w r i n k l e d
ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL, WRITING AND AGING GRACEFULLY
This next part involves a ridiculous amount of time spent driving around Bilbao looking for food with a desperate run to a basement supermarket located within a shopping mall, many really long lectures, numerous bathroom breaks and a seven hour drive up and down the mountains through sun, snow and rain to Porto, Portugal. And dude, I’m gonna admit it: it just wasn’t worth it - maybe.
Porto in a nutshell - ugly, sad, still scrappingly poor concrete jungle doused in overtly sweet booze, but saved at the last minute by surprising bursts of colorful tile and super nice people. Jury is still out on whether I liked the city or not. And frankly, while Portugal remains a favorite, it’s really for the Algarve coast. Hang out down south and you are guaranteed to have an amazing time.
Nonetheless we gave ourselves up to the weather, ducking out to Livrari Lello & Irmao bookstore with its gorgeous curved staircase and detailed wooden ceiling (inspiration for the Harry Potter wand shop), the Porto institution Café Majestic for a traditional Francesinha sandwich, and a port tasting in Calem during the downpours. In the brief dry spells, we climbed the 255 steps to the top of Clerigos Tower to glimpse the city from above, and walked across Dom Luis I Bridge to the Wine Cellars. The kids were surprisingly cooperative despite the dreary rain and grown-up focus of the day. They were especially tickled when an older woman, hopped up on too much port at Calem walked into a glass wall and gave herself a concussion.
If you’re ever in Portugal, you should know that the internet is very fickle here. Thusly we spent 40 minutes driving around a rotary in downtown Porto trying to pick up Googlemaps. The kids would occasionally look up to ask, “Wait, didn’t we pass this already?” to which Chris and I, in near hysterics, starving and desperate to pee, would laugh, “Look kids, Big Ben!”
Livrari Lello & Irmao
Views from the top of the tower. Literally the intersection of Old and New Porto - the second story Praca de Lisboa.
There is a lot of this kind of thing. Crummy Porto.
Redeemed by beautiful tile work.
Across the river in Porto's Wine Cellars where all of the top port producers showcase their varietals. It used to be that the port was shipped down the Douro Valley River in boats such as these. Now the port is transported via climate controlled trucks. But once a year, on June 25th, each of the producers race a boat down the river in homage to tradition. Calem, the port producer we visited came in dead last.
Singing and dancing in the rain. Making the most of a dreary day.
WHERE WE STAYED:
Super spacious, super cheap 2-bedroom mid-century modern apartment in a residential area near central Porto. Our hosts Miguel and Helder were fantastic; they thought of everything to make us feel at home. The kids were relieved to find that all Portuguese apartments aren't like the crap shack we rented in Lisbon.
WHAT WE DID:
Livrari Lello & Irmao
J.K. Rowling lived in Porto for 10 years working as an English teacher in the early 1990s. It's rumored that she taught during the evenings and wrote during the days, nursing a cup of coffee in the second floor tea shop of this gorgeous bookstore. Livrari Lello & Irmao is said to be the inspiration for the wand shop in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Just €2 gets you fantastic views of Porto and a good little workout climbing up this baroque tower.
Sao Bento Train Station
"Even if you don't have anywhere to go, you must stop in for a look," commanded Helder. A former Benedictine monastery, the huge lobby features three floor to ceiling blue and white panels comprised of 20,000 tiles depicting traditional Portugese life. Breathtaking.
Dom Luis I Bridge
This huge, double decker arched iron bridge connects Porto to the Wine Cellars region where Lisbon's major port makers store, taste and sell their bottles. The upper decker runs the metro, the bottom, cars. We walked across the top for nose bleeding views and back across the bottom for a different perspective.
I don't care much for sweet wine, but with all this depressing weather, we needed to raise our spirits (har har). We originally sought a tasting at Dom Cellars, but was told that despite what was reported on the website, we had to wait hours before the next tour. Evidently, the tours don't depart until there are enough English language speakers willing to sit around and wait till they hit an undesignated minimum. Sort of inconvenient and not terribly tourist friendly. Calem's timing worked best for us. While the port itself was not to our liking, the tour was pretty informative.
