September 5, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Travels in Spain

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Last week, I was lucky enough to have yet another friend visit Madrid. This time it was Iris – a friend whom I’ve know since I was in 5th grade. She and her fiance were traveling through Spain, leaving Madrid as their final stop.


She arrived on Thursday, so we decided to meet up in Plaza de Santa Ana where we would start our tour of tapas – always a crowd favorite. We began at Lateral where we started the evening summer-style with gazpacho and tinto de veranos (a summer drink made of red wine, flavored sparkling water and ice). From there we headed to several other spots where we knew they would be able to try yummy tapas. During these stops we learned that neither of them had been at all impressed with the cuisine in Spain, but that during this tapas tour they had completely changed their perspective. The thing about Spanish food is that it can be rather confusing if you don’t understand it – if you get a menu translated into English, the food sounds horrible, or if you try to translate it yourself, it will sound equally as horrible. It’s all about understanding the dishes and knowing what to order, and then you will rarely be disappointed, and in fact become obsessed (like me).


After several stops for tapas we decided to head to the top of the Urban hotel for drinks, where we actually met up with another group of Americans traveling through Madrid – friends of an old colleague of mine. We stayed there for a couple of hours just enjoying drinks, the amazing view, the fantastic night temperature, and just chatting it up about everything.


The next day, after a long day at work, we picked up Iris and Brian to take them to one of our favorite spots – the small town of El Molar. I’ve always taken my guests there because it is incredibly rural, hidden, has the most amazing meat, and is very charming with it’s cool caves where you can have dinner! We started with drinks at one of the restaurants at which time the camarero offered to let us walk in their caves that weave underneath the mountain and connect with other restaurants. This was really special because we hadn’t ever had the chance to walk deep into the caves. It was so super cool – they gave each of us a candle and we were able to just get lost in the caves that curved and split in various places…watching our heads as we ducked into tight spaces. Dinner was of course amazing as usual. I’m not a big meat eater, but this meat is just plain out of this world.


The next day, we had very big day planned – on the itinerary was Segovia (again, I know), La Granja and Avila. See, Iris and Brian were such enthusiastic and grateful guests that we were eager to make sure that they had the most amazing time possible. So, being the energetic group that we are, we pushed full speed ahead hitting the as many stops as possible.


The next morning brought another important occasion – they were lucky enough to be visiting during the fiestas for our town, San Sebastian de los Reyes, which, if you remember, includes a running of the bulls each morning of the week. What’s so cool about this running of the bulls is that it is the second largest in Spain behind Pamplona, but rather than being full of foreigners, it’s all Spaniards – the real deal. And in fact, it’s been happening in our town since 1525!


It was a crazy mess of people. Usually it hadn’t been quite so busy, but since we were going on the weekend, the crowds were much larger. We ended up watching the run and then entering the Plaza de Toros afterward to watch the usual taunting of the teen-aged bull by equally energetic teen-aged boys.


We drove Iris and Brian straight to the airport after that, at which point we returned home for an hour, packed our suitcases, showered, and headed back to the airport to catch our flight to Florence, Italy!!


Ahhh, the adventure never ends :).

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August 26, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Traditions, Travels in Spain

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What a week Kim and I have had! I arrived here in Madrid last Tuesday, followed by Kim on Thursday. I couldn’t have asked for better timing – it’s not easy transitioning back to life here, and having a buddy with me while I get back into the swing of things cheered me up more than I ever could have imagined.


We had quite the itinerary laid out for Kim and she was up for the challenge. The first day Kim arrived she was a real champ – we pretty much headed right out to tour Madrid. We hit up Retiro Park, Puerta de Alcala, The Prado, and even shopping on Serrano – all before heading to drinks, dinner, then drinks again with Jacob. Kim powered through the night without a trace of jet lag.


The next day we returned to Madrid to finish up the site seeing, which included the Palace, Plaza Mayor, Sol, Gran Via and more shopping! We capped off the day with an evening at Jacob’s friend Manu’s house for homemade paella on the BBQ – best paella ever!!!


Saturday we hit the road and headed out to Segovia – Kim’s favorite spot on the trip. On the drive home we swung by La Granja (a palace with beautiful gardens) and made the trip home for a nice dinner in Madrid.


Sunday brought a new excursion for me – Salamanca. The city known for its university, was extra charming and like no other Spanish city I’d visited before. What we especially loved is that we were able to walk the perimeter of the inside and outside of the cathedral – a unique perspective that we’d never had the opportunity to see in the past. We discovered breathtaking views both inside and out (albeit a little frightening for me at times!).


Yesterday brought my favorite event of all – the running of the bulls here in San Sebastian de los Reyes. It happens all week this week (which is especially fortuitous since I have another friend coming on Thursday). We headed out early to reserve our spots to view the run. It didn’t disappoint! While short, it is exhilarating to watch nonetheless. Be sure to visit the movies page to see a clip of the race.


After the running of the bulls, Kim and I made the long trip to and from Toledo. Toledo is always a charming destination – although taking public transportation for virtually the entire expedition was exhausting for sure! In the future I think it should be best left to those with cars. We made up for the journey though by capping off the day, and her trip, with dinner in the caves of a local village – yes caves (they are natural caves used in old times for wine)! Each table had its own little cave, like a cubby hole. It was a unique and distinctly Spanish way to finish off her trip.


Now we have sent Kim off and fortunately I have another guest right around the corner. My friend Robin will be out on Thursday, at which time I will begin the tour of Spain again! Good thing I love this place! More to come next week…

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April 28, 2008 - Posted by Erin in Travels in Spain

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While my mom was here, I was fortunate enough to return to one of my favorite places in Spain – Toledo. I traveled there for the first time when I first visited Spain. I had taken a day trip out there by myself and it truly was the highlight of that first trip. It’s a hilly compact city with a maze of charming miniature alleys and streets. A “must see” if you’re visiting Spain!


During our weekend itinerary we were also able to see an insanely amazing flamenco show at a restaurant in Madrid. I had only seen flamenco once before, and this time it just blew my socks off. I am trying to figure out how to upload the video my mom took to my site…so stay tuned. It’s virtually impossible to articulate how impressive it was!


We also took a trip up north to Segovia and La Granja, both places I’ve visited in the past. Segovia has an amazing Roman aqueduct that made me feel like I was right back in Rome. The city also has a gorgeous cathedral and an Alcazar (castle) that was an inspiration for the Disney castle. In La Granja we went to the palace and showed my mom the gardens famous for having over 100 fountains.


I certainly can’t complain about the opportunity to visit these places multiple times! Many thanks to Jacob for being the best tour guide and host ever – he gladly visits these places time and time again with the enthusiasm of someone seeing them for the first time!


Unfortunately, my mom has left now, so now it’s time to start getting settled….well, sort of. Next stop – Almeria, a city in southern Spain, later this week. It will be a nice beach vacation :-). I think I can get used to this!

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