Saturday, July 29, 2023

Spain Days 11-12: Formigal

We were in awe as we entered the Pyrenees. We spend a lot of time in the Rocky Mountains at home, but our next town, Formigal, was like living up in the alpine meadows. It seemed unimaginable to have views in every direction at all times (hopefully the lack of trees everywhere, including outside ski areas, isn't because of a depressing reason).

The check-in at our Formigal accommodation was late so we had some time to kill. Craig did a little research and discovered a municipal pool we could spend time at for free with lvely views. It was mostly empty and we passed a couple of hours swimming, lounging in the sun, and enjoying the sweeping mountain views. 

After a night's sleep, we headed out to find the Panticosa gondola. A breath-taking half hour ride later, we were at the top of the Panticosa ski hill, headed on foot for the Lago d'Asnos. It felt similar to hiking in Sunshine, Alberta, and it was just as spectacular!

Looking down at the lake trail not taken

Navigating around Ibon de Asnos

We hiked for an hour and a half, gained 250 m and traversed 3 kilometers. Our Adventure Girl put her good hiking background to use and set a strong pace that left other adult hiking groups in our dust!

Snack spot

We took a quick snack break at the lake before mounting the final climb to the mirador into the next valley. At first, Adventure Girl said she didn't want to do any extra hiking, so Erin went up alone...

Looking into the next valley!

Hiking back down - Craig & F in the corner

Adventure Girl then decided that she did, in fact, want to hike up to see the other valley. :)
She and Craig are at the top of the rise.

We returned back down the gondola with the happy feeling of fatigue from a great hike! On our drive back home, we discovered a gem of a restaurant nestled beside a creek in the valley below. We had a delicious, well-deserved meal and chatted with the owner who lived in Whistler for a while. 

One final look before getting into the Gondola

Look at that veggie platter!

Cheers to a great day and a spectacular hike!

Friday, July 28, 2023

Spain Day 10: Sos del Rey Catolico

We chose to visit Sos del Rey Catolico to get the small, hilltop town experience. Also, in the planning stages of our trip, Adventure Girl seemed most excited by medieval castley things. So, we booked a rental car leaving San Sebastian, and took off driving for the hills!

Sos is perched on a hilltop with the town having organically grown around a fort. However, after lengthening our stay in Donostia, our single day in Sos felt like a timed race through a labyrinth of the tiny town's medieval carless streets that weave and curl around the hill, forking off in different unpredictable directions. As we marvelled at the buildings, and views unfolded around every other turn, we were felt that surely our route would be crossing through, over, and under where we had previously walked. Yet through some non-euclidian urban planning, we always found ourselves somewhere new.

Our brief stay was memorable and lovely. It also provided the meal of the trip so far: thistle in an almond sauce and Venison in a chestnut puree and local peach chutney were the stars. (Update from the end of our trip: this still holds true as our best meal of the entire trip!)

The view from lunch

The view from our apartment

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Spain Days 2-9: San Sebastian

Up at 4 am, battling the disoriented "pulling an all nighter" + jet lag feeling, we made our way back to the dreaded Barcelona airport. Thankfully, our journey went much more smoothly than our arrival the day before. The domestic terminal was efficient and comfortable, and within a few hours we were in northern Spain in the delightful town of Donostia San Sebastian. 

San Sebastian was what our family needed. Our apartement was comfortable, with enough space for us to spread out and settle in, complete with a little Harry Potter broom closet bedroom for F! (That she chose for her room). We were walking distance from two different beaches ("swim beach" and "surf beach"), and the food was outstanding. The week there was fuel for both our bodies and souls.

We fell into a comfortable routine of sleeping in (for those who know F, yes, gasp!), breakfasting at home, doing a quick beach check for flags (red - no go, yellow - caution, green - swimming!, or the dreaded jellyfish flag). Then we'd hit the beach, have a late patio lunch, siesta, then head back to the beach and dinner at home. 

Noooo! Hoy hay medusas!!!

Adventure Girl loved the beach. There was lots of delight in playing in the sand - building castles, getting burried, digging holes, and creating taxis and bakeries for imaginative play. In the water, she learned how to body surf, boogie board, and dive through oncoming waves. Faced with waves twice the size of her, she reacted with excitement rather than fear. Getting knocked around or even flipped head-over-heels, didn't slow her down or dampen her enthusiasm.

We were beyond thrilled to discover a lactose-free popsicle stand that we visited every subsequent day. You got to choose your popsicle base, then your dip flavour, then add on your topping. Pure deliciousness! We're willing to support anyone looking to branch out Loco Polo internationally!!!

