Bavaria

Bavaria is an awe-inspiring region, from its incredibly beautiful lakes and castles to its medieval towns dotted with timber homes on cobblestoned streets . Our first stop after renting a car in Munich was Fussen. We stayed at Hartungs Hoteldorf, a beautiful hotel set on the lake in a nearby town. We arrived late but snuck in a nightcap at their Panaroma Bar before calling it a night. The next day was epic, starting off with a guided tour of the Hohenschwangau Castle. This was the residence of the Great King of Bavaria, Ludwig II and the tales of its past captivated both children. Next, we grabbed lunch and walked to the Marienbrucke bridge for an impressive view of the Neuschwanstein Castle and the waterfalls and lakes around it. Finally, it was our turn to enter the infamous Neuschwanstein Castle, which inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. It was easy to see the resemblance, and although the entire envisioned castle was never built due to the mysterious death of King Ludwig, it was absolutely magnificent. That evening, we enjoyed a sumptuous four-course meal at the hotel restaurant, and I tried cured deer for the first time; quite delicious.

The next day, we walked around the charming town of Fussen, the lech falls and then headed to the nearby forest adventure park for great views and cool play structures. After lunch, we drove the famous ‘Romantic Road’ to Rothenburg, stopping at Ausburg along the way. We strategically got to Rothenburg in the evening when the tour buses and crowds had left, which made for a particularly magical experience. We walked the quaint streets, dotted with colorful houses, and it felt as if we were in a fairytale. We dined at the main square while live music played. We experienced a small part of the night watchman tour before opting to venture out on our own to experience this charming town as the sun set. After capturing some great views, we returned to the hotel and enjoyed a bottle of wine after the kids are asleep.

We felt lucky to experience the sparse streets of Rothenburg early the next morning before the crowds set in, and had a chance to visit the museum to take in some of the city’s history. It was interesting to learn that several of London’s suburbs were inspired by this picturesque town. Next, we drove the rest of the ‘Romantic Road’ to Wurzburg where we toured the Residence grounds together before dropping Gaurav to the station to catch his flight back. We continued to stroll through the various sites, including the Marienkapelle and Fortress with sweeping views of the town. Finally, we enjoyed an amazing Italian meal by the river, before driving to Nuremberg for the evening.

Nuremberg, our base for the next three nights, was charming too with a very vast ‘Aldstatt’ or old town, comprised entirely of cobblestoned streets with no cars allowed. On the next day, we drove to Bamberg, another Bavarian town with canals, and were impressed by the rose garden adjacent to the palace, with impressive views of the town below. That evening, back in Nuremberg, we took a guided train tour of the town which gave us a solid dose of the town’s historical significance.

The next morning, we ventured to Playmobil Funpark in the outskirts of Nuremberg, a true treat for the kids. It was impressive to see how this park was designed to effectively avoid all the lines (and frustration) associated with major theme parks, but with (almost) all the fun. The kids had a bla from go-karting to peddle boats, to paddle rafting to countless play structures and bold slides – and I got to enjoy a pretty cool beer garden while I soaked it all in.

We kicked off the last day of the summer-long trip with a visit to the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg where we climbed to the top of the tower for some impressive view of the city. Next, we drove to Munich and hit the BMW museum where the kids learned about the history of BMW and it’s evolution including the vision for the future which included some impressive self driving cars. They also got to race virtually in a simulation experience that they both loved. After dropping the car off and checking in to the hotel, we headed straight to Hofbrauhaus, the infamous beer garden in Munich in memory of my father. It was arguably his favorite place in the world, and while it was too full for us to get a table, we enjoyed the live band and snagged a few pictures before settling in for an Italian dinner nearby. The service was incredible and we all already missed Italy! Last, we walked to Marienplatz to take in the activity, architecture and a last gelato before heading back to the hotel. This trip was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me with the kids at this precious age, and I will forever be grateful for having had the opportunity to do it! Back to SF tomorrow and the start of new beginnings soon.

