The Aventura family is on the move again, heading to southern Spain!
After three weeks apart we enjoyed an exuberant reunion on Saturday afternoon with our favorite man of steel, Señor Aventura, who took no less than three flights (San Diego - Dallas - London - Barcelona) to return home to us at last. Bless his heart, even though he was running on fumes Señor Aventura gave us big hugs, drank three coffees and promptly proceeded to drive the family 3.5 hours south to start off our long-awaited, much-anticipated road trip to Granada and Sevilla!
Chico Suave the car hummed merrily along through the darkening afternoon, filled to the brim with luggage, giggling children, and two tired but cheerful parents. To stay alert we listened to the very exciting "El Clasico" fútbol match taking place between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
"Wow, the announcer is talking so fast and he sounds SO excited! Did Barcelona just score a goal?" I asked my husband as we tuned in. "What is he saying?"
"Hahahaha," my husband grinned and explained, "The announcer is THRILLED because the match is starting. He is about to lose his mind over how exciting it is that these two great teams are about to kick the ball for the very first time!"
"Oh!" we all giggled. "That IS exciting." It was fun to listen to such intense enthusiasm on the radio, especially when each team scored one goal and the game ended tied at 1-1!
Since the trip from Barcelona to Granada is close to nine hours in total, we'd decided to break for the first night in Valencia... a town that Señor Aventura and I got to know and love in October. We stayed this time in the bohemial neighborhood of Ruzafa, not very far from the Mercado Colon.
The children were quite excited to see Valencia at last, after hearing so much about it from their parents. They were also ravenous! Although we'd stocked the car with snacks, they tore through two full bags of chocolate croissants and about 12 tangerines on the three hour drive.
"Mom, when's dinner?" asked Little Angel.
"Can we get sushi?" Soccer Dude chimed in.
"Noooo!!! Not sushi," replied The Scientist. "Can we have something else?"
"We're looking for something close to the apartment," I reminded them. "Your dad hasn't slept in a really, really long time. He needs to eat and go straight to bed."
"It's going to be an early night for Dad," affirmed Señor Aventura.
Our new AirBNB turned out to be ideally situated but without parking for a mile in any direction. After all, it was Saturday night in a very hip part of town. So, Señor Aventura dropped us off with the luggage and went to find a parking spot.
The children and I got to know our lovely AirBNB host, a mother of two herself who kindly gave Little Angel two small gifts and showed us around the apartment. After showing us the extra blankets and how to work the space heaters, she left to meet her own family for dinner.
We then zipped up our rain jackets and donned waterproof boots to begin our own walk toward food!
The streets of Ruzafa were lined on both sides with tasty restaurants. The only problem was that we had no reservation. Crowds spilled onto the streets through their open walls; groups of friends and couples laughed and talked as they waited for their tables.
My children exclaimed at the beauty of blue, pink, gold, magenta and green buildings we passed, illuminated by Christmas decorations. The night air was cold enough to see our breath, and it had rained lightly on our drive south so the streets were wet.
"Mom! Look at the lights!" The Scientist pointed. "They're changing color!"
The lovely holiday lights in Valencia were different shapes and colors than ours in Barcelona, making streets look festive and bright in a new and exciting way.
"I love them Mommy! It's so beautiful!" Little Angel chimed in.
We were heading to a beautiful sushi-fusion restaurant called "The Sushi Spot", highly recommended by the owner of our AirBNB.
When we arrived almost all tables were empty, so we felt optimistic.
"Do you have a table for five people tonight?" I asked the head waiter in Spanish.
"Lo siento, está completo esta noche," he replied. (We have come to realize that reservations are a MUST on weekends and special holidays in Spain.) "I can," he added, "take you to our annex where they may have tables available, if you like."
"Wow, really? Yes, that would be great!" We could barely believe our luck as the head waiter then walked the kids and I four blocks down to their annex shop and introduced us to the two women running the place.
"Please give this family a table," he recommended.
"Muchisimas Gracias!" we thanked him. "You are so kind."
"Wow, when would that ever happen at home?" we were amazed. "How incredibly kind of him to walk us to their other restaurant in the middle of a busy Saturday night, just to make sure we could find it!"
We texted our location to Señor Aventura, who had found parking and hurried to join us.
