Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 9- Move Over Breakfast Burrito

San Sebastian is considered Spain's culinary capital. It is said to have the best food around and is especially known for it's pintxos. A pintxo is basically the Basque word for tapas or for the even more American version, appetizers. When you go into cafe's or bars and restaurants most places have a variety of pintxos set up all over the bar. You go in, take what you want then tell them at the end what you had. It is the honor system here, in most places that is. It is one of those things that you have to go into a place and observe what other people do first. We were slightly confused at first, they do have menus you can order off of as well but the times they serve from the menu are limited. Breakfast is served earlier here than in Madrid and ends earlier, lunch starts around 11am unless it's a restaurant not a cafe' then they don't serve until 1pm, kitchens close around 4pm unless they have pintxos left on the bar and dinner starts around 8pm. Got it? Whatever time of day, wherever you go the food is amazing. My first dinner was a spanish omelette, I know daring right? It was like a quiche with eggs and potatoes served as a sandwich on a fresh baked baguette. Even the simplest of things had that extra special touch to it that made you feel like they just went out of their way to make it for you.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 8- The Ride

Today we embarked on a 5 1/2 hour train ride early in the a.m. from Madrid to the Northern part of Spain, a town called San Sebastian. But before I talk about our destination, I want to talk about the ride. Because isn't that what life is all about, the ride!?! I know this seems a bit philosophical for a travel blog but that is what happens sometimes when you travel. Traveling is much different than going on vacation. Most of the time it's a longer period of time and you finally get to a point where your life slows down a bit. Technology is not as accessible, people usually don't speak as much English if any and you no longer have a to do list. That is when you open up your mind and notice the small things in life, because at the end of the day no one remembers how they fell asleep, they remember everything they did to get to bed. I don't know when riding trains became a thing of the past..... Was it because our society sped up and everyone had to get places faster? I mean how often do you get to look at the scenery on a plane besides maybe when you fly over the Grand Canyon. Trains are nostalgic, they give you a sense of what life was like when people dressed up to go places. They have dining cars, ticket takers and a ton of leg room. We saw, rain, snow and mountains on our way. It was just the thing that reminds you to stop and look around once in a while because not just life but the world around you will quickly pass you by.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 7- Last full day in Madrid

Caixa Forum, contemporary art museum. The museum is only 4 years old but that is what makes it interesting. It's a mix of rotating multimedia and photography, the added bonus is it's free! Lunch at the classic Cafe' Commercial which is so old that the stairs are worn out in the middle. This as a nice change from the Starbucks for the internet but like most places it's limited. If a cafe' happens to have it for free it is only 45 minutes to an hour. We also discovered what I think will be the new rage in power lunching. It is a cafe' called Diurno, it serves everything from Irish Coffees to desserts. Did I mention you can also rent dvd's there?!? The kicker is it is set up like a cafeteria, you walk up to the food that is all laid out in the cooler and pick what you want. You can take it to go or have them heat it up for you and enjoy it there. They have sandwiches and pastas.
Tonight we say good-bye to Madrid...... Tomorrow we head to the train station for San Sebastian.

Day 6- More Food..... Madrid

Bazaar, Gazpacho and Duck Confit in hummus (it sounds much better in Spanish).

Day 6- Food in Madrid

Case Julio, home of the best croquettes in Madrid. You can order either 6 or 12 and they give you a variety of whatever ones they have made that day. If you don't like surprises, have someone else taste it first. More to come........

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 5- Shopping Like a Local

Today we woke up fairly early which was much tougher to do once you have already adjusted your sleeping schedule for later days, for a Sunday morning must-do in Madrid. El Rastro, located in La Latina it's one of Europe's largest flea markets. El Rastro, which in Spanish means "the stain" owes it's name to the blood that once trickled down the streets from the slaughter houses (according to Lonely Planet). It has been an open-air market for half a millennium. Usually my flea market shopping consists of vintage purses and a possible vase or interesting piece of furniture. Since we were concerned about carrying to much with us I settled for a bracelet and a tiny jewelry (or pill) box. Basically so I can say "I picked that up at a flea market in Madrid". The streets on a Sunday morning here are bare, we were out at 9am and the only people we saw were a few stumbling home from the night before. The city is surprisingly clean, there is graffiti all over but even that looks like some kind of art project to add to the eclectic feel of the city. There are few homeless people but even they seem to have a more refined look to them. We decided to stay in today, we stopped at the market to make up our own meat and cheese plate with vino of course. Then a trip to the bakery for a loaf of unbelievably fresh bread. I mean when was the last time you went to the bakery to buy bread? We spent the afternoon planning our next step in the trip, we settled on San Sebastian. Now we just need to figure out what to do in our last two full days in Madrid.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 4- Observations

Today got off to a very late start, we planned on a late night so we needed to sleep in to adjust. Our goal from now on is to order only in Spanish, first attempt was what I thought to be a pastry, come to find out it was filled with tuna. While it was pretty good it's just not what you expect to taste with your morning coffee. Live and learn they say, now I know "atun" is tuna. Espresso is always espresso and all
the doors push to open. Also the men here carry European carry-alls, every woman wears tights and there are quite a few female police officers. We even saw a female taxi driver, I think that was my first ever. After a phenomenal dinner at A Dos Velas, that consisted of duck confiet and goat cheese and spinach risotto we headed to see some live Spanish jazz. Berlin Cafe a 1950's jazz club that only showcases classic jazz. It also served one of the best and definitely the largest gin and tonics I have ever had complete with fresh cucumber.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 3- Madrid, The Walking Tour

