The train ride from Sevilla to Madrid was 2 and a half hours and a really great experience. Given the choice between air travel and high speed train travel (toping out at 190 mph), I’d pick the train every single time.
We began our visit in Madrid with tapas just near our Airbnb off the main square of Plaza Mayor which, in comparison to many other main city squares we’ve visited, was impressive only in its very large size. It was without a focal point like a cathedral, fountain or sculpture and the surrounding structures, while still very beautiful, was more of what we’d already been seeing throughout the rest of our trip.
That afternoon we had reservations for an audio tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid. With our pre-booked reservations we got to skip standing in the long lines. The Palace was incredible! Again, I’m a huge fan of castle tours and this one did not disappoint. There were full dining rooms with full place settings and rooms with glass cases of royal china and cutlery. The audio tour did an excellent job sharing the importance of each room and pointing out special features and historical happenings that occurred there. The tour ended in the throne room which is still used today for special occasions.
We picked another great Airbnb in Madrid so for happy hour that afternoon (and on the only evening it rained during our trip) we stopped at a local store for wine and cheese, opened our windows in our apartment and enjoyed the sound of the rain outside. And for risk of melting and because I had curled my hair… for dinner we simply walked downstairs to the restaurant below. It was a relaxing first night in Madrid.
The next day began with a personal tour guide (one that Jeff booked through an independent website online ahead of time) of the Prado Museum. The Prado was something most everyone who had been to Madrid mentioned as a ‘must-see.’ And according to our tour guide, it’s better than the Louvre in France. We’ve not yet been to France, so we’ll take her word for it. Without our tour guide our visit would not have been near the experience we were given. During our two hours I learned that the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights was a private painting for the king’s viewing only. The piece has three panels that close like shutters to a window that display one thing to others and when opened a picture of things not to be seen. To me, they were extremely futuristic and even now seen before my time. Another fun fact I learned was that there is a sister Mona Lisa painting. At the same time/setting that Leonardo DaVinci was painting the Mona Lisa, he has a student working along side him painting the exact same thing on canvas from the same hide. This painting is housed in the Prado and some say it’s better (crisper and more detailed) than his teachers. And my favorite painting from the tour was Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet because the table in the painting is an optical illusion. My mind was blown. All in all, I totally understand what all the hype is about when people reference The Prado.
After the tour in the morning we ate lunch at a Mexican-Spanish fusion restaurant that our tour guide recommended called Comala. It’s right around the corner from the Museum and was easy to find because it’s next door to the Ritz Carlton. I’m still thinking about the fresh guacamole and plantain chips.
That afternoon we went hyper-tourist and walked all over the city covering El Reitro Park which included seeing Placio de Cristal and the Monument to Alfonso XII. The cooler weather was refreshing and I finally got to wear my leather jacket that took entirely too much room in my bag. We were visiting just after peak season to see the gardens in all their glory but found the park to be pleasant nonetheless.
We ended our visit to Madrid (and our entire trip to Spain) with giant share plates of Paella. Jeff and I ordered seafood because it’s his favorite and we also ordered a tomato salad for the table. The salad was something I’d never had before that the waiter sold us on: beefsteak tomatoes covered in fresh olive oil, salt, pepper and tuna. I had no idea this was even and thing and loved every bite.
I’d like to end our Spain travel series with a set of notes: some tips, some observations. We loved our time in Spain and if you’ve never been, we wish you the opportunity someday.
Buy all your tickets for things (tours, museums, train tickets, etc.) ahead of time. It’ll save you stress, time and money!
Most Spaniards wear pants. If you see someone wearing shorts it’s a tourist. We wore shorts (because it was hot!) but if you’re into fitting in, pants all the way.
Everyone smokes. Cigarette smoke is everywhere.
Spain runs on average about 3 hours behind normal American time tables. Example: we might each dinner between 5:30/6p, they don’t eat dinner until 8:30/9pm.
Furthermore, you’ll see young kids out much later than kids here in America. Strollers cruising down the sidewalk at 10p was a common site.
Tapas are a big deal. Breakfast is light. Lunch is big. And dinner is Tapas!
Spanish menus don’t carry a whole lot of fresh veggies or green salads. They are all heavy on fried food, rice dishes and meat and cheese.
Sangria is common and it’s delicious!
For the most part we found food and drink to be very reasonably priced.
It is very easy to get between cities using buses, trains and short flights.
Get the Rick Steves travel guidebook. He is our 5th passenger and we love him.
And most importantly, don't leave home without your selfie-stick!
