Monthly Archives: May 2018

Us. . .Changed (Once Again)

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Oh, so trite. . .but it’s true THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.  Since January of this year to the present, we have been out of our home for 3 of the 4 calendar months.  We come away from this most recent adventure with the acknowledgement that we truly like being at home and all the benefits thereof. . .

So just a short wrap-up of our final three days in Madrid, as well as the past 3 weeks in Lisbon and Lanzarote.

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A toast to US. We navigated Lisbon, Lanzarote, and Madrid with a minimum of stress and a maximum of happiness. We ate EVERYTHING and stayed true to our nutritional program at the same time. Arriving home, we each discovered that we had not gained an ounce, and in fact, by our second day home, I had actually shed an additional pound.  

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We’ve now danced in Buenos Aires, Venice (me), Lisbon, and Madrid. We love the universality of tango and we are anxious to return to the comfort of “our Pierre” for lessons, wisdom, and more fun.

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Our main purpose for this trip was to re-connect with our friends Dave and Jayne. From the moment we saw them holding their “WINOS” sign to the end of the week we laughed. And laughed.

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While waiting for our airport ride on Tuesday morning we saw the sunrise over our neighbor, the Palacio Real.

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And then finally we were homeward bound. We would definitely fly TAP again. We were served a pastel da nata on board; oh my heart be still!   WHEN we are ready to travel again, we would like to do a stopover in Porto. I love good value for money!

And so, we are home.  And very happy to hear the sounds of  birds waking us up, the lawnmower guys doing their jobs, running into neighbors at the grocery store, FaceTiming with our Theo, flipping on Pandora to listen to tango music.  And my pillow. . .oh, my wonderful pillow.  How I’ve missed you.

Someone else said it best. . .

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Madrid. . .A REALLY Old Spot

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(Still at home.. . . imagine that!  It’s so wonderful to sit on my screened-in porch, sipping my tea, and finishing up the final two blogs.)

One final eating extravaganza awaited us.  Botin is the oldest restaurant in the world.  Really.  It’s even documented by the Guinness Book of World Records.

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Now it took us a while to find it, and I for one nearly gave up. (And it turns out it is just right off Plaza Mayor; you just have to know which portal to exit.)  But. . .DON PERSISTED. . .and then wormed our way in.  Our AirBnB host, Victor, had secured a reservation. . .at 9:30 PM, which we knew wasn’t going to work for us.  So Don just told the maitre’d that our flight had been changed and we couldn’t come at night, so could we please eat now?  So after an hour’s wait, which we spent at a nearby outdoor cafe with a glass of wine/beer, we were seated.

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They are known for roast suckling pig, and even though I felt guilty about that baby, I are it.  Don chose chicken, after our starter of jamon iberico and melon.  And sangria in their fancy pitcher.

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A decaf coffee (which Don later swore was regular. . .when he couldn’t sleep the night before our flight!!) and we were complete.

A little bit of interest. . .in speaking later with Victor, we learned that while we were having lunch at Botin, the weather in Madrid was crazy.  He said, “What do you call it in the US when you have a mix of rain, snow, and ice??  That’s what we had here.”  I’d say it was a wintry mix!

One more stop in Madrid was the Mercado San Miguel.  It was like the Reading Terminal Market on speed.  Jammed with people and food, we browsed and ogled.

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Oh, my heart be still. . . a stand devoted to Aperol Spritz!!IMG_4313

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We walked home, and simply spent the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying the apartment, playing our music through their bluetooth sound bar, and packing.  Our second trip to Madrid was in the books.

If It’s Monday, it Must (still) be Madrid

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(I’m at home in Quakertown, writing the final blogs in the early morning, post-jet lag hours.)

Now that we are in our final day of this 3-week jaunt, we feel like there’s a lot we want to squeeze in.  I got up early and walked 2 minutes to Teatro Real, the opera house, for a 9:30 am behind the scenes tour.  It was all in Spanish!  But, hey, beauty is beauty regardless of the spoken word.

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The opera house itself is more modern than the other two I’ve recently visited. . .la Fenice in Venice and Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.  Actually, I feel totally spoiled and if I were a travel snob, I would say that “Yes, I can say that in my recent travels, I found Teatro Colon to be superior to the other two.”  But I am not a travel snob so I will not say that.

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The world “underneath” or in some cases “above” the stage was staggering.  The number of costumes, workrooms, rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, and waiting rooms was astounding.  I think in a former life I was a costume-maker; I really felt a kinship to the fabrics, trims, buttons, and threads.

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Don met me in the gift shop when the tour ended, and we proceeded to the palace, right across the park in “our” neighborhood.

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OK, so the line was long and we did not have “skip-the-line” tickets, so we queued up like all the other tourists.  But we used our time taking turns going into the Almundena Cathedral which is beside the palace.  Stunning!

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I’ve never seen a ceiling like this one.  And Wikipedia doesn’t give a lot of information about it, so I will just appreciate its beauty and be grateful to the artisans who created it.

