The Flagg Family's
It's Christmas Time in the City
We came into the holiday season here with the mindset of: "Whelp, so far not a single holiday has looked 'normal,' so let's just embrace whatever comes our way.”
Am I gonna lie and say that I've held that mantra with full confidence and conviction when it's come to Christmas? No... I'm not ashamed (well, maybe I am a little) to say that I've been feeling a teeny bit more Grinch than Cindy Lou Who this year. Let's just call it what it is - spending a big holiday meant for tradition and QT with loved ones in a new place is, well...hard. But, we pushed forward anyone.
And on that note, let's start with our Christmas Tree.
Our family tradition has always included getting a real tree for the season. Whether that means driving up into the mountains to chop one down ourselves - a la Clark Griswold, or finding some quirky little Christmas tree farm to pick out the perfect pine, we pride ourselves on filling our home with the sweet scent of evergreen. (I'm really digging deep in the archives with that link.)
We were determined to keep that tradition alive this year. Problem is, Portugal isn't necessarily known for its plethora of pine trees, like Colorado. Fake trees definitely seem like the norm here, but we pursued our options anyway.
I found out that the people to talk to were the local firefighters, who rent out Christmas trees. Brilliant? Yes, brilliant. Let me expound. The firefighters thin the forests and rent the trees that didn't make the cut (pun intended) to stay in said forests. I was sold. Yes! Ticking all sorts of environmental boxes here! Plus, at the end of the season, the firefighters come back by to pick the tree up, which feels huge considering I'm yet to find any sort of compost services here. So, even if all the firefighters do is throw the tree away, at least the tree's blood, err - sap isn't on my hands. I was feeling more like Cindy Lou Who already!
The thing is, let's recall my comment about Colorado pines not really existing here. Quite possibly part of the reason why a lot of people buy fake trees? So, I'm not exactly sure what type of tree we ended up with, but if you stand really far back and squint, it sort-of looks like some strange type of pine. Maybe?
"Great!" My inner Cindy Lou Who said. "So we've got a 'impressionistic' tree this year. Why not?" We could still dress it up nicely. All it would take was a trip to the store to pick up some lights and ornaments. A trip that never ended up happening. I can't lie - I think part of my reason for not buying lights was because I've seen all the videos of trees drying out and the lights catching fire and the whole house burning down. And those are trees that are soaking in water! Our tree...is not soaking in water.
And so, our naked tree continued to sit naked. We all just accepted it. Embrace whatever comes, right?
That was, until yesterday when the girls turned up the holiday magic entirely on their own. We're traveling to Switzerland, so we decided as a family to celebrate Christmas a few days early. I went Grinchely (is that a verb?) down to the basement, sentenced to a day full of wrapping presents, until one by one, each girl came down begging to help wrap her sisters' gifts with me! What I was dreading being a multiple hour job turned into a fun (and blissfully short) party soundtracked by Ray Charles Christmas.
While I was finishing up wrapping the handful of presents the girls couldn’t be part of helping with, they went back upstairs to make handmade ornaments to decorate our naked tree! The sneaky little elves.
When I saw what they did, my heart grew three times bigger. I mean, look at that - popcorn strings, foam star and/or angel, and everything!
And speaking of handmade items, it’s always been the girls’ tradition to make a gift for every member of the family. I long ago accepted that this tradition wouldn’t hold up this year. We don’t have any of our crafting items here, and it all just felt like way too much work. So, I didn’t even remind the girls about it.
But, they didn’t need a reminder. They weren’t even the tiniest bit discouraged by their lack of crafting items, like others of us were. Without a word, they started creating supply lists for me to (do my best to) check off for them. They created what I believe was their greatest homemade gifts yet! (If anyone right now is quoting The Grinch in your head: “It came without packages, ribbons, and bows!” I’m right there with you.)
Continuing with our unconventional holiday, we celebrated Christmas morning on December 22, since we would be in Switzerland on the actual day. There was definitely push back on that. How could it feel like Christmas if it wasn’t actually Christmas Day? But, we did it anyway. Mostly because there was no way I was hauling all those enormous Lego boxes across Europe with us.
It was hard to not be with our extended family that day, but we made do by FaceTiming with them on “Christmas Eve” instead. Thanks to the seven-hour time difference, the girls got to open grandparent presents a night early. They weren’t complaining.
We normally sip (Silk) egg nog throughout the season, but I never even found regular egg nog in Portugal, let alone a dairy-free version. So, we instead made our own nog. I’m not gonna say it was better than the real thing, but it sufficed.
