After a days rest from back in Madrid, after our most unforgettable trip to Segovia, it was time for the second half of our Holiday adventures to Barcelona. Trey, Cash, and I went to the airport early because for whatever reason the airlines told us that we were not certified to bring Cash on board the aircraft without paying a fee. I wasn’t sure as to why all of a sudden this airline (name I shall not mention) has allowed us to fly with him in the past but now has decided otherwise. Anyways, we get to the counter and they looked over Cash’s paper work briefly and issued us his boarding pass with out any further questions. The business woman in me grinned with pride, as I muttered to myself, “thats what I thought!” As soon as we had checked our bags there was Kathryn waiting for us boarding pass and carry on in hand, ready for the second half of our holiday adventures.
We board the plan and have a very pleasant flight to our final destination Barcelona. We all jumped in a cab and had the driver drop us off a the door of our Airbnb. We arrive to the apartment where we meet the owner. He was very friendly and gave us some good places near by to dine and told us how to get to the metro and we were very close to virtually everything. We selected our rooms and headed out with Cash in search for a nearby neighborhood outside dining spot for some traditional tapas and vino. After dinner we ventured into the little market on the corner to get some odds and ends for breakfast. We all decided we wanted to turn in early because we had an early morning to follow with a tour of the Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi.
The next day we all began to wake up and take turns showering. Meanwhile, Kathryn ran to the little bakery down the way to get some fresh bread and croissants for breakfast. We had a glorious start with fresh orange juice, tea, and warms croissants, eggs, and toast with tomato. After walking Cash around the block it was time for us to head out for the day. Our tour guide Marc met us at our apartment and lead us to the metro straight for the Sagrada Familia. He was very helpful with explaining the area and the metro system. We arrived at the Cathedral about 15 minutes later and I remember being in complete awe. The pictures of this incredible piece of architecture do not do it justice. Marc gave us quite the tour as he was full of interesting facts about Guadi and his design, he would point out pieces in the structure and explain the reason for Guadi’s choices. He was very good what he did and honestly I believe made this experience that much more enjoyable because he was so insightful! We walked all around the exterior and were intrigued by the new sides of this masterpiece. I find this entire concept of the project being ongoing and Guadi’s vision and work to be fasinating. When we went into this breathtaking monument, it was a completely different take. Living in Europe we have been traveling to many different places to see many Cathedrals and Churches, but this by far was the most magnificient I have ever seen. It felt as if we were in the forest and the grand pillars were the trunks of the trees and the stained glass represented the colors of the forest as the sunlight carried through the brush and canapoy of the the trees. We spent about 3 hours touring this unbelievable piece of art. Following our tour it was time for some grub and a drink. We decided to walk to our next point of interest… the city center and look for something that looked good and stop. We stumbled into this artistic little mexican fusion restaurant. It was delightful. The ambiance was artistic, fun, and was pouring out great energy all the way to the street. The walls were decorated with murals painted by a local artist and the owners art collection from all over the world. First thing was first drinks so we of course ordered the homemade Margaritas all around and they were delicious, made fresh and with all the right ingredients. Next, we ordered our meals! The amazing food paired with the company and wonderful ambiance made for the time to fly by. With full bellies we were now ready to see more of this beautiful city. We walked all over the city and everywhere we turned we saw the art of Guadi. We became Guadi experts by the end of the day stating “That’s so Guadi” our favorite catch phase of the trip. We stumbled into a festival going on in the Plaza Catalunya of man made musical instruments. For example chimes made of old bicycle wheels and as the wind moved the wheel the chimes would make different musical cords. Many families were gathered in this area waiting for the giant music box to begin. This was fasinating as well there was a ballerina the size of a 2 story building and around her she had a wheel with pieces of fabric with things written on them. Just outside of her resting place was a place for you to write your hopes wishes and dreams on these pieces of fabric. Then once the music box began she would spin and the hopes and dreams of the community would spin above her. I read a few that some children had written… World Peace. Love Everyone Everywhere! A Puppy! As I read these it made me think of all the beautful things in this world and how much we should cherish every moment.
We made our way to the famous street the Ramblas and wondered into the the most amazing market I have ever seen The St. Joseph Market. All of these beautiful foods, all fresh, local, and just beaming with color the looks of them you knew they were going to taste ever so heavenly. After a day of wondering the beautiful city with windows full of the most beautiful food art…pinchos! We hadn’t made dinner plans yet and were very from the our apartment but knew at some point we would need to head towards the apartment to let Cash out. We decided to wander into this 1920’s looking bar and come up with a game plan. The consensus was we stay out until dark to see the Christmas lights of Barcelona lit up then head back to make soup and get ready for the next days adventures. Lights lights and more lights we ventured from one street to the next viewing different holiday decor and decorated trees. We stumbled upon a plaza where they had life size snow globe floats that different stores had created. They were having a contest on which was the most creative. Then every 15 minutes they blew fake snow in them to really make them come to life. One thing this city had and made you feel was the creativity. After walking around for some time we decided it was time to head back to our apartment. Trey and Kathryn made homemade veggie soup that really hit the spot. We had beautiful weather while in Barcelona, however at night it would cool down quite a bit. After finishing off our jug of wine that we had purchased upon arrival at the small bodega under our apartment we were all ready to hit the hay to be ready for another day.
We all slowly woke up and had another amazing breakfast together with fresh croissants and fresh squeezed OJ. We were off to Gaudi's park for the day and took Cashman along for the ride. We decided a cab would be best to avoid being late for our entrance time into the park. The cab driver liked Cash and thought he was so funny. Within minutes we were at the famous Guadi's Park Guell. We got in line and waited for about 10 minutes to enter. Once we were in we began snapping away and wondering around the park. Cash has a blast sniffing around and soaking up the sun. We made it to the famous look out of Gaudi's park and kept cash on a short leash because there were a lot of people and a lot of dogs around. His favorite thing to do is chase birds' shadows and this was the perfect place to do it in. We went to the center of the plaza and let him run in circles for about 15 minutes until he was completely tuckered out and laid at our feet when he realized he just wasn't going to catch those birds. We then climbed up some stairs and began to hear some music coming form a near distance. We followed our ears and came to a beautiful area with a sort of natural amplitheatre feel to it. at the bottom was a man playing Spanish Guitar. The three amigos and Cash sat on a wall and listened, looked, and felt the beauty of this experience. It was yet another reflecting and moving feeling while here in Europe. I know I write about this often but the fact of the matter is moments like these bring all sorts of good feels out of you and is one thing I like to relive in my writings. I remember having moments like these in Charleston when I would be on the beach, on the marina's dock near our house at sunset, or riding my bike near the marsh.
After our private concert we decided it was time to move on and get something to eat. We were all ready to see the ocean so we jumped in a cab and headed towards the beach. Our driver dropped us off right at the boardwalk and we were all a little hungry. We turned around and there was an Italian restaurant with outside seating that looked to be right up our alley. We had an amazing lunch with a bottle of cava, pasta, and pizza with the view of the ocean waves crashing in on the shore. Our bellies and hearts were full and Cash was chomping at the bit to get on the beach. We turned him lose and he ran and ran and ran. There is nothing Cash loves more than running on the beach. We walked along the beach for about a hour and walked to the W to lookout from there views of the sea. We all began to get tired and decided a siesta is just what we needed before we headed out for dinner. We hailed a taxi to take us back to our place and we all, Cash included enjoyed a nice long nap.
