Things we found and want to share from this past week:
Things we found and want to share from this past week:
This past Christmas, I received a gift I’d been waiting almost a decade for… my husband took me back to Spain!
I am absolutely bananas about Spain. Call it nostalgia: I lived there for three years as a child, and vacationed there frequently throughout high school and college. But as is typical of your twenties, I never had the time or the money to make it back. But this past December, I got to return with my husband and toddler son, Xavier, to introduce them to Spain and fall in love with it all over again..
When people think of Spain, they think of beaches or exciting nightlife. Neither being possible in December or with a two year old, we tasted many of the country’s lesser known charms. On our circuit up from our current home base in Morocco, we started in Andalucia, visiting Ronda and Granada before driving through Alicante to ferry to Mallorca. Then back west again, we hit Valencia, Cordoba and Seville. Of all the wonderful memories we made, I’ll remember three things in particular.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to involve a child in international travel is to tie it into their passion of the moment. Though Xavier has since moved on to elephants, December was the month of the horse.
In many of the cities we visited, horse and carriage rides were among the most convenient ways to see the city, particularly given how rough cobblestones can be on stroller wheels! Although they can be expensive, choosing at least one city to partake in a ride can be well worth the cost. Everywhere else, we took time out to spot other carriages around town, ride carousel horses or book a pony ride.
In Cordoba, we visited the Royal stables for an equestrian show. The beautiful animals and talented riders dance around the paddock to music and lights. It was magical to see the wonder in Xavier’s eyes and yell “HORSIES” every minute or so. The horses can be seen training by day as well and an even larger show can be seen in Jerez.
In Seville, horsies were out in force for the Three Kings or “Reyes” celebration. No one does festivals quite like the Spanish and kids are never left out, no matter how late they go. On January 6, Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior arrive and are welcomed with a parade of mounted attendants and elaborate floats. It is an exceptionally raucous but wonderfully festive event. If you are visiting Spain with kids, look to see if you can time your visit with a local festival; there will always be plenty to entertain the kids.
One of my favorite things about Spain is the food. Tapas, fresh seaside fish and a wonderful array of sweets. But until visiting with a toddler, I never appreciated that Spanish food is as good in casual, fast food environments as it is in the finest haute cuisine establishments. I am all for 5 star restaurants, but nothing puts a kink in the evening like playing airplane with your gourmet entree.
Spanish mainstay Paella was fortunately still on the menu for us. Since it is served family style, it is easy to offer kids a smaller portion. Moreover, the seafood version of the dish, although the best known, is by no means the only kind. Chicken and even rabbit versions are also available. We had our finest sampling in Valencia, Paella’s birthplace.
Elsewhere in Spain, Xavier enjoyed the Spanish pasties. In almost any Spanish city, it is easy to find “chocolate con churros”. The chocolate is not what you are used to, it is darker, thick as pudding and ideal for dipping fresh, hot, deep fried churros. It will never be part of a complete nutritious breakfast but it was a hit!
The island of Mallorca, off Spain’s eastern coast, has it’s own special and delicious tradition of pastries. Our little man made a morning “ensaimada,” a curly, soft confection topped with powdered sugar, a morning tradition (hold the traditional accompaniment of café con leche).
Finally: Chorizo – it probably will land me in Bad Parenting’s hall of fame as the chewiest, saltiest most toddler inappropriate snack on the market today. But I’ve got to confess to a very naughty pride in seeing how my little man took to this classic Iberian dried sausage.
3. Time to Run
We have found that it’s best not to travel in spite of a toddler but to open yourself up to new experiences you might never have had traveling as a couple. Slow your pace, choose more open spaces, and try to act less like a tourist and more like a local. Don’t make yourself a list of “must sees.” Linger in a park, seek out historical or cultural attractions with gardens. Before we travel, we find it prudent to check in with a local parenting websites. You’ll find more off the beaten track walks and authentic experiences than ever before.
Our favorite moments were less about dragging our poor kiddo through world famous exhibits and more about watching him chase bubbles through a public park or collect oranges in the gardens of the famous Seville Alcazar. Don’t forget to celebrate the kid in you. Indulge in purely childish pleasures like aquariums and zoos….you might find yourself wondering why you skipped them all these years.
Finally, the wonderful thing about Spain is how they welcome children at almost any event or occasion. I was shocked to see that I was about the only parent at New Year’s Eve celebrations who had left their baby at home. Even if there is a typically adult pleasure you are eager to experience, like a wine tasting, call ahead. Odds are, children are accommodated. For me, it was just one more reason to love Spain that I never expected.