Berlin

On our first morning in Berlin, we took the rather touristy boat cruise down the River Spree, followed by lunch at a restaurant that had an impressive kids play area. Ayaan and I played a game of foosball and then we all colored bottles of Pellegrino. That afternoon, we strolled through Museum Island and the Berlin cathedral, before heading back to the hotel to meet Gaurav, who was joining us at the end of a work trip. The kids were super excited to be reunited with their dad after nearly a month!

The next day, we walked through checkpoint Charlie, the topography of terror and the Berlin Wall, and Ayaan was particularly interested in hearing more about the history of the city and the wall.

The next morning, we wandered through Tiergarten enjoying some beer and pretzels at a cafe, before embarking on a row boat through a small lake in the park. Next, to escape the grueling heat that day, we decided to head to KaDeWe, a popular mall with a floor dedicated to fine dining restaurants. We selected the Japanese restaurant and enjoyed some high quality nigiri after a while. We visited the Berlin Wall memorial where we got the most “real” view of what a divided Germany might have felt like.

That evening, Gaurav and I had reservations at Restaurant Tim Raue, ranked 26th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. After an impressive meal, we took the talented sommelier’s recommendation for our next stop Holzmarkt 25, a casual open air bar overlooking the river. Our last stop was an EDM bar card Minimal bar where we imbibed a few cocktails before calling it a night. The rest of our time in Berlin included visiting the top of the TV tower for impressive views of the city, and paying respect to the holocaust memorial. I also took the kids to the Natural History museum where they saw the largest replica of a dinosaur ever and we watched an immersive experience on the solar system. Berlin is a city with so much history but for a first time visit, it’s hard not to get impacted by its horrific past.

Prague & Dresden

Prague is an interesting city, beautiful and charming, although it’s people weren’t necessarily the most welcoming to us. Our hotel, Augustine was a former monastery and had a quaint, old-world charm. Ariana was thrilled with the birthday cake that greeted her in the room! Our first stop was the Prague castle, and the churches, views and stately rooms were impressive. The kids particularly enjoyed the “golden lane” where they got to see various armored costumes and tools. That evening, we celebrated Ariana’s birthday at a Japanese restaurant near the old town.

The next morning, we took the tram (which the kids loved) to the Petrin lookout tower, which offered spectacular views of the city, castle, river and orange roofed houses across the city. The kids were thrilled to ride the nearby carousel. Next, we made our way to the old town and after a quick lunch, we joined a three-hour walking tour of the city. Our guide, Katerina did a fantastic job of helping us understand their history of the city, bohemian culture and King George’s empire. We learned about the significance of the astronomical clock, the town hall, the Jewish quarter and several stories about how Prague was impacted by the world war. The kids did remarkably well, walking and soaking in most of the tour (not unusual for them, they were the only kids on the tour). Tired from all the walking, we retired early after a dinner of doner kebabs at a nearby stall.

On our last day in Prague, we walked the Charles bridge, soaking in the musicians, artists, sculptures and views of the river below. We decided to take the Prague Venice boat tour and the kids were pleased with the lemonade and ice cream offered aboard. The tour itself was quite interesting due to the audio guide and we got a view of some of the cities epic sights from the banks of the river. After lunch close to the old town square, we were strolling back to the hotel when we came across a “world tour” basketball tournament, likely for high schoolers representing their countries from the world over. The kids were entralled by their first live experience of basketball, and at their insistence, we watched three games!! I marveled at how these unplanned, serendipitous experiences always turned out to be some of the very best. That evening, we explored the Kampa neighborhood where the children played along the banks of the river while I enjoyed Prosecco and music on a lounge chair. We enjoyed a steak dinner at a restaurant along the river before retreating to the hotel.

The next morning, we ate a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and following a soaking bath (what??), we boarded the train to Dresden. Since it was close to lunch time, we decided to sit in the restaurant car which brought back many memories for me of train trips around Germany as a teenager with my dad. The kids wrote stories of their travels in their journals, and we enjoyed lunch on our journey to Dresden.

Dresden was a pleasantly charming city that exceeded my expectations, with a large, lively square with live music (accompanied later by dancing), beautiful fountains, churches, palaces and bustling restaurants alongside the river. We visited a church, and took the larger Ferris wheel to enjoy aerial views of this city along the river.

