Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Malaga and Cordoba, Spain

After spending two days in Paris we flew to Malaga, Spain.  When we started planning this trip we thought we would fly to Paris, take a train to Southern France and then another train to Barcelona before flying back to Stockholm.  While Jake was doing research he read a little bit about Malaga and decided we should go there instead so we did.  This trip was pretty last minute compared to our other trips but we really enjoyed our time in France and Spain.

We landed around 7:30 pm on Sunday and took a bus into the city.  We were planning on taking a train but no one was taking the train so we figured there must be a bus so we hopped on one that we thought was headed towards the city and then got off once we were close enough to our hotel to walk.  (This stressed me out a bit but sometimes you just have to trust your gut and that is what we did.)  We checked into our hotel and then left to find some dinner.
Our room at Picasso Suites was more of an apartment with a kitchen and living room area.  They were recently finished and nice but felt more like a bed and breakfast without having the breakfast provided.

We had a great dinner out but I apparently didn't take any pictures.  We had tapas and Jake asked the waiter to just pick something for us. . . always a risky decision for me at least.  The first plate that appeared had 6 different things on it and only one did I even think about eating.  The second plate, entrecote or hunk of beef, was much better.  We ended up ordering seconds of that and then dessert.  In Spain they eat lunch around 2 pm and dinner around 10 pm and we definitely started off the trip with dinner at the local time around 10 pm.

We had breakfast by our hotel and then went to the Interactive Music Museum.  They had all kind of instruments that you could look at and several "red rooms" where you were allowed to play the instruments.  We happened to get there at the same time as a school group on a field trip.  We had to practice taking turns in the red rooms.  The museum was neat but several of the computer screens showing you how to play the instruments and telling you more about them were broken.  The museum seemed fairly new so I was disappointed to see that it was already breaking down.
Jake played the piano for one group of kids.
After the museum we saw a crew filming a music video and walked by an amphitheater.  After lunch we headed to the beach.

 Jake decided to go touch the water and quickly returned :).  He said it was warmer than the water in Sweden so that is a plus.
We laid in the sun and just relaxed for about an hour.  It wasn't warm enough to be in swimsuits but it felt great just getting some vitamin d.
We walked by the town bull ring on our way to the beach and then saw it from above.  We walked (slowly, with lots of breaks) up a hill to get a view of the city.  This was our 3rd day in a row of climbing something in the city to get a better view. 

We had tapas for dinner again and it was great.  We chose three and the waiter picked the other three.

The next morning we took a train to Cordoba but before we did that we had breakfast in our hotel room.
Lucky Charms!  We walked by an American food store and I found some Lucky Charms.  I was SO excited!
We took a one hour train ride to Cordoba, Spain.
We had breakfast in Cordoba.  Spanish breakfast include churros and chocolate.  That is a little rich even for me.  I also had toast with jam and Jake had toast with ham and tomatoes.  We also had orange juice and pineapple juice.  The orange juice there was amazing!  They have orange trees everywhere so the orange juice is fresh squeezed and awesome!

After breakfast, we visited the Great Cathedral and Mosque.  It was really pretty.

This ceiling reminded us of the Sistine Chapel. 
I really liked these arches.

 Jake had fun exploring this old water wheel.
 We visited Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos which is an old fort with beautiful gardens.
 This pool reminded us of Tim and Cathy's, Emily's parents, pool and backyard.  We just kept saying over and over again how similar they were.  *I am almost 22 weeks pregnant in this picture.
We wish we could have been here during the peak flower season.

We had lunch around 2:30 or 3 which was beginning to be our new normal lunch time.  Our waiter didn't speak English so he asked the lady sitting behind Jake to help translate.  I wanted to order some meat but wanted to make sure it was well done so we told her I was pregnant and as soon as she translated that he understood that I wanted the meat well done.  The lady mentioned how some things in life are universal like pregnancy and well cooked meat.  She also mentioned that in Spain it is illegal to ride a bicycle if you are pregnant which is absurd to her since she is from Holland.  She thought it was interesting that two countries with similar health care standards would be so opposite.  I told her I had heard that it isn't recommended because you could lose your balance easier with the growing belly but we both agreed that I was small enough that I would have been fine riding a bike :).
 Jake couldn't get over all the orange trees and oranges on the ground.

We made it back to the train and then to Malaga around 6:00 pm.  We did some shopping at Primark which is a department store we've been to a few times in a couple different countries.  It kind of reminds us of a store similar to Kohls.  Jake found lots of great shirts and shorts.  I found two maternity tops and a maternity tank top and then I found this . . .
 A onesie with a SQUIRREL on it!  I was so excited!
Here is to hoping we have a girl so she can wear these cute clothes . . . or we might put our little boy in the squirrel one just for fun.  It isn't too pink, right?

We stopped by a grocery store to get some things for breakfast the next morning since we would be leaving really early to catch a train to Barcelona.  We noticed on this day that most places didn't open until 9 or 10 so getting breakfast before 8 probably wasn't going to happen.  We ended up not buying much because we thought we could get something closer to our hotel.  
 Dried meat?
With a side of cheese?
By the time we got back to the hotel we decided we weren't that hungry for dinner but decided to go look for things for breakfast which was kind of a bust.  It turns out we couldn't find a place to buy food and wished we would have bought more at the big grocery store.  We found a few yogurts and bought some oranges and a banana from a restaurant . . . that was an interesting conversation but we were thankful they let us buy some fruit. 
The next morning on the way to the train station, we found a bakery that was open and bought some bread for the train ride.  We realized we also needed food for lunch since we would be arriving in Barcelona around 2:45 pm and typically the food you get on a train isn't great.  I did get a donut from Dunkin' Donuts at the train station before we left and it was really good.  We took a train from Malaga, Spain to Barcelona, Spain.  It took about 5:45 and it was nice to have a day to rest.  Trains are great for traveling because you can move around a lot more, see the sights, and not have to worry about navigating.  The US needs to get on board with train travel.  

