Tag Archives: Spain

Hola, Canary Islands!

9 Jun

OK y’all, summer is officially HERE! And we’ve had the most glorious week of sun and sand and surf to prove it! I can’t say enough good things about our time on Tenerife, the largest and most populated of the Canary Islands. I’m not going to get into the history and the story here (please stay tuned over at Treats, Travels And Truths over the next week as I get everything posted- I just couldn’t wait to share our pictures with all of you guys first!), but the Canary Islands are a part of Spain, although they’re WAY south, right off the coast of Africa. And trust me when I say that we could certainly tell just how far south- on the equator!- we were by that blazing sun! Casper to lobster in less than an hour and I’m not even exaggerating! Ha!

Canary Island Map

But on a serious note, this trip was a bit extra special in that it had been planned for nearly two years- one of the first ones we booked after we moved here. My grandmother had wanted it to be our family vacation since we’ve missed our annual trip to Myrtle Beach, so to get the best accommodations, etc., she booked it early and we all got to planning. It was to be an awesome beach week for us, her and my parents. But then some health stuff came up and the trip had to be changed. My grandmother and parents tried their hardest, but in the end, they couldn’t come. My first inclination was to cancel altogether- it just wouldn’t, *couldn’t* be the same without them. And besides, for what would we need a three bedroom suite for just us? But Grandma insisted that we go- it was important to her. So we invited our best friend, (Uncle) Andy, and we went. And we are SO thankful we did. No, it wasn’t the same as it would’ve been with my family, but it was wonderful. And fun. And relaxing. And the perfect refilling of our tanks. So thank you, Grandma, for the loveliest vacation. It’s one we will never forget. ❤

Tenerife Map

We stayed in the south, in Los Christianos, but spent time at lots of the different beaches, including along the north shore at Puerto de la Cruz. A highlight of our trip was our day in the middle of the island, though, exploring the volcano and its national park.

Alright, without further adieu, here is a pictorial account of our fabulous week on Tenerife, including lots of beaches, pools, a water park, a volcano, some giant cliffs, a little putt-putt and alot of just plain ‘ol FUN.

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Los Gigantes- these cliffs are thousands of feet above the water…

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View from our balcony

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Voted World’s Best Waterpark on TripAdvisor…Definitely the nicest we’ve ever been to!

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One of my happy places 🙂

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One of the best steaks we’ve ever had. Oh. My. Gawd.

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This lazy river is easily several miles long…

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Same ‘ol breakfast even on vacation…but with an awesome view.

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From our balcony…

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Poolside snack…

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The most visited national park in Europe, 8th in the world. El Teide is the highest point in Spain and the 3rd largest volcano in the world.

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Poolside dinner and a show on our first night…

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In case you were curious, it costs 1 euro to make a call these days…

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Northern shore of the island…

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For mom…Lovely trees ❤

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Topless beach for the day 😉 

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Playa de Troya, Black Sand Beach…

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They say Tenerife is the most similar landscape to Mars on Earth…So much so that they test Mars Rovers here. Totally believe it.

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Like riding a bike! She was a fish within 10 minutes of getting back in the water! Woohoo!

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Laying in the sun on a perfect beach, listening to the blue waves crash, the smell of suntan lotion in the air…YES. YES. YES.

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With a pencil behind her ear ‘like Daddy.’

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Standard lunch for every single day of the week. Not even kidding.

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Coming down from the volcano, we came to a grove of pine trees with a picnic table beneath…Lunch was served. Not a soul around for miles and miles…

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My new favorite shot of my people ❤

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And that’s it! What a terrific week and one that we’re already missing like crazy. Hoping to start getting things posted over on TTT starting on Monday, so be sure to check that out. The only saving grace is that my Dad got here this morning and will be here for the next two weeks! Our hearts are full. Hope everyone’s summer is off to a great start!

Spanish Beach Bums!

16 Aug

Back again with the second half of our southern Spain getaway! Y’all, it couldn’t have been any better if I’d read about it in a glossy travel magazine. Like I said yesterday, my requests were: staying ON the beach, being able to hear the ocean from our room, sweaty hot sunshiney weather, and lots of people. Let’s just say that every single box was checked and then some!

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Y’all know I like some visuals 😉

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Torremolinos is 13 km west of Malaga.

