Our Trip to Spain: Sweet Seville

the AVE train from Madrid to Seville was just what we needed-a speedy trip to a drastically different, warmer, more obviously beautiful and seductive place in the south. we got to the station early, as I suggest you do, too. In hand I had our tickets that I’d booked far in advance to save quite a bit of money. we boarded and settled in, L with a book in hand and me with the camera out.

one of my favorite things to do when I travel is take the train and this was no different. on this trip we jetted past castles and farms and tons of olive groves. not to mention the beautiful white-washed towns as we entered Andalucia.

a quick two hours later and we were in seville. what you have heard is absolutely correct- it’s stunningly beautiful and has an intoxicating smell. yes, smell. we ventured out to find our hotel by foot 40 minutes or so away from the station, but a line of taxis called to me and we hopped in- the first tax I’ve ever taken in europe. we were dropped off in front of our hotel, the Mariott Ciudad de Seville, a former villa.

the sun was so enriching, we hurried to change and set out to the city center. we walked along the water, getting the first glimpse of the flower-covered buildings one more beautiful than the next, the bullring and the golden tower. we turned into the city and were struck by the winding streets yet somehow found the street we were looking for…but the restaurant we were searching for was no longer (note: do not use outdated guidebooks). I pulled out a current book as we both were overly hungry, a common state while traveling, and settled on the closest place, Taberna del Alabardero. What I realized after our multiple-course meal in the most picturesque garden room, surrounded by well-dressed business people, was that this was a restaurant staffed in the front and back of the house by culinary students. the meal was really wonderful and at a 14E price tag for so much food, I would absolutely return.

our leisurely lunch caused us to be late for the sites but it really didn’t matter. instead, we strolled by the mighty cathedral we would visit the next day, inhaled the air of chestnuts popped on the street, oranges and jasmine on the trees, and hiked up to the top of the golden tower where, despite the mediocre naval museum inside, we were struck by the most beautiful view. i’m a sucker for a good view.

later, we took a short-cut (now a more purposeful 40 minutes to our hotel) and were greeted by the plaza espana lit up for the evening. oh what a sight that is! more on that another day.

we took a beautiful route on the opposite end of the park and found ourselves as the highly regarded vineria san telmo near to the plaza espana. we were seated quickly at an outdoor table under a canopy with heat lamps. we were treated to fabulous wine and decadent tapas. as we ate, the rain came down rather hard but despite our outdoor located we were content.

through silent streets we wandered, getting lost sort-of intentionally, and leisurely found our way back to the hotel.

we ate like kings today. we fell in love with seville today.

addresses you should know:

vineria san telmo
Paseo de Catalina de Ribera, 4
41004 Sevilla

Taberna del Alabardero
Calle Zaragoza, 20
41001 Sevilla

Our Trip to Spain: Foie and Royalty

waking up felt good today as the jet lag slowly started to dissipate and we were eager to explore. we had a rough agenda in mind, but weren’t in a rush. I took that to mean go in the only direction that will take you off the map and we ended up in a neighborhood I still can’t identify. the silver lining of this, though, was stumbling upon the sweetest pastry shop that entertained my spanish pursuits and responded in comparable english practice. I was gifted a portion of Huesos de Santo (Saint’s Bones) which were the most lovely marzipan treats honoring the holiday celebrated the day before. I grabbed a pastry and was off. eventually, we found what we were looking for.

the royal palace was a treat! the gardens are beautiful but not overpowering ( ahem, Versailles) and the palace itself is rich in unique rooms spilling a particular story. like the retirees we are, we purchased the audio tour and I would highly recommend you do the same. we wandered through for hours, taking breaks in front of sun soaked windows here and there.

after, we ventured next door to the crypt below the Almudena Cathedral. it wasn’t want we expected, per se, but it was chilling and rather interesting to see the flowers scattered over the tombs below us.

back above ground we journeyed down calle major in search of the place that i’d  been dreaming about since I first spotted it on my favorite planning site: Puturru De Foie in the Mercado San Anton. the building is unassuming as is your first impression when you walk inside, but keep going… we took the escalators up and were greeted by a food-court style arrangement teeming with locals-some standing, others standing over patrons waiting for their tables…us included in the latter group within moments. L grabbed a table and waited as I went on a spree at Puturru De Foie. As the name may indicate it’s duck and foie everything including salumi, burgers, kofte and cheeses from the region. and more…lots more! I grabbed a burger (not just any… ox topped with foie), a piece of foie and duck sausage. oh and a bottle of wine. I told you, spree. we lounged at that coveted table and ate our fill of game products then ordered more. it was a dream. you must promise to go when you visit madrid.

after, we drifted in the direction of the parque del retiro we loved so much the day before. a time later, we arrived at the reina sofia for the free hours. while impressive and the home of picasso’s Guernica we are decidedly not educated in modern art and left somewhat dumfounded.

with a train out of town early in the morning we were both thinking the same thing… olives, jamon, eheese, chocolate and wine in the room. we stopped in El Corte Ingles and were greated by every possible options for all.see you in seville!