The next morning, we rented a car and drove to the Konigstein Fortress. We took a mini train up to the top, and were extremely impressed as we learned that the fortress complex comprised a mini town rather than just one structure. It had multiple interactive experiences, several of which were geared especially for kids. The experiences were a mix of history, games, and puzzles and the views overlooking Saxon Switzerland were unparalleled. We were disappointed to learn that the national park was closed due to forest fires and we couldn’t visit the Bastei bridge but the incredible experience at Konigstein definitely made the stop in the Dresden area well worth it!

Dolomites

After a long car ride, we started approaching the stunning Dolomite mountains, which were met by “ooohs” and “aaahs” by all of us. Our first stop was the cable car up to Alpi di Suizi, Europe’s largest meadow with the backdrop of jaw-dropping mountains, and it did not disappoint. A few ice creams (for the kids) and glasses of Prosecco (for me) later, we enjoyed the hike through the meadows, admiring the cows and the sound of their bells along the way. Next, we drove to Lago di Carezza, a stunning emerald lake where we hiked the easy loop trail. That evening, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at our hotel, Hubertustube near the town of Ortesei. Looking at the attire, hearing the language and reading the signs over a glass of Sangiovese, I marveled at how this mountain town felt much more like Germany than Italy.

The next morning, we took the cable car up to the Seceda mountains, another stunning sight where we hiked a few trails and the kids were thrilled to find a playground and rock climbing wall. The wonderful host at our hotel also shared tickets to an adventure park where the three of us rode the fly-line, a zig zag loop with us suspended by rope, down the mountain. We also zip-lined through the trees, the kids first real zip lining experience and we all had a blast! That evening, we strolled around the charming town of Ortisei, stopping at churches and playgrounds along the way. When we returned to our hotel, Ayaan and Nani enjoyed a game of ping pong followed by ayaan and me in a game of foosball, which I won by one point 😀. Ariana and I then befriended all the farm animals and Vera, the daughter of our host also let her ride the pony!

We drove the stunning Gardena pass to the town of Cortina d’ampezza , admiring the majestic mountain range along all sides of the route. We then headed to Lago di Braies, a stunning lake with row boats against the backdrop of the alps. The kids and I also hiked to Lake Misurina and enjoyed the playground overlooking the lake, where people admired Ariana’s strength and perseverance on the monkey bars just like they do back home!

On our last day, we took the bus to Tre Crim for the epic hike to the three mountain peaks. While the heat got in the way of the kid’s motivation to complete the entire 10km loop, we still got to take in some incredible views, before returning to the mountain-top restaurant for lunch. Once we returned to town, we stopped at Lake Misurina for the kids to play in the playground and ziplines again. That evening, we celebrated Ariana’s birthday before Nani returned to India. Nani has bought her a beautiful unicorn necklace and pendant, a tiara and a birthday sash which she adorned throughout the celebratory dinner and cake at a nearby patisserie.

Lake Garda

Lake Garda was special, I knew it from the moment we arrived, and I know that I will definitely return for a longer stay! From its amazingly warm waters to its thermal spas, Bardolino vineyards, stunning views, and a plethora of activities for kids, it is just paradise, and I couldn’t get myself to leave. When we arrived, we were all a little beach-starved so we put our bags in our room and headed straight for a dip in the lake. The warm water was so inviting and Ariana and I stayed for a long time, alternating between swimming and lounging. Ok, mostly lounging :). After a shower, we strolled down the lake trail a short 5 minutes, and the kids discovered a large trampoline to play in, while I sipped on a glass of Prosecco, each of us admiring the beauty of the lake in our own way. We then dined at a casual lakeside trattoria and enjoyed the stunning sunset on our walk back to the hotel.

The next morning, we set off to take in the awe inspiring views from the fortress in Sirmione, the town where we were located. Next up, I had tickets to the Legoland waterpark (and Gardaland the next day) to celebrate Ariana’s 6th birthday. She had a blast, as she was allowed on much more adventurous water slides than the Atlantis had afforded her.

