I’m so proud of my children. It’s true that some days the two big ones have driven me up the wall with their bickering, but all in all they have been doing very well, charming people right left and centre, and all three of them have coped with the long plane rides amazingly well.
One of the nice things about traveling with kids, is the laughter that bubbles up when boring adults would be dozing or staring into space.
We left our hotel in NYC via an airport shuttle at 6am today, when it was still dark, and also rainy. Ours was the last stop at the airport and as we swished around the various terminals, Eliane – and therefore Mikaela and Liam and then Chris and I too – whooped and laughed as we went over the bumps of joining ramps and whirled around corners. They also exclaimed in pleasure to see the airport train in action (we caught an airport train between terminals in Madrid, but you simply can’t get enough of such joys).
It’s a cliche to say that being with children can renew your own pleasure in simple things; that taking a child’s view of the world can give you fresh joy and excitement, but it is no less true for all that.
There is a house right next to ours in Pyles, with a large courtyard out the front, where the children and I have just been entertained with pomegranates, chocolate wafer bars and stories of the owner’s grandchildren and his renovation woes. He is currently renovating the house (and not, I think, living there), and was waiting there today for someone to come help him with the kitchen, but he had not arrived.
He told me that getting work done on Karpathos is very slow. “Greeks in Greece don’t like to work,” he said. He said the Greeks in other countries – Australia, America, Germany – work very hard. But here in Greece they want to play cards, go to the cafeneio, talk.
He also said that the economy here on the island is not too bad, but in Athens, in the cities, very bad. Lots of people without work. Of course, that’s what then launched him into his spiel about Greeks in Greece not liking to work, but then I’ve frequently heard people in Australia complain about ‘dole bludgers’ who (supposedly) don’t really even want jobs. It was interesting to hear his take on things though.
He broke up two pomegranates for us to eat, scraping all the segments into a bowl, and cut up two or three small apples – all grown by him I think. I gorged myself on pomegranate because the children didn’t eat much (Mikaela tried only one tiny segment), and I suspect the polite thing here is to eat everything you are served, though I must look that up the next time the internet cafe is open. When I had to go to get Elli to bed (when we could hear her crying – she and Chris were still at home), he made me take the rest of the pomegranate with me, tipping it into my hands, and said to leave the kids who were busy playing on his grandchildren’s toy pedal quad bikes. They came home not much later though. I hope they said proper thank yous!
Written later on:
Today has been filled with gifts of traditional or homemade Greek food.
First there was the visit next door, with the pomegranate Liam had been so wanting to try.
Later, while I was nursing Eliane to sleep, I heard someone come to the door. It turned out to be someone Chris had met at the mini market the previous evening, bringing some of his homemade wine, that he thought had come out too dry, but that Chris might like, since he didn’t like the sweet wine they sold at the shop.
In the afternoon we went to Lefkos Beach, but then in the evening we went down to the local cafeneio, owned by one of our host’s nephews (the father of the woman we met yesterday who lives behind us). It appeared to be a bit of a boys club, with the nephew who had met us at the airport sitting outside on the veranda with a group of men, including his brother, the owner, and not a woman in sight, however they invited us to sit down and chatted on.
After a while their sister, who we had met a couple of days earlier, but who had only a little English, came by. She didn’t sit down but stood on the stairs chatting animatedly with her brothers and asking us what we’d been doing and how was the water (at the beach) and making much of Mikaela, in particular, with her ‘beautiful eyes’, which Mikaela withstood stoically.
She then brought out a plate of small cakes/biscuits smothered in icing sugar, and passed them around, insisting on giving Eliane a second one, then getting a wet cloth to clean her up as the icing sugar spread all over her! Her brother explained to us that her daughter had been accepted into law school today so she was treating everyone to these cakes in celebration. While she was there our backdoor neighbour came by and gave us a bag of baklava her aunt had made that day ‘for your breakfast tomorrow’ – when we got home we discovered there were 20 of these treats! Luckily they have no nuts or sesame paste, just the pastry with the sugar/honey syrup, otherwise it would probably just be me and Elli eating them! (Edited to add: we managed to get through them all over the next couple of days, and they were Yum!)
Next thing the mother of the law student (another of our backdoor neighbours aunt’s, now I think of it) wrapped up the remaining cakes and told us to take them for breakfast too, but not before taking back any cakes she had made the men take that were still uneaten, which she then also pressed on us!
Luckily Liam, Elli and I all liked them, but I had to quietly eat Chris’s when no-one was looking, because it had nuts in it, and Mikaela had two lollies (off the same plate), but didn’t try a cake.
