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wndrlst13 Jan 7th, 2007 09:16 PM

Taking 13yo to Spain. Where else?
I've read many of the posts here and still can't quite put my finger on where to start.
I would appreciate any first-hand experience with teens in Europe. We're well-enough-travelled and enjoy the experience as much as the education/history of visiting places. We've done many US cities and Japan.
We will have about three weeks to travel in Europe and Spain is a must. We'll hit the World's Fair in Zaragoza, but from there I'm not sure where to plan. I'm torn between just doing Madrid/Barcelona and perhaps Rome/Venice or trying to stuff a few more one-day cities in there. I'd like to avoid London/Paris as they seem a bit to mainstream for our travel tastes, though my son has shown interest in the Eiffel Tower. I think that is just due to a lack of knoweledge of anything else European.
I'd prefer a slow pace, time to actually experience the culture, but I fear my son will get bored with that quickly.
Any suggestions?

WallyKringen Jan 7th, 2007 09:25 PM

For serious bragging rights and otherwise something completely different, take your youngster up to the independent nation of Andorra. Betcha nobody in his school even knows where it is.

Gaudi in Barcelona, of course. Nothing like it anywhere.

The Guggenheim in Bilbao. Like a ship got stranded in mid-town. Very cool.

dgg Jan 7th, 2007 09:47 PM

Spain is wonderful and you could easily spend your entire three weeks there. I have four children and have travelled extensively with them, including in Spain. Madrid is worthy of two days of sightseeing. Around Madrid, you have Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial and Salamanca. You should spend a night in Toledo and Segovia at the very least. Do not miss El Escorial. Spain has much more history than most people imagine, especially if you are American. You can take the high-speed train from Madrid to Seville via Granada. Granada has the Alhambra and will make an indelible impression on both of you. You should spend the night in Granada and stay in the parador there. Sevilla is absolutely lovely and you could easily spend a couple of days enjoying that city. Barcelona is one of the most amazing cities in the world and easily worthy of three days/nights. The Spanish government runs paradors throughout the country which are historic inns. Every one that I've stayed in has been memorable. Your son would love Rome and/or Venice for the last week. Quite honestly, unless he is a big art fan, I would not be enticed to go to Florence with him. Rome is exciting and Venice is breathtaking. As an alternative, you could just move on to the south of France. Our family did a trip that started in Provence, went to the Dordogne and then on to Spain. It was one of our most memorable. You could go on from Barcelona to the Dordogne and then to Povence. Provence has it all and both you and your son would love it.

wndrlst13 Jan 7th, 2007 09:55 PM

Yes, the reason Spain is a must is everything you mentioned and more. I spent 3 years in Andalucia and that is where we will start our travels.
More and more I like the idea of just spending most of our time there and maybe taking an excursion into Southern France and the Alps. However, during my 3 yrs in Spain, I never got out of the country except to Lisbon. So I really want to see a little. Agggh! So many choices. We do have some time to plan at least. We're looking at 2008 for the trip. But I've got to settle on a vague itenerary so I can start prepping my son (books, maps, language, etc!)
Thank you for your suggestions!

wndrlst13 Jan 7th, 2007 09:58 PM

I meant the Pyrenees not the Alps!

5alive Jan 8th, 2007 01:12 AM

I'd second Rome. My kids loved it and although they're a little younger, I think teens would too.

Graziella5b Jan 8th, 2007 01:47 AM

We took our four children to Europe many times. They not only had fun but learnt a lot on many subjects.
I believe that a little history is de riguer, like if you go to Spain you can may be focus on Columbus or in the Catholic Kings. Or in the El Cid. Children will never forget those imputs . Also art, Picasso, Dali, the Prado you can focus on Goya, the war against Napoleon, Velazquez.I used to focus on something that I could sense they were interested in.
It is a shame that history here in the US regarding Spain is usually tought from a very Anglo Saxon point of view.(From Errol Flynn 's movies down Spaniars are always picture like mean dark men.)

lobo_mau Jan 8th, 2007 02:29 AM

Wherever you decide to go, order one or 2 Asterix (by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo) comic books from or similiar. The first book of the series is Asterix the Gaul.
They give an historical (and funny) perspective of Europe during the Roman Empire. Many monuments like Rome's Colosseum are shown in the books.
Asterix keeps saying "there Romans are crazy", which is true even >2000 years later. There are also Asterix movies.
I think Asterix and their fellows may give an extra motivation about Europe and are an alternative to Walt Disney.

lobo_mau Jan 8th, 2007 02:30 AM

"these" ... not "there"

Viajero2 Jan 8th, 2007 03:53 AM

I think that a 13-yr. old teen is old enough to have some ideas as to where he would be interested to go/things to do in Europe. What is his take on this?

In general terms, Rome is always a hit with teenagers on that age range. London is another option with its history, etc...does he has a favorite book, i.e. Harry Potter, etc...?

dgg Jan 8th, 2007 03:55 AM

Having lived there, you obviously know quite a bit about Spain so make some choices there and spend 8-10 days in Spain. Cross over the Pyrenees into Southern France. Work your way to Provence, then onto Nice where you can make a train connection to Italy for Venice and Rome. As you probably already know, you will need a car in Provence, but not in Venice or Rome. Avignon is a nice base in Provence.

missypie Jan 8th, 2007 07:33 AM

Our kids enjoyed Rome, Florence and Venice this past summer (then ages 15, 13 and 10.) Don't count out Paris. Besides the Eiffel Tower there is Notre Dame and lots of other wonderful churches/cathedrals. Art of every era you can think of. Food. People watching. Napolean stuff. Sculpture. Also, if your 13 year old has read Da Vinci Code, there is a lot to see from the book.

wndrlst13 Jan 8th, 2007 06:53 PM

Lobo Mau, thanks for the comic recommendations. Well certainly check those out.

