Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Friday, May 01, 2015

Spain, Part 2 (Seville) & Italy

From Cordoba, we caught a fast train to Seville. We booked apartment-style lodging in a neighborhood a few minutes walk from the downtown tourist area. When we arrived at the apartment,  everyone seemed to breathe a sigh of relief after being cooped up in tiny hotel rooms. A separate bedroom, living space, kitchen and dining table? Luxury! In addition, we discovered that the tapas restaurant on the first floor of the building is one of the top-rated restaurants in the city. As soon as we unpacked, we took the elevator down for lunch.

Train to Seville

Happiness at the apartment

View out the window of the apartment

Lunch (probably the best food we had in Spain)

By chance, our visit to Seville coincided with April Festival, for which locals dress in traditional garb and spend long days drinking and dancing at the fairgrounds in private "casetas." I took too many surreptitious pictures of women in flamenco-style dresses as we walked around during our three days in Seville. Here are a few:

Lots of stores displayed dresses and jewelry. Here's a beautiful festival dress at a high end shop.

Of course our sweet Fiona wanted a "ballerina" dress, as she called them. We purchased one from a tourist shop and changed her on the spot. She loves her dress.

Our second day in Seville we toured the Alcazar (former royal palace) and strolled the girls through the city, pushing through crowds gathered at the bull-fighting arena into the narrow streets lined with buildings decorated in Moorish accents. On Wednesday, we toured the cathedral and walked to the festival fairgrounds. Seville was my favorite stop in Spain due to a combination of factors: our relative good health, spacious lodging, festival atmosphere and the juxtaposition of a seeming "living" city against the backdrop of historical attractions. And Seville had Starbucks. Big plus.


Chris is on the hook for carrying the stroller upstairs

Walking around

Friday evening, we took a glass of wine to the rooftop terrace where the girls played hide-and-seek.

Pictures from visiting Seville Cathedral (where Christopher Columbus is entombed) on Saturday.

After visiting the cathedral, we walked to the fairgrounds and through Maria Luisa Park. At the fairgrounds, Chris and I ducked into a public caseta to avoid a rain shower. Chris bought an expensive drink everyone seemed to be drinking, but to our disappointment, it was a bitter sherry. We especially had fun watching women break into spontaneous flamenco dancing. 


We sadly waved goodbye to Seville Sunday morning and hopped a cab to the airport to catch a Ryanair flight to Rome. Ryanair is a notoriously low-budget airline. For example, if you don't print your ticket ahead of time, you are required to pay something like $75 to print it at check-in. However, everything progressed smoothly, and we arrived in Rome at lunchtime. After checking into our spacious hotel room not too far from Vatican City (no kitchen but separate sleeping/living spaces), we grabbed pizza around the corner and walked around a bit.

Eloise's first bite of pizza

Spanish Steps


I worked Monday in Rome and Tuesday in Verona; however, I took a three hour train to and from Verona on Tuesday to avoid transplanting Chris and the girls for a night. While I worked, Chris pushed the girls around the city, snapping pictures of them at various sites. Chris bought Fiona little monuments along the way to help her understand what she was seeing. (However, if you ask her who fights in Colosseum, she will say "bullfighters," much to Chris' chagrin.) Chris got celebrity treatment  as a single guy with two little girls. He even pulled Eloise out of a stroller at one shop because the woman behind the counter so badly wanted to hold her.


Castel Sant'Angelo

Scenic Shots


We flew home via Amsterdam where our flight was delayed a couple hours. Fiona was so tired she passed out immediately on the long flight, and Eloise fell asleep a couple hours later. Chris and I were lucky enough to watch a couple movies. The girls are seriously jet-lagged at the moment. Eloise woke up at 2:00am yesterday and 3:30am this morning. And she's not the kind of baby to play quietly in her crib while everyone else sleeps.

Fiona in Amsterdam

In retrospect, the trip was incredible, wonderful and difficult all at the same time. Keeping the girls content required much effort. For Fiona we brought along a couple Melissa & Doug Water Wow books (put water in a special brush and colors appear on special mess-free pages), regular coloring books, stickers and the Kindle loaded with episodes of Dora and Super Why. Eloise was harder. I essentially just brought a bag of toys and a touch-and-feel book. We bought them each a small toy on the trip, but otherwise tried to pack snacks for them to eat in the stroller: bananas and crackers primarily. We need to wean Fiona from watching cartoons on the Kindle now, as we relied heavily on it to give us freedom to eat dinner in peace. We tried various scenarios for eating out in the evening, but what worked best was for me to feed Eloise, put her in the stroller, walk around long enough for her to fall asleep and then eat dinner. Fiona was generally content at the table with the Kindle and her blanket (we would feed her dinner beforehand).

Dinner in Rome

During the trip, Eloise cozied up to Chris more and more, which I think is one of the best outcomes since she generally favors me. Fiona started calling us by our first names during the trip, e.g., "Erin, you don't take my Dora show away." The girls bring great joy to us, and I am very grateful we could have this time together as a family. 


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