, huge change for us and yes, these last 5.5 years have been amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing but we are oh, so ready for America. Our girls need to see the good ‘ol US of A, y’all. While I can’t wait to see our girls dig their feet in the sugar white sands along the Emerald Coast, my desire to see the world was born the minute I closed the passenger door on our tiny little U-Haul and cruised hand in hand all the way to Florida from Missouri in June 2004. I’m just not ready to settle down.

So, we bought an RV!

Well, a travel trailer. And we’ve decided to become full-timers.

You read that right. Our family of 5 (plus our dog and cat) is going to be living out a 35 foot travel trailer instead of a house.

There’s so much to see in the US and airline tickets just aren’t the same in the states as they are in Europe.

When I initially threw this idea out to my husband he was floored. Who does this? How will it work for our family of five and our pets? Luckily, through research, we’ve found that there are thousands of families all across the US that have taken the plunge into full-time RV life. I’ve loved gleaning information from them and we cannot wait for this next chapter of our life.

Our “launch date” is July 11th and we can’t be more excited.

We hope you’ll continue to follow along as it is sure to be an interesting adventure for us all!

U S A! U S A!

Happy travels, y’all!

Alpaca Farm Stay

Comment 1 Standard

If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I love the country. I’m a small town Missouri girl who accidentally happened upon a life of world travel. I love jaunts to the city every now and again, but if you tell me there’s an opportunity to head to the country for a couple of days to do a farm stay, I’d tell you..

“Alpaca my bags.”

See what I did there?

IMG_6478blog

I’ve been hearing about this farm stay for quite some time. A lot of acquaintances I have here in Spain have raved about it. And honestly, I tend to veer away from places frequently visited by other foreigners here as to avoid typical touristy experiences. But, this was on a farm and I couldn’t resist the temptation to retreat to the middle of nowhere.

IMG_6200BLOG

The country was calling my name loud and clear…

IMG_6222blog

Or maybe it was this here alpaca. This girl was keeping cool in the shade, such a smart one.

IMG_6234blog

The farm is in Montoro, Spain, about 25 minutes away from Cordoba situated between hills and hills of olive groves.

IMG_6248blog

And let me tell you, it’s the perfect backdrop for a morning walk with an alpaca.

IMG_6293blog

Alan and Lorna are the owners of the alpaca farm and are such fun hosts. The whole experience includes (but is not limited to) walking the alpacas, getting to feed the animals, collecting fresh chicken eggs, use of their private pool and they even provide breakfast and dinner.

IMG_6296blog

They also have a fair amount of cute and cuddly kittens.

IMG_6301blog

And a huge mastiff named Blue. If you’ve ever had any questions about Spanish siesta, you’ll need to meet Blue. She can mentor you on all things siesta while you give her belly a good rub. This girl has it down pat.

Now, let’s get back to those alpacas…

IMG_6480blogIMG_6496blogIMG_6504blog

One footloose and fancy free chicken with jealous alpaca onlookers surely trying to talk that hen into opening up the gate for them.

IMG_6536blog

One of our girls’ favorite parts of the trips was getting to feed the animals by hand. But, if getting your hand tickled by alpaca teeth doesn’t suit ya, throwing it on the ground works, too.

IMG_6539blog

A little farm cat here…

IMG_6558blog

and another farm cat there…

IMG_6589blog

Altogether now! I had to check suitcases and pockets to make sure that none of my girls made their way out of the alpaca farm with any of these babies!

IMG_6619blog

If you’re in or near Andalucia (that’s you, Rota), you’ve got to get up and get out and make your way to the Alpaca Farm in Montoro. It’s an easy drive from Rota Navy base and an experience you’ll be talking about for ages! This trip is ideal for families, girl trips, or just a couple of lovebirds wanting to get away from everything for a couple of days. My only regret is that I didn’t know about it sooner as this would have been a great place to retreat to during deployments when my husband was away.

Alan, Lorna and all the alpacas are very accommodating, you won’t want to leave!

Check out their Facebook page, Experience Alpacas in Andalucia and book your weekend as soon as possible as they fill up quickly!

