Espana, we love you! Of the three countries we visited, Spain was our favorite. I think this had everything to do with being fresh into our adventure and excited to embark. Also, we were able to communicate (Gregor is fluent and I can get by) and we had a very comfortable place to lay our heads.
We spent 5 days in Spain and I’m in no way an expert. Our short journey is just one way to go about Spain. There are hundreds of routes, cities and towns, people, and places to see of course. This was our short walk through pieces of beautiful Espana that I hope inspires you to get packin’ for a foreign land!
After an 8-hour layover in New York, followed by an overnight flight to Spain, we were left a wee bit fatigued. We had a civil family discussion about being kind to one another, and how important it would be to get along on our “once in a lifetime trip.”
Nelson was suffering from poison ivy and a subsequent staph infection. We gave him many besos (kisses) and he rallied.
The first stop: Madrid! Europe has the most stunning architecture. We ditched our bags at our hotel and hit the city, meeting up with Gregor’s high school friend, Tony. He took us to Nelson’s dream destination: Estadio Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid, where Nelson’s soccer idol, Ronaldo plays! Barcelona, home of Lionel Messi, had to be nixed due to travel.
We watched some amateur soccer and Nelson decided he would continue to pursue his dream of playing professionally 🙂
We loved Madrid. It was so clean and not very crowded.
When in Madrid, visit Mercado de San Miguel, a delicious market. We loved hearing The Professor negotiate en español. The kids and I tried buying food speaking Spanish. It was…funny. There was a lot of pointing.
When en España: eat the olives. Muy, muy buenas! And the fresh oysters. They tasted just like the ocean, fresher than fresh! Oh, eat the cheese (queso), too. Oh, the cheese. Like all cities, there were the homeless. This is always hard to witness, as so many of us are blessed with so much. The Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Again, the architecture was incredible. Hundreds of years old.
Tony and wife, Myriam hosted us to a 9:00pm balcony dinner, spanish style, at sunset. The majority of Spanish residents live in apartments. I felt grateful to have my home in America, a HUGE residence in comparison to how much of the world lives, but it was also appealing to think of living more simply in a small apartment in Europe where everything feels like a miniature version of what we have, especially kitchens and bathrooms.
Myriam served us homemade Spanish tortilla (my favorite) and small slices of prosciutto, and chicken wings (apparently The Professor and Tony ate a lot of them in high school.) We can’t wait for them to visit us this August in New Hampshire! We were in bed at midnight, dead tired from jet lag, and slept until 10 a.m. the next day.
When in Madrid, I highly recommend Museo Nacional del Prado (The Prado Museum). Pictures are a big no-no, but I snapped this one of an artist recreating the famous Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Pink Dress, an oil on canvas portrait of Margaret Theresa of Spain by the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. The Professor was thankful I didn’t get us kicked out.
“The three routes around the galleries feature major masterpieces of European art such as The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet by Tintoretto, The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch, and The Three Graces by Rubens. They also include key works of Spanish art such as Las Meninas by Velázquez, Jacob’s Dream by Ribera and The Third of May: the Executions on Príncipe Pío by Goya.”
This was an incredible reunion. After more than 20 years apart, Gregor got in touch (thank you, Facebook), with a mission companion, Roberto, who lives in Spain. They made plans to meet outside The Prado. I saw Roberto walking toward us. As soon as he saw Gregor, he began to run, sprinting up the stairs and grabbing hold of the The Professor for a bear-hug embrace. It seemed very Spanish-like; no hand shakes – we kiss and hug in Spain! There was laughter and there were tears. It may well have been the most meaningful moment of the whole trip.
I could not understand much of what they were saying, but I did get that Gregor referred to me as “the paparazzi.” Roberto laughed, and later wrote to Gregor, thanking him for “the paparazzi photos.” Now that he has them, he said, they will always remind him of this special moment.
So there. Take pictures!
After 2 days and 1 night in Madrid, we traveled 30 minutes to Segovia by high-speed train. Eyes wide, we wearily walked to our apartment, courtesy of Hogwarts and its overseas program.
Panorama view of The Aqueduct, which brings water to Segovia from a mountain 11 miles away. If you ever go to Spain, I highly suggest Segovia! It has a very small-town, authentic feel and isn’t as crowded as bigger cities. We were so lucky we had perfect the weather the entire trip.
“Isn’t that amazing, that Rome brought water to Segovia? How good of them.” I opined. Gregor laughed and referred to the menacing pig/boar/she-wolf(?) statue above which has small monkeys drinking from her. Translation: we conquered you. we own you.
Outside a Spanish castle. Paige said, “look, it’s a Nephite!” Of course he asked for money after this picture was taken. “How you say?” he said. “I’m a freelancer.” I had to smile (and tip!)
I was constantly surprised and awed at the abundance of religious and Christian themes represented in painting, glass, statues, and sculptures. Incredible beauty. Future kings and queens in their castle…
This was an amazing moment for Gregor as he told the kids about stepping on this same platform twenty years ago as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “I stood here over twenty years ago and thought about what my life would be like. In many ways this is where my life started. The experiences I had here were preparing me for fatherhood.” It was in Spain, on his mission, that The Professor decided he wanted to be a teacher.
Beautiful, beautiful San Sebastian.May I suggest a honeymoon here? ( We WILL be coming back!) So, I’d heard of topless beaches, but I’d never actually experienced it. After our mouths dropped open and Nelson’s face turned a more normal shade of pink, we adjusted. I was surprised by my conclusion. Topless was not a sexual thing here; it was just normal. Many, many children were completely naked, just swimming free and easy! (jealous!)
All shapes and sizes of bodies were comfortable just hanging out. I was pretty fascinated by the mothers, especially one who sat completely exposed with her three naked children, one of them coming over to have a drink now and then. I took quite a few (tasteful!) pictures, but decided that this PG blog might not be able to handle it 🙂
The “Combs of the Winds” The Spanish Dons (totally my interpretation 🙂
The Professor spent almost a full day trying to find Menchu, a woman he grew very close to many years ago. There is a documentary on her.
The darlings waited sunburned on a bench as dad went for dinner.
After San Sebastian, we boarded a bus for Bilbao, passing through picturesque Idaho-like countryside. Lots of sheep. We ate a dinner of roasted chicken and Spanish tortilla. The next morning we awoke for an early flight, slipping into slightly damp clothes from the previous night’s washing. We were a bit grumpy and sunburned. We split up to take two taxis to the airport (pricey!) and ate a breakfast of bread and chorizo (Spanish sausage) in the airport at which point Cope said, “You know, I don’t ever need to eat this again.” Yeah, we had gotten to the overdose point.
The kids played Ninja in the airport, Cope in her pants purchased at a Spanish market. I read Kate Atkinson’s, When Will There Be Good News? Terrific writing, a bit depressing in an English-author way. It readied me for our next destination.