Blanes, Spain

Jardi Botanic Marimurtra
Jardi Botanic Mari

Blanes is a seaside resort located in the Girona province of the Catalonia region of Spain, and known as the “Gateway to the Costa Brava”. While smaller than Lloret de Mar, Blanes is still a very popular tourist destination, and a big town! Blanes is a great destination offering a wide variety of activities, eateries, shops, beaches, and attractions! We visited Blanes in June as a day trip from Girona, but many people choose to visit Blanes for extended periods of time as their summer getaway and base for exploring the Girona area of Spain! We thought Blanes was a wonderful day trip with our little one, and hope you plan a visit to enjoy the stunning beauty and local scene!

Travel: Blanes is appx a 1 hour car drive from Barcelona. As already mentioned, we visited Blanes as a day trip from Girona, and the drive took us appx 1 hour. There is also train service from Barcelona to Blanes. You can leave from Barcelona airport or Barcelona city center. If traveling from the airport, the trip should take you appx 2 hours, and will cost less then 7 Euro one way. If you buy the return ticket, it will expire by the end of the following day so it is best to buy 2 individual single rides so you have more flexibility in your timetable especially if traveling with little ones unless you absolutely know you will be returning the next day. Also, you must purchase the train ticket in person at the ticket counter. As of current, it is not available on the RENFE website. There are also day trips available from Barcelona that will take you to the Costa Brava such as this one via Viator that has 5 star reviews!

Exploring Blanes: 

Jardi Botanic Marimurtra: Our first stop in Blanes was the Marimurtra botanical gardens, and this was quite possibly my favorite spot we visited in Spain! The gardens are located at the top of steep cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean with panoramic views and a variety of over 4000 plant species! There is a small cafe on site with snacks, lunch items, ice cream, etc. which was great for visiting with a child. The gardens are stroller accessible, but some areas are not. You must follow the pathways that are stroller accessible. We usually parked the stroller, and would hike down the stairs when there were areas where we wanted to visit, but could not venture with the stroller in tow. There is also a photo opportunity with exotic birds on site where little ones can hold the birds on their arms – this was a hit with our daughter! 🙂 When we visited in June, the gardens were open daily from 9 am to 8 pm. Ticket prices are 7 Euro per adult, and our daughter was free as she was under 4 years of age.

The Beach: There are several beaches to choose from in Blanes, but we we chose: Cala San Francesc. The beach is also known as ‘Cala Bona’ which means ‘pretty cove’ – we heard lots of locals referring to the beach by this name! This beach is located close to the Jardi Botanic Marimurtra gardens which is why we chose it. You can walk from the gardens to the beach down the small road, and you only have to park once! It is a cove beach surrounded by cliffs and trees! There is a restaurant on site, bathroom & changing facilities, lifeguards, chair rentals, and stroller access pads! This is a great beach for kids!

Cala Bona
Cala Bona Beach near the gardens Hubby and daughter 🙂

Other local activities to consider: Castillo de San Juan Blanes is an old fortress perched high above Blanes with great views. There is also an outdoor market beachside every Monday on the Passeig de Mar in Blanes from 8 am to 2 pm.

Tips to Remember (especially for kids):

  • Most shops and restaurants will close for Siesta starting around 2pm so make preparations for your little ones if they are not used to eating late.
  • Spain’s beaches are topless so prepare any children for this in advance if this is different than your norm and as needed.
  • Prostitution is legal in Spain, and on the Costa Brava highways we saw about 15 prostitutes  with plastic lawn chairs and umbrellas alongside the road. Children may ask a lot of questions regarding this so just prepare your answers ahead of time based on what you are comfortable divulging to them based on age.
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Jardi Botanic Marimurtra
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Jardi Botanic Marimurtra

Calella de Palafrugell, Spain

Calella de Palafrugell
Husband & daughter exploring Calella de Palafrugell!