We had a great time in Malaga and Cordoba.  I need to put together our Barcelona post but that probably won't happen for a little while but check back and see why Jake and I were both speechless for a few minutes in Barcelona.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Paris, France

We decided to go to Paris, France for a couple days before heading to Spain during a week-long break from school in February.  I had been to Paris for about a day and a half on a high school trip 13 years ago but Jake hadn't ever been.

We flew from Stockholm to Paris on Friday, February 20th from 6:00 pm and landed at 8:45 pm.  We had a free night at a Marriott hotel so we picked one that was between the airport and the city since we would be getting in late and it was a great.  We got to the hotel around 9:45 pm and had a late dinner across the street before going to bed.

The next morning we packed up our things and grabbed some really good bread at a bakery on the way to the metro.  We checked in to our bed and breakfast in the city which was about 5 minutes away from the Eiffel Tower.
Pictures going clockwise: First view of the Eiffel Tower, our hotel rooms (top one was our free night and second one was close to the Eiffel Tower), Jake waiting for the train with our breakfast, all of my clothes for a week-long trip fit two packing cubes in my backpack, and my dinner our first night in Paris.

We were able to check-in to our room early and drop off our stuff before going to Notre Dame Cathedral.  It was cold, cloudy and raining but we only had a day and a half to see Paris so we were going to power through!
We climbed to the top of the tower but we took our time to make sure I didn't regret the climb the next day.
 It was pretty cloudy when we got to the top but then it started to clear up.

Saw a playground with a squirrel plaything so of course I had to try it out :).

After walking through the cathedral and up the tower and decided to stop for lunch at a creperie.  
On our way to lunch we saw some people ice skating, playing with bubbles and a couple getting some fun pictures taken of them.  Lunch and dessert at the creperie was good.  It was raining pretty hard during lunch but then stopped by the time we were ready to leave.

We did a little bit of shopping on our way to the Louvre.  I visited the Louvre in high school and Jake didn't really have a strong desire to go so we didn't go inside but we took a few pictures outside.

We did a little bit more shopping and then decided to go see a show called "How to Become a Parisian in One Hour."  Jake saw reviews for it on Trip Advisor and when we called to find out about it we had 20 minutes to get to the theater before it started.  We both wanted something to do that evening that didn't involve walking around and this was only an hour long so we decided to go for it.  There was a long line full of people who already had tickets and Jake tried to get up to the front to buy tickets but lots of people thought he was trying to cut.  He eventually bought tickets once they opened the doors and they upgraded our seats for free.  We ended up sitting about 5 rows from the front of the stage.  
 Didn't mean to get this awkward photo of the lady in front of us but see how close we were to the stage?

The show was really funny but also pretty raunchy and not politically correct at all.  He made fun of all different kinds of cultures and the US was hit pretty hard.  When he was asking what countries were being represented in the audience someone said, "America" and then later someone yelled "The US" and he replied that those are the same place.  A couple minutes later someone else said "Texas" which just made a lot of people laugh.  He told us how to ride on the metro, order food and how to shop like a Parisian.  The show was in English and we really enjoyed it.
After the show we tried to find dinner.  It was about 8 pm and we walked and walked and walked.  It was an epic fail.  You would think all the traveling we've done we would be good at this or at least better but finding places to eat is our biggest stressor on trips.  The places that looked good on our Trip Advisor app were closed or full and we just couldn't make up our minds.  By that point I wanted to sleep more than eat and Jake wanted to eat.  We eventually found a place but once we tried to order we realized it would be kind of difficult because the menu was in French and the waiter didn't speak any English.  Thankfully the people next to us helped us out but we still weren't 100% sure what we ordered.  This doesn't bother Jake at all because he will literally eat anything but I hate not knowing what the choices are especially now that I'm pregnant and I'm trying to be cautious about what I eat.  I ended up with an undercooked steak, not ideal for the prego and I can't remember what Jake had.  I ate what I thought was safest of my food and some of Jake's food.

The desserts redeemed the restaurant choice.  Thankfully chocolate is easy to translate in French :).
 On our way home we walked by the Eiffel Tower again so we could see it all lit up.
 The next morning we checked out of our hotel and Jake figured out we could see the Eiffel Tower from our window!
Our second day in Paris was my favorite day.  The weather was so much better but I also really enjoyed what we did.  After we packed up our backpacks and left them at the hotel we walked to the Champs-Elysees and found a place for breakfast.  We saw some city bikes we could rent and decided to give them a try.  We LOVE using city bikes when we can.  It is so much faster to bike than to walk.  I have heard that you shouldn't bike when you are pregnant because your balance is all off with your growing belly but since I wasn't that big yet and I felt stable we decided to give it a try.  I was very cautious and Jake had me bike in front so if a car hit us it would hit him first.  He is so thoughtful.

 We felt like we were in the Tour de France.  Turns out the cobble stones are bumpy and hard to ride on.

 Such a pretty day and a great view of the city!

I have a picture from my high school trip of Jan and me sitting on the ledge right behind us in this picture.  It was cold, windy and rainy that day.  I was thankful that this day was just a little cold but really pretty.

 We biked under the Eiffel Tower and then picked up our bags from the hotel.
We had a great lunch at a cafe on our way to the airport.  My (decaf) salted caramel mocha was awesome!  I haven't had much coffee since I've been pregnant and because Swedes don't really believe in decaf but the French do so I decided to have one. It was awesome!

We flew from Paris to Malaga, Spain.  Check back in a few days for pictures from Malaga and Cordoba, Spain.

*I was 21 weeks pregnant during this trip.
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