Sunday, July 31, 2016

Day Trip {Vejer de la Frontera}

Vejer de la Frontera is another pueblo blanco (white hill town) in Andalucia.  Vejer is south of Cadiz and just about forty-five minutes from our house.  It is an old Moorish town that sits on a hill above the Strait of Gibraltar.  Vejer has quite the charm -- the old walls mixed in with the newer buildings and houses and the gorgeous views of the Strait of Gibraltar.  Up until the 1930s, the women of Vejer wore the cobijado which is known for a black gathered cape that covers the upper body including the head and face except for one eye.  There isn't a lot "to do" in Vejer other than enjoy the atmosphere, the great views and some good restaurants.

Trevor and I decided to take a day date to Vejer and we put our Peanut in daycare.  We are lucky enough to have a great daycare on base -- Serafina absolutely loves it and does very well when she goes.  We are so happy we chose this town to explore without our Peanut.  We were able to walk around the tiny streets (maybe more like sidewalks), wander through the old walls and take in the insanely gorgeous views.  And the best part -- we sat and enjoyed some Spanish breakfast and cafe con leche at a leisurely pace.  It was fairly hilly so it was nice not to have to worry about Serafina walking or deal with pushing a stroller (or wearing her) up the hills!  Now, we love our daughter and she is such a joy in our lives, but we both feel that it is extremely important to date your spouse and enjoy time just the two of you!

So we loved our day date -- and I highly recommend taking a day trip to Vejer, preferably sans kiddos!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Day Trip {Gibraltar}

Last weekend we took a trip to Gibraltar.  Most people know Gibraltar because of their famous rock or the Strait of Gibraltar.  Gibraltar is actually not a part of Spain -- it is a British Overseas Territory.  The history of Gibraltar is a little complicated, but because of its strategic location -- where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet -- it was is a well sought after piece of land.  Gibraltar has been a part of the United Kingdom since 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht (at the end of the War of Spanish Succession, I believe).  Gibraltar was also used as a fortress during World War II.  Spain has been trying to take over Gibraltar pretty much since 1713 and has not been successful -- Gibraltarians have voted twice (1967 and 2002) to stay a part of the UK while still running most of their own day-to-day government.  In more recent history, like a month ago -- with the Brexit happening, Spain is again trying to regain control of Gibraltar.  It sure is an interesting time to be living in Europe!

Now that you've had your insanely simplified history lesson let's chat about our day trip!  We live about an hour and a half/two hours away from Gibraltar.  You can take the shorter, inland route or the slightly longer, coastal route.  We choose to park in Spain and walk into Gibraltar (this is the best way to do it if you aren't spending the night because it can take forever to cross the border) -- remember your passport because you are leaving Spain.  It was very weird to literally be hearing Spanish one minute and English the next!  Customs were very easy and for those wanting to know -- no stamp in the passport.  I would've asked but the customs agent didn't even really have a desk and had no stamp anywhere near him.  I was bummed!

But anyways, once you enter Gibraltar you can catch a bus into the main part of town or you can walk.  We choose to walk which was easy and probably only about 15 minutes -- which included walking across the Gibraltar airport tarmac.  It also gave you really good views of the rock which seems to just appear out of no where -- everything is flat, then BAM! the rock!

Just a little note -- given the location of Gibraltar, it is typically very windy there.  Gibraltar is a small (only 2.6 square miles) piece of land and is surrounded by water on three sides.  It can also be really hot and humid, so just come prepared!

We made our way through town, window shopping at all the British stores and looking at the menus for various pubs but we knew we'd be back -- we wanted to get to the Rock.  The Rock of Gibraltar is HUGE and there are many ways to tour the rock.  We chose to take the cable car up to the top of the Rock -- it takes you 412 meters in 6 minutes (this is higher than the Eiffel Tower)!  The views on the way up were gorgeous -- you looked over over the populated areas of Gibraltar and across the bay to Algeciras, Spain.  Serafina loved the ride and yelled out "wow" as we went up the rock; it was adorable!

