A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Restless Mama

Xativa Castle

Incredible Views


Seeing pictures of Xativa Castle was one of the reasons I wanted to visit this region. The castle dates from the time of the Romans and has been occupied by invaders ever since. The Moors came, and then the French, the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs and the Aragons. It's been built upon by each invader and it is a wonderful visual history. So much of it is intact and there is so much to explore.

We heard there was a tourist train that takes people to the top, and we saw it up there, but ended up just driving to the base of the castle and parking. The drive up is beautiful and you can see parts of the trail that meanders down from the castle. It looked amazing, but with two little ones, we had to prioritize.

The sun was getting hotter by the minute and the clerk recommended we see the Castle Mayor first and then check out the lower castle before the sun really started to bake. It was an excellent suggestion, and the Castle Mayor has some nice shady picnic areas on the way up. As you climb, the views of Xativa below get better and better. Check out the prison - it's about 15 degrees cooler in there!


After we checked out the Borgias residence, I left the boys to cool off at the restaurant and climes up the smaller castle. The walk up is tough because it's so freaking hot, but totally worth it. The Castillo Menor is actually the older of the two fortifications, built in pre-Roman times by the region’s original Iberian inhabitants. This is a great day trip from Valencia. The city itself is full of shady streets and happening restaurants. The train station is also very nice.

We stocked up at the Masymas, where I bought a lot of cheese - 3 dollars for Camembert, I was too weak to resist. We drove back home through the orange and lemon groves to feed the feral cats and watch the sun go down. We hiked through the 70 hectares surrounding the house and sampled marcona almonds, dates, and some other fruit they eat in Lebanon that I don't know the name of. It was a good day.

Posted by Restless Mama 12:14 Archived in Spain Tagged xativa Comments (0)

Inland Valencia

Driving Over Lemons (and Oranges)

We arrived at the petrol station in Barxeta and met our lovely hostess, who we followed to our house. Well, it's her house and had been in her family for three generations, along with the surrounding orange, lemon, olive, and almond groves. She and her husband summer here, and during the days they work in the fields to produce organic bounty. The house is beautiful and can be found here - https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p596041vb.

The natural pool is clean and clear and is used for irrigation, based on an old Arabic system. For us, it was just a great place to swim!


The nearest grocery is down a half paved road and into Barxeta, and it's only open from 6-9. So we sent Husband off to gather provisions. The views are incredible and we are surrounded by a natural park. Our first day, we picked lemons from the grove and I made lemon curd. The kids played with the feral cats and Husband brought home cat food to feed them. And now they wait for us every morning! The sun doesn't set until well after 9, and we've been enjoying the most beautiful sunsets. Tomorrow to Xativa Castle!

Posted by Restless Mama 11:56 Archived in Spain Tagged xativa barxeta Comments (0)

A Night in Toledo

Everything is Uphill


Toledo is an incredibly well-preserved ancient city perched on top of a hill. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and wandering the narrow streets it is easy to imagine every era this city has experienced- from the Visigoths to the Moors to the Christians of the Spanish Inquisition. The city maintains its walls and gates - walls which kept the city from ever falling (other than to prolonged siege).

We stayed at the Hotel Mayoral, which is outside the walls and within walking distance of the series of escalators that ferry people up to the top. This keeps the city nearly car-free (except for buses, taxis, and early morning deliveries). At the top, it's a short walk up to the main plaza, Plaza Zocodover. The plaza is the center of the city and is the place to ask for when you (inevitably) get lost.


We got lost. The city was celebrating Corpus Christie, and there were fuschia flowers and decorations throughout. The streets twist and turn and there are so many plazas and churches. We stopped to eat tapas and eventually found our way back to the square. We took the wrong escalator down and ended up walking all the way back down. We ended up at the beautiful Bisagra gate and wandered along the walls back to the hotel.


We headed back for a siesta and then the kids and I decided to go find a park where we could run and play. At 8 o'clock, it was still light out and the park (across the street from the Bisagra gate), was filled with people. Parents and kids, teenagers and couples strolling along the shaded paths. The restaurants and cafes were full and it was a beautiful night. The kids found some other kids to play with and they put together some elaborate war game while I relaxed on the benches and took in the scene.

