Meet My Madrid Familia

Interwebs, please meet my Madrid familia!! In case you are new here and were unaware, I hosted a high school foreign exchange student. She is from Madrid and lived with me over the last school year. I fell in love with her and her family, so when an unexpected opportunity came up to visit them, I took it!


I hadn’t seen her since June so when I first arrived, naturally there were happy tears. But, it was the first night of family dinner, when everyone was gathered and laughing, that it hit me. I was experiencing true Spanish family….and a family that I now claim as my own! It was emotional to say the least.


Before I introduce them individually, I have to tell you (although my limited vocabulary is not nearly enough to do so), that these are the kindest people you will ever meet. Their hospitality and love to two handfuls of American girls, has gone unmatched. They went out of their way to be our taxis, tour guides, cooks and to make certain that our stay was more than we could’ve imagined. I don’t know how I will ever repay them! And currently, after so many days and SO MUCH shopping, I am just extremely grateful that they didn’t put us on a plane earlier.



Meet Susana – The Madre

From the time I knew Monica was coming to live with me, Susana has been the best support. She is humble, kind, PATIENT (heavy on the patience), positive, understanding and if she was ever frustrated at any point over the last few days, we haven’t even seen a hint of it.
We got to spend some time with her a couple of days that was just with her. Even on her birthday (Sunday), she toted is to the CRAZY street market (more on that later) and never complained about walking THE WHOLE market, not once, but three times, just so we could find “that one” thing we wanted. She entertained us with participating in silly tourist pics. And if she didn’t want to throw us out of the car after the thousandth “oh let’s stop and get a pic here” moment, then she just might be a real saint.


She is an artist who is way too humble about it. Look at some of the work she has done at their beach house! She is also the one who painted a portrait of Moni and me and sent it for my birthday! Definitely one of my most treasured gifts!!



Anyway! Susana is simply the best. I will always value her as my Spanish Madre and look to her for calm and wisdom!

Meet Jose – The Padre

Oh how he loves. There is no way that you don’t know it when you’re in his presence. He is comic relief. He is agreeable to all the ladies of his household. He has just the right amount of facetiousness about him!! He shows love. That’s quite different than what I grew up with and I couldn’t help but sit in awe of how he is constantly hugging, picking on and kissing on his girls. He creates a house of love and protection. He is a good papa!!!!



 


Meet Mari and Moni – The Girls 

Most of you know Moni from all I shared on social media while she lived with me. What you may not have known is that she has a twin sister Mari! Mari also did an exchange program and lived in North Carolina. I have missed Moni EVERY SINGLE DAY since she left. She took a part of my heart with her when she left America! However, seeing her “in her element” at home and adding Mari to the mix has been the most fun to watch! I didn’t think I could love them more until I came here this last week. Now, I have no idea how I am ever going to leave them!! They are just the right mix of opposites and definitely the hardest studiers I have ever met (seriously, they studied the whole time we were here….smart girls, they are)! Beautiful inside and out!!!


Meet the Cousins and friends

Well, meet some of them! I apparently failed to get a pic with a couple of them 😞 (SO SORRY LUISA)!! They are just good. The most welcoming and precious girls! I felt like we had already been friends forever! It was approximately five minutes before we were all laughing, making jokes and picking on each other!!


Meet the Abuelas and Tias

Can you even handle them? THEY. ARE. PRECIOUS. The abuelas have wisdom and pure grace. Abuela Luisita made me a total crying mess with her swet words. Abuela Maricarmen is just a smart cookie. She exudes it from the minute she enters a room.
Then there is Tia. Oh my. She is our very own American version of “gives zero cares”. She loves to sing and recite poetry. And believe you, me, she did her fair share during our visit! Check her out in tgis video!! All the love and feels for Tia. I offered to bring her back with me, because duh, America needs her! When I get old I will be her!

 


Meet Cleo – The dog

Last, but certainly not least, there is Cleo. She has about as gentle of a spirit as I have ever seen in a dog!

It’s hard to even type about them without getting emotional. I don’t know how I am going to leave them! How lucky I am to have not only visited this country and take a great vacation, but to have this family come into my life, is not (and will never be) lost on me. I do not deserve them! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

P.S. There is also Jose, the brother!! He just wasn’t around for photo ops and visiting til family dinner tonight. He is a complete sweetheart and I am not sure anyone on Earth treats their dog as good as he does!

