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Stop #9: Anton Martin: Linea 1

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Today, on our 4 month Madrid anniversary, we have decided to profess our love for Madrid and celebrate with a planned Metro Challenge to the Anton Martin stop. How in the world has it been four months already? Apparently, we blinked.

As you have probably noticed, a lot of the metro stops here in Madrid are named after historical European figures. Anton Martin was the immediate successor of Saint John of God. He lived from 1500-1553.  In all of the metro stops we have visited (so far), there is a wall that pays homage to its namesake.

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Spain has such a rich and unique culture, we can’t seem to soak it up fast enough. And what is more Spanish than tapas? So, I signed us up for a four hour long tapas cooking class. On the menu: Sangria, Catalan cream (think crème brule), garlic shrimp, chorizo in cider, Spanish tortilla, and potato bravas. The class size was small. There were a group of four Parisian girls here for the weekend and a couple from California and our teacher. We had hands on instruction and when we left, our bellies were full.

The tapas tradition started when King Alfonso XIII (who also has a metro station named after him), insisted that bars serve food along with alcohol because workers were coming back from “lunch” drunk. And boy, did it catch on… Now, whenever you go into a bar, you are served a small dish of food (for free) before you order your drink or meal or both. Although now, they are consumed mostly between the long lunch (2-4pm) and dinner (10pm and on).

We love tapas. Most nights, we only eat tapas for dinner because they are quick, easy and healthy-ish.  Our favorite are chorizo stuffed mushrooms and pan tomate. Somehow, the Spanish have taken something so simple and made it into a lifestyle. It’s certainly a lifestyle change that is permanent in our house.

 

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Grande Paris

Earning first place in anything is difficult. It requires determination and stamina. Maybe a little flexibility and persistence. Time after time. Year after year. Things are repeated, evaluated and corrected until they have been perfected…

It is my humble opinion that Paris has rightfully earned her place on top of the “World’s Greatest Cities” list. She is passionate and resolute. She has high, uncompromising standards. She is the prettiest and knows it. Her citizens carry this weight as a badge of honor and burden. Being Paris seems to be both effortless and exhausting.

This was my first trip to this famed city. As we drove down the picturesque streets to our hotel, the Eiffel Tower welcomed us. She seemed to always be in view, wherever we were in the city, watching over us, grand and breath-taking. While some parts of Paris were too popular to enjoy (sorry Louvre), others were anxious to show us the goods (literally… Bonjour Moulin Rouge).

At the end, it was the service and food that really set the city apart. I have to admit, I have fallen a bit in love with our girl Madrid, although I am not loving her cuisine just yet. French food, however, is my type of food. Our first dinner in the city was divine. (I have never used that word to describe food before, but there it is… the food was divine). And not only that, the service was enough to make Dan run to the hotel room and give a five star Yelp review. It was the kind of meal that makes you a little sad at the end. Proving their reputation true, the French are relatively rude people. But not those in the service industry. They have perfected the craft of customer service to almost an embarrassing level.

I will miss Paris. I will probably even dream of Paris. And if my life is as magical as I believe it is, I will find myself wondering Paris’ cobblestone streets again. Next time, the Mona Lisa will be on top of the to-do list (along with another performance of the Moulin Rouge 😉 and maybe a more intimate look at where Ernest Hemingway spent his time in the roaring 20s.

Pictures are in the Photos tab. Enjoy!

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Stop#8: San Bernardo: Linea 4

Our life in Madrid has started to rev its engines a bit. Dan’s first class is starting in a few weeks and I started Spanish school. With all of the walking required to get from A to B and back, Dan and I are exhausted at the end of the day. The last thing we want to do is walk more, so our Metro Challenge has taken a back burner. That being said, we know one of the things about a challenge like this is that it’s going to be a burden at times and stretch us to fight our laziness.

Last night, we pried ourselves off the couch and away from Netflix and pulled a metro stop from the jar. Our hopes were that what we found around the San Bernardo metro stop would be infinitely more interesting than another episode of a Gilmore Girls.

Verdict is still out. (We do LOVE the Gilmore Girls!)

When you emerge from the San Bernardo station, a giant fountain is there to greet you. And also lots and lots of traffic. Madrid loves her fountains. You can find majestic ones in parks and the “must see” sections of Madrid, but you can actually find one on most streets. There is a pretty one in the intersection by a gas station caddy corner to our house. Beautiful, but not necessarily note-worthy.

We took the route around the station that had a florist spilling out on the street. I just can’t seem to help myself. Dan jokes with me that visiting garden centers does not appear to be making spring arrive any faster. He is right. I just have to be patient. Spring will arrive soon enough and I now have the skinny on all the good places to get plants and flowers.

We walked for quite a while on a cobblestone street with street vendors, shopping and TWO movie theaters. It’s amazing how easily we are reminded that we are in Spain when we see cobblestone streets and buildings covered in tile. Check out this one… the city sanitation department, for goodness sakes.

