San Sebastián

After a 4 hour beautiful drive through many tunnels and hills from Madrid, we approached San Sebastián with hungry bellies. We decided to eat lunch at a nice restaurant called Portuetxe following our Airbnb hosts recommendation – and it was fantastic! Probably one of the best ribeyes I have eaten – and anyone that knows me well knows that I’ve eaten my fair share! Gaurav enjoyed a delicious fish, and the kids cooperated by being fairly well behaved. After checking in to our Airbnb and a brief rest, we headed to the old town and La Concha, the towns charming beach – and it was stunning. La Concha, meaning “the shell”, gets its name due to the shape of the beach. It was nearly 7pm but the beach was brimming with people of all ages, and in the true “laissez faire” culture of the Spanish, little kids were slashing naked in mud puddles. I was in love with this town! Next, we walked to the old town and enjoyed pinxto bar hopping – the calamari and chorizo were some of our favorites. Gandarias and La Mejillinera are a couple we recommend.

We spent the next morning at the beach, and the kids enjoyed time with the waves and their sand toys. The water was perfect! Ayaan, Ariana and Daddy Pig enjoyed jumping in muddy puddles. After washing off in the nearby showers, we enjoyed another bout of pinxto bar hopping. We then drove to a stunning viewpoint on Mount Igueldo to overlook the bay and La Concha. Gaurav took Ayaan to the carousel in the old town that he really enjoyed. After a siesta that afternoon, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Akelarre, a three-Michelin started restaurant overlooking the coast while the kids played and then slept with a babysitter.

Madrid

On our first evening in Madrid, we checked into the Westin Palace and strolled through the neighborhood, enjoying a nice dinner and a puppet show through one of the balconies.

The next morning, we got off to an early start and strolled through the Retiro Park, pond, kids park and Crystal Palace. Our next stop was the Prado. We particularly enjoyed the works of El Greco, who seemed to use the brilliance of colors to electrify his portraits and depictions. Then, the kids napped while we enjoyed a Thai lunch and then we walked to Plaza Mayor. We then enjoyed the bustling Mercado de San Miguel which boasted fresh seafood and cava delights.

After a long siesta back at the hotel room, the kids devoured Ayaan’s favorite corn soup and sweet and sour pork at a Chinese restaurant. We then enjoyed the pre-festivities for the pride parade, walked along Gran Via and then enjoyed a few glasses of rioja with some Gambas at a nice restaurant. One of the things in general that’s not great about Spain with our kids is that everything starts very late and most restaurants only open after 830pm which is their bedtime. We retreated back to the hotel in time for Ayaan to watch an encore of the puppet show at the balcony across the street.

On our last day in Madrid we decided to take the kids to Faunia, a Wild animal park 10 miles from our hotel in Madrid. We reached just before it opened at 1030am and spent half the day there. Ayaan and Ariana absolutely loved it! It was a really unique experience as they’ve done a fantastic job of imitating the natural habitats of the animals and birds including a rainforest, underground caves, jungles and cooler climates. Their favorites were the seal and sea lion show (very Sea world like), the penguins swimming, dinosaurs, and the little monkeys in the rainforest. It was a hot tiring day but the kids topped it off with an ice cream. After a siesta, we strolled to the Mercado San Anton in the cool Chueca neighborhood where we capped the night off with some Cava and tapas and another showing of the puppet show. Onto our last destination in Spain tomorrow – San Sebastián.

A tale of two old cities: Alhambra and Toledo

On our second morning in Granada, we woke up early to join our tour of the Alhambra, a UNESCO heritage sight. It was a 3 hour tour and we were hopeful that the kids would cooperate. We had to check in the double stroller right in the beginning, so we knew a nap was not an option for them (also it was too early). We started in the Palacios Nazaríes which is the grand palace of the Alhambra or the “red one” with the famous Palace of the Lions. Alhambra was originally constructed with Islamic architecture in the 14th century and later modified and added to with the Renaissance architecture. It was unique in that it was a city and was finally conceded rather than won over to preserve the fine palace and fortress. The kids did pretty well and walked a lot of the tour, although we did have to carry them often and use our phones to the rescue (Peppa pig and steam train). Our last part of the tour took us through the Generalife or the summer gardens that were beautiful with fountains, flowers and stunning views of the Palace and the valley.

