Exploring the Douro Valley

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Travel and Leisure magazine named Portugal as one of the top travel destinations for 2016 and maybe because it’s been on our travel radar also, or maybe it’s just been in the spotlight lately, but we’ve been seeing articles about the Douro Valley all over the place.  After seeing pictures of these terraced vineyards clinging to the hills above the broad Douro River, we knew we had to go see it for ourselves.  Locals like to say that in the Douro, they have 3 months of winter and 9 months of hell as temperatures soar to above 40 degrees Celsius during the summer months.  Fall was actually a perfect time to visit-the temperatures were mild and comfortable and the colors in the vineyards with the vines changing colors were just spectacular.

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After researching quite a bit, we knew that we wanted to stay in one of the quintas, not just a hotel but a wine-growing estate.  We needed to see where the magic happens!  😉  Our first night we stayed at Quinta do Vallado in Peso da Regua, about an hour and a half from Porto.    We were greeted with a welcome glass of Port when we arrived and we had just enough time to stroll around the lovely grounds before making our way over to a complimentary wine tour and tasting.

The wine tour was very…long thorough, which we probably would have appreciated more without the kids!  Let’s be real, we were just in it for the free tasting at the end. 😉  But anyway, it was informative and they were fine with us having the kids along-and thankfully the kids were well behaved! We really enjoyed the wines and port we sampled and only wished we had enough room in our luggage to bring back a case!

Since there was not much around the hotel, we had made a reservation before our arrival to have dinner there that night.  It was a three course meal with wine pairings and they prepared something also for the kids.  The food was great and the service too, and it was just a lovely evening.  We had the suite in the newer building and the room was very spacious with a gorgeous slate bathtub and also complimentary fruit and a mini bottle of wine.  Love those little touches!

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Breakfast was included with the room and it was a really nice spread.  Before we checked out we took turns having massages, which were so good and so incredibly relaxing.  It was a great stay and we were sad to only have one night there to enjoy.  We arrived just after the harvest had finished, but if you decide to come in the fall you might want to time it for harvest-you’d even have a chance to stomp the grapes since they still keep this tradition alive here!

We were surprised that the Douro Valley is such a foodie area-we stopped for a very gourmet lunch at Castas e Pratos before driving to our next destination farther along the Douro River near the town of Pinhao.  The Douro Valley has typically been a fairly impoverished region aside from the estate owners and although tourism is rapidly growing in this area, you still see the juxtaposition of  fairly poor towns next to luxury hotels and restaurants.  The Douro Valley is quite a self sustaining region, which has been their key to survival.  It is a microclimate that is ideal for growing grapes, but also plenty of other things too-nuts, fruits, olives, citrus, and family gardens as well.

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Our last night we stayed high up in the hills at Quinta Nova de Nossa.  The roads were a bit hair-raising to get here, but the views from the top were well worth it.  So about this hotel…I have a mixed review.  It was our most expensive hotel so I had the highest expectations for this one; and after staying at Quinta do Vallado, we had a great experience to compare it to.  The staff at Nova de Nossa were courteous, but not overly friendly.  We had booked the suite, as they said it was the only room that could accommodate a family, but we were not informed that it had twin beds.  And more than that, two of the twin beds were those incredibly high sleigh beds that you have to have step stools to get in.  The decor of the place was very old-fashioned…and not like hip, vintage old-fashioned; just like my grandparents house old-fashioned.  We had dinner at their restaurant since you are virtually in the middle of nowhere and there is nowhere else to go.  The food was good, but there were only two options…that night it was either octopus or veal which I wasn’t very excited for.  They had said via email that they had a kids menu, but when we asked that night there was only one option, which was beef.  We don’t eat beef, but after some confusion with our server they did wind up preparing some really delicious pasta with tomato sauce.  And my final gripe-they offered wine tastings, but it was 8 euros to taste 3 wines.  Which wouldn’t have been a big deal had we not had the experience the previous night where we got a two hour tour and tasting of about 10 wines and ports all complimentary as guests of the hotel.

