Thursday, May 27, 2010
Hostess with the Mostess
We had an absolutely wonderful time in Madrid with Paige! On Friday, we started the day exploring Paige’s favorite shops in her neighborhood, including a really awesome wine store, and then met her at the U.S. Embassy (where she works) for a tour. Unfortunately the Ambassador missed our visit, but we did get to see his house and swimming pool. We’ll catch him next time we are in Spain! Friday night we went out to dinner in one of Paige’s favorite parts of the city, followed by drinks at a a nearby bar. The Spanish have a very interesting idea of customer service. It took us no less than 45 minutes to get our check at the bar, after the bartender did everything to avoid our table – including making out with another customer.
After sleeping in on Saturday (did we mention how great it was to take a break from living in hotels?), we explored the major sites around Madrid, including the Royal Palace and major city squares. Below is a picture of us in the gardens of the Royal Palace (one of the largest palaces in Europe).
Madrid hosted a huge soccer game on Saturday night between an Italian team and German team, providing us the opportunity to experience what soccer “tailgates” are like. It made us really miss college football season! On Saturday night we went out to a traditional tapas dinner (boy do these people love their ham), followed by an authentic flamenco music/dance show featuring Spanish gypsies at a place called Casa Patas. The show was fantastic and a must on any visit to Spain! Heather and Paige even elbowed their way through the other groupies to take a picture with the flamenco lead singer (see picture at top).
Sunday was an extremely relaxing day. We spent some time exploring a local market, followed by a long picnic in Retiro Park (the “Central Park” of Madrid). Paige should definitely consider a career change after having another one of her fantastic home cooked meals! Below is Jonathan with his part of the ginormous sandwich she made.
Monday morning, after profusely thanking Paige for being such a wonderful hostess, we took the metro to the Madrid airport. Little did we know that the short ride on the metro could have greatly impacted our overall vacation…
As we were boarding the train, we found ourselves in the middle of a large group of people pushing and shoving, who then proceeded to immediately jump off the train. Thanks to Paige’s warning us about some common pick-pocket tactics, we realized what was going on. Jonathan quickly checked his pockets only to unfortunately find out that the pick-pockets took our passports! We jumped off the train and Jonathan ran after the group, leaving Heather behind with the bags. Jonathan actually managed to catch up with one of the thieves (who of course denied everything), but the most amazing part is what happened while he was gone. Apparently at least one of the pick-pockets had a change of heart and actually brought the passports back to Heather. We aren’t exactly sure what made them change their minds to return the passports rather than just throw them away. Several days later we still can’t stop talking about what happened! We thought we were pretty savvy travelers before the incident, but needless to say, we are significantly more careful now. Any person that happens to walk too close receives a distrustful glare from Heather, and Jonathan is now wearing the money belt whenever we use public transportation (in case you notice a little extra stomach girth in some of the pictures).
After that rather intense experience, we arrived in Barcelona and immediately loved the city! The first thing we did on Monday was explore the Olympic Village (see picture below), followed by a long walk to the oceanfront, and ending with evening stroll down Barcelona’s most famous street – La Rambla.
Tuesday was jam packed with tourist sites, starting with Gaudi’s famous architecture. We visited Parc Guell (see picture below), La Sagrada Familia (the coolest cathedral we’ve ever seen), and two of his residential designs – Casa Mila and Casa Batllo. After picking up lunch at an amazing outdoor market (Mercat La Boqueria), we visited the Picasso Museum. Our evening plans were courtesy of Paige’s recommendations and included dinner at her favorite Barcelona restaurant (Dos Palillos), and a dessert tasting at a local cooking school/restaurant (Espai Sucre).
Wednesday we took the train to Figueres, focused on visiting the Salvador Dali Museum. So far, this is our favorite museum of the trip and definitely worth the train ride. The museum itself is the largest surrealist art piece in the world. We were really lucky during our visit because the Dali Jewels Collection was also on display. Here is a picture in the “Stage” room at the Dali Museum (the large painting changes when viewed at different distances – super cool).
Today we had to get up way too early to catch a flight to Germany. Have we mentioned how much we “love” Ryanair and their luggage weight restrictions (sarcasm intended)? We just arrived in Beilstein, Germany and are excited to explore the Mosel River Valley and spend a few days with Amy!
• Mahou Clasica (a Spanish brewed American adjunct lager)
• Mahou Premium Light (a Spanish light lager)
• Estrella Damm (a Spanish brewed American adjunct lager)
• Xibeca (a Spanish Euro pale lager)
• Cervesa del Montseny + Blat (a Spanish brewed American pale wheat ale)