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Trip Report Mi familia in Sagrada Familia and other Spain adventures

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Trip Report! We spent Thanksgiving week in Madrid and Barcelona, visiting our 20 year-old DD who is on study abroad. Thanks so much to the Fodor's community for all the help in planning!

We spent our first four days in Barcelona, then took the train to Madrid, where DD is living, and spent five days there. Family members are me, DH,18 year-old DD, and study-abroad DD. Trip highlights included:

- Seeing DD!
- Meeting her host family and learning about her life in Madrid
- Sagrada Familia!

Day 1: Reunited!
DH, younger DD and I arrive in Barcelona on Friday morning and get a cab from the airport to the apartment we rented in El Born, through Habitat Apartments. Study-abroad DD is on a train from Madrid and will be arriving shortly.

Right off the bat we have a bit of an adventure. We traveled in Spain about a year and a half ago and always relied on older DD's excellent Spanish. But at this point, she wasn't with us yet and our cab driver spoke no English. No problem, I have the address printed from an email, including the helpful information that it is "near Placa de Sant Cugat". Our cab driver does not know where this is and, from what little we can make out of what he is saying in Spanish, is telling us it is not in Barcelona. "Si, en Barcelona!" I keep insisting. No, not in Barcelona he keeps telling me. Problem. I'm confident the apartment is in Barcelona, but we are already driving down the highway with a cab driver who believes otherwise, and no way to communicate! It's just after 8 am, so too early for the Habitat office to be open, but I have the 24 hour number. I dial, hand the phone to the driver, he has a conversation in Spanish, and we are all set. Turns out Sant Cugat is the name of a small town outside Barcelona, as well as the name of the square our apartment is on. Who knew.

We get settled in to the apartment without further incident and pretty soon it's the moment we've been waiting for: study-abroad DD shows up! Hugs! Tears! More hugs! We are all very happy to see each other.

First order of the day is to get some food for the apartment. Younger DD didn't sleep well on the plane so she takes a short nap at the apartment while the rest of us head over to Mercat Santa Caterina, which is only a few blocks away, and is a wonderful, thriving, bustling market. We stock up on yogurt and fruit for the morning and on chorizo, cheese and bread for snacking. On the way back we pass by a street fair of some sort being set up near our apartment. We ask what it is – it's wine tasting and tapas and will be going on the next two days. Great – we'll be back! But first we rouse younger DD and then it's off to see some Gaudi.

We decide to walk to see as much of the city as possible, and make a stop at the Tourist Information office on the way. I've read that there is a Ruta Modernista Pass that can save some money on all the Gaudi sights we plan to visit, but we go to two different Information offices and each one tells us to go somewhere else, so we finally give up and decide to just get our tickets. At the large Information office in Placa Catalunya you can buy tickets to the Gaudi houses and they will print them for you without charge. Even off-season this is helpful - you skip the line when you arrive. Casa Batllo has a general admission, with no specific time, La Pedrera has a timed entry. Since it was off-season, we had no trouble getting tickets same-day. I expect in summer this is something that should be done further in advance. We consider doing the same for the Monument Zone of Parc Guell and for Sagrada Familia, but for these there is a fee to book and print at the Info office and we're not entirely sure when we want to go, so we decided to wait on those. For Sagrada Familia, by the way, you do not need to print your tickets if you have a smart phone - you can show the receipt on your phone screen for admission. For Parc Guell you need to print.

We get our tickets for Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, leaving time for lunch in between, and set off. We see Casa Batllo first. It's weird and wonderful in the Gaudi-way, and I particularly love the roof. The audio-guide, which is included, is very helpful and has this odd element of including a device that looks a little like an iPhone and when you hold it up in any given room, the screen displays the room as if it were furnished, or has an animated overlay of the plant and animal shapes that inspired certain elements of the architecture. Kind of cool, but for me it also had the effect of making me feel a bit disconnected from the real thing I was looking at. Perhaps a commentary on virtual-reality experiences in general. We spent about an hour there.

Next up is lunch. For anyone who saw the questions I posted before we went, I've planned this all out pretty carefully (sneak preview – mostly things did not go as planned!). In this case, the plan is lunch at Tapac 24, which is very near the houses. When we arrive there is a short wait for tables inside or outside – the weather was really mild and people were eating outside during our entire trip (even on some cold nights in Madrid! Wearing coats and hats and sitting under large portable heaters – fall weather did not stop them!) No need for coats or heaters today - it was so warm and sunny we were actually sweating in jeans and lightweight long-sleeve shirts - and we would have loved to sit outside, but the people at the tables were not showing signs of leaving soon. It is already 2:30 and we have timed tickets to La Pedrera at 4pm, so inside we go. I've already read about what to order – bikini sandwich, McFoie Burger, croquettas. We order these and a few other tapas. Bikini sandwich is our favorite, McFoie Burger we could live without - the beef is very rare, which we don't care for, and we are not big fans of foie. So no surprise that we didn't love it, but we had to try it. We all wish we had time for the chocolate and olive oil dessert but, alas, we do not. (Never fear - we had it elsewhere). Lunch is very good but, I have to say, not the amazing experience I was expecting based on the reviews. But certainly worth going to.

Off to La Pedrera. More weird and wonderful Gaudi-ness, and again the roof is my favorite part. We spend a considerable amount of time up there in the beautiful late afternoon sunshine. The two houses are very different from each other and it's definitely worth seeing both. By the time we leave it's dark outside, so it's lucky that at La Pedrera you visit the roof first. We walk home, cruising down Las Ramblas on the way. The plan is to go home, get changed, and go over to the Magic Fountain at 7, before dinner. At this time of year it runs only on Friday and Saturday nights.

We have 8:30 reservations at 7 Portes (or so I think). We intend to have paella, which I know you are supposed to have for lunch, but we plan to have it twice, so might as well get started! Also, on this particular weekend, several of DD's friends happen to also be in Barcelona – some with their families who are visiting as we are, some with other friends, and one by herself, because her travelling companion cancelled at the last minute. We of course invite this friend to join us for dinner.

On the way home we stop at the street fair, taste a few tapas, buy a bottle of wine, and decide we really don't have time to make it to the fountain. We will go tomorrow. Meanwhile, though, we better call the restaurant and tell them we will be 5 for dinner rather than 4. Back at the apartment, DD makes the call. I can hear from the tone of her voice there is a problem. I'm a bit surprised – it's only 1 more person after all – but it turns out that this is not the problem. The real problem is that our reservations are for 7:30, not 8:30, and it's already 7:00 and we're not ready! How did this happen?! Who knows – the 24 hour clock really messes me up.

