Lazy Morning (September 30, 2023)

Sleep is still all messed up.  We went to bed early around 8:30pm.  Both of us woke up around midnight.  Ryan made the silly decision to check his slacks and then worked for a few hours.  Both of us were up till about 3am before finally going back to sleep.  The original plan was to go to Toledo, but we called an audible to scrap that plan while enjoying a relaxing desayuno at the café down the street.  As we realized a few days later, there is no way we could have made it to Toledo anyway, as train tickets were much harder to reserve than expected.  Ryan was impressed with my flexibility in the last minute change of plans.

Breakfast was delicious, avocado toast with smoked salmon for me (really going out of my comfort zone there), and toasted bread with tomato puree, avocado, and jamon for Ryan.  And of course café con leche. Most of the cafes in Madrid seem to have alternative milks, so it has been really easy for me to get coffees with soy or almond milk.  With nothing specific on the agenda, we moseyed around the outside of the Royal Palace, through some small parks, ending up at Plaza Mayor for the free 2pm walking tour.


Ryan’s socks match an unidentified building in the distance

The tour guide was very engaging, giving us a thorough history of the Spanish monarchy.  Not having much background, I quickly got confused between the multiple King Philipes and King Carloses.  We walked through a small lovely park, Parque del Emir Mohamad, that is only open on weekends.  It had great views of the Catedral de la Amudena and was filled with myrtle bushes, rosemary, fig, and pomagranate.  I had never seen myrtle before and the leaves smelled great.

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I later learned that the wall in the garden was the oldest standing construction in Madrid, dating back to the 9thcentury, built when Madrid was an Arab enclave.  Our tour guide probably shared that info, but Ryan and I were FaceTiming the kids during that part of the tour.  The kids both said ‘Hi’ on Facetime and quickly went back to what they were doing, totally uninterested in us.  We were very relieved, because this is the first time we have both gone away from Maddie.  The kids did great with Puma and Pumpa the entire trip.

Great views of the cathedral and palace during the tour.

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After the tour, it was time for a quick lunch (Madrid time at 4:30pm) and a walk over to the Prado for free entry during evening hours.  There was a long line for free entry, but it moved very quickly.  Summary of what we saw:

  • Goya – Dark, monstrous, and disturbing
  • El Greco – All his portraits look the same
  • Lots of naked people, cherubic, and Jesus Christ
  • An out of place picture of a turtle and fish (aptly named ‘Still Life with Fish and a Turtle’) near naked people and Jesus
  • Paintings of paintings – According to Ryan, this is when artists start to think too highly of themselves

Big trees outside the Prado



I’m not a huge art museum fan.  Ryan says it’s because I’m too busy being practical to enjoy the art.  He prefers to draw and make art than look at it.  After the museum was stopped at a bar recommended by our tour guide for some wine, beer, and tapas of cheese and lomo, followed by a stop at one of the many sweet shops for some gifts to bring home.


We have enjoyed people watching.  It is extremely difficult to figure out where people are from, and sometimes even if they are tourists or locals, though usually the dogs or strollers give away the locals.  Occasionally, we can tell when people are from the U.S. or Germany.  It’s usually when there is a group of people together who all where common clothing, typically running sneakers for U.S. or hiking pants/shoes for Germans.

Impromptu Trip to Madrid (September 29, 2023)

Ryan and I planned an international trip without kids only 3-4 weeks in advance.  Unbelievable, right?  I was asked to go to Madrid for two weeks for work.  We daydreamed, hoping by some chance either my parents or his parents would be able to come watch the kids so Ryan could join me for some traveling after the work.  My parents were unavailable, but Ryan’s parents said they could do it!  So we quickly booked Ryan’s flights through American Airlines, my flights through work, coordinating so we were on the same flight home, and reserved an AirBnb.

Fast forward two weeks and the work part got cancelled.  But we already had grandparents lined up, one set of flights booked, and lodging.  No way we would pass up this vacation!

Kris and Dal arrived two days early to get settled in with the kids, and we were off!  Flights to Madrid through Dallas were very easy, no delays, all on-time.  We arrived around 9am in Madrid.  The train ride into the center of Madrid should have been easy, and would have been easy had my Spanish been better.  Unfortunately, the ‘English’ button on the ticket vending machines only translated some things to English.  After a few trials, we figured out how to buy tickets and were on our way.


Emerging from the train station into the center of Madrid

Around 11:30am, we dropped our bags in the AirBnb and asked our host for a morning snack recommendation.  She walks us out onto the balcony and points a little ways down the street to San Gines, a well known Chocolateria.  Score!  Can’t go wrong when a trip to Madrid starts with café con leche and churros con chocolate.  Not surprisingly, that was only the first time for churros and chocolate on the trip.

Picture from our balcony.  The green awnings are San Gines

View from our balcony. The green awnings are San Gines.

First churros and chocolate

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After filling our bellies with delicious snacks, we made the long, strenuous walk of about 50m back to the AirBnb for a short nap before our evening plans.  I had originally scheduled a cooking class for our second day in Madrid, but the cooking school reached out to ask if we could attend a day earlier.  Slightly tired and jet lagged, we walked to the A Punto Cooking School.

Along with students from Toronto, Zurich, Korea, and the US, we made a delicious array of tapas, including salmorejo (a cold tomato soup that is definitely not gazpacho), cod fish, lamb, calamari, focaccia, cheese crisps, and a delicious bread pudding-like dessert with horchata.  The food was all tasty, but nothing particularly knocked our socks off.  Overall, though, it was a fun experience cooking and chatting with the chef and other students.  The chef was originally from Buenos Aires, had travelled around a bit, and settled in Madrid about 4 years ago.  He loves the city and had some great recommendations for restaurants and sites.

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Post cooking/eating, we took a leisurely walk back to our AirBnb through Puerta del Sol, looking at all the statues, and through Plaza Mayor where everything was bustling.

Bear and Strawberry Tree, representing coat of arms of Madrid

Bear and Strawberry Tree, representing coat of arms of Madrid

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor