Tag: Spain

Seville, Spain

We did more than drive the narrow streets while we were in Seville in December.  We stayed at an eclectic hostel, Hostal Sierpes, where the moment I walked in, I wondered if this was the place I’d regret bringing kids to. It wasn’t. In fact, I’d recommend staying there.  It was a pleasant surprise and change of pace from the more generic places we had stayed.

Entrance to Hostal Sierpes in Seville, Spain Inside our room at Hostal Sierpes in Seville, Spain Atrium on the second level of Hostal Sierpes in Seville Front lobby of the Hostal Sierpes at Christmas

Jeff and Scarlett toured the bull ring and museum in Seville; Plaza de Toros.  It looked amazing! Scarlett can tell you all about how the bull fight works, what flag they hold up if the bull is spared, how historically horses would help and often be killed, and she will happily tell you about the time a bull was spared (there aren’t many!)

Large Red Door to the Plaza de Toros in Seville Bull ring at the Plaza de Toros in Seville Spain Patron seating are in Plaza de Toros in Seville Spain Royal box at the Plaza de Toros Seville SpainTour of the Plaza de Toros in Seville SpainTour of the bull museum in Seville SpainTour of the bull musuem in Seville SpainFamily of three girls outside bull ring in Seville Spain


We visited the “Tower of Gold” – it’s proper name is the Torre del Oro.   A 13th century watch tower along the river that offloaded the riches from the conquistadors returning from Central & South America.  There was a small museum inside and then the rooftop viewing platform.

The Golden Tower in Seville Spain Torre del Oro at sunset in Seville SpainMy kids on the stairs inside the Torre del Oro in Seville SpainSmiling child at the Golden Tower in Seville SpainOn the viewing deck of the Golden Tower in Seville SpainLooking out at the city on the viewing platform of the Torre del OroClose up picture of the Torre del Oro in Seville Spain

We stumbled upon the modern architecture of Metropol Parasol (that honeycomb shaped building the background below) where the girls decided to treat each other to pony rides and Scarlett spent her Christmas money on a leather purse.  We didn’t set out to find the Metropol Parasol but it was a nice place to end up.  There were holiday craft booths to stroll through, small amusement rides for the kids and a generally festive atmosphere.

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I saw shops and shops full of flamenco dresses for sale. But unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead and we did not make it to a flamenco show while in Seville.  Truthfully, I just wasn’t sure if it was a family atmosphere and by the time I found a flamenco performance (which was right around the corner from our hostel) they were all booked.  We were traveling during the Christmas holiday.


It was this trip in Seville that I realized that while we dressed in functional warm outer wear most of those around us wore, warm but fashionable outerwear. We just aren’t accustomed to the plethora of plazas that are enjoyed year round in Spain.

We stood in line for an hour to get into the Seville Cathedral. It was massive and expanse and left me wondering what all this empty, yet beautiful space was ever used for. The cathedral also holds the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Not without it controversy though. The history channel  reports that it is Christopher Columbus’  sons bones that buriedare  in Seville and his lie in the Dominican Republic.  I’m going to continue to state that I visited the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Which I thought was really cool.

Part of the cathedral was the tower of Giralda. Unlike the other towers we’ve climbed this one had ramps that led to the bell tower.  The most fascinating part of the tower was the electronic people counter letting you know exactly how many people already occupied the ramps and the bell tower. We we headed up with 417 people, when we exited there were 633 in the tower. I was glad we were done.

We rented an audio guide to share with the family as we went through. And it would have been great except for the fighting that ensued over it and the subsequent waiting  for your turn that led to children misbehaving as they waited. Then add in your backpack, camera and couple of shots with the cell phone to post immediately to fb, and the guards asking us to hold our children’s hands…our hand were more than full.  And 6 months later there isn’t much I can remember from the audio guide.