The next day, we relaxed at Aquaria, a thermal spa with a wide range of heated pools with mineral water. After a lakeside lunch at our hotel, we headed headed to Gardaland and enjoyed a myriad of shows, roller coasters and other rides, the highlight being the Jumanji ride, the special effects of which both kids thoroughly enjoyed!

On our (begrudgingly) last day in Lake Garda, Ayaan convinced us (it didn’t take much) to rent a boat, to enjoy another round of #bestdayever, and it didn’t disappoint. We cruised through the clear waters admiring castles and fortresses along the way, and took a few plunges in the lake. We indulged in another round of the dance off, and then after returning the boat, drove along the lake to Malcesine, in the northern part of the lake. We boarded the cable car up to a stunning view of the lake, and enjoyed an affagato as we took in the sweeping views. Lake Garda beat all expectations and is definitely on my return list!

Cooking in Umbria!

On July 12th, Ariana begrudgingly bid farewell to her buddy, Maia (the black Labrador) and we embarked on our way to Umbria. We stopped at the small country of San Marino to climb the San Leo fortress. Both kids thoroughly enjoyed climbing up and down the various stairs of the fortress and hearing the tales of the various ways in which they kept enemies out. We toured prison cells and we all enjoyed the media experience that immersed you into the sights and sounds of life in the fortress hundreds of years ago. Later that day, we arrived at our agritourismo near Perugia and were created warmly by our host, Raffaella. The kids dipped themselves into the pool and played with the new dog, Pepe.

Ayaan and I arose early the next morning, super excited for the first session of our cooking week. Cooking was become a passion for Ayaan, just like me, and we’ve both enjoyed cooking dinner together since he was 2 years old. Ayaan also developed a love for pasta, which led me to promise him a trip to Italy together to engage in a guided cooking experience. This formed the basis of this sabbatical, and I was really looking forward to sharing this bonding experience with Ayaan. He impressed not only me but all the daily participants in the cooking course – he was engaged, immersed, curious and did an incredibly skilled job, a true perfectionist as many of our classmates commented. Each day, we cooked a four course meal consisting of an appetizer, first course (pasta), second course (meat) and desert. We both couldn’t have asked for a better host in Raffaella and I highly recommend her cooking experience. I could also feel a decidedly stronger bond with Ayaan and am so grateful to have experienced this together.

Each afternoon, we’d take off on a new excursion. We visited the beautiful town of Assisi and climbed its cobblestoned streets to its chapels. We stopped for a ceramic workshop in Derruda, and visited the Baci chocolate factory in Perugina where we got to see thousands of chocolates being produced and packaged all my machines with zero human intervention except to spot check.

One afternoon, we had reservations at the Monte Vibbiano winery where we got to ride electric buggies through the vineyards (Ayaan was really looking forward to this experience!) and taste olive oil and a flight of wines. The service was incredible! We also ventured to Lake Tresimeno and toured the gorgeous Rocce de Leon’s fortress there, experiencing an opera singer live through one of the rooms.

We lucked out and happened to be in Umbria during the annual jazz fest, a real treat as there were numerous free concerts at the Carducci Gardens and Piazza IV. We also saw the funk show parade and we all joined in on the dancing. Raffaella’s grown children are both musicians and she’d play their live music while we were kneading our pasta, a thoroughly relaxing experience! On our last day, we took a trip to Montepulciano to show Nani Tuscany and she was impressed with the jaw dropping views!

On the last day of the cooking program, since there were no other guests, Raffaella offered to allow Nani and Ariana to join in, making it a private cooking lesson for our family. Ariana was extremely excited that she got to participate, and enjoyed making all the courses with me. What a memorable experience, as we all cooked and dining together, accompanied by Raffaella’s Sangiovese vino. Pure bliss!