It was around 9:00 and we had made dinner reservations for 10:00 at an Indian Restaurant that was highly recommended, according to trip advisor. We all got dressed up, had a dress drink, and headed toward the metro for the dinner reservations. The city of Barcelona was very sleepy and we wondered if it was always like that. We asked a local and they said it was because of the Holidays that the city was very quite and it was in rare form to see it this way unless you come this time of year. It made it nice because we were able to see everything and avoided crowds. When we arrived to the restaurant the aroma of sweet curry filled the air. We ordered our usual vegitarian favorites from the menu and again had amazing engaging conversations. We all talked about ourselves, our venerabilities, and ways we had found ourselves over the years and that night I learned a lot about my dear friend Kathryn. It made me value her and our friendship even more. The night had grown late and we left around 1:00 am. We were all feeling a night cap would do us some good, but most places near were closed, so we decided to take a cab back to our place and call it a night. The cab driver had the best music. I remember us asking him what station it was and he had his iPod plugged into radio. Trey mentioned that all we needed was a drink and this would be better than sitting in a bar! We jammed out and finally reached the apartment.
We said our goodnights and were off to bed.
The next morning we again made ourselves a delicious breakfast and packed up our things to return to Madrid later on that afternoon. Kathryn suggested we take a walk to a nearby park before we had to check out. When we arrived to the park we noticed it was a dog park. It was a really neat experience to see a dog park in Spain. I mean we always see dogs in the Park in Madrid but this was solely for dogs. All of the dogs were very well behaved and had big personalities. This was fun for all of us to people and dog watch but especially Cashman. It was good we wore him out so he would sleep the entire flight home. We went back to the apartment, collected our things, and headed to the airport to return to Madrid. What an incredible adventure we had enjoyed in just a few short 8 days. It was such a good time and always amazes me how quickly it goes by. Looking back on our Holiday Journey it was everything and more I could ever imagine as our first Christmas Holiday season abroad and so much more.
It all started in Aug. of 2016. We had gotten back to Madrid from our 21 day vacation and were already planning our next adventure... Christmas! We knew we had a week off of work and wanted to make this Christmas extra special especially since it was the first holiday season away from our families. When we were sharing our possible plans with Trey's dad, Trotte, he expressed interest in coming over to this side of the pond to join the festivities. With out a second thought we had booked his flight and began planning a compact 14 days of pure adventure. Its funny, many people don't really care to plan and organize an research for trips, but I for one really enjoy it because it feels like I have already started the adventure.
It was finally time to enjoy the fruits of our labor and Trotte landed in Madrid on Dec. 22. Trey picked him up from the airport and we had just finished a homemade brunch and pitcher of "Bloody Mary's". We were able to show him The Temple De Debod at night and Cash's favorite spot Parque De Oeste. We came back to the apartment for a glass of wine. Angel a fellow South Carolinian joined us for dinner and we enjoyed a 5 course meal at Nonina's a local restaurant near our Park and casa. It was a perfect evening full of laughter, and amazing food! Trotte knew that we wouldn't steer him wrong in this category, so he trusted that all the meals during his trip would be as good as the first and oh how he was right. We all stayed up until nearly 3am talking catching up and enjoying quality family time.
Waking up the next morning was a little difficult for all of us, but we eventually managed to get up and around and head to one of "The Three Amigos" favorite brunch spots Federal. This place is very trendy with a European coffee house feel and the food will blow your mind. With full and very happy bellies it was time for Trey and his dad to catch up. They went to the the Teleferico so Trey could show his dad our beautiful city. Meanwhile Kathryn and I went back to the apartment to settle last minute travel plans and have some down time before our big night. This night was our Christmas present to Trotte. Trey and I purchases tickets to Devour Spain's Wine and Tapas tour. This was an absolute blast our tour guide Caroline was super fun, informative, and full of energy. We were joined with another family from Indonesia. They were on Holiday and searching for some colder weather. It was fun to exchange stories about our different countries, cultures, and travel. One thing I enjoy most about this experience and traveling is all the people we come in counter with learning about one another. We went to many different stops tasting our way through traditional Spanish dishes! After the tour we were discussing our favorite dishes. Trotte said the meatballs without any hesitation. Trey and I agreed that the incredible meat balls at Bodegas Riola were some of the best tasting tapas we have yet to come across. Caroline, our guide, explained that the owner of the restaurant does not make these for the pubic anymore. It was a secret family recipe and they take hours to prepare. They became so popular she had to remove them from the menu. Caroline said on occasion will still make them for the tours. Stay tuned for our review blog on our experiences with Devour Spain!
After our tour we ventured around Sol and Plaza Mayor showing Trotte our beautiful city all decorated for the Christmas holiday season. We decided to call it an early evening since we heading to Segovia in the morning to begin the next leg of our holiday adventures. It is Christmas Eve and 10 am came around very fast, but the Stones were up and ready for departure when Kathryn arrived to pick us up. I have officially documented this moment because it is a very rare occasion when the Stone men are "ready" before the actual time of departure. We made our way towards Segovia where our EuroStar hotel Covento Capuchinos which was a Convent and Church converted into a five star hotel and gourmet restaurant. We drove past the incredible monumental Roman Aqueducts of Segovia just as the day was starting for many of the locals. We were amazed how this ancient piece of architecture was still standing with out anything but stones of granite keeping it up and together. We drove up the narrow winding roads to the front entrance of our hotel. It was everything I had imagined and more. One of our rooms was ready and so we went up put our luggage in the room and headed out into the cold to explore the city of Segovia. We were all a bit hungry, so we strolled into this little restaurant in the corner of the plaza. Everyone was getting ready for there big Christmas Eve Lunch. The plaza was still waking up and people were setting up speakers in the plaza for a music show later in the day. We ordered some traditional tortilla, tomato and toast, and some coffee and tea. We could begin to smell the feast being prepared by the restaurant. Just as we were paying we noticed one of the waiters bringing out one of the biggest tortillas we had ever seen. He placed it in the front window, they were building the beginning of their Holiday display. The plaza had finally begun to wake, music was playing and the stores began to open. We walked all through this quant and historic little town. Kathryn and I ewing and aweing over the cute little stores and the historical Spanish architecture. Meanwhile Frick and Frack were taking pictures of anything and everything. Trotte had just got a new camera and Trey loves to click away, as you know from my previous postings. Therefore, the two peas in a pod were several steps behind clicking away. When ever there was a dull moment Trotte would say... "Well, lets take a picture!" It became one of the most common catch phrases of the trip! We stumbled into many little stores selling all kinds of things. We went into antique stores, clothing stores, knick knack stores, and even stumbled upon food museum. Can you imagine that struck our interest? It was free to enter and it educated us on the land, produce, livestock, and ancient culinary traditions of Segovia.