Calella de Palafrugell is located in the Catalonia region of Spain and is a small fishing town on the coast of Costa Brava, Spain in the province of Girona. This small town is stunning and captivating, and the pace is ideal for recharging and letting little ones have free reign.

View from walkway under Saint Roc Hotel
View from walkway under Saint Roc Hotel

Travel: Calella de Palafrugell is appx 1 hour 30 minutes north of Barcelona, and would make a wonderful day trip! We spent 1 week in the Girona province, and traveled to Calella de Palafrugell from the city Girona, Spain. The drive took us appx 1 hour. There are also tour companies that will bring you to Costa Brava as a day trip from Barcelona such as this one thru Viator which has 5 star reviews!

Hotel: We stayed at Hotel Garbi which is less than a mile walk to town. The hotel is situated higher up in the town, and doesn’t afford sweeping views of the ocean, but we chose this hotel for the amazing kid friendly amenities. The hotel has a play gym on the outdoor terrace of the restaurant, a pool, kid toys & tent in the lounge, and lots of room to explore including lots of trees, statues, and live ducks. We loved this hotel, and would definitely stay here again. We had one of the ocean facing renovated Mediterranean rooms. We traveled in June, and paid 152 Euro for bed & breakfast! The breakfast was very good: continental style, but offered a hot and cold buffet with juices, coffee, and wine! Another favorite hotel in town is Sant Roc. This hotel has probably one of the best views of Calella de Palafrugell, and if you are able, definitely dine on their outdoor terrace for sweeping views. This hotel is also a closer walk to the center of town. There are also lots of self catering holiday homes / apartments available for rent.

Exploring the village: There are several little beaches scattered along the promenade of Calella de Palafrugell. They are easy to spot, and you can choose to set up where you wish. Our daughter loved looking for rocks and shells at the beach, and found some beautiful additions to her collection. We enjoyed just strolling thru this seaside town, spending time at the beaches, having lunch & ice cream, and browsing in all of the shops along the promenade. The town is so small that we found it nice for our daughter to be able to walk alongside us and enjoy some independence after being in the bigger city of Girona and especially true when compared to Barcelona. We ate lunch beach side on the promenade. There are several restaurants to consider. Remember that most restaurants close down for siesta especially in this little town, but we did find there were still a few open serving food, tapas, and drinks. The seafood was fantastic! The shops also close down so make sure you visit them earlier in the day if you can. Most restaurants open back up around 8 pm for dinner, and most shops re open around 5 pm. There are also the reported stunning gardens of Jardi Botanical de Cape Roig in Calella de Palafrugell. We did not have the opportunity to visit, but consider keeping this on your radar for another family friendly activity.

Beach, Calella de Palafrugell
Beach, Calella de Palafrugell

Tips to Remember (especially for kids):

  • As already commented on most shops and restaurants will close for Siesta starting around 2pm so make preparations for your little ones if they are not used to eating late.
  • Spain’s beaches are topless so prepare any children for this in advance if this is different than your norm and as needed.
  • Prostitution is legal in Spain, and on the Costa Brava highways we saw about 15 prostitutes  with plastic lawn chairs and umbrellas alongside the road. Children may ask a lot of questions regarding this so just prepare your answers ahead of time based on what you are comfortable divulging to them based on age.
  • For great photos, walk to the hotel Sant Roc and follow the stoned pathway in front of the hotel down below, and you will come to a section overlooking all of Calella de Palafrugell.

Powerscourt Gardens, Ireland

Powerscourt
Powerscourt Gardens, Ireland

National Geographic named Powerscourt Gardens in County Wicklow, Ireland as one of the top 3 gardens in the world! The gardens were designed in 1731 and encompass a sprawling 47 acres at the base of the Wicklow Mountains with a beautiful lake, terraces, international flowers, bridges, and a tower! Powerscourt is stunning, and a great day trip with children!