What to do – we can't be there by 7:30, but can we come at 8? No, they say, we're full. It does not sound as if they are being at all helpful, from what I can hear of DD's end of the conversation. Finally they say we can come and wait for a table and they will try to squeeze us in – we may have to wait 45 minutes. This seems like our best bet – it's Friday night, we are tired from an overnight flight and I don't want to try going somewhere else just to find out the wait is even longer. We shower, dress and head over.

We arrive about 8:15 and when we give our name they recognize it. A man comes out with a copy of the email confirming our reservation at 7:30 to show me they have it right. Yes, I say, I realize I must have made a mistake, 24 hour clock is confusing, etc, etc. No problem, they say, come in – they show us right to a table in a mostly empty restaurant! I'm really not sure what the problem was! Obviously it filled up as the evening went on, but really, there is absolutely no issue with seating us and no 45 minute wait. Anyway, they are gracious, we are gracious, and all is well.

The restaurant is very traditional, a bit on the formal side - cloth tablecloths, a piano player playing during dinner, waiters in formal dress - but not stuffy. It has a vibrant feel to it and service was very good.

We decide we are all going to share salad, paella and sangria, and save room for Crème Catalan. Might as well dive right in to the spirit of Catalunya! But which paella to order? There is traditional, arroz negro (in squid ink), and fideua, which is made with thin noodles rather than rice. We decide we need to try all three. They are all wonderful and everyone has a different favorite - mine was the traditional. After dinner you would think we would go straight to bed, but we have a second wind, it's a mild night, and hey, we're in Barcelona! We decide to take a stroll down to the waterfront in Barceloneta, walk around bit, and then finally make our way back to the apartment.

Study-abroad DD has plans with her friends who are in town, so she heads off into the Barcelona night, the rest of us fall into bed and sleep like the dead.

Next up: Parc Guell.

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    Glad to hear that the 7 Portes part had a happy ending, I must always have my 7 Portes rice fix when in Barcelona, an air of old days and tons of history. The major Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia ran a seven articles series about the restaurant seven weeks in a row when 7 Portes was 175 years in 2011. Here are the articles in English:

    Looking forward to read on!

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    Day 2: Parc Guell, chance meetings, and dinner at Tickets

    The next day we all paid for our choices the night before - DH, younger DD and I for not going to bed earlier our first night, and older DD for staying out half the night with her friends - no one wanted to get up, and we got a late start.

    The original plan had been to see Sagrada Familia this day, but the weather was warm and glorious and temperatures were predicted to drop the next day, so we decide to take advantage and go to Parc Guell instead. We walk through Parc de la Ciutadella, where there is some kind of family fair going on, and soak up the atmosphere of a Saturday in Barcelona, then hop a cab to Parc Guell.

    Since it is off-season we decide to risk not having advance tickets and wait on the line. This worked out for us, but it might not for you during summer, so I don't necessarily recommend it. We wait on line about 15 minutes, get the next open window for the Monument Zone (about 45 minutes later), and spend the time in between exploring the rest of the park (which we wanted to do anyway). We end up entering the Monument Zone from the top (because we are coming from walking around the park), rather than from the street and when you do that I think you lose some of the impact. If I did it again I would walk down to the street and enter at the steps with everyone else to get the intended effect.

    But it is beautiful nonetheless. We spend a fair amount of time up at the benches, looking at the view, taking pictures and marveling at how well the benches fit the curve of your back. We wander down to explore the Hypostyle Room, and then the steps, and manage to get a picture of DDs with the dragon and very few other people! Would never happen in July, I'm guessing! Not that the park was empty - there were lots of people there, but it was not overwhelmingly crowded.

    The day is beautiful, the park is beautiful, and by the time we are ready to tear ourselves away it's nearly 3pm and we're starving. Also, we have reservations for dinner at Tickets! So we don't want to eat too much or too late.

    We decide to hop a cab to Cerveceria Catalana, but when we arrive they have a 45 minute wait. No good. Plan B, we walk down to Las Ramblas intending to visit La Boqueria and grab a few tapas at Pinotxo.

    Walking down Las Ramblas, older DD suddenly stops dead and stares. We all look around - what is she looking at? She is looking at her best friend, who is studying abroad in Ireland, walking up Las Ramblas in the other direction! We knew she was in Barcelona, they had seen each other the night before, but it is so funny to just run into each other in the middle of the street in a foreign country! Hugs, pictures, more hugs (from our whole family - we adore this friend and hadn't seen her for months!), and general catching up/meeting the BFFs travel companions/making plans to meet up later that night (the kids, not us). By the time we break away it's pretty late for lunch, even in Spain. We high-tail it to La Boqueria but alas, Pinotxo is closed. Still, we're hungry. We wander about a bit, see the market, grab a nibble here and a bite there, and decide to stop before we ruin our appetite for Tickets.

    We take stock of the time. The night before we had planned to go up to Montjuic, see the view, go to the Miro museum, and then to the Magic Fountain before dinner. None of that had happened. We're starting to realize that I've planned too much for each day. But it's OK, I had anticipated that, and had left the last day very flexible so things could get gradually pushed back. So even though it's not even 5pm we decide to go home, change for dinner, and follow the plan we'd originally had for the night before.

    Getting to Montjuic ends up taking much longer than we expected. We have to change Metro lines twice, there are long walks underground between lines, the funicular is not running - instead there is a bus - and by the time we arrive it is already dark. So much for views in the daylight. In retrospect we should have taken a cab (we thought it would be fun to ride the funicular, and it probably would have been, had it been running!). We also realize we are not going to get to the Miro museum much before closing. We set off in the general direction of the fountain, taking the outer path rather than walking on roads whenever possible to admire the nighttime views of the city, which are quite lovely. We eventually come upon the Miro Museum but, as we expected it is closing in 15 minutes so we can't go in. We are only able to wander into a courtyard off the entrance lobby and admire a few statues. This is fine - it was not one of my top priorities, but it does seem to be quite a lovely museum.

    Finally we find ourselves on the steps of the very impressive Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, along with a fairly sizable crowd of people either admiring the view, waiting for the fountain show, or both. It is now that I come to understand that you do not need to go to Montjuic in order to go to the Magic Fountain. I had thought it was up on the hill of Montjuic, but it is not - it's essentially at street level and there is a Metro stop right there! If I had known that I would probably have planned our evening differently. Live and learn.