Madrid Is For Lovers….And For Me 

Well. HELLOOOOOO Madrid!!! We started the last leg of our trip today. Madrid had a lot to live up to after such amazing times in Marbella and Barcelona. What I have been most excited about for this part of the trip is the family aspect. I have been anticipating a true Spanish family feel and have NOT been disappointed (you’ll meet all of them in tomorrow’s blog).

I wasn’t sure if the city exploring was going to live up to what we had already seen. Then, once we got off the metro, it was like Madrid said “girl, please….get over here and let me show you what we got”

SITES

At first it was cloudy and colder. We needed to sit by the heaters to enjoy lunch outside. But then, the skies cleared. The bluest sky came through and we enjoyed THE MOST BEAUTIFUL park walk. This park made Central Park feel uninteresting and underwhelming (Sorry NYC, you still have great pizza going for ya). Most of my pics were taken on the real camera today (thanks Apple for crappy iPhone battery life these days), but the ones I did get on my phone didn’t even need a filter to make the colors pop! The sky really is that blue!!!

The very first thing I noticed when we got into the park (after I scooped up a pair of fake Nikes from the street vendor) was how it could be so easy to fall in love here. There were people kissing, street musicians playing, little rowing boats. Ah. I couldn’t even hate it! If my future husband is reading this, go ahead and book a trip for us……kiss me by the fountain, buy me an ice cream and then let’s rent a segway and laugh at how clumsy I would probably be on it😝


FOOD

It will be hard for America to convince me to have certain things again, like cappuccino and tuna. I don’t know of any places that could match what I have tasted here. The food is just so good. I neber thought I would be this rmotional about food or even have that mich to carry on about it. But here, you definitely do. So much in fact, that when we shared a table with some other people who didn’t even show ANY emotion over their tapas, I was annoyed at them! The homemade food is even better! Tonight for family dinner we enjoyed homemade paella and a pear dessert that is probably illegal somewhere, it’s so good!! I LOVE that dinner in itself here is an event. It’s not just eat and done. We visit for hours with lots of laughter! If anyone in this country goes to bed hungry and sad, they are crazy!!


SHOPPING

I hate shopping. I truly do. But I sure found a way to love it with all the fantastic shops here. Any shop you could ever want. Our fav from today was Primark. It’s 5 stories, cheap prices and good stuff! I fell victim to so many things that I have had to buy another suitcase. How silly of me to declare before I came that I wasn’t interested in buying anything I was here. I really thought I meant that 😜


I have two HUGE regrets today. Not following through with buying this sequined fanny pack (I wish you could see how flashy it was in this pic) and letting the pink glittered wallet get away…….sigh…..


I also am quite envious of this unicorn tape dispenser my friend snatched up!

Today was good! Tomorrow is family lunch with the WHOLE Madrid family and I can hardly stand the wait!!

❤️❤️❤️❤️

La Sagrada Familia = las Speechless….Leaving Barcelona 

I would have never guessed that I would physically feel so much attachment and sadness to leave each place we have visited. But I genuinely do feel it. It hurts to leave. Barcelona showed up and left a permanent mark on my heart and spirit!!! 

As I sit on the rainy train back to Madrid, I am already trying so hard to trap every smell, smile, meal, sites and the people we met into my memory, in hopes that it never leaves (and if you know me, you know how my memory works). I am not trying to remember how noisy these trains are, though. People take calls, phones aren’t on silent….just noisy! Thank baby Jesus for headphones and Spotify!!


Our last stop before catching our train was La Sagrada Familia. There was an overwhelming number of recommendations to make sure we fit this into our trip. And from the minute we got out of the taxi, you could clearly see why.

 It honestly, with no exaggeration, took my breath away. You just kinda have to stand there and soak it in for a second before you can go inside. It’s THAT magnificent. There were a couple of moments inside that we just sat in complete silence to absorb all that was around us. What was so cool is that in the spots we did that in, others were doing the same. The silence was so neat. Whether it be because people were saying prayers, making mental notes of their surroundings or just in deep thought…..it brought a soothing atmosphere and commonality to an area filled with so many differences. 

I’m still not very knowledgeable about who this Gaudi guy is that created all these incredible buildings, but I sure would’ve loved to have sat him down for a cup of coffee and tap into even a fraction of his mind!


