Gandia Palacio Ducal & Weekend Happenings

On our way to Gandia we made a quick stop at Albufera. This is a freshwater lagoon with an abundance of fish surround by rice fields. Dustin and I were able to stop here briefly last year as well. Dustin and K stayed on the board the bus while Ash and I got off for a few pictures.
Our main attraction to visit today was the Palacio Ducal. “The oldest part of the building dates from the 15th century, but was restored and turned into a sanctuary by the Society of Jesus. It is attached to the wall that surrounds the city and has two gates, a Gothic one and one from the Renaissance.” (Source Wiki). It was originally built with gothic architecture and then was transformed as the years progressed. So inside there was quite a mix of styles.
After the tour, Ashley was very hungry and we stumbled upon the Pastelería Roselló. This place brought flashbacks of our 2012 tour to Europe. It reminded us of the french bakery we stumbled upon in the french countryside on our way to Barcelona.  They also had apple strudels that reminded of us of Prague. Dustin had the pastry pictured below with fruit on top. Kenley wanted to try, so we did let her take a few bites mainly of fruit as she ate her banana. I tasted it too and it was delightful. Ashley had a few small croissants filled with cheese.
Once we got back to the bus we were dropped off near the beach were we found lunch. The restaurant was supposed to have a German twist that we found, but the Spanish version of German was not so great, ha. It was ok but not the best place we have eaten here. I ordered a salad that I expected green lettuce (tried to make a healthy choice) turned out to be coleslaw with lots of mayo. Germans don’t use mayo in their potato salad, it is vinegar based, so it surprised me. But I did have a bratwurst and Ashley enjoyed another order of patatas bravas.
Afterward we headed to the beach and since it was overcast opted not to purchase a char and umbrella like we normally do. We also only a few hours. We hung out near the students. This beach will be remembered for a long time in this family because K finally walked on the sand without screaming!  I think it helped she had 15 students cheering her on ha!  She walked over to them, played with a ball, built a sand castle, walked to the water. Finally over the hump! She loves the beach now!
We cooked dinner at home, the one ecological “organic” store here has the best chorizo sausages! Sunday was super low key, we didn’t go to the beach today because we were there on Saturday. I cleaned in the morning while Dustin took Kenley to the park. Our apartment gets so dusty so quickly because it is very dry here and with walking everywhere. Even though we take our shoes off upon entering I feel like we need to mop every other day!  
For lunch we tried to go to one oriental restaurant, but the kitchen wasn’t open yet and we were hungry, so we stumbled upon a restaurant called Sake in the same neighborhood. It was a Buffett but the food wasn’t out on a buffet line, it was more all you can eat ordering. Dustin and I had had WAY too much sushi (well food in general). Ash enjoyed some friend chicken and rice. We packed K’s lunch but she also enjoyed some rice and pineapple. We tried to give her a California type role that just had cream cheese and avocado but she wasn’t sure about it!  Dustin and I ate so much that we didn’t really eat the rest of the day.
On Sunday evening Ashley and I enjoyed a Flamenco show with Ashley & a few students. I got to see this in Madrid last year, so I wanted Ashley to have the opportunity to see it. This was a very small cafe that was packed to the rafters with people but it was only an hour long. It was fun and the students loved it!

Santa Susana, Spain to Nice, France

Dustin and I woke up around 8 and walked to the beach. It was a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Dustin and I sat on the beach and relaxed for a few minutes and I spent some time in prayer. I also put my feet in the Mediterranean Sea! It was very very very cold, so there will be no swimming on this trip. 🙂

The place we stayed was an apartment style hotel which was very clean with two bedrooms and a kitchenette. This came in handy because we had purchased fruit including pineapple from the market in Barcelona. We packed up and left our apartment around 10:30 and headed north back to France. Driving here really isn’t all that different besides the cars look different and are manuals. Cars also can be diesel, which ours is, diesel is actually cheaper than unleaded in Europe right now. And Dustin wanted me to add that the speed limit changes if it is raining. The speed limit on most highways is 130 killometers per hour with dry weather.