    As we're admiring the view we are dismayed to see several small trucks pull up to the fountain and, a few minutes later, some announcements start in Spanish. We're too far away for DD to make out what they are saying, but it does not bode well. We head down and, sure enough: technical difficulties, show cancelled. We are very disappointed!

    So now we feel like we spent the last two hours traveling to and wandering around Montjuic in the dark, missed the daytime views, missed the museum and missed the fountain. All my planning is not panning out so well this evening! I'm in a little bit of a funk about this, but these things happen when traveling. The moral of the story is that if you are going to go to Montjuic, leave yourself more time than we did - it's a bit far away and covers a large area.

    In any event, the highlight of the evening is still ahead - dinner at Tickets!

    We arrive for our 8:30 reservations (I got the time right this time!) and a perky waitress comes over and recommends, since it is our first time, that we allow her to bring the chef's choices. That sounds fine - very little raw food, we tell her, and skip the foie. Also, please make sure we get those olives. She smiles indulgently at us - of course EVERYONE gets the olives.

    And they are spectacular. They are like an explosion of olive-essence in your mouth. I loved them! Several other dishes are spectacular too, but not all of them. In particular, we are not enamored of the sea urchin. All in all, we have a wonderful time and it is very fun waiting to see what will come next and trying each new culinary adventure. I will say, though, that the bill was more than we had expected - 400 euros for the 4 of us, and only DH and I were having wine.

    We didn't leave the restaurant until midnight - from 8:30 reservations! What happens when your reservation is at 10? We head back home and meet up with DD's solo-traveling friend, who has checked out of her hostel and is spending the night on our couch. The 3 girls head out to explore Barcelona nightlife and meet up with the BFF and her friends (from Las Ramblas). DH and I stroll across the plaza for a mojito and some people watching in the cafe across from our apartment, then go home and collapse into bed. Eventually all these late nights are going to catch up with us, and not in a good way.

    Next up: the long awaited Sagrada Familia!

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    Day 3: Sagrada Familia!
    The third day is Sunday. Priorities include the Picasso Museum, which will be closed the next day, seeing the Sardana in front of the cathedral, and Sagrada Familia, which we had pushed off from the previous day.

    My original plan for Sunday had included none of these things. Well, except the Sardana. My original plan was to spend the morning walking around El Born, Barri Gotic, and Parc de la Ciutadella, then seeing the Sardana, paella lunch in Barceloneta, then wandering around Barceloneta and Port Vell for the afternoon.

    Based on how things have gone so far we conclude we need to scrap most of this plan, including the paella lunch. This is too bad, but we feel satisfied with the paella we had the first night, and we're glad we opted to try all three varieties and not save some for next time.

    First up: Picasso museum. DD's friend has already seen it and younger DD is really not an art museum fan. The two of them stay behind, sleep in a bit (we were not getting much sleep!) and catch up on schoolwork. Study-abroad DD and DH and I spend a really enjoyable hour or so immersed in Picasso. I loved this museum - it covers his early work (astounding what he was producing at age 14!), some works from his time in Paris, and a really interesting section on his deconstruction of Las Meninas. There is very little cubism, which I don't care for, so this is fine with me, and only one Harlequin, which I would have liked to see more of. There is a lot of really interesting information and descriptions, and the building housing the museum is beautiful.

    A little before 12 we go to pick up younger DD and solo-friend at the apartment and make our way over to the cathedral for the Sardana. I've researched carefully to be sure the dance goes on year-round, because I really want to see it and I've planned the day around needing to be in this spot at this time. Do you see where this is going?

    We arrive a few minutes after 12. There is no dancing, no sign that there is about to be dancing, and no indication that there has ever been dancing. Just a normal day on a plaza in front of the cathedral. We ask a few people, but they are all tourists and don't know. Finally we see a police officer and DD inquires. Oh, he says, we're setting up for Christmas (yes, there is scaffolding for hanging lights and decorations, etc) so we're not doing it anymore until after the holidays.

    Again, so disappointed! More so than with the fountain, as this was a cultural experience I'd been really looking forward to, but there is nothing to be done but go on with the day.

    DD's solo-friend is leaving today to go back to Madrid. She leaves us to go do her own thing before her train, and we re-group.

    Next up is Sagrada Familia, which I was looking forward to more than anything else in Barcelona. Originally I'd thought we'd go in the morning - I'd read that is best for avoiding crowds. But a few days before we left I got a text from a friend who was just leaving Barcelona. His advice: You must see Sagrada Familia in the late afternoon light, it is spectacular! We had discussed as a family and agreed this sounded worthwhile, and off-season crowds were not likely to be so bad, so afternoon it is. 3 pm seems like the right time. But now, standing in front of the Cathedral, we realize we never booked tickets!

    There is a Tourist Information office right on the corner so we pop in. Availability for admission is wide open, but there are no English language tours at the time we want and no admission to the towers. This part about the towers seems odd, but a little more investigation reveals that the towers are closed today due to wind. There are English language tours the next day, and the towers may or may not be open, depending on weather. Now we are in a quandary. Do we go today, get the audioguide, and miss the towers, or do we push it off to our last day? I am adamant: we go today. Waiting for the last day is too risky. Anything could happen and then we miss it. My family is a little dubious about my "anything could happen" theory, but they go along. It turns out, by the way, to be prescient. More on that tomorrow. We book 3pm.

    First we need to eat. I do some quick reorganizing of lunch plans and get us early reservations at a small restaurant in the Eixample that I read about on Chowhound and that I had originally booked for Monday lunch. It's not too far from Sagrada Familia. Off we go.

    It turns out to be our favorite restaurant in Barcelona - or at least in the top 2. It's called Santa Gula, it's a tiny little place with big windows, lots of natural light, rustic wooden tables and fabulous, fresh, creative cooking. And lots of vegetables! Sometimes so hard to find in Spain. We have a really terrific lunch and they get us out in time for Sagrada Familia without a problem. Highly recommend.

    We hop the Metro two stops to Sagrada Familia, emerge from underground and - gasp! It is astounding! Truly. Since it may be getting dark when we finish we'd like to look around outside now. It's a few minutes before 3 and the guard tells us that they will let us in until 3:15, so we take a few minutes to circle around and gawk at the towers and the two facades. We will in fact have time to do this again later as part of the audioguide, but we don't know this at the time.

    We go in and pick up our audioguides, which turn out to be excellent. I'm actually glad we had these instead of the tour, because we frequently paused the audioguide to spend more time at each stop, taking pictures, looking around more, and reading additional information from the guidebooks. But I have heard people say that both the tours and the audioguides are good.

