Monday, January 8, 2018

Christmas 2017

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season -- we just finished ours here in Spain.  While our friends and family in the states were done with their holidays a week ago, ours were still going strong!  Although I will say, three holidays in three weeks is exhausting!

If you need a refresher on Spain's Christmas season -- read last years post here.  But a quick recap: Spain celebrates Christmas with family and while Santa isn't a big deal here, some presents are still given on Christmas.  New Year's Eve is another big holiday with everyone eating grapes and toasting with cava!  Then finally -- the big holiday for Spain: Three Kings Day on January 6th (Twelve Night or Epiphany).  So, we once again embraced the Spanish way of life and celebrated all three....

We started off with Santa pictures and celebrating Santa's arrival via helicopter on base in early December -- read about those events here (spoiler alert: our Peanut still hates Santa).  Serafina's class also took a field trip into our town center to look at all the various nativity scences the churches have set up -- we rode the little tourist train and had an absolute blast -- and no, she does not go to a religious school, it is just a normal part of the season -- visiting all the nativity scenes.  And yes, I even got to enjoy a beer on the field trip (totally acceptable in Spain)!

We celebrated Christmas Eve with some friends, including our aunt/uncle and their family (yep, Trevor's uncle is stationed here too and it is awesome!).  Serafina had so much fun running around with the older girls while the adults enjoyed amazing food and drinks.  Santa even came to visit and brought all the kids presents... and once again our sweet gal COMPLETELY freaked out.  It was so sad to watch (but also a little funny)!


Santa visited our house (and don't worry, we left cookies out!) and it was so much fun watching Serafina come down the stairs on Christmas morning.  We hadn't set out any presents so she was so shocked to see the cookies eaten and ALL the presents.  Santa brought her a workbench and she loved it!  She didn't want to open any other presents, just wanted to play with her workbench!  Then when we finally got her to open another present, she just wanted to play with that toy -- needless to say it was a long long morning of opening presents! But we had a blast and a wonderful lazy morning before heading to our very close friends house for Christmas dinner with our "crew" here in Spain.  We all have kids about the same age and it was so much fun just letting all the toddlers run around while we enjoyed more amazing food and drinks!
leaving cookies out for Santa



Our New Year's Eve was low-key and spent at home.  Most Spanish celebrate with their family until after midnight, then they all head out to the bars -- so things don't get started until about 2am!  We ate our grapes, toasted and then called it a night :)

Then finally Three Kings Day!  I have been looking forward to the parade all year -- it is so crazy and so fun and so Spanish!  The parade consistes of usually five or six floats (three floats for each king, a float for the three gifts to Jesus, then others... and also bands and various characters.  This year it was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Paw Patrol).

We were all prepared to head to the parade in the eve of Three Kings (January 5) but there was a chance of rain that evening so they moved the parade to January 4.*  It was a large deal to change the parade so notices were everywhere!  Last year the parade went right near our house so we just saw it once and went home.... this year, because of the date change, they had to do things a little differently.  Normally the kings arrive by boat the morning of the parade and all the children in the town get a chance to greet them, sit in their laps, hand them their letters -- basically the Spanish version of going to see Santa, then the parade is in the evening.  However, with the date/time change, they arrived by boat and the parade immediately followed so this year the route went backwards.  We chose to go to the parade at the beginning and had every intention of seeing it once (like last year) and heading home.... Well....
so mesmerized by everything
beginning of the parade



We saw the parade at the beginning but we weren't close enough to catch too much candy so we just had to go to a another spot!  Plus our sweet gal wanted to see more of the music and "princesses" -- local girls who are dressed up in fancy princess-type dresses on some of the various floats.  So we quickly ran (with every other person in town) so another spot on the parade route and had great front row viewing.  We were with friends who hadn't been to a Kings parade before so it was quite fun watching their reactions as the candy and toys are literally THROWN** at the people along the route.  Candy is flying in all directions, people are flying in all directions to catch the candy (and toys) -- it is pure chaos and SO much fun.  I even got a battle wound from some teenager who was trying to take candy from my hand :)

We weren't quite ready to call it a night, so we stopped at one more spot along the route on our way back home.  And this paid off BIG TIME.  We aren't sure why, but one of the King's floats stopped right in front of us for a good ten minutes -- normally the parade moves fairly quickly.  So the King and his helpers just kept throwing candy and toys and more toys at everyone -- we came away with two stuffed animals, a ball, a parcheese game, SO MUCH CANDY, goodie bags full of more candy and treats.  And so much laughing.  We don't know who had more fun -- the kids or the adults.

