Tag Archives: vacation

Madrid in Two Days (Spain Trip Part 1)

Last month I was lucky enough to have the chance to combine a business trip to Spain with a few days off to explore. Zee husband flew in as well and we got a great taste of Madrid and Barcelona. Amazing sights and delicious food! Loved it!

Favorites in Madrid:

  1. Tapas at Mercado de San Miguel
  2. The almost obnoxious grandeur of Palacio Real
  3. Chocolate and churros at Chocolateria de San Gines
  4. Watching the flamenco dancers at Villa Rosa

My trade show went very smooth, we reached our goals and the dinner event I had planned was a great success. Nothing like seeing a big project come together after you’ve worked hard on it for months. So with that load off my shoulders and all our equipment packed up, the fun began. 😀 We had stayed in a very convenient and nice hotel near Principe Pio train station and enjoyed the wealth of restaurant options there. The jamon iberico – amazing! The area was a great spot to explore the sights on the western part of Madrid’s center – although all of Madrid’s center was smaller and much more manageable by foot than I had anticipated. Huzzah!

Palacio Real Ceiling, MadridDay 1 in Madrid we started with obligatory breakfast of café con leche and then walked to the Palacio Real. As a German I’ve seen my fair share of castles but this one really stood out in all its splendor. Definitely worth a visit. We loved seeing the extravagant rooms with their beautiful furniture and accent pieces, the armory and the original Stradivarius instruments of the former queen.

Tapas Market in Madrid, SpainHungry from that we headed over to the San Miguel food market and indulged in all sorts of tapas. When in Rome… We shared some black paella, bocadillos (sandwiches) with roasted peppers, caramelized onion and goat cheese, roast beef with brie, tortilla, pickled herring, olives and what seemed like two of Spain’s national drinks: Vermuth and Sangria. Everything was amazingly flavorful!

Fueled by our awesome lunch we then walked around downtown’s bustling streets including Placa Mayor and took the obligatory photo with the bear and strawberry tree statue at Puerta del Sol; one of the main places in downtown Madrid. Commercialization has taken its toll on that square, it’s now called Vodafone Sol. I suppose that’s similar to Time’s Square but just imagine we’d have the “Palmolive Golden Gate Bridge” or “Monsanto National Mall”. Just a little sad and odd.

Churrus and Hot Chocolate, St. Gines, MadridFrom there we moved our bags to our new hotel, which was more towards the east part of downtown, less conducive to trade showing but better for sight seeing. It has to be noted that we had the weirdest bathroom door ever. It was frosted glass and didn’t shut properly. Even as a married couple… not sure what the purpose of that door was. As a reward for hauling our stuff across town we sat down at St. Gines Chocolate for hot chocolate and churros. I would say this was the Madrid equivalent of New Orleans’s Café du Monde’s beignets. The stuff was gooood! The churrors not too greasy and the hot chocolate rich but not overly sweet. Perfect for the cold weather. I was so full that for dinner we just sat down at a bistro next to our hotel with a salad and a few tapas for Michael. When in Rome…

Day 2 started with a good breakfast at the hotel (thank you half price deal for Expedia+ members). Café con leche of course was part of it but also good cold cuts (oh how I miss those in the US) and the usual shabang that you get at hotel breakfasts. Thank heavens we had a lot because we spent quite some time exploring the Reina Sofia Art Museum that morning. Always amazes me how something like Salvador Dali’s amazing, ambiguous pieces can hang next to a black square on canvas. Oh modern art! Definitely neat to see Guernica after having heard so much about it and the sad part of Spain’s history.

Best Calamari Sandwiches in Madrid - El BrillianteOur guide book had recommended a little pub, El Brilliante, next to the museum for their calamari sandwiches and they were indeed pretty darn tasty. After that a stroll through the Retiro Park to admire the pretty Crystal Palace with its little waterfall grotto and the free art exhibit we stumbled upon in one of the other buildings of the park. I love exploring!

Flamenco show at Villa Rosa in the center of Madrid

We rested a bit and then headed out to a flamenco show in downtown Madrid at Villa Rosa. I had been somewhat worried that it would be just a tourist trap with a cheesy show but the performers were exceptional. The amount of speed with which their feet flew over the stage was incredible and I love listening to their rhythms. Definitely a highlight of the trip and a great way to spend our last day in town before heading to Barcelona.

If you stumbled on this while searching for a two day itinerary for Madrid consider pinning this image of save it to your smartphone for when you go.

Two Day Madrid Itinerary

A Wonderful Vermont SnowCation

After a year of hard work we finally had a chance to relax and went on our wonderful winter vacation that hit all the sweet spots of Vermont. When we planned our trip we had wondered where to go skiing in early December to have a chance of snow. The Rockys are quite far from us in North Carolina and you have to deal with high altitude (think thin air huffing and puffing) and not the best chance of snow that early in the season. So it was settled, New England it was! Zee Man had been to Stowe once before and deemed it a cute place not too far from the airport in Burlington.

Thanks to the many reviewers at Tripadvisor we found the coziest little inn, The Gables Inn, and I’m not going to lie, the breakfast was out of this world! Every day we got to choose from a huge menu and we loved every single item we tried! Food in general up there was fantastic. Lots of fresh farm to table food options!
Lucky for us, that snow storm that had me stranded in Philadelphia on the way up also dumped a nice amount of snow on Vermont. Of course we went skiing (and considering that it was my second and third time on boards it went really well) but the other cool snow activity we did was dog sledding! While not cheap, it was totally worth it and an unforgettable experience! The dogs were so quirky and so eager to run. We started as the sun was setting and finished as the full moon came up. It was so special!

Naturally we explored the town of Stowe a bit (hello snow globe village) and hit some of the typical Vermont covered bridges. More Vermont-ness was had as we stopped at a cider mill, Cabbot’s Annex Store (hello free lactose-free cheese samples galore), and Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory. Didn’t think we were going to stop there as it seemed like an ice-cream version of the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta (“Why do I have to pay if it’s a bombardment of advertisement?!”) but it was actually fun. Not to mention tasty! 😉

Stowe also has a tight connection to the movie The Sound of Music as the Von Trapp family settled there after they left Austria. They have a mountain lodge up there that brews their own beer so after I had finally memorized the DoReMiFaSoLaTiDo lines from the movie Michael treated me to a drink at their lodge. More cheese sampling and a great piano player made for a fun time.
Waterbury and Burlington were the other cities we hit on this trip. We had more great food in Waterbury: Prohibition Pig had as the name suggests all sorts of pig food and I couldn’t help but chuckle that Michael got the North Carolina style BBQ. Like, really?! On our anniversary we tried Hen of The Wood and that was another delicious Farm to Table choice. Mmmmmm!

Burlington itself was unforgettable as Michael popped the question at the shore of Lake Champlain. I said “Awww look, we walked down that hill as boyfriend and girlfriend and we’re walking up the hill as fiancé and fiancée!” “Well,” he says “I guess marriage will be an uphill battle!” Hahaha! Well we shall see about that!

So yes, if you have a chance to go to Vermont, do it! We had such a great time and it was the perfect mixture of relaxing, action, good food and good beer.