Bologna

We boarded an early flight to Bologna and rented a car (a black Opel Astra) for our next three weeks in Italy. We parked near the town of Bologna and enjoyed strolling the streets listening to live music at several street corners. We then enjoyed a lunch of Tagliatelle Ragu and rose, but Ayaan wasn’t ready to experiment with Ragu quite yet. After seeing the church and spending time in the town square, we peeked into the Mercato and Ayaan decided to get some hand made pasta with olive oil and Parmesan. Little did we know that the wait was over an hour long, which tired us all particularly due to the early morning start. We walked back to the car, stopping at the Lego store along the way (in Europe, kids get to play in the stores), and made it to our Agritourismo, Podere Riosto. We were pleased to see our farmhouse well stocked with a very generous breakfast of eggs, baguette, parmeggiano reggiano, salami, Parma ham, yogurt, juices, pudding, pies, quiches, and a wide selection of wines. At Nani’s suggestion, we decided to stay in and enjoy some of these treats for dinner, which I paired with a few glasses of Cab.

We got off to an early start the next morning, making the 1.5 hour drive to Parma for a tour of the production of parmeggiano reggiono, all done by hand by a small family, passed down over the generations. We got to witness the production from the milking of the cows to the hanging of the cheese, and the storage for 1-5 years. The kids got to write their names on the cheese and Ayaan got to “hammer” the cheese to help detect the quality and age, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Our next stop was to see the town of Parma, where we all enjoyed a stunning cathedral. For lunch, I had reservations at Cavallino, operated by Chef Massimo Bottura. The meal was amazing from the truffled crème of parmeggiano drizzled with balsamic vinegar from Modena to the tagliatelle Ragu and charcoal grilled vegetables. Next we walked over to the Ferrari factory and we all marveled at the story, history and wonder that is the Ferrari. Ayaan purchased a small toy Ferrari. Back at the farm, Ayaan and I played a game of soccer in the field while Ariana made friends with their dog, Maia.

The next day, we drove to the city of Ravenna to see its famed UNESCO-world heritage mosaics. We visited multiple churches and after a casual lunch, decided to drive to Commachio, dubbed a mini Venice with similar canals. That evening, we drove back to our farm for the highlight of our day, a 5-course dinner in the vineyards. There was a DJ with the singers portrayed on a projector, and several courses of wine which I enjoyed as the sun set over the hills. The dinner was fantastic, with anti pasti, a light spinach lasagna with Parma ham, a pork course with a delicious assortment of vegetables and a blueberry pie for dessert. The kids got to run around in the play area and we all had a fantastic end to a somewhat tiring day! This dinner was the true epitome of the Italian lifestyle!

Mallorca

After a wonderful week in Costa Brava, we drove back to Barcelona to take a seamless Vueling flight to Mallorca (all bags intact this time!). We were excited to visit our 2nd Balaeric island after Ibiza ten years ago. From the airport we drove to Valldemossa on the west of the island where we visited the monastery, palace and the gardens after a quick lunch. The kids were fascinated by the gigantic statues of the king and queen, similar to what they had seen in Barcelona. From there we drove to the little town of Cala pi where the kids found a playground and we ate some amazing Paella at Restaurant Sa Teressa. The highlight of the day was meeting Nani, Dhara masi, Kunal uncle and his family at a beautiful beachfront house in Colonia sant Jordi, on the south side of the island. The kids were delighted to meet family and to get to stay up way past their bed time!

The next day we joined the rest of the crew on a trip to the port and town of Soller, at the northwest of the island, about an hour away from us. 13 of us ranging from 5 to 75 took a San Francisco like tram from the port to the main town of Soller. As always, we visited the cathedral and hung out at a tapas restaurant in the square sipping Sangrias. The siesta after the tram ride back to the port was in the stunning beach and calm waters in the U-shaped cove. We played ball and the kids made a sand castle. It reminded me of the city beach at San Sebastián. The day ended once again at the beachfront home with the family.

On our third day in Mallorca we drove 1.5 hours to the northernmost tip of Formenter. We walked up the steps at Mirador es Colomer to a majestic landscape of cliffs and crystal blue water. 15 mins further north we parked our car and took a beautiful 30 min bus ride to the lighthouse Cap de Formentor. The viewpoint was underwhelming compared to the drive and Mirador, but luckily they had converted the lighthouse to a restaurant where we grabbed some pizza. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging at the Caribbean like beach at Formentor where we rented a paddle boat with a slide! We capped off the day with an amazing meal with grilled octopus and artichoke with truffle and Parmesan.

