Paris – Day Three

What a most glorious day. Armed with our subway passes, and a new found sense of direction in this city, James and I headed out to the Musee de l’Orangerie – also known as the home to Monet’s water lily paintings. I opted for the audio tour this time (and I’m glad I did, you get so much more out of a small museum with some narration behind it – and it’s actually feasible to hear almost everything!). We started in the basement of the museum – and found ourselves among Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Cezzane, etc. Absolutely breathtaking paintings – paintings I studied in art class – paintings I admire intensely. Here we were, in this small, two level museum, surrounded by the works of master painters. Only in Paris.

And then I made my way upstairs to the section dedicated to Monet. If you have not been to this museum, and are in Paris, GO. Two rooms are dedicated to the water lilies – each containing four paintings. What I was unaware of, is the sheer massive size of these paintings. Each one wrapped around the room, and took my breath away. How was it possible that he could capture such beauty?

We left, in a star struck daze, to head to the famous kitchen supply store: E. Dehillerin. Imagine an old hardware store, but instead of nails and hammers, it’s filled with an array of copper pots, utensils and every imaginable knick knack. Let’s just say that I did a little present shopping here, and spent WAY too much money, but it was worth every cent.

Don’t let that packaging fool you. This was the “bad” supermarket cheese, with its ooey gooey partner sharing the same platter.

Afterwards, we headed towards Le Aligre market, where had arranged for a wine and cheese tasting class – a three hour ordeal that turned into four, but who’s complaining?! We took the class through “Paris by Mouth.” I thoroughly enjoyed the teacher (Meg – the founder of Paris by Mouth and an American who has lived in Paris for more than a decade). We tried more than 10 types of cheese, starting with goat, moving to blooming rind, then to stinky like a barn, then to pressed (think cheddar), then to harder cheeses (think parmesan but we didn’t eat that type) and finally ended on blue cheese. Almost every cheese had it’s own wine pairing – so as you can imagine I was quite tipsy when I left!

Because the day before NoGlu was closed, we headed to another nearby gluten free bakery: Helmut Newcake. I bought a baguette, a loaf of bread and an eclair. I had literal tears in my eyes because I had not eaten an eclair in more than five years since going back on my gluten free diet. I will definitely need to go back before I leave. The baguette was also incredible – and I felt like a Parisian as I ripped a section off to eat. The inside was… SOFT. Like bread.

Following, we headed immediately to Galleria Lafayette for a view of the city from their rooftop – a free alternative to the Eiffel Tower, and a view that actually has the aforementioned monument in it! It wasn’t nearly as high, but it was breathtaking. Afterwards, we headed back down (stopped quickly for coffee) and landed on the ground floor, surrounded by silk scarves, bags and shoes.

At this point, we needed to go to the grocery store and get home to change before going back out for a show at the Moulin Rouge. We made a pit stop at MonoPrix, a department slash grocery store that had every imaginable goody in it. Armed with my new knowledge about wine and cheese, I picked a few items out (it won’t be as good as the cheese shop, but until I can get there it will do!) and then went on a hunt for some souvenirs. It didn’t disappoint.

Dinner consisted of gluten free pasta with a delicious pesto we bought at Monoprix – along with some goat cheese, broccoli and tomato. Nothing fancy, but it’s been nice eating at the apartment the last few nights. We’ll be enjoying dinners for the next four nights out.

The Moulin Rouge show was… well, I don’t know if there were words. It felt like the time Cory and I went to see the Counting Crows. We weren’t necessarily disappointed, but it was very odd. The best way I can describe it is a bunch of very fit men and women with outrageously horrible 1960s costumes, a lot of bad wigs and clacking plastic beads. I’m sure each dancer is good on their own, but together in sync? The miniature horses that they brought out later were better coordinated. It felt campy, but it wasn’t supposed to be. I wished my Dad had seen it – he would have loved and hated it all at once.

After 90 minutes, I couldn’t take anymore – especially when they botched the can-can. So we took off and headed back for some much needed rest at the apartment.

Paris – Day Two

Finally, a full night of sleep! And how blissful it was – after I convinced myself that 12:30 a.m. is not the time to wake up for the day (in defense, James hadn’t reset his watch yet so I thought it was 6:30 a.m.).

