in English

Family trip to Peñíscola

14. July 2023,

Valencia is in Fallas“, a forced translation of the Spanish “Valencia en Fallas” … And for us, right now in life, this time of the year means “running away from the city”. I will write about Fallas in the future. But to have an idea, during 15th and 19th of March in Valencia there is a non-stop party on the streets, with firecrackers day and night, music, and of course, people partying. Sounds amazing, right?! It is! Only if you are one of those partying. But, if you have kids who wake you up at 5.30 and maybe you even have to work too … It’s not funny anymore.

So, this year, during Fallas we made a family trip to Peñiscola. It’s a coastal city one hour and half from Valencia by car. You can also go there by train, but you need a taxi from the train station to the beach area/city.

Traveling to Peñíscola 

I visited for the first time Peñíscola in my very first month living in Spain, in 2011. I was impressed by the long beach, the castle and its small streets and it remained in my heart as a special place. As a family, we did the trip by train twice, for our honeymoon and when Noah was 3, and I was pregnant with my 2nd baby.

When you step down the train, be prepared for a strong smell to hit your nose and senses. It’s similar to essential oils but 20 times stronger. It comes from a factory that it’s located near by and it’s producing perfumes and essences. Taxi drivers will tell you more about it. And in general, they blame it for some increase of diseases in the local population.

Long promenade and unforgettable sunrises

Leaving the train station behind, let’s go towards the beach! From the distance, you can spot the castle, and of course, the sea. It always makes me think of pirates 🙂 You will also be impressed by the long, wide and very beautiful promenade. Along it, there are many hotels, bars and restaurants, mini-supermarkets and other leisure businesses. 

Being right on the beach made a huge impact for me! In those days, we were weaning the baby from breastfeeding. The nights were very good, surprisingly. However, the baby was waking up very early! 5 or 5.30 is early, right? And it was impossible to put him back to sleep. And of course, I didn’t want to wake up the brother and the father. Sooooo, at 5.30 or even 5, I was taking some blueberries and cottage cheese with me; feed him in the hallway of the hotel and then go outside with the stroller for a walk.

There was one morning when it was really hard to keep myself awake; nonetheless I was enjoying the sun rising and the sky … until baby was falling back asleep, around 7. It was nobody at that hour on the streets, but it was something magic about being next to beach, darkish, and alone walking… Only around 7 o’clock some runners and dog owners were showing up around.

The perks of waking up (very) early

Acuazul Hotel in Peñiscola

This time, we stood at Hotel & Spa Acuazul. A four star hotel with spa, parking and located right on the beach. We reached it at exactly lunch time. And while doing the check-in we were confused by how busy the hotel was, and the fact that the average age of the other guests was around 65-70. 

Remember it was March, right? So, we discovered later that day that it was the time for “Imsenso turismo” so groups of elderly people from all around Spain were enjoying affordable holidays there. It was fun to be “la familia” (“the family”) because for the first two days, we were the only guests outside those organized groups and the only ones with kids and younger that 65 😬

That didn’t bother us. Actually the opposite happened: everybody was engaging with our kids and we, my husband and I, had the opportunity to think about how it might feel to be old. It was very interesting for me to be around those people and see that in general they may have had the same age but some were or looked definitely “younger” than others. And I’m not referring only to physical appearance, but as a way of being. Those who looked younger were moving easier, with a relaxed face, maybe even a small smile on the corners of the mouth, they were also dressed more modern. 

Going out of the hotel at 6:53

Spa, Flotarium and Massage

If you are in Peñiscola, I totally recommend the Flotarium of Acuazur. It’s a bath in magnesium where you really float. For 50 minutes long and in a dark room, you float naked (and alone) in a bathtub with magnesium and you can either close your eyes, or look at the ceiling where the colorful leds are helping you even more to relax as chromotherapy does. It was very very relaxing … and I’m sure it had a positive impact on my body.

As I mentioned, we were weaning the baby so my body restarting many “asleep” functions 😌 Therefore, the flotarium and the massage helped my body to make the transition smoother. And talking about massage, I can’t recommend enough Eva, the masseuse. She is fantastic! We connected from the first moments! I felt her empathy and compassion when talking about weaning; and she insisted and encouraged me to relax … It may sound weird, but sometimes moms (and I’m sure some fathers too) need somebody to remind them that it’s absolutely fine to relax, and that we deserve to do that!

Child-friendly hotel 

The hotel pools are fantastic! There is one for adults and another one for kids with a depth of 30 cm and a slide! Perfect for kids of all ages, but especially for babies who just started to walk, and maybe after 1,5 years old. In March, the water was cold and very cold, but since it was very sunny, the first days we entered and played in the pool. Of course, except for one or two others, we were the only ones in the water. The rest were only sunbathing … dressed.