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Now on to the plus side.  The views were absolutely stunning.  Which I think is a big part of what you pay for.  The port tonics were delicious and the grounds were extensive with paths to explore them.  There is a beautiful infinity pool which I imagine must be heaven in those hot summer months.  They have baskets for guests to pick fruit from their orchards when it is in season, which would be really fun especially for the kids.  There is a bar where you can also get a sandwich or small snack to eat, and in retrospect we probably should have just done this for dinner.  They also have lots of areas both inside and outside to lounge and relax and also some games you can borrow in one of the sitting rooms.  And for me, their saving grace…we realized after we got home that we had left my younger son’s stuffed cat that he takes everywhere in the room we stayed in.  I emailed them and not only had they found it, but they mailed it to us free of charge…it arrived in just a few days.  They saved the day!

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We had one more day to fill before our flight home at 8 pm, so we headed down the scary road to Pinhao for a sailboat tour on the Douro River.  Our guide was so informative and it was a very relaxing way to spend the morning.  There had been heavy showers overnight and a drizzle in the morning, but thankfully the weather cleared just in time for us to set sail.

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We had lunch in Pinhao and admired more beautiful tiles before making one last stop at a quinta we had read about, Quinta do Seixo owned by Sandeman, the famous port producer.

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In the interest of time and our sleeping toddler, we skipped the tour and just went straight to the tasting.  I did a wine tasting and Lukasz had a port and chocolate tasting that was divine.  They were also sweet to bring a big orange juice to the kiddo who was awake still.  The views from their vineyard were amazing and the good thing about being a big producer is that they sell at the airport so we were able to bring a few bottles home without the luggage restrictions!

Our trip to Porto and the Douro Valley completely exceeded my expectations and I was surprised at just how kid friendly this trip was.  The people we met, especially in Porto were so warm and kind and the scenery was sensational.  I’m so glad we finally made it back to Portugal and now we are already plotting our next trip to this beautiful country-maybe Lisbon and the Algarve?!

 

 

Fall Fun in Porto

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Portugal has been on our list for a long time now and since we have only spent a night in Lisbon, we knew we needed to go back and check out more of the country.  After doing some research, Porto and the Douro Valley seemed like the perfect fall destinations and when our friends who are from Porto assured us that it is quite kid-friendly, we were sold!

I must say, we have been to a lot of beautiful cities, but I think Porto may be the most photogenic city I’ve ever seen.  Between the beautiful tiles, colorful Ribeira houses, and the wide Douro River, this place is absolutely a photographer’s dream!

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We stayed at Cardosas Boutique Apartment and could not have been happier with our stay.  We arrived at our hotel on our anniversary, which I had mentioned when we booked because we were looking for a babysitter for one night so we could enjoy a dinner out.  We were so surprised upon check-in to be greeted with rose petals on the bed, a bouquet of fresh flowers, the most delicious chocolate cake, and a small bottle of port.  What a way to celebrate!  The apartment itself was spacious, centrally located, and beautifully decorated.  Sarah, the property manager, also babysat for us one night and she could not have been sweeter.  A gem of a place that we would highly recommend!

We had never done one of the Hop on/Hop Off bus tours, but since the things we wanted to see were a bit spread out and it was super cheap, we decided to give it a try.  The kids loved it and we were happy it included discounted admission to the Sea Life aquarium.

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On our first full day we had fun exploring all the beautiful architecture of the city.  We hit all the main sites including the Ribeira district along the river, the Sao Francisco church, and the Se cathedral.  Mostly though, we just enjoyed wandering and seeing beauty around every corner!

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The beautiful Sao Francisco church

Loved the colorful Ribeira neighborhood

The picture above is of a rabelo boat, a traditional Portuguese boat built to haul people and cargo, specifically the port wine that the town is famous for.  The boats are now used to carry tourists instead, but they are still beautifully made.

And oh my-all this gorgeous blue and white tile!  Love! ❤ <3<3

Another beautiful spot is the Sao Bento railway station.  There are 20,000 hand painted tiles in this station depicting important moments in Porto’s history.

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There are stunning views from the Se Cathedral!

 

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After a busy day of seeing some beautiful sights, we were ready for a bit of a rest.  Luckily there was an outdoor market happening right outside of our apartment along with a little cafe where we were excited to try port tonics (my new favorite drink) made of muscatela port and tonic.  Delicious!

