A Travellerspoint blog

Burgos, Salamanca, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Lisbon

Cathedrals, towers, tapas, and scenery!


Burgos and Salamanca

We left lovely San Sebastian for a short two hour drive to Burgos. We found a great place for a yummy lunch and enjoyed the relaxed pace of Burgos after the many tourists in San Sebastian. After lunch, we toured the amazing Burgos Cathedral. I had read that it was a historic and gorgeous cathedral but none of us were prepared for how much we enjoyed the many chapels inside the cathedral. It was a great stop and helped our 4.5 hour drive go by quickly despite some heavy rain.


Mom even found her first pair of Spanish shoes. I have a feeling that there will be more.


The weird public bathrooms in the main square weren't such a hit. At least we haven't had to pay to pee in very many locations this time.


We made it to Salamanca after driving through some boring Spanish flatland. Our airbnb had three bedrooms and a funny choppy lay-out. The narrow hallway had eight different doors to various rooms. I kept getting lost!

We found a nearby tapas place for dinner where we had a second dose of patatas bravas. We had enough potatoes for one day! DH and the kids went back to the place while my mom and I headed to the old town. We wandered the busy streets of this college town and saw the impressive plaza mayor. We found a cute wine bar for some vino tinto and were amazed at how late people were out and about walking, drinking, and eating.


Salamanca Tower Climbing, Art Deco Museum, Parks, & One Great Meal

After a scenic run along the river and through the old town, we walked to a coffee shop where the kids mistakenly ordered hot chocolate. They thought it would be the kind they were used to but it was the thick pudding stuff again. Oh well.

We continued to the large cathedral and climbed one of the most unique towers I have ever climbed. This one was special because it allowed you to climb along parts of the rooftop as well as walk along the upper balconies inside the cathedrals. We all enjoyed getting to see this cathedral in a special way.


We found the nearby art deco museum. The building was the most interesting part. The huge doll display was just a little odd - especially the doll with four detachable heads. Wish we were able to take a picture!


We found a hamburger place for lunch where I ordered the weirdest nachos. I guess we all needed a taste from home. The weather was becoming worse so we decided to do a little shopping. DH went back to enjoy the Tour de France. We enjoyed a quick drink/ice cream on the main square before climbing yet another church tower. I can't get enough of these things!


We put on a few more miles to find the best park in the city. 30,000 steps a day has become the minimum on this trip!


Mom agreed to watch the kids so DH and I could enjoy a fabulous dinner. We found a great place called Cuzco Bodega. We ordered course after course of tapas ranging from amazing raw seafood, pork steak with roquefort sauce, and the famous Iberico ham. We splurged on the meal and still only paid 31 Euros. Such a treat!


Ciudad Roderigo and Lisbon Nightlife

We left Salamanca feeling like we saw the major sights. We drove an hour to the old walled hill town of Cuidad Rodrigo. We had coffee and churros on the main square before exploring the parador, an old castle turned into a hotel. Luckily, we were still able to wander the grounds and climb the tower. I think I'm averaging a tower a day!


A very scenic swing.


I scored some Spanish espadrille shoes!


We wandered into a market before heading out of town where we saw the famous young suckling pig and other piggy parts. I prefer my pork cooked and on my plate!


We drove another three hours through some very beautiful rolling hills in Portugal. Our first impressions of Portugal were good ones. We had a quick picnic at a rest stop before making out way into Lisbon. Thanks to DH's skillful driving, we found our apartment easily. We are staying in Lisbon for four nights so we were extra thankful to see our large three bedroom, two bathroom flat. All for about $100 per night. Nice!

After settling in and buying a few groceries, we took the metro into the main part of town and found Lisboa Bar - a place my brother and sister in-law recommended. We sat on the roof and enjoyed a great sangria!


We lucked out and found a recommended place for dinner. Everyone loved what they ordered (hasn't always been the case on this trip). We had things like octopus salad, cod in cream sauce, steak and pork. DH and the kids went back to the apartment while my mom and I explored the Bairro Alto and Chiado neighborhoods. We tried the famous Ginja liqueur sold at many places. It has a sour cherry flavor and was pretty delicious!


Another full day with lots of steps!

Exploring Lisbon Neighborhoods

We enjoyed a relaxing morning in the apartment before heading back to central Lisbon. We started in the lesser-known Intendente neighborhood in the Alfama District. We found a nice little square where we had a small lunch and shopped at little craft market. We actually bought some really nice things made by local people.


We rode the famous trolley #28 for a short while. Unfortunately, they were crowded, hot, and touristy so we jumped off after a short ride. We wandered the Alfama district taking in some great views of the sprawling and colorful city.


