We swap #vanlife for #islandlife: Tenerife with the family

Do you differentiate between a trip and a vacation? We have often had debate on this subject. For us, a trip is an opportunity to discover a different world and immerse yourself in new culture, taste flavors, smells, sensations and observe traditions that differ from ours. All our senses are stimulated, the days are long and lively. It involves a lot of preparation before but especially during, in order to see as much as possible in an often limited time frame. A vacation is rather a moment of break that we offer ourselves, an opportunity to do nothing, to plan nothing. The perfect time to take care of just your little person, without the hassle. Empty to refuel.

So since we travel more often than we take vacations, we decided on a nice, slightly cool afternoon in Barcelona to swap #vanlife for #islandlife : we change our itinerary and we book new tickets plane! A week of vacation in our trip… Why not! In a few days, we will return our house on wheels and we will spend the end of our trip in the south! Warmth, sun and sea before returning to the cold of Quebec. Mix the “Cuba” of Canada for the accessibility aspect, the “Hawaii” of the USA for the island life and a touch of Iceland for the raw and volcanic landscapes and you will obtain the Canary Islands! We never thought we would visit this place one day, the Canary Islands. The island of Tenerife to be exact. I had never heard that name until just a few weeks ago. The archipelago, which belongs to Spain, is located in the Atlantic Ocean, opposite the African coast between Morocco and Western Sahara. Details to come, in a few days. For now, continuation of our journey on the old continent.

Northern Spain: San Sebastian and Salamanca

To afford this “little weekend in the south”, we had to speed up the itinerary. The last time we spoke we were in France for a short expedition of a few days. In fact, that's why we only passed through France and why we will also only make a few stops in the north of Spain and Portugal, on our way to Porto from where we will take the plane to the islands. The north of Spain nevertheless charmed us a lot. San Sebastian has a little “je ne sais quoi” that is very peaceful, calm and healthy. Country air perhaps? Also, the city is recognized worldwide for its gastronomy, particularly for its pintxos, which we never tire of eating.

To enjoy our last moments of #vanlife , we find a campsite overlooking the sea and the green hills of the northern Iberian countryside. A masterpiece for the eyes, day and night.

We then travel through the land and spend long hours on the (not-so-beautiful) agricultural roads that cross the country, our “big stretch” of the trip, a 7-hour drive that we will complete in 2 days to let baby unwind a little. We pass through Salamanca, the most famous student city in Spain which attracts students from all over the world to its 12th century university, including me when I was a CEGEP student. And yes, 12 years later I return to the place where I became addicted to tortillas and where I learned that at siesta you don't really sleep. I recognize the university, the Plaza Mayor, the small ancient stone streets and the H&M, which I had robbed before it had yet arrived in Canada. Beautiful memories that I can share with my family!

Northern Portugal: Porto and the Douro Valley

The 2nd portion of our “big stretch” of road takes us to Porto, where we will spend a few days before leaving for the islands. Many suggested that we not neglect this region and take full advantage of it because it is magnificent. TRUE! The first sight is phenomenal when arriving from Gaia, the river-facing suburb that is home to all the port (wine) cellars in the country. Despite the gray weather, it takes our breath away. We put on our best tourist clothes-not-equipped-evenly-for-the-rain-with-our-multi-colored-kits-we-look-like-a-Picasso-painting and we set off to conquer from the city. I know we've already said it, but damn it's beautiful. Perhaps the scent of Port (the wine) going to our heads? It's really really beautiful!

We also pass by the Harry Potter library which, despite our reluctance to pay 4 euros to see a bunch of dusty books, was definitely worth it (and the cost)!

A few other usual visits, including the famous Port cellars (wine), the train station and the famous Café Majestique and presto, we set off to discover the Douro valley, located some 100 km from the city.

Arriving in Pinhão, you immediately feel very far from cosmopolitan civilization. Lands and lands and lands of vineyards red with autumn, that's all there is here. All the Port in the world is produced there as well as several wines. The ultra-charming and quiet little town during this off-season period offers us an authentic atmosphere of the Portuguese countryside. We go for a boat ride, observe the fishermen and visit (again!) the Port cellars (the wine).

