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The fun never ends here

You know, adventure doesn’t have to happen by the light of day. Tonight, after we took our pups for their final potty break for the evening, we noticed that our door key had fallen off of Dan’s key ring. (Our door is self locking)

There have been few times in my ridiculously fortunate life where I have been more confused on how to proceed. I took the dogs away from the apartment to let Dan think. What do you do when you have three dogs, are in your pajamas, no phone, no money, no way to communicate at 1am? I still don’t have an answer. Luckily, I didn’t have to… by the time I got back, Dan had phoned a lock smith (his phone was in his pocket). By 125am, we were back inside.

Lesson learned, universe, Lesson learned.

Cost of tonight’s potty break? 300 euros. (Price gauging is universal). :/

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Stop #4: Noviciado. Linea 2

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Life in Madrid is not boring.  Since my last post, we have had a 48 hour snowfall, our shipping container was FINALLY delivered, and we have completed several metro stops.  Our Spanish doesn’t seem to be improving much, but we are feeling more comfortable with our surroundings and navigating the city.  The Metro Challenge seems to be accomplishing its intended goal… we are getting off our bums and exploring our new city. 😊

Make no mistake… this is a gut-checking adventure at times.  There are days when the four walls of our apartment seem to hold the only friendliness in the city.  So, last weekend we decided to seek out the other English speakers.  (Side note:  One of the quirks of Spain is that they don’t really eat breakfast.  A coffee and cigarette will get them through until mid-afternoon when they will have their three-hour lunch).  I, however, love breakfast.  It is, by far, my favorite meal of the day.  My marvelous, intuitive husband realized that I needed comfort and found us a Bagel Brunch in a second-hand bookstore that was run by Americans.  It was a lively, popular place that was full of people who also seemed to crave speaking English as much as we did.  The bagels were good, and the mimosas were delicious.  It’s funny how just an hour of familiarity fills the tank.

As we walked around Madrid, we watched Madrilinos enjoying their Saturday.  We watched a father and son play “futbol” in a square.  We took lots of pictures of Madrid’s street art.  Our observation is that Spaniards have figured out how to keep time slow.  They seem to savor life in a much different way than we Americans do.  What we didn’t notice until later was that, in just a month, we have also adopted this pace of life.  Our day was spent walking, talking, taking pictures and just being with each other.  When we returned home, we felt that Noviciado might be our favorite stop.  That was…until Tuesday 😊

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Stop #3: Arguelles: Linea 4

IMG_7220Today’s entry in the Metro challenge is the stop Arguelles. Arguelles is a major stop – it is the origin of the 4 line, and also has stops for the 3 and 6 line. One of the first impressions you get from Arguelles, besides its size, is this fantastic mosaic mural on the wall…

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El Corte Ingles (translation “The English Court”) is a large department store chain, and one of their largest stores is located here – everything from Michael Kors purses to GE appliances to gourmet wine and cheese to couches. One of the largest locations is on the corner here. However, today Nancy was in the mood for something a little cooler… a little more trendy…

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There is something about Tiger that reminds me of Ikea. Maybe it is the minimalist design, the Scandinavian sensibility (Tiger is Danish) that anything can be whimsical, or the fact that everything seems cheap… even if its not. Everything here is priced and packaged to appear affordable. Yet somehow the two times we have been here the bill has been north of 40 euros… but you do get a lot for it… spices, stationary, candles, toys, mostly between 1 and 5 euros per package.

Also at Arguelles, what I think made Nancy TRULY happy, was the corner florist. It seems you can go anywhere in Madrid even in February, and find a street vendor with fresh and bright flowers.

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Once the exploring (which is really code for SHOPPING) is complete, we wander over to the real purpose of our trip to Arguelles… dinner.

We love Paella. Even though it is not a Madrid specialty, real Paella comes from Valencia, the tourists demand it so it is everywhere. The restaurant Casa Valencia is a Madrid tradition. Located across from the Parque de la Tinaja and the Temple of Debod, two major Madrid landmarks, the restaurant has been a fixture of Madrid since 1975. Opened officially by the King of Spain, it is THE place in Madrid for traditional Paella.

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Inexpensive, with a great wine list (fantastic wine under 20 euros a bottle makes Dan very happy), friendly wait staff, and an English menu (always a plus), we love Casa Valencia. Some interesting quirks about the place is the live lobster tank… Nancy is constantly worried that something we order will have lobster and she will see it removed from the tank, and the fact that they charge for the bread… but don’t ask you if you want it. The bread is excellent and pretty cheap, but the Asian pair at the next table was NOT happy.

