Monday, August 29, 2011

Madrid Food Win

Spain is NOT known for its food and I AM known for my picky-ness so I wasn't sure how the two of us would mix. Thus far it's been just a tolerant experience but today there is a big W in the food column.

We stumbled on the best lemonade frozen drink thing that Joshua actually went back the 15 minute walk a few hours later to get another one. I had a great fried squid sandwich for lunch and for dinner we had tapas at Casa Toni which needs to go on everyone's MUST EAT list if coming to Madrid. We had a patatas bravas (plate of fried potatoes in spicy sauce) and champinones al plancha (sauteed mushrooms) and they were both great. Plus, not only was the food great the staff was super friendly. And, they didn't just talk to us but they each came out from behind the bar to play with Ehren and make sure he was having a good time. As we were leaving one of them even took my pulse and informed me that we would have a boy...I guess we'll see.

We have decided on this trip we will take a day of rest at least once a week and after a busy start we decided today was going to be that day. We woke up late, saw the Grand Palace and Madrid's oldest door and then went home for a real siesta before our evening entertainment.

Oldest door in Madrid2

A huge sport here is bullfighting. They have huge arenas that hold 23,000 and they fight once a week during the warmer weather. We lucked out that this Sunday was a corrida which means real matadors not the young inexperienced ones with smaller bulls. However, after having gone tonight I don't think I would care either way. While trying to be culturally sensitive Joshua and I have no interest in ever doing that again and don't understand the appeal. I can get behind the pageantry, costumes, band and cheering but that is about it. I don't want to see the matador get gored nor do I want to watch the bull bleed out for 15 minutes. We watched one of the six kills to say we'd done it but we had to force ourselves to stay after they brought the horses out to stab the main artery in the bull's neck and at that point we hadn't even seen a matador yet.


Don't get me wrong I like a good steak and I'm not in denial about where that meat comes from but this was just too much. It felt to me like the games at the Colosseum where they thought...hmmm...these people are sentenced to death so let's make a sport out of it and sell tickets. Just not my idea of fun.

The good thing about leaving after one kill was we got to go eat tapas, walk through another demonstration at Puerta del Sol and then let Ehren play on the playground on our way know, at 10pm when everyone else was out.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Toledo, OH's sister city

I couldn't believe it but in their treasury next to all the gold gothic style items and great El Greco paintings there is a small glass thing given by Toldeo, OH to Toldeo, Spain. I really wonder what is sitting at the city hall in Toledo, OH from Toledo, Spain.

Today we day tripped to another medieval city where you just sit and wonder how in the world it was created. Not with a wonder like the aquaduct and how did they do it without mortar, but rather how did they just keep building stuff and not end up with lots of dead ends? And how was the land given out? And why did they make the walls angled?

Welcome to Toledo

Toledo is the first city we've seen that still has a legitimate city wall in tact. I'm not sure if it is complete as I didn't walk all the way around it but if the civilized world comes to some sort of end I'm going to make my way to that city because it was never taken by force.

Also, quick parent travel tip: Bring a carrier for your non walking child in Toledo. We thought maybe it would be okay with a stroller since Joshua carried him all day yesterday in Segovia but we were wrong. We both ended up carrying the stroller on most streets.

Lunch time!
Overall it was a great day of exploration and they have a great cathedral. Interesting tidbit of the day: the cardinals get to choose where they are buried in the cathedral. Literally anywhere. They just dig a hole in the 1000 year old tile and bury them and then they hang their red hats over that spot until they rot away. We found 3 red hats rotting from the ceiling and I wish I'd thought to keep looking to see how many we can find. I bet it takes a while for that red velvet to rot away so I'm sure there are more.


You'll also notice we have a lot of pictures at the train station. We had tickets for the last train of the day but we finished up early and thought we'd be responsible American parents and get our kid to bed before 11pm by catching an earlier train. Well it turns out everyone in Madrid goes to Toledo on Saturday so all the other trains were booked up. Now the train station was very interesting and it entertained us for a good 20 minutes but we were there for over 3 hours which wasn't the end of the world but was exhausting for one 15 month old.

Ehren melting down

Safety First

I laugh every time we get on a subway because Ehren insists on holding on. He is always in the stroller or backpack but he starts crying until we position him so he can hold onto some bar.

Ehren holding on subway

It's a great ice breaker with the other patrons on the transport because everyone thinks it's hysterical.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Abandoned Playground?