Oona samples a taste.
Casa de Musica
I really wanted to get inside of this concert hall designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, but due to timing issues with the port tasting, we missed the daily tour. The two auditoriums are said to have been designed to enrich the acoustic and listening enjoyment of concertgoers. I have no idea what this means and sadly we couldn't attend the night's show, but I did manage some shots of the cool exterior.
WHERE WE ATE:
Churrasqueira America Paraiso Do Churrasco
After a long day's drive the last thing we wanted to do was get back into the car and sit in a restaurant. Chris picked up take-out chicken and ribs from this traditional Portuguese grill house. Not as good as Casa de India, but pretty tasty.
I am a sucker for historical restaurants, even if Chris hates them and thinks they are overpriced tourist traps. He's right of course, but it started to pour just as we got to the door so instead of just sneaking a peek at the menu, we made ourselves comfortable in a corner booth. Chris couldn't resist trying the Francesinha, Porto's traditional sandwich made of bread, ham, chorizo and steak and then covered in melted cheese and beer sauce served alongside fries. It was pretty gross, but in the name of archeological research Chris managed to finish it.
The Francesinha. Enjoy your heart attack!
After a full day of walking around in the rain all we wanted to do was snuggle up on the couch with some good Chinese take out. This was not it. But as Chris pointed out, "At least it was better than the Chinese food we had in Ireland."
Our last stop before heading to Morocco was Evora, Portugal, another place we had heard about through the Year to Think Blog. I had spent a couple of days researching hotels, but kept circling back to L’AND, a vineyard just outside of town in the hamlet of Alentejo. Designed by the Portuguese firm promontorio, the hotel is made up of a central house with spa, indoor pool, winery facilities, award-winning restaurant and lounge, as well as 22 separate villas flanked by an outdoor pool, vineyards and a made make lake. The kids can have their Marriott Marbella family resorts with screaming kids and chicken nuggets. This was the kind of place Chris and I love, beautiful architecture, great food and wine, and lots of quiet unspoilt nature. It was also twice the daily budget, which meant it was definitely out of our bounds. But after our bout of fast travel, with the insanity of Marrakech looming in the near future, I figured we could all use a little decompression so I went ahead and bit the bullet, booking us a two bedroom villa.
It was everything I’d hoped. The grapes had already been harvested and the sky remained reliably gray, but the white concrete hotel still managed to stand stark and stunning. Our huge villa was a study in restrained mid-century modern design, with a dining/living area separating two luxurious suites. While some of the smaller villas offered private plunge pools and sky views (retractable bedroom ceilings so you can sleep under the stars), we opted for the huge private terrace and outdoor fireplace. We had a great time. Oona loved the black tiled indoor pool. Isoo loved birding the vineyards. We rode bikes around the grounds and played pick-up sticks by the fire in the lounge. Chris and I were treated to a private wine tasting. After our delicious multi-course dinner we retired to our villa.
Earlier that day, Oona had called from the bathroom, “Um, can someone please come here? I think there’s something wrong with the toilet.” No good ever comes from these words. Chris called Not It!, but it turned out nothing was wrong. The toilet was one of those smart thrones with heated seats and multiple washing and drying functions. As I unpacked the kids’ toothbrushes, I couldn’t resist giving it a try. I hollered and squealed from the bathroom, which of course, made the kids come running. For the next half hour, the kids took turns getting their butt sprayed and dried, giggling like mad as they roasted their thighs on the warm toilet seat. When Chris came in for the third time, he was pretty annoyed. He hollered something about it being 11pm and didn’t I think it was about time I stopped messing around and put the kids to bed? To which I hollered back something about him being a spoil sport and it not being 1952 and if he wanted the kids to go to bed he could you know, maybe have a hand in it instead of just sitting by the fire. He hollered that he had made the fire in the hope that we could enjoy it together after the kids were in bed. I said something about maybe wanting to spend more time with him if he helped out everyone once in awhile by unpacking the pajamas. You can see where this is going. In its most heated moment, Chris put on his shoes, threatened to get another villa, and in the morning, put us on another plane without him. The kids cried so loud I’m sure it woke up every last grape on the vineyard.
