The Last Days of Spain

We're on the cusp of embracing our last week here in Spain.  As I sit here in my dark bedroom escaping the early evening heat streaming into our living room, I have sporadic surges of guilt running through my veins thinking of all the things I could be doing right now in Barcelona. Elliott and Eli are fulfilling their dream and at this moment basking in soccer heaven watching Barcelona demolish their opponents in their first game of the season at home. Jules being 10 years old, and knowing his limits, chose not to attend the soccer match and instead wanted to have "down time" with me at home.

This situation epitomizes our whole trip.  Traveling with kids is a completely different ball game.  If I were on my own, I'd be out and about, discovering and reveling in every new experience, knowing full well the limits of life and that this could well be my last visit to Catalonia, to Spain, to Europe....

I've had to make so many compromises on this trip and so have my husband and kids.  I've learned so much about myself and them:  I've learned that transitions are tough and we all need time to adjust to new surroundings; I've learned that we all need downtime and not just go, go, go; I've learned that no matter how much we love each other, we really need our own space too; I’ve learned that I greatly admire my kids' relationship with each other and how easy they move on and don't hold on to grudges with each other. I'm still trying to learn that we are all different and don't necessarily like the same things and to have patience with that; and I'm trying desperately to learn that fine line of where I do have control and where I need to let go -- the hardest lesson of all.

I’ve also learned that I've fallen madly in love with Spain and Catalonia.  When I was growing up in Scotland my opinions were tainted by the commercial brouhaha around places like Benidorm and Lloret de Mar.  This trip has been an education about the other side of Spain.  We have had the amazing opportunity to live like locals.  I love Madrid for its social spirit: the food, the people, the socializing that happens in the late evening in the amazing restaurants, bars and plazas.  I love the small Costa Brava towns and beaches for their raw natural beauty and history and I love Barcelona for its creativity, its independent spirit and for its art.  

Tomorrow Eli and Jules will attend another tennis camp for a week, giving Elliott and I the opportunity to work and sneak in a little extra Spanish culture, as we are fully aware that when their exhausted little bodies return to our apartment, they will no doubt prefer to have me cook barbecued chicken and watch a movie than go out to see a band play at the Festival Major de Gracia or discover another great Tapas restaurant.  So I will fully embrace these stolen moments, knowing that although my kids' preferences are not mine right now, that they are taking it all in and will be grateful one day for having been exposed to such an amazing country.

Enjoy your last days of summer...

Me and my boys, Monjuic Castle, Barcelona

Hola - From Spain

We just passed the halfway mark of our six-week trip to Spain -- time really does fly way too fast when you're having fun. And it has been fun! There have been a lot of challenges too, but like childbirth, hopefully as we look back, all we’ll remember is the amazing experience. 

The first fortnight of our trip was in Madrid and like most of the world those two weeks there was a heat wave and each day we dealt with 90 something degree weather.   Unlike New York, it's pretty cool in the mornings before the sun really gets going and after the sun says Adios in the evenings around 9:30 -- which is why Spanish culture is about socializing late at night. Restaurants, bars and every plaza is filled with young and old alike, gathering to hang out in the relief of the cool night air.
Everything is closed from 1-4pm, when Spaniards take long leisurely lunches and siestas.

This was our first big challenge because we were still on New York time and getting up around 11am. By the time we had breakfast and got our act together to get out the door, it was lunch and siesta time. Throughout our stay, it was easy to stay up late, but managing that middle part of the day was a conundrum.  We never totally figured it out as my kids haven't taken a nap since they were in diapers, so we just adapted and did the best we could.  

I feel like a broken record as I talk about how my life feels like one big balancing act at home; and here in Spain, it's exactly the same.  In Madrid we had to balance our collective agenda to adapt to five different people and three different generations: a high energy I don't like art galleries and museums 10-year-old boy; a sassy, moody, bored, excited, sarcastic, loving, hormonal teenager; a menopausal, hot flashing, trying to please everyone Mama; an exasperated Dad desperately trying to figure out how to work and party at the same time and a culture-seeking Grandma with more energy than us all.  

With all that said, between the five of us, we saw Flamenco, went to an amusement park, visited the ancient towns of Toledo and Segovia, explored the whole city of Madrid on foot (didn't take the subway once), spent a day visiting the beautiful Retiro Park, played tennis, visited the Royal Palace of Madrid, several museums, monuments and art galleries. Admittedly Grandma was the only one who managed to get to the Prado.  The kids had checked out at that point and a visit to a water park outside of Madrid was much needed for those young spirits.

Without a doubt the highlight of our trip was eating the most amazing food -- we basically ate our way through Madrid and it was the one thing we ALL loved doing together.  

Eli and Jules in Crystal Palace, Retiro Park
Playing Charades in Retiro Park

Flamenco shoes for all sizes
The amazing Aquaduct in Segovia
Another yummy meal

Beautiful, passionate, intense flamenco dancer

Beautiful old buildings in Segovia

Roasted Garlic and baked Camembert with rosemary - delicious

Very tired after a long hot day walking around Toledo

We're now in Figueres, a small city famous for being the birthplace of Salvador Dali. Our schedule has been turned upside down yet again since we’re now getting up at 7:30am to get the kids to tennis camp. Elliott and I are both working when they're gone which is not an easy task when we’re itching to plunge in the clear Mediterranean sea in the spectacular Costa Brava beaches down the road, visit the Dali museums and sites and meander around ancient hilltop towns nearby.  We just had our first weekend here and managed to do some of that, but more in my next blog, as time is ticking and my Spain tennis Mom duties are about to begin.

I hope you're all having a fabulous summer so far and managing to tolerate this intense heat.

Much love,