Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais August 14-18 2015

I can remember visiting Lisbon in the late 80's early 90's. It was a gritty city with some sites to visit, but not a place worth staying for more that one or two nights. This was no longer the case in 2015. A truly remarkable city, transformed from the grit to chic neighborhoods and great places to eat, shop and stay.

August 14

Our plane arrived into Lisbon and we took a cab to our hotel which was located in the Praca do Comercio, the center of the city. We were walking distance to everything. That's what we did. We walked to the Castelo de Sao Jorge. I think the kids were expecting a medieval castle with great rooms and banquet halls, but instead got a fortress with some wonderful views. It was still fun for them as they were able to explore and climb while we strolled with a glass of wine in hand. We took
our time heading back to the hotel then let the kids relax, swim and prepare for dinner.  Before dinner we walked around the Praca do Comercio and strolled around some shops. I love Europe in Summer, the sun stays out, the cities are alive with people, it all feels good.

Why I Pack Light. Why You Should Too.

Packing Light for a Family of Five

If you like to travel to multiple locations during vacations, like we do then it is important to pack as light as possible. This can pose many challenges with a family of five. Especially if your trip is more than 7 days. However, it is important to pack light because if you are anything like me, you like to unpack and organize when you get to the hotel. 
Trying to have your kids live out of a suitcase, can be a recipe for disaster and add to unwanted stress. Staying organized helps to lessen the added chaos and stress and brings more peace to your time away.

Suggestions for packing light:

  • Bring small packets of detergent. You can always wash clothing in the sink or tub.
  • Versatile shoes. Two at most. Chances are with kids in tow you are not going out fancy so that one pair of sandals will have to do.
  • One black dress for dinners out. Toss a scarf on one night and earrings and a necklace the next. Two totally different looks. Most likely you are not going to the same restaurant two nights in a row so no one will know that you wore that dress the night before except your family. Kids won't notice or care.
  • Try to pack three or four days worth of clothes for the kids. Perhaps kid two tends to wear lunch everyday, then pack kid 2 an additional shirt. You have detergent.
  • One sweatshirt/sweater will be fine. A three year old doesn't care or notice that they only have one sweatshirt. A teenager doesn't either.
  • If you are staying at a hotel then use their shampoo. Airbnb, buy it once you get there.
No one cares if you've worn the same outfit three of four times while on vacation. Most people won't even notice you or what you are wearing, nor will you see them again. If you are worried about having the same outfit in pictures, just take it at a different angle. Black pants go a long way.


  • One of my favorite links
    • Having the synthetic nylon and polyester dry quickly which is nice when hand washing and hanging to dry
  • Prana one of my favorites and they have awesome sales.
  • Try to pack as many kid synthetic clothing. REI has great options, but many of the major sports brands do as well.

Toledo Spain 2015

August 12, 2015 Toledo for the Day

We woke up ate a quick breakfast and grabbed two taxis (they wouldn't squeeze 5 of us in one taxi) to the Atocha Train Station. It was not the Atocha station I remember from the 90's. This Atocha had greenery, was clean and beautiful.  We had time so we walked around and came across a pond with turtles on the bottom level. Kids of course obsessed and were desperate to feed them. It wasted time before our train, they fed the turtles.

The train ride was short and relaxing to Toledo. From the train station, you have several options to get into town. You can walk (approximately 20 minutes), take a shuttle service, or grab a cab. Given the relatively low cost of the cab and our desire to maximize time, we loaded the kids into a taxi. Toledo is a walkable city, but entails a good amount of walking, so be realistic on what your kids can do based on their age. It's also quite hilly.

Toledo is a labyrinth of small streets, which no matter which way you go, you always end up near or headed towards the main cathedral. Santa Iglesia Catedral in Toledo is massive and it blew the kids away. They loved the visit, the art and learned about the relics of saints. After the Catherdral we let ourselves get lost and walked around until we stumbled upon the Toledo Torture Museum. As a kid, this is the coolest thing in the world, so we bought tickets and let them in. Once in, it dawned on us, the parents, just how revolting this was. The Spaniards had a way of masking the truth of who the devices were used on by calling the victims "heretics." They were not "heretics," they were the Jews of Spain. They tortured and killed them during the Inquisition. We shielded the information from the kids and moved on. We spent the rest of our visit going to two synagogues, Santa Maria la Blanca and  El Transito.

We took a train back to Madrid around 3 arrived around 4, took a nap and headed to The Retiro to feed the fish and ducks.