We cannot get enough FALL over here! Between this fabulous autumn weather, all the pumpkin things and the holidays just around the corner… I’m in my happy place. Not even a joke, I ordered Christmas cards yesterday. So there ya have it. I’m excited.
Lets rewind a few weekends back for a recap of the Annual Smith Bonfire held at my parents home in Schoolcraft. Each year they host friends and family (and anyone else they serendipitously invite - my father knows no strangers) at their place in the country for food, beer pong and a giant bonfire. Throughout the summer my dad and his neighbors pile scraps from old work projects, house renovations, old furniture (I swear, every year there is at least one couch in there) and anything else that burns onto the pile that’s later doused with ‘Boy Scout fluid’ and lit on fire! Meanwhile, back in the grain silo, dualing beer-pong tables support the annual young/old tournament. An oldie, like my Dad, is paired with a young’n, my brother, and they vi for this ridiculous solo cup trophy that’s been hot glued together and lists the winners from previous years. It’s a tradition that’s full of all kinds of hometown fun.
Earlier this month Natalie went on her very first field trip with her preschool accompanied by her Grandma Smith. They went to Schwallier’s Country Basket in Sparta and I was giddy seeing the photos of Natalie petting bunnies and picking apples with her classmates. We were still out of town traveling at the time and my Mom who was watching the kids said she loved the opportunity to be there with her.
Last week we took advantage of the Tuesday extended hours at Fredrick Meijer Gardens to check out the Fall on the Farm event with the kids. There was live music, a food truck and tons of pumpkins and mums for taking all kinds of photos. Because the event was outdoors (and because the weather was so nice) the greenhouse inside was completely empty! It was pretty peaceful walking through with the kids checking out the birds and plants.
Last weekend the kids and I joined our buds at Koetsiers Greenhouse for their indoor fall kids area. It’s $10/kid for entry and includes limitless playtime, a pumpkin to paint and popcorn. The play area has multiple blow up jump houses, a corn crib (their fun take on a sandbox), an area for riding toy tractors and even a mini playhouse that Natalie totally remembered from last year. For me and my two kids, $20 was well worth it! If you find yourself stuck inside with the kids this fall and need to get out for a bit, give this a try.
I recently hosted a fun baby ‘sprinkle’ at our house for my golf partner Jamie and her bundle of baby boy joy! He’ll be sufficiently dressed for the first year of his life due to the sprinkling of baby boy clothes opened last weekend. The party theme was golf and we had fun buying squares for Baby Boy Kreirs first tee time (aka predicting the birthday) and doing a mini putt-putt game I created from green felt from Michaels. I burnt my fingers more than once creating it, but it was totally worth it for the fun! Also, if you need a good custom cookie recommendation let me know! Found a good one.
And this past weekend we really got into the spirit of Halloween with the entire Kladder family for the Zoo Goes Boo at John Ball Zoo. For three years running we’ve all dressed up and trick-or-treated with the kids for the event but this year we really amped things up with our group Disney theme. Jeff, the kids and I all dressed up as the family from Disney’s movie Brave. Natalie was Merida, Thomas was a little brother bear (you’d have to see the movie to understand that one), Jeff was King Fergus and I was Queen Elinor (before she turns into a bear!). We later retreated to the Lake in Rockford for some more Halloween fun and Birthday cake celebrating Jeff’s Dad.
And this week the Halloween fun just keeps coming! First with Natalie’s preschool party in the morning for treats and games and then at night my folks are coming up from Schoolcraft to help with Trick-or-Treating with the kids and to hand out candy to the hundreds of ghouls and goblins that’ll take over Rosewood. Since we moved into our house 3 years ago I’ve looked forward to bundling up on our porch with a hot bowl of chilly, spiked apple cider and checking out the kids costumes. Living the Rosewood dream!
Wishing you and yours a fantastic Halloween filled with family fun… and sugar induced comas!
Marcona on Lyon - The newest edition to the Grand Rapids food scene has sufficiently filled the void in Mediterranean cuisine… and then some! I cannot say enough good things about it. Go as soon as you can!!!
The crew over at The Great Lake Life recently released a Must Follow Michigan Bloggers list based off of official Domain Authority rankings - which I had to look up: it’s search engine scoring based on credibility. Who knew?! And MCL made the list! Give it a look.
And have you heard!!! The Fun Show with Cat and Nat is coming to Grand Rapids next week Wednesday November 7th @ 6p to 20 Monroe Live. They are internet sensations who have a solid sense of humor about motherhood. Their team reached out with two FREE tickets that’ll go to two lucky ladies who submit for the drawing that’ll be announced this Thursday morning. You can enter by commenting on the image copied below on Instagram, Facebook or here on this blog post. Hope to see you there!