When you get to the top, you are dropped off at an observation area complete with a little cafe and gift shop.  And you will immediately see the monkeys -- another thing Gibraltar is famous for.  The monkeys are of the Barbary macaques species and there are many of them living in the upper rock nature reserve.  They are tailless and vary in size (the largest one we saw was the size of a medium dog, smallest was a pretty small baby).

The monkeys are very cool but can also be scary!  They are used to people and will take anything you have -- backpacks, cameras, food, etc.  They will go after anyone that they think has something in their pockets or has food.  One of the larger ones thought I had something in my pocket (did not) and it came at me and attempted to climb up me while I was holding Serafina.  Gave me quite the scare and I kept my distance after that.  We also watched many of the monkeys climb up people, especially if they got too close to them.  We also saw one lady who just happened to be standing in the wrong spot get a large gash in her arm because a monkey jumped off her to get up on a higher ledge.  Our dilemma was that Serafina loves monkeys -- anytime anyone says monkey she will make the sound they make and put her hands to her armpits like a monkey.  Therefore, when she realized that the animals she was seeing were in fact monkeys, girlfriend just about lost her cool.  Many were her size but she could have cared less, if we had let her, she would have run right up to them!  (Getting a picture with her was impossible because she wanted those monkeys).

The views at the top are gorgeous -- you can see all the way to Morocco!  We didn't go on a super clear day so the pictures don't show Morocco, but we could still see it.  The rock also dips a little in the middle and the wind/clouds whipping over that part of the rock was so cool.  Sadly, again, the pictures don't quite show exactly what is looked like so just trust me when I say it was gorgeous.

We made our way back to the town and ate lunch at an okay pub.  Serafina was asleep in the stroller so we picked the first place we found so that we could eat while she slept!  Next time, I'd pay a little more attention to menus and crowds but we took a peaceful lunch with a sleeping babe over food quality!  #keepingitreal

We also didn't do too much actual shopping since everything was pretty expensive and the exchange rate wasn't great.  OH -- Gibraltar uses the Gibraltar pound and not the euro.  While we didn't pay cash for anything, we were told that shops would except euro, you may just get pounds in return.  We wandered around a little more after lunch before walking back into Spain and heading home.

Gibraltar is very touristy but we all still enjoyed ourselves.  We couldn't quite figure out how to describe Gibraltar when we were chatting on the way home.  While it was obvious that it was trying very hard to be British, it still had a lot of Spanish qualities -- it was a very bizarre cultural experience to listen to the locals speak a crazy mixture of Spanish and English.  And it was a large melting pot of cultures among the locals and tourists.  We heard so many different languages, it did not feel like we were in a tiny country!  It was a very fun experience and one I'd recommend with some cautions....

Tips for Gibraltar:
If you are traveling with little kids, I'd recommend the van tours which you can find all over as you are walking around in town -- it'll allow you to see more while also letting the tiny ones stay in the van with an adult if needed.  We will for sure do a van tour next time we go to Gibraltar.  Bring as little with you as possible, especially to the top of the Rock.  The monkeys are vicious and if you have a kid with you, it is hard to protect the kid and your stuff at the same time.  Wear your babe/toddler on your front.  It made both myself and Trevor feel so much better knowing Peanut was right next to me.  I would have been too nervous with her on my back because I couldn't see her as easily.  I think Gibraltar is a great place to visit but I'd say active toddler age is probably not the best time to go.  Not walking babe (who can be easily worn and happy) or older toddler/preschooler (who will listen to you) are both better ages -- there was no way we were putting Serafina down near the monkeys because she wanted to touch them and she was the same size as most of them.  Enjoy the top of the Rock but be cautious of the monkeys.  Go to Gibraltar and don't forget your passport!

UPDATED 12/10/17
We recently went to Gibraltar again for their Christmas Market -- and well, it sucked.  It was eight stalls and nothing to write home about.  We had heard they have a fairly large one so maybe we went on the wrong day, but just be warned that it may be a little underwhelming.  However, we had a wonderful lunch at Corks Pub -- it had a great menu and were super accommodating to Serafina. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What I Miss...