Travel: You can reach Powerscourt within 1 hour of Dublin by car. There is also a day tour from Dublin which will bring you to the estate, and you receive 20% off if booking online here. 

Activities: 

There are 2 sections to Powerscourt. There is the estate & gardens area which is also where the hotel and golf course are located. Then there is the Powerscourt Waterfall area which is located separately from the estate. We suggest you take a full day and do both!

Waterfall: The Powerscourt Waterfall is located appx 6 km from the main estate, and is Ireland’s highest waterfall! The entry fee to visit the waterfall is separate from the gardens. The cost is 6Euro per adult and 3.50Euro per child with under 2 being free. This is a wonderful family place. The car park is located only a short walk from the waterfall. There is a playground and little cafe stand onsite, and bbq facilities for picnicking, etc. Our daughter loved this stop off!

Powerscourt, Ireland
Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland highest waterfall!

Estate & Gardens: You can visit the estate without a ticket to visit the Avoca store & cafe which is fabulous. Avoca is one of my favorite Irish stores! The cafe is also great offering a wide variety. I ordered a meat pie with a carrot salad and a nut  salad. The gardens are accessible from inside the estate, and there are different seasonal prices, but from March – October when we were there ticket prices are 10Euro per adult, and free for under 5. 5E for a child ticket. There is lots of natural beauty for little ones to run around in. We walked around the entire garden loop, and my daughter particularly loved the Japanese gardens with the little bridges over the stream. Another favorite was the Pepperpot Tower where she climbed to the top!

Hotel & Golf: We visited Powerscourt as a day trip, but if you would like to stay on the property there is the 5 star hotel and golf course. We did not stay onsite so cannot provide a first hand review of that aspect, but can say the setting and property is just gorgeous!

Don’t miss this stunning location!

Powerscourt Gardens & Estates
Powerscourt Gardens & Estate

 

Kid Friendly Irish Castles

Our 3 favorite Kid Friendly Irish Castles

Dromoland Castle
Dromoland Castle Estate

Birr Castle

#1 on our list! Birr Castle dates back to medieval times, and is still occupied! The castle is the private residence of the Parson Family who arrived at the castle in 1620. The family opened the castle to the public in 2014, and now offers inside guided tours of the castle thru pre-booking during May – August. We were not fortunate enough to be visiting during this time, but the castle grounds are still worth the trip! The gardens are stunning, and host a wide variety of rare plants. There is also a treehouse adventure area with Ireland’s largest tree house, a bouncy pad, hobbit hut, sand pits, play gyms, snack hut, and picnic tables. There is a cafe on site and an ice cream stand. Birr Castle also has a science center and the historic great telescope. The telescope was built in the 1840s and was the largest telescope in the world at that time. Scientific and creative minds from around the world came to Birr to learn and observe space! The inventor of the computer, Charles Babbage even visited Birr! Birr Castle is a pretty unique and inspiring place to visit! This lands it on our list as our favorite Irish castle estate, and our favorite for kids!

Birr Castle is located in County Offaly. We traveled to Birr Castle from Galway, and the drive took us appx 1 hour 20 mins. From Dublin the drive is appx 1 hour 30 mins, and from Limerick appx 1 hour. There is no parking on site at Birr Castle, but there is a paid park and display car park across the street. The parking machine only takes coins so we walked 1 street over into the main hub of town to get exact change. The town was lovely as well with lots of shops and eateries. Tickets are 9Euro per adult, and our daughter was free. Children 5 and older are 5Euro. If you are lucky enough to visit the castle interior then tickets cost 18 Euro, but is only suitable for children 12 and above.