Even the urinal had a fancy sign.


We wandered down toward the water and took the ferry across to Cacilhas - the neighborhood across the water. We hopped off and decided to have a drink and snack before heading back into Lisbon. The area across the ferry seemed far less touristy than central Lisbon so we were glad to explore for a while.


Once back in central Lisbon, we hauled ourselves up more narrow streets in search of a restaurant that wasn't closed on Sunday. We found a tiny little tapas place and called it a day. We headed back and relaxed after feeling like we had a better feel of this great city.


Posted by familyineurope 00:15 Archived in Spain Tagged lisbon burgos rodrigo salamanca ciudad Comments (1)

San Sebastian, Spain. Basque country!

Pintxos, beach time, and great views.

Beautiful San Sebastian


After another long six hour drive, we arrived in San Sebastian around 5pm. We rented a three bedroom flat which was about a 20 minute walk from the old town. The owner of the flat, who spoke almost no English, met us and helped us park the car at a nearby lot. He spoke in rapid Spanish (or Basque?) and we missed a lot of the information he gave us. We still managed to get by. It was a hot evening but we decided to walk to the old town to experience pintxos (Basque tapas) for dinner.


The beach was beautiful at twilight. We were surprised at how many people of all ages were out walking in the evening. Most women wore dresses or skirts and even folks into their 80s and 90s were out enjoying the summer evening.

We were quickly overwhelmed at the number of bars and restaurants in old town San Sebastian. It was difficult to choose a place to start! Many people poured out of restaurants onto the pedestrian-only narrow streets. Our first pick was so-so. Luckily, the second one was much better. We tried such a variety of foods: octopus, mussels, iberco ham, shrimp, other random seafood, croquettes, and much more. Most of the food was not labeled and set out on the bar counter for self-service. You simply grabbed what looked good and enjoy.

We laughed a lot, found a neat old square that used to host bull fights (the balconies were still numbered for special ticketing seating), and slowly made our way back through the crowds and somewhat deserted beach.


We were especially excited to buy beautiful paintings on the street from a man who paints with his fingers. Each painting took him about 2-3 minutes. And they're gorgeous!


We got back to our apartment late and eager for a full day in San Sebastian


Old Town, Mount Igeldo, Beach Time, & More Pintxos

We walked to the Old Town and had churros and chocolate for breakfast. The chocolate was as thick as pudding! Such a healthy way to start the day.


Today was a hot one. Over 90 degrees. We walked nearly three miles to the Mount Igeldo funicular. This old cable car took us up the steep hill for some incredible views.


Once at the top, DD#2 and I climbed a tower for even more views.


The girls and I rode an old time roller coaster with incredible views. You can see the part of the scenic track in this picture.


We had a snack and rode the funicular back down before heading to a somewhat calm spot on the busy beach. The girls and I jumped right into the Atlantic for an afternoon swim. The water was cold at first but was much warmer than Oregon's frigid coast! The beach was packed with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. I think I was the only one wearing a mom tankini. Most women wore bikinis, with or without the top section! DH and my mom enjoyed some people watching while we swam.


We dried off, found some ice cream, and had a short break at our apartment before heading out for dinner.

We took a taxi to a different part of town called the Gros District. We went to a recommended restaurant for the best pintxos of the trip. Delicious! We still didn't know what we were eating most of the time but it was sure yummy. After dinner, we found a nice social square with a playground in the center. The kids happily played for nearly an hour (they met some kids from Texas) while the rest of us enjoyed an outdoor drink.


DH and DD#1 were exhausted and headed back around 10pm. The rest of us were eager to see the sunset and what old town was like after dark. We found a restaurant that served shark! We couldn't resist trying that!


We had a very full day. DD#2 was ecstatic to reach her fitbit record of 40,000 steps in a day! Needless to say, we all slept pretty well.

Mount Urgull & More Wandering San Sebastian

On our last day in San Sebastian, I knew I had to run. I went for one of the most scenic six mile runs ever! Afterward, we got a late start and found a cafe and playground to help us get motivated for the day.


We encountered many lovely churches and parks. We took so many pictures.


DH and I loved hearing this unique bassoon trio. They had serious chops!


We began a slow hike up Mount Urgull. There was a large statue on the top along with even more views of the ocean and city below. Some clouds had rolled in so it was a different view from the day before.


DD#1 was seriously worn out after all the walking.


Check out the man-made giant cube rocks along the shore and jetty!


We made our way down the mountain and had to find a place for a late 3pm lunch. We settled on our last pintxos experience. The small tapas thing is fun, but I think we were all eager for a normal meal. DD#1 and DH headed back to the room for some R&R while the rest of us did some shopping and more beach time. DH has had to trek to the car every evening to reload the parking pass (good for 24 hr).