Well, we have been in Spain a little over five months.  In late February 2016, we left our home in Seattle and flew many miles to Spain.  It was a very rough first few weeks -- an extremely jet lagged toddler, living in a hotel, not knowing the language, missing family and friends and more.  However, I have come to love our new home and country and I am so very happy that we made this huge leap to move here.

And while I love Spain, there are still many things I miss about the states, so I thought I'd take the time to write down the five things I miss about the states (not including friends and family because those are obvious).  These are in no particular order except the first one... That is definitely my #1 miss -- again besides friends and family!

1) Target
Oh Target, how I love thee... and how I miss thee.  The amazingness that is Target just cannot be recreated.  Spain has stores like Target but it is not the same; nothing can compare to Target.  And sadly, this is pretty much what all of my new friends in Spain miss.  And before you tell me that there is always ordering online, Target is very weird about what they will and will not ship to us here in Spain* and ordering online just doesn't quite cut it!  So I am pretty sure the first place I will go whenever we head back to the states to visit will be Target!

2) Local Coffee Shops
Even though I am from Seattle, I prefer my coffee from my local coffee shops.  I desperately miss a true grande iced vanilla latte.  I can easily get a small espresso or drip coffee at a cafe here in Spain, but take away doesn't really exist and well, sitting and drinking a coffee doesn't really work with an active toddler.  And I don't want just coffee, I want an iced vanilla latte preferably from a drive-thru!  And if I was going to get real picky -- it would be from Caffe Ladro in Seattle or Latte On Your Way in Poulsbo.

3) Eating Dinner at an American Time
There are hardly any Spanish restaurants that serve dinner at a time that works for our family.  Remember everything in Spain is done at about 3 hours later than stuff in the states; dinner isn't eaten until after 9:00 at night (refresh your memory with this post about the Spanish daily schedule).  While we don't go out to dinner a lot, sometimes it is nice to go out on the weekends... Until you remember that no place is serving food at the time that works to go out to dinner (for our family).  While we have gotten fairly used to the Spanish schedule, there are still times when it can be frustrating.

4) The Rain
Now this may seem silly to most, but I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest.  I love the rain (not like rain everyday all day rain, but the spitting rain that often happens in Seattle).  I also love that the rain makes everything insanely green and gorgeous (Seattle is call the Evergreen State for a reason).  At our house in the states, we had unbelievable views of the Olympic Mountains.  When I worked in Seattle, I had insane views on my drive to work -- looking out over the Puget Sound and the city.  I miss those views.  The weather here in Southern Spain is much more tropical than I am used to -- air conditioning as become my best friend!  But whenever I need a PNW fix -- I always stalk my good buddy Andrea (check out her blog and Instagram to see her gorgeous pictures of the area I used to call home).

5) The Convenience of Amazon Prime
So without Target or stores where I know I can go to get items we need/want -- Amazon has become our go to.  We have been prime members for years (I don't understand how people are still not prime members but that's a whole other issue!) and I absolutely love the next day delivery -- pretty much a new mom's best friend in my opinion.  We use Amazon ALL.THE.TIME but the next day delivery doesn't exist -- things take about a week to get here.  So when you absolutely need something, like a new baby monitor that your toddler broke, you either have to find one in Spain (which for products like this is often a lot more expensive) or order online and wait a week.  It sucks, but we are pretty used to it by now (still doesn't mean I don't get a little upset when I have to wait a week for things we need).

Now, even though I miss these things about the states, most are very trivial and I do love the way of life here in Spain.  Everything is slower, more family oriented.  I love that whole families have lunch together daily and that they all go to the beach on the weekends and that they actually take vacation.  I love that children are celebrated and loved and expected to be heard.  Everywhere we go, Serafina is the star of the show -- everyone (even other kids) stop to talk to her, give her a hug or tell us how beautiful she is.  Almost everyone we have met in Spain is so nice and loves life -- I love it!  I love that we can hope in the car and go explore various cities within an hour of us that are so very different from the next town over.  I also love that we get to experience and immerse ourselves into a culture so very different from the one Trevor and I grew up in and I love that Serafina will be a world traveler (and hopefully fluent in Spanish) before the age of five!

