For Kristina, meshing with the travel wishes of her mom, Sharon, on their recent trip to Spain wasn’t too difficult. Several glasses of vino and delectable tapas paved the way.
1. You dub yourself the “travel tyrant” for your careful planning. Did traveling with your mother force you to be more flexible?
Yes, and it forced me to take lots of deep breaths and count to ten. Just kidding. I don’t plan every facet of the trip—I just plan lots of options. I really like to be prepared before I go somewhere. It’s nice to know you want to go to the Prado museum for example, but better to know that it’s free on Sundays and closed on Mondays, especially if you’ll only be in Madrid on Sunday and Monday. Also, I don’t plan every place we’ll eat in advance, but I did have a list of 30 or so places to choose from in Madrid. My mother, to her credit, would read all the notes I’d gathered the night before we’d go some place new, and then we would discuss what interested her and what we’d like to see and do the next day.
2. You lived in Madrid for 9 months in the early 90’s. What surprised you most on your return?
What surprised me was the lack of change, rather than the differences. The same sights and smells, the same old haunts were still there. There’s something timeless about the older European cities; traditions hold strong (along with a resistance to change). However, the “old neighborhood” I’d lived in had changed a bit, evolving from quite a seedy place to one of Madrid’s hipper, trendier locations.
3. You booked all seven of your hotel stays in advance. What was the best value?
The Westin Palace was probably the best value because of the low rate I’d found on Priceline; I saved about 50% of the hotel’s lowest website rate. It’s a beautiful hotel, the room was large, and we had a fantastic view. In terms of full price hotel rooms, the Intur Palacio San Martin was a great value considering the location and the quality of the room, once we got one with a view of the plaza. The rest were good values as well. I think it pays to do your homework; read reviews, get personal recommendations, and look at photos of the hotel on websites, etc.
4. “Anything feels good after a glass of Rioja” is the title of Day 8 in your trip report. Was there a wining or dining experience that made the whole trip?
I’m always looking for that special food experience that makes the trip. On this trip, I think it’s hard to pinpoint just one, but the overall experience of eating tapas was my favorite. I like to try lots of different dishes and that’s hard to do with just two people at the table, but with tapas, you can try multiple things in little bites and, of course, different glasses of wine. Then you just go on to the next place. A good, friendly, bartender makes all the difference too—someone who can explain what you’re eating and drinking.
5. While you depended largely on public transportation, you did rent a car for 3 days. Did this decision pay-off?
I like the flexibility that having a car offers. If you don’t like where you are, you can just pick up and go somewhere else. You can also stop in places along the way like we did in Grazelema, Arcos de la Frontera and Cadiz. We would have missed those if taking the train or bus. However, if you know the car will be parked most of the time, like in a bigger city, it just doesn’t make sense. That’s why we didn’t pick up the car until mid-way through the trip.
Craving tapas? Check out Kristina’s trip report for suggestions.
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