The morning after losing the passports we packed up our stuff in a jiffy and took a cab to the US Embassy where we were soon engaged in a 4 hour effort to get replacements. G and the girls were told to take new passport pix at a photo booth by the entrance.
Bea had to re-take hers.
The folks in the embassy were so nice to us and commiserated over the 300+ euros we had to pay for 3 temporary passports. The first of several unexpected charges we would pay…
Once we got the passports we caught a train to Barcelona. The train ride is very nice – air conditioned and comfortable.
Train from Madrid to Barcelona
We arrived in Barcelona in late afternoon and went to the apartment.
The apartment was right off of Passeig de Gracia and within walking distance of the Sagrada Familia. After relaxing a bit we set out to explore, stopping first at a nearby tapas restaurant. It was only around 8:30PM so we were the only ones getting dinner since dinner is not usually eaten until around 10PM. Our stomaches were a bit upset from travel so the kids ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce. We soon learned NOT to order that. The overcooked spaghetti was smothered in something akin to (undiluted) Campbell’s tomato soup. I have no idea what I ordered other than a couple of glasses of good wine. After eating we strolled out into the night. It was around 10PM and everyone was out walking. We passed Catalan Art Nouveau’s architect Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera) on the famous Passeig de Gracia.
Of course we ended up sitting outside having a drink. The kids tried to buy orange Fantas at the bar.
Around 11:30PM we headed home to bed.
We just spent a month in Spain and I want to write down as much as I can before I forget it.
It’s been over 10 years since I’ve travelled internationally and I was rusty. I’ll share the biggies I learned re: traveling with kids (though some will be relevant for those traveling without!) We planned to move around a lot so we decided to pack light.
- G and I got smallish roller bags that can convert to backpacks. I got an Eagle Creek one. He got a more expensive Osprey that has a detachable day pack and is carry-on size for airplane travel.
- The girls used their Pottery Barn roller bags that they use for school.
- We each packed a week’s worth of clothes.
Eagle Creek Lync System 26" Travel Pack
Osprey Meridian Wheeled Convertible Luggage 22"
Pottery Barn wheeled backpack
- 5 short sleeved shirts
- 5 pairs shorts/skirts
- (I packed 3 pairs shorts and 5 dresses/shifts for hot weather)
- 7 underwear
- Swimsuits (2 for G and me, kids packed 2-4 each)
- 2 bras (me only ha ha)
- hat (for sun protection)
- 5 socks
- 1 long sleeved shirt
- 1 long pants
- packable rain jackets (they come in own pouch) – did NOT use!
- Flip flops
- (I also took Birkenstocks which I wore almost every day)
- Ibuprofen (including Advil PM to overcome jet lag)
- Bug repellent wipes
Things to pack/do (that we didn’t and learned the hard way.)
- 3-4 power adaptors (we had 2 cellphones, 2 iPads & G’s laptop and a mantra: ABC (Always Be Charging)
- Extra USB/charging cables
- Take photos of your passports and credit cards – store photos on iCloud in case of loss/theft.
- BYOWC (Bring your own washcloth if you use washcloths)
In the past we have been “over packers.” We used to take a huge duffle bag with all of our clothes thrown in for 10 days at my mother in law’s beach condo. You can imagine the time spent searching through for complete outfits. Last summer I traveled for 2 weeks with the kids in the northeast United States. We then spent another week camping at Grand Tetons National Park. Time and space did not permit this kind of excess. Our dear friend Trish met us with her family and shared her packing method of rolling outfits together for her two boys which I incorporated for this trip.
- Roll complete outfits together. Rolling clothes in general is a more efficient use of space in packing than folded clothes. It also tends to create fewer wrinkles. I rolled a shirt and shorts/skirt together and placed in roller bags. Kids could easily pick out an outfit on their own.
- Socks and underpants went into a large Zip-Loc. (You can also purchase “cubes” at REI or a travel store but they are not cheap!)
- PJs went into another large Zip-Loc.
- Swimsuits went into a 3rd large Zip-Loc.
Shirt & shorts (1 outfit)
Roll that sucker up
Place in rollerbag for easy grabbing by a kid!
Zip-Loc 'O swimsuits – messy!
Roll those babies up too!
Shoes/Flip Flops in a Zip-Loc too – you don't want the bottoms of dirty shoes touching your clothes. (Or DO you?)