Happy travels, y’all!

Sevilla Overnight

Comments 3 Standard

Rota and its’ surrounding towns are comfortably small, situated right on the coast. There aren’t vast amounts of people except for in summer when tourists come to enjoy the beautiful Spanish beaches. Although our area is pretty much a perfect place to be, every now and again I may get the hankerin’ for a quick jaunt to the city. Sometimes it’s good to round up the kids and get out of town for a night or two so recently we did just that and scurried off to Sevilla for an evening.

Most things that we like to do in Sevilla are all in one central location. When we look for places to stay, we like to be in the midst of it all. I’ve stayed in Sevilla a few times but haven’t found a hotel or apartment worthy of going back to until now. We got lucky finding Toc Hostel. It’s budget and family friendly, has a restaurant, breakfast plan and even a movie room.

IMG_3608

Not only is this hostel centrally located, but the atmosphere won me over.

IMG_3595

See what I mean?

seville1

Hostels are known for being affordable, but since we have kids we’ve never taken advantage of staying in one since most have shared bathrooms/living quarters. In addition to the typical mixed dorm rooms, Toc Hostel has special Family Rooms with your own bathroom. In the photo above, our older girls are up on top of the built-in bunk beds that we all thought were super cool. And doesn’t our 1 month old look super relaxed in this photo?

After we settled into our hostel, it was time to find a place to eat.

IMG_0590

And me oh my, did we find a good place to eat! Introducing Mercado Lonja del Barranco. As a Mom, this food market is ideal because rarely do we all agree on where we should dine out. Mercado Lonja del Barranco has 20 different food stalls, each having their own different theme from paella dishes, food made only from potatoes, pasta, octopus, desserts, sushi and beer and wine. It’s a win, for sure.

IMG_0594

And it’s absolutely gorgeous, dawling!

 

After we fully indulged ourselves, we took a stroll across the bridge located nearby into the pottery district of Triana. I got all worked up and sent myself into a tizzy at all the pottery shops and didn’t take one picture for you but you can click away and explore my favorite Sevilla pottery shop, Ceramica Triana.

If you’ve got a day or two to spare and are in the Rota area, here are my other Sevilla must-sees located just a stroll away from Toc Hostel.

Plaza de Espana – Horse and carriage rides are available here, a true Andalusian experience. My sister and brother loved it when they visited, you can read about it here.

Sevilla Alcazar – I’ve visited here in the past and wrote about it here. One of my favorite spots in Sevilla and I could go time and time again.

General Admission, 9. 50 Euro. Under 16 years of age; free. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the website.

Patio de Banderas, s/n. 41004 – Sevilla

October to March:
Monday to Sunday, 09:30-17:00
April to September:
Monday to Sunday, 09:30-19:00

Sevilla Cathedral
Avenida  de la Constitución s/n – 41004
Check website for times.

 

Happy travels!

 

 

 

 

 

10 Reasons Why I Love Living Overseas

Leave a comment Standard

I get emails all the time here and there from hundreds of military spouses who are considering making the move overseas. I could go on and on about the positives of overseas life, but let me share my top 10.

10) Disconnecting. In addition to not living in the US, I went without American TV for 4.5 years and loved it. No news, no reality shows, no celebrity gossip. As much as I love America, it feels good take a break from it all. Each time we take a trip back to the United States, I realize just how disconnected I’ve been since the last time I visited and I’m totally okay with that. Disconnecting from certain outlets allows me to dig my toes deeper into what goes on right in front me here in Spain. But, I think I’ll keep my Instagram, mmkay?

9) Shopping. I’ve never claimed to be a minimalist. I couldn’t pretend to be one even if I tried. I love shopping too much. Living in Spain, I am surrounded by hand-painted ceramics and they make my heart go pitter-pat. I’ll take as many pieces of Spanish ceramics that my little American hands can get a hold of. Vale?

8) Community. The majority of us who make the move to a foreign country leave our family behind. This may be difficult for some, but it also allows to you choose your own family within your community. I have a handful of friends who have made a forever imprint on my heart and that wouldn’t have been possible without getting out of my comfort zone and living far from home. Loneliness is quite common when you’re thousands of miles away from what you know, but open up your heart to new relationships and your cup will overflow with strong, meaningful, life-long friendships.