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We had an enjoyable walk to Plaza Espana in Seville and a fun, quirky row boat ride through the canal on the plaza. The plaza was a pleasant surprise from the crowded, restaurant filled plazas I had come accustomed to. It was a nice, calm, relaxing plaza with beautiful tile work and a wonderful fountain set within a large park.  We didn’t make it to the plaza until near 8pm, it would have been nice to make it earlier but our days were full in Seville.

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We ran across a carnival on our way back towards the main street from Plaza Espana. It made me smile to see an ice skating rink set amid palm trees.

The girls watched street performs ranging from a puppet/marionette show, mimes, painted people to other performers hiding under tables trying to scare passing pedestrians. The girls were fascinated by the street performers and would have lingered until the wee hours.

At a restaurant, we had two very traditional meals. [look these up and explain what they are]. Both dishes were wonderfully moist and yummy.

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The hostel was located close to nearly everything. Which also meant it was located on small, winding streets. Driving was a crazy experience! And even on foot we would frequently loose our way. I have learned that I have no aptitude for reading maps; I’d have it backwards and end up walking in the opposite direction I intended.

We quite literally stumbled upon our hostel after our day of exploring the cathedral, main street, plaza espana and eating out.

It was an enjoyable and memorable trip!




Pamplona or Bust

We made it to Pamplona but the trip was a bust.   Pamplona is where the running of the bulls happens each year in July.  While I knew there wasn’t even a bull ring to tour, Lonely Planet talked about a new museum with a 3D interactive exhibit that made you feel like you were running with the bulls.

It may have been there but we never found it.  And no one we spoke to that worked at another museum nearby knew where it was either.

In fact, the entire out-of-the-way road we traveled to get to Pamplona consisted of nothing much.  The plan had been to make a stop in Pamplona on our way home from San Sebastian over Spring break.

We managed to snap a few pictures of the street where the bull run occurs.

And we managed to add 2, maybe 3 hours onto our trip home from the Spanish/France border.  I”m really not sure, I do know that it seemed the trip home lasted forever and we drove on isolated roads through the countryside.

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Birthday Weekend

We celebrated birthday’s last weekend!  My baby, baby, baby girl is now 9 years old!  And my last baby turned 5 years old!  Exciting…but also how did this happen!  October looks so much older in the last year.

To celebrate we went horseback riding, had cake and opened presents.

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Happy Birthday my wonderful, sweet children!

Mud pies and hoping my kids stay young awhile longer

I will be sad when my kids no longer play for hours in the mud, trees and rocks.  I so enjoy sitting near as the use their imaginations to create out of nature.

Today, they worked to weave mats while we sat in the shadow of ruins and watched by cows.

The forest around where we live here in Spain may be the best part of living here.  Now, I know I there are lots of parks and green spaces in Washington.  And we take advantage of those as well.  But, here there’s not also the YMCA or the pool or the beach or the playgrounds or play dates to also occupy our time.

Over the last few weekends we have gone exploring, settled in and had a picnic in the woods.  And almost always, we see very few other people.

We visited a National Park one weekend for an amazing hike.  Sierra de Guadarrama Parque Nacional.  We went 5 miles round trip at an elevation of 6,600 ft.

We’ve been to forest on both sides of the river – although we’re always sharing the space with a cow or two.

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Craving Bacon and mourning cheap wine

With little over 30 days until we head home from our exchange year in Spain I have some things I will miss here in Spain and some things I am looking forward to upon our arrival.

Which should I start with?  Spain or Home?

Let’s start with what I am looking forward to upon returning.

Friends!  Specifically sitting poolside or around a campfire or around a table playing euchre but always with a cold Margarita in hand.  A homemade cilantro Margarita would be the bee’s knees.


Grilling!  Oh how I have missed my grill.  I have been dreaming of grilling pizza on my pizza stone.  Kabobs! Grilled Kale.  Grilled baby bok choy.  Grilled Salmon.  It doesn’t even have to MY grill.  A charcoal grill at the park will suite me just as well.

