Our Family Travel Year in Review (2016) — An Epic Education

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So here it is: our family travel year in review for 2016. It was a year of road trips, water sports, and exploring more of our temporary home in Spain. In fact, most of 2016’s family travel year in review is based in Spain, but boy-o-boy did we see a lot of Spain! Read on for pics and more.

Our Family Travel Year in Review (2016) — An Epic Education 2016 our year of travel

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education Festival Unicorn in Benimaclet, Valencia

Canyoning in Galicia with Guias Malouco Canyoning in Spain with Kids fredy

The Fallas Festival: What to do in Valencia, Spain lights russafa Falles churros The Fallas Festival: What to do in Valencia, Spain Dionyseus

Our 2016 Family Travel Year in Review

Like many people, I will look back at the year 2016 with mixed emotions. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, for sure, but when I recall the year as a whole, there have been some pretty great memories in there. In this family travel year in review, I’ll point out a few of them.

Winter to Spring

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education family portrait Valencia with nana & papa

We started the new year at the Plaça del Ajuntament in front of Valencia’s beautiful City Hall building and fountain. On December 31st, it was here that we watched the countdown and ate our 12 grapes as we celebrated the start of 2016.

We had just celebrated Christmas with my parents, who were visiting for the holidays, but most locals in Valencia would hand out gifts on January 5th. For many in Spain, Santa Claus (known here as “Papa Noel“) is not the holiday’s main gift-giver. Instead, most Spaniards prefer los Reyes, known to English speakers as the Three Kings.

Plucked straight out of the Bible story, these kings were the ones who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Christianity’s favorite baby. Nowadays, there is a parade for the kings, and costumed children and adults sit on elaborately decorated floats and throw candy to the crowds. At home, Spanish kids open gifts from the kings — not Santa.

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education Cuenca kids and grandparents

Winter to Spring (Continued)

A few days later, we were off to the beautiful medieval city of Cuenca, perched atop a cliff face in the dry highlands between Valencia and Madrid.

You can experience most of Cuenca’s highlights in a day if you really wanted to, but it really deserves more. In a recent post, I detailed just a few things that the city can offer solo travelers and family travelers alike.

Our Complete Guide to Visit Valencia with Kids (or Without Them)

 

Before my parents left, we took them to Albufera, the large wetlands south of Valencia where much of the country’s paella rice is grown. With my friend Luis as our guide (he hails from Sueca, just south of many of the rice fields) we drove through the area, sampled the rice, the oranges and then the paella at El Rek. No family travel year in review is complete without a food recommendation. This is one of many I can offer.

We also did a little bird watching. A large portion of Albufera is also a wildlife preserve, where countless birds stop along their migratory journey. During the coldest months, thousands of birds congregated here.

Spring to Summer

Valencia with Kids. Fallas Crema CC The Fallas Festival: What to do in Valencia, Spain Falles

Spain has plenty of amazing festivals, but one of its biggest and most elaborate is Las Fallas in Valencia. It is truly a spectacle, and we consider ourselves lucky to have witnessed it for ourselves this year. My images and words barely do it justice, but look at them — they will have to suffice until you see it for yourself.

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education Israel Palestine float in the dead sea

In April, we had a whirlwind tour of Israel and Palestine. I had been in the region once when I was 12, but I barely remember it, and this was the first time for Keiko and the kids. We walked through the city or Jerusalem and floated in the Dead Sea. We smelled tear gas in Bethlehem and had amazing kebabs with Palestinian friends in the West Bank. Then they drove us through the checkpoints back to our hotel near the old city.

So much history. So many unsettled issues. And so much to learn. We hope to go back.

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education school trip friends local schools in Spain

Upon return, our girl had a school trip: one week in the Spanish countryside. This trip helped cement her new friendships with classmates and helped make her experience in local Spanish schools that much richer.

Oh! And I have to mention:

May 7th marked the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Epic Education Radio! Woohoo! Help me keep it growing! Subscribe! Write me a review! Share the show with friends!

Summer to Autumn

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education Jen & crew

The school year ended mid-June, and with it arrived my sister, brother-in-law and a few other precious relatives for a few weeks of full-on family shenanigans. We took them to Valencia’s stunning Central Market, and did an amazing tour of the Reina Sofia. This was our first time to do an in-depth tour of the facility, and fortunately for us, there was an open-house program that week.

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education Valencia Reina sofia opera

The Reina Sofia has more than five massive stages — one so big that we watched a show that took place entirely backstage. We’re talking opera, dancers, lighting razzmatazz, all backstage. Even the theater stage seating where the above pic was shot from.

Then there was another trip out to Albufera, as well. When we went in January, most of the migratory birds were ducks. Now in June, there were flamingoes. After a boat tour of the wetlands, it was onto eating, drinking and being merry — plenty of wine, tapas, and paella was consumed.

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education Valencia albufera house boat

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education Valencia albufera boat tour

Northern Spain

Once our family said farewell, the four of us jumped into a rental car and went on an epic 2-month road trip through Northern Spain. After some tight driving in Toledo, we moved onto the plazas of Salamanca, the caves of Léon, and the thermal baths of Ourense. We searched for places to go wild swimming as we cross the countryside and were rewarded for our efforts.

 

Lakes of Covadonga, Hiking in the Picos de Europa - Spain Road Trip

We climbed down waterfalls in Galicia and saw one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Then we arrived in the Asturias Region of Spain. Wow. This place really made an impression on us.

From here, the kids went surfing in Santander and stand up paddle boarding in San Sebastian along with some unusual hiking and Game of Thrones set-stalking in the Basque Country. Then it was onto Zaragoza and its nearby waterfalls before heading back to Valencia.

Autumn to Winter

How Our Kids Enjoyed Schools in Spain: Our Story

 

The summer of 2016 ended anticlimactically for us. After such an amazing road trip, we returned to Valencia with few plans for a month as we caught up on work and prepped the kids for their second year of school in Spain. That meant there were four weeks where were all in the house on top of each other, and the kids had no agenda and no real way to contact friends, which gave us all severe cabin fever.

Back to school

Finally, school began in early September. The boy, finally approved by FIFA to play, had transferred to another third-division team in the neighborhood (no more hour-long commutes to practice!). He had training twice a week and games every weekend. For better or worse, both kids had heaps of studying and homework in order to keep up.

2016 Family Travel Year in Review — An Epic Education Valencia albufera house boat

Near the end October, we drove to the Costa Blanca region for a great road trip. We rode roller coasters. We went snorkeling and sea kayaking. Then on the way back, we visited a castle in the town of Denia.

Things to Do in Barcelona with Teens and Tweens Barcelona kids taking pics in sagrada familia

Our last trip of the year brought us back to Barcelona during the Christmas season. The city is an amazing place to explore with teens. More on that later. Then finally, we drove another 90 minutes north to visit the grave of Salvador Dali: a place like no other.

14 Reasons to Visit Barcelona in Winter sagrada familia interior family portrait

The 2016 Family Travel Year in Review: Conclusion

It’s been a full year, with another crazy 12 months ahead of us. At the time of writing, our Spanish residency extension is still under review, and Latin America (in on way or another) is calling. Before anything, we plan to visit Lanzarote in the Canary Island for the first week of the new year. Expect pics and a report upon our return!

What was your family travel year in review like? Where do you plan to be in 2017? Where do you want to go?

Comments

  1. Awesome year, Jason! Great adventures!

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