I am the Barber of Seville!

Not really. We never even found a barber in Seville. What is that opera even about? All I know is what I remember it from Bugs Bunny cartoons and here we were in Seville and Elmer Fudd is singing that song over and over in my head.

The Seville Cathedral

Following our stay in lovely Comporta, we were scheduled to head to the Douro (aka wine) region of Portugal. However, upon closer inspection we were booked into a hotel on the Douro River with the word Douro in the hotel name but it was in fact two hours away from the Douro Region and it looked like the kind of place where couples go to celebrate their golden wedding anniversaries with a good book and lovely wine pairing menu. This is NOT the place for a family of four with two kids who really want to hang out by swimming pools and do cannonballs. We decided that 7 nights in this no man’s land location would be too much for us all to bear and we changed our plans. We had a rental car, so the world (or at least Portugal and parts of Spain) were our oyster. We decided to head from Comporta to Seville, Spain where we could spend a couple of nights and then drive back into Portugal to enjoy the beaches of the Algarve for a few days.

Road-tripping through Portugal

This was actually a plan we really enjoyed. Perhaps we would have liked the sleepy Douro hotel, but we were very happy with our decision to can that idea and save it for another time when Mommy and Daddy were on their own.

Seville is just under four hours drive from Comporta. We had fun driving the length of the bottom half of Portugal with our newly minted Italy Spotify playlist along for the ride. The highway was fantastic and we loved seeing the changes in the landscape as we rolled into the mountains north of the Algarve. It was very dry the entire way to Seville. We saw many dried up riverbeds and the scars of recent forest fires.

We did very little research in planning for Seville but we did book into the historic Hotel Alfonso XII and a walking tour of the city. With the temperatures clocking in at around 42 celsius in the afternoons, we were glad that we only stayed for a couple of days. But we did make a note that Seville is a place to return when the temperatures get a little cooler. We had no idea that Seville was so ripe with history and incredible landmarks.

The Hotel Alfonso XII is one of the most picturesque historical hotels that I’ve ever visited. It was commissioned by the King of Spain for the 1929 Exhibition. Modelled after the moorish architecture seen throughout the adjacent historical centre of Seville, its been lovingly maintained over the years. The central courtyard is home to the restaurant and is quite a picturesque spot. We were impressed with the tile work and carvings.

In the lobby of the Hotel Alfonso XII

Our guide met us in the lobby at 10am, perhaps not early enough as it was already quite hot. We were glad that we were headed to the Real Alcázar which was just a 5 minute walk away. A complex of palaces, the vast rooms are now a museum and sometimes a movie set. In fact it played host to the Game of Thrones crew when it stood in for the Palace in Dorne. Most interestingly, the palace is built in the Moorish architectural tradition and the tile work makes the tiles in the hotel look almost basic. It’s quite a sight to see.

Following our tour of the palace, we took a meandering walk through the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter and circled our way back to the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (aka Saint Mary of the See or more commonly known now as the Seville Cathedral). The fourth largest (according to Wikipedia anyways) cathedral in the world, this church is massive. Following St. Peter’s at the Vatican, the Milan Cathedral and a church in Brazil, St. Mary of the See is not only extraordinarily big it is also the current burial place of Christopher Columbus, or so we are led to believe. Apparently according to our guide, recent DNA tests of the remains that were repatriated from the Dominican Republic proved that in fact this was Columbus. But I suppose if you ask the guide in Santa Domingo, they will tell you the same thing about the remains they claim to have buried in their Columbus Lighthouse. Regardless, someone forked out a ton of cash to create a seriously monumental tomb for Columbus that also has quite a travel history (it was initially commissioned in Cuba and eventually brought to Seville and installed in the Cathedral). Whatever the story is, we were a little sheepish that we had no idea that we would see all of this on our tour!

Christopher Columbus’ Tomb… Maybe…
The battle to get a nice shot of all of us in front of cool monuments. There may have been some yelling…

In fact, Seville boasts a seriously epic maritime history. Even though the city is quite a distance inland from both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts (including the Gibraltar Strait), the Guadalquivir river was the launch and return point of many explorations on behalf of the Spanish empire.

By the time we left the Cathedral, the sun was high enough in the sky that we were melting and it was time to make a beeline to our air conditioned hotel. Well after dark, we did make it out for a bit of yummy tapas at Ovejas Negras.