– Bacon! Just a little slice with avocado and tomato on a crescent roll.  A BLT. An egg sandwich with bacon.  Do I even need to say more?

the Library! With all those books…in ENGLISH!  I’ve tried reading on my computer and on the kids tablet but it’s not the same.  I want to feel the pages in my fingers, I want to relax in bed without the glow of a screen.

Clothes shopping! I’ll admit to having too many clothes; especially ones that don’t compliment me or make me feel like a million bucks but after wearing the same two weeks worth of clothes for the last 10 months I’m ready to shop for clothes that look good and feel good.

My own bed! Soft sheets (I’m buying one new set) and my firm queen-sized mattress.  Oh, how have I miss you!  The rough, hand-me down sheets on a squishy, sagging double bed just hasn’t cut it.

a Drug store!  The pharmacists here are helpful and friendly but EVERYTHING is behind the counter.  I have to ask for everything from fiber pills to ibuprofen to decongestants to UTI medications to pregnancy tests.  I’m over having the two pharmacists in this small town know exactly what is wrong with my family or myself.


– Possibilities!  Time away from our usual routines and life have me excited about the possibilities of what is to come when we return.  The experience of turning our world upside down has me willing to take risks and allow opportunities to unfold themselves.  Please let me keep this feeling when we return!



So what will I miss from our life in Spain?

Outdoor Seating!  I absolutely LOVE the plaza’s in Spain.  It’s not only outdoor seating at restaurants but the common gathering space for people to come to together and enjoy the outdoors (and most likely friends, but since i have none here I’ll just assume this is a perk).



Jamon! The trade-off to bacon is Jamon.  Thin, freshly sliced is the bee’s knee’s.  Jamon is a dried and cured Spanish ham.  (Here it is hanging on the walls of this shop)



Walking!   I have really enjoyed being able to walk to the grocery store, school and all around town.  I will miss the ability to literally run downstairs and buy that missing grocery item.  The time spent together walking with my kids to and from school has been nice (most days; not all).


Cheap food & alcohol!  Oh, how I am dreading the sticker shock of my first grocery trip in the U.S.  I’ve blogged about food prices before but last week we made homemade, fresh-squeezed lemonade and a bag of lemons cost 1.19 euros.  I’ve found great wines for 1.76 euros and a fifth of vodka is around 9 euro’s.

Cheap medications!  I haven’t kept track of every medication like I have with the food and alcohol but I can buy a 30 day supply of name-brand Concerta over-the-counter for 33 euros.  The ibuprofen comes in 600mg and is around 3 euors.  Cough syrup around 4 euros.

No artificial food dyes!  I try to avoid them in the states.  I know I am using my dollars as votes when I buy non-dye food but I really do like knowing I don’t have to worry that my yogurt has food dye.  Yes, the m&m’s taste different but it’s not like I stopped eating them.

Six-speed manual, diesel  cars with hill assist!  While I have loved the walk-ability of our town, I have felt free and lightweight every time I’ve rented a car while here.  ALL the cars here are manual transmissions and most have been six-speed.  (One lone, Ford had no hill-assist and was a 5-speed).  I like not hearing the car whine at 75 mph and I LOVE not rolling into the person behind me.

Uninterrupted family time!  We have lived a fairly simple life here.  We spend the winter months hibernating together.   We watched maybe too much Netflix but we made it through several interesting series and educational documentaries.  The girls and I also learned how to crochet over the winter months.  While we have a few activities we committed to, we have mostly been free to make our own schedule free of busy work-life-school schedules.

Alumencar, Granada

Alumencar, Granada


The Streets of Seville

On our trips here in Spain, I have walked many narrow and winding streets in the cities we’ve visited.  Always surprised when a car would come zipping through while we stood with the kids plastered to the nearest wall to allow the car room to pass.  The streets really seem like sidewalks and in the absence of sidewalks you are prone to walk right down the center of them (usually with a crowd around you) or walk right out into them without a second thought.  Lavender nearly got hit by a car when we visited Toledo.  She was trying to balance on a thick-chain link fence as her sisters were doing but she lost her balance and tripped into the road at the same time a small car came zipping though then swerved, slammed on its brakes and the driver began yelling in Spanish at us.  We were all upset, rightfully so.  The streets in the old parts of many cities are small.  Many American cars simply wouldn’t fit.

