Almería, Spain

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We have had a busy few months settling into life here in Spain.  We have been busy with school and activities in our current hometown (a blog on that coming soon!), so for a while we didn’t really do any traveling.  However, lately we have been taking advantage of a stream of visitors to hit the road and explore Spain.  I’m working on posts of the places we’ve seen and the things we’ve done in Southern Spain over the last few months, so keep an eye out for those.

Our first weekend trip was to Almería, Spain.  My parents were visiting, and we wanted to take advantage of the weekend to travel somewhere.  However, the ONLY place in Spain that didn’t have rain in the forecast was Almería (not surprising due to its arid, desert climate).  Fortunately, Almería is only an hour and a half east of where we are.

Cabo de Gata Natural Park

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Our first stop was actually about a half hour further east than Almería, Cabo de Gata Natural Park.  Researching what to do here, I found lots of fun hikes I would like to do, however, since we were limited on time (and desire to hike from some of us 😉 ), we instead headed straight to the beach.  The hikes will have to wait until next time!

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We spent a couple of hours at Playa de Monsul.  It was a nice beach (certainly nicer than the rocky beach were we live) where the boys played soccer and built sand animals, my dad explored and my mom and I relaxed and read, all while acquiring a fine coating of sand due to the strong winds blowing on us.

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boys are marking out their soccer field

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We did take a little break in our relaxing to do some exploring.

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we couldn’t resist climbing to the top of the big rock in the middle of the beach
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the view climbing down from the big rock (as my dad looks on from the beach below)

After the beach, we headed into Almería, where we had a hotel for the night.  With 7 of us, we were lucky to find very cheap hotel rooms, since we needed three of them!  The hotel was a very nice business hotel, and likely we got a weekend deal.

Alcazaba de Almería

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Before everyone got too comfortable in our hotel, I convinced them to take a quick trip to the Alcazaba in Almería.  If you ask C his least favorite thing to do, he would probably say it was driving the car through tiny and confusing European cities.  But, he is a trooper, and with only minimal wrong turns and backtracking (there are ALWAYS some!) we managed to find the parking lot for the Alcazaba, and took off on foot to climb to the fortress.

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“Where are you from?” seems like a simple question, but it can be confusing when you are from Scotland, spent 15 years in the US and have children who are clearly American, being born and raised there, but also have British passports.  So – when someone asks “where are you from?” C has a tendency to answer “Scotland”, even when the “you” is clearly meaning his whole family.  We have some disagreements about this (like when A was in a tennis tournament and introduced as a “new player from Scotland” thanks to his dad’s answer to that question), but in this case, because Europeans get free admission to the Alcazaba, when C arrived at the ticket counter first and was asked “where are you from?” his truthful answer of “Scotland” saved us a few Euros.

Anyway, we climbed up to the ruins of the Moorish-era Alcazaba to check it out. For about 800 years (from about 700 AD until the completion of the Reconquista in 1492), the Moors ruled over the southern part of Spain, so the area is full of remnants of that era.  One of those remnants was the Alcazaba de Almería, a fortified complex, including a long defensive wall.

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We entered at the bottom of the complex, and enjoyed the views over the city.  There was a long walk up to see the rest of the Alcazaba, and my mom kindly agreed to hang out with the boys, who weren’t keen to climb the steps and see the rest of it.

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My dad, C and I took the walk up, and saw the pools, ruins of housing used during its occupation, along with artifacts found onsite from that era.  There were many movies filmed here, as well as Game of Thrones.  C and I hadn’t really seen any of the movies, but my dad was excited to read about all of them.   It was WINDY that day, so as we climbed up to the top of a tower, we paused for a quick picture and I actually had to hold on tight to C to not get blown away!

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It was a nice complex (especially for free!) and we could have spent a little more time there, but we didn’t linger too long, since the kids and my mom were waiting for us.

Mini-Hollywood Theme Park

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In case you are wondering what is up with N, the employees (who later turned out to be the Can Can dancers) offered to paint the boys faces, and N was the only one who took them up on that offer – he is supposed to be a cowboy

Almería is surrounded by a gorgeous desert landscape. It reminded me a lot of the Southwest of the US, and I’d love to explore it more.

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But this day, we were headed to a wild-west themed park.  In addition to shooting movies in the Alcazaba, the desert surrounding Almería was also a hotspot for filming the so-called “Spaghetti Westerns”.  Some extras had purchased a film set and made it into this theme park.  I didn’t have high expectations for the place, but was surprised about how much we enjoyed it!

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My parents with the kids (and some lady in the background who wouldn’t move out of the pic!)

We planned our day around the scheduled shows, particularly the “wild west shoot out” they had scheduled.  In addition to the Wild West town, they also had a zoo, so that gave us plenty to do around the show times.

First, we caught a bird show. I always love a good bird show, and this was no exception. The lady spoke in nice, clear Spanish, and since the topic was fairly straight-forward, we followed along easily.

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After the bird show, we walked around the animal enclosures, and were excited to see a variety of large cats and animals we hadn’t seen in zoos before, like a hyena.  Wow, they were surprisingly big!

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The hyena was going crazy sniffing the air – no doubt smelling the boys through the fence

After walking around the zoo, it was time for the big Wild-west shoot out.  We staked out some spots, and watched the action unfold.  The boys were very concerned about who were the “good guys” and who were the “bad guys” and everyone was happy when (of course) the good guys won!

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Okay, this isn’t a picture of the shoot-out, because I was too busy watching it, but this is the town area where it took place

After the show, we headed for the buffet, which was decent, but expensive.  Definitely a cost you can cut if you want.

After the buffet, it was time to go back to see the animals, while the grandparents hung out in the saloon.  At the zoo, we hopped on the zoo train, where it took us slowly around to see things like a zebra without stripes, rhinos and hippos.

After some time at the zoo, we got an urgent message from the grandparents at the saloon, urging us to come back quickly because the next show was scheduled to start there and the place was filling up.  Once again, no pictures of that because we were busy watching.

The last show was can-can dancers and singers.  It was pretty good.

At that point, we had spent most of the day at Mini-Hollywood, and though we could have spent a little more time at the zoo portion, we decided to drive home, since the boys had school the next day.

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