Not just a beach holiday….

….except it was mainly a beach holiday! I’d booked a rural retreat in southern Spain for our summer holiday. Normally we head to the family house in France and spend our time in the pool and occasionally venturing out to the local chateau and other fun stuff to do. This year, we decided to mix it up a bit. We went to France at Easter – the pool was shut, but the weather was lovely, so we made the most of our 7 days getting out and about – cycling, castles, easter egg hunts. This freed up our summer to travel somewhere new.

We chose the lovely El Sueno casitas, in the shadow of the imposing white hilltop town of Vejer de la Frontera. Sharing a pool with four other small villas, meaning the kids could make friends, I had plans of outings to local cities and sights (early in the morning to escape the heat) and spending lazy afternoons by the pool. But we took the kids to our local beach, El Palmar, on the first day, and we were all bitten by the beach bug.

we were all bitten by the beach bug

It was the warm waves that did it. Quickly purchasing some bodyboards for the boys, we busied ourselves playing in the warm waves of the Atlantic Ocean, building elaborate sandcastles, and space rockets, and writing in the sand. The beach was truly our playground.

We did venture out, though, and I’m really glad we did. If you’re planning a visit to the Costa de la Luz – and I highly recommend that you do (out of season if you’re not sure about the 40degree heat!) – here are our top tips with kids for the local area:

  1. Seville is a fantastically beautiful city, and well worth the nearly two hour drive from our accommodation. It was an easy sell to our kids – the Plaza de España was the setting for Planet Naboo in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. If you have a 6yo boy, this will get them happily to the city, though they may be disappointed not to actually see R2-D2 and Anakin on arrival. Once in Seville the Alcázar is a must. Our boys loved the labyrinth of rooms, and the highlight was undoubtedly the hedge maze.
  2. Tarifa has a wonderful atmosphere, and there’s lots for the kids to engage with. On both days we visited we started our trips with crepes at the Cafe Azul. We went dolphin and whale-watching with FIRMM (sadly no orcas, but we did see a Sperm Whale that was as big as our boat!), and we visited the Castillo de Guzmán el Bueno. A bargain at 4 euros for the adults, and the kids were free. Castle walls to roam (and  terrify mums with vertigo) and a really engaging, hands-on museum.
  3. Cadiz is another beautiful place. Unfortunately we visited on our second morning – the boys wanted to go to the beach. We lasted until about midday before finally giving in! I would have liked to see more, but sometimes you’ve got to put the kids first. We did go up the Torre Tavira img_5103for wonderful views over the city. One day I’ll go back – and if I’m with the kids I’ll do my research first and find a hook to draw them in.
  4. Vejer de la Frontera was our local town, lucky us! It’s firmly on the tourist trail, but you forgive it when you wander through the labyrinth of streets, and have spectacular views out over the surrounding countryside. We went up for dinner a few times during our visit. Heading to the gourmet market in the centre meant we could get pizza for the kids, and local specialities for us, with very quaffable, very cheap wine. A winner all round. Finishing up with ice-cream and a wander through the streets kept all members of the family very happy.
  5. The beaches were fantastic. Yes, we were there in high season, so yes the beaches were crowded, but that didn’t dampen our experience as much as we might have expected. So in our order of preference, here are the beaches we visited:
    1. Zahara de los Atunes – great for bodyboarding, crystal clean sea and the softest sand for squidging toes into. Accessed via walkways over the dunes
    2. Barbate – ‘raw’ as described by the chap who owned our holiday accommodation. The water wasn’t crystal clear, but great for bodyboarding and playing in the waves with flat sand going out for a long while. Great churros, and lots of choice of restaurants, bars and heladarias (ice cream cafe) along the wide promenade. A place to watch the Spanish live and play on the beach.img_5445
    3. El Palmar – the centre of the surf scene. On the second day we went there the waves were quite something! But our kids were happy playing in the white water as it rolled by. Best beach for collecting shells, and a fantastic restaurant (Casa Francisco) with wonderfully fresh paella, a kids menu of swordfish, and live lobsters in a tank to keep the kids entertained.
    4. Caños de Meca – unusually for this part of the coast, the beach is in a shallow cove, with rock pools to explore. We thought it was beautiful. The rock pools weren’t as full of life as we’d hoped, and the beach dropped away sharply into the seaweedy-sea quite quickly, meaning the kids weren’t quite as happy just playing in the water.
    5. Barossa Beach – we visited this on the way back from our less-than-successful trip to Cadiz. Lovely tapas lunch before having some beach play time, but otherwise, not particularly memorable.

We realised, while we were on our holidays, that we will only have two more summer holidays before our big trip! The pondering and thinking about it continues, but in the meantime life will continue – our youngest starts school and we’ll be embarking on a big extension and renovation project on the house, so the research will be taking a back seat for a while.

Hasta luego!

Smudged Postcard Family Travel Adventures
Suitcases and Sandcastles
Extraordinary Chaos
Wander Mum

 

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19 comments

  1. I’m intrigued about this big trip of yours – tell me more!

    The beach is always a winner with our boys. Easier parenting days by far. Pleased you got out to explore though. Those rooftops of Cadiz look so beautifully romantic. #fearlessfamtrav

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  2. We loved Seville. It’s such a brilliant place for children and a city the adults really love too. We spent virtually all our time in Cadiz on the beach too, lol! Great beach though and I loved those seafood restaurants alongside it. I’d love to go back and explore more of the area. The town closest to your villa looks ideal. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vejer was fabulous – but definitely ‘discovered’ by Brits and Germans already. I’m keen to spend some more time near Tarifa – and maybe off season to explore the canyons inland that I’ve heard have some spectacular walking.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think our next big Europe trip might be a return to Spain! We all love it so much! Definitely hitting up some of these beaches and I want to see Cadiz as well as spend more time in Seville! Thank you for sharing on #farawayfiles

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  4. El Sueno looks amazing: individual properties with a shared pool for the kids to meet new friends. The grounds look lovely and the list of things they provide for infants is a great touch. Your holiday makes me long for a trip to Spain! Thanks for linking up with #FamilyFriendlyStays

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  5. By the way, when I click on your Twitter share button, it gives a WordPress Twitter handle rather than yours. I remember my blog doing that but can’t remember how you fix it. Somewhere in Settings I guess…

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