We have enjoyed buying fruit everyday from local markets. The white nectarines have been everyone's favorite. Eventually, we all connected back at the flat for pizza and much-needed sleep. Off to Salamanca tomorrow!

Posted by familyineurope 22:58 Archived in Spain Tagged beach san sebastian pintxos igeldo urgell Comments (0)

Amboise - a room with a view, castles, and the zoo

First time in the Loire Valley. Beautiful despite the weather.


Drive from Germany to France

Today was our longest driving day of the trip - just over six hours. We stopped for picnic items in Germany. DH worked his tetris magic with trunk packing, and off we went. It poured rain on our drive but we still made decent time on France's expensive toll roads. We were especially excited when we saw the chateau in Amboise. We were even more excited when we saw our apartment with a priceless view of the castle. I saw pictures online but seeing the view in person was remarkable.


The host of our apartment was a friendly and spunky woman who did an excellent job explaining the town of Amboise as well as the features in our apartment. It's such a charming little place! We decided to cross the river to see the old town.


A pharmacy vending machine. That's a first!


We found a grocery store and stocked up on some breakfast items before having a nice pizza dinner. DH and I sneaked next door to Shaker Bar where even our drinks had a great view of the castle.


We were all tired and eager to wake up to our first full day in France.


Chenoncaeux, wine tasting, and a fancy dinner

After a very scenic run and an easy breakfast (French yogurt is so good!), we made a short 20 minute drive to the famous Chenonceau chateau. It's amazing how the castle is built over the river. The kids really enjoyed taking pictures from many different angles. The inside of the castle was beautiful and DD#1 was excited to see real-life examples of the Renaissance, which she'd learned about in school last year.


We spent around two hours wandering the interior, exterior, and gardens surrounding the castle. It is a very unique castle.


We found a nearby boulangerie for lunch. We had simple and tasty baguette sandwiches (mom had a pizza). DH was able to make a reservation at a recommended restaurant, l'Ilôt, for dinner. My mom agreed to stay at the apartment and eat with the kids. We stopped at a large French supermarket, E.Leclerc, for dinner and various things we didn't know we needed. They were making fresh crepes in the bakery and the aisles of cheeses and yogurts sucked me in! It was a much longer (and more expensive) stop than anticipated.

Before heading back to Amboise, we made one final stop at a winery for a quick tasting. The kids groaned but were instantly happy when given fancy sparkling grape juice in a champagne flute.


Leonardo da Vinci retired in Amboise and is buried in the chateaux. We were impressed by his statue which was just down the street from our apartment.


The nearby park wasn't too bad either.


My mom and I decided to do a little more shopping and exploring in the cute town of Amboise. After not really buying a thing, we ended up at a typical little bar for a glass of wine. Although Amboise is touristy, it seems most of the visitors are French.


We made it back in time for DH and I to leave for our 8pm dinner reservations. L'ilot was exceptional! This small French restaurant had its kitchen in the center. We were seated at the bar where we had a great view of the chefs in action. What a treat to eat a slow meal in courses! The seafood starters were exceptional and my pork dish was amazing. The pretty strawberry and chocolate mousse dessert with glass sugar decor was a perfect ending. We were so full! My mom and the kids were good sports and ate a simple meal in the apartment. After a busy day, they really didn't seem to mind.


Amboise Market, Castle and Beauval Zoo

My mom and I started off the day at Amboise's Sunday market. The food section was so colorful and diverse. The non-food items felt more like a flea market with products made far from France. I was hoping there would be more locally produced items.


We decided to split up for much of the day. My mom offered to take the kids to France's largest zoo. Admission prices were steep ($30 per person) so we were more than happy to save a few Euros and find an alternate activity. We drove about 40 minutes on windy and narrow backroads to the somewhat remote zoo. DD#2 was extra excited to see the pandas. Sadly, they only spotted one of the two pandas and he slept the entire time.


When DH and I made it back to Amboise, we decided to keep it simple and tour the castle that we'd been staring at out our window for the last two nights. Although much simpler that Chenonceau, Amboise Chateau was still beautiful.


DH and I wandered the town and were amazed by the homes built into the hillside (troglodyte homes). After a simple snack of cheese and baguette in our apartment, it was already time to pick up the rest of the family at the zoo.

We stopped in a smaller less-touristy town called Montrichard. The kids played at a park and we hoped to find a recommended restaurant for dinner. No luck. On Sundays, most everything is shut down.