We woke up early this morning, struggled through making breakfast with one pot and one hot plate, and then walked along the Seine to the Louvre (about 3 miles from where we are staying).

I am not going to lie, walking around on a Sunday morning before anyone else in Paris is awake? Glorious. Being pooped on by a bird five minutes after you’ve stepped outside? Not so glorious. This bird managed to poop in my hair, down my coat, all over my purse and on my sunglasses. Needless to say I was less than pleased.

We arrived at the Louvre around 9:15, and waited in line for free first Sunday of the month admission. 25 minutes later we were in, and free to roam wherever we pleased. This museum is so incredibly massive. A quick trip to see the Mona Lisa (she hasn’t changed since the last time I was here!) and we were off to explore the rest. If you want to make going to a large museum very easy, don’t speak or read the language of all the placards and don’t get the audio tour. We spent about two and a half hours wandering around – taking in famous masterpieces.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace
The Sphinx. (Well a Sphinx at least)

Afterwards, we headed to NoGlu – a gluten free bakery that does brunch in Paris. It was about 15 minutes from the Louvre, and I had been looking forward to this all morning. Except that within the last week or so, they no longer are open on Sundays. This was something I reviewed very carefully before making plans. Sundays in Europe are like before 11 a.m. on Sundays in the U.S. but all day long. Quiet, very few stores and restaurants open. It was tragic, and all I had to console myself was some freeze dried peas with ranch flavoring.

We wandered the streets, desperate for something to eat (well me at least, James had stopped and enjoyed an eclair before we left the museum area). Finally we stumbled across Le Petit Machon, a restaurant with a chalkboard menu, no English menus (always a good sign) and waitresses who spoke about as much English as we spoke French. Perfect. I had duck with some sort of orange sauce. James had a whole fish (we think it was sole, the waitress said salmon but that was the only fish she knew in English!). We both – get ready for it – had espresso afterwards. Yes, James had his first espresso. Did he like it? He said it got him through the day.

We continued to walk around the area, with intentions of going to Ladurée Royale for their famed macaroons. We purchased eight and sat on a bench at a nearby park (next to some delicious smelling flowers) and enjoyed all eight in one sitting.

I was quite pleased Ladurée’s window display.

We took notes when eating them, and because this is the best stream of consciousness from us both… here they are (unedited):

  • Coffee tastes like its supposed to
  • Green apple definitely tastes like fake green apple
  • Cherry blossom tastes like buttery perfume
  • Chocolate was hoping it would taste like a brownie and it didn’t
  • Marie Antoinette refreshing and like a tea party
  • Pistachio favorite one so far – like that Italian paste I can’t remember what it’s called and rainbow cookies
  • Vanilla now this is my favorite like birthday cake with homemade frosting that makes your teeth want to fall out
  • Salted caramel is even better like my grandmas homemade caramels

That Italian paste is marzipan in case you were wondering or knew. We ultimately voted for the salted caramel which instead of having a layer of frosting had a thick smear of buttery rich caramel sandwiched between the two macaroon cookies

It wasn’t until our walk back home that our feet really started to protest. Luckily today was a sneaker day because we ended up going 15 miles. Tomorrow our week long train passes will go into effect, which means we have no excuse to do that.

We spent the rest of the evening at home, making dinner (it was a slight improvement over the previous!), drinking rose (me) and watching Broad City.

Iceland – Round Two, Day 2

Our second day in Iceland was truly magical – the perfect way to celebrate our one year anniversary! We booked another tour through Arctic Adventures, the same group we booked the Black & Blue tour with last time around. (The one where I had a panic attack during diving in freezing water). James and I were standing outside of our hotel, and waited to be picked up super early in the morning. A van pulled up at 7:45 a.m. and called out our names. We sat down and proceeded to be driven through the city like a game of Crazy Taxi. The driver was up and down curbs, taking turns too quickly and stopping literally just in time. We arrived at another large bus station where we proceeded to a small bus that would take us through Southern Iceland.

Southern Iceland is… breathtaking. I am going to let the pictures do the majority of the talking, because this was just a magical tour, filled with rainbows, waterfalls, glaciers, hiking and more.

Our first stop was at the Skógafoss waterfall.