7) The Food. This gal likes to eat. Trying new foods is tons of fun. If you’ve yet to taste the local cuisine, simply browsing the local food markets is an experience in itself. It’s as easy as taking a stroll through your nearest grocery store and taking a few new items home for a taste-test. Learning about the way a country eats is a good (and tasty) way to learn about their culture.

6) The Drink. I’ve never been much of a wine-drinker until I moved to Spain. A lot of times you can find wine cheaper than soda on the restaurant menu. It’s a part of Spanish culture that we had no problem adjusting to. However, you couldn’t pay me to drink a Cruzcampo (a Spanish beer).

5) Years-long vacation, anyone? I’ve lived overseas for a combined total of 8 years. Japan was best for being able to jump on a train and getting off at an unknown stop and exploring a new area. I never knew how much I’d love it and I’m eternally grateful for each and every single day I’m given this opportunity of overseas-life (and for a husband who works hard to provide this opportunity for me and our daughters). We never had a honeymoon, but I think this is a pretty good trade.

4) Cultured Kids. My 9 year old has lived in three different countries on three different continents. She can say ‘Hello’ in 6 different languages. Our youngest has been to 5 different countries before she even turned 4 months old. Our oldest girls have been to 12 and 13 countries. They have been to countries I didn’t even know existed when I was their age. Coming from a small town of 2,000 people, I feel beyond blessed to be able to expose our daughters to different cultures and customs.

3) Photos. With quality digital cameras being affordable and easily accessible, there are a ton of us out there that have the opportunity to express our creativeness through photography. Living overseas provides the best scenery to allow your skills to develop and blossom.

2) Learning Languages. There’s no better way to learn a language than living in a foreign country. The more you immerse yourself in your host country, the more you pick up on their language. Our oldest two girls are walking away from our Spanish experience bilingual (and I’m told my oldest doesn’t even have an American accent when speaking Spanish).

1)  Seeing the World. Living overseas not only opens your eyes to the country you’re living in, but connects you to countries that surround it as well. Living in Rota, Portugal is a mere three hour drive. Only three hours! Morocco in two hours, ya’ll. Score!

So, for all you who wonder about living overseas, I say to you; just do it! Don’t be skeered!

Cadiz By Foot – Purple Route

Comments 4 Standard

No matter how many times I’ve been, Cadiz always seems to draw me back. It’s one of the largest cities in our area and it seems to always have something going on and it’s never short of things to see. We recently decided to head over to Cadiz and play tourist for an afternoon by doing a walking tour on one of the cities’ colored walking routes. I get distracted easily. I’m a window-shopper and an avid people-watcher. If it weren’t for my husband, sometimes I might just wander off every now and again. Cadiz’ colored walking routes were made for people like me, y’all. It’s easy; when you get your map, pick a route and the color you pick is painted right there on the pavement. You just can’t go wrong, people!

I know the majority of people prefer to take the ferry to Cadiz from Rota, but I always go by car. To get to the action, simply search for Cadiz in your GPS and follow the signs to get as close as you can to get into “Centro Ciudad” or the City Center. Finding parking is easier than you might think as Cadiz underground parking garages are all throughout the city (just look for the blue square signs with a white ‘P’). But, if taking the ferry suits your fancy, that’s fine too, amigo. I suppose it doesn’t matter much how you get there, just that you get off your hind end and get there, amiright?

IMG_2487

We began our tour here at the Centro de Recepcion de Turistas (Tourist Reception Center/Tourist Information Center). There’s always someone on hand that speaks English and it’s got the handy maps that you’ll need to make sure your wandering feet stay in the right direction. Out of the 4 routes available, we chose the purple route, not for any particular reason other than it began right across the street. We’re simple like that. And so then the route begins…

Here’s a few shots along the way.