Finally, we found a truly PERFECT spot for dinner. La Canadienese. In full disclosure, we had heard of this restaurant before, but sneaking up on it was a wonderful surprise.

We feasted on poutine, falafels and pork ribs. All in all, the restaurant was good, just not overly Canadian. Dan could not forgive that no Canadian beer was offered and the last I checked, tuna poke bowls didn’t originate from the Great North. But, when we left, our tummies were full and spirits were high.

But not so full, that we could make room for a raspberry gelato 🙂

As far as Metro stops go, this was a fun night out, no doubt. But the area felt too familiar and predictable.

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. -Roger Caras

I bet you are wondering how the pups are adjusting to Spain.

Just like their humans, Murray, Ruby and Jezza are getting used to their new home and city.   Their adaptation appears to be ongoing… somedays are better than others.  All three are very loud in Europe! And there are so many new things to bark at…

For example, Spanish dogs walk around without leashes.  This bothers Ruby.  How could their owners do this to them?  She is extremely concerned that these dogs are going to be hit by cars or stolen or get lost.  She is very vocal in lending her support to these obedient, albeit mistreated, canines.  😊  Jezza is the biggest dog on the block (and by block, I mean the entire continent).  He demonstrates his size often and these poor Spanish dogs just don’t know what to do when they hear his deep boom of a bark. 

Since we no longer have a backyard and grass seems to be reserved for parks here, Jezza has taken to doing #2 in the middle of the street…with oncoming traffic…  In fact, his favorite location is the cross street two blocks away from our apartment that has blind corners and traffic that travels at 50kph.  It’s a delight for us to have to drag him to safety in the middle of his business. 

Murray doesn’t seem to notice that anything is different.  As long as his meals continue to be on time and his blanket is available, he’s fine. 

They do seem closer as a pack.  We notice them cuddling a lot more than they used to.  Man, is it sweet.  Two months in and our verdict so far is that they emotionally and physically made it through the journey, but their personalities are still catching up with the change.  Just like their humans!

Were we crazy to move our three dogs to Europe?  Maybe a little, but it was worth it 😊

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Stop #7: Banco de Espana: Linea 2

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As I am sure you have seen on the news, Europe is having some temperamental weather.  A little storm they call Emma has decided to wreak havoc on the north.  And while Spain is south of all that destructive drivel, it is unfortunately not completely exempt.  Last week, we had five straight days of rain.  And Spanish rain is unpredictable.  Sometimes it’s a light mist, sometimes it’s a normal spring shower and without warning will turn into a downpour with exceptionally strong wind.  Our poor olive tree was uprooted, and the belongings of our upstairs neighbors littered our porch.   

Sunday, for the first time in a week, we got sunshine and Dan and I took advantage.  Our metro stop took us to Banco de Espana, a block south of the famous Prado museum.  Dan and I have toured the first floor of the Prado and still have another floor to go, but today wasn’t the day.  Who wants to spend a day of sunshine in a museum?  However, some of the best art can be purchased from local artists in booths outside the Prado.  This was the purpose of our trip. We have some bare walls in our apartment and I love Spanish art. It was a productive trip too.  I am happy to announce that Dan and I are now the proud owners of an oil painted rooster.  😊

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Not far from the Prado, we walked through the popular Retiro park.  Its hard to believe that we have been in Madrid for almost two months and never made it to Retiro.  I guess we can blame it on arriving in the winter.   Retiro is Madrid’s version of Central Park.  It is full of joggers, dogs, vendors, tourists, statues, topiaries and in the middle, a sweet pond where you can rent a boat by the hour.  It was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon in Madrid.

 

Now…back to another forecasted week of rain 😊

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Oh, Lisbon…

As it turns out, Lisbon is not a city for dogs. But, dogs we have and travel we must, so we made the best of a less than ideal situation. Plus, how do we find out if a city is dog-friendly until we try?

First off, no person or book ever mentioned that Lisbon has cobblestone streets with hills steeper than San Francisco and when they get wet, they are slicker than ice. That information would have come in handy when Dan was renting a manual car 😊 But, he navigated the streets like a professional driver and we made it through without incident.

Our AirBNB was the sweetest 800 sq ft, but the door led onto a street the width of a tight alley with 12-inch sidewalks on either side and cars buzzing by at 30 mph. Taking the dogs out the door became an adventurous, albeit dangerous task that I was happy to come to an end. We had a stereotypical old Portuguese woman standing in the door next to us, always mumbling to us in Portuguese, in her housecoat and apron. She smiled occasionally, but she was ALWAYS there.

Lisbon is beautiful and old with her long history documented with gorgeous buildings and statues. The past greets you at the corner of most streets with architecture dating back hundreds of years. As a bonus, the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus river make you feel like you are island-living. We even found a beach for an afternoon. Jezza loves himself a giant puddle.