Speaking of delicious, we enjoyed some great food in Porto-highlights were our dinners at Tasco and Cantina 32.  We went to Tasco the night we had a baby-sitter and really enjoyed it.  Helpful tip–Cantina books up like crazy, but they open unofficially at 6:30 pm and you can come grab a table if you don’t stay too long.  A perfect option with the kids!  And finally, don’t forget to try the famous local pastry when in Porto-pastel de nata.  I may have eaten my weight in them because they are sooooo good!  The best ones we had in Portugal were at a little cafe next to the bookstore Lello.

On Saturday we hopped on the bus and headed out towards the ocean!  The morning started out drizzly, but turned into a gorgeous, warm fall day.  We spent the morning at Sea Life aquarium, which was quite small, but the kids enjoyed it.  Then we had lunch down by the ocean before heading back downtown for some afternoon port tasting.  We like to include a little something for everyone when we travel! 😉

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Amazing views on the drive out.

 

The Hop On/Hop Off tour also included free port tasting at a few different cellars so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sample some.  All of the port houses are on the other side of the river, across the Dom Luis bridge in Vila Nova de Gaia.  There’s also a little playground right next to the river on that side, so it was a good place to stop after our tastings to let the kids burn off some steam.

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After the tastings, we took the cablecar back to the top half of the bridge where we stopped for some breathtaking views and then it was just a short stroll back to the apartment.

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On our last morning, we visited Lello, the famous bookstore that inspired J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series.  This little shop must be amazing without the crowds, but unfortunately word has gotten out and it is so packed you can hardly even browse without being knocked out by a selfie stick.  Even in spite of the crowds, I am glad that we got the chance to pop in and take a peek.

We are so glad we had the chance to explore the gorgeous city of Porto!  We were sad to say goodbye, but it was time to pick up our rental car and head to the scenic Douro Valley.

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Why It’s More Important Now than Ever to Travel with Kids

Like many Americans, the recent election has left me reeling and I haven’t posted about our recent travels because it just feels frivolous in light of all that is going on in the world right now.  But the more I think about, it’s never been so important for us to continue to travel with our children and to hopefully inspire you to do the same if you aren’t already.

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Traveling with kids is one of the best ways to raise our children to be global citizens and to foster tolerance and understanding for this future generation.  Seeing people of different ethnicities, cultures, and religions also ‘normalizes’ our differences and teaches children to be curious and open minded about people who are different than themselves rather than to fear those differences.

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Of course we have seen some amazing sights and beautiful landscapes in our travels, but the thing that makes traveling most special is the people you meet.  When we explore other cultures we find that we are more alike than different-we all love our children and we all want to leave this world a better place for them.  Some of my fondest travel memories have been grown men cooing over my babies in Turkey, a Thai woman who played with my son for an hour on the beach helping him build sand castles and find seashells, a Spanish waiter who carried my infant son around for our entire meal so we could eat in peace-and I could go on and on.  Children connect us and allow us to see a softer side of a place-they allow us to see how much goodness and kindness there is in the world.

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We will continue to travel with our kids in order to teach them the most important lessons in life because clearly what we all need now is a little more tolerance, understanding, and compassion for one another.

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And if you can’t travel, you can do the next best thing-read!  Read with your children about different cultures and about diversity.  I’m personally making a list of children’s books that celebrate diversity that Santa will be bringing this year.  A few on my list:

  1. Let’s Talk about Race by Julius Lester- This book talks about race and how all people deserve to be treated with respect and kindness-a message we all need to be sharing at home right now.
  2. The Peace Book and It’s Ok to Be Different both by Todd Parr- We love Todd Parr around here.  The illustrations are colorful and bold and the messages of his stories are great.
  3. The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss- a classic Dr. Seuss story with important moral lessons about tolerance, diversity, and fear of the unknown.
  4. You and Me Together: Moms, Dads, and Kids Around the World by National Geographic-Take a look at everyday family life around the world.
  5. Whoever You Are by Mem Fox- We already own this one, but it is one of my favorites.  Beautifully written and illustrated-I get teary every time I read it because the message is so powerful.