We walked to the Alcazar de Segovia. We had timed it perfectly to tour Alcazar and head back toward the plaza for our big Christmas Eve Dinner. Alcazar was impressive, large rooms decorated in art and hand made tiles, and cloth. What captured most of our attention was the size and the deep motes around the castle. We had worked up our appetite snapping many pictures and were ready for some of Segovia's world famous suckling pig. I had done some research on some of the best restaurants that severed this dish and my research landed us at Mason de Jose Maria's. When we arrived it was absolutely packed. Wall to wall standing people in the bar and every table occupied by reservations. They walked us through the restaurant and it was run like a well oiled machine. It reminded me of when we went to Burns Steak House in Tampa Bay FL. Both establishments were pristine, well organized, massive in size but still had a very intimate feel for there dining guests, and class. We sat down and were greeted by the owner himself welcoming us to his restaurant. As I looked around the room I noticed families of all ages dining there. This was a prefect place to spend our Christmas Eve, a place of tradition, family and delicious food. The waiter was extraordinary! He knew we were there for the suckling pig and some good wine. He suggested we order a salad and the house soup. Because it was a bit cooler in Segovia than in Madrid some soup to warm us up was exactly what we needed. The broth of this soup was the broth of the marinated meat. The meat had been cooking in this broth for days. It warmed us up from the inside out and we had very happy bellies ready for when the pig arrived. The waiter brought the entire pig to the table. He poured hot broth on top of the pig and then cut the pig with a plate, breaking the pig up into four large pieces for each of us. We all fell into a blissful state of no talking other than the every so often "Oh my goodness" and "MMMMMM". About half way though the waiter brought us out a salad. Even the bottomless pit aka Trey mentioned this was going to be a meal difficult for him to finish. We were all in a glorious food coma. We shared an excellent Sobremesas, translated literally means over the table talk. The Spanish value the conversation piece of the dining expereince after the meal very much, which is why you will never get forced to leave once you are finished with your meal (you know the common turn and burn mentality in the states). The waiter will never bring your check unless you ask for it in Spain, which is a trait I admire very much here. We finished our glasses of wine and the one dessert we ordered to split between the four of us. Yes, I know we said we were full right... well we all managed to save a little room for a taste of sweet. He brought out the homemade tradition Carmel flan. The owner again came around to our table to ensure we had a pleasant dining experience. We thanked him for having us into his unforgettable restaurant. Heavenly, the entire experience it was a Christmas Eve Dinner we will never forget!
We decided to head back towards the live music and grab a drink while the sun went down. We wanted to see the beautiful city of Segovia lit up with lights before we retired back to the hotel for the evening. We found a little place just on the corner of the plaza where we were able to catch an after dinner aperitif and a view of the plaza filling with people. The sun finally set and the the plaza was full of the Christmas Spirit. It was a the perfect was to end our Christmas Eve exploration of Segovia, Spain. We ventured back to hotel where we some how found room for a light snack of jamon, queso, vino, and this pub mix we liked to call "Christmas Crack" we couldn't keep our hands out of this ever so delicious combo of peanut, chip mix. Kathryn and I finally retired to our rooms, and left the Stone men to finish the bottle of wine.
Christmas morning was upon us! We had reservations to take a tour over Segovia in a Hot Air Balloon. One of items Trey and I had on our bucket list and we thought what a better way to cross it off than on Christmas Day while we were living abroad. When we originally told Trotte of our plans he without any hesitation said yes sign me up! Once we had done it he said oh wait you were serious...He was excited to try something he had never done before but I think a little hesitation because of a small fear of heights. Once we arrived to the landing site he asked me if we would have parachutes. This made for much comic relief for the day. Manuel the pilot explained that we needed to wait for the fog to diminish before we began our journey. Trotte chimed in "Yea thats a good idea maybe another day!" Manuel also told us we would be flying with 5 others that afternoon! We again met some very interesting people from all over the world. Trotte and I were the first out the car and we began taking pictures. I will never forget that moment of complete silence, standing in the middle of a field in Segovia Spain, as the sun coming up over the mountain, while the hot air balloon began to fill with my father in law standing right next to me. We didn't have to say anything to each other, but I know he felt it too we were both so happy to be alive and experiencing this together!
Slowly but surly as the balloon started to fill more of our party began to get out of there warm cars to join the excitement. We all took turns taking pictures in the partly blow up balloon and we all began to enter the basket. This was quite a show and I am sure comic relief for the flight crew. All of us managed to in some form or fashion, flop into the basket, some with help from others, some without, some gracefully, and some not so much... either way we were all in! Manuel welcomed us and gave each of us Santa hats as he went over some safety tips and procedures. Finally it was time and...up up and away we went!
It was much more peaceful that I had imagined. I had imagined it to feel like how it does when you are on your way up and you finally reach the top of a roller coaster. It wasn't like that at all. It was very gentle and didn't even feel like we were moving. Before we knew it we were several thousand feet in the air overlooking the magnificent city of Segovia. We all began to get comfortable talking about where we from and why we were in Segovia. There was a mom and son from New York, which totally blew my mind I thought this young man was in his early 20's dating a cougar honestly! Much to my dismay he was 16 and studying abroad in France as a highschooler. I was very impressed with this young mans goals, ambitions, and maturity it was well...inspiring! Her story was also moving, a single mother putting her self through medical school, determined, driven and sassy! There was a couple on board where she was from Spain and he was from Belgium. They had been visiting her family for the Holiday's and he had got her the balloon tickets as a surprise for her birthday. They were a sweet couple and spoke English to each other since neither one spoke the others native language. I thought this was very romantic they had plans to begin learning each others native language as well. There was also a woman from Malaysia. She was traveling solo and enjoyed traveling all over the world! Trey of course announced us with his southern accent, "We are the Stone's and we are from Charleston, SC. " Kathryn is from the UK and has spent the last two years exploring many parts of the world. One thing we all had in common was a passion for travel and adventure. We took a lot of pictures and shared many laughs as we all took in the beautiful sites while floating in a hot air balloon. Manuel suggested that we land in the field about 100 meters from where we were to avoid the gust of wind sending us into an unpleasant landing off the side of a plataue. We all agreed ending our trip 10 minutes early would be just fine! We gracefully landed and waited for the vans to pick us up to take us to a Christmas Brunch and mimosa, this was included in our flight package which was a great extra bonus! Before we could enjoy our feast the balloon had to be packed up. We all pitched in to make it go faster so we could get to brunch. We all took turns scrunching the balloon together and jumping on the balloon to release the air. It was actually a lot of fun. It was another funny site to see grown adults throwing themselves on a large balloon sinking to the ground and trying to get up with grace. Finally it was all done and and time for us to eat, when the mother asked her son where his phone was. He looked at her and said in my pocket. As he went to grab for it he realized it was not in his pocket. We all began to look around on the ground for his phone. When he said it has to be in the balloon. The flight crew suggested we leave it for now and they would search for it there next flight and mail it to him. We jumped in the vans and headed to a very nice little restaurant with a chimney in the middle. The young man that lost his phone didn't show he was upset about losing his new iPhone 7 he just got for Christmas and continued on having a good time. The gentleman from Belgium commented on how well he was handling it and how mature he was. When we got back to the take off site the flight crew dropped us all off at our cars. We noticed they began to unwind the balloon again. Everyone in the group went back to the balloon in search for the phone. After all it was Christmas! Starting at the beginning no luck ,then towards the end of the balloon the phone was found and all was good in the world again! We all worked together as a team to put the balloon away once again. It was truly an experience that we all will never forget full of laughs, great people, incredible views, and Christmas Spirit!