Our Trip to Spain: Introduction to Madrid

we’re home. this trip was an incredible whirlwind, trying at times due to inadequate rest periods, but so wonderful after all that I wish I was back. I will say, while grateful for any minute I spend on the other side of the pond, 10 days is too short for a trip like this.maybe I’m getting old, or I’m not exactly an all-star traveler, but the exhaustion takes over and away from the splendor of all a place has to offer… a place like madrid. we found ourselves making comments like I don’t think we gave madrid a fair chance and I still believe that to be true. but enough of that. on to the joys of this here adventure. believe me, there were many.

we arrived at a bit after 7:00am. we followed the simple route to ground transportation toward renfe cercanias the cheap train service into town (useful if you arrive at Terminal 4 or 4S ). we emerged at the atocha station less than an hour after arrival and proceeded to our hotel, the AC Marriott Atocha. I know what you’re thinking… a marriott? en serio? but we got 5 nights free, you see, with credit card rewards, and that made the lack of cultural immersion worth it. that, and the location less than 5 minutes walk from atocha station that makes traveling around the beautiful beast that is Spain really quite convenient. thankfully we were able to check into our super-minimalist room early. the temptation to flop onto the bed was real, but we resisted, and gathered up our things to explore.

I forgot to mention, the first day of our trip was All Saint’s Day. this doesn’t mean much for the sites, but for restaurants and shops it translates as a bank holiday giving permission to close…mierda (I learned that from Top Chef Spain). anyway, off we wandered into a city bursting with achingly bright sunshine, doing a mighty route of all of the sites in the main circuit- Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Retiro Park, Palacio Real, Mercado de San Miguel …It’s always best to just keep moving, I find, and we got a fine lay of the land as a result.  In between we had a coffee at a small bar ourside of Plaza Mayor, tapas at Txakolina a Basque themed bar in the La Latina neighborhood and landed our first menu del dia (bread, first and second course, wine and a dessert for about 10E each) at a restaurant off of Calle de Jesus. my first all-Spanish exchange… complimented by a quick Google translate by the staff when asked about the menu. the dessert- a cherry compote over a baked ricotta of sort- was the highlight.

From here we needed a respite. We found our way to the Parque Retiro , property of the monarchy until recently, and dozed on a sun-drenched park bench in an effort to stop willing the day to end so we could fall into sweet sleep. after another cafe con leche we arrived at the Prado for their free hours. what a stunning museum. comparable to the Louvre in many ways and a delight even in the state we were-which by this time was pretty bleak.

we chose to find a supermarket for our evening meal needs instead of going out. it was necessary after all that touring and no sleep, you see. chocolate and nuts for two, por favor. complete with aforementioned Top Chef episodes.

the night of the first day I remember feeling frustrated; I was overly exhausted and willing myself to remember that the first day after a radical time change and over 24 hours without sleep is always like this. It’s hard not to be so hard on yourself, I’ll admit- the time and expense of planning a big trip and you feel spoiled rotten and ungrateful for not being positively giddy at all times.but I know it’s the jet lag talking…I put in my earplugs, turn on a white noise app (the perfect cocktail for sleep while traveling) and welcome rest. I remind myself that the  feeling fades and a week later-acclimated and savoring each moment- I’m always tearing up at the thought of leaving. more soon.

fortunate woman

(from Greece, last year)

I feel very fortunate. yesterday we very modestly celebrated my love’s birthday and today, seven years after meeting him and practically a year since we were engaged, we’re jetting off to spain. no, not to elope…spanish laws won’t allow that anyhow. but I won’t pretend that wasn’t the original plan. we have much to be grateful for; we are excited about life and that’s a feeling I hope never fades. it’s so special to share that with a person.

so, we’re off! this time tomorrow we’ll be munching churros and sipping cafe con leche and (hopefully successfully) navigating our way through old streets rich with stories. More soon.

ps: happy halloween!

packing for spain


days before we depart and I’ve conquered that anxiety I always thought was inevitable. maybe it’s experience, or perhaps the nature of the trip, but either way it’s a welcome change. I love this routine-printing out copies of everything just in case, placing satisfying checks next to each and every to-do (as I mentioned before, I love this list), notifying everyone that matters for critical matters (i.e. banks! credit cards!) and frantically “googling” last minute ideas or questions. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but it really, truly is. in fact, while organizing a few documents I yelped out I’m so excited!!! before I could hold back my words.

there is nothing in the world like the feeling of landing in another country and beginning an adventure. never mind the jet lag.

for this trip, packing is a little tricky as we’re visiting cities with vastly different climates and weather reports have fluctuated by day. I learned my lesson in Greece when I felt there no need for a jacket and was welcomed by plummeting temperatures. see, experience. nevertheless, it all goes into a carry-on or on my body.

this list just includes clothes, mind you. the rest can be found on the check-list above. as always, we’re bringing one carry-on each and I’ll have a tote bag (a simple black tote I picked up in a box labeled free in the nicest area of town. Still going strong 5 years later) too.

List, first draft (I’ll update with what I actually bring)

black jeans*
long skirt

cashmere short-sleeved top
grey sweater
black sheer top
tan lace top
3 tank tops*

1 black quarter-sleeved
1 green sleeveless

1 pair black boots*
1 pair sneakers
1 pair flats (on their last leg, so I might dispose of them while away)

pajamas, undergarments (incl. socks and pair tights)
bathing suit
2 scarves
black wool jacket or red quilted jacket, depending on forecast*
small leather cross-body purse

* denotes outfit for the plane