On our second morning, we hoped to squeak in a visit to the Plaza de España mostly because it featured as a city on the planet of Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II. We are big Star Wars geeks after all and we didn’t want to miss it, but it was already just too hot. So we decided to climb back in the car and head to the beaches of Algarve a few hours early to try and beat the heat.

Crossing the bridge from Spain back into Portugal and the Algarve


From Barcelona we flew to Lisbon where we rented a car and started a two and a bit weeks in Portugal. Our first stop was the beautiful Alentejo coast line just south of Lisbon. A friend recommended Comporta as a must-see spot, so we planned a 5 day visit here. Even though it is very close to Lisbon as the crow flies, its about an hour and half drive south around the Sado Estuary and back up the coast line towards the base of the Tróia peninsula.

It’s a peaceful place with cork tree and pine forests, wild rice paddies, epic sand dunes and untouched beaches that run for miles. The Espírito Santo family (a renowned Portuguese banking family) has owned most of this area for years and subsequently have kept development to a minimum. The beachside has a few beach clubs scattered about, but its mostly deserted. You won’t find the massive resorts like the Algarve up here. In fact the few bigger hotels are actually still comparatively small and are located away from the beaches.

We were still recovering from bronchitis so Comporta was a very nice chilled out place to land for a few days. Lacking hordes of tourists, we loved visiting the town of Comporta itself. More of a village really. We were charmed by the vast local stork community that seem to have built a nest on every high point in town. Power lines, telephone poles, chimneys, rooftop nooks – whereever they can fit their massive nests. In addition to the storks, I loved the cool little shops scattered around town. Every single shop seemed to carry fantastic stuff that’s right up my alley. Cool caftans, yes please. Vibrant ceramics, of course. Fun sunglasses, well duh! I actually restrained myself as my caftan needs were waning as we were weaving our way to cooler weather soon enough and how many pairs of sunglasses does a girl need. And ceramics? Lets just say I’m becoming an expert. Comporta may be in the middle of nowhere but there’s lots of cool shit to buy.

The Little Kid took a few horseback riding lessons during Covid times, so they were particularly excited for the beach ride we planned through Cavalos an Areia stables. Monsieur, the Little and I ventured out on the ride on a beautiful sunny day. We armed ourselves with sunscreen (smart) but forgot two very important things (dumb). Any experienced rider will tell you that riding in shorts isn’t very comfortable, that was our first mistake. The second was that we underestimated how many mosquitoes can breed in rice paddies! Our guide had to take us through the paddies and traverse the sand dunes before we got to the beach. The sand dunes were clearly where all the mosquitoes in Comporta hang out during the day. Monsieur and the Little are literally mosquito magnets on a good day, but this was madness. We did think to wear plenty of mosquito repellent but it was to no avail, we were swarmed. It was brutal. Luckily as we came out to the beach, the mosquitoes stayed in the dunes and we were given a reprieve. We enjoyed a lovely ride along the waves with hardly any other people in sight. Luckily on the way back, the wind was in our favour through the dunes so were didn’t have to endure another swarming. Phew.

Riding in Comporta

We enjoyed some delicious Portuguese food, but struggled a bit as the majority of the options were seafood centric and we aren’t big seafood fans. However, we did try the yummiest steak sandwich called a Prego. Delish. We did also venture down the seafood road a little with sole, which was always awesome. Our favourite meal was at Praia do Pego at Sal Beach Club. We loved the beach shack vibe and watching the amazing west coast sunset.

Comporta reminds me of Big Sur, Makawao on Maui or maybe Montauk (the last one I’ve not experienced first hand). But the design aesthetic is minimal but beautiful, think baskets and white wash. I would definitely come back to this sleepy little place for a break from the everyday tourism routes in Europe.

Bronchitis in Barcelona

After several Covid swabs and a second doctor’s appointment, it was clear that the big kid’s throat infection had escalated to bronchitis. Armed with a puffer, N95 masks, lots of Ricolas and a clearance to fly we hopped the flight from Mallorca, headed for Barcelona.