    This may be my favorite church anywhere. It is astoundingly beautiful inside. What I especially like is the way the architecture draws from nature, the use of light and color, and the absence of all the gilding that you often see in grand cathedrals. It just appealed to my senses in a very calming and also uplifting way.

    About 45 minutes into our visit, sitting in the pews and listening to the audioguide, I look up and over to the east side of the cathedral, and see what my friend had been talking about. The afternoon light is streaming in through the western windows of red, orange and yellow stained-glass hues and reflecting on the marble across from the windows in a prism of color - it was absolutely breathtaking! If you have a chance to visit in the afternoon, do it. Over the course of our visit the light changed and reflected and morphed and we could not take our eyes off it. So beautiful.

    After a few hours it was sadly time to go, and it was in fact beginning to get dark. We take the Metro back to our apartment for a little down time before dinner.

    Tonight's dinner plans include DD's BFF - she is going to join us for tapas at Tapeo del Born. She shows up at our apartment with her two friends from her Ireland program in tow, and they all have a glass of wine with us before we head out to dinner. I'm thinking that somehow we've adopted all three of them for dinner, but when we get out on the street the two friends make to leave. No, no, DH and I insist - you should all come! They hesitate, they don't want to intrude, until I say "If the situation were reversed, I hope your mother would invite my daughter to dinner." It's a what-goes -around-comes-around philosophy. Besides, they're college students travelling on a budget -they can probably use a good meal. They see the sense in this and we all set out.

    There is only one flaw in my plan: I've never been to Tapeo del Born and when we arrive - now a group of 7 - we see that it's a tiny place with very little seating. Problem! All I see are seats at the bar and little tables for two. (I believe there may be more tables in the back, but we don't see these). But, as luck would have it, there is one large table in the place and no one is at it. It is ours. In a stroke of exceptional timing, we had walked in the door mere moments before a group of 4, who get turned away.

    We sit down and I announce to the BFF's friends that when we have tapas I do most of the ordering, so they should tell me if there is anything they especially want or anything they don't eat. BFF is unconcerned - she's eaten at our house before and knows this is going to be fine - but her friends suddenly look panicked. One friend gets up the courage to say, "I don't eat blood sausage." "Neither do we!" I assure her. "Or pig's feet or any of that. Nothing to worry about!". "I'm a vegetarian," says the other. Now this is tougher. It's Spain. Everything is ham.

    But truly it is our lucky night, because this menu has lots of vegetables! And they sound delicious! Like caramelized eggplant with honey and lime. Doesn't that sound amazing? It is!

    We order the eggplant, some leeks with olive tapenade, some tomato and burratta, some croquettas, some tortilla espagnola with artichokes and ham, some rabbit rib chops, some skirt steak - this, that and a lot of sangria. We eat, we laugh, we drink, we eat and drink more and laugh a lot more, and generally have a fabulous time. Really it is so fun to have these girls - two of whom we'd never met before! We're so happy they joined us. We finish up with a dessert of chocolate and olive oil and deconstructed creme catalan - both delicious! - we spill out the door and work our way back to our apartment. DD and her BFF go off for some best-friend-alone-time, and the rest of us head to bed.

    Tapeo was the other one of my top two meals in Barcelona, and this was one of my favorite days of the whole trip.

    Next, Day 4: not so good.

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    Maitaitom, if you are not familiar with how to get reservations to Tickets, I'll tell you what I did (at the risk of sounding like a crazy person).

    You need to go online precisely 60 days before the day you want to eat. Reservations open at 12 midnight Spain time. By 12:04 the tables are all gone. I kid you not. Maybe if it's a weekday you might have until 12:10. Maybe.

    I started practicing a few days before. Truly! Because you have to navigate your way around the site a bit, and the reservations are on a 24 hour clock which, as we all know, confuses me, so I learned where to click, how to do it quickly, and wrote down my time choices in order of preference in 24 hour format and had it next to me. And - here's a tip for Fodorites - I learned that the reservations actually open up 3 or 4 minutes before 12.

    If you go and you do the "chef's selections", you might consider telling your waitress your price limit. Our last item was a small steak shared among the four of us. It was a spectacular steak and we all really enjoyed it. Until we got the bill and saw that that one item was 75 euros! I'm not sure it was that spectacular. It was out of line with the price of all the other items, and I would have preferred to make my own choice about whether I wanted to spend 75 euros on a small steak. Honestly it colored my feelings about an otherwise wonderful dinner, because I felt I'd been a little bit taken. Also, the sommelier, after suggesting a lovely 5 euro glass of wine to start, next recommended a 25 euro glass! One glass! And DH and I would have had more than one each, surely. I'm not that much of a wine connoisseur - we stuck with the 5 euro selection, which was quite good. So there's some "upselling" going on there that it helps to be aware of.

    And don't miss the chocolate and olive oil dessert! They make it at your table and it is quite a production, and delicious! We chose our own desserts, rather than letting the chef choose, and we were happy with that.

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    I never realised how lucky we were on our trip to Barcelona when we saw the Magic Fountain every night! not boasting of good planning, as I'd never heard of it before we arrived but we were staying at a nearby hotel. We also managed, down to pure luck, to get up to Montjuic with no problem by taking the chair lift from Barcelonetta - again - a complete fluke.

    OTOH we must have got to the Sagarda Familia at the wrong time as it left us cold, and we didn't even know about Tickets.

    So many different experiences of Barcelona, and more to see next time.

    Keep it coming - I'm enjoying it very much.

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    We did not care much for Tickets -
    neither the place nor the food..
    Almost everyone in the restaurant was a tourist. The food was o.k. but
    nothing special. Just lot of hype IMO.

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    Thanks everyone - glad you are enjoying the report! I should say that we have kimhe to thank for our great meal at Tapeo - I read about it in one of his posts.

    annhig, study-abroad DD had been to Sagrada Familia before, in the morning, and said it was entirely different (and not as good!) If you go back, go in the late afternoon!

    Anyway, on to Day 4...

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    Day 4: CGS's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

    I'll just dive right in: the next day I wake up with the stomach flu. Really bad. I sort of can't believe it. People don't get the stomach flu in the middle of their European vacation, do they? Well, yes, apparently they do. I do wonder whether it could be something I ate, but 6 days later, right after we leave for home, study-abroad DD comes down with it. So - flu.

