Wednesday, March 31, 2010

El Escorial

Today Lee and I traveled to the village of San Lorenzo de El Escorial to see the palace/monastery that King Phillip II built in the second half of the 16th century. It is a very interesting and beautiful place. We spent hours looking at the rooms, painting collection, basilica, and library (contains over 40,000 old manuscripts and is second only to that of the Vatican).

Afterwards, Lee and I enjoyed an authentic Andalusian lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We couldn't identify most of what we were eating, but really enjoyed it. Red wine is a standard drink at all meals, so I am in heaven.

I had planned to do shopping in the really cute village before heading back to Madrid, but, once again, the unusual Spanish schedule changed my planes. We completed lunch around 4 PM, which is siesta time, and all of the stores were closed. The streets were deserted. It was a very surreal feeling. So, Lee and I headed back to Madrid. I will have to do shopping another day.

Lee and I are resting this evening instead of going out to dinner. We are exhasted and have not been sleeping well. Our bodies are very confused by the siesta schedule. We are sleeping in 4-5 hour increments, with dinner in between. We decided to get a good night's sleep tonight and skip dinner. (However, our exhausted bodies did crash and we took a two hour siesta. I am hoping that doesn't mess up my hope for a full night's sleep.)

Time to call our boys and go to sleep! Buenas Noches!

Here are a few pictures from our day:

El Placio Real-Monestario de El Escorial
The king's apartments surround this courtyard. His summer quarters are on the ground floor and his winter quarters are on the second floor.
The basilica.
El Escorial with a view of the village San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the background.
The villiage.
A view of the countryside from the train ride.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Estamos Cansados

El Prado
La Plaza Major. Our hotel, which is in the oldest building in Madrid (circa 1610), is located at one of the "gates" to the Plaza Major.
Lee and I are very tired this evening. We had a great day. We spent eight hours at El Prado, which was the main reason that we chose to travel to Madrid this year. We saw many wonderful works, mainly by Velazquez and Goya, including "Las Meninas," "El Tercero de Mayo," y "La Familia de Charles IV." Another painting that made an impact on me was "The Garden of Earthy Delights" by Bosch. At the Prado, we bought an art book for Caleb as an accompanent to his book from the Louve. Caleb specifically requested that we bring him back an art book and car from Madrid. We have the book, not we have to find a car...

After a siesta, Lee and I went to a little pizza place that was recommended by Kaitlin. It was a great dinner and very relaxing. Muy bueno, Kaitlin! Thank you for the recommendation.

Well, Lee and I have another long day tomorrow, so we are going to go to sleep. We are still adjusting to the Spainish schedule, which is very different than the American schedule. Just as an example, we tried to go to McDonald's at 9:30 AM and it was closed!!! Most of the city does not get going until 10 AM, lunch is from 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM, Siesta until about 9 PM, and dinner from 9 PM -12 AM, and bed around 1 AM. Lee and I are usually one of the first people on the streets in the morning (besides from trash collection and delivery men). My body is very confused.

Buenas Noches de Madrid!

Our Boys

Every night we try to do a web call with our boys. It is great that we can talk to them from 4,000 miles away and see their sweet faces. They were very loving and happy tonight. They are having a great time with Grammy and went to their favorite restaurant, Applebee's, last night. Tomorrow they are having a playdate! We miss you and love you very much Caleb and Graysen!

Monday, March 29, 2010


Lee and I are having a great time in Madrid. I have fallen in love with this city and feel very comfortable. My Spanish is sufficient and is only getting better and better.

Madrid is a beautiful city surrounded by snow-capped mountains. At an altitude of approximately 2500 feet, it is the highest of the European capitals. My focus for today was learning about Spanish history. I have to admit, that I never spent time to learn about the history of Spain. It is a fascinating country and has a very different history than Britain or France.
Lee and I started the morning at El Centro de Arte de Reina Sofia. It houses Madrid's modern collection, of which Guernica is the the jewel. I have always been interested in Guernica ever since I was introduced to it in 9th grade Spanish class. Over the years, Lee and I have watched several documentaries on the painting and I find it one of the most politically important paintings of the 20th century. Although bequeathed to Spain by Pablo Picasso, the will could not be enacted until Spain became a democracy. Thus, the painting did not return to Spain until 1981.
The museum does not allow visitors to take pictures of Guernica. Lee tried to take a picture of it from an adjoining room and was stopped by a guard. The same guard saw me trying to take a picture of it the same way as Lee and told me that I was not allowed to take a picture of it. I told her that I was just taking a picture of this statue. She looked at me like, "I don't believe you," but what could she say? Technically, pictures of this statue are allowed. Part of Guernica can be seen to the left of this statue. Lee and I both were amazed at how large of a painting Guernica was.
Guernica was painted in 1937 at the hight of the Spanish Civil War. It was painted by Pablo Picasso and depicts the bombing of Guernica by the Luftwaffe (on the behalf of Franco) which targeted civilians. The painting has strong anti-war sentiment and was commissioned to be displayed at the 1937 World Fair in Paris. The picture below shows a model of the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 World Fair where Guernica was exhibited.
After lunch, Lee and I headed to El Palacio Royal. It was built by the Bourbon kings of Spain and was designed in a style after Versailles. The palace is beautiful. Lee and I really enjoyed viewing the Royal armory and pharmacy.
After our activities for the day, Lee and I came back to the hotel for a siesta. It has been a challenge getting used to the Spanish schedule. The city shuts down from 4 PM - 9 PM at which time everyone takes a siesta. Lunch time here is from 1:30 PM - 4 PM and dinner is from 9 PM - Midnight. Do not try to eat a meal at other times. Lee and I tried our first day, and trust me, lunch is only served starting at 1:30 PM. We had a wonderful paella dinner tonight and are really enjoying the food in Madrid. It is very good!

