It’s about time I caught you up on our Spain trip.
Last year, we approached our Paris trip as the trip of a lifetime. We weren’t sure how it would go, we weren’t sure if we’d ever take the kids to Europe again, and I did a ton of pre-trip preparation. This time. . . was different. We’d had such a wonderful, wonderful time last year that we decided that we should, indeed, travel more. So: go us. But it’s been a very busy year and spring break was early, so it felt like the trip sort of snuck up on us.
I also discarded some of the vast, vast preparation that I’d done last time. First, I felt generally less responsible because Paris and French were “my” city and “my” language, while I have literally the least knowledge of Spanish in our whole family. There were also things I did last time that weren’t particularly useful. For example, last year I’d switched some dollars to euros ahead of time in the States, but that just wasn’t necessary and wasn’t a particularly good deal, either. I’d also spent a great deal of time pre-researching restaurants and placing them on a special Google map, but then we didn’t do data for my phone and Cute W leaned toward whatever Yelp-approved place happened to be nearby, so it turned out that that wasn’t worth the effort. I did pull together some Spain trivia, because J in particular likes reading little facts about her destinations ahead of time. We also weren’t sure of exactly where in Spain we should go, so I polled my college alumni group for recommendations. And I got a copy of Rick Steves 2018 from the library.
We ended up flying out of Boston to Madrid, where we had an apartment that was our “home base” from Friday, March 30 to Saturday, April 7. We also spent three days and two nights in Barcelona, and we took a day trip to Toledo.
Before the trip, we worried that being in Spain for the end of Holy Week could be a terrible miscalculation, that the food was likely to be not-so-good (based on Cute W’s recollections of his semester there), that traveling to various destinations could be stressful/fraught with peril, and that it was possible that one of our apartments could suck.
We needn’t have worried. Holy Week only enhanced our stay, we found plenty of tasty food, traveling was mostly pretty fine (yes, there are stories in that “mostly“), and we loved our apartments.
We hadn’t flown out of Boston before, and we decided to park at a Logan Express, which offers mildly cheaper long-term parking and a shuttle bus to the airport. This worked well. The facilities and the buses were nice, they ran about as scheduled, and they allowed Cute W to avoid the most stressful part of the drive to Boston. So: yay. We flew British Airways and we were allowed to check in online ahead of time, so we all got to sit together and it was generally way better than last year’s flight. We also put more effort into trying to get a better night’s sleep on the overnight flight: we had ear plugs and eye masks, and the girls each had fancy travel neck pillows. In spite of all this, poor J and I were not able to sleep at all. This was particularly annoying when we watched other members of our family with their mouths hanging open and/or snoring. At the end of the flight, Cute W and M were like, “Yeah, we didn’t sleep much, either.” J and I found this unconvincing and we both said, “F&*k you, you dirty liars,” and then we pulled out a shiv and iced them both. Not really. But that is what our grumpy, rage-filled hearts wanted to do, so, yes, we were a little unpleasant to be around. We had flown into London, so for the short flight from London to Madrid, J and I each popped a children’s Benadryl and drugged our way into a short nap, which definitely helped improve our moods. Once we landed, Cute W summoned an Uber for the trip from the Madrid airport to our apartment, which was on the west side of Madrid, just south of the Plaza Mayor and east of the Royal Palace at Apartmentos Palacio Real.
It was a simple but great apartment. Here’s our bedroom, with a little balcony that looked out onto a teensy little street that dead-ended into a church (remember? you saw the street before, with J walking toward our apartment).
The main room included a very basic kitchen space, a small table, a pull out couch, and a tv. You can see part of it here:
We were excited because our bathroom was people sized, which we particularly appreciated after a comically tiny bathroom in last year’s Paris apartment. However; the wall between the shower and our master bathroom was made up of those translucent glass block tiles, which was not a favorite for the adolescent girls even if you’re just seeing vague shadows. Once again I designated the “kitchen” sink to be a tooth-brushing sink, and it was cozy, but still both more spacious than and cheaper than a hotel room would have been. Best of all, the neighborhood was great, and it made us feel more like residents than like tourists. The wifi was a bit spotty, but besides that it worked quite well for us.
We arrived on Good Friday afternoon and everyone was pretty tired, little J most of all. She basically started falling asleep on the pull out couch before I was able to pull it out and slap the sheets on it, so I was making the bed around her. Meanwhile Cute W walked outside and picked up some basic sandwiches for the rest of us, who were more hungry than tired. The sandwiches were super-tasty. I don’t understand how Europeans offer the simplest damn sandwiches and yet they are way tastier than what you’d get in the US. Some basic bread, Serrano ham, and a soft, brie-like cheese. . . we tried very hard to leave a little bit of the sandwich leftovers for J, but they were too good and we were too hungry.
We managed to rouse J and headed out for some tapas. J had a list of foods that her Spanish teacher had told her to try, and we knocked a bunch of them out in that first meal, including potatos bravas, ham croquettes, chorizo sausage, and shrimp in garlic sauce. It was also tasty.
We knew that Good Friday meant special processions through the streets, and so we headed for, um, I think it was the Cristo de Medinaceli? The place was a mob scene. In the photo below you can see about how close we managed to get to Jesus, with the top of J’s head in the right foreground. There were a bunch of guys who looked like a purple KKK as well as tons of incense. Everyone craned to watch the procession, and after Jesus passed by, that little section of the crowd would clap respectfully while the others ahead of them would await Jesus solemnly.
Although it’s still light in this photo, the procession happened in the early evening. After checking out the procession we walked around a little bit, but everyone was exhausted.
Plus we had plans to leave for a day trip to Toledo early in the morning–we’d decided to get our extra travels done early and relax more in town later–so we made it an early night.