    I'll spare you the details - suffice it to say I don't leave the apartment all day and it is many hours before I can even hold down water. I am pretty miserable, and I'm missing my last day in Barcelona. Here's the one silver lining: I saw La Sagrada Familia yesterday! Remember "anything can happen"? Yeah, well, it did. Even in my misery I feel thankful that we had not pushed Sagrada Familia off to today.

    My family heads out to do all the fun stuff I had planned for us, which is basically all the stuff I'd originally planned for Sunday. They have a great day that I can't tell you very much about, other than telling you what they saw. They go to the Cathedral (we'd only seen the outside so far) and then to Palau de la Musica Catalana, which looks breathtaking from their pictures and I'm disappointed that I missed it. They see the Gaudi fountain in Parc de le Ciutadella. They take a walk down to the beach - just to look, of course - the temperature has dropped and even though it is still sunny and relatively mild, it's definitely sweater and jacket weather. They go to the castle on Montjuic. Then they go to the market and get me tea and bread. I comment later to DH that they did a lot in one day and he replies good naturedly, "Well you can cover a lot of ground when you're not stopping every 5 minutes to read descriptions from the guidebook or figure out where to eat!" Humph. He actually likes all the stuff I read to everyone from the guidebooks, and he's enjoyed all the meals, so he's sort of kidding. But only sort of. :-)

    I had made dinner reservations that I was really looking forward to at Gresca. I suspect we would really have liked it. Obviously I am not going. DH and the DDs consider whether they want to go anyway, and decide it's too far away and they don't really want to go without me. Some of you have seen my restaurant list, so you know I have alternatives ready for them, and they set off for a casual dinner at Bar del Pla around the corner. They apparently have a really great meal that they try to tell me about when they get home, but I can't stand to hear anything about food. Something about a salad that is so good they order it twice. Whatever. I hate everything right now.

    We are leaving very early the next morning for Madrid, so we have to pack up. I can't do it, so DH packs my things, and I feebly issue directions from the couch about leaving the apartment in good condition. Even speaking is an effort.

    Even though I am sick and DD's friends have all left so she's not going out at night, we still don't manage to get to bed at a reasonable time. Not sure how we got on this very late schedule, but I'm paying the price for it, and I won't be the last one.

    Next day: Nowhere to go but up!

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    annhig, study-abroad DD had been to Sagrada Familia before, in the morning, and said it was entirely different (and not as good!) If you go back, go in the late afternoon!>>

    thanks, CGS - good tip.

    so sorry about the stomach-flu [how did you know it wasn't a bug / something you ate, BTW?] As someone who is struck down regularly when we travel [Sri Lanka being a somewhat surprising exception to this rule] I sympathise.

    looking forward to an improvement!

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    Stomach flu, left me floundering

    "Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever. The most common way to develop viral gastroenteritis — often called stomach flu — is through contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water"

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    Yes, bilboburgler, that pretty much sums it up! Like I said - miserable! It fortunately only lasted the day, but it really set me back on my heels the whole rest of the trip. :(

    Annhig, I thought it might have been something I ate - specifically, an oyster, because I had oysters at Tickets and no one else did, and that was literally the only thing that we hadn't all shared. But, like I said, study-abroad DD came down with it about a week later, just after we left, so that seems like a virus that she got from me. (Poor girl - she had a final exam the next day after being up sick all night! Of course she had to reschedule. And I'm eternally grateful to her Spanish host-mom for taking care of her, making her broth and toast, and general mothering attention.)

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    CGS - I've had it before when DH has eaten exactly the same as I have and he's been unaffected. I've concluded that some of us are more susceptible to the same bug.

    Shame about your DD - lucky she was so well cared for and that she could reschedule the exam. I remember a friend of mine who ate something dodgy the night before our finals and all they did for her was to give her extra time to make up for the number of times she had to leave the exam room!!

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    Day 5: Off to Madrid

    We have an early train to Madrid - DD needs to be back in time for a 10:30 class. Really I should be spending the day in bed, but that is not an option so I manage to get myself up and dressed and out the door. I am moving very slowly and can't carry anything or even pull my suitcase, so my family is picking up the slack. Luckily we get a cab right away, get to the station and onto our train, where I promptly fall dead asleep.

    This is my first time on the high-speed trains. It's a great experience! They are clean, comfortable, on time and fast! I hadn't really intended to sleep the whole way, but just the effort of getting up and out of the apartment has exhausted me. Next thing I know DD is waking me up saying "Mom, we're going to be in Madrid in 10 minutes and we haven't talked about what you're going to do today." Um, check into the apartment and go back to bed? No, wrong answer.

    I had left it to DD to plan our time in Madrid for us, but she has planned a visit to the Palace for today and that is too ambitious given how I feel. She really has to go so I tell her to give me the list and we will figure it out. She leaves us in the station to go off to class - we will see her that evening. We get a cab and go off to check into our apartment in Barrio de las Letras.

    The apartment is very very nice. Much nicer than the Barcelona apartment. It's Lope de Vega II from Spain Select. Guess where I read about it? You guessed it - here!

    We get settled in to the apartment and decide we want to get acclimated to the city by walking through the major centers - Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor - and then hit some of the more minor sights. Things I can bail out of if I'm not feeling up to it.

    We unpack, DH and I make a trip to the neighborhood market for some breakfast supplies for the apartment, and then the three of us set off into the city, walk through Sol and on to the Mercado de San Miguel. It's lunchtime, younger DD and DH want to eat, and I'm starting to feel like I may be able to re-join the world of eating. Maybe. The Mercado is a good option because I can look things over and decide if I feel like I can handle eating them. We wander around, get a bite of this and a nibble of that, DH has a lovely glass of wine and I wish I could too but I am definitely not ready for that. I love the ambience - people are just having their bites and nibbles and their wine and beer, standing at counters or sitting on stools and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Plus, it seems I'm no longer horrified by the thought of food! Hooray!

    We head out of the Mercado and stroll around looking for Plaza Mayor. For some odd reason we are having trouble finding it. We realize later it's because we have already gone past it on our way to the Mercado, but we didn't realize it! As we're wandering around we stumble upon Plaza de la Villa. DD had mentioned this plaza to us, and I see in the guidebooks that this is a nice area to stroll around, so we explore a bit - some of the architecture looks Moorish and reminds us of Andalucia.

    When we finally find Plaza Mayor it is quite a disappointment. I'd read so much about the grand Plaza Mayor and how it has such an impressive ambience, but they are setting up for Christmas and there are metal fences, scaffolds, and partially erected vendor stalls everywhere. It feels like a construction zone. Luckily we came back later in the week once everything was all set up, and had a better experience.