While I am sitting here writing all this on my iPhone, drinking the (I’m sorry to say) pretty awful homemade wine we were given, I’m listening to a bazooka player who is just across the lane way from us and feeling properly grateful to be here. It seems like half the town are related to our friends back in Canberra, and the rest all know who we are. They have been incredibly welcoming and have gone out of their way to take care of us. It’s been really wonderful. Only two days left!
Today was our second full day in Greece, and the 12th day of our trip, and the tension was a little high. The kids were a bit ratty – grumpy and fighting – on and off all day, and perhaps we were too. I think part of it, especially for Liam, was probably that they’re missing the kids we were staying with in Barcelona. It’s like the typical first week of school holidays blues.
Nonetheless we had a great day. We went into Pigadia, the capital of Karpathos, which is also called Karpathos itself and which is really quite a bustling town by comparison to the surrounding villages, like Pyles, where we are staying. Plenty of cafes and lots of shopping, though it was all a bit empty at this time of year. There are 7000 people on the island (more like 35000 in the summer months!), and I’d guess a lot of them either live or at least work there.
We went in there primarily to buy some washing line and sunglasses, since I broke mine on the plane trip here. We got some for both kids too, who have been complaining of the glare a lot. We walked around a bit though, down to the harbour, and around some of the tourist shops.
Then we went to the beach recommended by a woman in the supermarket (who had lived in Geelong, Australia for many years!), Small Amopi, which was awesome. The water was clear and turquoise – it was exactly the sort of beach you expect from a Greek island. There were umbrellas on the beach, many with banana lounges set up under them, and most of the people on the beach were sunbaking on similar lounges. It was only after someone came down and asked us to pay fit sitting under one (€2) that we realized the umbrellas were someone’s business (what did we think? We didn’t, I suppose), and also realized that the empty banana lounges could have been ours for the asking too – €5-6 for two, plus an umbrella. Next time, maybe.
It was a small beach and just lovely for the kids. Quite a steep drop from toe deep to knee deep, but gradual after that, and no surf at all. I took Eliane in for a good swim, then I spent the rest of the time swimming out deeper with Liam, while Chris supervised Mikaela and Elli playing at the edge and in the sand.
Tonight the great-niece of our absent host popped in to visit us and see if we need anything. She just lives right behind us, with her husband and toddler, but she works in town (Pigadia) during the day. She said we should have a family meal with them on Sunday night – she’ll consult with her mother and let us know the details. Most everyone we’ve met here in the village knows the family who own this house, and I think a good half of them are related!
We spent the entire day yesterday in travel, leaving our friend’s house in Barcelona just before seven in the morning, and getting in to the house here in Pyles on Karpathos a little before 10pm.
I was a little dismayed to find the mattresses still in plastic when we arrived – I’d been warned, but had completely forgotten. The house is still a bit of a work in progress, its master having spent three months here last summer (he lives in Australia, but grew up here), which turned out to be not quite enough to complete renovations. However, we had sheets and quilts (some sent over with us, some already here), and we had all the children tucked in bed by around 11pm, with ourselves not far behind.
We were met at the airport by the lovely godfather of the friend who ‘lent’ us this house (the latter being the son of the ‘master’ I mentioned), and he has now taken Chris and the big kids to hire a car and hopefully do a little shopping, showing them what’s what. He gave us a little bit of a tour on the way from the airport, but it was dark and we were tired, so we didn’t take much in, though it was exciting to see all the tavernas and the boats on the harbor at a little Greek fishing village and think “Wow, we are really in Greece!”
This morning we’ve been able to get a better look at the house and the view – the house we are in is the traditional Greek white with blue trim, surrounded by similar houses. The view from the balcony is of a church immediately below us and the sea in the distance, in one direction, with rocky mountains in another. Pyles is not a seaside village, but like most Greek islands Karpathos rises steeply from the sea. I suspect we will drive down to a beach this afternoon.
The tourist highlight of Karpathos, aside from the beaches, is Olympos/Olymbos, which is still very much a traditional Greek village, where most of the women, at least, still wear traditional dress. However Olymbos is on the other end of the Island, which almost makes it like a separate island altogether. Access is by ferry (some two hours) plus bus, or by four wheel drive, as there is still no paved road joining the two ends of the island (though they’re working on it). The car hire company said we could swap over our family car for a four wheel drive for one day for an extra €15, but they are only four seaters. We could take the ferry, but expecting the kids to sit through a two hour ferry ride each way for something that will be, let’s face it, at best of passing interest to them, is probably not really the best use of one of our five precious days here. So no Olympos for us.
