Places to Go (Vacation) - OUR SPANISH ROAD TRIP (Days 20 - 22) - Dragging Our Kids Through Europe, Part XI
I'm almost done with posting the vacation photos, which is crazy considering we left Europe over two months ago. Anyways, we decided to end our time in Spain with a roadtrip. During the planning phase of this vacation, a roadtrip seemed like a brilliant idea (okay, so maybe brilliant is an exaggeration). Most of the Spanish trains originate from Madrid, so the eurorail map looks almost like a starburst, with very few trains connecting smaller cities. Thus, if you want to see a lot of the country in a few days, it makes sense to drive from destination to destination, rather than taking trains back and forth to Madrid.
BUT, I clearly didn't think this whole plan through, as traveling with three young children crammed into the back of a small European car was sort of a nightmare. How many times can you hear, "mom, [insert one of three names here] is touching me! He/She is in my space! Make her/him move!" before you lose your mind. I also never consulted a topography map, so I didn't realize that we'd be driving up mountains then down mountains then up more mountains, etc. etc. I've never been so grateful for Dramamine.
But on the upside, we traveled to a few places where trains don't go. Or as the kids like to say, "we've now been to the middle of nowhere, which is in Spain." Seriously, the absolute middle of nowhere. Anyways . . .
Our first stop, after 5 hours on the road, was the walled city of Avila (we actually planned more stops but the kids were so fussy we just kept driving, plus Enterprises' neverlost system kept losing us). Those walls were built over one thousand years ago and stayed intact, crazy huh?
On the upside, walking on medieval walls is crazy awesome. On the downside, we arrived in Avila around 4 pm, during the peak of the day's heat. The temperature on the walls was well over 100 degrees. I felt like I could melt.
After Avila, we drove to our middle of nowhere destination, Hotel Garabatos. During the drive, we lost cell reception, the roads turned super rural, we passed cows and sheep and kept our fingers crossed that the car didn't break down as we went for over forty-five minutes without seeing another person or dwelling. All while navigating switchbacks.
We arrived in a town where nobody spoke Engligh (yay! for google translate). Liters of (fairly good) red wine cost less than $10. And horses were on property. The rooms were large with wonderful views. The food was mediocre but reasonably priced. All of us could not have been happier. Dan and T even found an English-speaking TV channel and watched some dog movie into the wee hours.
Who know that there was a discoteca in the middle of nowhere?
The next morning we tried hiking. There's a National Park nearby with a lot of trails and the scenery was stunning. But P COULD NOT STOP COMPLAINING, so eventually we turned around and started the drive to Toledo.
In Toledo I decided to surprise everyone with a fancy hotel (mainly because it came with a pool). Unfortunately, the hotel was almost impossible to find, so by the time we arrived everyone was super cranky. And, although the hotel had two or three on-property restaurants, they were all crazy expensive and had nothing that my kids would eat. T opened the minibar and said "don't worry guys! there are tons of snacks in here!" And I proceeded to lunge across the room yelling, "don't touch anything! that food costs more than college tuition!" URGH!!! So we piled back into our rental car in search of food. After becoming lost AGAIN during a crazy series of roundabouts, we ended up in front of a cheap grocery store (serendipity), where we all piled random food into the cart.
We became lost about 30 more times before we making it back to the hotel. We had planned on spending the night checking out Toledo, but we were all so scared of becoming lost (plus the hotel's free shuttle was always booked solid) that we watched TV, napped, read books, swam (in the freezing) pool, and chilled for the night.
We spent the morning at the hotel pool, which was sadly so cold that my kids couldn't swim (I hate when things look nice but are basically non-functional). And finally, room on the shuttle opened up so we could tour Toledo!
Toledo is probably an amazing city (or so says every guidebook), but we didn't have enough time to really appreciate it or see much. We spent most of the morning at the Alcazar, which contains an ENORMOUS military history museum. T was completely entranced - guns, swords, fighting, etc. But I found it one of the most boring places I've ever visited. And then we tasted some of Toledo's famous marzipan (yum!) and headed to the airport for our flight to Paris.
Madrid airport's Chocolate Factory was a huge hit with all three kids. Lots of allowance money spent on edible mustaches. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Paris, we learned that the airline lost my luggage. Oh well, at least we were leaving for home in two days. Though it wasn't very fun to try and find things like toothbrushes late on a Sunday night in Paris, when almost all the shops had closed. On Wednesday, I'll post on the final leg of our trip - Disney Paris.