Buitrago has some smaller streets that when I first started renting cars here, I planned where I parked to that I could strategically avoid the narrowest streets.  HA!  I booked our hostel in Seville which the knowledge that there was parking on site (for a reasonable fee compared to others) and that it was within close walking distance to many places of interest.  That’s all I knew.  Had I known more, I would not have booked this hostel.  But had I known more, I would have missed out on a great adventure and some excellent bragging rights.


We had to be admitted to drive in old town by the traffic cop.


Then the street got a little smaller while the GPS tried to keep up.


The GPS then told me to turn here. Hmmm….really??


And make this turn. At this point I’m picturing us getting stuck, literally.


I’m pretty sure this lady stopped to watch me. And while I made it out of here fine, I did go down the one-way street right after this. The one that the red circle is telling me not to.


This is the hostel there on the left. The door to the place opened inward.


This is the parking garage. Back where October is where the hostel staff move the cars to. I never could have made it back there.


Another shot of the garage. We parked right in the door and then the hostel staff ask for your car keys (my rental car keys!!) so they can move the cars around in the garage. We did end up with some small scratches and green paint. We buffed it out and us a cover-up pen before returning the car.


Here’s the street we just drove down! The one with the lady watching! Craziness!




While you’re waiting for me to write a more interesting post.  I thought I’d share some photo’s of the topography of where we live.  We live in a valley in the Sierra Norte area of Madrid.  There are mountains surrounding us and I would describe the landscape as mostly desert-like.  It reminds me a lot of the eastern slopes of the Washington cascades and some parts of western Montana.  We drove to Burgos (200 km north) and there were parts that looked like the badlands of South Dakota and then the rolling hill farmlands of Nebraska and then more forest area’s of mid-Michigan.  Here are some photo’s of the drive from Madrid to Buitrago.

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Birthday Party

I wrote my phone number on a piece of paper, shoved it in October’s pocket, hastily told her how I thought she could ask in Spanish to use the phone and I left. If I followed Parents magazine advice I would have also asked if there were guns in the home. At least in the states. Not sure I they have the right to bear arms here.

I took October to her first birthday party here. I dropped her off at a home/restaurant with a family that spoke NO English. After we arrived and before I left, I had a fleeting urge to just smile, scoop October up (lets just pretend I can still lift her) and go home. But I didn’t and she had a great time. Free refills of coco-cola and night-time zombie chase made for a good party it seems.

I picked her up 2.5 hours later, had a beer with the host and a few other moms (half who were smoking) and stumbled through some not so awkward conversation on where we were from and how long we would be here. And October likely forgot 10 minutes into the party about the phone number tucked in her pocket.

Buitrago del Loyoza



We are moving to Spain!  In particular we are moving to Buitrago del Loyoza.  It is a town of 2,000 located 40 miles north of Madrid.  The town is surrounded by a river and castle walls that date back to the 11th century.  The town is also home to a castle from the 15th century and a small Picasso museum; thanks to the barber who used to cut Picasso’s hair and was paid in drawings.  All three girls will be attending the local Spanish school – Penalta.  And no, it is not a bilingual school so they will be immersed in Spanish.  Their school day will go from 9:30am – 1pm, break for lunch & siesta and then resume from 3pm – 4:30pm.  Homeschooling is illegal in Spain and we just decided go big or go home!  I’m sure they will be translating on my behalf in no time at all.  Jeff will be teaching at Colegio Gredos San Diego.  Although, what exactly is not quite clear.  Which leaves me.  I guess I will be learning how to cook Spanish cuisine??


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