Between Tiger, El Corte Ingles, and Case Valencia, not to mention a Zara Home, and some other cool stores, Arguelles is a stop we will be visiting again and again.

Stop 3 in the books, 178 to go. Dan

 

 

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Stop #2: Ventura Rodriguez: Linea 3

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One of the cool things about the metro, is how it is like a cocoon. You walk into the metro in one place, and then are totally isolated from the outside world until you emerge somewhere else. Did it rain? Maybe. Snow? Possibly. Flying pigs? Have to read tomorrow’s paper. So emerging from the Metro always brings with it a surprise, sometimes small and sometimes…

20180202_183221_resizedVentura Rodrigues is on the 3 line, and is not really remarkable on its own. Its close to a lot of things… Plaza Espana, the Royal Palace, the massive department store El Corte Ingles.

Our dinner destination for the evening was a stylish tapas restaurant bar called La Sifoneria.

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We decided that we had been in Spain for three weeks and had not yet “Hace Vermut”, the Spanish phrase for “Doing Vermouth”, and tonight was the night. If you are not familiar with sweet vermouth, this is not the stuff James Bond adds a very small amount to his Martini’s. Sweet Vermouth is a sweet herbal cocktail and very much an acquired taste. Its in the wine family, but tastes nothing like wine. We Clark’s have argued about whether or not is tastes like uncarbonated Coke… and the argument continues.

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La Sifoneria is an interesting place. The food was decent though not spectacular. We had tapas that were more Italian than Spanish (a Caprese Salad, mini pizzas) and a main course that was definitely Asian (they called it a Wok, I call it a stir fry). But what made the place worth the trip was the atmosphere.

It was a little hipster, a little trendy, and definitely off the wall. There was a wall covered in old liquor bottles, exposed green painted brick, and lots of character. There was a group of Americans discussing their lives as ESL teachers. It was a slice of Modern Madrid, in a city that loves its traditions.

Stop #2, definitely a success. We even found a cool taberna to visit the next time we are in the area! 2 down, 179 to go. Dan

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Stop #1: Tirso de Molina: Linea Uno

Last night, after our 2nd Spanish lesson, Dan and I were in search of a birthday present.  Could there be a more perfect event to start off our Madrid Metro Challenge?  The name was drawn from the jar and we ended up at Tirso de Molina on Line 1.

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One of the things I love most about Europe is how architecture and neighborhoods change just by turning a corner.  When I emerge from the metro, I have no idea what will be waiting for me.  Admittedly, sometimes its not so good, but most of the time, its glorious.  Last night was one of those marvelously surprising moments.  The metro dropped us off at a center full of flower vendors.  Bouquet flowers, flowers for outdoor potting, every different size and variety of cacti, and trees, were pouring into the square.  It was so beautiful and so charming.

As it turned out, Tirso de Molina isn’t very far from the widely popular Plaza Mayor.  We have been here several times, but like the food around the plaza and the bustle.  We ate mushrooms for dinner, acquired some great presents for my favorite humans back home, and walked until our feet hurt (which is easy to do here).

Stop #1 in the books.  180 stops remaining.

 

 

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How did we get here? Part 2

After we disembarked the Queen Mary 2, what I consider our real adventure began.  Thanks to my generous mother in law, Dan’s step brother and his wife were waiting for us in Southampton.  They had flown to Madrid from Canada, picked up a car and drove to meet us in the UK.  There are no words to describe our gratitude or to explain how much this helped us.

The UK portion of our trip was a breeze.  We only had a 30-minute drive from Southampton to Portsmouth where we picked up our ferry.  After a minor kerfuffle about the United States issuing 3rd country health certificates for the pups instead of pet passports, we drove onto a ferry.  If you have never been on a ferry before, might I recommend the Brittany Ferry.  They had numerous lounges with reclining chairs, an amazing cafeteria, two movie theatres and a gift store.  Dan and I were able to take a long nap, eat dinner and watch “Murder on the Orient Express”.  My only complaint was that the dogs had to stay IN the parked car below for the six+ hour trip while Dan and I had to stay OUT of the car.  We were allowed one visitation and found that the tummy troubles from the night before were all over the floor.  We would smell that ferry ride for the rest of our drive through Europe :/

The ferry spit us out in Caen, France.  From there we drove to Bordeaux, France and then on to Madrid.  In total, the trip from my parent’s driveway to our new hometown took us twelve days.  Twelve days that completely changed our lives. 