Now, the Palace.  Again. . .stunning.  No photos were allowed in many rooms, but I did manage to ogle at the chandeliers, which were among the most grand I’ve ever seen.  And I snapped a few pics, never being sure if that was legal or not.

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Our stomachs were rumbling at this point, so we set off to find food.  But not just any food at just any old place.  We were in search of the oldest restaurant in the world.

Next blog. . .

Madrid, Round Two

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Honestly, after Lanzarote, Don and I both felt “complete,” like we were finished with this vacation and ready to go home.  But we had three nights and two full days yet in Madrid.  We used the time to simply be tourists, all the while staying in one of the most beautiful Air BnBs we’ve ever experienced.  We truly felt “at home” and if we were to return to Madrid, this is where we would stay.

Our apartment in Madrid was the most beautiful one we’ve ever stayed in!

Victor, the owner, had arranged airport pick-up for us.  We arrived right across the street from the Royal Palace and a lovely park.  A5636597-EECF-4F9B-BB39-AE24A0F34C34.jpeg

Our “neighbors” were quiet and stoic!!

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The dusky pink building is ours.  We suspect it was an old hotel, now converted into apartments.  The perfect final spot for our THIRD long trip of this calendar year!

Sunday we set out for La Bola, the spot we had discovered on our previous food tour, only a 3 minute walk from our new home.  Victor willingly made a reservation for us, and we felt oh, so delighted that he did because most patrons were being turned away. Reservations are a MUST!

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Now we would get to try the entire “madrilena Cocido,” from broth through meat.

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First the broth is poured over a dish of tiny noodles.

The soup itself is the same we had on the food tour, only more of it.  The broth is very savory, having been cooked for 6 hours over a charcoal fire amidst the other ingredients.  Delish!

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After finishing the soup, the remaining contents of the crock are served right in the same bowl.

Chickpeas along with a small piece each of beef, chicken, sausage, ham, potato, garlic, and lard came tumbling out of the crock.  I guess each society around the world has a dish that is filling and cheap, using whatever thrifty housewives had on hand.  This one was delicious and VERY filling.

The waiter added a serving of cooked cabbage, one of those other cheap, filling, easy-to-grow, peasant vegetables.  It was a veritable feast!!

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Of course, we were too stuffed for dessert.  NOT!!  Don spied the people beside us having a good-looking treat, asked the waiter for ONE to share, and whether it was a language snafu or a good opportunity to make an additional sale, we each got one, and boy, was I ever glad.  What’s better on a Sunday afternoon than a warm apple fritter and a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream!

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So now that we were completely sated, what else could we do but 1) take a nap, or 2) go for a walk.  We chose #2.

Oh, but before I leave the La Bola experience, let me just say that this spot has been frequented by movie stars, literary geniuses, sports figures, the famous and infamous over the years.  Their walls are adorned by photos and autographs.  It is truly an iconic spot, now made more famous by two travelers from Quakertown!!

 

Could it be that Madrid has the highest number of street performers and living statues of any city in the world!??  This was my favorite, and when I put a few coins in the box, the guy banged his hammer and motioned me to come and sit down.  So I did!

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We could have “called it a day” after an afternoon of eating and trouncing around the city.  But no, there was one more “adventure” to be had.

Sunday night. . .milonga night!!  Even in Madrid, home of flamenco, we found tango. Carefully plotting our subway strategy, shoes in hand, we ventured into the far northern suburbs of Madrid to seek out a dance floor.  At Roble, 22 we found it.

As we reported to Pierre, this evening was like a neighborhood dance party with a side of tango.  The DJ played a wide variety of music, from cha-cha to flamenco (which was the Madrid version of a Philly line dance and beautiful to watch), to folk songs, and then a few tango pieces.

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It was the first time that we can honestly say that none of the dancers were any better than us!!  So. . .the level of tango was “beginner” with maybe 1 or 2 couples as advanced beginners.  Phew. . .we found our tribe at last!

Don even showed some fancy footwork doing the cha-cha.  By 10:30 the crowd was thinning and so were we, so we wound our way back home via metro.  Our beautiful little apartment was waiting for us.

Good night, Madrid. . .

Flying away from the Canaries

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Our visit to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands is at an end.  Don leaves sporting the best haircut and beard trim in recent history.  Seems appropriate, as this is why and how we met Dave over 40 years ago!!

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We laughed our way through the week, exchanged stories of family, grandkids, and recounted escapades of times we’ve spent together.  Somehow the strains of Andrea Boccelli’s song “Canzoni Stonate”—songs out of tune—kept running through my mind.  Crazy fun!

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We’ll be together again. . .don’t know where. . . .don’t know when!!

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If you close your eyes maybe
You also hear from there
Love songs
Which is still good for the heart
We almost always say
Sometimes not, sometimes not

Off-key songs
Words always a bit wrong
Remember how many evenings
Go on like this. . . .

Canzoni Stonate. . . Andrea Bocelli