I am still fascinated by El Museo de Jamon, where you can always buy a ham sandwich at any time of the day for only two Euros! Lee failed to mention that we have found FOUR Mueseos del Jamon within a one mile radius of our hotel. They are a very unusual place, with LOTS of ham hanging everywhere, and pretty much only serve ham.

In all, Lee and I are really enjoying our time here. Well, it is time for our nightly web call to our boys. Caleb has requested that I buy him an art book and a car. Graysen will just be happy to see his Mommy again.

Buenas Noche!

First day in Madrid

Laura and I arrived in Madrid yesterday morning.  There's a six hour time difference between here and home, so our bodies were pretty confused in regards to sleep and food.  

The highlights of our day were as follows:

We arrived at the hotel around noon and were able to check in.  When we went into our room, we couldn't get any of the lights to come on. Thinking there was a problem, we went down to the front desk, where we were informed that we had to keep our door key in a certain slot in the room for the electricity to work.  It's apparently a energy saving measure.  Live and learn.  Here's a photo of our hotel:

After dropping off our stuff we went back out for food.  The place at which Laura planned for us to eat lunch didn't open until 1:30 p.m. Madrid time, so we looked for other options.  Laura was particularly interested in eating at a chain of sandwich shops called Museo del Jamon that we passed on the way to the hotel.  (Yes, that means "Museum of Ham.").  After checking it out, she changed her mind, saying "That place is crowded and has a lot of ham."

We found a nice cafe that served tapas.  The food was great but it didn't go so well when Laura tried to pay by credit card.  (To me, the choice of paying by card or cash is simply choosing between different pockets of the same pants.  To Laura, it's a critical financial decision.)  The manager begrudgingly accepted the card, even though it was clearly marked that VISA was accepted on the door.  According to Laura, the manager told one of the waitresses that we should use their money if were going to visit Madrid. (I didn't understand a bit of the conversation.)  Live and learn.

We headed back to the hotel for a nap.  On the way, we ran headfirst into a massive parade of bullfighting protesters.  It was a real "Wow, we're not in South Carolina anymore" moment.  There were news crews and police everywhere, and a handful of people yelling at the protesters:

The tapas from the cafe were pretty small, so we stopped in nice candy shop on our way back and bought some caramels.  Apparently, the the Museo del Jamon had never escaped Laura's mind too, because she decided to go buy us a couple of sandwiches there.  I took a photo while waiting outside:

We went back to the hotel, ate our food, and caught up on sleep.

Dinner was at a vegetarian restaurant not far from the hotel.  The food was great and the staff were friendly and patient with us.  Back at the hotel, we talked with Laura's mom and the boys via webcam and then got a decent nights sleep.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

En El Aeropuerto

Lee and I are relaxing at ATL while waiting to depart to Madrid.  A Delta rep gave me SIX coupons for free glasses of wine on board, so it should be a nice flight!  This picture of an airplane is for the boys to enjoy.  Mommy misses you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Easter Parties

The boys and I hosted two Easter parties this past week. We had a lot of fun with our friends. Here are some pictures from the week:

Future parents? Both Abi and Graysen love babies.
Our "beautiful" colored eggs.
Caleb loves his new Power Wheels Harley motorcycle.
Crusin' with the girls.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fun at the Zoo

Friday was a beautiful day at the zoo. All of the kids (and adults) really enjoyed being outside in sunny weather.

I learned an important lesson about guarding food at the zoo. Alisha had made yummy cupcakes for all of us. I put mine on the arm of my rocking chair while I finished my sandwich, when I discovered that a random two-year-old came and licked the icing!!! Unfortunately, I had to give it to him since I didn't want it after that.

The Greenville Zoo really is one of the best places that I have found for preschool age children. It was a really great day!
Graysen absolutely adores Abi.
Sweet brothers...

Magna-Doodle Masterpiece

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sick Sick Sick

Both Lee and I have been pretty sick lately. We are still fighting the bug, but I am starting to feel better. We haven't done very much lately since I have spent most of my time in bed.

I plan to get back to blogging this coming weekend. We are going to start back to our activities on Thursday. This week's plans include a picnic at a park and a trip to the zoo. I love this warm weather!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trip to the Dentist

Lee and I go to a really good dentist, Dr. Karriker, in Gaffney. We have gone to him for years, regardless of which city we are living in at the time.

Caleb has been going to him for about a year now. Caleb did so great that Dr. Karriker took pictures of his cleaning this last time. We think that Lee may get a rest during the next cleaning as Caleb is almost ready to sit in the big chair all by himself!

Dr. Karriker's entire staff, especially Donna, are great!

Disney's Rockin' Roadshow

On Sunday, Lee and I took the boys to Disney's Rockin' Roadshow. Caleb loves Buzz Lightyear and was thrilled to get to see the show. Next stop for Caleb is Disney World!


Yes, Graysen can carry a 6 Lb bowling ball all by himself!
Lisa and I took the kids bowling last week. It was Caleb and Graysen's first time bowling. They did great and both boys loved it!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More Snow!

This picture does not do it justice, but it is snowing pretty hard right now. It is so beautiful outside. This has been a great winter for snow days!

The boys and I are warm and cozy in the house and will probably cuddle up for a winter afternoon nap.