Category Archives: Spain

More Madrid

Life Chez Mai continues to be a whirlwind. We said goodbye to Claire and to Madrid on Sunday afternoon, flew to Paris, and then got on a plane to Houston Monday morning! I think I have adjusted to the time zone but am still catching up on household chores and doctors appointments. We are here for three weeks, when we jet back to Paris with mother and niece in tow. I am looking forward to showing Paris to my fifteen year old niece on her first trip requiring a passport! But I get ahead of myself. Let’s finish Madrid, shall we?

We did lots of walking around and I loved how different it felt from Paris. The colors, the architecture, the plazas- it all seemed much more casual than the elegance of Paris.

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Apparently “yarn bombing” is a thing. This light pole was whimsical, but check out these images from all over the world. So happy!

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We went to another covered market full of tapas and drink vendors. I loved the lights made to look like chef’s hats!
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Our hotel lobby was so pretty. I couldn’t get enough of the flower arrangements.

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Mark and Claire were very enthusiastic about the Prado Museum, which is indeed a treasure.

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and so are these two nuts

We had such amazing food in Madrid! The first night’s paella was perhaps the best I have ever had. The next night we found a simple but delicious Indian restaurant. Our final night was a lively restaurant/bar that served us divine tapas. I loved that there was such a variety of food offerings- meat, seafood, veggies, soups- all so tasty.

tapas restaurant

tapas restaurant

Madrid also had lots of pastry shops and, unlike Paris, they all offered coffee and seating space so that you could pop in for a sweet snack at any time of the day. We did not sample any pastries, but there were plenty from which to choose.

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Sunday morning Claire and I went to a flea market and then walked back to the hotel. Unlike the Paris flea market, there were no old treasures to paw through. It was kind of like Wal-Mart in different stalls. But nicer, of course.

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fun tiles

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biggest damn peppers I have ever seen!

biggest damn peppers I have ever seen!

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he was made of CD's!

he was made of CD’s!

Maybe I will be lucky enough to go back in the spring, when the plazas and sidewalks and parks are full of people and leafy trees. I bet the sangria tastes even better when it’s warm outside!

I hope you all are staying warm, wherever you are.

Thanks for stopping by, and y’all come back, ya hear?

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Filed under flea market, flowers, food markets, Spain, travel

Birthday Party In Madrid!

Bonjour, friends! I tried to post this yesterday but was thwarted by problems with the “wee-fee”, so just pretend like you are reading this yesterday. Merci!

 

Bonjour from Madrid! Today I am:

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I couldn’t be happier to be celebrating that number with Enfant #2 and Husband #1 in Madrid. The sun came to the party, too, and shined on us all day long. Madrid is a beautiful city and I can certainly understand why my daughter has fallen in love with it. The buildings are glistening white, the metro is sparkling clean, and the sangria is amazingly delicious.

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The Mercado de San Miguel is a covered market that was completed in 1910. It has been transformed into a thriving destination for all types of Spanish gastronomy. We ate several different kinds of tapas, drank sangria and beer, and finished with ice cream.

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sorry this came out so dark- the building was very pretty

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ham, of course!

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empinadas

empinadas

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After lunch we went to a beautiful old square called Plaza Mayor.

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Claire was excited to show us a large park, Parque Del Buen Retiro, in the middle of the city. Formerly a royal park, it was opened to the public in 1868 and covers 360 acres.

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This Crystal Palace is in the park and was built in 1887. It used to house exotic plants but is now used for temporary exhibitions.

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It was a great way to celebrate turning 53! I hope you found something to celebrate today, too.

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Filed under Spain, travel, Uncategorized

Spain Wrap-Up

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Our vacation to San Sebastian was just about perfect. Leisurely (6 days in one small town), family (2 out of 3 kids in attendance), beachy, sunny, and yummy (pintxos, wine, cold beer, and lots of helado). However, now that I have been back in Paris for a day, it’s time to wrap up the vacation posts. And the vacation laundry.

We rented an apartment through feelfreerentals.com, who were professional and responded promptly to all of my inquiries. Our apartment had been recently renovated and was tres chic. The location couldn’t have been better- right on a main boulevard and close to the old town and to both beaches.

Here is a peek from our windows, which looked down on the boulevard.

 

Unfortunately, those soft, sweet sounds percolating up from the street became not so sweet later in the week, when a man, his puppet, and a very big microphone took center stage. The sounds morphed into a cross between world-wide wrestling and a Mexican game show, and were even louder in our living room than they were on the street. By the time we heard his opening “Hola, Hola, Hola” for the third time, I was seriously considering throwing myself out of our seventh story windows and turning that puppeteer into a mime. And his creepy puppet, too. But enough of the complaining.

We ate tapas (called “pintxos” in the Basque country) almost every day, moving from one bar to the next, sampling the specialty pintxo of each one. Our favorite pintxo experience was at a tiny place with a slot machine and a very friendly bartender. He served us delicious potatoes in garlic and olive oil, as well as a some tender and flavorful mushrooms. I became a fan of the local white wine called “txakoli”, which was sparkling and very dry. The bartenders hold the bottle up high when pouring it, to increase the air going into the wine as it hits the glass. Delicious!