As a personal aside - what a total joy it was to have our favorite Señor back with us after three weeks away!!! If our family of five is like a station wagon, Señor Aventura is often our engine or gasoline. We can roll forward on our own without him successfully in a straightforward motion, especially if we are already on a direct trajectory... but Señor Aventura adds the special fuel and energy for us to zip around creatively with joy and momentum!
Sitting around the table waiting for sushi, my husband hopped origami frogs with our boys, listened to Little Angel read aloud from "Charlotte's Web," and answered our million questions about friends and family at home.
"I missed you guys!" he smiled. "I love you."
We all basked in the warmth of his return, and ate with gusto. Food tastes better when you're happy!
After dinner we walked back to the apartment through the bustling, joyful streets of Ruzafa. The two smaller children fell fast asleep the second their heads hit their pillows!
The next morning we tidied up and repacked the car for our second, longer drive of the trip. This would be a 5.5 hour drive in the rain, but both Señor Aventura and I were honestly thrilled. We would each be seeing new territory that we'd never in our lives seen before, heading toward a shared dream destination. After a good sleep we felt younger and much better rested.
"Look at the colors!" I called out again and again. "Honey, look! Oranges, purples, greens! OMG - Did you see that mountain? Wow, look at those fruit trees!"
"Babe, check this out!" my husband would add. "That fortress looks really old."
"How soon will we get there?" asked the kids. "This is taking a long time."
We drove through miles of orange and tangerine trees and explained to the kids about world famous Valencia oranges, that can be purchased in San Diego as easily as they could be plucked off of a tree right there in Valencia. "This variety of orange is very famous and quite delicious!" said Señor Aventura.
"I want to jump out of the car and go pick like seventy oranges off those trees RIGHT NOW," insisted Soccer Dude, who is already obsessed with citrus fruit.
"Better to stay in the car while we're driving this fast," I smiled at him in the side-view mirror. "Jumping out of a moving car would hurt. We can pick up some fruit at the market later!"
Around two Señor Aventura got hungry so we stopped in a hillside town called Jumilla to grab a bite for lunch. Once again, the restaurants we tried at first were fully booked for the day, but they recommended we try a small family-run place a few blocks away that might have seats open. Luckily, it did!
This smaller, wood-paneled place run by a husband and wife who functioned together as its cooks, servers and bartenders had very good food and tasty local wine. Our boys were more than thrilled to watch Spanish fútbol while we waited for our comida.
"Look, Mom!" said The Scientist, "It's Granada vs. Sevilla! We're going to both of those places this week, right?"
After a lengthy and deeply satisfying lunch, we hopped back in the car and settled in for the rest of the drive. It turned out that much of the road between Jumilla and Granada had only two-lanes, one heading north and the other south. The path was also quite winding and so, in the rain and complete with large-haul trucks, it took a lot of concentration for Señor Aventura to navigate. Being a skillful driver though he was completely relaxed and enjoying himself. He played us a mix of Bjork, Atlas Sound and Liars while soaking up the purply vistas of the shadow-drenched land.
I found the dark skies and gentle vibration of the car on the road to be so soothing that I fell sound asleep for an hour while the younger children played cards in the middle seats and The Scientist listened to his music in the back of the car.
At last we arrived in Granada, a little sore from sitting but otherwise in excellent spirits. We found our new AirBNB and once checked in we headed straight to dinner!
The children were now starving, restless, and beginning to get grumpy with each other. Luckily we found a nice fish place just a few blocks from our new temporary home. I knew by instinct it would be a good spot for us because as we walked past its front window I saw four tiny Spanish children jumping up and down and waving to us from inside. They looked hyper and delighted and I knew immediately that we would be welcome no matter how cranky or hangry our kids might be.
"I'm so sleepy mom!" sighed Little Angel as she put her head onto her hands at the table.
"Me too," nodded Soccer Dude.
"How can you guys be tired?" asked Señor Aventura. "You've been cooped up in the car all day. Do you want to go for a walk with me to get some energy out?"
"No, I just want to go to bed," Little Angel replied.
"I'll go with you, Dad!" said The Scientist. "Could we get gelato?"
"I'm too tired to go," added Soccer Dude. "I'd still like dessert though."
An hour later with a sweet treat in tummies and children snuggled up in their respective beds we ended Day Two of our grand southern adventure!
We slept soundly in the magical town of Granada.
Up next in Road Trip Diary, Southern Spain: We visit the awe-inspiring Alhambra, coupled with fantastic views and charming streets of the Albaicin neighborhood. We'll discover Granada's fantastic food scene too!