For me, there is nothing more important to teach my children than the values of kindness, tolerance, and empathy.  When I feel paralyzed with fear of the hate that seems so prevalent in our world or inadequate for not doing enough, I remind myself that my job right now could not be more important-to pour myself into raising kind, tolerant, global thinkers.

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that

in diversity there is beauty and strength.”

–Maya Angelou

5 Family Friendly Destinations for Fall

We just got back from a wonderful few days in Portugal for this year’s fall break after much deliberation about where we would go.  It’s always a bit overwhelming to decide where to go in the fall (now that we are locked into the school holidays) since late October is not quite warm enough for a beach destination, and the weather can be a bit unpredictable elsewhere.  Nevertheless, we’ve gotten lucky with some great spots and have some ideas in case you need some fall travel inspiration!

1. Innsbruck, Austria

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Innsbruck is a small town with a charming historic center, but the best part is that there is a cablecar at the center of town that can take you up to the Alps in minutes.  We went all the way to the top only to find snow already in October, but it was nice and warm when the sun was shining!  If you get off mid-station there are some really nice hikes and there’s even an Alpine zoo that the littles are sure to enjoy.

2. Loire Valley, France

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The Loire Valley is known for its castles and it’s a great place in Europe to see some beautiful fall foliage.  Stay in Amboise and venture out to see the stunning chateaux such as Chambord, Chenonceau, and Villandry.  Many of the castles have things that will entertain the kids too and if nothing else, there are huge gardens to explore and run off some steam.  More details here and here.

3. Nuremberg, Germany

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Nuremberg is a pretty town in Bavaria where most of the historic center was painstakingly rebuilt after World War II.  There is a lot of World War II history here, including a Holocaust museum, which might be interesting if you have older children.  For families with younger children, a suburb just outside of Nuremberg is home to Playmobil Funpark- a thematic park geared towards children 10 and under based on the different Playmobil worlds.  It is wonderfully entertaining and extremely engaging and much less crowded in the fall…and best of all, it’s cheap!  Around 10 Euros to get in and you could easily spend the day there.  We enjoyed a night at the NH hotel in Zirndorf which was right next to a forest with nice walking trails.  Perfect for a long weekend getaway!

4. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

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Lauterbrunnen is in a beautiful region of Switzerland famous for three big peaks:  Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger.  There are 72 waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley and with many surrounding mountain villages, cablecars, and hiking trails, there is  no shortage of things to explore!  Stunning scenery and the leaves changing in the fall make it even more beautiful.

5. Douro Valley, Portugal

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I’ll write a full recap soon of our most recent trip to Portugal, but it definitely should be on this list as a gorgeous fall destination.  Stay a few nights in the charming city of Porto with its gorgeously tiled buildings and old world charm before heading out for a night or two in the Douro Valley, famous for their port wine production.  The Douro is certainly one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful wine growing regions and the colors with the vines changing in the fall are really just magical.

 

So there’s our top recommendations…what are your favorite fall travel destinations?  We are always looking for inspiration to add to the bucket list!

 

 

What to Eat in Madrid

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A couple of weekends ago we escaped to Madrid sans enfants for an early anniversary celebration.  We had a great time and more importantly ate, drank, and slept A LOT.  It was wonderful!  Madrid is a paradise for foodies and we made a pretty valiant attempt at fitting in all the dishes and restaurants we wanted to try while we were there.

As a sidenote, I think Madrid (like most anywhere) is definitely “do-able” with kids.  There are plenty of playgrounds; Retiro park is huge and a fun place to spend half a day; football (soccer) is extremely popular here and it would be fun to catch a Real Madrid match…BUT the restaurant scene might be an issue.  Lunch is a later affair with locals eating around 3 pm, but restaurants do open between 12 and 1.  For dinner many restaurants don’t open until 9 pm so if you’re kids are on a North American schedule like ours, it might be tough.  There are certainly places to eat, they are just more fast food or touristy types of places.  This is mostly why we decided to come here for a quick  grown up getaway and we were happy we did!

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We stayed at the hotel ME Madrid Reina Victoria and it was super fun and hip.  We loved the welcome glass of cava upon arrival, the surprise anniversary gift of cava and fruit along with a sweet quote written on the mirror, the in-room sound system, views of the Santa Ana Plaza, the helpful concierge service, and the rooftop bar.  Didn’t love that breakfast wasn’t included and was 5o Euros per person for the buffet (definitely didn’t seem worth it!) or the long wait and poor service in the rooftop bar on weekend nights but overall it was a great experience and we would definitely recommend the hotel.

