Seaside in Spain

We spent 10 days in the southeast of Spain and the time change is affording me a few hours in the early morning to write about it. Via an eleven hour flight to Madrid and a quick one hour flight to our final destination, we had about 16 hours of travel to get there from San Francisco. This was Cam’s first overseas trip and the longest flight he’s been on (Mike and I were also very out of practice because of the pandemic!). Since we took a redeye from SFO we had high hopes that he would sleep at least half of the first long flight to Madrid. Instead he slept for a total of 3 hours (!!!) the.whole.flight. Needless to say, Encanto was pretty much on loop for that flight. Plus, snacks. So many snacks.

We finally arrived in Alicante and drove about 15 minutes, a welcome short distance after long travel, to check into our amazing airbnb. The place we booked had a little waterpark pirate ship feature in the kids pool area that we were excited about. Traveling with Cam obviously meant we would be spending more time at our accommodation vs. out on the town so it was great to stay somewhere with something exciting for him.

On our first night we found a small beach shake restaurant and cheers’d the official kick off of our vacation over cava, spicy potatoes, and jamon with melon. After a rocky nights rest, we didn’t have the best luck finding a place that was open for coffee the next morning. We walked the marble paved beach walk for a while before finding the one single cafe that wasn’t still closed, complete with a small spattering of smokers and espresso drinkers starting their day.

After exploring the town a bit, it was time to try out the kids pool! Sure enough, it was a hit with Cam! The water was shallow enough that he could walk the whole area on his own (with us closely tailing him), there were slides, a splash pad, and fountain that he loved going in with Mike. There was also an infinity pool that was gated off with lounge chairs, a bar, and hot tubs! We spent some time there too, discovering that the ice from our finished mojitos made for great entertainment for Cam. 🙂

After a fun afternoon swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, we were able to sneak in a nicer dinner, with Cam even napping in the stroller for most of it. Full and feeling festive from fresh fish and paella, we weren’t quite ready to end the evening so decided to grab a beer at the poolside bar and dip our feet in the hot tub instead. It was probably my favorite night in Alicante, complete with Cam making friends with another niño by speaking some Spanish back and forth with him. All in all, the pools at this airbnb were spot on.

Overall though, we found the location where we were staying to be sleepy. We loved being right on the sea and all of the small playgrounds that dotted the streets (something that is true of a lot of Spanish towns we later realized) but it wasn’t exactly an energetic town. There was a small strip with a few restaurants but aside from one lunch (that I shakily ordered for take away in my less-than Spanish; “yo como la casa?” (yes, Mike reminded me that translated to “I eat my house” but, nonetheless, my sentiment did land)), the food wasn’t spectacular. We couldn’t find a proper supermarket either, which made breakfasts back at the airbnb interesting and patchwork…

We rented a car on our last day in Alicante and set off to explore a neighboring town, Elche. Specifically, I was eager to check out the Palmeral of Elche, a seemingly oasis of palm trees from what I could tell online. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite figure out where we should actually go to see all of the palms. I read about a museum, a park, a garden, and an old canal system and thought we could go there to piece together what looked fun. That wasn’t the case and we couldn’t find out where exactly we should go, despite lots of Googling and looking at Maps. On top of that, it was a holiday and basically everything was closed. We were aimlessly walking the ghost town streets, hoping to eventually find something that looked intriguing and, honestly, bickering a bit along the way. Finally, we stumbled upon an open pastry shop that set us right. We ate our sugary treats on a bench facing a pretty fountain and started to feel a little better about the day.

We never found exactly what I was looking for – which, in fairness, I’m not sure if I was searching for a museum or canal ruins – but we did find the most amazing park shortly after our pastries. There were so many fun and new things for Cam to try out that the day didn’t end up being a total bust.