Now, before we get into all the pictures (and trust me- there are a ton of ’em! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!), let me talk about the ‘lots of people’ part. John and I both tend to go from one extreme to the other on preference here. Sure, sometimes it’s so nice to stay somewhere remote where you have plenty of space and quiet and peace. Sometimes that’s exactly what your soul needs- to disconnect, to recharge. But other times, your soul needs crowds and noise and movement and room service. Sometimes, your soul needs LIFE. And for me, those times often come in the summertime. I think it goes back to growing up in a seasonal touristy city, near the beach, on the boat, vacationing in Myrtle Beach (still one of my favorite places on Earth, btw)…Some of my happiest times involve all things summer- which includes throngs of people- so that’s probably why I equate those things with these types of vacations. They truly feed my soul- and refill my tank ❤

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Once a poor fishing village before the growth in tourism began in the late 1950s, Torremolinos was the first of the Costa del Sol (ie. Sun Coast) resorts to be developed. The average population is about 80,000, but this more than doubles from late spring through early fall. A large portion of the tourists are from the UK (which we loved! We talked to several and they told us that the beaches in both Spain and Portugal are wildly popular for them because of their quick direct flights…) and Scandinavia.

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View from our balcony…Look at that blue Mediterranean water!

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Two of our hotel’s pools…Loved how the fact that they’re infinity pools makes them just blend right in…

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There are 8 km of beach just in Torremolinos (Costa del Sol runs the entire coast and is comprised of lots of similar towns, so there’s beaches for days!) with a paved promenade running from end to end- walkers, joggers, skaters, cyclists…Every 100 meters, it seemed, there’s another beach bar or restaurant, all specializing in fish.

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Hey Dad, who knew you had your own beach bar!

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Yep, that’s my daughter! Look at that hair once it hits humidity 😉

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We rented one of these, with three chairs, both days- in the front row right along the ocean. Best 5 euro spent!

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Within walking distance from our hotel- along the promenade- is the next town, called Benalmadena, and its gorgeous marina. We loved heading that way for dinner for the simple fact that the views were unbeatable! Unfortunately, the food (for most of our trip) left alot to be desired. You know that’s true when I order a hotdog for three meals in a row! Ha!

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This hotdog was actually pretty good! As close as I’ve had to home for sure!

For our two full days at the beach, our one and only goal was relaxing (ok, and playing a little, too). We slept in both mornings, then moved ourselves out to the pool or beach around 9a, swapped to the other (pool or beach) sometime in the afternoon, headed in about 5p to get cleaned up and go to dinner. Seriously, that’s all we did and it was so freakin’ magnificent I can’t even.

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Poolside lunch…

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Neve’s swimming has come lightyears this summer. Finally! And these two days in the water just solidified it. She can swim side to side, she can jump off the side and make it back to the ladder, the can mermaid twirl (don’t ask) and she can float on her back for well over 60 seconds…Dare I call her a swimmer now?! WOOHOO!

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Finishing up his Garlic Grilled Octopus

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You can’t tell, but this is a topless beach, as are many of the beaches across Europe. Of course it’s not mandatory, just optional. And honestly, I find it so liberating! No one bats an eye. Young and old women, thin and larger women, pale and tan women…It’s just so refreshing to see positive body images being celebrated and embraced! And before you ask, yes, I took mine off and joined right in the positivity 🙂 (Although no, I didn’t walk the beach or anything- don’t get crazy!)

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Notice the crescent moon over the palm tree…Going to Carolina in my mind ❤

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Yep, the stars definitely lined up for on this one. The weather, the hotel, the beach itself, the language (yay for majoring in Spanish and being able to speak!)…And most importantly, the three of us being together. Just us. After being apart for a month while Neve and I were in the States and then being so crazy busy since we got back, we really needed this time as a family to relax and to play and to enjoy. So THANK YOU to my wonderful husband for planning such an incredible Spanish getaway just for us. And for always putting Neve and me above all else. You move me ❤

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We will most definitely be back- I foresee the Costa del Sol becoming a regular quickie getaway for the Thomas clan!

Hola, Granada!

15 Aug

And hey there, Alhambra! That’s right, we just got back from a lovely little getaway in southern Spain! I don’t think I even mentioned that we were headed out of town- that’s how hectic things have been around here these last couple weeks! But actually, this one had been in the pipeline for a couple months now. Technically, it was a late anniversary celebration- John planned the whole thing from start to finish and let me tell you, it simply couldn’t have been any more perfect.

For months- since last winter at least- I’ve been dying for a beach vacation. An all out, boardwalk, ice cream stands, tiki huts, hearing the sound of the ocean from your room, umbrella drinks beach vacation! Being in Charleston back in June only whet my appetite, too! Ha! So we started researching options and stumbled upon one that just happened to be close to one of John’s top Bucket List items, La Alhambra, in Granada. Once again, isn’t it great the way things just work out that way?! So last week, we caught an (obscenely) early flight (left the house at 4a!) to Malaga, Spain, rented a car and drove 1.5 hour north to the city- in time for a churros-and-chocolate breakfast at a sidewalk cafe ❤ Then we spent the day taking in the sights, culminating with an afternoon at La Alhambra, one of the best surviving examples of ancient Moorish/Islamic architecture in the world.

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Even the ride itself from Malaga to Granada was just gorgeous…You don’t realize how arid that part of the country really is, or mountainous…Or how many olive plantations there are! Turns out Spain and Portugal produce over 80% of the world’s olives!