I could go on and on, but I will let you do your own digging on this place (and it’s more than worth spending a few clicks to read about it) and let some of these pics do the rest of the talking. Although, I’m not sure there is a picture out there that can truly capture how incredible this place is (plus these are just from my phone. Can’t wait to see the “real camera” ones). I loved the basement workshop and scale models almost as much as the basilica itself. I searched the whole gift shop for a pic that would ignite the feeling I had so that I could bring it back, hang it in my place, and feel that breathless feeling over and over. I didn’t find exactly what I wanted, but I do regret not bringing this poster back with me!!


Goodbye Barcelona. Thank you for the love. You truly swept me off my feet. ❤️
Now I have to get back to my Madrid family and smother my girl with lots of hugs!!!! 



Fancy Pants and French Don’t Mix…

Biggest accomplishment today? Hailing a cab in the pouring down rain in Barcelona. Pretty much a city girl now! 🙂

I love that no two cab rides here have taken the same route! Its afforded us to see other parts of the city , albeit speedy!
It was a national holiday here so the town was actually quite “dead” so to speak. Shops were closed. The streets weren’t busy.


And then it started raining. And. It. Has. Not. Stopped.


Not to worry, we still enjoyed the city. I am amazed at Gaudi’s work here! I will let a preview of the pics do the talking (even though they don’t do it justice) until I get my “real camera” pics loaded. Speaking of, it has been so weird to use an actual camera. And the stress of not being able to upload pics immediately …oy vey are we spoiled!!!



Gonna be honest. Wasn’t sure what to expect for the evening….we had mixed plans…

And then we went to Shoko, at the recommendation of our hotel staff. It was great cuisine (as you can see)….and at midnight, it turns into a dance club. Nothing says burn off the calories we just fed you, like taking away your table and turning it into a dance floor. They also offer at table massages. What an indulgence!!!!


We sat by some French guys who were friendly enough to have some convo and drinks. They even invited us over to the “other side” once the club started. One of them, Alex, could possibly be the funniest guy I have met in a while!! We laughed. We danced. We barely understood each other. We told them it was my birthday. There were language barriers. They thought we were from Texas (because foreign people know Texas way more than Arkansas apparently).
Biggest regret of this trip is not having the video of them singing.


Fast forward to getting invited to hang with them in the VIP Section. All fun and games til you sit there like the fat girl at the prom. It was almost the worst….I literally sat there alone, watching everyone have a grand ol time and be hit on. Then I met the two nicest girls from England. They were gorgeous, down to Earth and just kind, which couldn’t have come at a better time (I wish I had pics of them instead of so many of the jerks)!!! As you can see in this pic, I am not hideous……..so why would I let 3 French guys make me feel that way (the 4th guy didn’t, he was the funny one, the one second from the right).

 

Here is the thing, ladies (and men who might relate as well)…..even in a foreign country, a million miles away from home, when people are being completely shallow jerks…you HAVE to love yourself. You HAVE to stop negative thinking dead in it’s tracks. You cannot sit and cry while the world is literally dancing around you. Literally. The city of Barcelona cannot be having the time of it’s life while you’re having a pity party on the VIP couch. Unacceptable. You have to accept that some people are assholes and you have to dance anyway. You have to be thankful that you are experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity that many other will never have. And sometimes, it’s just time to grab a cab back to your hotel and know that you are just fine.


Sleep tight, America! Tomorrow, we take on Madrid!!!!! Can’t wait to get back there and spend my last few days here with the best family!!!!

Tapas and Tiaras…Fancy Goes To Barcelona 

Where do I even begin for today’s recap?Today has been a day that definitely deserves a “hashtag blessed” with no shame. I have used every cliche white girl phrase I know to go on and on about the day!

MY MIND AND MY HAIR

It occurred to me this morning on the way to the train station (as I was furiously typing and journaling notes before I forgot them) that my mind hasn’t been this clear in ages!!!!!! I keep equating it to a visual of a custodian with an industrial broom, sweeping and cleaning up the floor. There is nothing in the room, it’s a clean slate. Ahhhhh….that feeling is so great!!!! I owe Spain big time for that alone.
In America my hair is dry and brittle and I spend an ungodly amount of money to try and make it soft and luscious! In Spain, it’s a dang hair commercial and so soft I can’t do anything with it…yet, I wanna touch it all the time and want everyone to know how soft it is!