We normally make giant waffles on Christmas morning, but there was no way I was buying a waffle iron to try to fit in my tiny kitchen for just this one morning. So, I instead made waffles on a sandwich press, which was already in my kitchen when we moved in. You guys, I have to say - I think I’m gonna have to buy a sandwich press back in Colorado because these waffle tacos may just be our new family tradition. They were good! (Albeit, definitely unique.) Who knew??
So yeah. We celebrated Christmas this year on a rainy December 22 morning with flat waffles, a wonky tree decorated with popcorn and homemade ornaments, and fake egg nog. And you know what? I wouldn’t trade that morning for anything.
I know it's the world's cheesiest thing to say, but home (and Christmas) really truly is where the heart is. I learned that big time this year thanks to my three little elves. After all, that's what it's all about, Charlie Brown! I know, I know... I really shouldn't mix my Christmas stories.
And now, we’re off to Switzerland to get our fix of some snow. And so, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
Seville called, and We Answered
Last week, we put the girls in charge of picking a spot to visit. After some serious research and strong opinions from each of them about where to go, they landed on a road-trip to Seville, Spain! It would be our first time crossing the border! (and also, gulp.) Would they stop us? Would they let us back in?? Spoiler alert - nothing happened. Not even a checkpoint. We just drove right in. Talk about anti-climactic.
Anyway, before we even made it to the totally boring border-crossing, we stopped in a little castle town called Évora. Charming place, minus the BONE CHAPEL. Definition: church with human bones all over the walls. Yup, you read that right. An old gothic (of course) church wall-papered in human bones. And not like one or two... oh no. There are over 5,000 bones. HUMAN bones, you guys. Our faces say it all:
I don't even know what to say about Pearl's face. It's like she was so creeped out, her own bones left her face to join the walls.
Almost as creepy (not even close) was the life-size nativity where someone chose to position the baby lamb like this:
Seville. WAAAAY less creepy than bone churches, although apparently Christopher Columbus is buried there, so there's a super amazing shrine to him (not creepy, but still indirectly related to bones, so felt mentionable.) Of course, there's a huge controversy over whether he actually is buried there or not, because history is weird. But, other than that and this advertisement for a mattress store that's essentially assuring you you'll never sleep again if you buy from them, Seville was nothing but charm.
In my head, we took a lot of pictures of actual Seville, but in reality, we just took a bunch of smooshed selfies of us around Seville. You're welcome.
We started with a ceramic class randomly on the rooftop of a hotel.
Then we took a horse and carriage ride to see the sights. Little did we know the buggy was routed to walk...slowly...right on a busy road during what appeared to be rush hour. As you can see, we made some road-raging people...err - creatures very upset.
Next up! The Real Alcazar of Seville. Talk about charming. This quaint little cottage (she says sarcastically) is Europe's oldest palace in use. It was built in the 11th century. For anyone not great at history or math, that was a long time ago. It was stunning, to say the least. Gilded ceilings and intricate arches and more acres of gardens than we could manage without Google Maps helping us. It. Is. Huge.
And speaking of huge, we also visited the Seville Cathedral, with its 340ft bell tower. Yes, we did climb to the top. Yes we did wonder how in the world stuff like this was built before the invention of machines. Yes we did wonder why, now that we do have machines, do we only build crappy buildings that fall apart in two seconds flat. No we did not sing any songs from the Hunchback of Notre Dame while up in the bell tower. C'mon guys, that's in Paris. (Although if I'd had thought of it at the time, I totally would've belted something out to embarrass my kids.)
We saw a Flamenco show, which was a must since Flamenco dancing was born in Seville. But, that wasn't enough, so we took it one step (pun intended) further by doing a Flamenco dance class. Needless to say, we crushed it and are currently talking to our agents about hitting the road with our new show, The Flagg Family Flamencos.
And finally, what's a family vacation without finding the random spots. Take, for example, the Museum of Illusion, where most of our photos were taken?
So there you have it. Seville in a nut shell. Five stars, would highly recommend. The tapas were delish and more than made up for any calorie deficit our insane amount of walking gave us. The people were nice. The weather was perfection. So yeah, take a visit for yourself to see more than just our faces covering up all the cool sites. Tell them The Flagg Family Flamencos sent you.
In May 2021, Bill, Chelsea, Quincy, Olive, Pearl, and their cat Gladys decided to make the move of a lifetime.