The next day we departed Granada after our breakfast, and drove 3.5 hours to the historic town of Toledo while the kids napped in the car. Toledo, that is 45 mins outside Madrid, is the original capital of Spain. It’s a small hilltop town that is famous for its Catholic, Jewish and Islamic architecture right next to each other. We had some paella for lunch and then visited the Monastery and the beautiful synagogue. We enjoyed Toledo as a stopover to Madrid since it was not very crowded, we found some great street parking and it was pretty relaxing. It was interesting seeing two of Spain’s most historical towns back to back with deep cultures and history.

Granada: Love at first sight

After a relaxing few days in Marbella, we picked up Anjali from the airport and drove to Granada. Granada is special and you can tell as you drive in and see the town surrounded by the grand Sierra Nevada with snow top peaks. It reminded us of some of the incredible Arabic towns we’ve been to such as Zanzibar. We checked into Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula, Autograph Collection which was ideally located and smelt wonderful. With a large courtyard, it is a 14th century palace that takes you right back in history.

We were starving so we strolled into one of the neighborhood tapas bars that is a speciality here, and to further satiate our appetite ate some chicken shawarma that melted in our mouths. I absolutely love Islamic towns and this quickly became one of my favorites I’ve been too. Since we were tired we decided to just walk into the Cathedral next door. It was a stunning piece of architecture with tombs of the monarch from the time the Catholics won over Granada and Spain from the Moorish. We then strolled through the Alcaiceria or local historical market to another tapas bar. Ariana skipped her nap today so we decided to head back to our room where the kids did “horse-yyy” on daddy’s back before nighttime. Today Anjali put the kids to sleep, while I had the chance to grab some hookah and tea in the Islamic area at a square with a local musician. I was so fascinated that I decided to start strolling around and climbing my way up the cobblestone steps through local Islamic stores, tapas bars and hookah bars. Before I knew it I was atop the hill at Mirador de San Nicolas overlooking the grand Alhambra at sunset. There were musicians at every corner of my climb and of course at the square with the view. I decided to have a glass of vino tinto overlooking the Alhambra digesting it’s beauty against the snow mountains and the town. I was completely charmed already, only to return to the hotel to find live music in the courtyard that required me to get some dessert and a night cap. I am in love with this town and it was truly unexpected!

My day with the kiddos

I spent 24 hours with Ayaan and Ariana alone in Marbella while Anjali flew to Frankfurt for the night with her parents. It was my first night with them alone outside our Sausalito home (luckily I do have plenty of experience single parenting with Anjali’s work travel!) and I was nervous. We decided to check into the Westin from the Airbnb since I felt it’ll be easier in a hotel to manage both of them. We were lucky enough to get a good rate and an upgrade to a huge suite, and also change our reservations in Granada and Madrid by a day without much hassle. My luck is never great when Anjali is traveling as Ariana woke up from her nap with a light fever.

I decided to take it chill and we spent most of the time in our room outside of going for a walk around the resort, pool and golf course with the goal of getting hot milk. The Westin is a beautiful property with great service and a fantastic hilltop view of the mountains, sea and the Marbella area.

So how did I entertain the kids? Ayaan and I first made coffee while Ariana napped. Ayaan of course took all of the sugar packets and cream and added to his cup of coffee (he did not drink it, but did manage to drop it on the couch!). Ayaan and I then ate an apple and a peach that the nice lady delivered to our room complimentary. Once Ariana woke up feeling better things got a little crazier. She ate her favorite popcorn while I cut Ayaan’s nails. And as a treat both of them got cookies that they gobbled down like monsters.

We had a nice dinner in the room with their favorite chicken nuggets, fries and fruit leftovers. And then things really got fun. Ayaan asked “Daddy can I please play with Ariana for some time?”. And he turned to Ariana and said “Ariana let’s play 5 little monkeys” and they both started singing and jumping on the bed! Once the kids were in bed, daddy finally got some free time to watch the England-Colombia game.