Next up was driving to Javea to meet Mike’s family! On the way we stopped in Alicante proper, which turned out to be a welcome adventure in a more bustling city than the small, tired town we had just spent a few days in. We immediately found a cafe with decent coffee and the best avo and tomato toast (again, ordered in rocky Spanish…). We also walked around this cute pedestrian area, Calle San Francisco, that had giant mushroom statues and tiny toadstool houses for Cam to explore. The vibe in the city was a lot more lively and we had so much fun exploring.

Luckily, Javea was also a great town to be in – I’ll write about our days there soon!


Want more? Read about the last time I was in Spain here.

SPAIN

Earlier this month, I flew out to Malaga, Spain (birthplace to Pablo Picasso) for a work trip. As to be expected, the tapas and wine were plentiful. The town squares were beautiful; complete with marble floors, palm trees, and fountains. There were castles and cathedrals to explore; new trendy stores housed in old historic buildings; sea breezes and siestas.

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We arrived on Sunday, after flying from San Francisco to Paris to Malaga. Our hotel was only a block from a canal that runs through the city, which made for easy navigating. After unpacking and showering, we met a few colleagues at El Mesón de Cervantes.

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The restaurant was a short 10 minute walk from the hotel and rated well on trip advisor. We started with wine and olives. Something I loved about Malaga was that instead of a bread basket, you get a olive bowl to start your meal when dining out. We also ordered grilled octopus, Iberico ham, mushroom risotto, and salmon.

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The company was good, the food delicious, and the wine flowing. Not a bad first night there!

…That was until I got back to my hotel.

We got back around 11pm, which was around 2pm in California. I Facetime’d my mom for a little bit before falling asleep. Sadly, I only stayed asleep for about 4 hours before waking up pretty distraught. I am prone to homesickness and being solo on this trip hit me hard.

Fortunately, I was able to chat with my mom and Mike again, since it was still early at home. Unfortunately, not being able to sleep on my first night was some cruel foreshadowing to how the rest of my week would be.

I finally fell asleep around 6:30am and, with a start time of 9:30am on Monday, felt pretty worn-down during those first meetings! Particularly because I didn’t sleep on the flights to Spain either.

Thankfully I was able to take a quick nap before dinner that night. Siestas were the real deal in Spain. Like the locals, we ate most dinners late and stayed out after for drinks a few nights. Naps in the middle of the day equaled survival.

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The restaurant we had dinner at on Monday

On Tuesday our meetings were in a new location, which meant figuring out how to get there early in the morning with little sleep (I seriously could not fall asleep there at a decent hour). We were lucky to have the canal to help navigate the city but unfortunately, there was construction near the co-working space we had booked. A lot of Google Maps action on this trip! Eventually we made it to the location and settled in for a day of meetings.

I tried to squeeze every minute I could out of the schedule to catch some shuteye. This often meant skipping breakfast before meetings in lieu of sleeping in. In between meetings, I had a chance to step outside and grab a coffee from a cafe recommended to me by the co-working space organizer. She raved about the churros and chocolate at this place and although I really wanted to try them, I was feeling rundown. Instead I opted for a banana from a small fruit stand nearby (also stocking up on oranges for vitamin C) because I knew that was what my body really needed.

I was able to head back to the hotel midday and, on the way, grabbed a nourishing hummus bowl for lunch. Eating healthy while running on little-to-no sleep was a top priority for me.

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I caught a few Zzz’s before heading out again to explore a castle in the town. As one of my colleagues described it, the castle offered layers and layers of history; a history lasagna, if you will. I was excited to check this bad boy out but sadly, after a steep walk up to the enormous brick building, we discovered the entry fee had to be paid in Euros, and not credit card.