Two days after school got out we flew a red-eye to Madrid. Our kids are ages 8 and 6 so no strollers/diapers/sippy cups etc. We took two CamelBak water bottles for them one of which was lost within the first 24 hours upon landing somewhere in the airport in Madrid. The second was lost a week or so later.
The owner of the AirB&B apartment we rented had a taxi driver waiting for us. He took us straightaway to our apartment in the center of Madrid near the Prado Museum. The climate was similar to southern California’s: dry & hot. It was in the high 90′s when we arrived. We had been traveling since 3PM our time and it was now late afternoon and we were out of all fruit etc. that we had taken on the plane. Around 8 or 9PM I walked outside with the kids to find a store. It was still incredibly hot outside and we walked past several theaters and restaurants. The vibe was relaxed – people sat at tables smoking or drinking a beer or glass of wine and kids played at a nearby playground. I compared it to the Promenade in Santa Monica which is rigidly structured in comparison – if alcohol is served in restaurants in SM there has to be a metal fence around the seating area. There are no playgrounds in the immediate area either.
I bought some overpriced spaghetti, sauce, toothpaste, a coke and 2 beers for George. We were in no shape to go out as we hadn’t slept yet.
The next day we set out to explore a bit. We planned to stay 2 nights before heading to Barcelona. We’d give ourselves more time in Madrid at the tail end of the trip but for now we wanted to get out of the hot city. Before leaving the apartment I asked G where the passports were. He had all 4 of them. He planned to keep them in his daypack. I asked for mine as I didn’t think we should keep them all together. First stop was a restaurant the apt. owner recommended at the end of our street. It was called Taberna el Sur.
First outing in Madrid
Tiny sip of sangria
I saw other tourists in there so wondered if all the AirB&B owners sent them there? Anyway, it was really cute, friendly and had nice sangria. Maddie ordered a caesar salad and had her first lesson in ordering food in Spain. Try to order Spanish specialities instead of ordering familiar dishes as they will NOT be prepared the same way. We ordered croquettes (with jamon), camarones (calamari), a sort of caprese salad and I have no idea what Bea got or ate. That lunch was our introduction to a month of camarones y jamon (ham – usually Iberian).
We had to switch SIM cards first so we went to Vodaphone or maybe two Vodaphone stores until we switched them. The second Vodaphone store was inside a Cortes Ingles which is a department store. There was a pretty nice grocery store in the basement so we grabbed some sundries. The tap water is excellent in Madrid so there was no need to buy bottled water. G and I had managed not to lose our CamelBak bottles yet.
After getting our new SIM cards and Spanish phone numbers, we stopped in a plaza for a drink. It was around 9PM but still light out. In the plaza we just sat down at one of many tables and a waiter approached asking what we’d like. We had no menus so I asked him what kinds of wine he had. He said, “Blanco y tinto.” Simple! I ordered a copa de vino blanco – seco (DRY!) The wine was excellent.
From time to time people approached to sell us jewelry, carved animals, wooden trivets etc. One man tried to sell us fidget spinners. We answered “No gracias.” countless times. It was pretty obvious they could spot the tourists and beelined towards them. At first the kids betrayed me by yelling, “PLLLLLEEEEEEEEEEEAze????” re: the fidget spinners. After the man left I told them that they were falling into his sales trap and that next time they had better act disinterested.
We ordered a second drink because it was so nice out and there were so many people out and about. The kids started playing in the plaza.
Kids were playing in front of "Despicable Gru" poster.
Around 9:30 or 10PM. So nice out!
A little boy joined the girls in the plaza. Instantly I romanticized them thinking, “The children are already befriending a native Spaniard!” but then his parents called to him in English. We struck up a conversation – turns out they were from the Bay area. So much for social immersion. As we talked with them the fidget spinner salesman approached again. We said no much more quickly this time and he seemed not to mind as he departed quickly. The CA family left and we paid our bill. Thrilled to see each glass of wine was 2.20 euros and the beers were 1.50 euros!
However, thrill turned to despair as we got up to leave and found no evidence of G’s daypack. We suspected the fidget spinner salesman had grabbed it from the ground by G’s foot. Inside were his and the girls’ passports as well as his copy of Lonely Planet Spain and his prescription reading glasses. We were supposed to leave for Barcelona the following day.
**To be continued…**