Dromoland Castle

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Dromomland Castle’s history dates back to 1014, and was the ancestral home of the O’Brien family who were the Kings of Thomond. When the castle grounds were comprised of more than 2000 acres, the O’Brien’s Tower located at the Cliffs of Moher was actually part of the original estate. The castle was converted in 1962 to a luxury hotel, and today encompasses more than 400 acres. We actually stayed on site at this hotel, and loved it! The estate has so many kid friendly activities that it is no wonder the castle is part of the “Adventures by Disney” itineraries. We participated in the falcon walk where we all, including our daughter, got to have a falcon land on our arm. This experience was brilliant, and our guide named Colin was wonderful. He spent a lot of time educating us on the art of falconry, and took us back to view all of the falcons/owls afterwards. The hotel also prepared a teddy bear picnic for us upon request complete with a teddy bear and miniature sandwiches/tarts for our daughter. There is a beautiful fairy garden, a lake with boats and ducks for feeding, lots of hiking/walking trails, tennis courts, swimming pool, spa, and golf course! Upon check in, we were all treated in the lounge with complimentary tea, coffee, and hot chocolate for our daughter with marshmallows! 🙂 Our daughter also received coloring pencils and an activity book at check in! We were impressed by all of the special touches personalizing this stay for our daughter. All of the staff referred to her as “princess” while on the premises! 🙂 The room was equipped with a junior robe and slippers, and during the nightly turn down service fruit worms were left for our daughter on her bed! The breakfast served in the main dining room is also amazing and enjoyable, and has lots of kid friendly options!

Dromoland Castle is located in County Clare. We arrived at Dromoland from Killarney, and the drive took us appx 1 hour. Drommoland is located 8 miles from Shannon airport; is accessible via car to Galway in appx 1 hour or 20 mins to Limerick. Upon departing Dromoland we headed for the Cliffs of Moher, and the drive took us appx 45 mins.

Kylemore Abbey:

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Kylemore was originally built as a castle in 1868 by the Henry family. Margaret and Mitchell Henry visited the ground of Kylemore in the mid 1840s on their honeymoon when there was nothing more than a hunting lodge in the valley of Kylemore. Mitchell Henry bought and built Kylemore for his wife Margaret as an act of love, and they enjoyed building their life and family of 9 children in the Connemara Highlands. Tragedy struck when Margaret died from dysentery while traveling in Egpyt in 1874. Today the estate is the Abbey and home of  the Benedictine community of nuns who arrived in 1920. The main rooms of the castle are open for viewing, but the gardens are really where we enjoyed spending our time. The gardens are very pretty, and there is a cafe next door. We also appreciated there are children’s activities along the walk to the gardens with various musical instruments available for play along the way. Kylemore is strikingly beautiful, and in my opinion the most beautiful castle I visited due to its location in the Connemara National Park. In front of the house there is also a paved pathway that will take you along the lake and there is access to a little sand beach with benches and picnic tables. Also on site is another restaurant and store which had great souvenirs! I can’t describe the beauty of this place and the feeling of serenity present. This was a great day trip with our daughter in tow!

We traveled to Kylemore Abbey from Galway, and the drive took us appx 1 hour 30 mins. The drive is beautiful thru Connemara National Park. The entrance fee includes access to the house and all of the estate and the cost is 13Euro per adult. Children under 10 are free, and tickets are discounted online!

Do you have a favorite Irish castle?

A New Irish Adventure **

Best 2 week Itinerary thru Ireland with kids
Our 2 week route thru Ireland

Our little family of 3 leaves for Ireland in 2 weeks, and I cannot believe it! We have been planning this trip for almost 2 years! We have friends in Ireland that we will be visiting, and get a load of this: We have NEVER met them! I know you are thinking I am crazy! But I have 2 friends from the Netherlands (who I have met:)) that introduced me via Skype to their Irish friend, Claire! Claire is Dutch, but married an Irish gentlemen and now lives in Co. Cork with him and their 2 beautiful girls. My friends in the Netherlands introduced me to Claire because they said they “knew we would like each other” plus she had a newborn while I was pregnant. Fast forward 4 years, and Claire and I are very good friends. We chat weekly, and our girls (hers is 4, mine is 3) have been pen pals sending little packages back and forth since my daughter was born! Plus Claire has been married to her husband 10 years also, and her husband is an electrician just like my husband. Pretty neat!