Yes, this is all real. It was stunning. Shortly thereafter, we drove to the Sólheimajökull glacier for “glacier hiking.” This was seriously a once in a lifetime opportunity. The glaciers in Iceland are sadly melting, and not being reconstituted due to temperature and weather. We had to hike about 30 minutes to the glacier (and to be honest, this was the most difficult part of the journey!). Once at the glacier, we strapped on crampons and received ice picks (I think mostly for show, I really didn’t use it!). Our guide took us around the glacier and provided us with facts about the different areas of it.

The black you see is volcanic ash.

Following, we headed to Black Beach – which received its name because of the color of the sand, which was created by volcanic ash and rock. The beach was breathtaking. Every time you turned a corner, there was something else magical to see.

This inspired the church in Reykjavik
It also made for a great chair!
The two rock formations out there – they are believed to be formed by troll “children” who were turned to rock when not returning before the night was done. Apparently trolls turn into rock when hit by sunlight.

At this point, the majority of the group was “hangry.” I had brought provisions for sandwiches from the U.S. (part of my 4.75 kg!) and so James and I were doing quite well. This called for a stop in the village of Vik – which is really a tiny fishing village with a knitting factory. I of course, had to buy a hat.

Afterwards, we drove on top of a cliff (but they called it an island) which had a luxury hotel in a lighthouse. Luxury is questionable, and there are only four rooms available. The view is fantastic though.

The tour continued on with a pitstop along the beach where a plane from WWII had crash landed. It was a U.S. plane that was flying from the east part of Iceland to the west, and had forgotten to fuel up beforehand. All passengers survived. But it left a very cool shell.

Yes I went inside.

Our final stop of the day was Seljandsfoss waterfall. This is the waterfall you can walk behind. Only a few people on our tour opted to do this. Crazy people! Everyone should walk behind a waterfall.

It was clear, on our ride back, that we would not be making our 8:00 p.m. reservation at Sjávargrillið (SEAFOOD GRILL). I called the restaurant, quickly updated our reservation and anxiously waited for the tour bus to drop us back off at our hotel. This is hands down one of our favorite restaurants in the world (so far) and we really didn’t want to miss the opportunity to dine there. Our bus got us to the hotel at 8:45 p.m. We bolted inside, changed as quickly as possible, and then RAN to dinner in the rain. We made it two minutes before our updated reservation time.

James ordered the exact same thing he did last time we were there – the lobster meal. He’s so original. I opted to change it up a bit and had the shellfish stew and a lobster and beef main course. For dessert we split James’ creme brûlée which was served with sorrel and strawberries.

Exhausted from our day, we quickly stopped at the Lebowski bar (but only to see the inside) and then headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

Iceland – Round Two, Day 1

For our one year anniversary (can you believe it has already been one year?!), James and I decided to go back to Iceland to celebrate. This seems extravagant until I tell you that we flew there for $300 roundtrip each, thanks to Wow Air (which I’ll get to in a moment). I am all for experience over material gifts, and because we enjoyed Iceland so much the first time we came, it felt only fitting to come back.

Let’s start with the airline. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Wow Air is one of those “discount” airline companies. The no frills, you literally are paying for your body to be on the plane. I had limited expectations but was extremely pleased with my experience overall. The airline is punctual and clean. The staff was very kind. And with the help of a handy luggage weight, James and I were each able to pack 4.75 kg of the allowed 5 kg on our carry on (as to not pay extra – because as I mentioned, this is a no frills flight!).

We took a red eye flight to Iceland – which meant arriving at 4 a.m. local time. OOmph. Instead of a crying baby, like we experienced in Spain, I was seated next to snorer. I would take the crying baby over snoring, so needless to say, I didn’t get much shut eye on the plane. When we arrived in Iceland, it was raining, windy and cold. We made it through the airport and settled on Reykjavik Excursions, the bus that takes you to and from the airport. This bus is a godsend. Seriously. It means you don’t need to rent a car and navigate crazy roads. It drops you off at a large terminal and passengers board smaller buses to take them to their hotels.