IMG_2494

IMG_2500

IMG_2505

IMG_2518

Ah, the Catedral Nuevo. Ain’t she a beaut? I’ll never grow tired of this view. If you’ve got the whole day to wander, do yourself a favor and pick a cafe beneath the cathedral and enjoy this view for a while. Hear the church bells ring. Let your hair down. Unwind. You’ve just got to, friend.

IMG_2525

You can enter the cathedral and walk to the top of the tower on the right hand side for two separate fees. I enjoyed the tower on a previous visit to Cadiz and I wrote about it here.

IMG_2537

Take a good long hard look at this picture. Memorize it. Take it all in. When you leave the cathedral in the direction of the Flower Market, you will come across this bakery. Stop at this bakery. Go inside this bakery. Whatever you do, do not skip the bakery.

IMG_2535

Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness, has never bought Pionono de Chocolate. Buy one. Or a dozen. Either way, you’ve got try at least one of these. They are the most delicious pastry I have tasted in all of Spain. Trust me.

IMG_2539

You might come across a man with a table full of sea urchins. He’ll have your spoon ready. Isn’t that nice?

IMG_2542

I love the cute little flower market.

IMG_2543

Now, if you haven’t had a decent meal yet, I suggest you stop at Mercado de Abastos. If I went to Cadiz and only went to the market, it would make my trip well worth it. There are several different stalls each with their own food specialties ranging from Sushi, Mexican food, Moroccan food, cheese plates with cheese made right here in Andalusia, beer, local wine, tortillas; the list goes on! If you have a large group, everyone is sure to be happy with so many options in one place. Check out this post that I wrote about other things that are good to know to help plan your trip to the market. I suggest going on Saturdays, there’s a little more hustle and bustle and that’s what I like about it.

IMG_2597

Now, here’s my favorite part. Here’s the view from Torre Tavira.

IMG_2610

The price for the visit to Torre Tavira was a little on the expensive side at 6 euro for an adult and 5 euro for children 6 and up. In the end, my husband and I were both happy about our experience here and the guided ‘camara oscura’ session (you’ve got to check this out for yourself) was very interesting to my entire family. Added bonus that it was both in Spanish and in English. Besides, the 173 stairs it takes to get to the top is just enough stairs to walk off the chocolate pastry from earlier.

IMG_2615

IMG_2663

If you look real close, you can see the painted purple line on the bottom right hand side of the above photo. Come on, lean a little closer. That’s it.

IMG_2704

Last, but certainly not least is La Casa del Chocolate. You have to deviate from the purple route for a minute (told ya I wander off a bit), but it’s so very worth it.

IMG_2702

See? Pick a couple of chocolates to try, grab a chair and enjoy it with a nice cup of tea or coffee. Your tired and weary feet will thank you.

IMG_2699This chocolate shop has been open for about 13 years and carries chocolate from all over Europe. I’d settle with Spanish chocolate, but you wouldn’t have to force me to eat some French or Italian chocolate. I’m pretty reasonable.

Now, once you’ve got a nice happy belly, your tour is done!

Before you go, let’s get down to the nitty gritty for a minute. You may want to have some of this stuff on hand:

Ferry Information

Cádiz – Puerto de Santa María

Price per passanger each way: 2.65 €

Card users: 1,87 €

Cádiz – Rota

Price per passanger each way: 5.05 €

Card users: 3,80 €

For more information such as a timetable, click here or here.

 

Address: Paseo de Canalejas s/n, 11006 Cádiz

Hours:

Monday-Friday 08:30-18:30

Saturday and Sunday 09:00-17:00

Plaza Catedral, s/n. 11005 Cádiz

Hours:

Monday-Friday 10:00-19:00

Saturdays 10:00-19:00

Sundays 13:30-19:00

Prices: Adults, 5 euro and children under 12, free.

Mercado de Abastos

Plaza de la Libertad, s/n

Hours:

Produce Section: Monday to Saturday 09:00 to 15:00

Hours of Rincón Gastronómico (food stalls):
Monday: 09:00-15:30
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday : 09:00-15:30 and 18:00-23:00
Friday: 09:00 to 15:30 and 18:00-Midnight
Saturday: 09:00-16:00 and 19:00-Midnight

Torre Tavira

Hours:

October – April: 10:00-18:00
May – September: 10:00-20:00

The last session of the Camara Oscura starts half an hour before closing time.