Lillian writes, “I just caught up with your blog last night…I love reading it, but it does make me wonder how you ‘really’ are.
It's true. This blog has not been up to my usual standards of full disclosure. I’ve sat down multiple times to write, and then end up scrapping all of it, opting instead to post pictures. Writing has become a painful process for so many reasons, least of which is that I don’t quite know how I ‘really’ am.
I do wonder at the wisdom of this trip. What made me think that I would have the stamina to be rootless for so long? How did I think Chris and I could grow closer when we have so little private time together? What made me think I’d have time to write when I’m full time mom, travel agent, tour guide, housekeeper, teacher, playmate? Why did I think I even wanted to write when clearly I’d had years of time and material and never opted to produce a single thing? What if I’d spent all these years thinking that a life of travel was what I wanted, only to get it and find its not what its cracked up to be? What if all I really want to do is go home? Am I just one of those people who can never be happy? What if three months into this adventure, I still have no idea who that person in the reflection is supposed to be? What if I come back as the exact same person I was before we left?
You can see now why I prefer to just post pictures.
So Lil, how am I really? Sometimes I’m homesick, desperate to wake up in my own bed and open my eyes to see the trees outside the window of our old house. Sometimes I hate every member of my idiot family. I really miss running. I miss being alone. I miss eating whatever kind of food I want in the best freaking country in the world. I miss supermarkets and having a stocked fridge and stupid stuff like Grey’s Anatomy. I miss having six hours of no one talking to me five times a week. I miss not having to worry about a budget. Sometimes I wonder if this was worth having cashed out our savings. But most of all I know I am incredibly lucky, something I constantly have to remind myself. And most of the time, I truly believe it.
By the time Chris and I made up, the fireplace was bone cold. The kids had fallen asleep on their tear-stained pillows. As we sank our war weary bodies into 1,000-thread count sheets I realized that it was the longest uninterrupted talk we’d had in months. In the heat of battle, I had told Chris that I was sick and tired of planning the whole trip and taking care of everyone. I accused him of ruining what was supposed to be the one rare (incredibly expensive) perfect retreat. "One day, I’m going to remarry a fat, old dude who’s going to take care of me and we’re coming back here!" I'd threatened.
In the morning, we slinked red-cheeked to the dining hall, sure that all of the other guests had overheard our argument. We ate our breakfast quickly and packed the car for the drive to Lisbon airport. Slamming the trunk shut, Chris turned to me, grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “I would like to be the fat, old dude that takes care of you. We’ll be back, OK?”
So, till next time, L’AND Vineyard. Meanwhile, see you in Morocco.
L'AND Vineyard Main House
View from our villa.
Our terrace with the fireplace (which I hear is very nice).
Our living room.
It's all your fault!
Riding around the vineyard.
Reading by the fire.
Almost got a bite.
Right after Halloween, we filed into the car and drove an hour to Casares for a brilliant lunch at the lovely Venta Garcia - a shining oasis in the middle of the Andalusian desert. It’s a smart little restaurant with gorgeous farm views and a hip outdoor bar serving tasty cocktails. It was such a welcome departure from the gas station tabernas with their plastic chairs and beer only menus. Isoo was dying to bird the Sierra Crestlellina, but due to Chris’ insistence on spontaneity, we couldn’t find the trail head and ended up hiking to the Casares’ castle ruins instead. Isoo lucked out and found a cluster of swallows nesting on the side of the cliff. The views were gorgeous and renewed our waning love for Pueblo Blancos and Southern Spain.
Swallows nesting on the cliffside.
View from the top of town.
The ruins of Casares Castle.
Lunch mates at Casares.
WHERE WE ATE:
Great views and halfway between Ronda and Marbella, it gets it's fair share of expats and Brits. The staff is very welcoming, the food is good, the views and ambiance are even better. Not necessarily fancy, but it feels like a treat. The steak is the best thing on the menu (skip the Andalusian special).