So… now that you are caught up on how we arrived here, sit tight… I am going to introduce you to the new leading lady in our lives… the glorious Madrid.

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How did we get here? Part one…

Going back in time… January 3rd- January 10th, 2018

What can we say about the Queen Mary 2?

When Dan was interviewing in the fall of 2016, we had a long discussion about moving internationally. Aside from the usual hesitations that go along with such a life change, my number one concern were the pups. I refused to move anywhere they would have to be quarantined. (As I mentioned, my little Murray is a sensitive soul and the thought of putting him in a cage for six months or longer was far too much for me to bear.) So, the international job search eliminated Asia and Australia, just like that. Our only feasible option was Europe. It was this early in the game that I found her, the Queen Mary 2: the only Ocean liner that has kennels and travels between the United States and Europe. We researched travel dates, sent emails about pricing and then went about our lives, knowing she was always in our back pocket. Then, in January 2017, when the decision to move to Spain was made, our first call was the reservation line at Cunard.

The Queen Mary 2 is just like living in Downton Abbey for a week. Most passengers are British with impeccable manners and a remarkable zest for life. We met more people who were on their fifth or more voyage on the Queen Mary than newbies like us. At first, we were confused. Why take the mode of transportation that takes a week to reach your destination if you don’t have dogs? By the end of the week, we were hooked and understood exactly why. It is a dignified voyage that makes you feel like a pampered millionaire (which we certainly are not). The staff learns your name, there are formal evening dinners that require cocktail dresses and tuxedos, and the entertainment feels like a Broadway theatre. At every step, you feel appreciated (which is so rare nowadays). When passing fellow passengers, there is always a greeting and smile. The world would be a different place if people treated each other the way they do on the Queen Mary 2.

The kennels were such a surprise. There were 19 dogs that traveled on this voyage. You would think with that many dogs there would be conflict, but they were just as civilized and well-behaved as everyone else on the ship. We met lovely people who love their dogs as much as we do and most were moving to Europe as well. There were set visitation times and if we were running late, our dogs usually met us at the gate. The two kennel masters cared for our pups and I mean really cared for them. They were treated to leftover steak, chicken and salmon, rice and vegetables in addition to their usual dinner. We were informed if there were tummy issues, they picked up after them, refreshed their water and cuddled with them. We could not have been more pleased with their care and were able to enjoy ourselves outside of the kennel because we trusted that they were safe and healthy.

Outside the kennel, there is a planetarium, a library, a bookstore, game tables, a casino, a movie theatre, a performance stage, pools, exercise rooms, a spa, seminars, a salon and shops. There were wine classes, art classes, exercise classes, Bingo and karaoke. Anything that you could envision wanting to do while out to sea, you could find on the Queen Mary 2. The only thing that took getting used to was the lack of internet, but now a week removed from the voyage, it was refreshing not being attached to technology. Stress melted off of us while on board, and I think that is exactly what she is designed to do.

We will be repeat visitors on the Queen Mary 2. Not only to go back to the United States with the pups, but they also have a world voyage that we are going to figure out a way to take. Around the globe in 100 days in the lap of luxury with 34 ports… SIGN ME UP! 🙂

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Testing…testing…1 2 3

Well… we made it.  Two humans, three dogs, three modes of transportation, four countries and three languages.  To say that it was easy would be a lie, but it wasn’t that hard either.  We consistently focused on the task at hand and found ourselves here… in our little apartment in Madrid.  We have been here a week and still look at each other on occasion and say “We actually did this.  We moved our three dogs to Spain.”

We are the Clarks, Dan and Nancy.  We moved to Madrid in January 2018 for Dan’s career as a college professor.  We don’t speak Spanish (yet), but are determined to have the adventure of a lifetime.  There are thirty countries that we are eager to travel to, as well as getting to know our new city.  These dogs are our babies and whether they like it or not, they are going to see Europe too!

Meet our pups…

Murray:  Our pouty Boglen with a sensitive heart, insatiable appetite and the ability to sleep anywhere.

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Ruby:  Our princess and survivor.  The Alpha only because the other two don’t care to be, she takes her place in the pack with serious pride.  She found exactly where she belongs with us.  Just look at those gorgeous teeth!

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Jezza:  Our slobbery Golden Retriever who is always up for some fetch and keep away.  His sunny disposition proves that you really can have the best day of your life everyday 🙂

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And us…  Dan and Nancy.  The proud parents and the creators of the wanderlust.  I was told my entire life that I was allergic to the word “no” and now I live a life that proves that to be true.  Anything is possible…