We had arrived back to our hotel and had some time before our Christmas Dinner reservations. We all took some time to get ready and take a little siesta and exchange Christmas Gifts. We then met in the lobby just before dinner and took pictures of all of us dressed in our best! The restaurant was serving a special set menu for Christmas and the Chef had prepared quite a meal indeed. It was a fourteen course meal and every single dish was absolutely exceptional. This meal was by far one of the most exquisite meals, prepared with an artistic flare that I had had never experienced before. The flavors were mouth watering and every bite of every dish was unique. Each course also had a wine pared to enhance the course. Our conversation that Christmas dinner was about travel, exploring, future trips, life, love, and embracing the very moment we were in right then and there. It was a magical dinner and I could go on and on about each course but instead...I wish for you all to take the time to experience a fine culinary experience such as this at Vellina. If you are ever in Segovia and looking for a special dinner Vellina will not dissapoint. Again, we were the last reservations of the evening and the last ones remaining in the restaurant. We closed our tab with Trotte and Trey purchasing a Cuban Cigar from the the Restaurant owners collection.
Now, it was Spa time! We had a nice Sobremesa to let our food digest so we went to our rooms to change and hit the Spa. We were shown where everything was and the changing rooms. We all dove right in. First the plunge/swimming pool, that had many many different jet cycles and shower heads. Then to the steam room, sauna, and repeat. We did this for about an hour and a half when we put on our robes and laid in the tranquil calming room where we could enjoy tea and calm music. We had quite the weekend and I think this was just what we all needed to relax. I showered, skype my wonderful family, and went to bed. Meanwhile the Stone men headed out on the terrance of the hotel to enjoy there Cubans, a nice bottle of vino, the view of Segovia, and each others company for one last evening before Trotte had to leave us!
We left the hotel around 6:30am to get back to Madrid to take Trotte to the airport for his 9am flight back to Charleston. We hated seeing him go but knew our adventures together in Spain were not over. Fortunately, we are planning another trip in Aug. to continue the Stone's exploration of Northern Spain! Stay tuned! As we talk about our action packed 4 days with "Pops" we honestly couldn't have dreamt up something any better. We throughly enjoyed every minute of this magical, family Christmas Adventure!
Yet another splended Saturday where the Three Amigos headed out on another adventure near Madrid. We were planning for rather cold weather bringing coats, gloves, and hats, when much to our surprise, it turned out to be an absolutely gorgous day. It was in the 60's and the sun was shinning. We traveled only maybe 45 minutes and whala we were in yet another amazing town right outside of our busy city of Madrid. Mazanres was a quaint and chic little town near a resovouir and at the foot of the Pedriza apart of the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains.
We got out of the car near the New Castle de Mazanares El Real and searched for a place to eat. As we walked the streets of this town we noticed the homes around this area to be very large and not at all like the homes in Madrid. This town had a sense of history, style, and class. In the process of finding our place to dine we came across the main entrance for the Castle. We went into the ticket office to ensure they were open and the times. The gentleman at the desk began speaking in English straight away and told us it would be good to go to lunch first then tour.
We found our place to dine after a nice stroll through the main plaza. We each ordered off of the menu of the day. In Spain each restuarant has a menu of the day and are mainly served at lunch. The menu of the day has a starter, your entree, and a dessert for a set price. The price includes a glass of wine or beer or soft drink, and bread. We have never been steered wrong yet with a menu of the day and Trey thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread. I would have to agree because it really is a great value for fresh ingrediants and well cooked meals. However, I am sucker for some tapas, I could eat small plates, all day long but Trey does have quite the appatite! We all ordered a different first course. They were all similar in the sense they were all a soup. However, I had lobster in mine, Trey had pork and garbanza beans, and Kathryn had ... well mystery meat. I believe it was a varity of pork and beef with a ton of flavor. For dinner we all had the lamb shoulder and it was absolutely incredible. For dessert Kathryn and I had the apple tarte and Trey had the flan.
Here we all were again full the the brim and ready to walk it off. We walked towards the New Castle and as we approached the grounds there was beautiful music playing in the landscape. It really helped to set the mood. It sounded to be a Celtic folk music. As we approached the Castle we had some of the best lighting for Trey to take pictures. We had to lure him into the castle with the ideas he could take pictures form the roof top. The Castle was beatiful and all of the rooms were open. Kathryn and I laughed and imagined what it would be like to throw a party in the courtyard of the castle. We said we would all wear midevil style clothing and the men would all be in tights. We wondered and wove our way up to the Castle roof top where we had the most incredible views. We all stayed up there for maybe 40 minutes taking pictures as we watched the sun set. We were beathing it all in! Sighing with utter statisfaction. I turned to Kathryn and Trey and said this is real life. Real it is indeed!
It was time for us to head back to Madrid once again and now the sun was completly set. Trey was always 5 steps behind us taking 100 pictures of everything we had come in counter with. Trey was in his element. Finally, after reminding Trey he would have to edit all of these photos he decided to put his camera to rest, or so we thought. As we got to the parking lot Trey said, "Oh that shot would be perfect!" Kathryn and I got in the car as Trey ran up to the foot of the hill to snap one last shot of the Castle. The entire ride home Trey began to edit his no joke 350 pictures for a 5 hour afternoon away. I have uploaded 100 of his greatest! It was a beautful day and another sucessful adventure with the Three Amigos!
When you are overseas for the Holidays it could leave you feeling a little blue, knowing that you are not going to be apart of the traditions that you have been apart of for so many years. Not to mention the feelings you encounter becuase you are away from your family. One thing that Trey and I discovered while being away is how thankful and fortunate we are to have such supportive, loving, and genuine families to return home to once our adventures are over.
Our Expat family has really helped us through this Holiday season with a good ol' fashioned Thanksgiving celebration. Tradition is what you make it, and when you are surround by people you care for, and come together with those that make you happy you are bound for success! Trey and I feel so blessed to have met such wonderful people and had the opportunity to share this day with new friends!
It all began one sunny afternoon in July when we were discussing with our friend the ever so popular topic of food. We were discussing all of our favorites when someone mention sweet potato cassarole. Our Aussie friend Kiara, look at us very curiously and said, "What is sweet potato cassorole?" Much to the Americans dismay, we all began talking over eachother eagerly trying to explain this delectable dish of sweet potatoes mashed with sweet crispy marshmellow toping. Kiara with big eyes and a grin exlaimed, "You had me at sweet potatoes and marshmellows!" We also explained it was something that was typically served on Thanksgiving. "Awe Thanksgiving my favorite Holiday of the season!" Becky said, with a longing in her voice. Kathryn, a friend of ours from the UK, replied, "Well Kiara and I had never been to a Thanksgiving before, so why dont we have a proper Thanksgiving here in Spain this year." Kathryn, a fellow foodie enthusist, although you wouldn't be able to tell from the looks of her, likes food just as much as Trey and I and is always ready to try new foods. All of the Americans loved this idea and began talking about what favorite recipes and family traditions they wanted to share, leaving the non Americans smiling and nodding in approval of what they were going to sample on this amazing American Holiday! Thus began the Expat Framily Thanksgiving!
Since the conversation started in July we had plenty of time to prepare. We weren't quite sure how or where we were going to host this grand event, but we knew it would work out. After Kathryn and Becky moved into there spacious flat in September it was settle it would be at their place. Becky made a group chat inviting all of us to the event at the end of October. Which I can totally respect her waiting not to prematurely prepare for this event. I mean it would be like putting your Christmas Tree up before Thanksgiving (oops we might have done that this year, but that is another blog with a great explaination).
Trey and I finally decided and commited to bringing the Turkey, Granddaddy's famous Mac and Cheese, Gibblet Gravy, Vegitarian Gravy, and Chelsea's pumpkin spiced bread. Little did we know the adventure we would encounter in finding the perfect bird for our Spanish Thanksgiving Feast.
