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Home > Vacation wrapup: England and Spain

Vacation wrapup: England and Spain

July 10th, 2016 at 08:28 pm

I can't believe it's getting late already! I basically spent all day lazing around. Well, a lot of it budgeting and other organizational stuff on the computer, but it felt like a lazy day.

We got in yesterday evening from our trip. The flight home and getting through customs is always terrible, but it wasn't any worse than usual.

The trip itself was fabulous. Probably the best we've ever taken as a family. Lots of traveling, but worth it for all the experiences. We flew into Heathrow and had to drive about 4 hours to Exeter to spend a week with NT's family. We had a little outing or two every day, visiting different towns.

Here's a rocky beach at Dawlish Warren:

Babbacombe Model Village (a vast miniature world, this is just one small part):

The pier at Paignton, which had arcade games and other fun stuff:

Exeter itself was lovely:

We also visited a sandy beach, an otter sanctuary and butterfly farm and an archaeological museum. We mostly cooked at home (NT's parents had rented us a lovely 4-bedroom house) and brought picnic things out, but we did eat at a couple places.

After about a week, we left the kids with NT's dad and stepmom and drove about 3 hours to Oxford to our friends' house. That night they had people over so we could see some of the people we know there.

The next morning we left for Barcelona (me, NT, AS, our two best friends and the girlfriend of one of them); we took a bus to Gatwick airport, then a plane to Barcelona, then bought a 4-day pass for the trains and subways and found our way to our AirBNB, a nice 3-bedroom condo.

It was incredible there. For one thing, it was sunny and in the 80s (England had mostly been in the 60s and drizzly). For another, the place was just so beautiful. Everywhere had ornate iron railings:

There were tons of little alleyway-type streets that no car could go down, and tapas bars about every 5 feet, it felt like! The tapas was amazing. There were also a number of vegan restaurants; although none of them blew me away, it was nice to have so many options.

There were living statues in some areas that just blew me away:

We were close to the beach as well:

We got out to Parc Guell, a weird and wonderful park featuring architectural touches by Gaudi:

It was high on a hill so we got great views of the city from there.

And basically we spent hours sitting at various outdoor cafes having chilled wine and snacks. Smile Everything was so amazing. The only drawback of the city really was that it could really stink of sewage in places. But you'd keep walking and the smell would go away in a minute.

Meanwhile back in Exeter, things could not have gone better with the grandparents. We Skyped once but it seemed to simultaneously bore and upset the kids, so we just relied on Facebook photos from family members. It was easy not to worry when we saw shots of the kids having fun all over the Devonshire area:

Our Barcelona jaunt went by in a flash; it was only four days, three nights. We flew back to England and took the bus back to Oxford to spend two more nights with our friends. The one full day we had there, we spent in the city itself (our friends lived on the edge in a more suburban area). One friend showed us where he works, the impressive Oxford University exam schools, full of rooms like this:

Then we walked around Oxford, basically just soaking in the atmosphere. It's such a beautiful city:

That night we ate at a nice Italian restaurant and went drinking at a scruffy but charming pub, one of NT's old haunts.

The next two days were no fun, but we were prepared: We left Oxford around noon and drove 5 hours (traffic was awful) to Exeter, met up with the kids and grandparents for a dinner out (luckily there was a play area because the food took forever and was only so-so), spent the night at NT's mum's house (the kids still had to stay at his dad's because of space issues and that made one of them weepy), got up super early, drove to the car rental place with two emotional kids, dropped the car, lugged our stuff on a shuttle to the airport, waited out a delay, flew to Iceland, got straight on the next plane which was already boarding, flew another 7 hours or so, went through the awful customs line, got a taxi home, and put the by-now hysterical kids straight to bed. That was around 8pm last night, which would have been 2am in England, so they were a wreck (even though they were really good on the plane).

But today was a good recovery day. I almost feel ready to face work tomorrow. Almost. Wink

10 Responses to “Vacation wrapup: England and Spain”

  1. LivingAlmostLarge Says:

    Fun. Okay can I ask what the trip cost? Was it reasonable?

  2. ceejay74 Says:

    I put that in one of my many entries today, so I'll paste from there. This is a really rough count, especially on the "other". (That could be less but it's definitely not more. I'm estimating high since I stopped tracking.)
    UK flights & travel insurance: $5500
    (UK lodging paid for by NT's parents)
    Rental car & insurance: $900
    Barcelona flight and lodging: $1300
    Other spending (food, drinks, gas, public transport, souvenirs): $2500-$3000

    So, roughly $10K all told. Highest estimate is $10,700 or so.

  3. VS_ozgirl Says:

    Looks like it was loads of fun! I had a really great time in the UK when I was there in June too Smile

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    Sounds fabulous!!

  5. CB in the City Says:

    What fun! Sounds wonderful!

  6. snafu Says:

    thank for sharing photos and allowing us to better understand names and places depicted in movies. You did a lot in a short time. Compliments to your girls who were able to tolerate so much change. I was trying to imagine the state our guys would have been in staying in unfamiliar home with an unfamiliar grand dad, up early for rental car return, hustle to shuttle, airport security, delays, hurly burly boarding and repeat Iceland, changing flight, X hours to USA and security, finally home 2 AM. All those line ups and insecurities of 'what next,' easily results in meltdowns. What wonderfully, flexible girls!id

    Did lower currency exchange rates make a significant difference?

  7. ceejay74 Says:

    Thanks all! snafu, we didn't really benefit from the currency exchange. We were using pounds sterling from NT's British bank account, and then when we exchanged for Euros for the Barcelona trip, we probably suffered there because of the weakness of the pound. But it felt like prices in England hadn't risen significantly from the last time we were there, so that was nice, and Spain is pretty affordable. Some places we could get a glass of wine with free olives or crisps for about 1.50 euros!

  8. scfr Says:

    What a great trip! Thank you for sharing!

  9. rob62521 Says:

    Great photos...I feel like I traveled with you.

  10. FrugalTexan75 Says:

    Sounds like an amazing trip!

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