    We feel like we've a good stroll through the city and we're ready for some targeted sightseeing. Our agenda for the rest of the day is the Hermitage de San Antonio de la Florida (or, as we called it, the "Goya Chapel") and the Templo de Debod. I figured these are each a small enough commitment of energy that I can handle them. What we don't calculate accurately is how far away the Goya Chapel is.

    We walk down Calle Mayor, then turn at the impressive Almudena Cathedral and walk past the Royal Palace. Past the Palace, we drop down and stroll through the Jardines de Sabatini, and keep going. And going. I'm starting to regret not taking a cab. Also, it's getting to be late afternoon, and we want to get to the Temple before sunset. We're wondering how much longer it will take us to get to the chapel. Later, when we tell DD about our day, she is surprised that we walked all the way there. I don't necessarily recommend this.

    Finally we reach the chapel and find an enormous piece of machinery being retracted from the front door, and people all standing out on the sidewalk. Now what? We are starting to realize that when you travel off season, you run into a lot of "closed for maintenance" type situations. Nevertheless, we don't have a lot of time to spare, so we go on in the door to see what is what, and the guard waves us on into the chapel.

    The frescoes are quite spectacular. We can't walk into the center of the chapel because they are still rolling out the rug and moving benches and whatever else to finish up whatever project that piece of machinery was for, but we can look from up on the altar and from along the sides of the chapel. It is really worth the trip out there.

    We wish we could wait around for them to finish so we can look some more, but we are worried about time. The Temple is up on a hill, I'm tired, and it's getting late, so we hail a cab. We arrive about a half hour before sunset, which is just enough time to see the temple and then go admire the view. The sunset is quite spectacular from up here, and the temple is beautiful in the early evening light as it gets dark, the lights come on, and the Temple is reflected in a mirror image in the reflecting pool in front of it. I recommend going at this time of day.

    When we finish at the Temple we check in with DD, who is finished with class, and arrange to meet back at the apartment. We are all the way on the other side of the city, so we take the Metro back.

    What to do about dinner? We originally thought we might see flamenco this night, but I can't do that, and I can't handle a long walk somewhere. I've already walked more than I planned! We decide to go to Vi Cool, which I'd read about in Lonely Planet and is right around the corner.

    We arrive at 9:00 and there is only one other couple eating. I have a very un-Spanish thought: are we too late and they are closing soon? Of course this is laughable. We are early, not late! By the time we leave the place is full.

    They have an a la carte tapas menu and a tasting menu for 20 euros per person. That sounds like an amazing deal, most of what's on the tasting menu sounds palatable to my tender stomach, so we go for that.

    It is excellent. Some dishes are better than others, but overall very good and an amazing value.

    After dinner DD wants to take us around to some of her favorite evening spots - not nightclubs, just areas of the city she wants us to see at night - but really I cannot. I'm amazed I made it this far. Also, younger DD has developed a sore throat and a runny nose. We need some sleep. We head home.

    Our original plan for the next day had been Toledo, but we feel like we really haven't seen Madrid yet, so we decide to put off Toledo and hope I feel up to a full day of sightseeing in Madrid.

    Next: A very full day

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    CGS - I'm amazed that you managed so much so soon after being ill - you are a trooper.

    Nice to hear about the Hermitage and the Temple as we never got to see those on our visit to Madrid a few years ago; they are going on the "next time" list.

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    annhig, I was just so mad that I got sick on vacation and was determined not to miss any of Madrid after missing part of Barcelona! But I paid for it - I really didn't recover well until after we got home. And yes, definitely see those sights next time - we really enjoyed them!

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    Sorry for the gap - going on with the trip report....

    Day 6: Prado and Palace and Pintxos, oh my!

    The next day I'm feeling a bit better and we want to try to make up for lost time, but - Oh no! - younger DD has now come down with a bad cold! She feels pretty awful.

    Our plan for the morning is the Prado and, as I mentioned, she is not a big fan of art museums. We agree she could use some sleep, and then could get some schoolwork done (she has quite a bit, due to missing several days of school for the trip). Study-abroad DD heads off to class, DH and I head to the Prado, and younger DD goes back to sleep. I tell her to communicate with me by email from her computer when she wakes up.

    I think we are going to find the major works in the Prado, look at work by particular artists that interest us, and then move on to other things. DH has other plans. He wants to walk through every room on our way to the major works, so we can stop whenever any other pieces catch our eye. I think this could take us all day - or maybe all week! - but he is not to dissuaded, so I go along, and I have to admit I saw some pieces that I really loved and would have missed using my approach. I really like the Prado - it reminds me of the Met in NY. It's large and airy, well lit, well laid out, lots of information available on the works and artists. Of the major works, I am completely enamored of Las Meninas, especially after seeing Picasso's deconstruction of it in Barcelona, and I'm starting to feel it was a mistake for DD to miss it. We consider bringing her here later.

    DH's "stroll through every room" approach takes a few hours, and by the time we finish I'm wiped out and actually feel like I might faint. Although I'm better today, I'm definitely not at 100% - after several hours in the museum I really need some water and something to eat. We had thought we might get lunch at Estado Puro near the museum, but it seems a little too ambitious for me food-wise, and also younger DD is not answering my emails. I suspect the alarm has not gone off and she is still asleep. We walk back to the apartment and, lo and behold, although it is now 2:30 in the afternoon, she is sound asleep! She is really not feeling well.

    But she rallies quickly and we decide to grab a quick bite back at Vi Cool - they have other items on the menu that we didn't have on the tasting menu the night before, they are things that I think my stomach can handle, and it's near by.

    We are in and out fairly quickly, and next on the agenda is the Palace. To save time we take the Metro, arriving about 4pm. The prior day we had walked by the Palace at about the same time and there was an enormous line to get in. Study-abroad DD had said this was probably the line for the free-entry hours. When we arrive this day we see the same thing - huge line. I go to inquire and, sure enough, that is the free-entry line. If you want to pay you can go right in. We opt for that.

    The Palace is quite a spectacle - beautiful and a bit overwhelming. I'm starting to find that the day's agenda is a bit ambitious for me - I feel like I need to sit down periodically, but there is nowhere to do that. I'm glad we didn't try to do this yesterday.

    We finish up just as the Palace is closing at 6 and check in with study-abroad DD. She is still at school and has plenty of studying to do if we want to continue our sightseeing. We do - I've got a second wind now and both the Prado and the Reina Sofia have free entry hours in the evening. We decide to take younger DD to the Prado to see Las Meninas, then all go on to the Reina Sofia to see the Guernica. We agree to meet study-abroad DD back at the apartment between 8 and 8:30.