In many plazas in Madrid there are little toddler playgrounds which is just such a great idea. As a parent it has made my love of plazas grow. I've always loved the concept of a big area where everyone congregates together consistently but now you throw in the element of something for your kids to do and I just don't know how I'm going to live without them.

Side Note: I think I've mentioned stealing "wine in the driveway" from another neighborhood but now we're definitely gonna do it. There is just something to spending the evening with your neighbors on a consistent basis and since Nashville is never going to have plazas we'll use our front yard/driveway and make the best of it. Anyway, back to the playgrounds.

In the afternoon it is just too hot for anyone to play but for the last two evenings as we are heading out for our 8pm dinner we stop and let Ehren play for 20 minutes or so. Never once have we seen an age appropriate child in the area with him. I'd say there have been a couple kids who are six or seven years old with their scooter in the area but I was beginning to think this was just not something anyone else did. We came home tonight from our tapas around 10pm and that playground was packed to the hilt with under 3 year olds.

I was prepared for taking your kids to tapas and having them out on the street that late but I was just shocked that 10pm was prime playground time. This is just the regular Spanish way of life and it is fascinating and reason number 327 that we don't stay in hotels very often or we would miss it. Unfortunately Ehren was too exhausted to play but maybe in a week he'll be fully adjusted to the late night life and we can take him out for his midnight play.

Bus Success or Failure?

Today we had two Ehren meltdowns and a day trip to Segovia to see the Roman aqueduct. In a last minute switch we decided to take a bus instead of a train to Segovia for the day and the ticket and boarding process was perfect. Turns out we should have consulted with Ehren because he apparently really didn't want to take the bus and the poor people around us had to hear about it for at least 15 minutes. Luckily he calmed after some food bribery and was pretty pleasant while we walked around the aquaduct. Did you know they made those things with no mortar? How is that even possible?

Tiff & Aqueduct

Then we headed for a very Segovian lunch of roast suckling pig and did a quick tour around town. Personally for me the day was mostly forgettable past the aqueduct but it was good to get away to a more historic city and out of busy Madrid. Apparently all that adorable screaming on the bus really wore Ehren out so he spent a good bit of the afternoon like this:

Ehren napping

We ended the day with tapas which is a little less glamorous with a toddler but still good - except for gazpacho which was a soup but they served it as a drink and it would have been bad either way I'm pretty sure. Overall, Joshua would describe it as a romantic Spanish day. We had a surprisingly cool day with a beautiful blue sky in a historic town with giant stone arches ending with tapas out with the family past 10pm.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Modern vs. Classical

If Madrid is the least fun place in Spain I can't wait to see the rest of it. At the end of day one we are thinking about all the things we don't have time to do while we are here and wishing we could stay longer which I'm taking as a good sign for the country as a whole.

Today we were reminded of the dichotomy of our aesthetic tastes. We love ornate buildings and oil painting and we love glass and clean lines. I wish it was acceptable to hang a Rothko by Van Der Weyden in your living room. Maybe we'll find a way to work it out. Joshua proposed a really traditional house that you walked into and was completely clean and modern on the inside. I just don't think that is being true to either style but maybe that is being true to the Fykes who generally have their own style anyway, right?

Reina Sofia 2

We started the day on accident at the Modern Art Museum which was good but not the best we have seen even on this continent. Then after a squid sandwich and a quick siesta at the park we headed to the Prado which is touted (by Rick Steves) as Europe's best painting museum. A couple of people we had talked to mentioned how huge the place was and we didn't even scratch the surface. We took the see the absolute musts and whatever else you can along the way but do not stress about seeing it all because remember you have an infant and screaming is not fun for anyone.

El Prado

My highlights were seeing "The Adoration of the Shepherds" by El Greco and "Las Meninas" by Valazquez. However, my favorite thing was more a statement of the period and a lesser known piece by David Teniers de joven.

It's a painting of an archduke's paintings and I just think that is hysterical. I mean, where does that hang in his collection of paintings?

Joshua's highlights were "The Descent from the Cross" by Van Der Weyden and being introduced to Goya's black paintings that he did in his house...on the walls...during his depression at the end of his life. Pretty emotional and dark stuff so google that and check it out.

Again our kid is handling everything like a champ. We almost had a morning meltdown at the modern art museum but the other patrons decided to step up and help us keep him calm by talking and playing with him and then he was fine from them on out. He slept through half of the Prado so he must have gotten more of our modern leaning. I think if you ask him though the hour in Retiro Park was the highlight of his day. He even suckered a stranger into giving him stickers.

