We arrived into Madrid, Spain on Sunday, May 24th. Eight hour time change, one missing bag, a long, red-eye flight and little sleep made for a tired and crabby Winkel family.
Despite our awesome emergency exit-like seats on Air Avianca, Richard and I did not get too much sleep. At the airport, we managed to get a shuttle service to the apartment. Landed at the apartment by around 4:30ish. Settled in and unpacked the Lego immediately. Richard went with Manuel, our VRBO host, to scout the neighbourhood, find a bank and little grocery store to help get us settled. Grilled cheese and bananas for supper and everyone was in bed around 9pm. It took some trips back and forth to the boy’s bedroom to get them ready for sleep, but Richard and I were asleep immediately once the apartment was quiet.
Monday, May 25
Ethan had a bowl of Cheerios at 1 this morning! That time change really sucks. I think everyone was awake for about an hour, then back to sleep for the rest of the night at two. Had to wake kids up this morning at 9. Breakfast was coffee and toasted croissants from the cafe at the corner …yummy. The apartment is alright; dirty and a little lacking in some amenities, but it will do for the week, the bed sleeps well which is really all that is important!
We took the metro and the subway today to get to Plaza Isabel for lunch and to get some euros and then on to the Palacio Real de Madrid or the Royal Palace. Very ornate, the boys were interested in the historic use of each room. Also a very cool armory room with swords, kids size armor and lots of headpieces, chest shields and full sets of armor.
Even with taking the bus and the train, it was still a lot of walking, too much considering how tired we are still. Home at 4:30, watched a movie with the kids, some Lego play, then supper. We have decided to push bedtime back to follow the sun a bit, maybe they will sleep in too! Not sure if Ethan is going to make his “new” bedtime, as he is a wipeout right now, sobbing about Lego. Homemade spaghetti for supper, not bad, not great.
Highlights of the Day
James liked riding the subway. Matthew enjoyed riding the subway and liked the Royal Palace, especially the armory. Ethan said he also liked the palace and riding the bus and subway. Those boys love any kind of public transportation. Today we were giggling about Susan Del Mar and Patricia Precious, nicknames that the boys made up while they are playing, silly boys!
Tuesday, May 26
Sleepy morning, Ethan slept in till about 10am until I finally woke him up. The boys played Lego, had a leisurely breakfast, nice hot shower for Mama after getting her missing suitcase last night! Yahoo! Finally made some plans. Took the bus, then the subway to a major station, trying to purchase EuroRail tickets. Didn’t go to the right station so we had to keep going. Did you know you have to pay to use the bathroom in some train stations? Yeah, neither did I!
Finally made it to the correct station, then discovered we needed to have our passports in hand to buy EuroRail tickets. Anyways, had a not so appetizing lunch at the station, then got back on the train to ride back to our apartment. Stopped at Gran Via on our way back. Busy street bustling with people, cars, buses, shops and restaurants. Pretty spot with cool architecture.
Had some ice cream which was a nice pit stop. Yummy strawberry sorbet! Rode the bus again to get back to our place. Long day, lots of riding. Went for a little stroll for our supper, chose a nice spot. Had a difficult time ordering. The boys meals of hamburgers was a success, Ethan had french fries (again) and I ended up with melted cheese, bits of bacon and an egg served over french fries. Not exactly what I had in mind, Richard’s dinner was alright, meat, green peppers and more French fries. The best part was the baileys-like drink after supper which was free and candy for the kids! The service was good, but we have yet to eat any good Spanish food here in Madrid. Not much English is spoken by anyone and translating menus is not easy. Disappointing meal, to say the least.
Wednesday, May 27
Well, getting out of bed is proving more and more difficult. Ethan was awake at nine and then crawled back into bed and could hardly get him up at 10:30 again. Decided to go for a bit of a walking tour to some plazas. After a bus ride, we started in Plaza Major, kinda cool, had a drink, looked around, then kept going. Stopped for lunch at Subway, kept walking. Rode the bus back home after a bit of whining from Ethan. All that kid wants to do is ride the bus or take the subway, unfortunately when you are traveling underground, you don’t see much of the city!
Thursday, May 28
We keep leaving the house later and later. I think the boys are getting a little burnt out of packing up and leaving the house. They just want to stay in their pajamas and play Lego and I honestly can’t blame them. They do complain and whine, but having lunch, a pop and some helado (ice cream) does go a long way.
We went to Parque de el Retiro which was built in the 17th century as green space for the monarchs and then later it was opened to the public. Again, lots of walking. There weren’t any maps so we kind of wandered around looking for some of the highlights like statues, the crystal palace, fountains and some really big tree. Kind of hit and miss. Ethan was way more interested in the little ponds with fish, ducks and turtles. Matthew kept finding a shady spot and squatting, waiting for us and James kept stopping along the way to dump the sand out of his shoes.
Friday, May 29
Finally a home day! Boy, did we need one of these! The boys stayed in their pajamas most of the day. It feels kind of wasteful to just stay at home when you are touring through a country like Spain, but we all needed some down time. A second cup of coffee, lots of Lego playing, a game of Agricola, it was perfect!
We left the apartment at 3 for some lunch at a pizza place, not bad, not great. We came back and watched a movie and then we walked down the street and around the corner to a restaurant. It was a Friday night and it was busy. No outdoor seating, which we prefer, but we went inside for drinks and some appies. Again, the kid’s meals were good as we recognized what it was, but the adult food was not quite what we expected. Strong, thick goat cheese on toast with caramelized onions. The cheese was a bit dry (it’s the kind that gets stuck in your teeth and on the roof of your mouth) and not our preference, but the concept was good. Ordering food is still frustrating so we are trying to keep things simple.
Saturday, May 30
Our last full day in Madrid. We wanted to check out a couple more things before we leave so we took the bus again. We decided not to rent a car while we were here in Madrid. The roads are quite busy, lots of emergency vehicles, buses, taxis and motorbikes. Parking is also a nightmare and the language barrier would not improve that either. We pay for 4 bus passes each day, 1.25 euros each (Ethan is free). Then if you take the underground subway, you have to pay again. And we found out later that if you transfer bus routes, you are supposed to pay again. We are hoping that all this is cheaper than renting a car everyday or hopping into a cab to get somewhere. It makes for a lot of walking and checking schedules, but the public transportation has worked pretty well.
We had read that the Railway Museum was good for kids, so we went there today. It was neat, lots of steam and electric trains, old school dining cars and passenger trains. The boys enjoyed roaming and looking. We stopped for lunch and then decided to check out the Science and Technology Museum, but it was closed or relocated or something. We took the bus, walked some more, stopped for Fanta (orange and lemon pop) and then finally took the bus home again.
We played another game of Agricola with the big boys and Ethan enjoyed some episodes of Curious George. Leftover pizza for supper and then tomorrow we take the high speed train to Toledo for a week. I have to say Madrid was not my favorite place; combination of jet lag, dirty apartment, too much public transportation, bad food and culture shock. Let’s hope the next place is better!
Ciao Madrid! Hola Toledo!