As many of you will know we have just returned from a wonderful 9 days in Spain visiting my grandparents who have lived over there for 18 years. It was the first time we have taken all 3 kids abroad. Cody has never flown before and the girls haven’t flown since they were toddlers. Not all was perfect as you may have read in my previous post The reality of travelling with kids but overall it was fab.
Lois was incredibly nervous about getting her passport and going on a plane. I was worried sick she was going to have a complete meltdown when we boarded the plane. Thankfully the exciting build up to the trip took over though and she was absolutely fine. Instead it was Lilian who suddenly started to panic just before take off! Cody was Mr Cool as always. He was so laid back about the whole thing you would think he’d been flying for years! I used all the helpful advise I’d gathered from other bloggers for my post on How To Survive Long Journeys With Kids to prepare. I packed a backpack with colouring books, sticker books, snack pots and activity cards to keep everyone entertained. They worked a treat and everyone was able to relax and enjoy the flight.
We had decided to hire a 7 seat car for my Grandad to drive us all in as I wasn’t keen on the idea of driving abroad. We booked it all online with Firefly through the holiday autos website and thought everything was arranged. On arrival though we were charged an extra €174. We still aren’t clear what the extra charges were for but since returning I have discovered this is very common when hiring a car abroad. Be prepared to fork out extra when you pick your car up if you do hire one.
Staying at my Grandparents house was great. They have a lovely 3 bedroom villa in a small urbanisation. All the neighbours are Spanish. Its a far cry from the areas a lot of ex-pats move to and we love it. They have a fab swimming pool in the back garden which was the highlight of the kids holiday. They spent hours in there late into the evening. In the village there is also a park and petanca area so we also spent several evenings there playing once it had cooled down.
As well as time in the village and at home we had some great days out as well. One of the most beautiful places I have visited is Miravet. We particularly love the platform ferry to cross the river. It is such a tranquil place with its stunning views. We brought both the girls here when they were toddlers so it was lovely to re-visit now they are older. While we were sat in the village square a man came along on a little moped selling boxes of cherries picked fresh from the mountains. We had to have some! They were delicious. There is also a lovely restaurant with a typical Catalan ‘menu del dia’ which changes on a daily basis. The food was delicious and even the kids enjoyed it.
I think the highlight of the entire holiday for all of us was our trip to the Delta De L’Ebre. We drove past miles and miles of paddy fields to get there which took us completely by surprise. I had never expected to find paddy fields in Spain. We took a fabulous boat trip up the river to a lookout tower where we could see right across the nature reserve and over to the coast. It was absolutely stunning. There were several gift shops with some lovely homewares as well as local produce from the paddy fields. Rice liqueur anyone?! We got to try some in one of the riverside restaurants and it tastes lovely. Reminded me of pina colada!
Another day out was spent in the mountain villages of Poblet and Prades. Poblet is home to a beautiful monastery which is well worth a look round. You do have to pay to go in and have a tour, which we decided not to do this time round due to the kids already being hungry. I have done it in the past though and it’s well worth it. We had a little wander round the courtyard and a drink from the water tap built into the stone wall. The water comes direct from a well deep within the mountain so it’s as fresh as you can get.
In the village of Prades we stopped to have an ice cream and a drink in the quiet public square. There is a large water fountain in front of the church. Once a year it’s filled with wine for a fiesta. It attracts thousands of people! They have many different fiestas throughout the year celebrating all sorts of things in Spain and I love this way of life. I definitely think its something we need to do more of in the UK.
Of course we had to finish off our holiday with a trip to our favourite restaurant – The Orient Express in Salou. The restaurant is a family run business which has been there for over 30 years. I have been going there since I was 7 years old!! Yolanda and Germán and their family are so welcoming and the extensive menu has something for everyone. I always have my favourites crab claws and patatas bravas (the best!). In fact I don’t even have to order them anymore. Yolanda just knows! The kids were happy as they were able to have their favourites too. Burger for Lilian and ‘cheesy pasta’ (carbonara) for Lois and Cody. There is a mixture of English, Italian and Spanish cuisine. I highly recommend you visit if you are in Salou any time!
Our holiday was fab and we are so grateful to my grandparents for putting up with us all. They have now headed down to southern Spain for a little holiday of their own to recover. Who can blame them!
Here’s to more family holidays exploring hidden treasures abroad!