Happily, I think there will be no shortage of things to do at this end of the Island, between the beaches and the capital, Pigadia, and the people here in town, half of whom seem to be related to our absent hosts.
Having been here now for 5 nights, I can say I am really glad we’ve arranged our trip this time to – mostly – be spending around a week in each location, although already this time in Barcelona seems to be rushing by.
Last time we travelled overseas, we had just Liam, who was then not quite two, and we had a number of stops of two-three nights. There were good reasons for that, namely, trying to fit people in, not wanting to put people out by staying with them for too long, and having limited money for accommodation on the places where we couldn’t stay with anyone, for whatever reason. But by the end of five weeks, we were all feeling a bit tired and cranky.
You’d think those reasons would be more true this time, traveling with three kids, but somehow it hasn’t worked out that way. We are still spending the shortest times in the places we have to pay for accommodation, and we’ll have the road trip up to Portland to visit my brother and his family, where we’ll stop a night or two on the way up and one on the way back, with only four days there (they have a new baby and no older children so we didn’t even ask them to put us up), so that will be quite disruptive for the kids, but mostly we’re spending a good chunk in each location.
There are a couple of people we visited last time who we are just not managing to fit in this time, which I’m sad about, but with three kids and the longer overall trip (there was no Europe component last time), I think it’s more important than last time for them to have time to settle.
The time in Barcelona *is* flying though, and our kids are going to really miss having the other kids to play with when we get to Greece.
Traveling with kids is definitely different to traveling without them. Of course that’s not news. And I’ve traveled with kids before, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I supposed I haven’t traveled to places where I want to behave like a tourist before – sightseeing.
Today we went to the Sagrada Familia, which was amazing. This is a church designed by Gaudi, which has been under construction since 1882, with completion expected around 2020. Some people come back to Barcelona every few years to see how it’s progressing. I think we took about 100 photos.
Even at 10 in the morning the line to buy tickets to enter the church was around the block, but there were far fewer tour groups waiting than when we visited two days ago and decided not to go in, an hour or two later in the day. But, the line moved quickly, and once inside it didn’t feel particularly crowded, if also not particularly reverential.
Tickets cost us €12 each and the kids were free, all being under 10. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go up in the lift into the spires, because a) under 6 year olds can’t go up, so someone would have had to stay down with Mikaela and Eliane, and b) the next time we could go was 1&1/2 hours away – tickets were sold out until then.
An hour and a half seemed too long to wait, and we were not wrong in our assessment – the two younger kids were over it long before that, especially Eliane, who woke up tired and grumpy today, after a short nap yesterday and an unsettled night. There really wasn’t a lot in the church for them to do – when you’re 1 or even 5, it’s pretty much a case of seen one amazing glass window, seen ’em all.
Liam had his own camera and so enjoyed taking photos himself, while Chris and I took turns with child supervision and church appreciation. That was okay, but we simply weren’t at leisure to read the various plaques or spend any time in the museum (underneath) and so on. We walked through the museum, but only to find the toilets!
While the Sagrada Familia was well worth the visit, for Liam as well as us grown ups, I would love to go back without the kids (or without young kids at the very least) to be able to really appreciate the church in all it’s glory. After the money and energy that has been poured into this church, which was Gaudi’s last and some say greatest work, I imagine it will always be a tourist attraction. But I would like to think that there will be facility for it to be used as it was, I’m sure, intended, not only to hold services, but for the devout (or even not so devout) to sit in mediation or prayer in what should be an amazing atmosphere – if ever there is a time when it is not crawling with sightseers and their cameras.
Speaking for which, here are just a few of the photos we took:
Flying doesn’t give me quite the same buzz it did back when I took my first flight at 19 years old (from Adelaide to Timor via Darwin), but I do still get a kick out of it.
Of course it’s partly being on holidays, especially at the start of a trip like this – the flight is filled with so much to look forward to and is the culmination of months of anticipation, weeks of preparation, but is also the moment we can finally relax.
I wasn’t sure how it would go, this flying with (three) kids thing – and let’s be clear, this is only the second flight of four before we reach our first destination. But so far, so good.