The bus was packed (despite it being super early). The bus driver arrived at the main station around 6:00 a.m. and realized that the woman who took our tickets and our hotel information never gave him the list. So he proceeded to write down where everyone was staying on a piece of cardboard. But rather than communicate any of this to the staff, he simply handed James the cardboard, told him he had to go and left. We stood there for about five minutes, completely out of it due to the lack of sleep, before realizing no small bus was coming to take us to our hotel since no one was notified! We eventually found someone who could make this happen. We arrived at our hotel by 7:00 a.m., and promptly fell asleep for a few hours.

View from our hotel balcony

We planned an easy day, given that we would have limited sleep. Around 11 a.m., we were picked up and our way to Blue Lagoon – the famed geothermal spa. We made reservations at their restaurant, Lava, before we headed into the water. Lava once again, did not disappoint. Though the wait staff was thoroughly confused when I ordered a coffee for the start of my meal.

Afterwards, we spent a few hours in the hot spring. We even had someone take our picture together. It was shocking.

On our way back, James and I got off the bus before our stop so that we could walk through the city center. Reykjavik is filled with colorful buildings, graffiti and interesting people. A walk through is a must. We stopped a Kaffitir for a chai tea latte before making it back to our hotel.


For dinner, we made reservations at Dill, which is supposedly one of the “best restaurants in Reykjavik.” Set up as a tasting menu, it did not disappoint. They were even  accommodating of my diet, and made everything for me gluten free. Which really just meant, didn’t include cake with dessert, but gave me more ice cream to make up for it. I’m good with that.

James was really set on eating a hotdog in Iceland. It’s a specialty. So after his seven courses, we proceeded to the hotdog stand he has been dreaming about for one year.

I am sorry this is not the most flattering photo of you.

We ended our evening at our hotel’s bar, which was surprisingly vibrant and funky – and great for people watching.

Day 7 – Barcelona

Our last day in Barcelona – what a great vacation this has been – from eating to sightseeing to learning new cultures and improving (slightly) on our language skills – we truly had a great time.

Having been to Park Guell a few days earlier, but unable to gain access to the section with Gaudi’s architecture, we returned in the morning. The tour, which takes about an hour, weaves through beautiful ceramic and stone work, a trip through the gatekeeper’s home and through a beautiful garden.

Afterwards, James and I headed toward the Picasso museum, in hopes of finding lunch. It being Sunday meant that the tapas place I had identified was closed (despite Google saying otherwise). But this was perfect, because across the street was a small shop called Tapeo – it was crowded (even though it was a bit early for Spanish lunch) and we took that as a good sign. With just two seats at the bar, James and I had the best tapas meal since we arrived.

We shared Iberian ham ribs with a honey mustard sauce, oxtail, grilled leaks with an olive paste on top and tortilla de patatas y chorizo (no we didn’t order patatas bravas this time). This food was phenomenal and I wanted to order more, but we also needed to save room for gelato.

After lunch we sought out said gelato down the street. It was amazingly delicious. I had vanilla with candied macadamia nuts and double chocolate. James had caramel flan and terrone.

The Picasso museum is entirely dedicated to Picasso – and takes only about 45 minutes to walk through (though if you do the audio tour I’m sure it could go on and on). We breezed through, learning about Picasso’s early years (he was painting when he was 12/13) and saw the transformation of classical art to modern art. It also happened to be free museum day, which shame on me for not knowing and buying tickets ahead. But hey, at least we beat the two hour line!

The rest of the afternoon consisted of packing and cleaning up the apartment. I made a tortilla with the remaining potatoes, vegetables and eggs we had purchased for the week for breakfast the following morning. Around 6:30 p.m. we headed down to Barceloneta, where we’d be having dinner.

Barceloneta is the famed beach I mentioned earlier – with huge crowds. Clothing was optional.

We walked the length of the beach down to the W hotel and then ended at Costa coffee (where had you been my entire vacation?! You had real iced coffee!), where we sat on their deck, enjoyed the free wifi and waited until our dinner reservations later that evening. With sporadic internet at our AirBnb, this was heaven.

For dinner we went to Merendero de la Mari, at the suggestion of our AirBnb host. He claimed they had the best paella in Barcelona. Having just attended a cooking class (for traditional Spanish paella), my expectations were low. I decided to order arroz negro – the only paella I had not tried in Spain. This is made with squid in and served with seafood.

