Granada – Day 1

My sister, Vanessa, graduated last year from Vanderbilt with her Master’s degree in Women’s Health as a Nurse Practitioner. This year she landed her first job in her new profession, and I couldn’t be more proud! On a bit of a whim, she decided to treat herself to a much deserved vacation before she jumped head first into her new career. Lucky me she decided to come to Europe and her last stop was Southern Spain! We took an amazing road trip to some of the must-see sights in Andalucía and our first stop was Granada.

When we finally arrived in Granada (about a 2 1/2 hour drive) we couldn’t figure out why everyone was staring at us in our car. Then we realized that we still had our California plates on the car. Most people probably hadn’t ever seen an American license plate! We got a lot of funny looks. Once we got all checked into our hotel we set off on our first adventure. We were headed out into town to explore. We were able to find our way to a bus stop with ease and hop on board to go to the Albaicín district. This area of town is the ‘old town’ lined with cobblestone streets and some wonderful buildings.

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Our first stop was at an amazing overlook that had amazing views! We took the opportunity to take a photo.


While we were enjoying the overlook we saw a cafe on the street below. We decided to make our way there as it was less crowded and we were ready to warm up a little with some drinks and good conversation. It was such a great find and if you go to Granada I highly suggest you find this place!

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IMG_4112We took advantage of the empty restaurant and relaxed there for quite some time while we talked about our plans for the rest of the afternoon and the following day. Vanessa had purchased a wonderfully informative travel book from Lonely Planet and it had a ton of suggestions for things to do in the area as well as a ‘must see/must do’ list. Alhambra was of course on the list and we (luckily) were able to get some last minute tickets for the following morning! Just a heads up – get your Alhambra entry tickets in ADVANCE! I had been keeping an eye on the tickets the week leading up to our visit, and there were plenty available. I had every intention to purchase them online a day or two before we arrived in Granada, but it slipped my mind. Once we arrived in Granada and decided we would visit Alhambra the following morning, all the tickets were sold out! After a few panic stricken moments, and some googling, I found out that the La Caixa ATM’s also sold tickets. We high tailed it to the nearest ATM and were able to secure our tickets for the following morning. I definitely learned my lesson there to plan ahead, throughly!


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IMG_4193IMG_4192After we left the Albaicín district we took our time meandering the streets and making our way back down the hill towards our hotel. During our walk we passed by a church. Every church/cathedral in Spain is breathtakingly gorgeous. We popped in for a moment to check out the beauty. My husband took a moment to say some prayers. I don’t know who or what he was praying for, but boy did I fall a little more in love with him in that moment. He never ceases to amaze me with his spirit.

We continued on our way and we stopped into a few places to grab a caña (a small glass of beer) and a bite to eat. We had heard that the tapas in Granada were amazing, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! We ordered one of my favorite foods, croquetas de jamón, unaware that we would be getting complimentary tapas with our drinks.

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Not only was the plate of tapas HUGE, the croquetas were also the largest I have ever seen! We happily indulged until we could not possibly eat anymore. We had to turn away food with our next round of drinks. As long as you order drinks they will keep the food coming! We were officially ready to call it a night after a long day of traveling and exploring. We just happened to stumble upon a hookah bar on our way back to our hotel, and who can say no to hookah?! Not us! We had a nightcap of some delicious tea and more hookah than we could smoke. It was the perfect end to our day! Stay tuned for the next of our adventures with Vanessa!

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Bringing in the New Year

Wow! It is hard to believe that it is already the middle of March! Marcus and I have been having a ton of fun here in Spain, and I need to catch y’all up on what we’ve been up to. Here is  a flashback to how we spent our New Year’s Eve.

Marcus and I had a lot to celebrate and New Year’s Eve was the perfect opportunity to get out and do just that! We decided to take a little trip to explore a new town and Sevilla was our destination. With the dogs in tow we headed out for a fun weekend. If ‘Sevilla’ does not sound familiar it is probably because it is spelled Seville in American English. I prefer the Spanish spelling and pronunciation though. Sevilla is the capital of Andalucia, the area of Southern Spain that we live in. We kicked off our weekend with a night out. IMG_3497We started the night around 11PM. We walked around, grabbed some food, and at midnight we ate 12 grapes. The 12 grapes at midnight is a tradition in Spain and it is believed that each grape signifies a lucky month in the coming year. The nightlife here differs a bit from what we are used to back home. The club we went to, New Theatre, didn’t even open until 1 o’clock in the morning! Well that was what time they were supposed to open at least. We arrived at about 1:30 and we were the first people in the club! People don’t start coming out until at least 2:00am, and the club is really going around 3am and lasts until 6am. We made sure to take a nap before we went out.