Barcelona is one of our favourite places! We spent 10 days here in 2019 and fell in love. So much so that we almost chose it as our home base. But with tight timing and lots of other new destinations to see we only had 3 precious nights in Barcelona. No sooner did we arrive at the hotel when I started with that dreaded tickle in the throat and came down with the big kid’s bronchitis too. We kept Covid testing to be sure, always negative. But a heavy cough and when the big kid or I get a cough EVERYONE within a 5 kilometre radius knows it. It’s deep and its loud and it sounds waaaaaaay worse than it is. In Covid times, a cough is the bright red A sewn on to Madame Bovary’s dress. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Big Kid and I spent A LOT of time in the hotel.

Me and the Little, masked up and ready to roll in the bus that we took from the airport.

On our first day in Barcelona, we had booked a Gaudì Tour. On our last visit here, some of Monsieur’s love of Art Nouveau architecture and of Gaudì’s incredible designs rubbed off on the kids and I. So this tour was something we were looking forward to. However the bronchitis kept the Big Kid and I in the hotel room while Monsieur and the Little were the lucky ones who headed out with the guide. They returned to see the amazing Sagrada Familia Basilica, no surprise that the very lengthy building time was only further delayed by Covid. They also visited the beautiful Park Guell.

After many more covid tests and a break in the bronchitis, we did manage a visit to Barceloneta and a seaside lunch along the marina. Monsieur and I also managed a stop at the Apple Store to buy some AirTags for our checked suitcases.

Managed to catch a glimpse of Sagrada Familia from the rooftop of our hotel

Shopping in Barcelona is pretty good. Of course, all the big chain shops are here but since its home to both Zara and Mango, it seems like there is one of those on every corner. Sprinkled in here and there are some very cute little shoe stores and other boutiques. We were also impressed with all the little bakeries that have croissants as nice as their French neighbours.

Tapas bars are everywhere but since they are quite small and jam packed, we avoided the close quarters. We did have one totally rotten meal at La Taperia at El Nacional on Passeig de Gracia. A highly Instagrammable and stylish location, El Nacional boasts four restaurants, four bars and a dessert place all under one roof. We were unimpressed with the rubbery tapas that was served with such speed and lack of care. The servers didn’t even bat an eye when we paid the bill and left after only 15 minutes.

El Nacional looks good from far but its far from good, if you know what I’m saying…

We did however have an absolutely delicious meal at L’Olivé where we found a really yummy paella. The interior was decorated with a vast collection of olive jars, one of my current Mediterranean obsessions so I was very happy to check all of them out.

Swooooooooning over olive jars

Our stop in Barcelona was sadly very brief, even more restricted by this stupid bronchitis that keeps hanging on. But we were reminded how much we love this part of Spain and the Catalunyan people. We’ll definitely come back.

Hola, Olé

The Santa Maria of Palma Cathedral

Monsieur and I were all recovered from our colds and survived our wait in the horrendous Heraklion airport (it makes LaGuardia look like Versailles). It was time to go west again, this time our destination would be SPAIN! We were done with Gyros and we were ready for Tapas. But first, we needed to get there.

If you’ve been following the news, then you’re probably watching all of the horror stories surrounding European airport these days. We were traveling from Heraklion, Greece to Mallorca, Spain via Zurich. We were worried about our bags making the connection, but we really needed to be worried about ourselves. Checking in at Heraklion, the gate agent offered us 6 boarding passes… for four people… for two flights. Luckily, we were all boarded for the Heraklion – Zurich leg, but who were we going to have to leave behind in Zurich? Funnily enough, it was both kids. Oh well, tough luck kiddos. Dad and I are off to beautiful Mallorca and we’re leaving you in the most expensive city in Europe on your own. Godspeed. Well, I gently tried to get the gate agent to try and explain WHY our kids were not able to get boarding passes. Were they bumped? Were their tickets not paid for? What was the issue? She had no idea.

So we boarded the plane for Zurich, tried to shelve the worry and waited for our arrival to try and sort it out. In Zurich we made a beeline for the transfer desk on our departure concourse, only to find it as deserted as you’d expect at an airline help desk in summer 2022. Since we’re Star Alliance Gold, we decided to head to the lounge. They’re always helpful there. Guess what? Nope, they were not. Not at all. So I sent the Monsieur and the starving kids in search of snacks while I found another Transfer Desk. Luckily the third time was the charm, the agent was very kind and our kids were given boarding cards. We were on our way.

Arriving in Palma, Mallorca airport we witnessed some very busy scenes but tickety-boo (who even says that anymore?) our bags popped out on the carousel, our rental car was parked at the front of the line and we were on our way. Ten minutes later (yes, can you believe that the airport is that close?) we were parked in front of our hotel in the centre of Palma.