Natalia is the founder and managing partner of CultureBaby. She started the company in 2011 when her son was five months old. On bad days, she puts the whole thing down to a fit of postpartum lunacy. But on most days, she loves seeking out new global products for CultureBaby and hearing from mothers worldwide about how they celebrate their culture and heritage with their kids. You can follow along on her adventures on The Culture Mom Chronicles. Follow her on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter!
Things we found and want to share from this past week:
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To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).
Meet Tara, she’s part of our merchandising team. Today she’s sharing a piece of her trip to Spain and the French Riviera with us.
The last couple of years I have made international travel a must – This past summer I visited Spain and the French Riviera!! I started my trip in San Sebastian. It was a cute, beach town in northern part of Spain. The beaches were beautiful, the food amazing and the people know how to party and have a good time. On a Saturday night streets were filled with music, drinking and laugher until 6 in the morning. After getting a taste of the Basque Country, I took a 6-hour train ride, enjoying the breath taking Spanish countryside, down to Barcelona. There was so much to explore in the city. From all the amazing works of Gaudi, great neighborhoods to the beautiful coastline, I definitely will need to go back to see it all. Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia were by far my favorites. At Park Guell I felt transported into a different land with beautiful structures and was able to see the entire city from above. At La Sagrada Familia I stood in awe of the beauty of the light shining through the stain glass and the massive structure. I learned every part had been carefully thought out and designed down to every last detail. So incredible!!
I also enjoyed watching a futbol match, Barcelona vs. Brazil, in a local sports bar. It was interesting to find more Brazil fans than Barcelona in Spain! The energy while watching was unbelievable. The food continued to be amazing, I was stuffed at every meal! After exploring for a few days, I continued my trip to Cannes, France to experience the French Riviera. It was a great place to end my trip; the last of my days were spent laying on the beach looking out into the Mediterranean, taking a break only to walk the adorable streets filled with shops. I made sure to enjoy a bite to eat at a quant beach café.
My last night there they had the festival of fire works and the sky was filled with light and music filled the air. It was the best firework show I have ever seen! I had so much fun and saw so many wonderful places. I absolutely love to travel and explore new things and I cannot wait until my next adventure!!
Laura Phelan, lifelong writer and travel junkie, reports directly each morning to her daughters, Annie (5) and Maggie (3). She purposely lives in Atlanta, Georgia so she can hop a non-stop flight to anywhere from the world’s busiest airport. Today Laura is with us on Studio T to remind us that not all summer camps are just about canoeing and campfires!
Summer time in my household means many things. Bare feet, long days at the pool, a trip to the beach, and camps. My two young girls, ages five and three, helped pick the camps they would attend this year. The unanimous vote was princess camp, something they did together. One chose tennis camp, the other school camp with her best friend.
I myself am a self-proclaimed travel junkie. I’d go virtually anywhere at any moment given the opportunity. For the second year in a row, I spent part of my summer helping lead a group of teenagers on a trip to a developing country. My girls are now well aware of how Mommy leaves to go somewhere far away, helps people, and then comes home with exciting stories and exotic gifts. The girls know they are too young to go, but I look for every opportunity to share with them my love of travel. So before we jump back into a new school year, we all signed up to attend an ”Around the World” music camp.
My daughters may not have proper travel docs or the required immunizations for a global adventure, but don’t tell them that. They now have their own passports from the week. Each day, the campers “toured” a different place in the world, by way of music and art. The children learned what instruments are common in each country or region, and sang songs originating there. Then they created homemade instruments and other art projects. I was happy to serve as a volunteer and was able to travel right along with them. Like any good mom, I also snapped some pictures along the way.
From the African savannah to Japan, down to Latin America and back home again, we all learned some things. Mostly, the children learned that music is a central part of every culture. After each session in the music or art room, they received a stamp in their passport. This gave me the opportunity to share with them my own passport, and talk about where the stamps are from.
A poignant moment of camp came when my oldest turned to me nervously and said “Mommy, are we really going to Africa?”
I laughed. “Not today, baby.” I replied. “We’re just pretending.”
But one day, my girl, we’ll go.
Laura recently starting blogging about her parenting adventures at littlepilgrimsblog.com. Say hello!
We asked you to use #teacollection in your Instagram photos and we were so excited to find that you did! Each month we’ll round up 12 of our favorites and share them with you here on Studio T.
row 1 (left to right): @ngstew, @agoldenafternoon, @saartje410
row 2: @pekechikpr, @embeerich, @beknitpicky
row 3: @rossila49, @chelseypaul, @briana_mcdonell
row 4: @dawnmg, @ambernge, @ariedeman