Then on the morning of January 6th, we woke up to find that the Three Kings had visited our house!  We had saved a few small presents for Serafina to open on Three Kings Day.  She was so excited to see presents for her and was just adorable opening them -- sadly, no pictures because (not surpringly) our sweet Peanut was butt naked while opening her presents!

We had the best holiday season and while it'll be nice to get back to our normal routine, the season will be missed -- just now looking forward to next year that much more!




*Southern Spain does NOT do rain.  As a born and raised Seattleite this just cracks me up, but seriously it is amazing how many things are canceled or changed due to rain!  In their defense, when it rains here -- it RAINS.  Like inches in an hour, flooding roads, the works....

**At our last stop, we were behind a car that was parked on the road (many cars were so it wasn't illegal) and the car had DENTS in it from the candy hitting it so hard.... if that gives you any indication as to how hard this candy is thrown!  And it is all hard candy, so it does some damage to anything it hits!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Life Lately Round 9

Time for another update -- it's been awhile since one and while I have posted, I know that some of you (hi Mom!) like to see what we are doing besides just traveling :)

My last update was in July before we left for France -- you can read about our France trip herehere, and here.  And then we spent most of August just hanging out, getting back into our routine -- and of course going to the beach!  The weather is insanely hot in August (like too hot to even play outside) so we usually spend our free time at the beach and staying cool -- and many evening walks to get ice cream!

September brought the start of a new school year for Serafina and a more full-time schedule for her as well.  Which was quite the adjustment for both of us.  However, she absolutely loves going to school and seeing her friends, and her teacher is amazing.  I am going to be so sad when she has to go to the big kid, real public school next year!
There was also an airshow in our small town to celebrate the Spanish Air Force.  Our airplane loving gal thought the show was just simply amazing (although some of the airplanes were a little too loud for her).  We went to a friend's apartment right on the beach and had such an amazing view of all the airplanes!


October brought my parents here for a very fun visit -- Serafina was so excited to hang out with her MamMam and Dpa and see them every single day for a whole month.  It was perfect!  And it allowed Trevor and I to sneak away for a full FIVE days of travel without our Peanut -- we went to Copenhagen and Stockholm and it was amazing.  We were all so sad when my parents had to leave, but can't wait for MamMam to come back again soon :)
loving all the birds near my parents' AirBnB place
We also celebrated Halloween on base at the annual Trunk or Treat event.  Serafina wasn't a big fan of her costume, but we attempted to go as characters from the movie Totoro.  Peanut also got to sit in a fire truck which she loved!

November brought colder weather (finally!) and lots of cooking which happens to be Serafina's favorite activity at the moment.  And a birthday party at the local horse riding place... where our sweet gal just shined.  She could not have been happier up on the horse and did not want to leave.  We may be looking into lessons for her once she turns 3 -- eek!


We had a wonderful (wonderful) Thanksgiving with our close friends.  It was about five families and we all have kids around the same age so while the parents ate and drank, the kids just ran around and had way too much fun!  We have really lucked out with our amazing friends here :)
best we could get -- our gal did not want to stay still for a picture!
Now the Christmas season is here -- which in Spain stretches all the way into January!  We did Santa pictures on base (Spain doesn't do Santa, they do the Three Kings) which was a little terrifying for our Peanut -- she hated every minute of it!  However, we also attended Winter Wonderland on base and Santa arrives by helicopter.  Remember how our little lady loves airplanes (and helicopters) -- well, this was the highlight of her Christmas season so far and she can't stop talking about how Santa came on a helicopter!

waiting for Santa

We also took a day trip to Gibraltar for a Christmas Market (we had heard there was a decent one).... well, it was eight stalls and just slightly underwhelming.  But we had a wonderful lunch and Peanut loved riding the rides set up for kids (it is really common here for a city to have a few rides for kids set up on the weekends).  Serafina also got moved up to the next swim class -- Spain usually does everything by age, but they moved her up early since she is ready ability wise!  We are so proud of her and she just loves going swimming each week!

We can't wait to keep celebrating Christmas -- we have a few fun activities planned, but no travel plans for the near future.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Weekend Adventures {Copenhagen + Stockholm}

Recently, Trevor and I were able to take a trip JUST us -- that's right, no Peanut!  My parents were visiting and they were more than happy to watch our sweet girl while Trevor and I traveled on our own.  We knew our little lady was in the best hands possible, so we thoroughly enjoyed our time away...

We chose to go to Copenhagen and Stockholm.  Copenhagen because it is one of our most favorite cities ever (and I have a great friend who lives there and we wanted to hang out with her) and Stockholm because neither one of had been there and it was on our list of places we both wanted to see and explore!