Twice we climbed up the hill, Mount Urgull, in the Old Town. Once, to the statue at the top and once to have a drink and a snack at the bar overlooking the Bahia de la Concha (swim beach). We also leisured through the old town in early morning rain to check out the architecture and meander through alleyways. 

For Adventure Girl's take on San Sebastian, click her Blog Page on the right-hand side bar or the link below:

:)  (Also...ummm... how cute it is that she wanted to blog herself?!?!  Very proud parents, here!!!)

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Spain Day 1: Travelling Again

We're back!!! After a few tough years managing COVID and Cancer, we're ready to hit the road again as a full-on family of three! Adventure Baby is a baby no more; it's now Craig, Erin, and Adventure Girl (aka F)!

There was a new sense of excitement leading up to this trip. First of all, it was going to be our first family "backpacking" suitcases, no stroller; just us walking with our bags! Adventure Kid was also old enough to be a part of the planning, decision-making, and packing. A whole new adventure awaited us. With plans to long-term travel as a family in the upcoming future, this trip will be a real test...

It didn't start on the best note. We were scheduled to leave at 8pm Toronto time. It took us about 45 extra minutes sitting on the plane for them to resolve an issue with the bathrooms before we could actually take off. We let F watch tv during the delay so it was no big deal. 

When we got into the air, we said it was time to try to sleep and within minutes of stretching out on us, F was alseep. It wasn't the most comfortable for any of us but we hoped that by prioritizing her sleep, it would be worth it in the end. 

For the most part, F slept. She woke after every sleep cycle (40ish minutes), cried for a minute in a confused, half-alseep state, then would settle back in to the same position and sleep again. She got about five hours like this, with Erin and Craig resting as much as possible before the crew started to serve breakfast and F woke up. Not too bad for an overnight flight...we were thankful to not be the people trying to console a young toddler the entire time we were in the air!

Things got worse when we landed. We were stranded on the runway without air conditioning for another 45 minutes as they struggled to get the plane connected to the terminal. The temperature and tempers both rose. When we finally de-planed, we followed the throngs of other passengers to an endless hallway where we joined a chaotic, unsupervised line that stretched out of sight. No one knew if they were in the right line, nor could they get close enough to any relevant sign to figure that out. After 30 or 40 minutes airport personnel arrived to direct EU citizens and those with connections to squeeze past the hordes of tourists. For an hour, we inched along, completely exhausted from the flight, the heat (without air-conditioning the hall was in the mid thirties), and the complete lack of any food or drink services. People were literally collapsing on the verge of fainting, children were slumped in akward heaps against the walls. Finally, some staff were seen walking up and down the line and they began pulling families with babies and young children in strollers. We waited for a sign that we might also be chosen but our child was clearly "too good" of a traveller to be deemed essential for a bump up the line. With Erin and F's eyes starting to glaze over from the heat and a day without meaningful sustenence, Craig asked a passing personnel if we could join the other families (with older children) that had passed. They granted our request and we gathered our things and headed up alongside the line. 

It went on FOREVER. Easily three more hours of waiting to pass through Spanish customs with no services available. We were so grateful that we got bumped and we will certainly avoid flying through the Barcelona airport in the future...

Finding our bags would be the next struggle made worse by our hour's long wait to get through customs. We entered a sprawling baggage claim area devoid of landmarks. With thousands still stuck in custom lines, their bags had been thrown haphazardly all over the floor to make room for more recent flights. Everything was unattended. Toronto had long since left the claims board so we split up and dragged ourselves up and down each carosoul aisle searching for our luggage. In a far corner, Erin overheard someone mention Canada and she went to investigate. She asked about the flight from Toronto and was told that all of the bags from the TO flight, along with Montreal and New York were "here" with a vague gesture of the surrounding area. Miraculously, she looked down and Craig's backpack was at her feet. She surveyed the scene and spotted what she thought was her bag, three deep up on a carosoul. She was able to track down a baggage handler to mount the stack of bags and he turned over her pack.

Finding Craig and F seemed insurmountable given the size of the baggage claim area, and seperating was starting to feel ill-advised. Thankfully, due to Craig's affection for wearing orange and his impressive height, it wasn't too long before we were reunited. 

On to the next hurdle...the line up for taxis stretching back and forth outside the arrivals area. 

Needless to say, by the time we arrived at our apartment close to the Barcelona airport, we were spent. Thankfully, it was situated right across from a lovely sand beach, and it had air conditioning. 

We were able to spend a couple of hours in the water, grab some dinner (lunch? breakfast?) and head to bed at 6pm local time, knowing we'd be up at 4 am for our next flight. It was time for a high-five and a cheer for Adventure!