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We arrived at our hotel around 9 pm, perfect timing for a Madrid dinner!  We checked in and then made our way to our 10 pm reservation at Casa Lucas, a tapas bar on Cava Baja serving traditional tapas as well as some more imaginative dishes.  The place was tiny and we were so glad the hotel had made a reservation for us at one of their few tables.  The food and wine were amazing and it was a great intro to the delicious Spanish cuisine we would enjoy over the next couple of days.

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On Saturday we spent some time walking through Retiro Park, which was really beautiful with all the changing leaves.  The weather was absolutely perfect while we were there-warm and sunny, but not hot.  Fall is a great time of year to visit!  The park is huge and there are lots of places to stop for a drink or snack.

We enjoyed a late lunch at Inclan Brutal Bar which was just around the corner from our hotel on a little side street and had a fun atmosphere and great food.  And of course we couldn’t come to Spain without having some sangria!

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We walked off lunch wandering around the city through the Puerta del Sol and meandering through the vibrant streets.  It’s a good thing that we walked an average of around 16 km a day since pretty much all we did on this trip was eat!

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For dinner Saturday night we wanted something a bit fancier for a proper celebration dinner and a friend had recommended the restaurant Ultramarinos Quintin.  We loved the food and atmosphere in the trendy Salamanca neighborhood.  The only thing we didn’t like was feeling a bit rushed as we could only get in for an 8 pm seating and there was a 10 pm seating reserved after us.  Despite the fact that we had two hours, the food came out extremely rapidly (which we used to appreciate when we lived in the U.S., but now we like to have long, lingering European style meals!).  Overall, it was a lovely evening and instead of dessert we enjoyed some fab gin and tonics as the restaurant had an extensive menu of gins.img_2539

After dinner more walking and drinks at the hotel’s rooftop bar!

I could totally adjust to the Spanish lifestyle-staying up late, sleeping late-perfect for this night owl!  On Sunday morning (and by morning I mean noon ;)) we headed to the famous flea market, El Rastro.  This flea market is huge and draws hordes of tourists and locals alike.  There are lots of cheap wares, likely from China, but if you escape to some of the side streets there are some more unique goods and antique shops to browse.  We bought a couple of traditional fans for gifts and mostly just enjoyed the bustling atmosphere.

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A laaaate morning desayuno.

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A market on the way to El Rastro

Crazy crowds!

After the market we set out to check another thing off our foodie list…bocadillos de calameres, fried calamari sandwiches!  The best are supposedly around Plaza Mayor, so that’s where we went.

La Campana got great reviews, and since the line was out the door we decided to give them a try.  We loved the sandwiches, but thought they could have used some sauce (which is apparently a hotly debated topic among locals).

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More afternoon wanderings plus a walk out to see the palace.  Had to walk lots to make room for all that food of course!  Next on the foodie agenda was churros and chocolate and the historic Chocolateria San Gines is known as being the best.  We agreed-they were delicious!

After more walking we enjoyed a short siesta because we had big evening plans-more food!!!  We signed up for a tapas and wine tour with Devour Madrid and it was a great way to sample lots of things that we wouldn’t necessarily normally try in places we might not know about.  It was also nice to get some history and stories about Madrid throughout the tour.  Some of the tiny, historic tapas places can be a bit intimidating as novices since they can be crowded, you pay for food and drinks at different bars, and eat standing up or at the counter.  It was nice to have someone to show us the ropes!  The tours are small-ours was 3 couples and a perfect size.

We tried some great food and wine and really enjoyed it!

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Monday morning we explored the Prado museum-it was so nice to explore at a leisurely pace and not have to either skip it or race through with antsy kids!  Loved seeing the art in real life that I learned about in high school Spanish class.