I'll break down what we did and where we ate -- but we really only spent about 8 hours in Copenhagen as we had both been there before and explored much of the city previously.  Our primary goal for Copenhagen was to see my friend and to enjoy the city (and shop of course).

København (Copenhagen)
Shopping -- one of my favorite cities to shop in as I just love Danish everything.  Lego is a Danish brand so while things may not be cheaper, they often have different selections than many other stores.  And the original Legoland is in Billund, Denmark and I highly recommend a trip here if you have kids (we went years ago and would love to go back some day).  Royal Copenhagen is another favorite of mine -- gorgeous porcelain that started in the 1770s for the queen.  Previously, the flagship store had a "seconds" section where there were discounted items that had slight flaws.  Now there is a larger store outside the city where they keep their seconds.... sadly, we didn't have time to get out there but we were able to add to our amazing mug collection! There are also plenty of small stores carrying Danish items, so just wander the streets -- you are bound to find something amazing!

Eating -- our personal favorites: the sausages (often called French hot dogs) -- great sausages put inside a loaf of French bread with sauces stuffed inside too (we think the best ones are the random food carts around town) and also the cinnamon rolls (the English translation is snails) which are just amazing at any bakery.  We ate at a huge food hall for lunch and then had coffee and snails with my friend.  Trevor and I both love Danish cuisine, especially smørrebrød which is essentially a very yummy open face sandwich.  You can get just about any toppings on it that you can imagine and they never disappoint.

Tourist Activities -- there is lots to do in and around Copenhagen, and Trevor and I had seen most of it already, so we spent our time eating and shopping, but we did do a few tourist things!  A stop at Nyhavn is a must on any trip to Copenhagen (it was the port for the city and today it is very recognizable by its colorful old houses).  We also went up the Tower at Christianborg Palace which is free and a great way to see the whole city -- this was our first time doing it and it was great fun!  And finally, I can't go to Copenhagen without a stop at Tivoli Gardens which is my favorite amusement park I have ever been to (and it is the second oldest in the world).  It is not a Disneyland or Six Flags, so don't expect a park like that.  But is has charm, fun rides, and some decent places to eat.  We lucked out and the park re-opened the day we were in the city after being closed for three weeks to decorate for Halloween, so we went in at dusk to enjoy all the Halloween decorations and festivities with just about every other person in Copenhagen -- it was perfect!  Such a wonderful way to end our amazing short day.




Sweden
Malmö
Malmö is just a short 30 minute train ride from the center of Copenhagen, across the gorgeous Oresund Bridge (but you will be traveling in the tunnel on the train -- train tickets are super easy to buy in the Central Station in Copenhagen as it is a big commuter train).  We chose to stay in Malmö because it was quite a bit cheaper than staying in Copenhagen for the night, and on the way to Stockholm anyways so it worked.  We stayed here and loved it, such a unique, old hotel and the beds were so dang comfortable (and had such a good breakfast).

We had been to Malmö previously for a day trip and loved it, so we were happy to head back for a short time!  We arrived in town late and after a super long day of traveling, we simply crashed once we got settled into the hotel room.  But the next morning, we had some time to explore.  On our previous trip, we went to this bath house and I seriously recommend going if you have the chance -- hands down one of the best things I have ever done when traveling (be warned, bathing suits are not allowed)!  But we skipped the baths this time and went to the Malmö Museer (museum) and it was actually extremely cool -- had a little bit of everything: modern Swedish design, ancient castle, an aquarium and more.  Trevor and I just kept turning corners and finding more and more museum -- it was very unexpected and a great way to spend our morning!
 We then caught the train to....

Stockholm
We took an afternoon train from Malmö to Stockholm -- it was a great way to see the countryside and also relax a little bit (the ride was about four and a half hours).  We stayed here and it was amazing -- perfect location, great breakfast buffet and super comfortable room!  It is brand new (and still under going some construction), so we got great deal.  I highly recommend going with a hotel that has a free breakfast; Scandinavian breakfasts are amazing -- huge spreads of meats, cheeses, bread, pancakes, eggs and more.  So so good!

Our first full day in Stockholm we slept in (no kid, remember?), ate a huge breakfast and off we went to explore.  We started off at the Vasa Museet -- an amazing museum completely dedicated to the Vasa ship -- a warship that sank in Stockholm harbor in 1628 and was raised and restored over 300 years later.  This museum was so cool and so impressive to see all the restoration work up close and personal (pictures were a little rough in the dark museum, so no judging!)



