A skip and a hop … to Europe

In case you missed us the last few weeks, we were too busy eating every delicious meal we could find in Portugal and Spain (and also in France, but more on that another time).

Yes, indeed it was time for a much needed R&R – away from the craziness and cold of Mongolia so we hopped over to Portugal for the first leg of our trip where we met up with Oma.

Sporting the Aeroflot hat - is she rocking it or what?
Sporting the Aeroflot hat – is she rocking it or what?

And yes, while the weather didn’t fully cooperate – it was thankfully warmer than in Mongolia but also a lot wetter with the imminent dark blue looming sky waiting – just waiting – to soak us, which it often did, we didn’t forget to pack in some fun. Fine, so we did have  bickering children who made me long for much more wine from all that whining (“are we there yet?” “Luca/Juliana is on MY side of the car!” and my all time favourite that makes me want to crawl out of my skin “it’s just so not fair….”), that didn’t bring us down (especially since the local wine was within reach!).

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So.Freaking.Good....
So.Freaking.Good….

We spent our days exploring new towns, figuring out where exactly to park, taking in more castles than you can count on one hand …. and – oh yeah – eating lots of seafood.

blog72And on our final day together, we risked heading to the beach where it did not rain (all that much) but where the Atlantic was still a bit chilly (and by that I mean freezing). But that has yet to stop my children from  getting completely soaked.

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After Oma headed back home (wherever that is these days), we drove up to Porto where John indulged in lots of port.

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I am not sure why, but somehow, going wine tasting with kids is a bit … different these days.

From Porto we took the train to the Spanish town of Vigo and then made our way to the Unesco heritage site “Las Medulas.” We really didn’t know what to expect and honestly more or less stopped there because we needed to break up the drive to the Spanish Basque region.

blog75We were really pleasantly surprised by the little town and hiked for a few hours around the ancient Roman gold mines to learn how Romans found gold in those mountains. It was really quite impressive.

Then, we made our way to Basque country where Luca added to his Schleich animal collection on an almost daily basis and John upped his hat collection (sadly he could not pull the Basque hat off – we all cracked up laughing when he put it on but check out his awesome find!).

blog76-002We also made it our mission to teach the kids how to eat ice cream without spilling it all over themselves. Thanks to our almost daily regimen, they figured it out by the time we arrived in France.

blog71After exploring the fun Basque region where the language turned out to be a league of its own (also not helping was the fact that I spoke a mix of Brazilian Portuguese with the odd random Mongolian word thrown in every now and then….brains are weird how they process language), it was time for us to hit the ultimate beautiful city of Barcelona.

blog77Barcelona had been on my bucket list for years and when we lived in Austria, John and I contemplated escaping there for a long weekend but for some reason that never happened. It made more sense to go there now that we are living in Asia.

But – OMG – what an amazing and fun city! And no, we were certainly not alone – groups of tourists from all over the world roamed the streets but between the architecture, the beach, the shopping, the paella …. I didn’t mind it… at all.

Since the sights are so spread out, we hopped on one of those hop on/off tours to ease the walking for the kids. It turns out when you give them a map of a new city and a set of headphones to listen to a recording of what the city has to offer, kids can suddenly listen very well. So much in fact that they realised in all of 3 minutes that there was an aquarium and yes, Mom, it’s open EVERY day of the year.

And that’s how we ended up at the aquarium. Not that it was on our list of places to go but when your kids collaborate and can find it on the map of a new city and more or less direct us there, then they win a visit to an aquarium. So what if John and I (each with a kid) got separated by the crowds and one of us *may* have gotten completely turned around and disoriented but not without securing major discounts to the aquarium when she (or he?) asked a waiter at a near-by restaurant for directions. Perhaps surprisingly, the aquarium was well worth the trip and everyone had a great time. 

Fun at the aquarium feeding the koi ... and cuddling with their latest cuddly friends.
Fun at the aquarium feeding the koi … and cuddling with their newest cuddly friends.

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After 2 hot days exploring Barcelona where the kids learned the lost art of glass blowing and where we just had to purchase a fan to cool Juliana off, we explored a mountain monastery before we headed to our final stop of our trip – Paris. Sure, it’s the city of lights or love for some – for us, it’s the city of good friends – but more on that another time (still getting over the latest round of “see you soon” – the hardships of expat lives).

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