Karen and I are incredibly lucky to have seven nieces. Over the years, we have spent holidays with them, attended birthdays, and watched every princess movie imaginable. It’s been blast, and since we have boys, being with our nieces has always been extra special.
This past year, we had the great pleasure of having four of our nieces make it to Spain! Alana visited in December during her semester abroad in Torino, Italy. Neko and Jessie visited with my sister Karen and my brother in law Matt during their spring break in April. And Megan visited while studying abroad in Berlin this spring. It was such a treat for the 4 of us to spend time with them, and each visit was unique and special and wonderful in its own way.
Alana’s trip had an auspicious beginning when her flight to Malaga via Paris departed late forcing her to miss her connecting flight from Paris. As luck would have it, one other college student missed his flight and he just happened to be a recent graduate of the school Jackson and Cassius attend. He and Alana struck up a conversation and they even hung out one night while she was here visiting us in Sotogrande. Small world!
Once Alana arrived, it was just like old times. It was wonderful to see her and she surprised the boys at their school, went to futbol and rugby matches, rode bicycles, gazed at the coast of Africa, and tagged along to all family activities over a busy 48 hours that concluded with the most American of meals at….Burger King. Most of all it was just great to be with her. She is a tremendously poised, intelligent, kind young woman, and we so enjoyed our time together. The cousins all hung out, and other than the fact that the boys are now taller than her, nothing has really changed.
In April, my sister and her family came to Spain to visit us for the second time in two years. This is no small effort, and we are very grateful that they have used their spring break to visit us. Their visit was certainly highlighted by their emotional reunion with Pi–our old, blind English Mastiff who lived with them during our first year in Spain. He was happy to see them all, and the girls enjoyed giving “Pi Dog” their special brand of love. Beyond that, we tried to take the Costa del Sol by storm with a beach trip, kayaking trip, day trip to Malaga, soccer, rugby, movies, and lots of delicious meals. In addition, we exchanged Christmas gifts (better late than never), picked sea shells, and Uncle Matt even made it to the basketball court. Lastly, KB and Neko and Jessie like to play “Hair Salon” and it’s always a treat for Karen since we have sons:) It was another wonderful visit, and Jackson and Cassius really enjoy being big cousins to Neko and Jessie.
Our niece Megan was the last one to visit this year, when she flew to Malaga to hang out with us and make our apartment something of a home base while she explored some different parts of Spain. Megan enjoyed some rest and relaxation from her whirlwind travels across Europe, and we were more than happy to oblige with a mellow place to unwind:) . The boys talked lots of school and movies with her, while Karen and I stayed up and watched Scarface and The Godfather with Megan after the boys went to sleep. We also visited Tarifa and Casares while the boys were at school and had a great time. Then Megan headed off to Madrid and Sevilla before returning to Sotogrande.
Before heading to Stockholm to meet a friend, Megan traveled to Granada with me for two days that included a trip to the Alhambra, Flamenco show, the Albayzin, tapas, ice cream, and a walking tour of the city that covered the neighborhood we lived in a year ago. Selfishly, I really enjoyed showing Megan Granada. It was a real treat for me to introduce her to this special city that is steeped in history and culture and filled with charm.
As luck would have it, we overlapped with Megan again in July when Jackson and I traveled to Berlin! I had the opportunity to spend a day with Megan while Jackson was at a German Language camp. It was fun to see her neighborhood Friedrickshein, which is filled with tattoo parlors, vegan restaurants, and a young vibe. Megan also gave me a little tour of some other parts of the city, including this amazing wall soaked in street art that was like nothing I have ever seen. Before Jackson and I headed to Munich we had lunch with Megan and she convinced us to make sure we had Turkish Doner before we got on our way. Most of all, it was great to see Megan in her element, comfortable in her adopted city from her time abroad. Her affection for Berlin was palpable, and she settled into the German capital like a real Berliner! Like Alana, Megan continues to grow in interesting ways and is a fine young person.
Living in Spain doesn’t allow us to see our family as frequently as we once did. But this past year it gave us the chance to create some very special memories with them in this place we now call home. It allowed us to spend some real quality time together, hear about their lives, and revel in the comfort and joy of family. We are grateful to them for making the trip and can’t wait for the next opportunity to be together.