Elli was a bit grumpy and hard to distract for a while there after the first little while in her seat. We boarded early to give us plenty of time to get the CARES and car seat installed, and deal with any more strife over using the CARES device (there wasn’t any), and there was a little delay on the runway, so by the time we made it into the air the kids had been strapped in for about an hour, and Elli was over it. (Lesson learned: don’t strap the baby into her seat until the plane is really ready to take off, and the fasten seat belts sign is on.)
But, I kept her more or less distracted until the dinner arrived, and then she was very happy for a while eating chicken and peas, chewing on some bread and butter, and eating not only her own tiramisu, but most of Liam’s and Mikaela’s! After which Chris took her to change her nappy and get her into her pajamas, so that in theory she could nurse to sleep. In the end it took probably another half hour or more of play time – mostly on my lap, some on Chris’s, before she was ready to go to sleep, but once she did she’s been great. She’s woken a few times to change positions or nurse some more, but mostly she’s been settled.
So here I am in the middle of the night stuck between another passenger and her car seat with her on my lap, one arm trapped under her. So why am I having such a good time?
I think it’s that not only are we off on a big adventure, but also that this is enforced down time. I’ve just watched two and a half episodes of junk – but fun – TV, something I virtually never have time to do, and now I’m writing a blog post. Something else I struggle to find time for.
Admittedly I’d probably be having a better time if I’d had more than 3 hours sleep last night, and if I didn’t gave the consequent headache. Actually I’d possibly be asleep now – or at least dozing, if we didn’t have to get off the plane in Singapore in a bit under two hours. It is, after all, after 11pm, Canberra time. On the other hand it must be about 3pm Barcelona time, so if I *can* sleep on the next flight (more likely to happen early if the kids weren’t asleep now I’d guess) that’s probably quite good from a jet lag perspective. And that’s a 13 hour flight or there abouts, so it won’t matter if it takes a while for the kids to resettle – except in the sense that I will be utterly, utterly exhausted!
Hmm, they’ve turned the lights back up. Must be time for another ‘refreshment’ 🙂 – I do like the food on these international flights – Qantas ones, anyway. (Edited later to add – and yeah, sorry to say none of the other airlines’ food really matched up.)
Edited to add:
Thirty hours later, we’re on our forth and final (for this week) flight.
Everyone is exhausted, though all three kids got substantially more sleep than me or Chris. Tempers were slightly frayed getting through Heathrow and onto this flight, but overall we’ve all done remarkably well.
I’m the only one who seems to gave any significant ear trouble with take off and landing, which is good. (Edited again later to add that Liam did have some ear trouble, but intermittently, like me, and only one flight where it really truly bothered him a lot.)
I’ve had about three or four broken hours of dozing over the entire time, and with only three hours of sleep the night before we left, that makes maybe six hours in the past 60, with another 10 or so hours before I can go to bed in Barcelona!
We made it! We’re on the plane!
(I´m typing on my iPhone to upload later)
First flight, a dash 8 from Canberra to Sydney. Eliane was asleep, nursing before we started taxiing to the run way. Yay!
This is the first time the big kids have been on a plane, in their memory. They have both been very excited about it. I was a little concerned that Mikaela might be scared, especially with the bumpy start we always have getting out of Canberra. But no, she giggled a bit nervously, but was okay and interested in the view, and in going through the clouds.
It’s a small plane, two seats on either side. Since we have a seat booked for Elli (she can’t use it, as we can’t use the car seat on this plane, but it’s part of our round the world ticket), we’ve got the four seats on either side of the aisle, plus one behind. So the kids are sitting together, with Mikaela in the window and Chris across the aisle (no-one next to him), and I’m behind them with Elli on my lap (and no-one next to me).
The kids are enjoying being together though it might be easier if Chris were next to Mikaela.
Unfortunately they didn’t let us put the CARES harness on for Mikaela, and we didn’t get on early enough to feel we had time to argue, but I am convinced we should be allowed to use it (according to the Qantas website it is pre-approved for use, unlike car seats, which need to be approved a day or two before flying). I can´t see any reason being on a Dash 8 would matter for it, we had it on the seat fine before the flight attendant told us to take it off. I suspect it will be less likely to be a problem on the international flights, but I wish we´d printed out that page from the Qantas website. (Updated to add – there were no problems on the international Qantas or British Airways flights – other airlines still to come).
(Edited later to add – we did not have another flight where the CARES harness was questioned, including on the Dash 8 flight back from Sydney to Canberra)
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the capital of Catalonia. Tourism is a huge industry in this city, which is the 16th most visited worldwide and the fourth most visited in Europe. Each year, several million people visit beautiful Barcelona. It has something for everyone, making it the perfect destination for an overseas family vacation. To make planning more efficient, we have compiled the top 10 things to do in Barcelona Spain. Be sure to include several of these in the travel itinerary so the kids will enjoy the trip as much as the adults.
