Tuscany

Tuscany was the only place in our entire trip that Gaurav and I had been to together, but had always wanted to return, and so we decided to repeat! A short drive from Florence, and we entered the beautiful town of San Gimignano. The heat was oppressive though, and the kids weren’t cooperating. Surprisingly and much to our dismay, Ayaan has developed somewhat of an aversion to pizza which made meal time challenging. And then, when we asked Ayaan to stop being on the phone once lunch was served, he uttered the dreaded bad word. And for that moment, the heat combined with the tantrum made me wonder whether coming to Tuscany (and the entire trip in general) was a good idea. We retreated to our agriturismo and after an unsuccessful attempt at getting the kids to nap, spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool overlooking the sprawling vineyards. The kids eventually had a late nap and Gaurav and I decided to leverage the opportunity to enjoy dinner without the kids at a beautiful restaurant back in the town of San Gimignano. We tried the pici – a simple spaghetti with garlic and the dessert Ive long craved since I left Italy – a chocolate panna cotta…that first bite, and it made me feel for that moment, that coming back to Tuscany (and the trip in general) was all worth it!

The next morning, we were off to a better start. We drove to Chianti for our appointment at Antinori, extremely excited to be visiting the ‘alma mater’ of one of our favorites – Tignanello. The winery was exceptionally stunning – founded back in the 14th century, it underwent a 100 million upgrade in 2012. From the wine making process and equipment to the tasting rooms and experience and of course, the wines itself, we were blown away! Following the tour and tasting, we enjoyed a fantastic lunch overlooking the vineyards and left several bottles of wine later.

Our next stop was Amorelli where a very friendly server talked us through a wine, olive oil and balsamic tasting paired with cheese, prosciutto and olives. We were surprised to learn that balsamic was the most expensive item on their menu (the best, and what Italians consider only real balsamic) is made only from grapes and aged for 10-36 years. Wow! That evening, in anticipation of Ariana’s second birthday, we went to a toy store to buy her gifts. We were pleased to find a wonderful kids play area above, complete with bouncy houses, water play, slides, ball houses and much more! The kids spent a fantastic hour there playing with each other and local kids. It’s fascinating to see that kids don’t really need to speak the same language to have a blast.

The next morning, Ariana opened her gifts and was thrilled with her new walking/talking (albeit in Italian) doggie and baby stroller. We then drove to Montalcino because we love Brunellos! We started at Altesino and then headed to Barbi for lunch where the kids enjoyed playing outdoors with their new toys. Our last stop was Banfi where I was excited to see the association with Cornell’s Hotel School #hotelieforlife. That evening, Gaurav had reserved a table at a wonderful terrace overlooking he vineyards to celebrate Ariana’s birthday. We started off by allowing her to open her bubbles and entertain herself until the food arrived. After a dinner of chicken and French fries, she devoured a panna cotta while we all sang to her. Later that evening, the kids enjoyed coconut gelato in the square before calling it a night. happy Birthday Ariana – we love you!

Being a part of Ariana’s exponential growth over the past six weeks has been particularly gratifying for us. Traveling with kids isn’t always easy but, for us, it’s been so worth it!

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!

Algarve

A short 2.25 hour drive from Lisbon brought us to the beautiful Pine Cliffs, A luxury collection resort on the beach. We enjoyed an al fresco lunch of gazpacho and fajitas before hitting the resort pools. A bottle of rose and a lot of splashes later, we enjoyed a Japanese dinner at an elegant outdoor restaurant by Chef Olivier. Ariana enjoyed bonding with her masi while devouring sushi (see video). Later that evening, we enjoyed a nightcap of Madeira on our deck before drifting off to sleep.

placeholder://We started the next day with a sumptuous breakfast and then spent some time enjoying the kids club. Ayaan and Ariana got to ride in some real John Deere trucks and jump in a bouncy house! Ariana has started speaking a few full sentences since our trip began and it’s been a pleasure to witness her progression real-time. Her favorites include expressing her preferences – “I like masi!” or “I don’t like this”.

We then joined the rest of the family and drove along the coast to Praia de Benagil. Ayaan and Ariana enjoyed playing by the beach, and then we took a boat which guided us through an awe-inspiring landscape of limestone formations and crystal clear blue aqua!

That evening, we grabbed drinks and dinner at the hotel bar where we had prime seats to watch the Portugal vs Iran and Spain vs Morocco World Cup games.

The next morning, we headed to the stunning hotel beach that was lined with cliffs of orange hues on one side and surrounded by clear blue water on the other. We had lunch at Mare, the hotel’s beach side bar before heading to the pool where Ariana napped and Ayaan enjoyed an ice cream with Nani. In the evening, we headed back to the kids club where the kids got to ride a motorized car!

This evening, we’re looking forward to having the babysitter watch the kids while we enjoy a nice meal with my parents at Pescadore, the hotels seafood restaurant. After the meal, Gaurav and I opened the bottle of Sassacaia that we’d saved from SF and enjoyed it against this beautiful backdrop of illuminated orange cliffs…Overall, Algarve (and the Pine Cliffs resort) was stunning and did a solid job of differentiating itself from other beach destinations.