A couple of days later we were packed once again, driving the 2.5 hours to Granada to see the Alhambra. The day of our departure, the temperature dropped dramatically. Fall had finally reached Cortes and that morning I had to frantically unpack the last suitcase with our heavy clothes and jackets. Trying on my long shirts and pants, I looked into the mirror, something I had not done in the months during this trip as rural life doesn’t require much dressing up. I was surprised by what I saw: The streak of white hair at the part longer and wider, the furrows between the brows deeper, the bags under my eyes more prominent. As I sat in the car, twisting and turning our way to Granada, it dawned on me that I was standing at the threshold of what I would look like for the next 20 years. It was an early shade, no doubt, but nonetheless, she was there, devoid of 20-something blush, the one the kids will one day refer to as “mom when she was young.” I couldn’t help, but wonder who this reflection was hinting at.
The last time we were at the Alhambra, we’d only been married 5 years. We were still childless and so deeply mired in wanderlust that we wondered if we would ever have kids. We had been traveling for almost three months when we finally got to Granada. By then our funds were already so thin we could only afford a crummy one star hotel just off the Plaza Nueva. But we didn’t need much; we were happy to eat jamon sandwich after jamon sandwich, making do with a park bench and a patch of sunlight as our amusement. Soon after we ran out of cash and returned to Chicago. Nine months later, Isoo was born.
The visit to the Alhambra this time with the kids was pretty much the same as our first. We toured the Palacios Nazaries, strolled the Generalife, marveled at the upright hedges, balanced atop the ruins of the ancient bath. We even took the same pictures, posing one hand on the hip, the other on the hedge. It was like things had never changed. I felt, inside, that I had never changed. The same wanderlust. Feeling very much the young woman who wanted nothing more than to see the world.
Isoo trying to bird along the hedges of the Alhambra.
Exploring the amazing architecture of Palacios Nazaries. (They make you wear your backpacks backwards so you don't accidentally scratch the walls).
The fountains that feed the gorgeous gardens.
This little patch of ceiling is made up of 5,000 pieces. Seriously.
I know you are having a hard time trying to figure out which one is now and which was taken 13 years ago. But I swear, I still feel the same on the inside.
That night we decided to acclimate the children to Spanish time and kept them up late for a proper 10pm dinner at La Botilleria. Ha! Truth is we just got really lost, couldn’t find a place to eat and the kids ended up falling asleep in their desserts. The next day, after a groggy morning, we took a cab ride to the top of Mirador San Nicolas and then wound our way down the Albyzan, hugging the river and stopping to take pictures along the cobblestoned Carrera del Darro before picking up Moroccan sweets on Calle Caldereria Nueva.
Oona gets a quick castanets lesson at Mirador San Nicolas.
Walking the teensy streets of the Albyzan.
Trying to convince me to buy her a traditional Moroccan drum. What? I was born yesterday?
Getting a taste of Morocco on Calle Caldereria Nueva: Beautiful almond birds nests above and Horns of Gazelles (Isoo's favorite) below. Oona biting into a chocolate tart.
WHAT WE DID:
Order tickets at least a couple of weeks in advance and get there early to snag parking. The food is rubbish so eat first and wear good shoes to take in the extensive grounds. A more rewarding visit if you purchase a book and do your research first. The gift shop has a great selection of English language guidebooks.
WHERE WE ATE:
We searched out many other too crowded restaurants first. Sometimes you don't get what you want, but you do get what you need: A quiet, warm table where we could sit down, friendly-service and huge portions. Done.
Practically the entire menu consists of fried fish. Hell yeah! Also, very conveniently located off Plaza Nueva. And the place is sleek and the staff is very nice. You get free fried sardines with your beer order and the racione portions are HUGE. So yes, go here.
WHERE WE STAYED:
Gran Hotel Luna de Granada
OK, I booked this totally inconveniently located hotel because (wait for it...) it had a pool. The world's tiniest most freezing pool. They also don't provide blankets. When I called to request some, they said they don't put blankets on the bed in Spain. What? Oh, and the 19-year old bartender came over to ask Oona, "How do you like your hot chocolate? We didn't have any chocolate so I put Nutella in your milk. Good, right?" No, not really. Thank God, she doesn't have a nut allergy.
