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Texans in Europe for 20: Madrid, Spain

Our 20th anniversary trip to Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba and Sevilla, Spain; Fatima, Santarém and Lisbon, Portugal; and Rome, Italy, was flat out amazing. To read all about it, just click on those links.

Finally, Madrid! We enjoyed our day trips to Toledo, Córdoba and Sevilla, but had the awesome pleasure of coming back to Madrid each evening. Most of those nights, I left my camera in the room and we just walked around the plazas, enjoying the city.

People asked if I felt safe or worried about traveling internationally. Honestly? Not once. I felt safest in Madrid, but we never felt unsafe in Portugal or Italy, at all. I mean, one must be smart and always aware of the surroundings, but we discovered every person we encountered to be helpful, kind and personable. Well, except for the cabbie in Lisbon who made us fear for our lives. There’s always one.

We slept in on this beautiful Sunday morning because nothing gets going in Madrid until 10am. I mean, it’s like they stay up until the wee hours or something. Ha! Our first stop was the Royal Palace.

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The royal family no longer lives here (what a shame!), but lucky for us that we got to see it. They didn’t allow photos in most of the palace, but you know me. Rule. Breaker. Hey, I didn’t use my flash. And good thing I watched all those episodes of “Downton Abbey” because I knew what all the rooms were used for without reading the visitor’s guide. Just call me Lady Kathryn.

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It was largely desolate this day (hooray!) so we really had a chance to take our time walking through the palace. We walked across the plaza to the Madrid Almudena Cathedral for noon Mass and sat right next to a couple from Pennsylvania. How is it that Amerians can spot one another a mile away? There are many things I love about my Catholic faith, but Mass in another country ranks right up there. I may not have known what the priest preached in his homily, but the entire Mass we knew exactly what was happening. What a gift of home that was. The cantors had incredible voices and I found myself deep in prayer, thanking God for this incredible experience. It’s difficult to put into eloquent words just how much my time with Scott meant for our marriage and for me, personally. Sometimes, when the gift is so big, it takes a while to unpack all that gratitude and all those graces.

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We stopped back by the Mercado for a quick lunch before making our way to the Prado (!!!!). This was the place I most wanted to see. Give me all the El Greco’s. Of course, while we were gawking at all those, along comes a mother-daughter from Wichita Falls, Texas. The amount of friends we had in common was staggering. My ears can detect a north Texas accent anywhere.

It was such a beautiful afternoon of exploring and appreciating fine art. I never would’ve pegged myself as an art lover. But, when one sees the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and the Prado, you get a little spoiled for the good stuff. Just before we left, I squeezed Scott’s hand and leaned my head against the door frame to admire El Greco’s “Annunciation.”

El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos) - The Annunciation - Google Art Project (807333)

Wikipedia Commons

Man, that is some beautiful stuff.

We enjoyed a little bit of Plaza Mayor and the Caixa Forum on our way to the museums. I was blown away by the forum with that entire building side of greenery. That’s where we originally planned to take photos with Flytographer, but ended up at the Royal Palace instead. Pretty much winners, both of them.

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We hoofed it over to the Reina Sofia for modern art and Pablo Picasso. You know, I appreciate the modern twist, but I do not love it like I adore impressionist and renaissance paintings. We skipped through here pretty quickly and then hopped a metro to the bullfight arena, but not before getting a quick wifi fix at Starbucks where we ran into the Oklahoma Thunder basketball coaches. Guess you never know who you’ll see! I couldn’t convince Scott to take a picture. Stinker.

After we arrived at the Plaza de Toros, there was a brief moment we considered staying for the evening bullfight. But, we had made plans with our photographer and his girlfriend for tapas and beers and that won us over. Definitely the right choice.

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After a quick pack of our bags for the next day’s flight to Portugal, we changed clothes and made our way to dinner. Only a small hiccup with the metro (closed line), but we figured it out.

Y’ALL – yes, that needed all caps – our tapas defied description. Hands down, our best eats in Spain. Nothing like traipsing on the back streets with a couple of locals who lead you to the coolest places to eat. We laughed, so hard, and talked and got along so great. Never mind that Scott and I were a good 15 years older than the two of them. There is not enough thanks to go around for a spectacular last night in Madrid.

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I wanted to cry when we left the next morning. Spain, you were SO good to us! Scott and I have a new favorite city. Tomorrow we score a cool ride, meet the sweetest nun and have the scariest ride of our life. Portugal, we hope you’re ready for us!

Places Visited Today
Royal Palace
Almudena Cathedral
Museo Nacional del Prado
Reina Sofia
San Idelfonso (tapas)
Pez Tortilla (tortillas, croquetas and beer)

13 Comments

  1. Connie Hayley on October 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Wow – Wichita Falls – small world!

  2. Nicole on October 24, 2016 at 9:21 am

    I love how you made friends all along this trip. Such fun! And I am with you – I adore those beautiful impressionist artists.

    • Kathryn on November 1, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      Chatty Texans!

  3. Andrea on October 24, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    I love the travel photos and narrative! I love to travel and Spain is a gem! I wanted to plant the bug in your mind about walking the Camino de Santiago. Such an amazing way to experience your faith and Spain. We’ve seen many Spaniards do it with their kids. You walk about 10 miles per day and can stay at a variety of places at night. The Way with Emilio Estevez is a beautiful depiction of the pilgrimage.

    Can’t wait to see the next installment! Also, remember that there are hammams many places–like Paris. Korean spas in the US are similar. Love the ones we have in NYC.

    • Kathryn on November 1, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      Now that I know Hammams are other places, that could be trouble! We’ve had a few friends walk the camino and I loved “The Way” – great movie.

  4. Aileen on October 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    I was born in Wichita Falls! My dad’s side of the family, besides Scotland also came from Spain. The southern part, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know exactly where but your posts have been fascinating to me!

    • Kathryn on November 1, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      Small world! Southern Spain is so incredibly gorgeous.

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