When we agreed to preparing the turkey Trey and I thought it would be super easy right...wrong! Neither one of us had ever done a turkey before let alone a turkey from Spain. So I set out a week before to ensure we could have a fresh bird. I went to the local butcher and in my best Spanish possible asked for a turkey large enough to feed 4 people (mind you we had two vegitarians at our feast so we did not need a giant turkey). They told me it would be no problem, and to come pick it up the Wednesday before our feast. We also had to have our feast on a Sat. becuase of course it was not a Holiday for the Spanish so many of us still had to work. I recieved a call later that evening confirming I wanted a Pavito for pick up on Wed. and the butcher told me the price per kilo. "Well that was easy," I said out loud and so I thought.
I knew I had to work that Wed. afternoon, so I asked Trey if he could pick up the turkey. Of course he was happy to help, but for some reason when he walked in to tell the butcher he was there to pick up the turkey under my name, the butcher took one look at Trey and said, "I think you need a bigger turkey come back on Friday and I will have your turkey. " I don't know if he thought Trey needed to put on some extra weight or he took one look at Trey and thought those Americans mean business I will show them what a REAL turkey is, becuase we ended up with 7.7 kilo tukey aka 18 lb turkey! Trey said okay, and called me right away to tell me about his "upgrade". I laughed and said "Well we will have plenty of left overs then!"
When I went to pick up the turkey Firday afternoon the butcher handed me, with two arms, Thomas our Turkey, and said, "Tu bebe!" He wasn't kidding either Thomas was a chunker! I took him home and began to wonder how I was going to fit him the the refridgerator. I put him in the pan I had bought for the occasion and realized the pan was too small. I took out two shelves in our refridgerator and put Thomas in a his resting place for the evening. Trey and I both went back to Corte Ingles to exchange the pan for larger one. When we returned to our humble abode Trey said, "Wow if we had a hard time with fitting Thomas in the fridge will he fit in the oven?"
It was the moment of truth....we put Thomas in the pan and placed the pan in the oven! It fit and Trey and I rested easy that night! Yahoo, the hard part was over now, and all we just had to do was wake up, take out the bag of organs, spice him up, and cook him right? Well thats what we thought... and boy were we wrong.
So there Trey and I were, in our PJs, staring at Thomas. You see in the states the neck and organs are already removed for you and placed insidea plastic bag that is then placed inside turkey for a clean, easy way to begin the preparation of your turkey. While here in Spain all of the insides, neck, and occaisional difficult feathers are still attached.
After youtubing how to remove a turkey neck both of us elbows deep in a turkey and taking turns whestling out the neck, desifering betweens where all of the organs were, and using kitchen scissors to remove the remaining feathers he was ready to prep. We used a combination of spices and recipes and had several whatsapp messages back and forth with my mom to ensure we would have the perfect turkey! As the incredible aroma began take over our little apartment, we knew we had done something right! Above is a picutre of our final product! MEET Thomas the Turkey!
We had just finished Thomas in time to get the shin dig, and we began to pack up our contributions. We called a cab because we figured with an 18 lb turkey and a 15 lb dog, it would be easier than taking the metro. Yes, Cash even joined us for the Expat Framily Thanksgiving. After all he is an expat too! In fact the hostest even suggested we bring him, so we couldn't leave the Cashman out of all the fun! When we arrived everyone was unpacking there sides and the hostest and Michelle had put together some delicious appitizers. The Holiday cocktails were a perfect touch and just what everyone needed after cooking all day. We all finished up our cooking and heating up one by one. I never realized how much I took space for granted until I moved to Spain. Becky and Kathryn even had a much larger kitchen than a traditional Spainsh kitchen , but even with a smaller space we all managed to make a beautful spread.
One thing I cannot forget to mention is the amazing prepartion and recipes of all the side dishes. Thanksgiving just isn't Thanksgiving with out all the sides and sides we had!!! We had green bean cassarole, mac and cheese, stuffing, sweet potato cassarole, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh cranberries and bread. It was a taste of America in Spain that night and we enjoyed every bite of it! Oh and I was saving the best part for last... the desserts! Many of us could not stomach because they had gone back for seconds (cough cough TREY) but we had apple crumb, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin spiced bread to choose from.
As we all sat down at the beatifully set table, set by our hostest with the mostest Becky, to begin our feast we all went around the table and said what we were thankful for. It was humbling, and moving to hear what our new found Expat family had to say. One common theme was this experience and opportunity to live abroad.
After that ever so moving grateful circle the table went quite other than OHHHHs and Awwees and your occasional outbursts of "omgoodness this is so good" from literally everyone at the table.
We all ate so much food that I think we all were in a food como for the remaining of the evening. Cash was the only one who wanted to be photographed in this state of utterfullness. As you can see he is just miserable! We finished off the evening discussing politics very delicately, I think this made many of us American feel right at home. Followed by a very lively game of pictionary and drinking wine until nearly 1am. It may not have been our traditional Thanksgiving, but it sure was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I have ever had. As I laid my head on the pillow that night to go to sleep, I told Trey how turly grateful I was that we decided to live abroad and experience this life together.
It was a Wednesday and a Spanish Holiday! The Spanish have alot of Holidays and I can assure you we are very thankful them. The Tree Amigo didn't have to work, so we thought what a better way to spend a day off than to travel and explore a near by city. We headed out, onto the open road once more around 1pm, and within 45 minutes we had reached our destination, El Escorial! What a charming little town we all commented as we drove in to the historical and clean kept center. We found parking on the side of the road with no problem, and it almost felt as if we were the only people in the enture town. Coming from a city as large as Madrid, its a nice break to get out of the main stream and hub of it all every now and again.
Well first thing is first, find food! One thing the Three Amigos knows best is how to eat. Very uncharacteristicly of us, we were rather indecisive that afternoon on where to eat. It must have been the hangry in all of us. We went to several different resturants looking over the menu and none of them seemed right. Finally, we made it to the square with beautiful views. We all agreed at first that a nice lunch outside in the plaza would be nice. Until we sat at a table for maybe 10 minutes, when the wind picked up and we all began to put our scarfs up around our faces. We then reconsidered our decision to dine outside, and made a run for an inside table.
It was packed inside this restuarant and to think we were at first wondering where everyone in this town was. Well we found them, in that restuarant! Surprisingly enough and much to our disbelief, we were sat right away. This is great becuase at this point we were all nearly straving. The smells of the mouthwatering food wisked by our table. Without a second look at the menu we called the waiter over to our table, pointed to what had just been brought out to the table beside us and asked for three please. The waiter smiled and must have seen the look of hunger in our eyes becuase our food was brought out straight away. It was delcious and we were not dissappointed. The pork belly was cooked to perfection and the butter beans and sauce complimented this dish so nicely. Needless, to say we had full bellies and were feeling warm again on this very cold afternoon.
It was time to walk off the amazing meal we had just enjoyed. We decided to go take a look at the El Escorial Monastery. I had seen a few pictures of the Monastery but had no idea it would this extravagant. We went into the incredible Cathadral. I had been in many Cathadrals before, but there was something about this one that moved me. Perhaphs, it was all the many people from all over the world visiting this beautiful historical building, or maybe it was the fact that I had the chance to thank god for this experience.