By the time we made it back home, we’d already decided that there was too much out there to see to waste any more time hanging out in dinky Cortes. Yes, we’d paid for the month, but we’d seen everything we wanted in the vicinity. Frankly, our stay in Cortes nearly sucked the love of Spain out of me. Despite weeks of shopping the same markets, Chris playing in the men’s soccer league, and greeting every passerby and shopkeeper with a cheerful “buenos dias”, the locals were uninterested in sharing in even the most basic rituals of polite interaction. We cheerfully carried baby buggies up stairs, held doors for the elderly, waited patiently for the butcher to serve us last. We smiled at grubby children, passed out candy, went to the local ham and Halloween festivals, busted out (and self-mocked) every ounce of our terrible Spanish. Yet the server at the local restaurant still groaned inwardly upon our arrival, the thought bubble reading: “Oh not these fools again, with their terrible Spanish and weird questions. They are just not worth the trouble.” It was abundantly clear why the expats were such at close group. The locals had no interest in befriending outsiders. When I’d asked Ikuko if she had many Spanish friends, she said, “Oh yes,” to which Alex quickly corrected, “There is a difference between knowing people and being their friend.”
We called Saul, packed our bags and quickly sketched out a new itinerary. Before we left, we had one last lovely supper in Casares, where Jesus, the owner of Venta Garcia, sent us on our journey with a bottle of wine.
Last photo on the patio. Chris and I found Cortes depressing, but the kids enjoyed the slow pace and freedom to walk themselves to the supermercado and the candy lady. Despite being unfamiliar with the language, currency and town, they both did great. Everyone loved the house. Isoo, especially will miss vulture spotting over breakfast.
By the time we rolled into Seville, we were ready to stretch our legs and headed straight for Plaza de Espana to ride bikes around Maria Luisa Park. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the park was crowded with well-heeded Spanish families enjoying the perfect weather. It was not uncommon to see an 8-seat bike trolley packed with peddling uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents and a pair of tiny tots eating cotton candy perched up front. Afterwards they would gather under the kiosks, tables pulled together to enjoy a mid-day cerveza while the kids chased pigeons. It was a lovely treat just to see people, families especially and kids playing in the sun. With so much of our trip in the countryside (Ireland and Cortes), we’ve been fairly isolated, and with the local children busy at school, Oona especially has missed seeing kids around.
Isoo was itching to steer the bike despite the rule that you had to be 16. The bike is very heavy, the park was super crowded, and Isoo loves to drive fast and loose so it made perfectly good sense to hand over the wheel. He couldn't resist photobombing Oona.
Balloon hawkers in Plaza de Espana. Dora and Spongebob say "hi".
Plaza de Espana - how did I not remember this?????
Yes, there are still rowboats. And lots of fan sellers. You half expect Princess Leia to show up.
After the bike ride, we picnicked in the park and walked around the Plaza. Although Chris and I had been to Seville before (and loved it), our memories of the city were at best vague. But this time, I will undoubtedly remember the Metropol Parasol, a massive wooden structure consisting of six mushroom shaped parasols. Designed by German architect Jurgen Mayer-Hermann, the project took six years to complete and cost 100 million dollars (twice the anticipated budget). The views were stunning and the kids had a great time running up and down the ramps while Chris and I took photographs and drank terrible mojitos on the terrace.
Isoo hates being photographed, but I couldn't resist this shot in the elevator of the Metropol Parasol. He even looks appropriately dressed for the space-aged mirrors.
After the Parasol, we walked Barrio Santa Cruz, winding around the little cobbled-stone streets to La Casa del Flamenco, a tiny courtyard where we saw our first flamenco show. There were four performers in all: the tall, stoic flamenco guitarist; the short, soulful singer who looked like he’s just come off a bender; a young male dancer with the tiniest butt I’ve ever seen; and a solid, tough looking woman in her mid 50s. All of them were fantastic, the woman especially, who literally stomped out an amazing performance. The kids were riveted, fascinated by the moany, emotional singing, the nimble guitar playing and the impassioned dancing. I had tried to convince Oona to take a flamenco dance class with me, but she had declined. The show changed her mind, but alas, it was too late for a booking.