    We start out for the Metro, but when we come to Calle del Arenal we see literally throngs of people out for an evening paseo. I love this! And we haven't really experienced it yet on this trip. We decide to join the crowd, as least as far as Sol. We wade into the river of people and are swept along.

    When we get to Sol it is a bit of a zoo, and the usual human statues and people in ridiculous Mickey Mouse costumes are there. We push through, but wait! There is a mime! This is different so we stop to watch. He's very good! He's clowning, miming, interacting with the crowd and very funny! We watch for quite a while - I want to give him money but there's no hat or box to put it in and he never stops the performance. We take pictures to show study abroad DD. Later in the week we see him again, when she is with us, and again have no way to give him money. Then later, after we are back home in the States, I get a text from her: "Watching the mime again! Finally was able to give him money!" Hooray! Also, I love that now when she tells me things she's doing I can actually picture it, because I've been there with her!

    We finally tear ourselves away from the mime and push on to the Prado. We zip in, make a bee-line for Las Meninas, admire it for a bit - particularly the 3D effect when you step back, which is quite dramatic - and zip back out. Younger DD admits that it was worthwhile. On to the Reina Sofia.

    We don't especially care for this museum. I find it cold and unwelcoming in its layout, and there is no information about the art. Also, I don't really like Surrealism or Cubism, and that is much of what we see.

    The guidebooks recommend we start on the 2nd floor so we do that, working our way around somewhat quickly and ending at the Guernica. It is the reason we are here and it is quite moving. I also was interested in the photographs mounted on the opposite wall that show its evolution.

    At this point it's late and we have to go. We may come back another night, and we may not. As it turns out, we don't. I'm OK with that - there's a lot of art in the world and this wasn't my favorite.

    Back at the apartment, we decide to go for a tapas crawl on Cava Baja. Study abroad DD leads the way. She's been there before but is interested in trying new places, so we go to Casa Lucas, which I've seen recommended here and elsewhere.

    It's a Wednesday night, so not too crowded. We get a table and order a few things to share. I have my first Tinto Verano - I love it! Everything is very good but we leave before we're too full and move on to Txirimiri, recommended here by kimhe and also in Lonely Planet.

    Txirimiri is hopping! It's getting close to 11pm on a Wednesday night, and you can barely push your way up to the bar to order!

    We are here to try the pintxos. There are some in a glass case on the bar that you can point to and others listed on a blackboard that you can order. We do both. They are fabulous! We wish we hadn't eaten so much at Casa Lucas! We chat with other diners, ask them what they're having, order a few more things, have another Tinto Verano, and finally are too full to go on and reluctantly head back home. We discuss possibly coming back another time, with an empty stomach.

    Again DD wants to show us the city, but it is very late and we are tired. Plus younger DD is not feeling great. We promise we will do the things she wants another night (we do, but just barely!).

    Next: Thanksgiving Day! Also known, outside the US, as "a regular Thursday."

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    With Christmas coming it's getting hard to finish this trip report! Better get on with reporting about Thanksgiving before the next holiday is here!

    Day 7: Thanksgiving in Toledo

    Our plan for Thanksgiving is to spend the day in Toledo (minus study abroad DD, who had class and has been there twice already), Skype with our family back home, and then go out for a dinner hosted by the faculty advisor of DD's program.

    I've never been away for a major holiday before. It's odd, particularly if you are in a place that doesn't celebrate that holiday - it's just an ordinary day there. Also, I didn't think I'd mind missing Thanksgiving, but when we got home I really did. The other interesting thing is that although they don't celebrate the holiday, they do observe the day after Thanksgiving as the official start of the Christmas season. All the holiday lights are turned on that day, Christmas fairs open, and they have "Black Friday" sales (which they even call "Black Friday" in English). Why that particular day? In Spain, it's just a Friday in November.

    In any event, DH, younger DD and I get a morning train to Toledo. I had not had time to plan this day ahead of time - completely unlike me, not to have done the research. But half an hour on the train was enough time - by the time we arrive I have the options all laid out, and had even read that there is a tourist bus for 5 euros that will take you to the overlook of the city - DD had said we had to see that and she wasn't sure how we were going to get there.

    We get off the train and everyone is lining up at the Tourist office. Or what we think is the Tourist office. As we wait on the line I start to realize the woman behind the counter is selling tour packages. There are several packages listed on the wall, but as we get closer it becomes clear that she is selling everyone the exact same package, which she "recommends" for them, and it sounds overpriced for what it is. I go outside to check the bus situation - several buses are there waiting to take people to the overlook and then into town. We continue to wait on the line thinking we will get a map, get some information, and buy a ticket for the bus.

    We get to the front of the line and tell the woman that we don't want a tour package, we intend to do our own touring. She gives us a sour look that says she does not recommend this. Can we buy a ticket to the bus, we ask? Oh no, she says, I don't sell those. I only sell tickets to my tours. Can we get a map? No, only if you buy a tour. Aren't you the Tourist Information office? No, I'm not. We are wasting her time and she's on to the next person. She does not tell us that the official Tourist office is a few feet down, but you don't see it because the door going into the station is propped open and the office is behind it (we don't see it until later when we leave). Whoever this company is, they are reeling in all the unsuspecting tourists getting off the train.

    We go back outside to see if we can buy a ticket from the bus driver and are dismayed to see that all but one of the buses has left. Guess which one is still there? Right, the tour package one. Now I am really annoyed. The next regular tourist bus won't come for another hour, when the next train arrives. We certainly don't want to wait, so we go to check on the price of a taxi.

    The taxi is a deal! (Relatively speaking). For 5 euros they will take you straight to town, for 15 they will take you on a tour of the bridges and miradors leading into town. 15 euros is the same price we would have paid for the three of us to take the bus, and the taxi driver takes us to multiple stops (rather than just one, which I believe is what the bus does, but I could be wrong)) and takes our picture for us at each one! The taxis should have a sign posted right where you get off the train!

    We take our taxi tour and are very happy with it until the very end, when the driver purposely drops us directly in front of one of these shops that sell damascene, the hammered metal craft that they sell in Toledo. It is not a convenient place to stop and we are blocking traffic by stopping there. A salesperson is of course standing right in front of the shop, herding people inside.