Viajero2, I agree and he does have some opinion. But hes only 12 and in 6th grade right now, so not a lot of European History to base any opinions on. I like the ideas given in this forum and others, as it will help us determine our goals for the trip. Since weve still got plenty of time, I can use theses ideas to get a feel for what hes really interested in before really making any specific plans. I like hearing how other parents introduced Europe to their children, too.

Right now, Im leaning toward 3-5 days in Spain and another 2-3 in Rome with some stops by train in between. Well see how the year, and his interests, progress. Currently we're into Greek Mythology, Astronomy, and ancient navagational tools!

WillTravel Jan 8th, 2007 07:00 PM

Madrid was one of our stops when my daughter was 14. I posted about how she did not particularly care for it, but seeing Guernica made up for the negative aspects (to me, very slight, but not to her). On the other hand, she is enamored with London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Edinburgh.

wndrlst13 Jan 8th, 2007 08:31 PM

Thank you for the post. May I ask what specifically about those countries your daughter did like? Was it the art, the food, the history, or just the "being somewhere different".

Lexma90 Jan 8th, 2007 10:42 PM

I'll jump in to offer our experiences with our son and his (limited thus far) travels in Europe. In 2005, we took him to London, Paris and the Loire Valley. He has always like big cities (we've traveled a lot in the U.S.), and loves James Bond and anything involving spies, so London seemed natural. We love Paris, and he did want to see the Eiffel Tower and he's also always been interested in Van Gogh, so Paris seemed like a good add-on. And we wanted him to experience some of rural Europe, and thought he'd like the chateaux, so we included the Loire Valley. He liked pretty much all of it (though he didn't like the London museums so much, and hated the Rodin, in Paris), though London was his favorite. He loved trying new foods, loved specific experiences like going to a play at the National Theatre and riding the top of a double-decker bus on a bridge across the Thames afterwards, or riding a boat on the Seine at night for his first sight of the Eiffel Tower. He didn't seem to be as awe-struck by the simple fact of being in a different culture as much as a grownup would. Some of what he experienced took a while to sink in - he would mention things months after the trip.

Our son was 10 at the time of the trip. I took out some books from the library that were for kids, stuff that I thought looked really interesting and accessible for kids, like a picture sort of book about London in Elizabeth I's time. He didn't much care for those. He reads all sorts of books set in England/London, so I think he had more of a familiarity with London before we went. He loved reading the Hunchback of Notre Dame with me, though. That made our visit to Notre Dame very special! He liked the chateaux in the Loire, as well.

We're now planning a trip to Barcelona and southwestern france, and ending in Paris. How did we pick those locations? Started with picture guide books from the library - the Eyewitness guides. He loved Gaudi's buildings, as did I, so Barcelona was put on the list. We were torn between Provence and the Dordogne, both of which we adults have previously visited. But based on our previous trip, our son said he liked the castles. There are lots of those in the Dordogne, so we're going there (via the Languedoc area, which I want visit). So a variety of things leads to how we decide where to go, and how to pique a kid's (or an adult's) interests.

Us adults visited Rome this year without him, or else that probably would have been the location choice for the next trip, as he likes ancient history (and loves the Asterix books, too).

Since deciding where we're going, we've checked out some books on Gaudi from the library, and I've read several books on the Cathars, and talked to my son about that time period and their experiences, and we're reading the Da Vinci Code together (accuracy aside, it pulls in all sorts of stuff). He's read Crichton's book set in the Dordogne, which gave him some background knowledge of the 100 Years War.

I'm a real history buff, so I tend to read everything about a region, fiction and non-fiction, before I visit. A good place to start for some background is the main guidebooks. Most of them have an overview of the history of the area the books covers. Anything more, and you can check out your local library. As he learns bits and pieces of the areas you'll be visiting, remember to point out to him what the Americans (or colonists) were doing at that time period. Or that North America hadn't been settled by Europeans! That kind of thing really puts things into perspective for an American kid.

WillTravel Jan 9th, 2007 12:20 AM

I posted my daughter particularly liked London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Edinburgh and wndrlst13 asked:
<i>May I ask what specifically about those countries your daughter did like? Was it the art, the food, the history, or just the &quot;being somewhere different&quot;. </i>

The art was significant in all cases. We had good food everywhere, but no real standouts (and we have numerous varied options in our home city), so that wasn't it. The shopping options were very important. Theatre options in London and Edinburgh were hugely significant. History to some extent was important, but not &quot;older&quot; history, but stuff like history about the Beatles! Other than that, it was the general &quot;vibe&quot;, and a sense of whether the city was &quot;cool&quot; and whether it was a pleasant place to be. I'm talking about two separate trips here, one when she was 14 and one when she was 15. It's also very important to her if she can go off and do stuff on her own to some extent. That's not something I'd be comfortable with in every European city, but I was in the above cities. With a 13-year-old, I'm not sure how much independence I would allow - within the same museum or shopping mall for sure. We're trying Paris and Cologne next - stay tuned for our report next month.

dgg Jan 17th, 2007 09:03 PM

Having given this a little thought, and having a 13 and 17 year old myself, I can honestly say...take him to London. (My other choice would be Rome and Venice combo) Forget about your concerns about the mainstream. The vacation is meant to be fun for both of you. My older two girls were in Rome twice and loved it! All my kids (4 of them) thought Venice wa a dream. I took my oldest (then 16) to London last year on a London/Paris/So. France trip for 10 days. I let her pick, but in the end she said she wished we had stayed in London the entire time! It's a teenager's wonderland. We saw all the obvious sights and went to a couple of, serious theater and the other &quot;We Will Rock You.&quot; She thought it was fantastic (So did I).

gruezi Jan 31st, 2008 01:21 AM


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