The next morning we went back to the old town to squeeze in a quick lunch at Bodega Santa Cruz with all of the other tourists and locals in Seville. A note about tapas bars. While the idea of standing at a crowded bar throwing back tiny glasses of beer and chatting over small plates of food speared with toothpicks may appeal to adults, the kids really, really hated it. They were too short to see over the bar, didn’t like the mayonnaisey food, and could never find a place to stand without being in the way. They desperately wanted to sit down at a proper table and eat an entrée with a fork and knife, napkin in their laps. Frankly, if we never see another jamon bocadillo again we would be alright.
A last look at Seville Catedral.
WHAT WE DID:
Plaza de Espana/Maria Luisa Park
This square is actually a beautiful semi-circle on the edge of Maria Luisa Park. Flanked by two towers, gorgeous tile work, a series of bridges and a little man-made pond to paddle boats across. The park also offers bike rentals, several playgrounds and a pond filled with overfed ducks. Fun for the whole family.
Seville, wonderful as it is, doesn't have an Alhambra. The Parasol really seals the deal in keeping the city memorable. In my opinion the fantastic architecture, stunning views and the little basement museum are worth the steep construction costs.
The world's largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world. Incredibly ornate and breathtaking in scale. I saw a group of teenage Sevillian boys meet up for a Friday night outing in front of the church. I mean, how lucky are they to have this amazing landmark in their city? To think, the kids at home meet up at the Cinemark or 7-Eleven.
La Casa del Flamenco
No one wanted to go to this show, but me so I searched long and hard for one that would hold everyone's attention. This it did! The performances were so impassioned and intense and there was no way you could fall asleep amidst all the stomping. The one hour length and intimate stage also added to the focus.
WHERE WE ATE:
Osteria L'Oca Giuliva
Best Italian food we had on the trip so far. Rome, you'll have to bring it! Great location in the Barrio Santa Cruz, cute room, hardworking, though very harried staff. Sort of pricey, but worth the cost.
Bodega Santa Cruz
Everyone, and I mean, everyone, goes here. Overflowing with locals, tourists, families, etc. But I didn't really get it. The tapas were just fine. And the place is desperate for more seating. Service was absolutely unhelpful and indifferent. Or maybe I'm just saying this because by week three, I was really, really sick of tapas.
WHERE WE STAYED:
Apartamentos Tempa Museo
Hmm, another swimming pool fiasco (actually, a large, unheated rooftop hot tub). If you're booking for a pool, views, a quiet night's sleep or roomy bedrooms, don't bother. But the location is good, at $100 for a fully-outfitted 3 bedroom apartment the price is exceptional, and the staff is very nice. You could do better, but it was everything we needed for our quick visit. http://www.apartamentostempamuseo.com
After a jam-packed 36 hours in Seville, we were back in the car headed for Madrid. We arrived an hour and a half later than expected, waylayed by GPS malfunction and parking garage woes. I have to say, of all the discomforts of travel – language barrier and long sleepless flights included, the one that causes Chris the most stress is navigating the streets and parking spots of big cities. Madrid had to be the worst. We booked a last minute apartment in a bustling pedestrian area, which meant that we couldn’t park near the apartment and had to drag five suitcases and three backpacks several blocks through downtown Madrid in the dark. Chris, desperate to get out of the car, drove into what he thought was the closest parking lot, only to learn upon entry, that it was a long walk to the apartment. We immediately circled around and headed for the exit, assuming that there would no parking fee. Of course, we got to the exit only to learn we had to pay 10 cents. Chris inserted cash. No dice. He inserted his credit card. Nothing. The little arm still would not go up. He pressed the talk button and the speaker crackled to life with a man hollering in very fast, animated Spanish. By then there was a long que, annoyed Spaniards honking their horn, cursing the stupid Americans who had trapped them in a downtown parking garage during rush hour. A nice gentleman in the car behind us finally came over to help, translating the staticy instructions and directing the long line of cars in a backwards parade, and then sent us to the pay box in the back of the building.
By the time we got to the apartment we were famished. We dropped our bags in a heap and headed out to walk the 20 minutes to a Korean restaurant I had read about online. We were all so happy to be freed from the car, in the crisp night air, the street bustling with people. I nearly jumped for joy when we had to stop at a cross walk, so grateful to be in a big city again.