The kids slept really well and woke up late! We had a nice breakfast at the buffet where the kids had cereal, oatmeal, watermelon, orange juice and churros with chocolate strawberry sauce (as Ariana says “Mama not happy”). We then hit the kiddie pool and sang, danced and played with the ball in it. Now after our bath we’re off to pick up mama at Malaga airport and head to Granada!

Luxury in Southern Spain

After breakfast, I picked up a Hertz rental car to drive to Marbella with Ayaan and Anjali’s parents’ bags, while Anjali drove the Peugeot with the rest of the gang. The 2 hour 45 mins drive from Seville to Marbella was winding and gorgeous across many mountains, lakes and changing landscapes. Both kids napped for almost the entire time and Ayaan woke up as we approached Marbella saying “Daddy this is so beautiful, it feels like Hawaii.” And it sure does with amazing weather, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea and mountains.

We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in a complex near Puerto Banus with a resort style pool, a great restaurant and hookah! The guests were very nice and it was probably one of my best Airbnb experiences too date (I still prefer the comforts of a hotel to be honest). We spent the first evening dipping in the warm pool, eating some Lobster paella and watching the thrilling games between Argentina-France and Portugal-Uruguay. At night, I put the kids to bed while Anjali took her parents to a nice Indian meal. And for the second time on the trip, we headed out after dinner while MIL watched the kids. We walked down the buzzing Puerto Banus – a harbor with high-end yachts, open bars with people overflowing to the streets, house music and Ferraris everywhere. It was a fun night out after a while for just the two of us after the hectic month of June.

On our second day, we hit the pool again on another beautiful day after which we strolled Puerto Banus in the day and ate at the locally recommended Picasso pizzeria overlooking the sea and the yachts. The children and us were super excited to get some Chicken Tikka pizza!

After lunch I got to watch Spain lose among the locals which was quite an experience. Kids woke up late from their nap so we headed to the old town in Marbella for a stroll and dinner in the square. The old town reminded us of a Greek town, specifically Mykonos, with its tiled cobbled streets, roses everywhere and cathedrals. I ended the night smoking some double apple hookah and watching Croatia beat Denmark in penalties!

Our last day as a family in Marbella got to a relaxing start at the beach. The kids are finally at the age where they love the beach and can independently play with each other and their sand toys. One of my favorite parts about this journey is taking the time to observe Ayaan and Ariana interact without having to rush. Ayaan has become a real big brother fetching water for Ariana from the sea!

We ate lunch at our Airbnb and after putting the kids to sleep MIL took care of the kids while Anjali and I headed out to Nikki beach for some chill music and rose at the pool and beach. We ate dinner as a family at Tuk Tuk, an Asian fusion restaurant that was great.

Marbella and Puerto Banus have definitely been the highlight of the journey so far!

Sevilla

We arrived in Sevilla in the early evening and walked to Plaza de Espana. Spain is Ayaan’s 15th country and Ariana’s 11th, and the second time for us. We caught a picture with a beautiful rainbow by the fountains and then took a horse carriage ride through the Jardins de Maria Luisa, the Torre de Oro and the cathedral. We enjoyed tapas at Mateos, a restaurant in an alley near the cathedral.

The next morning, we visited the Real Alcázar, which was a gorgeous site with large gardens, palatial rooms, peakcocks and large ponds with fish which the kids loved. Our next stop was the grand Cathedral where we saw Christopher Columbus’ tomb. Gaurav climbed to the top of the Giralda tower while several glasses of rose and the kids kept me from the ascent.

In the evening, we explored the Traina neighborhood, famous for bullfighting and the Flamenco. After filling our bellies with tapas, Gaurav put the kids to bed and I headed to a Flamenco show with my parents.

The next day, we spent the morning in a park with the kids and Gaurav got a massage in the afternoon at Aire and spent some time relaxing in the baths overlooking the cathedral. In the evening, we absorbed sweeping views of the city from Metropol Parasol. Today, we’re off to Marbella!