And a picture of our Peanut enjoying a Sunday afternoon at the beach (and in true Spanish fashion, only wearing the bottoms of her swim suit)

*So everyone stationed overseas has an FPO/APO address which is essentially like a PO Box.  Therefore you can ship stuff to us for the same price as shipping something within the US -- however, our packages still have to pass through Spanish customs so many items will not ship here and many companies only ship limited items to FPO/APO addresses.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Spanish Life {Grocery Shopping}

One of my most favorite things to do in other countries is go to the grocery store.  I feel like you can truly get a taste of the country culture by visiting the grocery store -- I love wandering the aisles and seeing the various products.  Plus it is always fun to try new things, especially sweets!

Grocery shopping in Europe is very different than in the states and Spain is no exception.  Yet even in Europe, each country seems to be different.  It is definitely a place where you to need to slow down and observe what others are doing in order to figure out the ins and outs of grocery shopping.  I was lucky enough that our friends took me to the grocery store the first time and showed me the ropes (so when I went by myself I didn't look like a total idiot).

Yet another note regarding pictures -- this post contains limited pictures because well, it is hard to get pictures in the grocery store when you are trying to be discrete!  As I am able to take pictures, I'll update this post!  In the mean time, use your imagination :)

You pay for shopping carts in Europe, including Spain.  You put in a euro coin into a slot on the handle of the cart get the cart (all carts are locked together) and when you are finished you return the cart and get your coin back.  Don't return the cart, don't get your coin.  Carts are always returned and never left in the parking lot.  Genius, I am telling you.  You can also get a hand cart that you can carry (just like in the states) or roll it behind you -- again, genius.  I have also noticed that most of the carts do not have straps for the child seats, so grocery shopping with Serafina is only possible if I use our stroller and then the poor thing is surrounded by groceries!*

Everything is laid out similar to stores in the states, like products are grouped together.  And stores here also have small sections of beauty products, cleaning products, paper products, etc.  So in general, it looks very much like a grocery store in the states.  Products are all slightly different that the states -- in the local grocery stores it is all Spanish products, nothing seems to be imported.  In the bigger stores, you can usually find items from other countries, mostly from around Europe and occasionally a small American section.  I typically buy all of our perishable items -- fruits, vegetables, diary, eggs, meats -- from the Spanish stores.  I then buy our dry goods and pantry staples from the commissary.  As I find more products that I like (and are comparable to what we used in the states), I find myself shopping more and more in the Spanish stores.  However, there are a few things that I will always buy from the commissary -- toilet paper, cleaning products and paper towels.  Paper products just seem to be better from the states (even the Spanish will say this).

The first difference you'll notice is that pretty much all of the milk is not refrigerated.  You can buy one kind of milk that is refrigerated and for our everyday milk, this is what we use (and it tastes great).  When we travel we buy the small boxed cartons for Serafina -- they taste like normal milk and don't have to be refrigerated; it's perfect for traveling!  The second difference is that eggs also aren't refrigerated, but they taste way better than the ones in the states (my opinion).

Each store has a bakery (but they really only do fresh bread and a few pastries), a butcher and a fresh fresh/seafood area.  Remember, while you can get just about any seafood item you'd ever want... you also don't just get a fillet of fish, but the whole fish!  The butcher and fish market are similar to that in higher end stores (like Whole Foods) but every store has them, no matter how small.  You can also buy jamón (Spanish ham) -- get a few slices or the whole leg (hoof included).  I am not a big fish eater, so I haven't gotten any fish at the store and I tend to stick which pre-packaged meat because of my limited Spanish, but so far it has been delicious.