We arrived at the empty Dimibang restaurant just as it started to rain. Pin-quiet and devoid of music, we felt suddenly loud and clumsy as we shrugged off our damp jackets and pulled out chairs, even more so when I tried to bust out my Korean to order our dinner. But the Korean owner made us feel welcome: friendly, forgiving of both my horrible Spanish and Korean, bringing us extra food, free desserts and fawning over the children. Dinner was fantastic. We were all happily cozy and sated, but I was surprised by how deeply it felt familiar. Not only was I comforted by the language and the tastes and smells, but I was surprised by my eagerness to connect with this woman, and she to me. During our dinner she told me her story: In Korea, she had married a famous martial arts expert with whom she toured the world. While in Madrid, they decided to divorce. Despite knowing no Spanish, she and their two daughters ended up staying in Madrid. That was 36 years ago. Spain is her home now, even though she wishes her girls could speak Korean. I told her I immigrated to the States 31 years ago and can barely speak Korean myself. We are a generation apart, living on different continents, and yet, I felt I knew her. There is a short hand, a feeling specific to immigrants who share not just a home country, but a home country once removed. None of us wanted to leave and on our way out, Isoo asked, “Can we come back tomorrow?”
Dimibang got a thumbs up from everyone. If you're in Madrid, please go!
We only had one full day in Madrid, so we packed it in. Chris and I went back to the Prado, promising the kids some great art. Isoo was entranced by Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and Joachim Patinir’s Landscape with Charon Crossing the River Styx. Oona’s favorite was Velazquez’s Las Meninas. We might make art lovers out of them yet! After our full morning at the museum, we walked to Chocolateria San Gines for their world famous hot chocolate and churros. The place smelled of the heavenly intersection of hot oil and chocolate. How do you make a great thing even better? Douse it in powdered sugar. Properly buzzed we ducked out of the rain and hopped a cab to Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for a tour of Real Madrid’s home turf. Chris was pretty grumpy when he learned that the cab ride and entrance fee totaled nearly a $100. “We’re not even watching a real game!” he groused. But the tour ended up being really cool, filled with high-tech imagery of player stats, a walk through the massive trophy room, a glimpse of the locker room, VIP seats, press room and of course a run through the player’s tunnel onto the pitch. The kids loved it and even I got a little choked up over the club’s long and prestigious history and sense of honor.
Perfect way to spend a wet, rainy morning in Madrid - exploring the masterpieces at the Prado.
San Gines is famous for its churros and hot chocolate. Just ask Javier Bardem and Joan Collins.
Isoo was appalled that one cup of hot chocolate came with 6 churros. We couldn't eat more than a handful between us. We definitely need to stay in Madrid longer and work up our churros stamina.
Drying the pitch at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Just a handful of the HUNDREDS of Real Madrid trophies on display.
In the locker room. Isoo really wanted to sit on the bench at Ronaldo's locker and soak up a bit of his winning sweat.
The coaches seats of the player's den. Explaining their hopes for the season on the Press Room.
This kind of thing always gets to me. I can never get through a sports movie without bawling.
Hoping to coax Chris out of his sour mood, we stopped the cab at the first swanky cocktail bar we could find. Ana la Santa was the home of the only good martini I’ve had on this entire trip. The kids made themselves at home over the chess board and Chris and I sat in a banquette pretending we had babysitters and drinking the last of our day’s budget.
A note about the budget. This Spring, while Chris was still gainfully employed, we managed to prepay for housing in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Rome. This has allowed for us to use the entire $250 daily allowance on food, entertainment and local transportation, which was certainly more than we’d needed for Ireland and Cortes, and enough to cover the occasional resort splurge. But as we added the fast travel Spain portion at the last minute, we were, for the first time, feeling the pinch of having to pay for housing out of our per diem, something we considered while carting our bucket of KFC fried chicken home in the rain.
How to make a modest dinner memorable? Eat it while rubbernecking a Hunger Games premiere! We came home and opened our balcony doors to find that Finnick from Mockingjay was arriving for the Madrid showing. Oona and I camped out at the window, watching the crowds gather and then stayed up late viewing the first installment on my laptop.