Wah-wah-wah…

Back down the hill it was. (We did get a few pictures at the top though so, still a semi-successful trip.) And time for (more) tapas! My friend Keely and I chatted over beers, olives, ham and melon, Spanish cheese, and spicy potatoes. The food was so good but arguably a lot before heading to a team dinner. 🙂

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The outside walls of the castle

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Views of the port

On Wednesday (half way through the trip) I succumbed to my lack of sleep and skipped the morning session of meetings. Because of my role, I was lucky to have the flexibility to do this; and gratefully so, because it was the little nudge I needed to make it through the next few days. Ah, what your body and brain can do after 6 hours of sleep…!

I met up with everyone for lunch at a foodcourt in a nearby mall and let me tell you, this food court was not your standard strip-mall nosh-mill. This place was fancy. Who doesn’t love a foodcourt with some swagger?

After lunch, a few of us grabbed espressos. We were handed legit stay-here-and-sip mini shots.

“…Um, excuse me? Can we please get these to go please?”

“No. No take away. Sit, sip, and enjoy.”

Wait, wha? Such a cultural difference. This cafe actually did not have to-go cups. You were meant to stay there and enjoy your coffee, not rush off to your next meeting. Similar to when I was in New Orleans, where things just move slower, I was like, this is annoying. I was also too timid to ask for almond milk anywhere in fear of my California stripes showing… Instead I drank everything black, which I don’t normally do. All this to say, it took some grit to pound my espresso and make it back in time for the next meeting.

Having the luxury of enjoying a coffee without taking it to-go is nice in theory but, in execution, I’m more of a let’s get this java on the road kind of girl.

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That evening we went to dinner at Recyclo Bike Cafe, where – like the name suggests – there are a bunch of bikes decorating the walls. I picked this place for 2 reasons; 1. it was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and 2. I wanted to take pictures for Mike, who loves bikes.

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I had been eating a lot more meat than I normally do so wanted to stick to something veg for dinner. I opted for the black beans, avocado, and feta tacos. They didn’t come on a standard corn tortillas, but more of a corn bun (pic below), which turned out to be very filling.

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After dinner we walked to the port to see the ocean. I was all for getting steps and hopefully tiring myself out. We saw some cool sights; both historic and modern. Our evening ended with a stroll on the beach and then back to the hotel (for another sleepless night… boo!).

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Thursday was our last day before leaving on a very early flight on Friday. Not sleeping finally caught up with me and I woke up with a cough and a running nose. Plus, I woke up late which is always freakin’ stressful, let alone when you’re not feeling well.

I got ready in a flash – brushed my teeth and hair, threw something on that resembled an outfit, filled in my eyebrows – and hustled to the meeting location; walked along side the canal, detoured for construction, finally there.

Cough, cough. Tissue for a running nose. Trying not to be disruptive…

Eventually it was time for lunch. I wondered around the allies nearby and came across a cute vegan cafe. I ordered a burger and asked if they had french fries or, “chips?” (mentally wondering, is it only “chips” in the U.K. or here too?). After a fews rounds, and with the help of a nice Italian tourist who translated a bit for me, the cafe owner explained she made herself a batch of sweet potato fries that I could have a few of. She turned one in her finger and told me “just olive oil, salt, and garlic.”

A small part of me thought, this would not fly in America with our restaurant/food laws… That voice was quieted quickly. When in Rome Spain! I was walking back to the office shortly after with the best vegan burger and homemade sweet potato fries (chips?) I’ve had in a long time.

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I tried to solider through afternoon meetings but ended up leaving early. I slept for a solid 4 hours back at the hotel and woke up feeling much better. Just in time for our last dinner in Spain.

We walked down to the port again. Olives and beer to start. Fish dish after fish dish followed, tapas style. I was feeling better but not 100% and ended up eating a lot of bread instead of trying to stomach the clams.

I went back to the hotel to pack after. And, instead of trying at another failed attempt of sleeping, decided to just stay up until 5am when it was time to leave for the airport.

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We flew home via New York. It was a relatively easy flight, and I was pretty excited for a full night of sleep when I got home. Despite being tired and a little homesick, Spain was a trip of a lifetime for me. Maybe one day I’ll be back!