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.