This summer we were lucky enough to have so many people I love come visit us, both in Spain and here in Shenzhen (which will be in another post). Our first visitors were the Sanders family who traveled from Hungary to Barcelona to spend a week with us.
They arrived quite late on a Wednesday night, and it was the greatest feeling when they pulled up and poured out of the car. We traded hugs and the kids quickly jumped into the pool and had a night swim while their parents caught up over wine and cheese. We stayed up way too late, but it was so wonderful to be in their company again. Their son Caleb even provided music on the guitar. My heart was glowing.
The next few days were simple summer bliss. Jess and I laid by the pool while the kids swam and Donnie and JC kept busy cooking and chatting by the BBQ. It was a little difficult to transport ourselves to other locations because JC and Caleb were gone a good portion of the day for Caleb’s SCUBA certification. It didn’t really matter. We had a great time just relaxing, cooking, eating and drinking. We did go out to a nearby restaurant a few times and made our way to the beach for some evening fun.
Donnie had to leave for training in Seattle, so we made the trip into the mountains for a winery tour (see previous post, Spanish Wineries for details). The following day, JC and Caleb took the boys snorkelling at a local beach. Too soon our time with the Sanders was over. JC and Caleb left early to catch their flight and return the car and Jess and I had a leisurely morning and let the kids swim together one last time. Paul and I escorted them to the airport and it was a quick, but heartfelt goodbye. I hope we are reunited again soon.
A few days after the Sanders family left, Donnie and our next summer visitors arrived! Andie and Ben had spent a few days in Barcelona before taking the train to see us in our little beach town. We got straight to the relaxing, spending that afternoon in the pool and soaking up the sun. Andie and Ben were pretty chill, so we planned a beach day, and a trip to a cava winery. The beach day was awesome, we got there early and put down a tarp, tent and had plenty of towels and coolers of food and drink. We took turns taking Paul out in the waves and snorkelling in the shallow waters. We were out there for a long time, and while taking a break at the beach bar, Paul lost one of his front teeth! It was a little bit traumatic for him, so shortly after that we packed up and headed home. We were now officially on Spanish time, so we took naps and then stayed up late to make dinner and eat.
The wine tour turned out to be on their last day (for details see the post Spanish Wineries), so on one of the down days, I took Andie and Ben on a walking tour around a beautiful little medieval city called Tortosa about 30 minutes away. It was hot, but the city was gorgeous. The winding streets and Templar castle were straight out of a movie. We stopped in a sandwich shop and had some traditional ham and cheese baguettes and donuts for lunch! I think they enjoyed themselves as much as I did.
It seemed like just a blink of an eye that Andie and Ben were with us and suddenly I was hugging them goodbye at the train station. I love that my sister and brother-in-law come to visit us all over the world. They’ve met us in Hungary, Vienna, Thailand, Spain and in the coming months TX and then Shenzhen! We are also dreaming of meeting up in Greece next summer, but we haven’t made any solid plans yet. They are such easy and adventurous travellers, and such a pleasure to be in their company in so many beautiful places.
Our time in Spain was nearly over, so we planned a few more cultural activities since we had spent so much time relaxing. On one of the final days, we went back to Tortosa for their famous Ren Fair. It was so amazing. Everyone was dressed up, the food stalls were set up selling traditional food, there were street musicians and marching soldiers. There was even a man wandering around with a gaggle of geese! We wandered around looking at the wares and taking in the sights. Paul got a wooden sword, but was too embarrassed to wear it, so I bought a headband of flowers to wear with him. We had some food and Paul rode a ride with swings that was powered by a man on a bicycle. It was a really fun outing. We made it home tired, but happy.
Our final day trip was to a small city called Peñiscola. Donnie had planned it out by researching it online. The city was a popular location for filming movies and shows, including an episode of Game of Thrones. It had a large clear blue beach right along side one of the most picturesque Templar castles I’d ever seen. We arrived in late afternoon and walked up to the castle to wander and learn about all of the various rooms. The views were spectacular! Afterwards we walked over to a local brewery, which was very small with limited selections. After a few of their pilsners, and chatting about how someday it would be awesome to open a brewery in Spain, we made our way for an evening at the beach. It was crowded, but Paul was happy to play in the waves and sand. We got home late, made dinner and prepped for our last day at the house. (Sorry for all the pics of Peñiscola, it was too beautiful not to document everything!)
We woke up early the next day planning out our final day at the house, but were surprised by a knock at the door at 9:45am. Turns out that when we had booked the house, we had planned on spending our last night in Barcelona. We had totally forgotten this, which meant that we were in no way ready to leave the house. The woman graciously gave us an hour to vacate, so we jumped into action cleaning and packing. Poor Paul had no idea what was happening. Our relaxing final day had turned into a scramble. We managed to get a room at a Hilton in Barcelona using points, so we went and spent the day hanging out at the hotel. We went shopping, enjoyed our last cava wines at the lounge and repacked our stuff for our travel the next day. We never really recovered from the stress of a sudden change of pace, so it was a bummer to leave such a relaxing summer on such a strained note.
Our summer in Spain was over, and we boarded our flight to Moscow in the morning. Unfortunately, it was a little bit delayed, which meant we barely made our connection to Hong Kong. Our bags were not so lucky, they came 4 days later. It was back to reality, which was Donnie going to work and me and Amy working to unpack and set up our new apartment for our next summer visitor…more on that in the next post.
If you are looking for a place to relax for the summer, I cannot say enough about how wonderful Spain was. The temperatures were warm, but not too hot. The beaches were a little crowded but never too full. The food, wine and daily needs were inexpensive and so delicious. I highly recommend everyone visit the Costa Durada.
Much love to all, j.