There was a place where you could light a candle. There was a sign in many different languages welcoming all people, from all backgrounds, and religious believes to light a candle. The simplicity of it was beautiful and the best part about it was all the candles were almost all lit. We then continued through the living courters and some other rooms with extraviagant religious paintings, all along the way telling biblical stories through art. The colors were bold, and bright. It was difficult not to smile amungst such amazing pieces of pure beauty.
I think Trey and I's favorite part of this tour was the hall of battles. It had Spain's history of battles hand painted in a giant room all along the walls. It was truly unbelievable all of the detailing in this room. Not to mention the time it took these artist to create this. As we left the hall of battles Kathryn said to us, " I mean I heard this place was beautful and a great place to tour but this is well beyond my expectations." Trey and I couldn't agree more!
We had completed the tour and now it was time for something sweet. Kathryn had suggested we go for some chocolate and churros. What a fantstic idea but where? I googled places that served chocolate and churros and it lead us to a cafe off of a hotel. They did not have chocolate and churros, and took forever to even speak to anyone, so we decided to head back to Madrid. Just as we had given up a hope, as we were heading back to the car we discovered a little cafe serving chocolate and churros. It was a sign!!! We stopped in to warm up and ohhh did we ever warm up! Words cannot describe how good chocolate and churros taste nor do pictures even do this delectable dessert justice. I guess you will just have to come to Spain and try them for yourself. We walked backed to our car and headed home to get ready for our next work the following day. Yet another successful day for the Three Amigos!
Spanish love their Wine. We expats are glad to have something in common with them. We have met some amazing friends along the way so far here in Madrid and some of our friends wanted to get together and do something special. In the neighborhood of Pacifico is Bodega J Cuesta owned and operated by Sergio. Michele and her husband Sisco have been patrons of the local establishment and found that not only does he have great wines but he provides wine tastings as well. Assemble all thirsty expats!
We look forward to events like this and had it marked on our calendar for weeks. The big day came and we were ready. The rain could not stop us! Good fellowship and wine equals a great night! As we entered to bodega you can tell the place has character. The walls are lined with wine, there are wines behind the counter, wine in the isles. There is also some history in the place. Articles and clippings of boxers, Futbol stars, and Matadors of old around in frames and taped on the shelves. The bodega is Spanish, traditional, and steeped with tradition.
After everyone gathered Sergio took us downstairs to the basement where he had a big table and, you guessed it, more wine! This wine was old and had lots of dust on it. We asked how much and he said they were not for sale. That was his collection that he would not part with.
Sergio has been tasting wine since he was a child. He had a gift for tasting the flavors of wine for a long time. After a stint selling luxury yachts he was able to afford to purchase the bodega from his friend and boss and come to own the local gem. He has a lot of passion for his work and loves talking about wine. We enjoyed his eloquent discussions of the wines and appreciated Michele's translations.
The most interesting thing I learned was something that had puzzled me since arriving in Spain. The wine quality is as good if not better than in the United States but yet the cost was a fraction. You can get an excellent bottle of wine in Spain for 6 Euro and a decent bottle for 2 Euro. So why to you have to pay so much back home? I thought it was because the Spanish government gave subsidies but the wine is so cheap because there are no taxes. No it is not subsidies but taxes in the United States that make the wine so expensive. So wine is not as expensive to produce as I once thought. The cheap and wonderful wine is a perk of living in Spain. They have some of the highest life expectancy in the world and the cheapest wine prices. Hmm??
We brought our cheese board and Michele and Sisco brought more cheese, Ann brought anchovies pizza and tortilla, and we had olives. According to Sergio it was quite a spread. But we didn't come there for the food. No, we came to taste some wine and that is exactly what we did!
Sergio, our Somalia, had five bottles planned for us on our tasting. (See picture for local Spanish wines). He explained in great detail the history, character, tastes, and composition of each wine in Spanish. As we tasted and participated our cheeks got rosier and our opinions longer winded. By the end of the last wine he said he could get us another bottle out if we wanted. The place went silent and then Trey said "Abrir", To Open in Spanish, and Sergio went up for one more bottle of wine.
We said our goodbyes, Purchased our wines we liked, and let Sergio close up and go back to his family. Sergio runs a local bodega with a neighborhood feel. When asked what is the best thing about Sergio's job he enjoys he says, "it is pairing a wine for a customer and them coming back and telling him how good it was."
Thanks Sergio for connecting people with great wine!
My boss gave me an extra day off in addition to a Holiday week, what ever shall we do? It didnt take us anytime to decide we were going to take the 4 day weekend and get out of town but where? Well, we had a few places on the bucket list and Portugal just made the most sense. Away we went into our travel plans using our favorite go to air bnb and rented a car for 4 days. We called Cash's sitter and she was able to take care of him while we were gone.
We planned all of this in just three days and left on Friday evening to begin our adventures. This was Treys first time driving in Spain so he was looking forward to taking on the open road. We arrived at the rental car spot to pick up our car and walked right up to the counter. We have learned that you should always arrive earlier than planned because in Europe there is always a line at the rental car place. We gave or reservation number and the clerk asked us for a method of payment. I pulled out my travel card and she apologized and said it was declined. There was no way we had plenty of money in it but the card was declined anyways. After deliberation, hesitation, and running around the airport for a phone to try to figure out why our card was declining we went back with a new plan, use another card! After we waited another 45 minutes we were back at the counter and gave our Spanish Bank account card and it worked! Off we were with our keys in hand 2.5 hours later than we were supposed to leave.
The drive was nice, open road and darkness all around. We were free and having a good time. Trey bought a phone charger so that we could continue to charge our phones while in the car. We plugged it in and nothing. The charger didn't work! We were 1/4 through our trip and about to lose phone power. This combined with the fact we were late already was troubling. The trip was not off to a good start. We were still stressed from our time in the city, late, and soon wouldn't know where we were going. I wrote the directions to our house on a note card and turned off both phones to try to conserve battery.
We continued along, making good time but not good enough to make up for being late. Took one pit stop the entire trip and back on the road. We got into Portugal and turned on the phones and realize we don't have cell signal outside of Spain. It is 4:30 in the morning, we have no map, no cell phone, and everything is closed. We start using the notecards and the first exit Trey misses. We now are lost in Portugal. Trey sees an exit for a hospital and says they must be open so we start going there. I don't want to go to the hospital for directions but we are already in route. We get off the exit and finally get into a small part of town. There are cops everywhere with blue lights flashing and they direct us another way. Trey stops near them and tries to get his bearings. We don't speak Portuguese and are concerned about what is going on in the neighborhood. We decide to get back on the interstate and keep going. When Trey goes to get back on the road the cop stops him. Where are you going the cop asks in Portugese. Trey doesn't know and looks really confused. The cop then asks us if we speak Portugese. We tell him in Spanish we speak English and he goes and gets his colleague who does speak English. We talk back and forth about directions. Sintra we tell him and give him the address. Oh, you are a long ways away he says and keeps pointing back towards Lisbon. Finally Trey understands they are trying to get us back to Lisbon and again says the house is in Sintra. Ah! Says the police officer and he realizes he is giving us wrong directions. With happiness he says you are quite close. Go down the interstate for 10 kilometers, get off on this exit, do this and you are there. Whew! Away we go, now even later than before.
