Ok, let’s face it. Some vacations are just better than others. Our latest adventure in Spain was rated 9.9 out of 10 by all four members of our family. Will we ever get to the elusive 10? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I’m not a perfectionist.
The first part of our trip was spent in Madrid. This is now my new favorite city in all the world. And I’ve been to lots and lots and LOTS of cities in lots of different countries (a by-product of being an Air Force brat with a serious case of wanderlust). Sometimes a place just speaks to you. Madrid said “hola” to me, and that was all I needed. Here’s why:
Well, for one the Plaza Mayor is amazing. This picture doesn’t do it justice- you will just have to take my word for it. It just kind of feels magical.
Love is love. And I love Madrid.
How can you not love a city that provides protection from the relentless heat of the midsummer sun? It was so lovely to stroll the streets of Madrid without having to deal with damp necks & sticky shirts or dragging wilting, spaghetti legged children over steaming blacktop by their sweaty, reluctant hands.
This shady path led us to the Reina Sophia museum. Most people, when forced to choose only one museum in Madrid will choose the Prado. But we aren’t most people. And plus, we heard this one was good.
We heard right! It has a lovely courtyard, with benches. It also has an amazing Picasso mural (Guernica) that was fantastic to see in person. But you can’t take pictures of it, so I took one of this instead. And there was this Calder, which no one cares if you take a picture of.
And anyway, it’s always fun to see a Calder. Why? I don’t know. I just like Calder mobiles.
The Reina Sophia is a contemporary art museum. This type tends to hold my kids’ interest better than museums with classic or renaissance art (or “boring” art as they like to call it).
I think I’ve mentioned how much I love typography as an art form. I’ll spend more time looking at the typeface of the description of the work of art than the actual piece. This was an entire room of words! What??!! Even though I can’t read Spanish (sorry Srta. Curran) I found this beautiful. Word porn. Sigh.
Why do I keep seeing Roy Lichtenstein everywhere I go? Well, whatever. I like his stuff. It’s not for everyone, but I get it. We spent some time admiring this and then our visit to this lovely place was complete.
My husband is an Eagle Scout. He’s always holding up buildings and stuff.
Madrid has loads of buildings that look like this.
And like this.
And of course, there are churches and churches and churches. I found this one exceptionally pretty because it seemed kind of delicate. Well, as delicate as a church made from a bajillion tons of stone can be.
And guess what? We didn’t ignore the Prado altogether. We took a minute to admire it from the outside. That counts, right?
Museuming and sightseeing is hungry work. Luckily there’s the Mercado de San Miguel to help with that. There you can find everything from tiny olives to gigantic shanks of Iberico ham and everything in between. Also, beer and wine. Very important.
Oh, and fruit almost too pretty to eat.
And ice cream. Obviously. Don’t mess with these two during ice cream eating time.
Not only did this place have amazing food, it was an amazingly beautiful building. And that little tuk truck is adorable, dontcha think?
Refortified after your foodie stop, you can continue your exploration of Madrid. Even though it’s a huge city, there’s a lot of green to be found.
But Madrid, lush as it seems, is actually situated in a very dry part of Spain (apparently the rain in Spain does actually only stay mainly in the plain).
Which is great if you want to buy cactus and succulents. I love cactus and succulents, but I didn’t buy any because I couldn’t figure out where to stash them in my suitcase. I didn’t want to find prickers in my knickers. Haha.
Madrid also has really fabulous gardens- like the Real Jardín Botánico.
The kids adore flora and fauna.
There were carnivorous plants hiding behind these giant leaves. I was sad when I said “Feed me, Seymour” and my kids had no idea what I was talking about.
In fact, my son misunderstood the definition of “carnivorous plant” altogether.
After you’ve had all the fun you can handle inside a greenhouse, you can head on over to Retiro Park, for more beauty.
I felt refreshed just looking at this. We didn’t rent a boat. But we could have.
Instead, I sat down and rested my weary feet. Why, why, why do I always wear inappropriate shoes?
The gem of the Retiro is the Crystal Palace.
I reminded my kids that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones because my mom used to say that to me all the dang time and it seemed appropriate, if not really relevant.
And then because everyone else was taking selfies, we did too
Then we walked around some more and saw a bunch of monuments and beautiful buildings. I don’t know what any of them were. This one had a Spanish flag flying so it might be important.
These buildings probably aren’t important, but having flowers every day is. Well, for some people. Like me, for example. And also Monet.
Even the graffiti in Madrid is pretty. Or maybe I’m just romanticising it just a wee bit too much? Probably. I do tend to do that.
Also, sunsets anywhere are pretty. But this time of day feels extra special when you are in Madrid and there’s that temple dome thing back there.
Evenings are long in Spain because you don’t eat dinner til 10:00pm (which, incidentally, is also when the sun sets in summer). A good way to pass the time is by eating tapas and drinking sangria.
Or by grabbing a beer at one of the hundreds of cervecerias you’ll find all over the city. We may have done both. Don’t judge. The kids didn’t have beer. I don’t think…
In Madrid, you have your pick of restaurants with outdoor seating and tasty treats for dinner. I didn’t take a picture of where we ate so this will have to do. It’s close enough.
And then, if you’re lucky enough to be staying close to the Mercardo de San Miguel you can go back after dinner for more ice cream. Because 7,000 calories in one day are simply not enough.
And then, you can wake up in the morning and eat again! There seems to always be a lot of eating happening in Spain.
This was my favorite breakfast spot. If you are in Madrid you should go to Federal on Plaza Conde de Barajas for eggs, ham, and coffee. Especially if you like iced coffee like us New Englanders do. Because it’s the only place in Madrid that has real iced coffee that isn’t coffee with ice cream in it.
And right across the street from this gem is a gem of another kind. You’ll want to stop at Taller Puntera if you like purses, handbags, and wallets. I happen to like them a lot. These are all handmade right in this pretty shop.
See? Pretty cool, right?
Then you can stroll down some more shady streets with your new bag! Yay!
Made in the shade.
This is the Plaza del Sol. It’s a great spot for window shopping, actual shopping, people watching, picture taking and generally just tourist being. It also has a Metro that can take you to other points of interest. Very convenient.
It’s definitely worth it to spend time here because it really leaves a lasting impression. For example, the last time I was in Madrid was 17 years ago, and this is the only spot that looked familiar to me this time. I don’t really know why.
In real life, we live in a teeny tiny coastal village, but she’s a city girl at heart. I wonder where she gets that from?
No matter where I am, I always make time for an afternoon coffee. Especially when the coffee comes from a churro shop, and I can have churros with my coffee. I have to admit that this never happens at home. I usually just have coffee, with no churros. Also, I am pretty sure this place was called Mr. Churro which is awesome, but maybe I just think that because of the picture on the cup, which is also awesome.
When you’re exploring all day, it’s nice to have somewhere calm and peaceful to return to. This was the interior of our hotel. It was very Spanish looking. Probably because we were in Spain.
And, also, I don’t know what they put in the water in Spain, but my kids were very agreeable to everything, even my excessive picture taking. This isn’t always their standard modus operandi…but there’s something magic about vacation, isn’t there?
So, we spent two days in Madrid and then we headed down to the coast. We stayed in Jávea, a town we randomly picked after seeing a few pics on the Internet or something. And boy, did we get lucky. This is where the real magic happened. More on that part of the trip real soon (or soonish, depending on life).
Thanks as always for following along!