Retiro Park 3

We head out for a late (usual time for Spain) dinner around 9pm and that will put the first day in the bag.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

This Kid Was Made for Our Family

Yesterday I was literally working up until the minute we had to get in the cab to go to the airport. It has made the transition to vacation kind of startling. Like it came out of no where because it wasn't built up for me with lots of planning and thinking and making sure everything is ready to go like I normally do. In the last week I've had six clients go under contract. Besides slowly adjusting our sleep for Ehren's sake I've had little time to do anything but work the 14 hours that I was awake. So far this lack of planning has only cost me a bathing suit, peanut butter and an adaptor for my three prong computer plug. We can live without the first two but we bought the last one so you guys would have something to read along the way.

Side note: Joshua has decided we can't call this a vacation. The ratio of relaxing is wrong for what he considers a vacation so from here on out it will be referred to as "adventure." I personally like adventure anyway so please adjust your vocabulary.

Ehren waiting

Besides forgetting those little items and having the wrong address for the place we are staying in Madrid this adventure is off to a great start. With the help of our sleep adjustment Ehren (and us) are already soundly on Spain time. We had no idea how to help a baby with jet lag so we took a stab at what we thought made sense and so far I'm a fan.

LONG EXPLANATION: Spain is 7 hours ahead of Nashville so for the eight days leading up to our trip we woke him up 30 minutes earlier every 2 days. So the day before we left the family was up at 4:30am going about our business like the sun was up. Then the day we were leaving we let him sleep until 6 knowing that we wouldn't be on our plane until 7pm so he needed some extra juice for the day. Worked like a charm and this kid slept 8 hours on the plane in what will be his last bassinet ride (not only because he was crammed but because we kind of had to fight a lady and sort of fib about his weight at the airport to get him in it). Then when we arrived in Spain at 10am we were able to stay up until 2pm nap time and then he took a regular nap and was ready for bed at 9pm Spain time. Adjusting his body clock about halfway seemed to make it possible for him to go down at an almost regular night time and this morning he popped up ready to face the day.

Ehren-asleep on plane

Experiment one: SUCCESS

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What the Fykes Do to the Economy

Seems like every time we travel to Europe we come back to a blistering US economy and I have my fears that this time it will be no exception. Everything's fine if I go to Peru or we got to Asia but something about our desire to see Europe never works out well for our compatriats pocketbooks. Is that going to stop us? Probably not, but we want to just go ahead and apologize in advance for any inconvience we are causing all of your 401Ks.

This is a new kind of Fykes travel and for now we still aren't sure how it is going to work out. We aren't going to couchsurf once but instead we'll be staying in people's apartments they rent out to travelers. We figured that was better than hostals because if we don't have a fridge where do we keep Ehren's milk? In a few places it also means we can put Ehren down for a nap and shut him in a room while we watch a movie for the afternoon. Siesta here we come!

It also means we still get to meet some locals because they are the ones meeting us with the key and we can still pick their brains about what to do in the city. We actually just skyped yesterday with our first host in Madrid and he's a great ex-pat who has filled us all in on the demonstrations happening in the Sol square and where to eat dinner.

Another change is our pace is going to be much slower. We are going to stay in most location for 4 or 5 days. If we aren't on a mission trip we haven't stay 5 days ANYWHERE in all of our travels. However, when we think about the logistics of having a baby strapped to our back and actually having luggage the jumping on and off the train just doesn't sound fun.

Also, in all our preparation we haven't found a great online resource of information on traveling with an infant like I expected. If you have a recommendation I'd love to hear it. However, I'll report back here so everyone can learn from our mistakes. Also, I hope to prove my hypothesis that traveling with an infant is totally possible and maybe even fun. The Fykes are always happy to be your science experiment.

Spain here we come!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Spain or Bust

In 21 days the Fykes family leaves for Spain. This will be our first international trip with Ehren, so we're trying to make sure we don't forget anything that might be catastrophic to our sanity (i.e. his stuffed elephant) Unfortunately we already missed the running of the bulls, but that wasn't on the top of our list of things to do.

We're planning to be much more regular (i.e. more than one post per month) with the blogging and photos while travelling so stay tuned.

A Wedding (not ours)

Blake's Wedding Photobooth

Congrats to Blake and AnnAlyse! If anyone reading this is planning a wedding, two words for you: Photo Booth. Great fun.