We are taking the directions from the cop and they are great. We keep going, of course miss the final street twice but finally get it. We start to pull into our neighborhood. The road continues to narrow and the houses look more like huts than homes. We are quite confused as to where we are. About that time lights come on to a car and someone gets out. Not sure what is going on we keep going. We then realize we have to turn around, do so, and the person in the car flags us down. The woman says, Chelsea! We made it! Our host was so accommodating. She waited on us three extra hours than she needed at 5:00 in the morning! She led us to our room, showed us what we needed to know about the house, gave us directions to the things to do around town and left, telling Trey to relax since he was quite pumped up from the day on her way out. Off to bed we go, sleep never felt so good!
We had made a tentative game plan before going to sleep and woke up refreshed around 11AM. Time seemed to slow so much. When we first woke up we felt like we had been sleeping all day. Our host had coffee, bread, butter, and juice for us in our place. We made our first breakfast, checked out the cool renovated garage we were staying in, and ate out in the yard underneath the walnut tree. As we got ready and were about to walk out the door to check out the beach we were amazed that only an hour had passed by.
We get to the beach and it is crowded. We keep the confidence up that we will find a parking spot and WOW there is one more spot in front of a five star hotel with over looking the ocean! We get out and smell the salt air. We walk to the ocean and get some great pictures of the rocky shoreline and breathtaking views. Once we are done taking the scenery in we start to look for somewhere to get a bite to eat. The hotel has a great lunch but is too expensive. We keep going and find a nice restaurant overlooking the water that is just the right price. We decide to share a bottle of Cava, a tradition in our travels we enjoy, and both get a fish lunch. The lunch time is almost over since it is around 4PM so we have the place to ourselves. We are overlooking a beach with a break and we talk about life, travel, Portugual, and plans looking at surfers riding waves while we sip on our Cava and enjoy our meal. Once we finish we head to the beach and put our feet in the sand. There is a girls boogie board competition going on so we watch that for a few minutes. The tide is coming in and there are more surfers getting into the water in their wetsuits. We watch the sunset, the birds play in the air, people and dog watch, and watch the surfers at a tranquil and quiet beach. On our way back up there is a kamikaze air plane pilot doing all sorts of crazy stunts in the air that we watch until we get tired of the craziness and get back in the car. What shall we do next? Well, we go up the mountain to the castle where there is a huge wall. We get there and they are about to close. We walk along the walls of the Castillo de Los Moros in the dark and looked out over Portugal's skyline. Beautiful! Having had enough for the day we loaded back in the car and down the mountain to get back to our accomidations. We were in the car and making our way back to the casa when, Road Block, the main road to our house was blocked off. We tried a few alternate routes and kept getting blocked. We were stuck. We decided to stop and get a glass of wine and figure things out. We found an Italian/Indian fusion restaurant that was busy and decided to give it a try. Our glass of wine turned into dinner. We were then full, GPS relocated, and finally back to the casa. A bottle of wine, time looking at pictures, talking about the day, and then bed!
Trey got up first and prepared our toast, butter, coffee and juice breakfast again while I slept for a few more minutes. Today we are going to the main reason we decided on Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, located up the mountain near Sintra's historical town square. We were told to get there early because it gets crowded quickly and our host sure was right. The mansion opened at 10AM and when we got into Sintra around 10:30 it was already bumper to bumper. Not so bad while we were flat but the road began to incline and narrow as we got into more traffic and closer to the destination. The parking lots were full and cars were zooming all over. Us in our manual car shifting up and down making our way up the mountain. We went all the way up to the mansion looking for a spot and nothing. Then we could go no further and had to turn around. It felt like we were on a one way road going up and now we had to face the traffic going back the other way. Trey relaxed and maneuvered through traffic, guard rails, sides of the mountain, and pedestrians until we got back to the fork. This time he took the other way and a car pulled out as we pulled up. Yes! We got a parking spot. Trey parallel parked our VW rental car like he owned that spot, put the parking brake on and took the key out of the ignition. Trey was now inducted into the driving in Portugal club. He learned then what to do and was fine in the narrow, steep inclines and curvy dirt roads the rest of the trip.
We got to the mansion and decided to take a break and get a coffee and pastry at the cafe. There we meet a new friend, a regal looking cat, get our route planned for the day, and take pictures of some amazing views from our table. We then leisurely walked through the expansive winding grounds going through labarynths, aqueducts, secret stairways, lookout towers, perfectly manicured lawns that look like they were out of a fairy tale, a greenhouse, and the mansion itself.
Once finished in the on the magical grounds we walked down to the center and had a nice lunch while listening to a man play his guitar and watch the locals and tourists blend while we took in the life. Looking at our watches it was still early. Time moved slowly for us and gave us the time we needed. We got home, enjoyed a bottle of wine and a home cooked meal on the propane stove, took time looking at pictures, talking about the day, and then bed!
Up again, breakfast ritual again, and today Palacio de la Pena. A Park and Palace located atop a mountain overlooking Sintra and Lisbon. We arrived around 11, pulled right up to a parking spot in front of the ticket office, collected our tickets and off we went. Up the mountain about a half mile was the Palace. It was beautiful and we took so many pictures because the entire place was breathtaking. We really enjoyed our day roaming the Palace and the grounds. We brought our own lunch and ate quinoa salad on a quite bench and relaxed before going back down. In Pena the royalty was very into time and they had sun dials, expensive clocks, and a sense of time. While here I wondered if they had figured something out in Portugal because again when we were done we still had hours before our next event, dinner. Thanks Portugal!
We have learned it is a really good idea to make reservations for dinner. In Europe they give you a great table and you walk right in. On this occasion the restaurant we chose from a limited selection ,since most restaurants close on Monday in Sintra, was giving 50% off. We weren't expecting them to honor it but they did. We sat in an old stone building eating exquisite meat and vegetables. A group of musicians with guitar, acordian, and singers serenaded us and we ate under candlelight. We took it all in and closed the place down, sipping our wine and talking into the night. Knowing tomorrow was our last day and we really didn't want to leave. Knowing once we got back into Spain the rush would begin again and we would be back to wondering how it was midnight again already when we felt like we just got up.
On our last day we cleaned the accommodations up as we do, stripped the bed, washed the dishes, wrote our wonderful host a note, and got back on the road. We had planned a trip to IKEA in Madrid to get our last bit of household items for our apartment in Madrid. Since we had the car we could take advantage and drop the stuff off at home on the way back to drop the car off. We weren't far out of Sintra when we see a sign for IKEA in Portugal. We went for it and made the trip to Portugal IKEA. We got our stuff and then back to Spain. Just as we expected time flew again, we were an hour late dropping our car off, and then it was late when we got home, unpacked, and crashed to bed. Tomorrow we wake up and back to the routine.
Portugal we thank you for the time, the pleasure, the wonderful weather, and the beauty. We hope to see you again someday!
Trey and I got married on October 3, 2014. We have been celebrating our 2 year anniversary a lot. We went on a 21 day adventure in August as our anniversary trip. Still being in Europe and having the opportunity we decided to make another anniversary trip and scheduled a weekend in Valencia to celebrate the actual day. We went through Air B&B and found a basement room in a house near the beach with a our own bathroom for a very reasonable price with Thomas and Chico.
We took the bus for this trip. We went through the maze of metro and train links to get to the bus station and away we went on the night bus to Valencia. I slept most of the trip and Trey practiced his Spanish, talking to himself in his head in Spanish, and listening to the amusing bus driver skillfully switch the radio stations. The bus driver went through Latin Jazz, Spanish contemporary music, Spanish talk shows, American Pop hits, and Like a Virgin with a special accompanist, the bus driver!