Torre Tavira is open year-round except the 25 of December and the 1st of January.

Prices:

Normal Price: 6,00 Euro
Reduced price: 5,00 Euro for:

  • People over 65
  • Students with student ID
  • Large Family
  • Groups with more than 10 persons*
  • Disabled people

La Casa del Chocolate

Calle Sagasta, 2 -esq. San Pedro-, 11004 Cádiz

Hours:

Monday-Saturday 10:00-15:00 and 16:00-21:00

Sunday 12:00-18:00

 

Happy travels, y’all!

 

 

 

Doors: Morocco

Comments 4 Standard

Last year I posted this blog containing photos of doors throughout Spain and Portugal. While we were in Morocco, their doors were so colorful and detailed, I decided to bring you a second series of door photos for your viewing pleasure. So, without further adieu…

Which door is your favorite?

Morocco in a Day

Comments 6 Standard

Before we moved to Southern Spain, I did what any overly excited travel-lover would do; I started researching the travel possibilities that moving to Spain would provide. One of my top travel destinations on my to-do list was Morocco. After researching, I soon made a jaw-dropping discovery; living in the Rota area, the only thing standing between me and my two feet landing on Moroccan soil was a mere 2 hour distance. One hour and 15 minutes by car and a 45-minute ferry ride. Dreams of camels, snake charmers and curry food started dancing in my head. I had to go. And so I did.

Of course I waited until my siblings came to visit. Such a special experience could have only been reserved to share with some of my favorite people in the entire world. Besides, going without them would have triggered years of overwhelming jealousy and never-ending sibling rivalry.

To begin the planning of our day trip, I booked a *tour guide named Jamal. He’s pretty well known within the American community as the go-to tour guide for Tangier. As soon as we exited the ferry from Spain, Jamal was there at the dock waiting for us. Originally, I had planned for a day full of walking. Much to my relief, Jamal had a private driver and a large, clean van for us equipped with A/C. We were able to leave some belongings in the vehicle safely each time we stopped to explore a new place as the driver stayed with the van. The trip was more comfortable for us with two small children and lots of little extras that we ended up not having to carry every step of the way.

After Moroccan security gave our passports a look-see, we were bright-eyed, bushy tailed and on our way to our very own Moroccan adventure.

Mosque in memory of King Mohammed V.

This is a restaurant that we popped in for a quick break. We didn’t eat our lunch there but I’ve known of several Americans that have. Next time I’ll have to try some of their food.

My brother is musically talented in several instruments (drums, guitar, piano and the ukelele). He met with these fellas while in Morocco and we’re all looking forward to when this newly assembled boy band puts out their first record.

In the museum in the Kasbah.

The Kasbah and two chickens out on a stroll.

Overlooking the port of Tangier.

Ah, yes. The snake charmer. An unbelievable experience.

Oh, what a trooper.

Growing up, my sister had a couple of snakes as pets. She loves them.

See?

And then… there were camels.

We went for a camel ride! This happened to be Andrew and Leila’s favorite part of the trip.

This little baby was hanging around enjoying the ocean breeze.

This was my camel for our short camel-riding excursion. We bonded.

A view of Cape Spartel.

After our camel rides, we were hit up a local restaurant for lunch. To start, we had this delicious seafood soup. My sister, brother and myself all had amazing chicken and lamb kebabs. Andrew went straight for the typical moroccan dish, Tajine.

Lunch ended on a high note with this Moroccan Mint Tea, mighty tasty indeed.

After lunch, we got to visit the Church of St. Andrew, an Anglican church built in 1894.

Then, it was off to shop. Here’s a few shots around the market:

Here we are all together basking in the beauty of experiencing Morocco.

*For those of living within traveling distance to Morocco (that means you, Rota), I highly recommend using Jamal as your travel guide. He has really great tours to offer you and is more than willing to work with you on your very own customized tour upon request. Contact Jamal for more info at jamal_chatt@hotmail.com