We decided to continue eating the groceries we'd already purchased and added a couple more things from the local Carrefour. It felt good to enjoy our apartment and take numerous pictures on our last night in Amboise. The sun was finally out so we enjoyed out last evening views of the castle. We will never forget this place!


Tomorrow, we are off to Spain!

Posted by familyineurope 22:40 Archived in France Tagged zoo chenonceau amboise beauval Comments (1)

Rhine River, Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Mom Arrives, Black Forest

Last days in Germany. Boats, chairlifts, gondolas, luges, zip-lining, and more!

Circle tour around Bingen & Rudesheim


We began another sunny day with C & R. I started with a short run around the countryside before heading to a yummy bakery. We drove about 40 minutes to the riverside town of Bingen. We were eager to buy the "ring ticket" which combined a boat ride, a mini-gondola, a hike to a famous statue, a chair lift, and a boat back to where we started. We had a little time to kill before the first boat departed so we found a convenient beer garden.


After the first boat ride, we arrived in the adorable town of Rudesheim. We walked down a popular skinny street to the gondola lift. Each gondola only fit two people. We were so happy to have such a beautiful day to ride over the vineyards lining the Rhine River.


After the 10 minute gondola ride, we hiked up to a famous statue with amazing views over the valley and river below.


We hiked another 30 minutes to the chair lift that took us back down to the riverside. It was a slow and quiet lift except for the noisy birds. I could listen to German birds all day long. Such sweet singing!


Finally, we took our boat back to the starting point after going past a castle or two. We had a quick pizza snack before concluding the ring.


The guys decided to head back to the house while the girls headed to a fun outdoor pool in Wiesbaden. The pool was chilly but the slides were awesome and we took some great pictures of the kids hurling themselves off the diving boards.


We ordered doner kebab for dinner. Delicious! R took each kid for an adventurous ride on his 4-wheeler. They spotted deer, bunnies, and stork on their rides. We sat outside and visited until too late once again.


Darmstadt, World of Beer, Mini-Golf, & Last BBQ


On our last full-day in the Frankfurt area, we decided to take it easy. R and I walked to the nearby bakery for a few breakfast goodies. We weren't in a hurry to go anywhere today, which was really nice. We decided to check out the nearby town of Darmstadt. We explored the HUGE Maruhn beverage store before hitting the center of town. So many beers from all over the world!


We really liked the livable town of Darmstadt. I'm so impressed with the pedestrian areas in every German town I've visited. We had ice cream, did a little shopping, found a local brewery for lunch, and went to a grocery store to buy a few German snacks.


We also went to a park just outside of town where DH, C and the girls played mini-golf. R and I went for a walk on some pretty trails.


We had another BBQ with yummy meats and salads. C went to the trouble to prepare white asparagus, spargel, two different ways. Spargel is only available during this season. We also had a yummy cocktail that seems to be very popular around here - an aperol spritzer. They made fantastic ones! It was a very nice last evening in Dornheim. We are so lucky and thankful to have spent such wonderful time with family. They really showed us a great time!


Frankfurt, Mom Arrives, Drive to the Black Forest


After some goodbyes to family, we drove to Frankfurt to check out the city and eagerly await for my mom to arrive at the airport in the afternoon. We parked at the airport, took the train into the city, found a bakery for breakfast, and explored several parts of the city.


We climbed 323 steps up to the top of Frankfurt's largest church. Stunning views of the city from the top.


We found more ice cream, walked across a pedestrian bridge that was filled with love locks, and took the train back to the airport.


We waited a long time for my mom to arrive. The Frankfurt airport is huge so there was a mix-up in finding the right meeting place. Once we were finally reunited, we drove south toward the Black Forest. We made a quick stop in Baden-Baden for dinner at a traditional (touristy!) biergarten.


We were very happy and relieved to finally arrive at our cute farm apartment at 9:30pm. What a day!


Zip-lining and Luging through the Black Forest. Woohoo!


After waking up to more bird singing, we made our way to the nearby town of Hornberg for another bakery and coffee. We sat on a picturesque square and looked up at a castle above. We decided to drive up there to investigate. Great views of the valley to start our day.


We stopped at a grocery store for breakfast foods and a few random snacks. Then it was time to split up for separate adventures. My mom, DH, and DD#1 went off on a zip-lining excursion while DD#2 and I went to a nearby luge and outdoor folk museum. (DD#2 was too small for the zip-line.) Both activities were such an adrenaline rush! My mom was so brave and loved racing above the Black Forest. The luge was very fast with sharp turns. We went as fast as we could!


We all reassembled for a few more luge runs. My mom and DD#2 got the fastest clocked speed - 51.6 km/hr with me and DD#2 at 51.3 km/hr in 2nd place. Still can't believe my mom beat me!