When we got there we instantly felt the humidity and could smell the sea air. We found a taxi and were whisked away having a tour of the city on the 20 minute drive to the beach. When there we were greeted by Chico, one of the residents of the house and shown to our room. We had not eaten dinner yet so found our way to the veranda where we ate our Iberico Jamon, Spanish Mountain Cheese, Organic Olive Oil and Pan. We enjoyed a nice bottle of Rioja wine with the dinner and listened to some good music. A great night laughing and talking as we toasted to two years of the start of our great adventure together!
We slept in till around 11 on Saturday then got dressed to get a bite of breakfast. We were expecting it to be chilly so dressed accordingly. In the basement it is hard to judge the weather. We got out and it was a wonderful October day! The sun was out, blue skies, about 75 degrees and no wind. We walked out to the beach which was a block in front of us and found a nice place where they served toast and tomato, my favorite Spanish breakfast, and coffee and Baileys. We sipped and dined and looked out at the beach and sea enjoying each other's company and decided to go put our swimsuits on and get some sunshine. We rented chairs from the local beach services guy. Trey showed the guy Kiawah's bro shake and they laughed about the beach life as Trey fumbled with his Spanglish. We relaxed, Trey got in the water a few times, and life was good for us city folk from Madrid where we grow to miss the beach. Once we worked up an appetite it was a short three block walk to the famous Casa Carmela, where they serve Valencia's best paella. We got seated in the back patio, were served our ritual bottle of Cava, and started on a scrumptious shrimp appetizer while we waited for our seafood paella. We relaxed, enjoying the weather and people watching. It is a tradition in Spain to eat paella and locals were there in groups of as many as ten sharing huge pans of the wonderful rice. Once finished we made our way back to the house feeling happy and laughing. The sun and fun does that to us. We enjoyed the Spanish rite of siesta before getting ready for a big night out.
I bought a new dress for our Saturday in Valencia and Trey wore his suit. We got dressed to impress and took the bus to the city center. We walked and marveled at the beautiful architecture, the clean city, the people, and the water fountains. There was a group of medieval dressed men throwing flags around With others beating drums. As we made our way through the crowd we took a good look at the event then kept moving and they kept throwing those flags. We then made it to our first destination, a cocktail bar that had fancy decor to go with the fancy drinks. We had our fill of Hendricks and Petron then headed to our big event. Jimmy Glass is a famous Jazz Bar in Valencia. When we arrived we were greeted by the bartender, two musicians were warming up, the owner seated front and center having a beer, and us. Nobody else. We were told to arrive at 10:00 and we were on time. We had the bar to ourselves, took our seat at our reserved table and ordered a nice bottle of wine. While the two were warming up we couldn't see them from our table, just their backs. When we spoke to the waiter we asked if we could move. He said we could sit anywhere we wanted. We setup right by the owner. Seemed like a good spot, and we were glad we moved. By 10:30 the place was packed. There was not an empty seat in the house.
We were front row to the best live jazz guitar performance we have ever seen. The two musicians played off each other really well. The older man was called sensei by the younger and he was astonishing. His fingers moved up and down the fret board doing all sorts of configurations of chords while his strumming hand used all five fingers in different patterns to produce so many varying degrees of sounds and patterns. His thumb nail was resined and used as a pick. He was special and has a real gift for music. His student kept right up and they played jazz that really made you feel. He would stop after each song and give a brief introduction in Spanish to the next song. What feeling and passion they were able to display on the guitars. Just after midnight they took their set break and we were out of wine and feeling good so we paid the tap and found the first taxi back to the beach.
Our bus left again at four in the afternoon on Sunday so we went to the aquarium, one of the largest in Europe, and toured around for two hours. The shark tank was as big as the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston. It was so impressive to see all the marine life they had. Tropical coral configurations, walrus and beluga whales of the Arctic, Dolphins, penguins, you name it marine, they had it at this aquarium. We made the best of our two hours we had there. We still had one more stop to make before getting to the bus. Thomas and Chico made us a cake for our anniversary back at the house and we didn't want to miss that. We made it back and had coffee with cake and spoke Spanish with Chico. They were so accommodating and again we didn't want to leave.
We grabbed our bags, loaded on the bus and back to Madrid. Wonder what year three anniversary will be like. Will be tough to beat year two but I think we can figure something out!
It was a beautiful sunny day in September when the Three Amigos decided to take a little journey to the Rascafria Mountains near Madrid. Kathryn picked us up around 11 am. We had our backpacks packed with water and lunch for an afternoon adventure. The drive was gorgous as we weaved in and out up and down through the mountain to where we finally found a good place to stop park and head on our hike. We hadn't really thought too much about navigation besides the GPS that go us to the mountain. Just as we began scratching our heads as to how we were going to get on these trails and find our way back a group of Spaniards had just finished there hike. They, unlike the Three Amigos, were prepared with there hiking sticks, large water bottles, and many maps. Kathryn and I managed to piece together some Spanish to ask them if they could tell us the best route. They let us take a picture of there maps and told us some land marks along the way. They were super friendly and without there help it might not have been such a glorious day!
We began the hike on a trail and it was at a very easy pace. We carried on about what we were doing in Madrid and catching up on the latest in eachothers lives when we then decided to switch things up! We said for the next 20 minutes no talking in English. It was a blast and the time went very fast. After walking for about an hour we decided before we got of the beaten path we would have a picnic. We ate our sandwhiches and had a lovely photoshoot with the grazing cows along the trail. It is very common for cows to just be grazing along the road or trails randomly. I had never really seen that before, I mean sure we have grazing cows in a cow pasture back in the states, but never just wild like that or at least that I had ever seen.
We continued down a different path and began to walk along the stream. We followed this until we saw the wall of rocks, we then climbed up this wall, like the Spainards had advised, where we could see the beautiful waterfalls. When we were ready to hike we hiked, when we were ready for a rest we rested. It was our day and we kept and nice tranquillo pace! It was fun to see all the different sides of the mountain. For instance, the really plush green forest area, to the rocks and stones, to the birch fields, to the beaty of the different water ways and wild life. As we drank our last droplets of water and the sun had begun to set, we decided it was time to head back. Somehow, along the way we must have missed a turn. It grew draker and darker and each of us took turns saying, "Oh our car should be just right up here...I think?" Then we got sight of the road and decided it would be wise to follow that back to the car, instead of being stuck in the thick of the trails, in the dark, with dead cell phones. We remained positive the entire treck back and finally made it to the car. We walked for 13 miles that afternoon and shared many special converstations, and laughs. Little did we know that our hiking adventure, was just the beginning for the Three Amigos.
Many of you may or may not know bullfighting is one of the oldest traditions in Spain, and is also one the most controversial topic amongst the Spaniards. After Trey read Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon, it struck an interest in him to find out more about this tradition. He expressed there was not a better way to formulate an opinion, than to experience it first handed. I on the other hand was very skeptical. Right off the cuff I wasn't sure if I could handle a bull fight. However, I decided to attend open mindedly after contemplating over this idea for months. I knew it was going to be difficult to watch, and knowing that the bulls would be killed regardless, made it even more difficult for me to support. The reasoning for my decision to attend was two fold. One experiencing it myself would give me a real voice, instead of just going by what people said and how they felt about it. It was important for me to formulate my own opinion. And second, this event is intended to resemble the tragedy of death, and that would be worth understanding, and acknowledging in itself. Seeing how I couldn't identify with how bullfighting aided in this retrospect.