Oh. My. God. It was the best thing I had eaten on the entire trip. The paella came with a garlic butter/lard concoction to mix in. I wish I could have eaten the entire thing, but alas, I couldn’t fit it. (James had a ravioli dish – he clearly missed out).

Thanks Spain – you’ve been great – but I am so glad to be writing this final blog post from the comfort of my own bed! Adios!

Day 6 – Barcelona

Beach day! The hope was that today would be lazy, less walking and more lounging. We certainly lounged, but I’m not sure if we succeeded in less walking. By the end of the evening, we had put in 9 miles. Ah well.

James and I started our day by waking up late (well, we forced ourselves out of bed at 9 a.m. aka 3 a.m.) and puttered around the apartment for a bit. We left mid-morning for La Platja de Nova Icária, a beach that is next to the Olympic port, and slightly more out of the way than Barceloneta – which boasts huge crowds. We settled under an already set up umbrella (later to find out it was eight euros to “rent” the space – James paid, he loves umbrellas at beaches). The beach itself was nice enough for a city. The water was, well let’s just say I went in it to say that I went in it, but in no way shape or form would I put my head under. There was a lot of floating debris, including some less desired items that resulted in a group of British women screaming obscenities. The people watching here was superb.

This hat, while ridiculous, saved my life and shoulders from a burn. Long live the hat!



After a few hours, we packed up in search for some lunch. The golden rule in Barcelona is that if you are near a tourist attraction (such as the beach) or on Las Ramblas (their main strip), the food will be frozen and overpriced. So we moved inwards and found a nice little cafe, alongside shops and fruterias (a real place that sells fruit! Not just a word they make you learn in Spanish class!).

I ordered sangria, and was given about 20 ounces. Water? Oh about four ounces or so. I ordered the tuna belly salad and roasted vegetables with a tomato sauce. James had bacon asparagus risotto and a seafood stew. We ended the meal with mocha mousse. This was an incredibly lazy, lounge worthy lunch, taking nearly two hours. A little tipsy (me only), we headed back to the apartment where I proceeded to take an unexpected nap.

For dinner we had arranged to attend a cooking class with a tour of La Boqueria market. We were joined by six additional Americans, one Canadian and 19 Australians. The evening was incredibly enjoyable and we were forced out of our comfort zone and had to make conversation with complete strangers. One of which who was Scarlett Johanssen’s doppleganger. At least in my opinion. I don’t care what James thinks.

To start, the chef took us through La Boqueria and purchased the seafood we would be using in our paella, as well as meat and cheeses for the tapas. We stopped at a juice stand for a quick refreshment (watermelon juice for me, kiwi pineapple for James) before heading to the kitchen. Here we made our own tapas. For those who eat gluten, it contained a piece of bread, rubbed with a tomato, drizzled in olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and then topped with a piece of manchego cheese, Iberian jamon and an olive. I wrapped my cheese and olive in a piece of ham and called it a day. Until I spotted mini chorizo sausages and just ate those by the toothpick full.

Shopping for seafood

The class itself was super informative, and a lot of fun to learn how to cook traditional Spanish paella. We were also taught out to make Spanish sangria (the secret recipe lives in my brain and involves a Spanish dash of this and a Spanish count of that).

We walked with the group to a nearby bar, and then parted ways to enjoy a quiet rest of our evening.

Day 5 – Barcelona

This is city is just amazing. If I spoke Catalan, I would move here in a heartbeat.

James and I have been struggling to wake up in the mornings – something I am attributing to jet lag because 8:30 a.m. in Barcelona is 2:30 a.m. back at home. We somehow manage and then at 11 p.m./12 a.m. we aren’t quite ready for bed, but force ourselves to go to sleep.

We had tickets for Gaudi’s house at the Park Guell for 10 a.m. – which meant pealing ourselves out of bed and fumbling around. We were running late so turned to Google to share with us the fastest route to our destination. Google noted there was a quicker route (2 minutes less!) if we got off a different subway stop. Great! We start heading for the Park and suddenly come to the most massive hill – a San Francisco like hill with stairs built in at places because it is literally too steep to climb without.