On New Year’s Day, when we finally woke up, we had a great time walking around Sevilla and taking in some of the sights. Every town here in Spain has an ‘old town’ area with the cobblestone streets I’ve come to love so much. We did have Joey & Lola with us, so we were a bit limited on what we could do. We were able to find a horse&carriage that let us on board with the pups!

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The girls seemed to enjoy the carriage ride, and we definitely got some funny looks from people passing by.

square in SevillaThis is a pretty common scene in the afternoons in Spain. Many people go out to have lunch, or tapas and a drink. One of the many things I love about Spain is that people take their children everywhere. You’ll notice many children in the photo on the right playing together. I have fallen in love with the culture here, it is very family oriented!


It is so much fun just walking around exploring. Along with the cobblestone streets, I absolutely adore the beautiful doors and entry ways here in Spain.

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IMG_3664The very best part of this trip is that I got to share is with this handsome guy! Every day I am thankful that we are on this adventure together. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to begin our marriage this way and I know it is helping us to build a strong foundation for the rest of our lives. Until next time, adios!

Doñana National Park – Parque Nacional de Doñana

Back in January my super amazing husband told me he was taking me on a surprise date. He told me what to wear and off we went. Our first stop was literally right down the street from La Espadaña, where we were staying at the time. There was a barn there with horses that we had driven and walked by every day and I would always peek at the horses. Marcus arranged for us to go for a horseback ride on the beach! It was an amazing start to the day and to say I was content is an understatement. Little did I know, that was only the beginning of our date day. After we enjoyed lunch we hopped back in the car to head to Sanlúcar. Sanlúcar is a town about 35 minutes from Rota. Once we arrived near the pier we headed to the ice factory. I was pretty confused at this point and wondering what kind of surprise date could be at an ice factory. Maybe learning how to make ice sculptures? As we entered there was an information desk and we picked up some tickets. We were taking a ferry ride up the Río de Guadalquivir to el Parque Nacional de Doñana. My husband knows me so well and I couldn’t wait to board our ferry and explore the park!

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The ride over was lovely. There was a little bar aboard the boat and we enjoyed a coffee while we took in the sights. Luckily for us, the guide spoke English in addition to Spanish. We were 2 of the 4 people interested in the English tour, so we got some great information and got to ask a ton of questions!


Our first stop was on the Natural Parque de Doñana side. We learned a ton of interesting information. I had no idea that wild flamingos spent their winters in Spain! If you look closely at the photo, the white specks in the water are the flamingos. We got a great view of them through binoculars.



After we did some birdwatching we boarded the ferry again to head across the river to the Parque Nacional de Doñana. We first toured a small village that was replicated to look like the structures people once used for homes. People once lived and worked in this area, which was known for charcoal production. At one point it was also a Real Cazadero, a royal hunting preserve.


After the tour of the village, we walked along beautiful wooden paths to a wildlife viewing area. We didn’t get lucky enough to see any of the native animals such as the Iberian Lynx or the wild boars, but we did get to see some deer. There are wooden pathways like the ones at the park all over and I absolutely love them. Here are some of my favorite photos.

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IMG_3774I found a pretty pinecone and asked Marcus to take a photo for me. He wanted to have some fun with it as well…so he gathered some pinecones of his own and asked me to take a photo. One of my favorite things about my husband is that he is constantly making me laugh!

IMG_3777Life is better when you have a smile on your face and I know that I can count on my husband to always make sure I am smiling. Although we have been together for over 4 years, I am still amazed at the way one person can change your world for the better. I am so thankful to have a caring, loving, silly and thoughtful partner to share my life with!


IMG_3789IMG_3878At the end of the tour it was time to board the ferry for the last time. Sunset was beginning and it looked promising to be a gorgeous one. We had another coffee aboard the ferry to warm us up a bit and I had fun taking photos. This area of Southern Spain is so awe-inspiringly beautiful. As our date day came to an end I was feeling so loved, so content, and so blessed. Blessed to have an amazing man to share this beautiful life with, and blessed to have the opportunity that we have to live abroad!

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The wonderful Carnival! (¡El maravilloso Carnaval !)

