Exploring Spain and feeling homesick


Although we could have happily stayed in Valencia the entire time, I wanted to show Mom other parts of Spain during her two-week visit so we grabbed some friends, rented a car and headed south. We chose the longer, more scenic coastal route, stopping in Alicante to visit a friend.


Arthur and I used to work together, and while he liked Kelowna, he never really enjoyed the cold winters so he moved with his partner to Alicante and opened a cupcake café. I simply had to stop in to say hello! Canada Café is amazing! (I highly recommend the carrot cake sundae…)


Their business seems to be booming, as there was a constant line up out the door. I was so happy to see him thriving and doing what he loved. Isn’t it inspiring to see people go for their dreams and succeed?!


We didn’t have enough time to visit, partially due to all the customers – yay – so I promised to come back for a longer visit soon. (Shout out to Vic and his wife, lovely friends who bought a condo in nearby El Campello – they have the right idea!)


Mom and I went to explore Santa Barbara Castle, opting to take the elevator to the top of the mountain since it was the middle of the afternoon in 40-degree heat! We climbed the walls, ducked into rooms, stood at the top and admired the views.


Far below we could see the crowded beaches but it was the clear, turquoise water of the Mediterranean Sea that we loved most. The castle offered views over the city and the sea and we could easily imagine fleets of ships approaching the city for battle.


We grabbed take out for Adrienne and Patricia, who were working back at the apartment, and enjoyed it on our rooftop terrace, looking up at the castle lit under the night sky. We talked and laughed and wondered what it would be like to live here (and if Canada Café was still open for a dessert run?!)


We had a long day ahead and decided to call it a night. Adrienne climbed in and I went to brush my teeth. As I came out of the bathroom, I caught mom and Patricia sneaking out the front door!




With a sheepish grin, mom said “oh, hi…we’re just going to do a little exploring, we won’t be late!”


It felt strange to see her walk out the door when I was going to bed and, to be honest, I couldn’t sleep until she got home. (Now I know what it’s like to be a parent!)


Road trip day two was off to Granada, which took us away from the coast and gave us a chance to see more of the countryside. It reminded us of Southern Alberta – rolling hills and farm land.


We checked into our next apartment and our landlord asked if we already had tickets for Alhambra.


Umm, nope – don’t you just buy them on site?


With a shocked gasp, she informed us tickets sell out weeks in advance!


Ackk…we had driven all this way to see the Alhambra (an Arabic palace and fortress built on Roman ruins in the 13th century) and we couldn’t get tickets?!


We spent the next few hours frantically searching online, with no luck so we decided to divide and conquer – Mom and Patricia walked into town to check out the tourist info centre while Adrienne and I continued to look online.


Success, sort of. Mom found four tickets for a night tour of the palace. Off we went at 10pm for our tour (which was only available in Spanish but at least we were there!)


The palace was beautiful, with all the rooms opening on to a central court. Columns, fountains and reflecting pools were everywhere, with the sun and wind freely flowing through the passageways. The tile mosaics where created with complicated mathematical patterns to create perfect symmetry in the rooms and we were mesmerized at the intricate details.


The next day we got tickets to a flamenco show. Not sure what to expect, we were surprised when an older gentleman with long, curly hair took the stage and began dancing around. (I did my best not to make eye contact with mom, as I knew we’d both start giggling!)


Then it was back to Valencia and off to Barcelona the next morning by train. It was mom’s first train ride and she loved it. The quiet, gentle swaying lulled us to sleep for a couple hours and we woke to see the bright blues of the Mediterranean Sea zipping past our window!


We did the hop on/off bus, jumping off near the beach to get our toes in the water. We could have stayed all day but there was so many things we wanted to see! We did a Gaudi walking tour, learning all about his influence and vision which shaped the city, did a little shopping and checked out another flamenco show.


Learning from our mistake about not buying tickets in advance, we had secured tickets for Sagrada Familia and excitedly got up the next day for our tour.


Taking a left instead of a right and underestimating the time it would take to get there by subway, we arrived a few minutes late to discover they wouldn’t allow us to enter. We had missed our group and they had already gone inside!


We phoned the tour company and they said, “too bad, should have been on time”.


What?! This is Spain – everyone is late!


We stood on the street, looking up at the majestic building and I wanted to cry. I felt like I had let my mom down. We tried everything we could think of to get in but no luck. Finally, we found someone who got us basic entry tickets (no guide, no towers) three hours later.


We checked out of our hotel and came back to stand in line – we weren’t missing it a second time!


And it was worth the wait. Words can’t describe the beauty – the soaring columns, the stained glass, the symbolism, the intricate details – it’s all breathtaking.


All too soon we were back on the train, heading to Valencia to catch mom’s flight home. With only a few hours left, we consulted our list of things to do and rushed over to climb the bell tower before it closed.


We made it up the 207 stairs, just in time for the large bell to gong 7 pm. Laughing at our crazy adventure and ringing in our ears, we looked out over the city and reflected on how quickly the time had gone by.


I took mom to the airport and bravely waved goodbye. Sometimes you don’t realize how homesick you are until you watch your mom walking away through security. Once she was out of sight, I couldn’t hold back the tears.


Back home, my bedroom felt big and empty and the apartment was simply too quiet. Sure, I could nap whenever I wanted but now I couldn’t sleep and wished she was still here. We had so much fun and I realized as adults, we never get to spend any time together, just the two of us.


I’m so lucky to have my mom and even more lucky she’s such an energetic, adventurous, curious, funny and incredibly kind woman. She’s the best mom in the world and I’m so grateful she came to visit me.


My friends still laugh about our adventures, her endless energy and questions, her playful spirit and desire to try anything that looks fun! She’s set the bar high for visits from home and we have a feeling we’ll see her again…racing us to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru!


Love you mom – xoxo


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Showing 4 comments
  • Krista Hargrave

    Oh Michelle…thank you for your sweet words. You were such a wonderfull travel and adventure partner. It was the most amazing trip. It was so difficult to leave you and go home. I told you that it was as hard as leaving you at Kindergarten, but I have discovered it is actually harder because…when I left you at school… I came back to pick you up.
    Missing you too…and walking through the castle gate into the old city, riding bikes on the greenway, exploring the ancient sites, walking in the warm ocean waves, being out and about after midnight, having dinner at 11pm on a crowded sidewalk/middle of the street cafe, travelling with your best buddies Adriene and Patricia,and discovering why you are doing what you are doing. So proud of you and love you so much, Thank you for a fabulous 2 weeks.
    xoxoxox Mom

    I will check out Peru as stealthily as I can. xoxo

    • Michelle

      Awhhh, momma – love you too! xoxo

  • Vic Nykiforuk

    Michelle, just can’t express properly how much Joy and I enjoy your blog. We feel like we are traveling along side you.
    It truly is a small world. My wife, son, son in law and myself all went to the Canada Cafe in Alicante last year. Had to take a photo to show that Canada is loved everywhere. I was aware the owner was Canadian as our son told us so, but who would know he would be your friend. Certainly not I or I might have tried to talk his ear off. Continued enjoyable and safe travels.

    • Michelle

      I’m so happy you and Joy are enjoying my blog! It makes me smile to imagine you both sipping your morning coffee and sharing my adventures. And thank you for sharing your love of Spain and letting me know about El Campello. Perhaps we should meet there next year and go for coffee at Canada Cafe?! 🙂

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