I’m not sure if we made it there any faster. The energy we put out to run up this massive hill – was it worth it? Gaudi’s house is cute and situated in the center of the Park, which was built in the early 1900s. He moved there with his sick father and niece to be away from the city and be able to oversee the construction of the park. The park however, was a failure, as only two homes were built on the land, and eventually the project shut down. The place was still fascinating and so we will be going back on Sunday to explore another area we didn’t get to due to crowds.

In case you’re wondering – Gaudi lived surprisingly simply.

Afterwards, James and I headed back to the apartment to cool down and decide what we wanted to do for lunch. Almost everything was closed until 1:30 or 2:00 p.m., and we had to be at la Basilica de Sagrada Familia at 2:30. We opted to head to la Boqueria market – since we only ran through the day before. It did not disappoint – I had a cone filled with cheese and Iberian ham, along with some delicious paella and cut up pineapple. James shared in my cheese and ham, also purchased pizza (because we’re close to Italy right?) and enjoyed a strawberry mango juice. Satisfied, we headed towards la Basilica.

La Basilica de Sagrada Familia is hands down one of the most amazing places I have ever been. The church was designed with Gaudi’s whimsical touch, from the palm tree ceilings, the stained glass, the statues and more. It is an absolutely fantastical experience (even if you aren’t religious!). We were just in complete awe, and spent three hours looking up at the ceiling with mouths agape. We toured the Nativity tower, which provides a fabulous view of the city to the water, and then proceeded to make our way down a never ending spiral staircase.

If you ever find yourself in Barcelona, I highly encourage you to visit.

Afterwards, we headed back to the apartment to rest until dinner, which was at Montjuic. To get there, one must take this crazy subway car that climbs the side of the mountain. I am just thankful I didn’t have to walk. The restaurant was a recommendation from a former coworker. Reviews on Google were OK, but she swore by it, so we decided to give it a go. The place (called Xalet de Montjuic) was amazing. It boasted the most beautiful view of the city and the food was delicious.

James and I shared patatas bravas and grilled octopus. I had salmon with bacon, gorgonzola and tomato jam. James had duck confit with a citrus cake.

From the restaurant, we headed to the Magic Fountain. This lived up to its name. Using colored lights and music, the fountain puts on shows all night long. It was better than fireworks. I sat entranced for nearly 40 minutes, before finally saying goodbye.

Day 3 – Madrid

It was our last day in Madrid – and unfortunately we hit a few bumps in the road related to forgetting tickets and being hangry. But we’ll get to that later.

James and I left the apartment and headed to el Templo del Debod – a temple that was gifted from Egypt to Spain in the late 1960s. From what I could understand (remember I’m only 50% fluent in reading Spanish!), this had to do with Spain helping to preserve or conserve some artifacts. The temple is on the outskirts of la plaza de España, and is situated on a reflection pool. A man outside is screaming “AGUA FRIA. TENGO AGUA FRIA.”

Visitors are actually able to go through the temple, which was a nice surprise. The rooms are small and cramped, which also means hot and smells like BO. We were intending to go to Goya’s burial site (which boasts infrequently seen frescoes) when I realized I had left the tickets to a cable car attraction at the apartment. We opted to take the train back, and made a quick pit stop at el Mercado de San Martin.

I don’t like ordering from butchers in America, I don’t know why I thought I would like doing this in a foreign country in a foreign language. Overwhelmed by the prospect, and not quite knowing what I wanted to make for dinner, I left in a huff and headed to a MASSIVE big box store a few blocks from where we were staying.

First, I found a Starbucks. This seems silly, but the coffee here is espresso and nothing is iced. Ordering meat at a market? No way. Ordering coffee and chai tea latte? Yes please. (And no this was not done in Engish – though I did manage to butcher con hielo for my coffee so it ended up being hot. This was fine; I was in a massive store with AC blasting).

Let’s discuss this store. You walk in to a Macy’s style layout – perfume and makeup counters, purses, clothes, the works. Another level is full on gourmet grocery store, another is a regular grocery store with a butcher and cheese shop. There is a pharmacy and a Starbucks, and their equivalent of a Target. Everything you could possibly need is there. We went to the grocery store and picked up provisions to make dinner. Afterwards, as we walked back through the Macy’s like store, I discovered the Longchamp section.