For the last couple of days, Nani joined us as we bid farewell to the rest of the family. We started the day with a delicious egg bocadillo made to perfection. We then drove to Cal d’Or or Gold Coast on the south eastern side of the island. We found a prestine little beach called Cala Petita where we spent most of the day swimming, relaxing and jumping off cliffs. Living the Spanish lifestyle! For dinner, Anjali and I sneaked out for an amazing Michelin starred meal at DINS Sant Tauri in Palma that took us through a journey of 11 steps of the traditional foods of the Balaeric islands.

On our fifth and final day on the island, we ventured into the old town of Palma. Strolling through the streets the kids enjoyed walking in and out of churches and squares, and seeing street vendors. The highlight was the Cathedral of Santa Maria with its massive structure and ornate design. We had one of our best casual meals at a small restaurant called Sa Bodegueta with a refreshing gazpacho, fish and steak. To celebrate our final night in Spain and nana’s birthday, we drove to a place nana would have loved called Puerto Portals. Similar to Puerto Banos in Marbella, it was lined with open air restaurants overlooking the harbor filled with luxury yachts. Our meal at Suzy Wang culminated an amazing Spanish vacation! Anjali, the kids and Nani continue their adventure in Italy, while I return home to the Bay Area.

Costa Brava

Costa Brava had been on my travel list for a while. And as soon as we started driving though the Catalonian countryside dotted with ancient castles, and hit the gorgeous coastline in Blanes, I realized why! The area is just stunning, the water crystal clear, the food fantastic, and a way of life I’m definitely envious of! We started off with a hike atop the castle at Blanes which rewarded us with some wonderful views of the coastline below. We then went to the botanical gardens that did not disappoint, with gorgeous coastal trails and plants from the world over. Ariana braved a parrot on her arm for an adorable photo! We then drove over to Lloret de mar where we dined at Sybius Cala Cantelles, enjoying a delicious meal of shellfish paella (dare I say the best I’ve ever had) by the seaside while the kids played on the playground overlooking the ocean. Next, we stopped at Tossa de Mar, and took the rather touristy train up to the castle taking in some breathtaking views. We ended the day in the charming town of Begur where we were staying, and enjoyed a meal of pizza and curry at Pizetta. The kids were thrilled to see an impromptu concert in the square with a large band!

The next morning, we set off for Cadaques. We had a lunch reservation at Compartir, the original restaurant created by the trio of chefs that are now the creators of Disfrutar! The meal was by far the best “casual” meal of the trip, the most memorable part being the oysters that Gaurav (thankfully!) urged me to try. We walked to the house of Salvador Dali, and then spent some time at the beach, before driving back. We also drove through the Cap du Creus national reserve to the lighthouse with stunning views that reminded us of Point Reyes. On our way back, we spotted a go-cart race track and we all (particularly Ayaan) had a blast racing! Ayaan got to go twice and did particularly well, so thankful for the impromptu surprises we’d encountered to far. That evening after dinner, there was a local fair created in the square where the kids enjoyed carousels and bouncy houses – the surprises didn’t stop!

The next morning, Ayaan and I had a two hour kayaking trip booked through stunning caves. It ended up being a private tour with a wonderful guide, Nael who really bonded with Ayaan in their collective love for soccer and skiing. Toward the end of the tour, we snorkeled together and saw some colorful fish! Ariana and Gaurav hung out by the beach, and we joined them after our tour. That evening, after taking in breathtaking views from the castle atop Begur and some delicious ice cream, we dined in the square in Begur. We were pleasantly surprised to see a woman’s guided dance break out in the square half way through our meal, which we all joined briefly after a few glasses of cava. Gaurav met one of his work colleagues who is a local for dinner.

On our last day on the coast, with some coaxing from Ayaan, we decided to rent a boat, and as we’ve become accustomed to realize, it was the best day ever! Ariana and I lazed on the deck while Gaurav and Ayaan navigated, and we stopped in beautiful coves and beaches along the way. A bottle of champagne later, Ariana, Ayaan and I were dancing to Abba while the boat meandered along the calm waters. We all had a blast, and eventually returned the boat that afternoon to make our drive down to Girona. We had a beautiful apartment right in the middle of old town, allowing us to wander through the charming cobblestoned streets. We enjoyed some unique flavors of ice cream at Rocambolesc, and spent the rest of the evening people watching in the Placa d’Independencia while the kids played hide and go seek.