Because we learned a lot and because we don't want to forget... A little overview on Port, wine. Did you know that port was born from a trade error between Portugal and England? The wine from the Douro Valley aged very poorly during transport to England so the Portuguese added a strong alcohol, 77% Brandy, and this is how fortified Port wine was born. Its sweeter taste than table wine comes from a fermentation shortened by the addition of this alcohol. Fermentation = the yeast which transforms the natural sugar of the grapes into alcohol and CO2. So port = fortification of wine with 77% alcohol = higher alcohol content than wine (around 20%) + shorter fermentation = sweeter because more natural sugar preserved. Does that make sense? There are also several types of Port, which are grouped into 2 categories: ruby ​​and tawny. There’s LBV, vintage, colheita… JP says that’s enough, I’m going to lose you! All this to say that we bought ourselves a splurge, a vintage from the year of my birth, bottled in the year of JP's birth. Crazy right?! We'll never drink it, it's worth too much...

Thank you and see you soon, #vanlife

Now it's time to give up our little 7 square meter house and say goodbye to #vanlife . A beautiful 6 weeks of travel in a cocoon no bigger than a wardrobe with a baby who will age from 4 to 6 months, who will learn to turn and semi-crawl on a campervan bench seat, who will wash himself in an improvised inflatable bath, with parents who will only be cleaned by the sweat of their adventures, peeing while squatting in all kinds of shrubs in Europe... 6 weeks of “wild and free” camping most of the time time, trying to understand camper terms and learning to douse/fill/log, to realize that gray water sucks if it's not emptied often enough, to eat every possible variations of chorizo ​​pasta, broccoli rice and bine wrap or even having pizza delivered to the van, drinking overly caffeinated instant in dodgy water every morning, and even receiving the dinner/bedtime/lunch visit. We're returning the van with a beautiful vintage mark all the way through, a little souvenir that it brought back from the narrow little streets of Porto and which will cost us 10 times our overpriced vintage, but we won't talk about that. Thank you for everything #vanlife , you fulfilled your mandate perfectly, you are as extraordinary as we imagined you!

Canary Islands: Tenerife

Here we are on vacation and as soon as we get off the plane, the tropical climate makes us smile. We are staying in a carefully chosen luxury Airbnb: we want baby to have his own bed, we want beautiful views, amenities within walking distance but ideally in a location that is not too touristy, a deck chair on the balcony, a swimming pool in the complex… we have all that, and even more! 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, marble floors and even a Winnie de Poo dog for baby... It's happiness! Baby dances flamenco in the bath, we find blue cheese for €0.89… we're crazy! View from our balcony:

We live in Los Gigantes, a cove in the center-west of the island, surrounded by volcanic rocks and small black sand beaches. Tenerife is the Oahu of Hawaii: the most populated and most developed island which offers something for all tastes. Certain overdeveloped and over-concreted areas should be avoided if you want a minimum of authenticity, and even more so, because the Canary Islands seem to us to be nothing more than a vacation destination. But at Los Gigantes, it's neither too much nor too little, it's just perfect! The island also has an immense volcano, Teide, the most famous and most visited in Europe with a summit which rises to more than 3500m above sea level. Too high for baby, we go to 2500m for a beautiful hike in arid soils that remind us of Iceland.

We were also able to go diving, something we didn't expect on this trip but which filled us with joy! After 2 and a half years without diving for me, it was a 2nd baptism and the place was perfect for it! Since we have a baby and we can't leave him alone in the car even with a half-open window (I'm joking you know, we just did it twice, in the shade) our friend Jean Jambon us fixed that. We can take turns diving, directly from the playa. Great service from Jean Jambon (just to repeat his name because we found it very funny, in reality his name is Juan Ramón) and superb dives which made us want even more!

This is the face of a mother who sees her baby again after diving, while imitating the big stingray she saw in the water:

We set off to explore the island by car on the winding roads on the evening of the San Andres festival because we had heard that the event created very strange traditions in certain villages. I don't really know how to explain it, but in Icod, young people do "plywood" races on the sloping streets... with a very small board under their buttocks and a whistle in their mouth to signal "shut up, I'm going down". they rush down the streets at full speed, taking jumps, zigzagging, turning on themselves… it's completely stupid and so dangerous but we're very happy to have witnessed it! The next tradition in Puerto de la Cruz was less surprising but much cuter: the children gathered in the central plaza with their cane constructions strung on a metal rod to make as much noise as possible with their friends. The 2 events, in photos:

We also take a little boat trip to see the magnificent Jurassic Park-style coastlines and meet the pilot whales, a pretty cool dolphin whale. Real island life!

For the rest, we do what we came here to do, beach/pool/sun and rest! There is not much action, let's say that the rabble of tourists is similar to the rabble of the Soleil residences and in an off-season period like that, everything is at a golden age pace. After seeing canes for sale in souvenir shops, we concluded that Tenerife, we will return there when we retire.


This is what ends our wonderful journey, Raf is now a super nomad who is just waiting to leave ❤️