I know it has been quite some time since I have posted. Marcus and I have had a lot going on! We have settled into our new home and we have been busy immersing ourselves in our new Spanish lifestyle. We have been blessed to meet some wonderful friends; friends we know we will have for life. The Blonski family (Steve and Keri and their 3 kiddos Aydin, Morgan and Liam and their dog Echo) has been so kind to introduce us to some awesome local friends of theirs and we have been enjoying spending time getting to know them.

The past weekend was definitely one I won’t ever forget…our first Carnival celebration! Carnival actually goes on for a couple weeks and last weekend was the finale. It is quite the sight to see here in Chipiona! The weekend kicked off on Thursday with all of the local schools dressing up and parading through town. Each school had a different theme and each class dressed up differently. The school that Aydin, Morgan and Liam attend had a theme of ‘Under the Sea’ (‘Bajo el Mar’). It was so much fun to see all of the kids dressed up. There is some serious work that goes into these costumes, they are all hand made by the parents!

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After parading through town we ended up at a square where all the kids hung out and squirted each other with silly string and foam! They had a blast and it was fun to be a part of it. The walk home was fun and I of course took the opportunity to take some photos of some of my favorite kids.

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Friday night was the night that we went out into town to celebrate with our friends. Going out to party in Spain is much different than in the US! The party gets started much later and usually goes until the sun comes up, or even later! We stayed out pretty late and we were amazed that there were still people going full speed when we called it a night around 7am. After laying low on Saturday and enjoying the beach, we geared up for the parade on Sunday. We met for a BBQ first at a friends’ house that lives near the parade route. After we had some delicious food we walked to one of our favorite restaurants to watch the parade. It was the most amazing parade I have ever seen! The costumes had so much detail, and the performances were so impressive. The thing I love most about Carnival is the DRUMS!!! We have been hearing them for weeks with people around town practicing, but Friday night and on Sunday at the parade there was a constant beat of drums. I hope you enjoy some of my favorite photos from the parade and get a feel for what it was like!

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And I also (of course) snapped some photos of our friends and their adorable kids. How could I not? Seriously, look at these faces!

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Few things put a smile on my face quicker than seeing a father with his daughter. There is just something so sweet about the relationship with a girls’ first love, her dad, and I admire it. Some of that admiration, I’m sure, comes from not having my father as a part of my life during my childhood. Here are a couple shots that I think speak volumes for the relationships between these awesome dads and their adoring daughters.

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Once the parade was over, everyone was ready to call it a night! It was definitely a weekend to remember. Thank you to everyone who was apart of it!

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Here is a video of Carnaval so you can see it in action. I can not take credit for this awesome video.

Home Sweet Home . . . for now!

IMG_3465Hi everyone. I just wanted to do a quick post to share with you where we are staying right now in our ‘temporary housing’. We were so happy to get to stay off-base and we were set up with a great place called La Espadana. There is a great restaurant on-site called Los Olivos. We have enjoyed quite a few great meals there, and even more beer and great conversation with the bartender, Abraham. It’s really convenient too because we get daily breakfast at the restaurant. It is a typical Spanish breakfast of cured meats, cheeses, bread and various pastries. IMG_3468We love the cafe con leche here, although since the cup sizes are much smaller than what we are used to we usually have 2 or 3! All of the staff here has been so accommodating and helpful. The only negative thing I can say about La Espadana is the sleeping arrangements are not our favorite. Here in Spain (and much of Europe from what I’ve been told) they put 2 twin beds in a room rather than a double or a queen. Marcus and I tried sleeping that way but it wasn’t working out for us to be sleeping apart from each other. We have opted for sleeping on our pull out couch for now…and if you’ve ever slept on one of those you know how uncomfortable they tend to be! With that being the only downside, it is far outweighed by the great things we have here at La Espadana. IMG_3461My favorite thing is that we are right across the street from the beach! We walk out the front of the lobby and there is a great park with tons of wooden walking trails, gorgeous trees and some great workout stations. Joey and Lola have become pretty accustomed to their daily romps on the beach and they absolutely love it. I was never a huge beach lover, I have always preferred the mountains. Now that we are here in Southern Spain I am falling more in love with the beach every. single . day ! It is all still setting in that we get to live here for the new few years and enjoy all that Spain and Europe have to offer. Every day is really a new adventure for us and it has been nothing short of amazing so far. Marcus was given a little bit of time to settle in before starting to work full time so we have gotten to spend a lot of our time together in our first weeks here. Next week he will start working a full time schedule though, and I sure will miss him! IMG_3388IMG_3417IMG_3454IMG_3404IMG_3420