For lunch we went to a couple of tapas bars on the famous Cava Baja, which is a long street loaded with tapas bars.  Our friends who lived in Madrid for a few years told us we had to try huevos rotos-fries with literally “broken eggs” on top.  We did and man were they good!  Perfect after a night with one too many glasses of wine.  A woman who worked at one of the restaurants we went to on the food tour had recommended Casa Lucio so that’s where we went and I’m still dreaming of them!  We also stopped in to this tiny, historic tapas bar to try their anchovies and it felt like we had stepped back in time.  I imagine that not much has changed in this place over the last 50 years.  So cool!

Before heading home on our evening flight, we made our way to the rooftop bar at Circulo de Bellas Artes for some tinto de verano (red wine with lemon-lime soda) and stunning views.

Madrid has a fantastic food culture that we really loved exploring!  We didn’t have a single bad or even merely average meal on this trip, which I think might be a first-but to be fair I also researched quite a bit before we came to ensure we tried the best of what was on offer!  It was lots of food and lots of fun!

A Family Holiday in Menorca

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For our last trip of the summer we spent an amazing few days in Menorca, the smallest of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain.  We booked this trip way back in February mainly because we found crazy cheap tickets on Easyjet, but also because we LOVE Spain and had heard good things about this small, wild island that’s more chilled out than it’s livelier, more famous neighbors, Ibiza and Mallorca.  It wound up being the perfect laid back place to end the summer.

Here’s our guide for where to stay, what to see and do, what to eat, and where to shop to have a perfect holiday on this gorgeous island.

Where to Stay

We stumbled upon the charming agriturismo, Turmaden des Capita, and it was a fantastic find.  With only 6 rooms, Turmaden is a working farm and also a labor of love for the owners Rafel and Marta.  From the moment we arrived, we felt incredibly welcome and they really made us feel at home.  They have recently renovated this past spring and they still have a few minor things they are working on, but by next season this place will be incredible.  From the relaxing pool, suite with gorgeous hillside views, honesty bar, and artistic touches, it was a perfect base for a relaxing few days on the island.  Turmaden is centrally located, about 10 minutes from the nearest beach, and we really liked the ease of getting to places in any direction since the island is so small.

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What to Eat

We loved the typical Menorcan treat known as ensaimadas.  A light, airy pastry that can be sweet or savory and dusted with powdered sugar or filled with various options (the custard creme was delicious!).  We had a few of these over the course of the week, but the best were not surprisingly from the little pastelería called “La Mejor” in Mahon.

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Another great find was this tiny little cafe in Mahon called Pipet and Co.  It was adorable and the menu was eclectic and healthy.  We had a delicious lunch of chilled green apple soup, tasty salad, an amazing salmon burger, and pasta for the kids.  The cheesecake and carrot cake also looked incredible.  What was even better was the fact that we sat outside in a square with a playground…so of course despite the fact that it was boiling hot, the kids had to have a quick play before their food came!

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And finally, you can’t go to Spain without having paella…we particularly enjoyed the one at Binimel-la Beach Restaurant after a morning spent at the stunning Cala Pregonda.  Of course it tasted even better washed down with a jug of cava sangria!  Jonah loved the paella and Mason was thrilled that we finally found a restaurant with chicken nuggets for him.  Everyone was happy!

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What to Do

We loved Menorca for its perfect mix of stunning beaches and charming towns-definitely something for everyone and plenty to see despite the fact that the island is tiny.  We had five full days there and found it to be a perfect length of time.

Beaches

As for beaches you can take your pick-busy white sand resorts with all the offerings, tiny remote coves known as calas, or something in between.  For our first day we wanted something easy to access, but not very big or crowded.  Rafel recommended the tiny fishing village of Es Grau since it was nice for families…this horseshoe shaped cove is shallow far out into the water and very calm, making it a perfect place for the little ones.  There’s also parking right next to the beach (go before 11 and you should find a spot easily) and fun pedal boat and kayak rentals available.

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The next day we went to what was for sure my favorite beach, Cala Pregonda.  Like most good things, it didn’t come super easily as it was about a 30 minute hike to get there, but so worth it!  The red earth and rocks on the way out there felt like you could be on Mars…and once you arrive, the soft golden sand and pinkish orange rocks out in the crystal clear water are just a breathtaking scene.  I’ve never seen a beach quite like this one.