Longchamp in New England is a thing. I don’t know why, I’m sure it is elsewhere in the country, but it’s part of being a “Basic Boston” and I absolutely adore my giant black bag that can hold everything from my laptop, 1L water bottle, a change of clothes, extra shoes and everything else a purse needs to contain. I’ve had mine for a few years the bottom has started to wear out. I know I can pay to get this fixed, but the entire bottom is literally sprouting holes, and when pens stick through them, they write on my shirt. I also don’t have a backup for when this would be fixed, and so here we were – in Europe – with access to bags that are literally half the price that they are in the U.S. because of the amazing exchange rate and the lack of importing overseas.

After dropping the groceries off at the apartment, we headed to Gonzales de Queso, which is a famed cheese and tapas restaurant and a place I’ve been eyeing since planning this trip. They weren’t open. This was tragic. I did what I always do when I’m hangry – I shut down (sorry James!). We eventually found a tapas place near el Museo de Sofia Reina and devoured patatas bravas, paella and a roasted red pepper dish with tuna.

El Museo de Sofia Reina is… a modern art museum. It’s interesting. We’ll put it that way. There were however, many Picassos and Dalis, and some of the sections were actually interesting. Others – well lets just say I have a hard time with some modern art. I can paint a canvas blue and glue a stick to the bottom too. The museum is known for housing Guernica – one of Picasso’s masterpieces. There was a significant amount of articles from the U.S. in the 60s and 70s, outlining the different museums that once featured this painting.

Afterwards, we finally made our way back to the cable car ride. We were incredibly hot by the time we found it and proceeded to load into a small, no air-conditioning car built in the 60s that precariously wheeled its way across the city of Madrid.

We were so sweaty.

Out of my comfort zone? Oh that doesn’t even begin to cover it. This was terrifying – but the views were pretty spectacular. I thought if I could do the London Eye then of course I could do this. I guess the difference is, I didn’t fear for my life on the London Eye.

For dinner that evening, I made rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed peppers, mushrooms and arugula, and steak.

Afterwards we headed over to “The Roof,” a rooftop bar in the Hotel ME. The views here are spectacular, and it was a nice way to end our time in Madrid and help even out some of the bumps we came across throughout the day – even if I did spend a ridiculous fee for a glass of wine.

Day 2: Madrid

Day 2- my birthday! We started out the day by eating breakfast in bed (and enjoying the beautiful view and not quite too hot air that floated in). At around 10 a.m., James and I headed to the Parque del Retiro, home of the crystal palace. It was another 100+ degree day, which meant seeking out shade and rationing water.

The park itself is beautiful, and a pleasant oasis from the heat of the city. We strolled around, found the crystal palace, among other monuments, and took a page of the public yoga practitioners book and went barefoot in the shaded grass.

The crystal palace

There was an art exhibit going on at the same time which included a man meditating and laying around under the sheet tent behind me.


Overcome by the incredible heat, we eventually sought refuge in the Prado museum – which is filled primarily with religious works of art, because this is Spain afterall. Around 12:30 we started to fade and sought out the museum cafe where I proceeded to order dos tortillas de patatas, uno cafe con leche y uno te negro. Nailed it. Minus the fact that I forgot to order James milk for his tea, but we’ll take what we can get!

After being revived by refreshments, we tackled the rest of the museum and then headed to Celiocioso – the only gluten free bakery in Spain (or least the only one I found!). Their specialty? Cupcakes. I of course ordered more than I could eat, and picked up half a loaf of queso pan (cheese bread!).

We headed back to the apartment for siesta – which everyone seems to take seriously here. So I enjoyed my cupcakes with some bubbly while soaking my feet in the bathtub. The only true way to enjoy siesta.

James and I had tickets to tour the Royal Palace at 5 p.m. The security here was questionable. No one looked at our tickets. I set off the metal detector but the guards let me through when they realized I could only speak un poco espanol. Much different than our experience at Buckingham palace which required multiple scanners and check points.

The palace itself is insane. Each room was gorgeous. Over the top of course, but everything had a theme and was planned out very well. Almost every ceiling had a fresco. Art work was tasteful. The dining room was breathtaking, with a table that sat 130 individuals at a time.