HOTEL

Let’s start with the hotel. We are staying at the Olivia Balmes and it is D I V I N E! We were greeted by the best staff. We were early and hoping they would just hold our bags until we could check in, so we wouldn’t have to carry them while we explored. That wasn’t acceptable to them. They instead went ahead and prepared our room AND gave us champagne while we waited! Not to mention, our host Lenin is VERY easy on the eyes! ☺️ There is a rooftop pool (that sadly thanks to unexpected cooler weather, we wont be able to use-but the rooftop in general is pretty awesome), our room is great, we met some lovely people from Connecticut and it’s surprisingly quiet here.

Temperature 

It. Is. perfect. 

Enough said. For me anyway. For my friend and others, it could be interpreted as cold. I will admit that I needed a scarf at dinner, but that is still the just right weather for me!!

FOOD

Our new friend on staff, Lenin, gave us a lunch suggestion and this, people, is where the day gets good!!!! MY GOODNESS the food!! We sat down, allowed our waiter Carlos to order tapas for us and pour us sangria and life just got exponentially better from there. THE FRESHEST tuna, THE MOST succulent crab/tropical salad, some form of chips with a caramel glaze AND…..fried potatoes with fried egg and some magic sauce (this last one- my my my -it’s what I imagined A 6 star Waffle House with a hangover would be 😜). JUST LOOK AT THE FOOD!!!! Praises ALL AROUND!!! I’m not ashamed to say I savored and made sweet love to every bite I took! Tonight we had dinner on the oceanfront, with more huge yachts. It was filled with great convo as well as a phenomenal and peaceful atmosphere! It’s not that busy this time of year, which makes getting into restaurants pretty easy.


SHOPPING

High end shopping was not something we were gonna pass up since the gang is all here (Luis, Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany’s, Hermes, Cartier, etc). We knew we could hang so we did what anyone of our economic stature would do…..we started at Tiffany’s to use the bathroom and stood in line to be admitted to shop Luis V, to get their free water (we were parched, yo) 😝


All joking aside (sort of)……Apparently nobody has huge boobs and butts in Barcelona. I’m literally the only one. It’s fine, it saved my wallet some damage…No one should ever go shopping after eating tapas and a liter of sangria anyway. I finally had to accept the fact that all I was going to try on without feeling like I swallowed 4 Barcelonians, were sunglasses, scarves, earrings and necklaces (not that I’m complaining because I got some cute ones -I mean, look how this necklace fits!!)!!


I don’t know why I spent most of the day talking myself out of a nice treat (like a new Tumi bag that I ended up going back for -scratch that. I ditched the Tumi bag for some AMAZING clothes that I can’t wait to show you! Sneak peak here with this cape…which is totally Bad-A…annddd I’m bringing home a kelly green leather jacket -obviously what you read in the next few sentences has been cured!).


I saved hard for this trip so that I wouldn’t worry about things and be able to shop for something nice. Yet, I spent half the day justifying…..as if I didn’t deserve it. And that is simply not true. It’s ok to buy nice things on vacation. Thankful for a friend who has reminded me of that, and a frw other things!


My dinner outfit was the perfect find for a fall night in Barcelona!! Thankfully after whining about clothes, my friend found a store for me and I RACKED UP! She did too with this great sheep leather jacket!


THE BUILDINGS

Today was more of a shopping day. You can’t shop tomorrow because they are all closed for Columbus day. So tomorrow, we hit the architecture. All the buildings are so great, but I am especially excited to explore Gaudi!!!!

Leaving Marbella

Today was a sad day. We had to leave Marbella. It’s necessary to continue our adventures but it sure was hard to leave such an amazing place. There are few words to describe how incredible this place was. I almost want to call Barcelona and let them know what they are up against because the expectations right out of the gate of this trip, are very very high.


Marbella is a town that will suck you in, romance you with the amazing weather, endless perfect ocean, great food, the beautiful fragrances and relaxing atmosphere (oh the fragrance of the jasmin and orange trees! I will spend the rest of this trip trying to find that smell in a bottle to bring back with me!!). It’s easy to fall in love with it.


