Friday, June 18, 2010
Spain - Day 1
We just spent the last 12 days in Spain...this may come as a shock to some of you since I do not advertise trips in the public web-o-sphere ahead of time.
This trip was weird. First, we knew we wanted a vacation. On the one hand, Kyle travels overseas 2-3 times a year and it feels like I am always the one sitting at home alone, missing out on all the fun. On the other hand, so many people we know are getting pay cuts, out of work or just struggling and I felt spoiled rotten (guilty) planning a vacation just two years after we went to Italy. Plus I actually felt more guilty leaving the kids this time than I did when Annika was only 13 months old.
But...we had a specific amount of money we'd set aside for travel and it was enough for a trip. So we decided to go for it.
First we thought of going to Chile so Kyle could attend a bike race there. That plan got canned, and good thing - a huge earthquake happened EXACTLY when we had thought to be there. Instead we somehow sort of decided on Spain, but then the whole Iceland volcano thing happened just 1 1/2 months before we wanted to go. The idea of being stranded in Europe away from the kids was really frightening. Plane tickets were about triple what they'd been to Madrid last summer. So much uncertainty and indecision.
About 4 weeks before the trip we finally jumped and bought plane tickets. Then Annika got dreadfully sick for almost an entire week - we missed our anniversary weekend in Seattle and now I had 3 weeks to plan a twelve day trip to Spain. Luckily I read a bunch of guidebooks while lounging with Annika and was able to get some of it ironed out.
Some of this explains why I've been missing from blogland for the last 1 1/2 months. I tend to ahem...obsess...about trip planning, wanting to get perfect hotels for cheap, every night, find perfect restaurants for each night and discover perfect untouristy villages to visit. All that takes so much time.
ANYWAYS. June 4th, we got up at 4:30am and drove to the airport. Finally.
If arriving in rome two years ago was like slowly turning the pages of a story as the city revealed itself to us (we rode an above ground train and then walked a mile to our hotel in the center of the city), arriving in Madrid was like suddenly emerging from a birth canal into chaotic world. From the airport, we hopped on the Subway for 30 minutes, wandering dark tunnels like moles, changing trains often until we climbed up the stairs, blinking in the sun and were suddenly smack dab in the busiest plaza in the very center of Madrid - Plaza de Sol.
All I could think was "what on earth am I doing here?" We found our hotel on the plaza (hotel europa, loved it), dumped our bags, grabbed a quick breakfast in the hotel restaurant and set off wandering...blissfully with no maps in hand, no agenda. Probably kyle's favorite part of the trip as I managed to keep my map in my purse for 20 whole minutes. And I only looked at it a couple times during our walk.
The first thing I noticed was how amazing the shopping was by our hotel. I could have spent an entire day or more just shopping for clothes. If only we'd had the time.
By early afternoon we crashed for a nice 5 hour nap in our hotel. We woke up very refreshed and headed out again to explore and find dinner. We wandered into the market near Plaza Mayor and had a relatively expensive cold octopus & mussle salad. Then we went over to the palace and went in the chapel next to it. It was beautiful.
Finally it was near dinner time (8pm) so we headed down Cava Baja to a place I'd read was one of the best for Tapas - Tximiri.
We sat down on stools at the bar to order and I chose one of the things labeled "chef recomendations". The waitress/bar tender women suddenly started jabbering quickly in spanish and we had no idea what she was saying, except that they didn't have the
special anymore. Amazingly, the women next to us suddenly goes "She is describing the solomillo to you and it sounds delicious". We ordered it (it was delicious - filet of beef with some different sauces drizzled on it) and found out the couple next to us were a canadian & spanish couple. She had moved to spain with him a few years ago and we had a lot of fun asking them questions and getting more restaurant recomendations.
After some tortilla pattata and a few other things I forget at Tximiri, we wandered back to our hotel and had a drink in the hotel restaurant in the plaza with some anchovy olives (yum!). Finally, craving something sweet, we went back down a couple blocks to the churro & chocolate place. We fell into bed around midnight, proud that we'd actually stayed up so late and enjoyed our evening.
at 9:58 AM