Barcelona makes a perfect destination any time of year because the summers are warm and dry and winters are mild and humid. Many hotels are family friendly, offering rooms that accommodate four or more guests. Family rooms at the Holiday Inn Express Barcelona sleep two children and two adults, while rooms at the Mur Mar Apart Hotel sleep six people. The Triunfo Hotel features triple rooms ideal for a small family and overlooks the Parc de la Ciutadella, a kid-friendly recreation spot.
Upon arrival, tourists can get an overview of the city by taking an open top, hop on, hop off tour bus. Even residents comment on the usefulness of this transportation because it provides a thorough overview of the layout of Barcelona. Travelers can use it to get around Barcelona, hopping on and off wherever they choose, or they may remain on the bus for the entire tour, passing by the most popular tourist spots. Daily tickets cost 23 euros for adults and 12 euros for children and two-day tickets are available at a discounted rate.
One of the first places adults will want to visit is the Gothic Quarter, which is the center of the old city of Barcelona. Many buildings in this area data back to medieval times, some constructed during the Roman settlement period. Particularly remarkable is the Sagrada Familia Church, under construction since 1882 with completion not planned until 2026. Kids will not last long on this sightseeing tour, so take them to the Barcelona Aquarium at Port Vell to get their fill of aquatic life. Special programs are designed for children of all ages.
Those who are staying at the Triunfo Hotel have the Barcelona Zoo across the street in the Parc de la Ciutadella. A wide array of animals is on display and the zoo features a picnic area, restaurant, ponies, a mini-train, and electric cars. By purchasing a Barcelona card, travelers receive free unlimited transportation on the Barcelona transport network and discounted admission to attractions like the zoo. Tourists prepay for attraction tickets and use this card to gain admission so they do not need to carry cash.
Most kids love amusement parks and Barcelona has several nearby. Tibidabo is one of the three oldest European amusement parks and it is located atop Tibidabo Mountain, providing breathtaking views of the city. Water parks are another kid favorite so the three swimming pools and more than 20 water slides at Illa Fantasia should not disappoint. This is one of the largest water parks in Europe and is just 30 minutes from city center via train. Families can dine at one of several park restaurants or bring their own food and sit at one of the 800 picnic tables in the park. They can even pick up their lunch at the supermarket next door and barbecue at this facility.
Four beautiful beaches are located within ten minutes of Barcelona, with Barcelonata being the closest. This beach can get very crowded, so get there early. For a bit more space, head to Icaria or travel 30 minutes via train to Sitges Beach. When on an adult-only vacation, explore the wild side by heading to Mar Bella, the unofficial nudist beach near the city. If the kids are too rambunctious to sit on the beach, how about a sailing adventure? Adults and children can take a sailing course together that will have them navigating the high seas in no time. Lesson costs start at 31 euros for guests ages 15 and older and 17 euros for children ages seven to 14.
It is not every day that the family visits a wax museum, so do it when in Barcelona. Museu de Cera is a magical place that pays tribute to some of the most important figures in world history. Emperors, queens, kings, inventors, sculptors, dancers, and musicians…all are captured in lifelike form using wax. Admission ticket prices are 9 euros for children ages five to 11 and 15 euros for visitors over 11 years old.
Architecture by the famed Antoni Gaudi can be found all around Barcelona. This talented architect even designed the Parc Guell, a beautiful park that features beautiful stone structures and amazing tiling. Kids will love the colorful dragon fountain that guards the entrance. They will also have fun climbing to the terrace at the top and looking out on the city. Adults will appreciate the interesting furniture in the on-site museum and the fact that admission to this large park is free.
When evening rolls around, the family can head to the Magic Fountain of Monjuic for a music and water extravaganza. This fountain has been a performance center since 1929, offering free shows to millions of tourists each year. Check the Magic Fountain Web site for show times because these change with the seasons. Before the show, the family can head to one of the chocolate restaurants for some churros and hot chocolate, a special treat that is particularly comforting during cold weather.
Ok, so we provided you with a bit more than 10 things to do in Barcelona Spain, but they are all well worth considering. Between the food, attractions, architecture, and other things to do and see, the family will be on overload. In between all the excitement, it is important to spend some quality time with each other. Barcelona offers plenty of shopping and dining establishments perfect for family bonding.