Another big difference is in the fruit/vegetable section.  You need to grab a plastic bag for any item you are getting.  And then you need a plastic glove because you don't pick up the fruits/vegetables with your hands.  I typically just use the plastic bag and just turn it inside out rather than get a plastic glove.  Once you have fruit/vegetable -- you have to weigh it and get a price sticker.  This is a wonderful way to learn a whole bunch of Spanish words!  And also one of the craziest parts of the grocery store (the fish market area is usually crazy too) because everyone is grabbing, weighing and pricing their own fruits/vegetables.  I typically grab all the stuff I need and then go to the weigh machine which is touch screen!  And let me just say that these fruits and vegetables are amazing -- rich in color and flavor, fresh, and often bigger than what you'd see in the states (I swear, I buy one bell pepper and it is the same size as 2-3 peppers in the states).

Check out is also very different from the states -- mainly because you bag your own groceries.  You also need to bring your own bags.  If you forget, or need a bag, you will pay for a plastic bag (its thick and recyclable) -- no paper bags here.  You pack your own bags (which is pretty standard is Europe) and you have gotta be fast because they don't always wait for you to finish before ringing up the next person!  I have figured out a system -- I unload my stuff onto the conveyor belt thing with the products I want on the bottom of my bag first so I can bag everything faster.  Plus I often just shove stuff in the carriage compartment of our stroller which works great too!

So -- how do prices compare?  Spanish grocery stores are much cheaper than the commissary or American grocery stores.  Again, almost everything is grown here in Spain with little to none outside products, all of the fruits and vegetables are products of Spain which helps keeps prices down.  The products that aren't Spanish are more expensive.  Often the products are in smaller containers (for example -- I get liters of milk rather than gallons) so I tend to buy more each week than in the states.  So because I (like most Americans here) do a combination of shopping out in the Spanish stores and at the commissary, our grocery bills are fairly similar to that of when we lived in the states.

I love going to the grocery store!  It's a fun place to learn some more Spanish and often run into people I know.

*It is currently too hot to wear Serafina to/in the grocery store.  And very few people babywear in Spain (it is really only Americans) so I tend to either go without her or use the stroller -- helps me blend in a little bit better!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Spanish Life {Our House}

Finally -- a tour of our house -- with pictures!

Going into the house hunting we didn't really know what to expect, but we knew we wanted to be in Rota -- closer to the base, I spent 6 weeks getting to know the whole town while living in the hotel, we had made friends in Rota, we fell in love with the community.  We had a few house wants -- we did not really care to have a yard.  I know this seems weird, but with all the bugs a yard produces, the maintenance and the beach so close, it just wasn't on our wish list.  We did want a dedicated guest room so that we always had a space for people to stay.  We wanted at least three other bedrooms in case we decide to have a second baby while here.  I felt like we were picky, but also reasonable with our house hunting.  We looked at about ten houses and finally settled on our home!

We are located in the newer part of town, but still just a 15 minute walk to the old town (and about 7 minutes to the beach).  We live extremely close to the grocery store and I always walk -- it would take me longer to drive and park than to walk!  We live in a quiet area with Spanish neighbors on either side of us (I think we are only 1 of 3 American families on our street).  We actually live on the same street as three of Trevor's Spanish co-workers which is very fun -- we see them a lot and it makes it feel like we truly live and belong here!

Our house is much larger than what you would expect to find in a European city -- but remember, we are in a small town, space is easily available and the town caters very well to Americans.  We could easily have found an apartment in the old part of town or down by the beach, but that wasn't what we wanted.  We also live in a townhome, but not like anything you'd see in the states.  We share one wall and hardly ever hear our neighbors and our patio is connected to the houses next to and behind us -- this is a very common set up in Rota.  While I would have preferred to live in a stand alone house, I am perfectly happy in our townhouse (four stories and all)!

HUGE note -- our house is NEVER this clean, but it had just been cleaned so I took advantage and took pictures!  I purposely didn't take "stylish" pictures because I wanted to give you all the perspective of our space.  Sometimes those stylish pictures, while pretty, don't always show the true space.  I also didn't take pictures of every room because that would be boring -- just a few to show you what things are like here in Spain.