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Granada is the capital city of the province of Granada, in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, right at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and at the confluence of four rivers, the Beiro, the Darro, the Genil and the Monachil.  The population is about 473,000 people, ranking as the 13th-largest urban area of Spain.

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The region surrounding what is today Granada has been inhabited since at least 5500 BC. In 711 AD, the entire region was conquered by the Moors from Africa and by the eleventh century, Granada had been loosely established. The name translates into ‘Hill of Strangers,’ because the original city was based in a valley, making it very difficult to defend. Over the next century, as Moorish control grew, the borders of Granada extended onto the surrounding hills, securing its place as one of the most important cities in Al-Andalus.

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Granada Cathedral, or the Cathedral of Incarnation, took 181 years to be built. It was started in 1492 with intentions to be a Gothic structure (which can be seen in the oldest part of the cathedral, the main), but then as rulers changed, it became a beacon of the Spanish Renaissance. We loved the look of this cathedral and really appreciated the differences we saw when compared with the more Italian-ish styles that we’re a bit more used to seeing. Ornate, but not too ornate…Colorful, but only in a way that adds to the character…

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Beautiful old stone floor…

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There are actually two of these organs…You can see them in the top interior picture- on either side of the archway near the nave.

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The Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace, is the most well-known, best preserved structure left from the Islamic dominance of the Iberian Peninsula. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 AD on the remains of Roman fortifications and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Moorish emir, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition) and the palaces were partially altered to Renaissance tastes.

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The detail in just one shot…Wood, stone, tile and paint…From the 14th century.

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Tile work.

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The Islamic palaces were built for the last Muslim emirs in Spain during the decline of the Nasrid dynasty. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon. La Alhambra is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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All walls are carved stone. Many have Arabic inscriptions at the top with mathematical patterns at the bottom…

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A courtyard in the center of a quadrangle…

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Tiled ceiling

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Moorish poets described Alhambra as “a pearl set in emeralds,” an allusion to the color of its buildings and the woods around them. The palace complex was designed with the mountainous site in mind. The park, which is overgrown with wildflowers and grass in the spring, was planted by the Moors with roses, oranges, and myrtles; its most characteristic feature, however, is the dense wood of English elms brought by the Duke of Wellington in 1812. The park is usually filled with the sound of running water from fountains throughout. These are supplied through a conduit 5 mile long, which is connected with the Darro River.

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Only stained glass in the entire palace…

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Looking out over Granada…

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We decided just this small outbuilding could be our villa 😉

Despite long neglect, vandalism, and some ill-judged restoration, the Alhambra endures as an atypical example of Muslim art in its final European stages. The majority of the palace buildings are quadrangular- with all the rooms opening on to a central court, and the whole reached its present size simply by the gradual addition of new quadrangles, connected with each other by smaller rooms and passages. Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived there, however, each new section that was added followed the consistent theme of “paradise on earth,” with sun and wind freely admitted. Column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools were used to add to the aesthetic. In every case, the exterior was left plain and austere.

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The decoration consists for the upper part of the walls, as a rule, of Arabic inscriptions that are manipulated into geometrical patterns. Tile mosaics, with complicated mathematical patterns, are largely used as panelling for the lower part. Similar designs are displayed on wooden ceilings. The palace complex is designed in the Nasrid style, the last blooming of Islamic Art in the Iberian Peninsula.

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After leaving La Alhambra, we both immediately considered it among our favorite palaces/fortresses we’ve ever visited and have talked about it countless times since. Yes, it’s that amazing and it’s easy to see why it’s considered a top destination in the world (#1 most recommended sight for this year!). There are just so many things that set it apart- the tile work, the stone work, the woodwork, the colors, the light and air and water flowing through every single room…All of these things just come together so beautifully and so perfectly. And the simple, yet gorgeous, ways that nature is incorporated throughout- in the center of the quadrangles, in the fountains of crystal water, in all the surrounding gardens and hillsides. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a place with as much beauty and harmony all in one structure. It’s truly breathtaking…

Taking that early flight and driving all the way to Granada to kick off our vacation proved to be the absolute right decision. We found the city to be just lovely and, well, Alhambra to be a once in a lifetime visit. I can’t recommend it enough. And even for those of you who say that you ‘aren’t really into architecture,’ I dare you to visit this place and still say those words. 😉

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Smiling at the thought of heading to the beach! Ha!

And with that, we made our way back southward to the coastal town of Torremolinos, just past Malaga on the Mediterranean. The next two days were EXACTLY what the doctor ordered- sun, sand, blue waters and the three of us doing a whole lotta nothing! Be sure to stop back by tomorrow for all those colorful beach pictures- I promise they’re just as pretty ❤

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Always a sign of a really good day.

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Sneak peak of tomorrow’s beachy post- from our balcony!

 

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