If you go by car, the hotel offers parking for 12€ a day, but except summer time, you can find a free parking place on the streets around the area. During June and September, you have to pay that too. If you have a car you can also go to a bigger supermarket, like Mercadona. We went once and bought food that we like, especially what the boys love as snacks and dinner – cottage cheese, quiches, bananas, oat milk, etc. We had only half-pension, breakfast and lunch. For us, dinner is usually very early and light. The food there was OK, not amazing. Maybe in high season there is more variety and better tasting food. I felt that the food was adapted to the main public, the elderly, being prepared with less salt/flavour.

“Our table” in the restaurant and our (always dirty) stroller

Room temperature

One aspect that I have to mention was the temperature in the room. Just for you to know if you travel in Valencia county and city in the winter months, it may be possible to not have heating in the houses or hotels. Sometimes it’s colder inside than outside. However, I was delighted to have a very warm apartment in the hotel. We actually needed to cooled it down, and we couldn’t. But that was easy because we just opened the door and windows a bit. The warm room is important if you have babies, because they can’t have blankets on top. At least I didn’t use blankets for a long time for my kids. I hope my fear is not exaggerated. I alwasy opted for have a warm room or a “polar” pijama.

What’s a family trip for us?

Doing nothing! I mean, if you are a parent of small kids you know that less is more: Less to-dos, it’s better! Our agendas and plans for going there, doing that, seeing that, eating there, photographing that, all these “hits” create a big pressure on yourself, and then on your kids. If you don’t reach your goals, then you get anxious, stressed, frustrated whatever, and the kids are feeling it! And instead of admitting that you are frustrated because you didn’t get the right photo at that place, you will say that your kid is “difficult”, “bad”, “not listening” etc.

And don’t forget:  kids have a different rhythm of doing things. For example, they are not obsessed with reaching the castle, it’s about the frog they see on the way and they stop and only after 10 minutes are ready to move on. Suddenly they are thirsty, and then they want to jump a bit on some stones and so on. And eventually, in one hour and not 20´as Google Maps says, you will arrive at the castle! Sooooo, doing (almost) nothing, throwing the agendas out of the window and doing whatever is the mood of the moment is perfect! That’s a holiday, actually!

However, to have an idea we did the following:

  • the first morning we all woke up super early, went with both kids in strollers for a walk, and me and my husband had the chance to reconnect while talking about the place, our family, how we were feeling especially that we were weaning our baby – therefore, I was having a lot of feelings 🙂
  • That day, after lunch, I enjoyed my “Flotarium” experience, and then we relaxed around the hotel.
  • 2nd day: walking bebe at 5.30 in the morning, coming back all having breakfast, I went shopping while bebe was having a siesta because I didn’t think of taking with me flip-flops or shorts. It was too hot for long pants. And then, after lunch, it was my husband’s turn for a massage.  
  • Another day, we went for a walk in the opposite direction and then I enjoy my massage with Eva.
  • The 4th day, after breakfast we went to the castle, came back for lunch and after that, we hung out in the hotel bar.

What else to see in Peñíscola

And that’s enough about the hotel. Coming back to the city itself, I have to tease you a bit more with details and photos. To reach the castle you will go through small, narrow and stoney streets with beautiful facades left and right. Think again if you have a stroller! The big ones resist the hike but the light ones not with the kid inside. You have many opportunities to spend some money, either in the restaurants or the stores around. There are clothing stores, accessories, shoes, souvenirs and even ceramics stores. I love those ceramics in white, beige and blue combinations and models inspired by the maritim life. 

Don’t miss The House of Shells, in Spanish “La casa de las conchas”. As you can see in the photo below, it’s gorgeous: an entire facade made of seashells with small blue windows.

Shades of blue

Up towards the castle, the views are breathtaking from any side you may be. On the right side while going up, you see the endless sea. The sea and the sky, both blue, hugging together until the horizons. It’s the perfect invitation to stop and just breathe the beauty of those shades of blue. 

On the other side of the hill, you see the promenade and the seafront. This time it is the city hugging the sea. It’s the city with its streets, buildings, hotels, restaurants and stores and like ants-size the people. 

You may need from 30 minutes to 3 or more hours to see the entire hill. Of course, it depends on what you want to explore, if you stop for drinks or even a meal. It also depends if you are with kids or without, if you want to do some shopping or not and so on. 

Don’t miss the night life

During our honeymoon we even went out “at the castle”. It was a lovely bar with the “tables” on the stairs. And if I remember well, there were no chairs, but cushions on the stairs. That was really comfortable (check photo below). We enjoyed some cocktails, cool music and a very relaxing vibe.

The area is really safe and it is almost not necessary to mention how beautiful it is: the lighted castle, the sound of the soft waves, the noise of people talking, laughing, cutlery and glasses from restaurants, the light of the night.

P.S.: That photos are from all our visits there, some from 2011, others 2017, 2022 and 2023.

Sunny hugs from Valencia, Andreea

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