Our guesthouse gave us a free pass to use the train system so we decided to take advantage. We took a 1/2 hour ride through the forest to a small town called Alpirsbach which has a highly-rated brewery and biergarten. We relaxed outside and shared smoked trout and more sausage before taking the scenic train back.


After this adventurous day, we were more than happy to return to our little farm cottage to watch the cows and listen to the birds.


Steinwasen Amusement Park and Freiberg


I went for a run and we had a quick breakfast in our little apartment before making an hour drive to Steinwasen Park. The roads were so hilly, narrow, and windy. We're relieved that no one got car sick! The amusement park was fantastic. There were no lines or crowds and the rides were unique and just plain fun! We were able to go on every ride multiple times. It did rain pretty hard at one point and we were all soaked. But we were having so much fun that it didn't really bother anyone. The amusement park had a bobsled, a luge, a chairlift, a cool water rafting ride, a couple fast indoor rides, a 4D theater ride, as well as lots of play structures, animals, and scenery. I am a big fan of these little German amusement parks. Three years ago, we visited Bayern Park which was a little bigger but had a similar vibe.


We had a quick lunch at the park before going on even more rides. (I finally tried the famous Black Forest cake.)


After we finally wore ourselves out, we made a short drive to the very pleasant town of Freiberg. We found a brewery for a beer (yes, there is a pattern) and did a little shopping and exploring before picking an amazing doner place for dinner. Euphrat Restaurant had a line out the door and it was easy to see why. Yum! We had more ice cream, drove a different way back to our apartment, and called it a day.


The girls jumped on the trampoline in the rain for nearly an hour. Finally, I had the time to work on this blog. I will be sad to leave Germany tomorrow but am eager to return to France. We have a long drive to Amboise, France ahead.


Posted by familyineurope 22:27 Archived in Germany Tagged germany frankfurt luge rudesheim darmstadt freiberg dornheim gutach zip-line Comments (1)

Wurzburg, Heidelberg & Dornheim, Germany.

Even more castles, swimming, hiking, eating, and exploring!

A perfect afternoon in Wurzburg


We left our hotel just outside of Bamberg around 10am after a quick breakfast from the nearby bakery. We made the relatively short drive to the Marienberg Fortress in Wurzburg. It towers impressively over the beautiful city. We wandered the site for at least an hour snapping pictures and exploring. We stopped at the fortress cafe for another coffee and were shocked to see a family that we knew from our hometown in Oregon. Truly amazing! DD#2 and their daughter both sang in the same choir last year. What's more shocking is that we ran into the same family when we were visiting Washington DC last March. What a small world! Here's DD#2 and her choir friend along with other pictures of the fortress:


We reparked the car in the city center and ate at a pizza place recommended by a friend who lived here for a while. Great recommendation!


We happily wandered this very pleasant city, looked inside of at least three churches, and walked across the old bridge, Alte Mainbrucke. The views were spectacular all over this picturesque town. When I move to Germany in my dreams, Wurzburg is at the top of the list. I know we will come back to this charming town someday.


We refueled the car for the first time and headed to Dornheim to stay with family for the next four nights. Soon after arrival, we drove to the nearby swimming lake for a quick swim on another hot day.


Finally, we were treated to a wonderful BBQ with friends and family. There were amazing salads, meats, bread, beer, and great company. No one seemed in a hurry and we sat and visited until nearly midnight.



DH and I were surprised to wake up at 9am. Oops! I guess we needed some sleep. We had a relaxing breakfast outside with C & R before taking two cars to Heidelberg for the day. We found parking right in the city center and even the car had a good view.


We rode two separate funiculars up to the top of Heidelberg's hill - around 2000 ft. It was such a beautiful day and it felt great to be out in nature.


There were amazing views from the top and we took a steep walk back down to the down through the trees.


We wandered around the castle for a while soaking it all in and taking pictures. At so many of these castles, I stop and think of how in the world they were built! Every brick had to be hauled up a hill without modern machinery. I'm sure many laborers never even saw the project finished in their lifetime.


We saw the world's largest wine barrel. Incredible!


After a quick sausage snack, we wandered the lower part of the town and took more pictures from the old bridge. We also managed to get a picture of the six of us.


The kids found the lucky monkey symbol of Heidelberg and we rubbed him for good luck.


After a little shopping and walking along the very long pedestrian drag, we drove to a restaurant along the Rhine River for dinner. Schnitzel. Yum!


Another day in the books! We are so thankful to have family show us around Germany.

Posted by familyineurope 23:33 Archived in Germany Tagged germany heidelberg wurzburg dornheim Comments (1)

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