So while our house is much larger than anything we had in the states, it is also very Spanish.  We have 6 foot walls around our patio/house with a gate where you have to be buzzed in and bars on all of our first floor windows -- this is how every single house is here -- for privacy and safety (but Rota has a very low crime rate and I've never felt unsafe).

our gate & walls

All of our windows have persianas which are essentially black out shutters on the outside of the windows.  They are used primarily to keep the house/rooms cool during the midday heat and it sure helps -- and also keeps the rooms very dark in the morning when the Spanish are still sleeping but the sun is up....  Or very dark for us Americans in the evening when we are sleeping but the sun is still out!
a little peek-a-boo from our Peanut

There is no such thing as open concept so each room is closed off and separate from each other.  It took some getting used to, but it works -- most of our rooms (except our basement, bathrooms, and kitchen) have their own air unit so we can really cool down or heat up one room.  Everything is tile.  It gets so hot in the summer that the tile keeps everything cool.  It also keeps things cool in the winter too, but that is when we turn on the heat!

our living room is large so we have half living room (with some toys) and half dining room

Our kitchen and bedrooms are a little larger than most houses (both selling points for us) -- I was very happy when all of our large, American furniture fit in the bedrooms!

Allmof our bathrooms have a bidet which Serafina just loves to play with (she will say NO then turn it on -- oh toddlers!).

We have a very large basement (basements are common because they are so cool in the summers) but ours is abnormally large.  We've made one area a storage room while the rest of the basement is Serafina's playroom and a TV area -- one day we will organize the storage area better, one day!

yes, we have a bar in our basement (with an extra fridge!)

We don't have a garage (I had wanted one, but oh well) and our "yard" is a small(ish) U-shaped patio that includes our carport.  I am very lucky and have a small room off the kitchen that acts as our pantry/laundry room -- most Spanish houses don't have a laundry room.  This was a huge selling point for me.

You'll notice that we don't have a lot of pictures/decorations up -- we have decided to not hang a lot of our stuff from the states and instead find new things for our house on our travels!  We've already picked up a small rug from Morocco :)

So there you have it -- we love our house and are very happy with our choice.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Weekend Adventure {Algarve Region, Portugal}

Over the long 4th of July weekend, we decided last minute to take a trip to southern Portugal.  We had heard wonderful things about the Algarve region on Portugal -- it's about a four hour drive so a perfect weekend getaway spot.

Oh man -- this area is simply gorgeous.  How has it taken me this long to get my behind to Portugal?!  Trevor and I were both shocked how different Spain and Portugal were despite being right next to each other.  Obviously the language is different, Portugal is in a different time zone (again with the time zone issue -- refresh your memory here), only public businesses are closed on Sundays -- other stores, grocery stores, restaurants are all open, the food and flavorings are amazing....  Even more shocking was the amount of English (mostly British or Australian English) we heard.  Southern Portugal is a huge vacation spot for many Europeans and it was obvious -- everyone spoke English, it was bustling with people and there are many hotels, resorts and more catering to all the tourists.

We stayed at a hotel in Lagos -- I loved Lagos but would pick a different hotel.  And not because it was a bad hotel, we would just pick one that is slightly more child friendly.  While they did have a crib we could use for Serafina and a kid's pool, we never saw any other kids at the hotel and when we did take Serafina to the pool, it was dead silent despite being packed with people sunbathing.  So if you are going to Lagos without kids -- then stay at the Tivoli Lagos!  Otherwise, I will gladly take suggestions for places to stay that are actually child friendly.

Lagos is a beach and tourist town through and through (along with the majority of towns in the Algarve region).  There are massive amounts of water sport activities to do, as well as shopping and sunbathing, but very few tourist attractions that don't involve the beach/water!  We did take Serafina to the pool one afternoon, but it was difficult to find activities for toddlers.  Don't let this discourage you from going -- just be forewarned.  If you have older children there seemed to be plenty of activities to chose from -- ZoomarineAqualand, full-day boat trips and more.

But with all that said, we still had a wonderful weekend.  We arrived on Saturday afternoon, got checked in at our hotel and just walked around the small old town.  Lagos' old town has shops, restaurants and plenty of bars -- we ate at Nah Nah Bah which is a burger place that is home of the Toucan Burger winner of the Top 50 Burgers in the World.  I actually wasn't that big a fan of the burger but the fries, oh man they were amazing.  They are like soft potato chips dipped in garlic sauce -- it sounds gross but I will go back for those fries.