Today we decided to see the city the best way you can see a city, by walking around. We walked through the streets and saw the everyday things that happen in the city. We saw protesters, the city workers had been on strike when we arrived so there was trash everywhere but the next day everyone was out cleaning up the city. These protesters we picketing outside what looked to be what we would call the board of education building. They were holding signs with a larger pair of scissors on them with a circle with a slash going through them (No cuts). We headed to Plaza Mayor which was where they used to have bullfights and larger ceremonies. The plaza was now covered with Christmas decorations so we didn't get the same feeling we would have a week ago but it was still cool to stand in a spot where people were
potentially beheaded once. Near there is where we found what I may remember to be one of my favorite places, Chocolateria de San Gires where we had a plate of churros and a heaping mug of pure chocolate purely for dipping. It is a must if you go to Madrid! Next was the Plaza de la Oriente and the Royal Palace. The royal family does not live here anymore apparently it was way too lavish for them. I mean it only has like 2400 rooms. There are an exorbitant amount of public squares in Madrid which has your typical public square feel, street vendors, pick pockets, lots of people and your run-of-the-mill street performers. Living in Los Angeles this really didn't faze me but I can see how it could freak some people out. I personally like the fat Spiderman. No, I am not being mean he was the fat Spiderman, he even had a matching doll.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 2- Art & Food

Our goal for our first full day in Madrid was to jump right into the culture. After a morning of searching for a quaint cafe' to write my morning blog I quickly learned a cafe' in Spain serves both coffee and alcohol, which is great but many are not open very early and they do not have wifi. So we ended up at the all american wifi central, Starbucks. After our lattes we headed to Museo del Prado, the main Spanish national art museum. It features one the world's finest collection of European art from 12th century to early 19th century but unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art. My favorite part was the collection by landscape painter Martin Rico a Spanish painter who's works include beautiful images of Spain and Italy. I also enjoyed Las Pinturas Negras (The Black Pictures) By Goya, it was something very different especially during that time period and he originally did them as murals in his home, they were later transferred to prints. I did in fact take away a few more pieces of information, 1. 18th century or earlier art starts to look the same after a while, 2. larger women were definitely considered sexy back in the day and, 3. any painting done of a baby or child is extremely creepy. After a walk through Parque del Buen Retiro where we saw Madrid's oldest tree it was time for tapas and vino of course. I mean when in Rome, right...... La Casita was the place, Patatos bravas (spicy potatoes), Albondigas (homemade meatballs) and my new favorite Croqueta casera de jargon serrano (homemade ham croquettes). It was basically fried mash potatoes with pieces of ham mixed in. Another thing we learned is that a late dinner is not 8 o'clock. The dining room of the restaurant we went to did not even open until 9pm. Tonight we need to start adjusting our schedules to start our day later so we can try to get into the Madrid night life which is apparently the highlight of the city.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 1 -Madrid The Arrival

Today we arrived in Madrid, Spain after an over night flight from New York. Well because of the 6 hour time difference it technically wasn't over night so our bodies thought it was 4 am. We landed at the Madrid Barajas International Airport at 10 am, my favorite thing after we land is the trip from the airport to our destination. I love pulling out of the airport and just seeing our surroundings, some familiar but mostly an entirely different culture passing you by. We took the express bus from the airport to Plaza de Cibeles just like the woman (Sofia) who rented us the apartment told us to do. 5 Euro each for the roughly 15 minute bus ride, definitely beats a 20-30 Euro taxi. After a short walk through the bustling neighborhood we found our new home (for the next week at least). The flat lives on the fourth floor of what seems to be a nineteenth century building complete with a doorman. The elevator is the size of a closet and I must say made me a little nervous, especially since Eric and I along with our belongings barely fit. We met Sofia, a very nice woman who also still carries an actual day planner around which I appreciate. The flat is white, I mean white floors, white linens, white cabinets, white..... Small but perfect for us, thankfully we are not that tall otherwise we would not fit in the bed. After we cleaned up we ventured out to explore the neighborhood, we stopped at our first authentic Spanish meal at Restarante Ciudad De Tui, I had salted ham and artichoke hearts and it was delicious! After lunch we stopped at a local bodega and picked up a few groceries and especially some wine. It was an early night since we were so exhausted but wanted to stay on schedule. We will be rested and ready for our first full day in Madrid tomorrow.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

First, The Big Move

Before we head to Spain in 17 days, actually before we head to Connecticut in 14 days we decided to move. Yes, we are leaving the downtown loft living to move back to suburbia. Well beach suburbia the South Bay, actually for the time being a storage unit in the South Bay. Confused yet? We decided to fully enjoy our 45 days in Spain aka the longest honeymoon ever, we would move now instead of when we returned in January to save money. The problem with that is we decided to do it the week of our first wedding. The ceremony was beautiful here in sunny California, then we heading to Detroit, Michigan 10 days later for our reception which was not as sunny but just as great! This weekend marks the beginning of the moving madness, although I got a small head start a couple weeks ago before Michigan this is the official move weekend! We have 12 days to get out, while preparing for our trip and Eric finishes his last 9 days on the show. Wish us luck!