Cruise ships and ferries are common sights in the Palma Harbour

Palma is a fantastic city. Plenty to see in the beautiful historic old centre including a stunning Gothic Cathedral the Santa Maria of Palma and the impressive city walls. We had a great time strolling the streets and enjoying some yummy tapas.

We didn’t really expect that it would be round two on the cold front however when both kids came down with the throat infection and were laid up in the hotel room for a couple of days. After some antibiotics and rest, we were able to manage a day at Son Matias beach. We wanted to venture further a field, but decided a city beach was probably wise since the kids still weren’t 100%. We managed to rent 4 lounge chairs and umbrellas for a whopping €35. Lunch was a super yummy chicken paella served at the Siso Beach Club.

On our last day, we had plans to meet our new friend Mariska at her fabulous shop in the town of Artà. It was great to drive across the Island to get see some of the beautiful landscape. As you would expect, Artà is a very charming Balearic town and Mariska’s shop did not disappoint. She arranged for us to have lunch at Coco Beach Club at Cala Ratjada. Monsieur and the Little enjoyed a post lunch swim while we finished our margaritas.

Mallorca is a destination where we definitely want to return. A great place for a beach holiday, but also plenty of culture and history as well as great food too.

Street art in Palma


Okay, not a fever. But sick nonetheless.

We wanted to experience a Greek Island on our trip but were hesitant to head to the popular islands of Santorini or Mykonos. Preferring something a little less busy perhaps. Crete came up, mostly because of the Airbnb options. We rented a small house with a pool on the north coast just above the town of Rethymno (we were luckily there about a week before the forest fires happened).

My lonely feet with a peekaboo of the Cretan Sea

We were grateful for this stop for few reasons… the first is we had a special guest joining us. Auntie A was flying in from Toronto to stay with us for a few days before she met up with family on another Greek Isle. The second is after weeks in hotels we were happy for a kitchen, a washer/ dryer and quite surprisingly we were very happy for some privacy. And the third reason we were grateful only materialized after we arrived; both Monsieur and I got sick. Luckily NOT Covid, but we both needed antibiotics and were glad to be some place quiet and not away from other people to recover.

Crete is beautiful, but its very different from Italy. This part of Crete felt a lot like Mexico to us. Piles of beach resorts and lots of tourists soaking up the sun. The main street was one beach shack after another with the odd Greek restaurant mixed in for good measure. Luckily there was a great walk-in clinic and a big pharmacy close by.

We did manage to squeak in a little bit of sightseeing. We took the ride up the narrow mountain roads to the Arkadi Monastery. An interesting stop up on the hillside that was a focal point of the Cretan restistance to Ottoman rule in the late 1800s. Still an active Monastery, its a beautiful site with its Orthodox church at the centre.

The big kid at the church at the Monastery of Arkadi while Monsieur sneaks a peek inside

Rethymno has a charming old town with more beach and souvenir shops. Many selling wooden penises of every size as keychains and bottle openers. I still do not even understand the significance. They were almost as plentiful as the Evil Eye paraphernalia. We did manage to have a great lunch on a side street at La Rentza Taberna and indulged in some of the best dolmades ever. It was fascinating to see the many layers of rule that built the island of Crete; Turkish, Venetian etc including the historic Venetian Harbour.

Chania was another stop during our stay. Also boasting a Venetian harbour with a gorgeous lighthouse, Chania old town was even more vast than Rethymno, with EVEN more wooden penis stores. But it also had some unique boutiques with local designs. We decided that if we returned to Crete, Chania would be home base.

Crete wasn’t what we expected for a Greek Island. If you come here you won’t see the white washed buildings and windmills that you see in pictures of Mykonos or Santorini. Nor will you find the charm of the fictional Mamma Mia island. Its a cost-effective beach holiday destination for a lot of Europe and that’s what the emphasis is on here. Its a great big island with lots to see, plenty of history (Knossos Palace – the ancient centre of Minoan civilization or the Cave of Zeus – one of the proposed birthplaces of Zeus), hiking and beaches to explore. For us, it was a great place to take a little break from all the busy traveling we’ve been doing so far.

The doctor at the walk in clinic recommended we eat at Prima Plora overlooking Rethymno and the historic Venetian Fortezza. Best meal in Greece!