If only I could find a man to ignite the same feelings in me that this place did 😝 I did find my first Latin Lover of the trip. He has great muscles and an uncanny ability to never argue back 😜


As we headed out of town today, we stopped by the marina of Marbella. I’m not sure why my parents were never owners of yachts and Bentley cars in Marbella, but I’m pretty sure that they should’ve tried harder. This was clearly where I belonged. Everything was scenes I had only seen in movies. I was in complete awe. (Just kidding about trying harder, mom! You did great and I love where I’m from – look at how great I turned out without a yacht and a Bentley)


The rest of the day has been spent driving. It’s quite a long drive back to Madrid, but it’s hard to mind when the scenery is this incredible and the company is about as fun as it gets! You guys, there are MILLIONS of olive trees here. MILLIONS. Literally. I had no idea they were so prevalent here. And I would think after 3 days I wouldn’t be as fascinated by them, yet here I am about to dig through a thesaurus to try and find big, emphasizing words to make you understand what I am talking about. THEY. ARE EVERYWHERE. Sure makes eating olives out of a jar back home harder to eat!!! (These pictures from my phone are just not accurate enough -see that green…All olive trees. And they are as far as the eye can see…I swear it)

The long drive and no phone/internet service gave me lots of time to think (which is always dangerous)…..and lots of time to talk. At least 94% of the drive was used to make fun of me for various things, like the fact that I have mad cattle knowledge and can look at a cow or bull and get pretty close to their weight and how much they would sell for. I think everyone in the car unanimously agreed that it is a complete shame that I am still single with all this knowledge to share! First thing I am doing when I get back to the states is updating my dating profiles!!!!


In all seriousness, I got to share a love story. Or, in my case, a lost love story. The one that got away, if you will……but also, maybe the one that still has a chance! That’s what road tripping in Spain will do for you. It will show you amazing scenery and after getting a clear mind from the beach, you start to get a little renewed spark back in you. You think of all the things that you should be doing and how when you get back, you are going to go for it. You are going to find that yacht life and declare your love that has already lost ten years, and can’t be wasted for one more second!!!!!

To be continued……..can’t wait to see what Barcelona shows me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fancy Goes To Spain (day dos)

I was trying to paraphrase today into a simple status update for Facebook, but quickly realized that I just had too much to say for that approach.


I’m skipping ahead to document day 2 while it’s all fresh on my mind. We will save the dysfunctional travel/getting here stories for another time. Because, let’s be honest…..when you are sitting on the beach as relaxed as I am right now (as in noodle arms and can barely type), you don’t want to think about dysfunctional travel!


Today has been INCREDIBLE, y’all!!! We are in Marbella and I flipping swam in the MEDITERRANEAN ocean!!!! It was freezing, yet refreshing and exhilarating all at the same time. I might have fallen asleep so hard on the sand that I drooled on my beach towel. Just what my body needed for recovery. The ocean was like my very own epsom salt bath.

I was soaking it all in. I purposely slow my breath and my mind at the ocean. It’s the best connection and reset for me. It’s what my soul needs. Ever since my first trip after I left the abuse, the ocean has been my “plugin” or “outlet” for recharging, if you will. And it has been long overdue for a visit. I will never, ever take these visits for granted.

As poetic as I just tried to make that sound, it wouldn’t be a real Alicia day without some clumsy. There I was, enjoying the majestic that is the Mediterranean. And then I tried to get out. The beach and entry into the water here is very rocky. So, when I lost my footing trying to come out, I knew I was headed down. Down I went. On my knees. Until the waves came and knocked me on my rear. Then another wave took me under. I can only imagine what the fine people on the beach thought about the silly American getting her butt handed to her by the water. Literally.


Even with the fall, it was the most relaxing afternoon! IT IS PERFECT here! The pictures and words can’t emphasize that enough!!!


Still waiting to run into Antonio Banderas and Sean Connery 😝
Other general observations:

They have sparkly rocks here. Like they knew I was coming!! You can’t really see them in this pic well, but they do sparkle. You can see them if you ever come visit my apt though because I am bringing them back with me!!


I COULD SEE AFRICA. A girl from little Yell County, Arkansas was sitting on a beach in Spain and could see Africa. Guess what trip I am already planning for?!?! You cant see it in this pic, but it’s there in the distance, past that sailboat. Just a ferry ride away.


It did not occur to me to care that I was the fattest person on the beach. That’s not taking a jab at myself. I really was. But not once did I feel judged, or even noticed for that matter, by anyone that was there. Europeans just don’t care. And today I didn’t either. I may not come back to America based on this alone.


Sweet Tanker is even in Spain!! Monica’s mom painted this and it’s hanging at their beach house!!! I loved walking into the room and seeing this!!


I could not have gotten more lucky with the sweetest exchange family around!! So excited to have the opportunity to visit!! Their hospitality and making sure we are having the best time is unmatched!!! Forever grateful that I came across them a little over a year ago!!! I have missed this girl so much!!!! (And having a great travel friend like Barbie on the right here, has been pretty sweet too!