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A few other pics of the pintxo experience-

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delicious garlic shrimp skewers and grilled octupus

delicious garlic shrimp skewers and grilled octopus

San Sebastian is known for being a gastronomic capital of Europe, which is surprising given its small size. One night we veered way off of the pintxo trail and ate at a very fancy restaurant called Arzak. We indulged in the tasting menu, which was seven amazing courses. I won’t show you each one, but here are some highlights.

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tuna and strawberry – who knew?

 

apple injected w beet root, accompanied by creamy foie gras and potato

apple injected w beet root, accompanied by creamy foie gras and potato

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grilled lobster w a crispy star-shaped crepe

red mullet served on a iPad-like device with a rushing river on the screen

red mullet served on an iPad-like device with a rushing river on the screen

dumpling served on a crunched can!

dumpling served on a crunched can!

I loved the harbor and, of course, the beaches.

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The architecture was gorgeous.

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And that, my friends, was San Sebastian 2014. I highly recommend it if you enjoy beaches, amazing food, and friendly people.

Just watch out for the puppet guy.

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Filed under Spain, travel, Uncategorized

More From San Sebastian

Our flight from Paris to Bilbao was early and quick, putting us at the Guggenheim by noon on Monday. Three of the four of us had been there before, but were happy to see it again.

The Guggenheim Museum-Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum-Bilbao

Surely everyone who visits the Guggenheim is enchanted by the big dog made of flowers. I know I am.

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Please pick up after your dog, but don’t pick the dog.

The dog and these gorgeous, shiny tulips were done by an American artist, Jeff Koons.

"Tulips"- Guggenheim Museum

“Tulips”- Guggenheim Museum

After a quick lunch we drove to San Sebastian, about an hour away. Well, Mark drove. The rest of us fell asleep. Like I said, it was an early morning. Before checking into our apartment we took a quick walk on the beach.

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yikes- where did those dark clouds come from?

yikes- where did those dark clouds come from?

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We were happily surprised to discover that our trip coincided with an annual Jazz Festival.

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The festival starts tonight. Our kids are thrilled because they love to be at concerts with their parents, who have been known to bust out some sweet dance moves. Here is tonight’s line-up. I don’t think the kids have anything to worry about, as I have yet to make it past 11:00 pm since we arrived. I don’t know, though, Snarky Puppy sounds like it could be pretty awesome.

Running out the door to dinner….

more later…………

 

 

 

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Filed under flowers, Spain, Uncategorized

Bonjour from San Sebastian, Spain

It’s almost noon on our first full day in Spain, and while the rest of the family slept late I went for a walk and took a few pictures of San Sebastian in the morning. It was cool and relatively quiet. I was a happy girl.

First stop was coffee and a croissant. Because I can’t figure out how to work the Italian coffee maker here. And because I felt it my duty to compare Spanish croissants with French. This one was surprisingly good!

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I peeked at the beach, just to make sure it was still there. It was.

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Good morning, Jesus!

Good morning, Jesus!

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We ate tapas here last night. I love the bull on the door.

We ate tapas here last night. I love the bull on the door.

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help me to decide which swim cap to buy

help me to decide which swim cap to buy

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Not quite President Wilson market, but beautiful in its own way.

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Signs of life in the apartment now, so I will send this off.

Stay tuned for more San Sebastián coming to you live!

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Filed under Spain, travel

Too Busy To Blog!

The great thing about having family and friends visit is that we are always out seeing and doing and eating and sharing the joy of Paris. The bad thing about having guests is that I don’t have time to spend at the computer, downloading pics and describing our adventures. I had intended to write a post tonight, but it’s now 10:00 and I have packing left to do before our early morning departure for San Sebastian, Spain. I hope to find a few quiet hours while I am away to get caught up, but here are some photos of Paris from the last couple of weeks. It has been very hot, very pleasant, sunny, and rainy, sometimes from one hour to the next. We got our there and sweated with the best of them, although I do confess to drifting off into fantasies of mountains of crushed ice from Sonic. Not much ice and not much air conditioning- the perils of heat waves in Paris. Fortunately, they do not usually last long.

beautiful flowers in the Tuileries

beautiful flowers in the Tuileries

goats grazing in the Tuileries- first time I ever saw that

goats grazing in the Tuileries- first time I ever saw that

Louvre

Louvre

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Versailles

Versailles

boat ride sunset

boat ride sunset

cute girls on the back of the boat

cute girls on the back of the boat

Assemblie Nationale all lit up

Assemblie Nationale all lit up

and of course….

and of course….

I hope to be back on track with regular posts soon.

But for now—vamos a la playa!!!

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Filed under Eiffel Tower, family, flowers, gardens, Grand Palais, Paris, Paris sunsets, Seine, Spain, travel, Tuileries

Seville!

I was in Seville for only two days, but my friend was such a wonderful tour guide that I felt like I saw it all.  I had always heard that Seville is beautiful, and it certainly is that.  The pronounced Moorish influence  adds such interest to the architecture.  The ceramic tiles that are characteristic of the area  were everywhere, and so  beautiful. We ate delicious food and drank a lot of cold beer, made even better by the warm sun that shone down on us the entire time I was there.  Such a nice change from Paris!

A big “gracias” to my host friend and her sweet family, who welcomed me so warmly into their home and their city.

I took a lot of pictures and have compiled some of them here for you to see.  Enjoy Seville!

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Filed under Seville, Spain, travel, Uncategorized