On our last day in Girona, we strolled to the magnificent cathedral, the Arab baths, the walls of the old town, the Basilica de Sant Feliu and marveled at the charming beauty of Girona. We then decided to take our apartment host’s recommendation for lunch at a Basque Country restaurant, and enjoyed some delicious pinxtos, steak and garlic prawns, followed by 7 (pinxto) desserts! After lunch, we took turns getting Aromatherapy massages, while the other parent relaxed in the apartment with the kids. In the evening, we revelled at getting lost around the old town walls and cobblestoned streets (Ayaan in his soccer Manchester United soccer jersey bouncing around his new soccer ball). After dinner comprising pepperoni pizza and brut rose, Ayaan and Ariana helped me dry our clean laundry, and we then settled in for an early night, to prepare for our flight the next morning to Mallorca. Looking forward to seeing Nani, Dhara Masi and Kunal Uncle!

Barcelona and Penedès

We got off to a somewhat rocky start in Barcelona. When we landed, we discovered that they’d left Gaurav’s bag (with all his belongings) and one of our car seats back in Nassau. We spent a while in lines trying to locate the bags (unsuccessfully) before taking a cab to our downtown hotel. When we arrived, we were informed that the maximum occupancy was 3, and we’d need an additional room for Ariana. This is uncommon in the US and had us perturbed but we eventually conceded, and proceeded to wait another hour for our room. Jet lagged, we tried to snag some zzz’s, awakening in the afternoon fairly famished. We strolled over to a restaurant Gaurav and I had visited 10 years ago, Tapas 24 for a perfect meal of sangria, bikini sandwich with truffle and cheese, and the pain de tomat, the best we’d ever had! Not long after we’d devoured this meal, I discovered that my phone had been damaged with water in the Bahamas and wasn’t going to make it. What a day!

The next morning started off better. Gaurav and I had managed to hustle our way into Disfrutar, ranked #5 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, created by a trio of chefs that had been trained by none other than El Bulli! The meal, which consisted of 28 courses of molecular gastronomy aimed to surprise and delight, definitely exceeded expectations. At the beginning of the meal (similar to restaurant Gaggan that we’d visited in Bangkok), customers are given a card with a variety of emotions that the meal might invoke, the restaurant keeping the actual menu a secret. Each course seemed to top the next but some of the standouts were the caviar xiao long bao, the “pasta” (made without any), the ribeye, and the foie gras topped with corn. Each desert was fantastic as well, the peppers being the most deceptive in their appearance as they actually had a rich chocolate flavor.

Much of the rest of our time in Barcelona was spent shopping for Gaurav’s clothes to replace his lost bags, getting me a new iPhone and getting over jet lag. The only saving grace was that we’d been to this Catalonian city before, so the FOMO factor was low. We did manage to stroll through the gothic quarter and the cathedral, and Casa Batlo, one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. I was pleased to see that Ayaan still really enjoyed the large bubbles prevalent in most squares in European cities, and he begged to return the next day to play with the “bubble man”!

As soon as we left Barcelona in our rental car, things got a lot better. Less than an hours drive later, we arrived at Mastinell Hotel & Cava, which was a true delight. We lazed by the pool overlooking the vineyards with glasses of cava, followed by a sumptuous meal at their restaurant. That afternoon, we had a cava tour and tasting with a guide, Nico who really did a fantastic job at keeping the kids entertained and engaged. We were joined by a wonderful South African couple whom we quickly befriended while discussing our travel adventures. That evening, Gaurav and I went on a hike up to the mountains behind the hotel, and we all enjoyed another wonderful dinner at their restaurant. Mastinell and the wonderful staff certainly set the right mood for our trip ahead, and we all left thankful for the opportunity to have stayed there, wishing we could’ve lingered on longer.