Traveling with kids to the West Coast of Spain
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When some good friends, who also have young children (ours were 9, 6 and almost 3 at the time), invited us to meet them in Raxo, Spain last summer we immediately said, "Why yes!"
Before we left, I envisioned this vacation to be a combination of beach time and day trips to castles while leisurely exploring a new part of Spain and spending quality time with good friends. I am happy to say it was all of that and more. (Insert sigh of happiness!)
Raxo is located in the Western part of Spain on the Atlantic coast in a region called Galicia. It's a small village that felt off-the-beaten path. There is one main road in and out, making it a very pedestrian-safe, walkable village. During our stay, we only ran into a couple other Americans who were there because a grandparent was from Raxo.
There are several beautiful sandy beaches that are divided by a pier and a playground that overlooks the calm water. There are also amazing cafes with the best that Galician food has to offer.
At a glance, here are the reasons we recommend traveling with kids to this region. Read on for more detailed information.
Four reasons to go to Raxo, Spain:
It's a simple, family-friendly Spanish beach village.
The food is incredible.
The day trips are very easy.
The beach is gorgeous.
Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) is a famous pilgrimage site on the UNESCO World Heritage List. We all enjoyed winding down the old, narrow streets and admiring the architecture, pilgrims and mimes. The church was beautiful as well and holds the remains of St. James.
Castelo de Soutomaior is an amazing 12th Century medieval castle near the Spanish city of Pontevedra. We brought a picnic lunch to eat on the grounds and had the place almost entirely to ourselves. The kids had a blast exploring everything from the dungeon to the crumbling walls surrounding the castle that they thought held treasures. Behind the castle is a small playground and a great wooded area that inspired an awesome fort.
Vilanova de Cerveira, Portugal is only an hour away from Raxo, so why not day trip into another country? The city sits on the banks of a large river, Minho, and Parque de Lazer de Castelinho overlooks it. This kids' paradise has jungle gyms, rock climbing walls and a splash pad area. The city center is within walking distance from the park and offers a castle built in 1321, art galleries and cafes in a beautiful plaza. There was a medieval festival on the day we went and the kids enjoyed seeing how people lived back then, what animals they had and how heavy the swords were.
Reflections on Raxo
I so often worry that I am "helicopter parenting" – probably because I am. The week in Raxo allowed me to give my children some much-deserved freedom and trust. It was a place where I could truly relax, feel comfortable and not worry about all of the things I worry about as a parent at home or even while traveling in a large city. For example, at night, before dinner, the boys would ask to walk down to the playground ahead of us. "Yes," came out of my mouth every time and I felt good about that answer.
Our friend promised us we would eat like kings and queens and we were not disappointed. Our kids continued to surprise us and try everything we put in front of them. The oldest decided Spanish tortillas were his new favorite food and mussels became our new obsession. We continued to snack on olives, even when we returned home. Tapas anyone?
When we found out our apartment didn't have wifi, my husband and I looked at each other and had a moment of freak out … but then we moved on to enjoy time with our kids and not on our phones. We realized we were experiencing what a family vacation looked like 15 years ago and were happy to have the opportunity to do so. The cafes all have wifi, but by that point other than a quick five-minute check in nightly, we were checked out. And it was magical.
We did a lot of walking on this trip and it's something I have always loved about Europe. We walked to the grocery store every day – a quick walk up the boardwalk overlooking the water – and the kids enjoyed taking turns coming along. It was fun pointing out to them some of the differences between items in the Spanish grocery store versus our stores back home.
Our kids are not fluent in Spanish, nor are we. We taught them a few words, allowed them to watch TV in Spanish and the rest happened organically. They made friends through broken Spanish, English and sign language. It was beautiful to see them playing soccer, building sand castles and finding crabs with a group of Spanish kids. Friendship truly has no boundaries.
What does "wheels up" mean? Go here.
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