“Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!” -Albert Einstein
I try to count my blessings everyday, especially since I’ve been abroad. I’ve always known how lucky I’ve been to have an amazing family and group of friends. However, when you’re 3,000 miles across the Atlantic and in a different time zone, you realize who is truly there for you even if you’re not physically right there with them. I feel even more blessed to say that my parents decided to take that airplane ride over the big blue and pay me a visit!
At 7 a.m. last Saturday morning, I took the metro to the Madrid airport, but for once it wasn’t because I was departing to another European hotspot. Instead, I was picking up my wonderful parents! After greeting each other for the first time in two and a half months, we metroed to their hotel, which was located only five minutes from my apartment. Because it was so early, no rooms were available, so they dropped off their bags and we headed out to find some breakfast. We ate traditional Spanish churros, tortilla española (egg omelette/quiche sort of thing with potatoes and onions), toast with tomato paired with café con leche for the parents and fresh squeezed orange juice for me. This turned out to be one of our cheapest meals of the week.
To kill some time before hotel check-in opened, we walked over to El Parque del Retiro, which is five minutes from my apartment. Mom and Dad attempted to find a comfy bench to take a nap, but that phrase is quite contradictory when all of the benches are made of stone.
We did find los Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez, which was one area of the park I had yet to venture into.
And I finally got to see the peacocks my host mom has been telling me about all semester!
My parents finally got to check in at the hotel and take a nap to curve the effects of jet lag. We met up a couple hours later and I took them down to the central part of the city for lunch. We passed by some famous Madrid landmarks on the way including El Palacio Real, which we toured a few days later.
We arrived at El Mercado de San Miguel, a famous food market, to find it packed to the brim. My parents decided they weren’t up for the craziness, so we chose the nearest sit down restaurant.
It turned out not to be Madrid’s finest in terms of dining, so after deciding I didn’t like my seafood salad, I went back into San Miguel and found the empanada above. No idea what was in it, but it was good.
I had a long to-do list made for my parents’ trip, so after lunch we decided to cross off La Reina Sofía, Madrid’s modern art museum.
Photo or drawing?
I’m not exactly the biggest modern art fan, so finding pieces like this in La Reina Sofía definitely made it worth the visit.
I’d blame this one on his jet lag, but he would’ve done that at anytime.
Picasso’s “Guernica” is the most famous piece in La Reina Sofía. It represents the destruction left in the wake of a Nazi air raid in Spain and is one of the first pieces of art to showcase the tragedy of war. In case you’re wondering why the photo is so crooked, there were two guards standing in front of the painting yelling at people for taking pictures. Thankfully, I’ve gotten pretty good at inconspicuous photography and I don’t even have a flash on my camera, so nothing was hurt in the taking of this picture.
As we were about to leave, I remembered that you can go up on the roof of the building. I thought of this at the perfect moment because the sun just so happened to be setting when we got up there.
We taxied back to the hotel and Mom and Dad decided sleep was more important than dinner. They needed their rest for the busy days that lay ahead anyway.
Thankfully, on day 2 we all slept in a little bit to heal my parents’ jet-lag and my constant lack of sleep.
In the early afternoon, we walked down the street from my apartment to see the popular parts of Retiro Park that we had missed the day before. The park is 350 acres, so it’s hard to cover in one day, especially when your parents are jet-lagged and just want to find a bench to sleep on.
We found the beautiful Crystal Palace in the middle of the park.
It was unfortunately closed inside for construction :[
We continued on to the famous pond, known as el Estanque. I had saved the rowboat experience for my parents’ visit, but little did I know they are not fans of rowboats and opted out of it. I guess I’ll have to go on my own one day. We found a sunny, grassy area next to el Estanque to sit for a little while.
Who knew there are creatures living in the pond?!
If you happen to remember my post that had a homework assignment from the beginning of the semester, I talked about how Retiro is filled with street performers on Sundays. A small crowd drew our attention to this guy. I didn’t take him seriously with that outfit until he started juggling a chainsaw and knives with a mask on.
My father felt inspired and decided to put on a little act of his own. If you know him, this is not a surprise.
We exited Retiro at la Puerta de Alcalá. “La puerta” literally means door because this used to be one of the entrances to Madrid.
The next couple of hours didn’t exactly go as planned. We walked in the direction of El Museo del Prado, Madrid’s most famous art museum, and thought we’d find somewhere to stop for lunch on the way. We ended up in what has to be the country’s most expensive sushi restaurant, which we didn’t realize until after we were already seated and had ordered edamame. It was good sushi, especially considering I hadn’t had any since leaving the U.S., but definitely overpriced.
We left lunch around 4 p.m. thinking we could see the Botanical Gardens quickly before going to the Prado at 5, when it is free on Sundays. However, when we walked past the Prado, the long line that wrapped around the block made us realize our only choice was to stand in line and wait. Good thing we didn’t get in that line 5 minutes sooner because a bird pooped on the people standing right in front of us! Luckily, a nearly bald guy took the brunt of it, so he just wiped it off his head. It’s supposedly good luck right?
They began letting people into the museum at 5 and although it was crowded, I really enjoyed the paintings. Las Meninas (pictured above) by the famous Spanish artist Diego Valázquez was by far my favorite. Valazquez painted himself painting the royal family. The young girls are with their maids, while the king and queen are shown in the reflection in the mirror toward the top. It makes you feel like you’re actually the king or queen!
My mom and I both laughed out loud when we saw that this Rubens painting is entitled “The Birth of the Milky Way”.
Two months prior, I had made dinner reservations for October 30th at El Restaurante Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world, according to Guinness Book of World Records! We arrived at Botín in taxi and found a mob of people waiting outside the door. My parents and I squeezed ourselves through the crowd because we already had reservations.
We started off with the traditional sweet and salty Spanish dish, jamón y melón (ham and melon). I know it sounds a little strange, but I promise the Spanish know what they’re doing.
Our chosen refreshment: sangría. I had been in Spain for two months and still hadn’t tried it. The verdict: it’s sweet and there’s whole chunks of fruit in it. What’s not to like about that? Just watch your cup because my mom apparently likes to spill it all over
people’s my lap…
I decided on el cordero, or roast lamb, for my main course. My mom ordered an almond chicken dish (on left) and we shared some judias verdes, Spanish green beans.
Dad went traditional and ordered cochinillo, roast suckling pig. I was thankful they didn’t serve the pig whole.
No dessert for the Lipman clan. We walked off our meal in Plaza Mayor and Sol before saying goodnight.