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There is absolutely nothing out here in terms of amenities, so plan accordingly.  There is, however, a restaurant at the neighboring Binimel-la Beach I mentioned above, where you park your car to access Pregonda.  One thing to note is that on most of these beaches there are some topless women and even some naturists enjoying the beach totally in the buff…if this makes you super uncomfortable, you might not like the beaches of Spain!  But as our tour guide on a boat trip we took said “usually they don’t attack” 😉  and it’s not really too big of a deal.  I’m pretty sure our kids didn’t even notice!

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Since we were already on the northern coast, we decided to venture out to the Cavelleria lighthouse.  Gorgeous views, a little cafe, and the kids’ favorite-a cave you could walk into with ocean views at the end.  Definitely a nice stop if you’re in the area.

And just 5 minutes from the lighthouse was another wild and lovely beach that we couldn’t pass up, the Platja Cavelleria.  Only about a 5 minute walk from the car park.  Also beautiful!

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On our last day we didn’t fly out until 9 pm, so we had a full day to visit another beach.  We wanted something easy, with chairs, parking, and restaurants so we opted for the resort beach of Son Bou.  It was crowded and disappointing at first after the more wild and secluded beaches we had visited, but the trade off of all the amenities and a chair for Mason to take a nap on totally made up for it that day.  Plus the beach itself was stunning.  Crystal clear turquoise water and a wide, white sand beach that felt just like we were in the Caribbean!  We rented one of those fun slide pedal boats again and had a great time splashing around in the Mediterranean Sea.

Towns

We adored the charming little towns of Menorca and were really pleasantly surprised by them!  We had a super early flight on the day we arrived so we couldn’t check in until the afternoon.  Since it’s only about a 45 minute drive from one end of the island to the other, we dropped off our bags at Turmaden and then headed to the historic port town, Ciutadella.

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Even in our bleary eyed travel stupor, we adored this town and had fun wandering through the charming old town.  There were lots of cute little shops and restaurants and before we knew it, we had passed into the afternoon and it was time to go check into our accommodation.  And then we spotted a random drum line giving a concert and marching through the streets.  Still not sure what that was about, but it was fun!

One of the afternoons, we drove to the town of Mahón (Mao) to have some lunch and check it out.  We had heard that Ciutadella is a lot nicer, so we didn’t expect much…but it was really cute!  We found that great restaurant, Pipet and Co., for lunch and picked up some ensaimadas for later.  And found lots of beautiful streets and alleys along the way!

We stayed very close to the town of Es Mercadal so we had dinner there a couple of nights.  Another small, but charming town to enjoy for sure!  A nice playground, shops, restaurants, and bars…perfect for dinner and a wander.

As you can see, I love these banners!

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Activities

We took a boat tour with the highly recommended Menorca en Barco one afternoon and really enjoyed it.  We got to see some of the most popular (and packed) beaches of the island and then got to visit a couple of more secluded ones and snorkel.  I was so excited that Jonah was finally able to snorkel with us…and he loved it!  One of the highlights of the trip, without a doubt.

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Another one of my favorite activities was driving up the tallest mountain on the island, Monte Toro to watch the sunset.  Just stunning views in every direction.  There’s a little restaurant up at the top, but it closes before the sun sets so we weren’t able to grab a drink as we had planned.  I’d recommend taking up a picnic and a bottle of wine and enjoying the views!

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What to Buy

I knew before we went that I wanted to buy a pair of sandals called avarcas.  They are hand made leather sandals made in Menorca and in both Ciutadella and Mahon there were tons of shops selling nothing but rows and rows of them.  After much debate, I decided on a brand and a color and went home, super happy with my 25 Euro purchase.  Then this past week, I just happened to see a couple of photos on Instagram of the same shoes…went to the online shop selling them in the US and was blown away by the $85 USD price tag.  The.same.exact.shoes!  Even happier with my purchase now.  🙂

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Gin is quite popular on the island if you’re into that.  There is a local distillery, which we didn’t try but we did bring back a bottle of Gin Mare-a fantastic Spanish gin that we randomly got turned on to in Norway.  And finally, we brought back a bottle of delicious organic wine that we enjoyed at the farm stay and that will bring back many happy memories of blue skies and sandy beaches and an absolutely wonderful trip!