    We're not interested in buying, so we move on. I had read that the best way to see the city is to start at Plaza de Zocodover, walk down and see all the sights that interest you along the way, then take a bus back up. Our taxi dropped us by the Cathedral, though (because that is where his friend's shop is!), so we start there - later we end up having to double back.

    We walk around a bit trying to find the entrance to the Cathedral. A man stops to ask if we need help. Something about him is too eagerly helpful (we weren't looking all that lost) and I am suspicious. He does point us to the entrance, though, and we're thinking that maybe he is just a helpful person. Are you planning to visit the Monastery today, he asks? Yes we are. Oh, he says, the Monastery closes at 1pm today - the Cathedral is open all day. Perhaps you want to go to the Monastery first. Really, I say? My books don't mention an early closing on Thursdays. Oh, yes, it's closing, he says. And if you go now, on the way there is my shop....

    Seriously? Is this whole day going to be like this?

    Luckily it is not. We spend the day visiting the Cathedral, which is quite impressive, Iglesia de Santo Tome and its famous El Greco painting, the Monastery (which is not closing early - big surprise!), and Santa Maria la Blanca Sinagoga. We are charmed by the narrow streets, the buildings, the old world feel. There is incredible art, especially in the Cathedral. We wander the streets a bit and stop to buy mazapan at a shop run by a convent - we need a little gift to bring when we meet DD's Spanish host family in a few days. At lunchtime we wander into a little shop across from the Monastery with a sign saying Produits Typiques. We step inside and are greeted by a lovely middle aged couple. They speak no English, but we manage to make out that the man is telling us he has various kinds of deer sausage typical of the region, and we should try some. Before we can reply he is slicing and setting out a small platter with samples of several types of sausage and urging us to try them. He can make a sandwich with the sausage or with jamon, with cheese, and a drink - 5 euros! We try the sausage and we like it, but opt for the jamon. He makes us lovely sandwiches with olive oil and herbs.

    While he is making the sandwiches he suggests we sample the mazapan, which his wife makes by hand. We do. It is very good. She sells it vacuum wrapped for travel, so we buy a box to take home. We go out into the little plaza to eat our sandwiches in the sunshine.

    One thing that surprised us in Toledo - given that it is very much oriented toward tourists - is how many people we encountered who did not speak English. Younger DD takes Spanish in school but it is not, shall we say, her strongest subject. But she was able to help a bit, and we always worked out a form of communication with people, who were more than happy to help us try to understand what they were saying. Looking back, we liked the non English-speaking people the best - they were all helpful and friendly and they were not accosting us in the street trying to sell us something!

    After we've seen all the sights we want to see we walk up to the Plaza de Zocodover, we soak up the atmosphere a bit, and we still have time before our train, so DD and I decide we'd like to see the Goyas in the Museu de Santa Cruz. DH has had enough art for the time being, so we split up for a half hour, then meet back in the Plaza to catch a cab back to the train station.

    Toledo was lovely and I'm glad we saw it, but I'm ready to leave after about 6 hours there. I did not love it as others have said they do, and it actually felt very touristy to me. I've read it is very different if you stay the night. I wish we'd been able to do that.

    We zip back to Madrid on the fabulous high speed train, drop DD back at the apartment, and DH and I head out to replenish our breakfast supplies at the El Corte Ingles in Sol. It's that time of night - all of Madrid is out walking in the streets. We comment on how, back home, streets are probably practically empty right about now and everyone is at home or a relative's house preparing their Thanksgiving meal!

    A week or two before our trip DD had told us we were all invited to dinner on Thanksgiving night hosted by the faculty advisor of her program. According to DD the advisor has taken the students out several times and it's always a fabulous meal. For Thanksgiving he has invited all the students and any visiting families. Dinner will be at Loft 39 in Salamanca.

    Back at the apartment we get ready for the dinner and Skype with my mother, brothers, and niece and nephews, who are all together in Connecticut for Thanksgiving. We all crowd in front of our computer screens on opposite sides of the Atlantic to try to recreate some togetherness for the holiday. They are all excited to talk to DD, who has been gone since August, and we are excited to talk to my niece, who moved to Austin, Texas for her first job about the same time. I'm sorry to be missing seeing her! They tease us by showing us the apple and pumpkin pies so we will see what we're missing - we reply by showing them Madrid outside the window so they will see what they are missing!

    Finally we have to say goodbye to get to our dinner. We take the Metro up to Salamanca and when we get off we feel like we're in a different city! Wide streets, modern, commercial - we could almost be in NY!

    Dinner is in two private rooms, with about 60 guests. We greet DD's friends, meet some of their parents, and meet the faculty advisor who I've heard so much about. It's so wonderful to join in DD's world in Madrid and get a feel for her life there. Dinner is not traditional Thanksgiving fare but is influenced by the season - pumpkin ravioli which is fabulous, chicken with some sort of stuffing which is a bit off, and lots of great wine. I think I've fully recovered from my stomach bug and eat and drink heartily, but in fact I think the food may have been more plentiful and rich than I was ready for. By the end of the meal I am not feeling well at all. I manage to last until it is a polite time to go, then whisper to DH that I need to go home, and we need to get a cab because I'm not feeling well enough to walk and navigate the Metro.

    The plan on the way home had been to walk by some of the nighttime sights that DD has been wanting to take us to, but I can't do it. I really am feeling badly that we keep putting this off! The taxi takes us past one of the sights - the beautiful Plaza de Cibeles with its impressive fountain and Palace (now City Hall) lit up in colors that change every few seconds. It is quite lovely and I wish I felt well enough to really enjoy it. Luckily, we do finally get to do that another night.

    Back at the apartment I'm feeling slightly better, but really the dinner was a bit of a setback and I'm wishing I had been a bit more careful with the eating and drinking. It's late and we have a lot planned for tomorrow, so we all head to bed.

    Next: DD's classes are over for the week, and she finally gets to show us her city!

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    Shame about the problems in Toledo, CGS, and thanks for the heads up about what to avoid!

    Sorry too that you began to feel ill again - I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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    Yes, maitaitom, it is a great shower! Really nice apartment - we were very comfortable there and the location is terrific.

    annhig, we were disappointed in our Toledo experience too! People so love it - I was also looking forward to loving it, but sadly I did not. But then, I loved Ronda and some people don't, so you never know.

    The stomach bug really put a damper on the whole trip for me! But the worst of it was over by this time. And I reminded myself that the primary reason I was there was to see DD, so all was good.

    She is in Rome now, by the way! Her semester ended last week and she's off on a month of traveling! Meanwhile, I'm still writing our trip report! Two more days to write about!

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