Madrid, I love you

Madrid August 10-14, 2015

Before arriving to Spain I booked all of our museum visits online to make sure we wouldn't be shut out of anything. We flew direct to Madrid from Philadelphia. The plane was only half full. That hasn't happened in years. We were able to take rows and stretch out and sleep. It was awesome a travelers dream come true (for those of us that have to fly coach). Our 10 year old decided to pull an all nighter and watch movies on the in-flight entertainment. That didn't translate well the next day.

August 10

We arrived in Madrid early and checked into our hotel, NH Madrid Suecia. Our room was a connecting room which was great in order to accommodate 5 people. Good luck finding one hotel room in Europe to sleep four let alone a family of five. Breakfast was included. The hotel was walking distance to a great amount of the important cultural and historical sites Madrid has to offer. Immediately we went out with map in hand (I hadn't purchased my sim card yet for my phone, so we had to use the old fashion means of navigation) and we were off to the Palacio Real. Kids were in good spirits. I thought I knew where I was going, I did live in Madrid twenty some years ago. We were lost and everyone got a bit ticked off. Luckily we got on track and made our way to our destination. It was a longer walk than I thought, but once there the kids loved it. They've never seen such an ornate palace with so many rooms. It was a quick tour, we were tired and kids were getting hungry. We decided to eat lunch at Mercado de San Miguel. The kids got a nice introduction to Spanish food, while trying many different tapas. We went back to the hotel for a siesta before heading out for the evening. This is where it kind of fell apart. My 10 year old that pulled the all nighter wouldn't wake up after the siesta. It was hard enough rallying the other two, but he was a mess. As you know jet lag can be a nightmare so we were determined to get him up. an hour later we were out the door with some very cranky kids. Retiro Park and let the kids stroll around. we bought them ice cream and shortly after they discovered the fish and ducks in the lake. So now we had to return every afternoon we were in Madrid to feed the fish and ducks. It was fun for the kids, and it was a nice evening stroll before
dinner. We were guided by a famous travel guide to have grilled prawns at Casa Del Abuela. It was "authentic," but touristy and we were treated like tourists. After a very quick bite of assorted tapas, we left and stumbled upon a restaurant filled with Spaniards, Saporem. That was it. We settled in for an awesome meal of Jamon, queso, chorizo, tortilla Espanola and much more. Satisfying and time to crash.

August 11

I had arranged for a visit to the Prado at opening. Although I bought tickets prior( Prado tickets), I figured there were still be a line. Nope right in. Not only did we get right in it was virtually empty for such a famous museum. First stop was Goyas work. We had an entire room of his work to ourselves. It was unreal, there was no one else there. I loved it and it helped that my husband was an art history major in college. He explained all of the pieces of work to the kids. Brought it down to their level and they loved learning about all the famous works of art. They couldn't stop talking about Goya's Saturn devouring his Son piece, but thankfully noticed how much religion was painted in renaissance and that the cherubs were naked. After the Prado we had an amazing lunch outdoors in the Plaza Santa Ana, (Lateral). We had a great siesta and then headed back to the Retiro to feed the fish and the ducks. The kids and my husband rented one of the row boats on the lake and we strolled around until we found a playground for the kids. After all we couldn't eat dinner until at least nine at night and that is early. We headed over to La Latina neighborhood and ate some tapas outdoors before settling down for dinner in Barrio Las Letras. Kids were psyched it was 11pm by the time we left for the hotel. A short walk back and to bed.

August 12


After our adventure in Toledo, we had a bit of a nap and went back to Retiro to let the kids get out some energy before dinner. We went over Salamanca neighborhood and ate at Rafa. The meal was excellent, service was impeccable and the kids were awesome. White tablecloths, outside in the warm weather, great food. We will always remember it. When the waiters brought over small water bowls with lemon, the kids had no idea what they were for. We showed them how to use fingerbowls after a seafood meal, to squeeze the lemons on and then rinse our hands. It was so European old school; the kids had never seen such service. My daughter snacked on the delicacy of goose neck barnacles (she was 11), she devoured the red prawns sucked down some oysters and kept eating. We all enjoyed an amazing meal and by 11:30pm stumbled back to our hotel and passed out.

August 13

We took the kids to the Museum of Archeology today, didn't go as well as planned. It is a very well laid out museum, but not of great interest to the kids. There is a lot to cover in the museum and a LOT of detail. Somehow we felt married to the museum and conquering it in its entirety. Not the best choice, but did it. The rest of the day followed the natural pattern of a long lunch in Plaza Santa Ana followed by a nap and then a stroll to Retiro. We decided to go back to Barrio La Latina for another amazing meal which started at Casa Lucas. We however did not stay out late as we had an early flight to Lisbon the next morning.