The flip side is that because of the late 2000s financial crisis, Lisbon has found herself akin to a college graduate in her twenties. She is prepped with all the necessary tools for a giant breakthrough but hasn’t quite lived up to her potential and needs to be reminded to clean her room. Lisbon was hip, cool, grungy, smoky and needs a good wipe-down. Dan and I felt old walking the streets, and yearned to come back to our squeaky clean, mature Madrid.

All our photos are on the Photos tab. Make no mistake, Lisbon is full of the coolest street art to be found, amazing food, and scenery that takes your breath away.

Look for yourself…

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Lisbon

A lot of buildings in Lisbon are covered with the most gorgeous and colorful ceramic tile. As we learned on a food tour this morning, this is because these tiles were once cheaper than paint, they fire-proof a building and the tile reflects the sun. Older buildings do not have indoor heat or air. The colors are mesmerizing. I thought I would share some of my favorites with you so far…

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A cautionary tale…

I’m going to be honest with you guys. Sometimes, being an expat is weird on a marriage. I am ALWAYS with Dan. We depend on each other in ways we never dreamed. For example, when one of us has a bad Spanish day, the other has to step it up and have a good Spanish day. We always finished each other’s sentences before, but now I need to know the Spanish word he is struggling to find and vice versa. And I have officially taken the title of co-pilot. But then there is the support that we didn’t anticipate…

I needed a haircut. My hair is long, but getting tired and needed a trim. However, I just couldn’t get the nerve to go into a beauty parlor and attempt to speak Spanish for the duration of a salon visit. So… I asked the hubster to trim my hair…. this is what happened next.

Doesn’t look like a trim, does it? 🙂

(It actually looks fantastic and is straighter than a professional. The length is just a bit shorter than what was requested). What a life 🙂

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Stop #6: Gran Via: Linea 1, 5

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Dan and I decided to tackle the mother of all tourist traps on Valentine’s Day… Gran Via.  From the moment you walk out of the metro, it feels more like the United States than Madrid.  All of the surrounding buildings are the ones that you see on postcards, the people were speaking English and dressed just like Dan and me, and the store fronts were familiar. 

 

I say that it feels like the United States, but the reality is that it doesn’t feel anything like Indiana.  It is the Spanish version of Broadway in New York City.  There are brightly lit marquees advertising plays and productions, movies, variety shows and concerts.  The Lion King or El Rey Leon is currently playing. Clothing stores and fast food restaurants line the street, including the first McDonalds in Spain.  (As a general rule, the Spanish don’t eat fast food and the availability is nothing like it is in America).  More than that though, there was a hustle and hurriedness that we aren’t used to anymore.  The Spanish simply don’t move that fast.   Americans that are trying to check everything off a to-do list before they catch their flight the next morning, however, move quickly. 

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Spanish, while not warm and fuzzy people, celebrate Valentine’s Day with enthusiasm.  The little street outside our apartment that leads to the metro was covered with hearts on every tree.  The restaurant where we had tapas had the ceiling covered in heart shaped balloons.  The metro was even full of couples loving each other more noticeably than usual 🙂 

Dan and I had a delicious perch ceviche for tapas.  It was so tasty and so fresh.  The music was loud and Latin and we found that our spirits were high just from the ambience.  Check out the sights from the rooftop terrace!  That’s our city 😊 

We then moved venues (like true Madrilinos) and had the BEST cheese fondue ever (Sorry, family, its true).  There was even a rose on my place setting when we arrived at the restaurant.  Love was certainly in the air on Valentine’s Day.  My favorite day here so far.

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Stop #5: Alonso Martinez: Linea 4, 5 and 10

IMG_7328I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Most of the time, I appreciate it for what it is… a way to keep in contact with friends and a source for recipes, events and news articles that I would otherwise miss. Last Sunday, while scrolling through Instagram, I found the address of a bakery here in Madrid. The treats looked exotic, but there was one in particular that I thought my husband would love for Valentine’s Day. Those delicacies led us to Alonso Martinez…

 

Yes… you are seeing that correct. Macaroons flavored with Bombay gin. They are just as unique and delicious as they sound.

 

We also got a raspberry mousse and a carrot cake. I wasn’t a fan of the carrot cake, but could have devoured fifty of the raspberry mousse without a break. They were that good.

 

The evening took us on a long walk through the Alonso Martinez area, which was a cool, hipster area with a mix of funk and grunge. Incredible street art, beautiful gardens, a pop-up bookstore and a road that led us to a movie theatre that had American films. We spent two and a half hours in a bubble with popcorn and Tom Hanks. Alonso Martinez did not disappoint. And we would say that it is our favorite stop to date, but that may not be the case anymore 😊