After the tour, we headed over to Corral de Moreria, a famed flamenco spot. I was not expecting much in the way of dinner – this was a dancing establishment afterall. Boy was I wrong. The food was fabulous. We both ordered a tasting menu and had gazpacho, sea bass, lamb and chocolate. They brought me a whole pitcher of sangria which I barely made a dent in.

When we left around 10 p.m. the sun was still out. This is just so weird to me. How do people function here?! Clearly they don’t go to bed as early as I like to.

Day 1: Madrid

We made it! And to continue the tradition I started on my honeymoon, I’ve decided to blog our way through Spain as well.

The trip really started on the plane to Madrid. Departing at 5:40 p.m. in Boston meant arriving in Madrid at 6:30 a.m. local time. The last red eye I took with James was painful. Typically if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m the monster. When James can’t sleep on a plane we reverse roles. But this plane ride was extra special, because two rows in front of us – there was a two year old and an infant. Let’s just say that I was unaware that a child could literally scream for six and a half hours without breaking or working themselves up into eventual slumber. By the time the crew served breakfast (a mere three hours after dinner), I never hated a baby so much in my life.

We arrived at our apartment around 8:45 a.m. After being let in by a colleague of our AirBnb host (who spoke about three words in English – asleep, tired and no) we crashed into a wonderful two hour nap. This AirBnb is gorgeous and perfectly located. A studio apartment with a miniature kitchen, AC, beautiful view and full sized bathroom is perfect for our time here. 

After waking up around 11:30 a.m. we got dressed and headed out to el mercado de San Miguel – a famed tapas market a few blocks from our apartment.

Ordering tapas in Spanish, with a gluten intolerance was slightly overwhelming, but we came across some vegetarian paella and shrimp gazpacho – making my day much better – given that I had not eaten anything since 7 p.m. on the plane. James ordered “tres oysters.”


Completely melted at this point (it was about 100F), we found a grocery store, picked up some provisions and headed back to the apartment for siesta. We ventured out again to buy James a belt and shorts, both of which he left on the floor at home. But this okay because James loves clothing from Europe. Something about them that makes shopping tolerable.

Around 5 p.m. we headed over to the Real Madrid stadium for a tour. I would like to preface this by saying I am not soccer fan (though I have nothing against soccer). This tour was amazing. Attendees start by walking to the very top (painful) to be greeted by an amazing panorama view of the stadium.

This stadium holds 85,000 people. This is almost three times the size of Fenway park. And almost 20,000 more than Gillette.

We continued on our tour to see practically every trophy the team ever won (hundreds? maybe an exaggeration but there are a lot of them), soccer jerseys and shoes from 1910s and on, ridiculous holographic books that you can turn the pages on, a stream of gold confetti as the backdrop of the bigger trophies and more. When we thought the tour was over, we were surprised to find ourselves now on the field, on the benches that this team sits on when they aren’t playing. Benches? Oh you mean Audi sponsored memory foam THRONES. Yeah those.

It was really bright out.

The tour finished with the player’s locker room which contains a hot tub, spray shower stall and massage tables.

We had two hours to kill before dinner. I was starving, so we decided to do a little tapas hopping. Sadly, the kitchen of the place I chose was closed but I was able to order myself a glass of wine and water. Keep in mind I hadn’t had anything to eat since my shrimp gazpacho and it was around 7. We found a park and watched dogs play fetch in a fountain until our reservation at O’Pazo – a seafood restaurant.

Many of you told me that I would be fine, that everyone here speaks English. Let’s just say I am really glad I spent six months using Duolingo because I would be screwed (although I haven’t yet been able to ask… cuantos elefantes comen arroz?). I fumbled through ordering dinner – an English menu was only slightly helpful since most of the waiters didn’t speak it! I asked for a glass of rose. Or at least I thought I did. Wine here is so ridiculously inexpensive, that when they brought over a whole bottle, I was completely not ready for it!

To make me feel less like a lush, James had about an inch in his glass for show and tell. I took this sneaky picture to document this.

I was unable to drink it all.

For dinner, we shared a warm asparagus and tomato salad with a vinaigrette, grilled sole and grilled sea bass, and a side salad. Full to the brim, we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, only to find that the sun still hadn’t set at 10 p.m.