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This is not going to be my typical recipe post…quite the opposite. I want to write about our recent trip to Europe with our two little boys (a 6 & a 2-year-old). We visited 3 (well if you count Wales then it would be 4) countries, 5 cities/towns, & attended the wedding. And we crammed it all into two short weeks. As you can imagine we had lots of fun but also a few meltdowns. Logistically I’m still amazed at how we accomplished this with two little kids.
The main purpose of our trip was to attend my little cousin’s wedding. She, her now husband, and their little boy live in Manchester, England; but they decided to have their wedding in the picturesque town of Nerja, in Andalusia, Spain. Their explanation for this decision was that most of the guests would have to travel anyways since both of their families are scattered around the world, so why not host it in beautiful Spain. I surely wasn’t going to complain. As a matter of fact, Nerja really captured my heart, as it seemed to embody everything you’d expect to find in a quintessential little Spanish seaside community.
But I digress… First, we stayed in Malaga, Spain.
We were planning this trip for a while and wanted to rent a nice Airbnb. We found a fantastic villa in Nerja, but we were able to rent it from midweek. However, our direct flight from JFK to Malaga (mind you, I did not want to transfer with two little boys – I’m sure you parents can appreciate that) was on a Sunday night, which would mean we landed in Spain on Monday morning. So, we had two days before our villa in Nerja was available and we decided to invest those days in Malaga.
We rented a beautiful apartment in the city center. We also rented a car at the airport but parked it for two days in Malaga because city center afforded us everything at our fingertips. We were in the middle of the action. And let me tell you something, Malaga really wowed me. I could just wander in the city center maze and be mesmerized by its beauty. And the food was out of this world (even Starbucks had some outstanding options)!!
When we first got into Malaga, my husband and I didn’t have even a minute of sleep (as was the case with our toddler, which obviously meant troubles on a horizon) but we desperately needed a healthy dose of caffeine. Lo & behold, a Starbucks miraculously appeared, like an oasis. In addition to satisfying our need for caffeine, we also thought it best to scratch our hunger itch. They had warm sandwiches with Serrano Ham, Manchego Cheese, and shredded tomato. I took a bite and was in heaven. Why they can’t make these it the U.S. (that baffles me)? While this sandwich was our first encounter with the local cuisine, we then spent the next two days eating our way through the city, in small waves of tapas.
Well, most of the wedding guests were arriving on Tuesday, except for my cousin (the bride’s older sister) with her family. They were going to rent something in Malaga for a night but we had an extra bedroom and offered it to them. We hadn’t seen each other since my wedding 6 years ago, so it was the perfect opportunity to catch up. Her husband doesn’t speak a word of English so it was a fun experience for me to ping-pong back and forth translating Polish-English and English-Polish for our husbands. But there was a lot of wine and vodka that night so the language barrier wasn’t a problem at all…
So then we drove ourselves to Nerja, along the Mediterranean Sea. I was driving and not fully able to appreciate the vistas but my family was mesmerized by the beautiful landscape of mountains and seashore. Breathtaking!
As mentioned above the main purpose of our trip was to attend my cousin’s wedding in Nerja. This was the setting where I was about to catch up with my family, some of which I hadn’t seen for 15 years. This was so amazing and so emotional that I still have tears in my eyes when I think of it. A lot of them were meeting my boys for the first time as well.
We rented a beautiful villa that was right next to the wedding venue. It was on a hill with the outstanding panoramic views of the Mediterranean sea. We were dining out all the time, swimming in our pool, walking on a beach and have the best time ever.
The wedding was as beautiful as the location. My cousin looked absolutely stunning. And to add a little levity to the occasion, she walked down the aisle to the theme song from the Game of Thrones (which by the way I’m totally obsessed with). Cocktail hour was on a rooftop terrace with breathtaking views. They were serving sangrias and passed appetizers. Then the reception and dinner were in the main wedding hall, which had a dedicated play space for kids, with babysitters and a bouncy castle. How cool is that? We were able to enjoy ourselves without worrying about our kids. Which was imperative, because no Polish wedding is complete without a healthy dose of vodka for everyone 18+.
Then the party was moved into a subterranean lounge with windows into the pool for a nighttime disco that lasted until 4 AM. It was exactly like a typical Polish wedding but in Spain.
We also had a chance to see the very famous caves in Nerja. Apparently, this is one of the most important touristic attractions in the whole Andalusian region. It wasn’t easy to take photos there, but the experience was something to remember. If you’re ever there, please don’t skip the caves. And almost equally as important an attraction, was the signature Spanish Paella (best-served seaside). Put both on your to-do list.
And then we flew on to Wroclaw, my hometown, to see my Mom and that side of my family. We were already in Europe, so it was a great opportunity to reconnect with everyone. Again, we chose to rent an apartment in the city center (on the main square). It is very colorful and picturesque. Here again, the central location provided us great accessibility to everything, and it also gave us a convenient location to again host some friends and family whom I hadn’t seen in decades.
Wroclaw has become famous for its little gnome statues peppered throughout the city. They are everywhere and my oldest son loved hunting for them. There are even information centers for gnomes, with maps that can show you where all of them are located. It’s a super fun thing to do with the kids.
The food there is also outstanding (though I admit my bias). We ate the biggest pierogi ever; devoured our fair share of Kielbasa, and drank lots of Polish beer. We also made it a point to visit the bench in the botanical gardens where my husband proposed to me seven years ago. And now, our six-year-old son took a photo of us on the very same bench (full circle).
Normally the weather in Poland is very pleasant but we happened to land there while they were in the midst of some extraordinary heat wave. The temperatures were in the mid-90s, and humid.
Manchester and Wales, United Kingdom
Our eventual return to the U.S. was from Manchester; so at some point, we needed to get ourselves to Great Britain. This was the last leg of our trip. And fortunately, a huge shift in temperature accompanied it. In stereotypical fashion, it was rainy and mid-50s. Pretty big difference from Poland’s leg. We didn’t do a ton of sightseeing in Manchester, as the weather wasn’t really cooperating. But we did make it a point to seek out ‘the best’ fish and chips, with malted vinegar, joint in the city.
It was also a good opportunity to reconnect with the newlyweds (we stayed in their house) and my cousin’s parents. We saw everyone in Spain, but it was such a whirlwind that we didn’t have time to hang out, enjoy some drinks and a nice conversation.
On our last day, we took a day trip out to Wales, by the seashore. Fittingly, as soon as we crossed the border of Wales, the clouds broke and the weather was nice and pleasant. Likewise, the landscape was inspiring. We visited Conaway Castle and my 6 years old thought he was in some sort of magical place. He immediately had visions of Knights & Kings & Dragons (so when the time is right, I think we’ll have another Game of Thrones fan in this house). It was a fantastic experience!
And so our European travels came to an end. We took a jumbojet back home – which our 6-year old enjoyed exploring the different floors. During the trip, we had some hiccups and bruises but nothing really serious. We all came home happy and healthy. But I must admit…traveling with two little boys can be challenging. However, the exploration: culturally, geographically, & culinarily, couldn’t be beaten!