Hola Madrid! – Parte uno

It’s been a week since we got back from our whirlwind vacation to Madrid, Spain and off the bat I have to admit that this was perhaps one of the most exciting yet exhausting vacation our little family has ever taken! When we booked this trip almost 2 months ago we thought the weather would be ideal to roam the city streets .  I pictured Asha and Arjun just running around in the many many gardens and fountains all around Madrid while Devang and I sat on the sidelines drinking our sangria and eating jamón.  

Well, we did get to partake in my little fantasy but not as often as I would have liked. Madrid was going through a bit of a heat spell which meant that we had several days when the mercury hit over 100 degrees.  While in the past, it wouldn’t have stopped Devang and me from exploring the city, with little kids though we had to rethink our strategy.  Our solution was to entirely skip trying to adjust to the local time in Madrid which is 6 hours ahead of Raleigh’s Eastern Standard time. This meant that we slept in till noon-ish. Had a leisurely lunch/breakfast in our apartment hotel over the next hour or so.  Then it was off to the pool or to an indoor museum (of which there are many in Madrid) or to see the Turtles at the Atocha train station.  By the time we were truly out on the streets the sun felt a little less intense and we were able to do what we love to do most, just walk and wander around.  On many days we logged between 12 and 14 miles – all of that pushing a stroller with two kids – up and down the hilly streets – a bit of a workout it was.  We’d hit the bed exhausted around 2am.

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To get to Madrid, we took a nonstop flight from Charlotte.  After what I think was one of the smoothest check-in process ever, we hung out at the international gate with lots of rocking chairs and space for kids to get their wiggles out. Asha and Arjun did just that making their next 8 hour inflight experience a little less painful.  We landed in Madrid just in time to see the sunrise.  That airport by the way is truly gorgeous and in hindsight I wish we had taken a bit of a break there to have some coffee and let the kids run around some (next time I suppose).  Getting to the city from the airport is pretty easy via the Renfe train which is what we did.

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Arjun loved the horse statue in Plaza Mayor.
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Our Picnic blanket came in handy at the beautiful and expansive Retiro park which was a perfect place to escape the heat.

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Arjun having fun at one of the many city playgrounds many of which are literally right across from cafes and restaurants making it perfect for adults and kids.
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Our hotel was near the Atocha train station which is one of the major transportation hub in the city.  One would never imagine that such a busy place has an indoor rainforest with hundreds of turtles.  We made this a frequent morning stop.

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For anyone who has been to Spain before, you might not think much of what I just said above.  For others, who are possibly wondering what in the world can you do with kids that late at night, then let me just say that instead of feeling like tourists or outsiders, we blended in with the normal local lifestyle which apparently doesn’t frown on kids playing in playgrounds well past 11pm.  We frequently saw families with kids at all hours of the night.  So in that aspect, I am glad that we were in Spain in a culture that welcomes kids as part of the fun! Many of the playgrounds were right smack in the middle of a square surrounded by outdoor cafes.  I don’t think it can get any more convenient than that.

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One of the few family portraits of the trip in Plaza Mayor.
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Asking for Asha…
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Then poking her while she sleeps…
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Ignoring all our pleas to stop.
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And still I can’t get mad at him!
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Late night stroll and people watching.
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Hanging out by the fountain in Plaza San Francisco which was one of my favorites.
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The Madrid trip takes the prize on having the most shaky pictures we have ever taken.  We couldn’t help it since the kids were always either lunging for the camera or for us.  Still, this captures the moment so perfectly!
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It rarely happened, but once in a while we would come across a quaint little square and find no one around.
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This picture doesn’t do it justice, but it’s all I have.  This is Plaza de Santa Ana which was my favorite square of all. Busy yet quiet – perfect for people watching. It has two playgrounds surrounded by restaurants with outdoor seating.  In hindsight this is where I wish we had picked our hotel.

One can’t talk about Madrid without taking about tapas and all the delicious food it has to offer.  Our favorite spot at all hours of the day was the Mercado de San Miguel which is an indoor gourmet food market.  The prices are great and the variety is even better.  Asha found an ice cream vendor in there that sold tiny ice cream cones and I can’t tell you how excited she was to have one each night.  Other than that, we stopped at whatever restaurant we happen to be passing when hunger struck.  In most cases the food was fine even if not always exceptional.  It was nice to have Devang with me who speaks a bit of Spanish and saved me from looking totally clueless.  Most of the time, I’d let him order something and then when it was my turn, point my fingers to him and say “dos por favor”.

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When I was downloading the pictures, I was surprised to find this one thinking how cool that Devang captured one of the rare occasions when both kids were asleep in the stroller and I got to enjoy a nice glass of rosé. Then after noticing all the shakiness I thought better of it and realized it was Asha running around the Mercado playing with my phone. I am looking away probably because Arjun was trying to climb out and join his sister. I didn’t spill the wine and enjoyed the whole glass even if it was a bit too quickly.

On one of the truly hot days we were walking along the River walk which is beautiful but lacks any shade.  I was hungry and that in combination with the relentless heat caused me to – let’s say – act out. The closest thing to us was a French bistro and we headed in for a meal.  The food ended up being good and since Arjun was asleep we got to eat without having to run around chasing a toddler.  I felt so much better and of course also a bit embarrassed at acting like a kid.  I am so thankful that Devang is not the type to snap back. He is a problem solver and feeding me was the solution.  = )

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Even though the buildings lining the river walk are rather drab, the gardens with bridges, sculptors, and fountains more than made up for it.

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Folks…this here was a moment when I knew that god had read my mind. After walking for a really long time, and all uphill it seemed, we decided to take a break at an open air cafe in the garden.  Asha had fallen asleep and Arjun was ready to take over the world after sitting in the stroller for too long.  We promptly ordered two coffees, put Asha on one of the comfy cushion chairs, Devang and Arjun played in the surrounding garden, while I…wait for this…soaked my feet in a pool of cold cold water! WHAT!!! Then Devang took his turn.  We both felt like new people after the fact, ready to walk another 100 miles uphill. Even now, this cafe (the name of which escapes me now but I am determined to find out and get back to you) seems like something I made up in my dreams.

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An example of what happens when Arjun has been sitting in the stroller for too long….as soon as we get him out, he tries to escape and run as far away as possible – climbing on whatever obstacles are in the way.
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…here he is heading for my coffee cup.

Thank you for sticking with me and reading along.  This post is massive and I just realized that I have only gone through about a third of our trip.  I promise to bring you more in parte duo. Hasta luego amigoes.

In the meantime, if you have been inspired to plan a trip to this great city – with or without kids – start your search at The Crazy Tourist’s 15 Best Things To Do In Madrid. I found the article more informative that all the other lists I came across and it really will get you excited for your trip!!

Until next time! Adios!

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Chika Gujarathi is a freelance writer and a mother of three from Raleigh, NC. She writes for national and local publications about lifestyle, travel, books, and of course, motherhood! Her most current project involves illustrating and publishing a children’s Hindi book. When not adventuring with her family in the minivan, you can find her riding the streets of Raleigh on her beloved bike Linus.

3 thoughts on “Hola Madrid! – Parte uno

  1. I am so much excited to read about such lovely places and happy to learn that you will be a great help to us to make itinerary whenever we plan to visit Spain and places around . Lovely captures I must admit. Both the kids are looking such sweethearts while being their self on the vacation. Love to them both. Hope we will get more interesting details to read very soon. Waiting eagerly for the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Daizy, I am thrilled that you are just as excited about traveling with kids as me. The funny part, as you said, is that the kids rarely care how great or cool the place is…they just do their silly things…and that is humbling and brings me great joy!

      Like

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