When we got home at 10, they insisted they weren't tired. Five minutes after lights out, we were all snoring. In the morning, I woke up my early bird kid and we went back up to the city while the other two slept. In the mornings, there are no people and you have the whole place to yourself. All the vendors were delivering their goods to the stores, and we scored some fresh marzipan from São Tomé, a bakery services by the local nuns. Delish. Though our legs were tired, I really wanted to see the Cathedral, which is reportedly one of the best in Spain. Adam was a good sport - he let me take pictures and then we found chocolate croissants. A great morning in a great city.


Posted by Restless Mama 14:05 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Oh MIA, Por Favor Hablar Despacio!

Todas Personas Hablan Espanol

Oh Miami International Airport, I love that I can get for real cafe con leche and guava and cheese pastelitos here! And that I can practice my Spanish because no one is speaking English. TSA was a breeze, except this time Noah's bag got the search. Amusing, since I was the one packing mini bottles of Jameson in mine. Adam is traveling with the REI backpack I used when my thirteen year old self travelled to Europe. It puts a smile on my face.

So, with two hours to spare, we found an empty hallway in F terminal and had our version of sack races and parkour. Adam designated gate F8 as our yoga terminal. Then we played MadLibs. I have to wear them out - we won't be in Madrid for 8 hours! And we don't get there till tomorrow! I'm still convinced red eye is the way to go. We're all excited and ready to board.


Posted by Restless Mama 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Lisbon Love Affair

Two days is not enough


Rome has always been my favorite city in the world - the food, the unexpected surprises around every corner, the ability to walk for miles and always discover something new right around the corner, the history, the whatever it is that makes you fall in love. But Rome is not the kind of place you could settle down and live - it's the romance without any of the substance. Lisbon, on the other hand is a city you could go the distance with. Lisbon is clean, the people are kind, the drivers are not angry (in Rome, you must learn to sleep with the constant sound of honking horns and indignant yelling just below your window). Lisbon has fantastic public transportation, great architecture, and fascinating history. It's for families and travelers, couples and seniors. It's a community that welcomes all sorts of new people into it every day.

Adam and I woke up early to get in a run - the hills of both Boavista dos Pinheros and Cartajima had tired me and I was excited to check out a fast flat route through the city just as it was waking up. We ran to the water and saw other people running - this isn't a city that looks askance at people running for a purpose other than necessity. We saw the Golden Gate Bridge twin and then met the sleepers-in of our family back at the apartment.


Our first destination was the Oceanarium, which is outside the city about ten minutes. It was hot, so we took a taxi, but there is a bus that goes right there. It's a good aquarium, with a giant tank that can be viewed through most of the exhibits. The big draw is the mola-mola, which is a big giant fish, the likes of which we've never seen. There is a gondola which takes you on a scenic trip over the water and a long park, which has a few restaurants to sample. Really nothing special, but pretty and nice for the kids.



After a much needed siesta, we struck out in search of the famous 28 tram, which would take us to Castelo Sao Jorge. We waited in line like the rest of the silly tourists, but really, asking my kids to walk up through the Alfama to the castle, high above the city, would have prompted a mutiny. It was fun, and though it was standing room only, the destination was well worth it.

The tram drops you off at a little plaza high up on the hill, with a cafe and plenty of places to enjoy the view and take pictures. Husband finally succumbed to the Senegalese vendors selling selfie sticks. I bought a shot of the Portuguese cherry liquer, ginjinha, and we started our ascent to the castle.

It's impossible to describe how beautiful it was up there. The view is as dramatic as the one from Coit Tower in San Fancisco, and the city is laid out below in similar fashion. There is a restaurant and a cafe, as well as a lady with a cart who sells glasses of Portuguese wine. The experience of exploring the castle and sipping wine was sheer contentment. The view from the battlements is breathtaking. It was nicer than Granada and the Alhambra in my opinion. I'm so glad we had that experience. We took an electric golf cart taxi back to the bottom and that was a ton of fun. Every person we met here loved their city and wanted us to love it too.


We ended the day with a ride up the St Justa elevator, which is another tourist thing, but a also a convenient way to get around. It was designed by a student of Gustav Eiffel, and the design is truly beautiful. The ruined monastery at the top of the elevator is also quite stunning. There is a very pretty view of Rossio Square up there. One more gelato stop and then we reluctantly ended the day.


We are back in the Florida now, and are already planning our next trip back to Portugal. It was a great trip, but I am left craving more...

Posted by Restless Mama 17:11 Archived in Portugal Tagged castle jorge lisbon sao oceanarium rossio Comments (0)

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