Spain’s Spin on ‘Happy Hour’

Spanish bar culture gives a whole new meaning to ‘Happy Hour’ with small, delectable bar food affectionally called “tapas.” My husband and I were surprised to learn that the Spanish eat the small bites during the traditional dinner time in the States and hold off on dinner until almost 8 p.m. We actually couldn’t have a sit-down dinner until 8 p.m. It’s really the complete opposite of the restaurant culture in the U.S. where you can grab dinner from 5 p.m. onward and then around 11 p.m. it becomes bar food only. The Spanish enjoy eating their dinner late into the evening and it doesn’t seem to affect their waistline either! Maybe it’s because they fill up on apertivo first, much like that basket of chips or bread that inevitably send me home with dinner leftovers.

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Patatas Bravas

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Roasted Peppers

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Stuffed Peppers

 

Preparing for a Family Adventure in Spain

Afton and PassportOur next European adventure is booked and we’re heading to Spain next week! This trip will be a little different as we’re bringing along our nine month old daughter. There are plenty of blog posts and websites that offer tips on traveling with infants, so I can’t say I’m unprepared. But, there is always the element of surprise with children. Take into consideration feeding and napping schedules and then toss on a five hour time difference. All the makings of entertaining “remember when” stories are there.

As we plan and pack, there is a lot more to take into consideration. It’s become second nature for me to pack my bag. I know what I typically use and what is not worth bringing. I have packing light down to a science. But, now we’re packing for our daughter who is not known for packing light. For the most part she always has diapers, wipes, toys, spare clothes, pacifiers, bibs, bottles, food, a car seat – and occasionally a pack and play.

As much as I want to bring everything she could possibly want in order to keep her happy and entertained, I know I have to pair things down to the essentials. She will survive. As my husband likes to remind me, “They have babies in Spain too.” Anything we need we can get while abroad.

Packing light was one of the lessons I learned on our first family getaway to Snowshoe Mountain this past winter. You don’t need as much as you think. Bring less and you’ll make do with what you have.

Family Photo

Other tips that have helped me prepare for this first of many vacations as a family:

Don’t prepare for things to go wrong. Allow for the possibility for things to go right.

Be flexible. Sometimes a baby’s desire to eat or sleep will take precedence. Mentally prepare for that now. I’m sure there will be evenings when we won’t be able to make a late-night tapas run.

Ultimately, it’s not worth over thinking it. The essentials will be packed, and we’ve left some room in our bags for lifelong memories.

Fraggle Rock’s Uncle Traveling Matt Explores Italy

If you were a child during the 80s, you probably have a special place in your heart for the TV show, Fraggle Rock. Who could forget Mokey, Wembley, Boober, Red, Gobo and Gobo’s adventurous Uncle Traveling Matt. I’ve had a Traveling Matt doll since I was little and decided to allow him to stretch his legs during a trip to Italy last month.

I knew I had to bring him along after my experience with Nandy the Uglydoll Goes to England. Wes and I are expecting our first child, a daughter, in September, so I plan to put Traveling Matt and photos of his journey in her nursery.

Taking in the view from our apartment terrace in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Uncle Traveling Matt in Cinque Terre

Taking the typical tourist photo near the Tower of Pisa

Uncle Traveling Matt in Pisa

Admiring the pastel marble outside the Duomo in Florence

Uncle Traveling Matt at the Duomo

They just recently allowed photos to be taken of Michelangelo’s “David” inside the Accademia

Traveling Matt and the David

The hills and grape vines of the Chianti region

Uncle Traveling Matt in Chianti

A Taste of Boston

Some may find it sacreligious but during my trip to Boston last month, I did not eat any lobster rolls or New England clam chowder. I did however find some tasty eats in the city at Coppa, an Italian eatery, and the Back Deck, a down-to-earth grill.

Coppa

Coppa Italian Restaurant

This quaint enoteca features flavorful dishes with artisanal flair. This restaurant on the corner of Shawmut Avenue and Milford Street has outdoor and indoor seating and large accordion windows that helps create the atmosphere of a street cafe.

If dining with a friend, I recommend ordering two to three items to split for some variety. (Not pictured below are their risotto balls with fontina cheese. Delicious!)

Coppa's Rigatoni Ragu

Rigatoni Ragu

Coppa's Parma Pizza

Parma Pizza with Prosciutto and Arugula

Back Deck

The Back Deck in Boston’s Financial District is literally like sitting outdoors on your back deck. The restaurant door handle is a grill spatula, and the interior is decorated with bird nest lighting fixtures and patio-type seats.

The Back Decl

The Back Deck

The Back Deck

The Back Deck

Back Deck's Bellisimo Burger

Bellisimo Burger with Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Portabello Mushroom and Basil Aioli Sauce

With so many dining options in Boston, it can feel like there is not enough meals in the day. If sweets are more your style, I recommend trying Mike’s Pastry. A favorite among locals and tourists, the line can be wrapped around the block, so plan to be patient for those cannolis!

 

A Stroll Along Boston’s Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Boston. Really, it’s made up of 16 points of interest. There are many tour companies if you’re interested in a guided tour. My husband and I joined The Freedom Trail Foundation tour. A nice bonus is that they donate $1 from every ticket sale to a preservation fund. A 90-minute tour costs $15 per person and includes 11 sites on the trail.