Because we have had Ireland on our radar for a while now, we have done a lot of research on how we best wanted to map out our trip thru Ireland.  We will be in Ireland for a total of 15 nights. At first we thought we wanted to cover both Ireland and Northern Ireland because we do have 2 full weeks on the ground, but after considering it we decided just to cover Ireland so that we can really enjoy this experience with our daughter instead of spending a good portion of our time in a car. Northern Ireland is still on my list for the future, and I hope one day we get to experience it as well!

Here is our itinerary! I will be blogging about each destination along the way so be sure to check back in for weekly Ireland posts starting mid April and all of our favorite kid friendly tips!

You can see our itinerary mapped out on the map above! 🙂

1.) Dublin: We will be in Dublin for 2 nights, and we have these items on our list: Trinity Library & Book of Kells, Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery, Hamley’s Toy Store, Picnic & Playground in ST. Stephen’s Park. For eats we plan to pay a visit to Brazen Head(Ireland’s Oldest Pub), Butler’s Chocolate Cafe, and Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, plus several more! 🙂 We also may throw in a Vikings Splash Cruise depending on our mood.

2.) Powerscourt: National Geographic named Powerscourt Garden as one of the world’s top 3 gardens! You can read about it here! I am so excited about this day trip. Powerscourt waterfall is Ireland’s highest waterfall. There is a playground next door to the waterfall. Then this estate boasts the main house with a tea room, the walled gardens with Avoca Cafe and 2 golf courses. Our daughter is a huge fan of flowers and with plenty of room to run around I think this is going to be a favorite of hers!

3.) Kinsale: This historic port and fishing town is the jumping off point for the Wild Atlantic Way. We plan on meandering the brightly colored streets of Kinsale, visiting the fort, and the local playground.

4.) Killarney: We will be making Killarney our base for 5 nights as we explore Killarney National Park and the surrounding areas. We will be staying at the Aghdaoe Heights Resort. Our itinerary while in Killarney includes day trips to Dingle to see Fungi the Dolphin & Inch Beach, Ballybunion to play golf at the old course for my better half, Killarney National Park & The Gap of Dunloe, and Kenmare and Killarney townships. I will be covering each of these under a separate blog post so tune back in! 🙂

5.) Dromoland Castle: I did not feel we could come to Ireland without experiencing a real Irish castle! I selected Dromoland once I discovered this castle is part of “Adventures by Disney” itinerary.  This prompted me to do some research, and discovered how many activities are present at Dromoland for little ones. We will be participating in the falconry walk, the teddy bear picnic, and exploring the massive grounds of this 15th century estate and castle!

6.) Cliffs of Moher: I am nervous about the Cliffs of Moher with a little one so I will be sure to catalog all of my tips/experiences afterwards but we are all excited to experience this sheer magnitude and beauty of this natural phenomenon!

7.) Galway: We will be staying in Galway for 3 nights on a HOUSE BOAT! The house boat was my husband’s dream so he took care of those arrangements! TBD if it is a good experience! 🙂 In Galway we will be slowing down a bit before heading back home. We plan on enjoying the local scene while visiting lots of eateries including Dough Brothers, Morans on Weir, The Pie Maker, Galway Bakery Company, Gourmet Tart Company, and of course hitting up the playground in Eyre Square and visiting Claddagh Jewelers the home of the authentic claddagh ring!

8.) Bru na Boinne: Our last stop in Ireland on our route back to Dublin will be Newgrange. Newgrange is a World Heritage Site, and predates the pyramids & Stonehenge. It is a 5,200 year old Stone age passage tomb.

We will be jet setting to Ireland in 2 weeks, and I can’t wait to share our adventures with you in the coming weeks! Please comment if you have any suggestions for us before we embark on this adventure! I would love to hear from you!

xx, Kristin