Fulltime Family

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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

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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?

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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.

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The country was calling my name loud and clear…

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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…

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

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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.

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A little farm cat here…

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and another farm cat there…

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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!

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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!

Cadiz Carnaval Parade [Take a Seat]

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Out of the 8 years I’ve lived outside of the United States, one of the worst experiences I’ve had as a foreigner took place at a parade. I’ve been boycotting parades ever since, but decided to end the strike all in the name of Carnaval. To make things easier, I decided to pursue reserving seats for our entire family in hopes of having a little extra comfort in a land where sometimes the concept of personal space gets lost in translation.

The thing about living overseas is that everything is a process. Living somewhere with a language barrier, I sometimes second guess whether I truly have the right information even after doing my fair share of research. It sometimes can be so intimidating that pursuing a new cultural experience just doesn’t seem worth it. Then there’s the constant wonder of parking an American SUV into small European parking places or wondering if I’ll even find parking at all! At least I can always count on the fact that no matter where I am in Andalusia there will be a whole heap of Spanish wine, amiright?

Motivated by the fact that this may be our last Spanish Carnaval for a while, I ventured off to hunt down seat reservations for Cadiz Carnaval 2016. To save my Rota peeps time, I’ll let you in on how I got it done.

The ticket sale booth in Cadiz is located across from a small store called Cortefiel. I input Avenida de Andalucía, 64, 11008 Cádiz into my GPS. It was a 30 minute drive and luckily, there was an underground parking lot right across the street so parking was easily accessible.

I had previously been given information that the booth was in front of Cortefiel, so I went here…


Because it was right in front of Cortefiel and they were selling tickets. Alas, I was wrong (see what I’m saying about everything being a process?). Don’t be like me. Walk across the street and go here instead.  
If you exit the elevator from the nearest parking garage, simply go across the cross walk and you can’t miss it (unless you’re me). 
The only hint that this was the booth I was searching was this poster and the seating arrangement for the parade (which aren’t large). They started selling tickets Wednesday the 3rd and will continue sales the day of the parade. I am now the proud owner of 4 tickets which were 7 euro a piece for the first line, second line is 6 euro. According to the poster, the ticket sales booth is open from 10:00-14:00 and after siesta, it re-opens at 16:00-20:00. There are spaces on the seating arrangement chart that are crossed out. One can only assume (I could be entirely wrong) that there are no longer availability in those sections. 
The back of the tickets also have the seating arrangement chart so you’ll know where to park your tush. The parade gets started around 17:00 on Sunday, February 7th but, I’d imagine you’d want to get there a fair amount of time before then.

If you’re interested in purchasing tickets but not going to Cadiz solely for the tickets, follow any signs saying ‘La Playa’ and take a walk to check out the beautiful beaches. There are also numerous parks if you have children in tow and a ton of restaurants if you feel like grabbing a bite to eat. Or, you can venture further into the city and experience the city center like I did in this post. Make sure you have cash on hand for the tickets and parking.

Happy Carnaval, y’all!

Doors: Morocco

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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

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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

Ronda

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I love Spain. Seriously, I do. One of those reasons is because of places like Ronda. The location in which we live allows us to hop over to other beautiful towns and experience more culture. Ronda is a town that is only a little over 2 hours away. Ronda has beautiful, beautiful (I said it two times, so you know it must be true) views, good food and the rest is history. For reals, Ronda is full of interesting history. I’d love to tell you all about it but let’s move on to the good stuff.

This was one of the first places we saw (well, after I sort of led us into the wrong direction and got demoted from map-holder/line-leader).

I was trying to take a picture of the white buildings in the background but these two people got in the way of my shot.

I joke, I joke. This was actually my sisters’ favorite day while she was in Spain. It’s not hard to tell why.

This is one of my new favorite photos. My handsome husband holding my precious daughter on his shoulders makes me weak in the knees. Coincidentally, so does me holding my daughter on my shoulders on days full of walking. Another win for me for having a husband who has big, macho muscles.

No Spanish town would be complete without small walkways. Eventually, we came upon the bullring (Plaza de Toros). As soon as we walked in, two real live bulls started having a face-off…

It was too much excitement so we ventured onward…

If any of you Rota folks get the hankerin’ for a little exploring soon, I encourage you to head over to Ronda.

Directions from Rota straight to Plaza de Toros in Ronda can be found here. Print out a guided walking tour here (you can even do the same walk Michele Obama took while she visiting back in 2010). Happy travels!

A Bodega and a sampling of Sevilla

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We’ve lived here for about 15 months now and we finally had our first family visitors come stay with us. I had been counting down the days ever since they bought their airline tickets. My older sister, Whitney and my little brother, Seth flew in together for a fun-filled 9 day Spanish vacation with yours truly. We saw and did a lot, but here’s the skinny on just their first couple of days.

The first day we ventured off to a small bodega hidden in the small alleyways in Jerez de la Frontera called Bodegas Tradicion.

I’ve visited Bodegas Tradicion in the past (there’s a whole heap of information here) and there are several reasons why I chose to go back to this particular one. For starters, when I knocked on the door (after getting lost in the small streets in the city and missing our appointment), the tour guide from our last visit, Sabrina instantly recognized me from more than a year ago and ushered me in excitedly. She remembered my girls and details about my life and I felt like I was catching up with an old friend. The rest of the visit with my sister and brother was much the same feeling;  friendly chatting on top of filling us with plenty of information about sherry.

On top of the regular tour, she showed us where they bottle the sherry.

Sure, these just look like a couple of long necks now, but…

After a little DIY sherry-bottle decorating…

and finally, grabbing the nearest pretty little gal to help you stamp a seal onto it, it’s nearly drinkable. Speaking of drinking…

… we did a little of that, too. We could have stayed at the Bodega all day but it might have ruined their plans for a following appointment or two. So, we kept it moving right along and found a place to settle in for a good lunch in the city center.

Thoughts about this photo: my sister is one of the most photogenic people ever and thanks to the sunlight, it looks as though my little brother appears to have a patch of gray on his head.

Ahh, delicious gazpacho. A cool Spanish dish on a hot afternoon hits the spot and also gives you enough room for churros and chocolate for dessert.

The second day, we drove to Sevilla. Our first stop there was the Catedral de Sevilla. The Sevilla Cathedral is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and the third largest church in the world.

Theories have been thrown around, but it is believed that Christopher Columbus’ remains are buried here.

As soon as we stepped out of the cathedral, we were melting in the Spanish sun. I couldn’t bare it considering I’m too much of a lady to perspire. Thankfully we found an entire street filled with cafes and restaurants with mist coming from their umbrellas. We planted ourselves there and gorged ourselves on paella much like any other smart tourists would.

This was my second trip to Sevilla. I’m super blessed because I live only a little more than an hour from this beautiful city.

Things that match: outfits (totally accidental) and our excitement to be in Spain together. Olé!