The car we are driving is really nice. We didn’t ask for GPS, but it has it’s own GPS and you can google a place to go and then click go and it’s maps you there. It is a Renault Laguna. It also has leather seats. The only slight problem is the trunk is not very big. It took us about 10 minutes to unpack and repack to figure out how to get all 3 big suitcases in the trunk with the small suitcase. Yesterday we put it between Sarah and I, but with the 6 hour drive today we wanted it in the trunk if possible. We figured it out!

We stopped for gas and food in a little town called Beziers. No one here spoke english. A lady at least over 65 years old came out of the gas station which looked like it was not touched since 1970. She didn’t understand “Full” and was asking me something in french which I didn’t understand, but we got through with hand motions and our tank was full.

Then we tried to use our GPS to search for a resturant, but it was a small town with narrow streets so we just went to the first place we found. The town appeared to have a large arabic population as many of the women we saw were in full headdress. And the menu at the resturant was in french and arabic. No one in the resturant spoke english either, but we sucessfully ordered deux pizzas, deux croissants de chocolat, et une pain maison, which was some kind of flat bread. Maison means house in french, so I’m not sure if it was an arabic type bread since the man running the show was of arabic descent. It is yummy whatever it is. Here is a picture, it was huge! This was our food for the road.

We ate our pizza in a parking lot on some concrete blocks and then headed onward towards Nice.

We had some good laughs at one of our toll booth stops. This brand new Mercedes convertible was towing a camper at least 20 years old. At the same stop a car in the next lane rolled back into another car, and one lady didn’t have money and had to go six lanes across to a machine and back, meanwhile a french man behind her was not so happy and got out of this car yelling to see what was going on. Gotta love people watching! Later we ourselves were the cause of a slow lane at the toll booth, we tried all 5 credit/debit cards we had between us and nothing worked. We had to call for assistance. It’s crazy how many toll roads are here.

We wanted to see the French Mediterranean coast, so we headed down towards Toulon, France and used the GPS to find a beach which was in town. Beautiful! Here is a picture.


There as we were standing on the dock a french man asked us if we wanted him to take our picture. He spoke very good English and asked where we were from. During the conversation he told us about a more beautiful area away from the city with a great beach called Fort de Brégançon. It was about 40 Km east. We headed that direction and I am very thankful for running into this man, because it was amazing. On the drive to there we weaved through vineyards and olive groves.


Then we came to a beautiful beach with a fort on one side & an island across the way. I was sad we couldn’t stay and watch the sunset, but we hadn’t had dinner yet despite driving the eastward direction, we were still 1.5 hours away from Nice. Here are a few pictures.




We arrived in Nice around 9pm, checked into our hotel and headed out to find something to eat. Our hotel was a few blocks over from a very neat plaza of restaurants, we ate at one called Cafe La Place. None of the staff spoke very good english here either, Nice seems to be more of a vacation AKA “holiday” destination for french natives. There was a little confusion when I asked for no goat cheese on my salad (non chevre) the waiter couldn’t believe someone would order a salad without cheese, ha! Dustin had pesto pasta, Sarah had the same salad with goat cheese, and Josh had a fish risotto dish. We are all very tired, we did a lot of driving today, but the countryside is beautiful. Tomorrow we plan to stop in Eze, France, drive through Monaco, lunch around La Spezia Italy, visit the leaning tower in Pisa, and end the day North of Rome in Orvieto.

Au Revoir…none of us know any Italian at all so this so be interesting! Josh and Sarah have both been to italy before, so I think we’ll be ok!



The boys took the shuttle to the airport from our hotel to pick up the rental car around 7:30 am. It was rush hour traffic in Toulouse, which is home of Airbus, so it took us a bit longer to get on the road. We stopped at a french bakery to grab breakfast. There was a sweet french lady working who did not speak any english, but we easily pointed & stumbled through some french words. In France they have panini’s for breakfast, Dustin and I split one with cheese, chicken, onion, and olive oil. Then we got a wonderful multi-grain baguette to go. Josh had a dream last night that we found a bakery with macaroons the size of baguettes and then we walked into these.