Like many of the tour groups in Boston, time-period characters lead this one. I recommend Judith Sargent Murray — the first woman in America to self-publish a book and also the first playwright to have a play produced on the American stage. She was very knowledgeable but also added some interesting tidbits in her own witty way.

Here are some highlights from that tour:

Massachusetts State House

View of Massachusetts State House from Boston Common

Boston Common was once used to graze cattle and was sold to colonists from Boston’s first inhabitant, William Blackstone. Today, families and couples picnic in the grassy areas, many unaware that they’re doing so over unmarked graves.

Boston's Park Street Church

Flickr photo @wallyg

Park Street Church is where school children were the first to sing “My Country ’tis of Thee.” Interesting fact: “My Country ’tis of Thee” has the same melody as the British National Anthem.

Granary Burying Ground

Granary Burying Ground

Paul Revere Grave

Paul Revere Memorial (left) and Revere’s actual burial spot (right)

Sam Adams and Boston Massacre Grave Sites

Sam Adams’ burial plot and the plot of the five victims of the Boston Massacre (left)

Skull drawings on graves

Colonists marked graves with skulls as to state, “When you die, that’s it. Live your life right.” To tame it down a bit they added angel wings.

Granary Burying Ground
This is the burial site for three of the Declaration of Independence signers: John Hancock, Sam Adams and Robert Treat Paine. Within Sam Adams’ family plot lie the five victims of the Boston Massacre. Not that the loss of five lives should go unaccounted, but the term “massacre” was clearly a propaganda tactic by the patriots. The most searched for tomb is that of Paul Revere in the back of the graveyard. Interesting fact: Across from the graveyard is the Beantown Pub — the only place where you can have a cold Sam Adams beer while looking at a cold Sam Adams.

Boston Latin School

A statue of Benjamin Franklin marks America’s oldest public school, the Boston Latin School. Today, it’s a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

The Old State House

The Old State House is where the Declaration of Independence was read aloud for the first time in Boston and where a memorial marks the site of the Boston Massacre. The confrontation actually occurred on State Street across from the Old State House, but city officials figured it wouldn’t be smart to put a marker in the middle of a busy intersection. Interesting fact: The country’s first propaganda piece was Paul Revere’s illustration of the Boston Massacre depicting British redcoats as monsters.

Faneuil Hall

Flickr photo @wallyg

Faneuil Hall
Peter Faneuil built the building to carry on his legacy. He did not have children to do that because he promised his uncle that he wouldn’t marry in order to receive the family inheritance. The first floor houses the country’s first indoor marketplace and atop it all is a grasshopper weather vane. During the War of 1812, you were suspected of being a spy if you couldn’t answer the question, “Do you know what’s on top of Faneuil Hall?” There is also a colonial time capsule in its stomach.

Paul Revere's House

Paul Revere’s House
So … that portrait of Sam Adams on Samuel Adams® beer is actually a likeness of Paul Revere. It was thought that Sam Adams was not very handsome. Do a web search for “Jack Black and Paul Revere.” *This site was not on our guided tour.

Old North Church

Old North Church was immortalized through Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” and played a major role in the start of the Revolutionary War. At this church, two lanterns were briefly hung from the steeple to indicate that the British troops were traveling through Boston by sea. And, so goes the saying “one if by land, two if by sea.” The church still holds service today. Pews are separated like a sport stadium with field boxes. The boxes were purchased by families and decorated to their liking. *This site was not on our guided tour.

U.S.S. Constitution

U.S.S. Constitution
Don’t miss all three levels of this floating piece of history. The boat is taken out to stretch its rudders every now and then and even has an active U.S. Navy crew. *This site was not on our guided tour.

Bunker Hill

Bunker Hill Monument
The battle of Bunker Hill actually occurred on Breed’s Hill. Bunker Hill is the next hill over. The towering monument looks a lot like the Washington Monument. *This site was not on our guided tour.

Our New Travel Partner

Baby Backpack

Our new travel partner is due September 25! I suppose my travels will never be the same. Will I be trading in my backpack for a diaper bag? Not exactly. When my husband and I learned we were expecting, we of course thought about what having a ‘lil one would mean for our vacations, but we also knew it wouldn’t change our passion for traveling. Now, we just have someone else to share in the adventure. I admire those who make traveling with children work. For those of you that have traveled with an infant or toddler….any advice?

Lincoln’s Old Kentucky Home

Would you believe that Abraham Lincoln’s story began in a small log cabin in Kentucky? That’s right – he wasn’t born in Illinois! When most people think of the land of Lincoln they think of Illinois; however, Lincoln is originally from Kentucky. Today the little town of Hodgenville boasts their claim to fame as being the birthplace of our nation’s 16th president. It’s on the original farm where Lincoln was born that now exists the Abraham Lincoln National Historic Park. On the site is a visitor center where you can watch a 30-minute video about the memorial’s development and the history of the property. A wall slab of epoxied pennies are a work of art and a piece of history. More than 100,000 people, including school children, gave an average of 31 cents each to help build the memorial. The memorial was dedicated in 1911 by President William Howard Taft.

Steps up to Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial Steps

The log cabin inside the Memorial Building is only a symbolic cabin. It is old and typical to the area, but it is not the original. To this day historians are still not sure where the original cabin stood on the property.

Lincoln Cabin Replica

A peek inside the Lincoln cabin