We then made our way to Skansen -- the world's largest open air museum.  This place would have been amazing with our Peanut.  It has a large zoo, a children's petting zoo (this part was so much fun), and interactive exhibits showing life in Sweden past and present.  Because we were there during off season, there wasn't much going on but it was still very cool to walk around.  We had an okay lunch inside Skansen -- I would recommend eating elsewhere unless you are stuck (like we were)!




Then we went to the Nordiska Museet -- a museum all about Swedish cultural history.  My personal favorites were the jewelry and fashion sections, but we both enjoyed this museum. We then grabbed some coffee and went on a boat tour of Stockholm.  I am not usually one for super touristy tours, but 1) I had a broken toe and desperately needed to sit for a little bit and 2) it was such a wonderful way to see the city that I actually highly recommend it!  We would've preferred to do a tour of the archipelago or go to a neighboring island to visit more of Sweden or see a castle or two.... but either the timing didn't work for our plans or the boats weren't running as we were visiting during off season.  But we did this exact tour and really enjoyed it.  We learned a lot of and it was a great way to rest while still seeing the city.

We then went to dinner at Omnipollo -- seriously some of the best beer and pizza we have ever had.  The beer was more of the northwest style for beer so it tasted a lot like home and well, we just kept drinking it :)


We had only one more day to spend in Stockholm, so we first headed to Fotografiska -- Stockholm's famous photography museum.  It was well worth the long walk (it isn't close to a metro stop) and a much smaller museum than I expected, but we both loved it.  And the view from the cafe on the top floor is amazing -- definitely worth a coffee and cinnamon roll break!

We then wandered through the Sodermalm neighborhood (this is also where Omnipollo is) on our way back towards the more main downtown area for lunch.  Sodermalm is very cool with a funky hipster vibe -- fun shopping and amazing places to eat!  We ate at La Neta (near main downtown Stockholm) and it was seriously some of the best Mexican food we've ever had.  It is a fixed menu for lunch, which worked in our favor since no one at the place spoke English -- only Spanish or Swedish.  So the nice owner translated the menu into Spanish for us then we were able to enjoy our amazing tacos and rice.  The restaurant is a little tricky to find (definitely a hole in the wall) so use a map (or your phone) if you can.

Then we went shopping and sight seeing on Gamla Stan, the old town and geographic center of the city.  This island has the palace (Kungliga Slottet) which sadly was closed but you usually can go inside and it houses a few smaller museums.  We went to Sjätte Tunnan for some beer and mead before heading to dinner.  Sjätte Tunnan is an old medieval cellar and does serve food but we never saw anyone actually taking orders -- they are known for their mead so that was what we tried.  We then had dinner at Günters Korvar -- traditional Swedish korv (or sausages).  This place was so damn good.  It is a ways outside the main city area (required a subway ride and also a 10-15 minute walk), but again so so worth it.  So worth it.  Oh and it is a small shack/food truck type place in the middle of the sidewalk with no seating.  But seriously, some of the best food I've ever had in my life.



Sadly we then had to head back to our hotel to get some rest for our early flight out of Sweden.  We flew out of the main airport and took the Arlanda Express -- a super easy train straight from Stockholm to the airport.  I recommend booking your tickets online in advance (it'll save you money the further out you book your ticket) and also give yourself plenty of time to find the train, it is across the street and almost underneath the bus station, but still not easy to find.  We almost missed our train -- oops!

Just a little note about Stockholm -- it is made up of a 14 main islands.  The museums we did our first day were all in the same area/on the same island, making it easy to go to all three on the same day.  We did use the subway system a little but honestly, it was easier to walk to most places!  They do sell day (or a few day) passes for the subway, but for the amount we used it -- they wouldn't have been worth it.  So we used a refillable card and just paid as we needed for the subway.  There is also TONS to do, way more than what we had time for -- so many museums and activities, especially in the summer months when you can explore the islands and more outside of the city.

Kid Friendly....
While we didn't take our Peanut with us on this trip, we were extremely surprised and impressed with how kid-friendly every single place seemed to be, both in Copenhagen and Sweden.  All of the museums we went to had interactive exhibits for the kids or even entirely separate kid museums attached to the main "adult" one.  Stockholm had a few children's museums as well (most notably Junibacken -- a cultural center for kids focusing on the books by Astrid Lindgren).  I am actually seriously bummed we never made it to Junibacken as I am a huge Pippi Longstocking fan (HUGE), but next trip for sure!  Almost ever single place had stroller parking in a designated area so strollers weren't just clogging up walkways or entryways.  Most stairs in Stockholm had ramps for strollers (and bikes) -- no more carrying strollers up the stairs!  And each city had quite a few parks and/or green spaces for kids to play and run around.  This could easily be a trip we take again with the Peanut!



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