These are french meringues (not quite a macaroon, but close!) We ordered a meringue de fraise (strawberry) to split to try a french speciality. It basically is sugar with egg whites. It tasted like hard cotton candy.

It was just a quick stop, then we were back in the car, vamanos Espana! We had set the GPS in Ireland to avoid the toll-roads around Dublin on our way back to the airport, luckily we realized this before we went too far out of the way, but we did have to turn around to head back to the toll road which was still quicker at the point we were. But we did get a great view of the Pyrenees Mountains & we wouldn’t have come across the bakery had we been on the highway/toll road in the first place. The Pyrenees Mountains are pictured below.

We arrived in Barcelona around 2:30 pm, we quickly found parking and headed to the bike shop to pick up our bike rentals. We were able to rent bikes good for all day for 5 EUR each. It was a good way to get around the city because we didn’t have much time. Many of the streets in Barcelona have bike lanes. We headed down the Rambla towards the coast. We placed by the Mirador de Colom and then continued on past the Plaja (beach) de Sant Miquel, there were tons of people out today because it was beautiful! It was at least 80 degrees today.

We headed back uptown and past the Placa de Toros Monumental where the bull fights occur. Due to time being crunched today we didn’t go in. We found a quick bite to eat…empanadas and pitas. The pita was stuffed with chicken and peppers. It was so good! We kept heading uptown and stopped at the Temple de La Sagrada Familia. This building was designed by Antoni Gaudi. He is famous for the uniqueness of the cathedral and using nature to inspire work. The cathedral is built to feel like a tall forest inside and the ceiling is meant to resemble gold flowers. This building was started in 1882 and still remains under construction with a goal of completion in 2026.




After our visit at the sagrada we rode the bikes around and very unique buildings.

We had to turn in our bikes by 7:30 because the bike shop closed then. We then headed to find a resturant that was a recommended tapas place in a travel magazine from the last flight called Elisabets. On our way we stoped at Mercat Boqueria, the largest open aired market in Barcelona. It sort of reminded me of Pike’s Place market in Seattle, but more merchants. It was late in the day and many stands had already closed up shop. We just saw a corner of the market, but came away with apples, bannana, pinapples, and strawberries for breakfast Friday.


We arrived at Elisabets, it was located on a small steet off the beaten path. No one in the resturant spoke English very well, nor did the restaurant have an english version of the menu. We decided just to be brave and select 5 dishes from the menu and see what came. We thought Dustin might remember some Spanish to help us with the food ingrediants, but after 10 years since his last Spanish class, he wasn’t much help. One of our dishes turned out to be friedmashed potatoes with a red sauce and mayo on top. It was actually tasty.

One dish was stuffed olives which Sarah and Josh enjoyed. Dustin and I did try them, but we are not olive fans. 🙂 Another dish was a pork (we think?) kebob which was yummy. We did have empanadas with crab and a plate of what seemed like mozzarella sticks that was supposed to be chicken somehow? It was all very good, just not what I imagined from my experience with Mediterrean Tapas resturants in the US. Maybe because in the US it’s a blend of cultures vs. just Spain. Also different areas in Spain have different cuisine. The most popular dishes in the resturant from other tables seemed to be friend potatoes (fries) with red sauce and mayo & calamari.

We weren’t stuffed since the portions were small, so we walked around a bit and strolled down some of the streets in the gothic quarter. Of course with small portions we needed some dessert. We found a gelati and crepe stand. The boys had crepes and Sarah and I had gelati.

We left downtown Barcelona around 10:30 to head to our hotel in Santa Susana, Spain, located about 50 minutes north of town on the coast. We decided to stay here beacuase it’s cheaper and we will have a head start on our drive tomorrow. Spain will definietly have to be a stop again, I’d love to see the other cities and countryside. And there are a few hot spots we missed in Barcelona. One area we didn’t see was Montjuic, where you take a cable care ride to the top of the mountain. There the attraction highlights the different cultures in Spain and architecture from each culture. For the next trip….whenever that may be. 🙂


(Sorry for the delay in posting, no wifi last night!)