The next day we went on a boat tour of the grottoes -- most of southern Portugal is on cliffs which creates amazing views from the water, various grottoes along the coast and secluded beaches only accessible by boat (or an insane amount of stairs). We only took an hour tour because of Serafina (she hated her life jacket and lucky fell asleep about 10 minutes into the ride) but we loved seeing the gorgeous coastline -- we saw the famous Dona Ana Beach (rated top in the world) from the water and it was stunning.  If we went back without our Peanut, I would for sure take a kayak trip or a longer boat tour.  We went with Days of Adventure tours and loved our skipper!  Most tour companies offer similar experiences at similar prices but I would definitely recommend Days of Adventure.

Dona Ana Beach

this beach had over 250 stairs to get down to the beach

We spent some time at our hotel pool where Serafina only wanted to run straight to the big pool, so we packed up and headed up the coast to Sagres, Portugal -- the former end of the world.  Sagres is now a backpacker and surfers' paradise and again, so incredibly gorgeous.  We drove out to the Cabo São Vincente lighthouse which is the most westerly point in mainland Europe.  I am not even going to describe the views because they were unreal; I will let the pictures do the talking -- but know that it is shear drop offs on either side straight to water with no railings so definitely not a place to let kiddos run around.

On Sunday night we ate at Bora Cafe -- it was a combination juice bar, actual bar and restaurant and it was amazing.  We ordered a few appetizers (so good) but the highlight were our milkshakes.  They weren't like milkshakes you'd get in the states -- it was made with fresh frozen fruit and milk, so like a frothy thicker milk with intense fruit flavor.  That doesn't make sense at all but it was heavenly.  And Serafina devoured half of pizza -- we will be back to this place!

And then it was Monday and our time in Portugal was ending.  On our way home we stopped in Albufeira -- another beach/tourist down in the Algarve region and another gorgeous spot to visit.  Albuferia tends to have bigger hotels and resorts with a lot of beach activities -- the main beaches in town had lots of activities: jet skiing, a floating obstacle course type thing (it looked fun), beach volleyball and more.  We ate amazing Portuguese pastries while wandering through town -- the pastel de nata which is like a mini custard pie that isn't overly sweet but so delicious and also a doughnut type thing filled with the same egg custard used in the pastel de nata.  Trevor and I were immediately reminded of malasadas from Hawaii (which are Portuguese doughnuts).  We should've bought a dozen of each and brought them back home!

Portugal was wonderful and we can't wait to go back!

I forgot to mention that driving to (and in) Portugal can be tricky because of ALL THE TOLLS -- I swear there is literally a toll every kilometer and there are no toll booths, it is all done electronically.  So for us, when we cross the boarder there is an exit immediately after the boarder (super easy to miss) where you can drive through a toll booth type place that swipes your credit card while using cameras to attach your card to your card license plate.  This will then allow you to drive through all the tolls, no problems.

I recently took a girls trip back to Portugal with the sole purpose of buying pottery and wine (two things that are amazing in Portugal).  We chose to stay in between Lagos and Albufeira at a resort and we loved it.  We stayed at a villa at VidaMar and it was amazing and so freaking huge -- we had two bedrooms, two full baths, a full-sized kitchen and our own small private swimming pool.  We had NO idea that we would be living large when we booked the place, and since it was off season it was so incredibly cheap!  The resort was right on the beach and had a wonderful spa (that we took full advantage of) -- and it was just fantastic.  The only downside was that it was far away from any town, restaurants or nightlife and sadly the food we ate on the resort property was pretty bad.  But because there was a full sized kitchen we were able to make food and then drive into Albufeira one night for dinner.  While our villa was amazing, it wasn't the most toddler friendly place -- glass railings, easy access to the pool...  So this is a place for couples or families with older kiddos, but we still loved it and I definitely recommend going during off season!  

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