What are the chances that you rent an apartment in Madrid at the last minute and it just so happens that your kid's favorite movie series premieres in the plaza right outside? Talk about dumb luck! Oona was just a tiny bit excited.
The next day we finally got a break from the rain so decided to run the kids in the park before piling back into the car. Chris and I had previously been to the Retiro, so I suggested we try out Madrid Rio, a 10-kilometer park running along the newly revitalized riverside. Of course we got hideously lost and then couldn’t for the life of us figure out how to work the parking meters. (Who the heck would have guessed that you had to input your license plate number into the ticket box?) We had lost nearly the entire morning driving around and when we finally got to the park we were disappointed to find that the advertised 11 play spaces were already a bit run down and so distantly spaced that we spent more time walking from one to the other than actually playing. But it did its job - sufficiently wearing us out in time to get back into the car for the nearly 7 hour drive to Porto, Portugal.
Top: The cool tunnels of Madrid Rio.
Bottom: One of several play spaces in Madrid Rio. This and the slides were Oona's favorites.
WHERE WE STAYED:
We booked a last minute two bedroom apartment on Airbnb. Super clean. Little kitchenette, dining/living, modern bath, two balconies, and great size bedrooms. The location was wonderful and lots of great shops, transportation and dining options nearby. Oona's only negative: "The art in the bedrooms are totally inappropriate!" (see below).
WHAT WE DID:
Museo del Prado
What is there to say? It's the freaking Prado! How many days do you have to spend here? Raphael, Fra Angelico, Hieronymous Bosch, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Rubens, Goya, Velazques, Ribera and so many more. Bring a pillow and get comfy.
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
I like watching my 11-year old play soccer and no one else, but this was pretty cool. Your soccer nuts will love it.
Madrid Rio Park
Dear Madrid Rio,
There is no good information on the internet about where to find you, where the play spaces are located and where to eat. Really, get it together. You are a major city that just invested a shitload of money in a huge revitalization project. Figure out how to promote the park and then stay on top of maintenance. Plus, some public bathrooms would be nice. Also, maybe invest in some bike rentals so we don't have to walk all 10-kilometers to see the park.
P.S. Even your URL is ridiculous. Get on it.
WHERE WE ATE:
While not the best bulbogi I've ever had, everything else comes pretty close. The service and flavors are right on. Mom couldn't have done better.
Chocolateria San Gines
The hot chocolate was not chocolatey enough. #morewhitepeopleproblems #andi'mnotevenwhite
Ana la Santa
We couldn't find anything we wanted to eat on the menu, but the room is so spacious, comfortable and hip in a casual way that we didn't care. Plus the cocktails are great and the service is friendly. And they have a chessboard!
By the time we got to Bilbao, Chris had officially lost his mind and was so frustrated with the Googlemaps lady’s poor direction giving that he ended up mistaking sidewalk for street and literally drove around a pedestrian plaza convinced it was a parking spot. After the 7 hour drive Chris was in no mood for my and the kids’ teasing. We ditched the car at the wonderful Melia Bilbao and walked across town to Artxanda, a restaurant I had seen on the A Year to Think blog. Watch this and tell me you wouldn’t go.
Sadly, it sucked. Oona actually cried when her steak came to the table raw for the second time. I couldn’t get past a couple of bites of my dinner. We were in such a foul mood that despite the gorgeous walk home along the river, Chris and I got into a huge fight and went to bed hungry and angry. I love the excitement of fast travel, but it definitely increases the stress level. With only so much time at each location the stakes are high to get it right.
The next morning things were brighter. After gorging ourselves on the hotel breakfast buffet we walked to the Guggenheim Bilbao. New favorite museum alert! With the exception of the asshole staff that followed my kids around the entire time, I loved everything about the museum. It was absolutely worth the long drive just to see Frank Gehry’s creation and the tidy, well-curated collection. The kids were very excited by Richard Serra’s massive installation of steel curves and canyons (which may have accounted for the extra attention from the staff). Even the tapas in the casual museum cafeteria were pieces of art. The city is just beautiful – amazing public art, glistening river, proud, friendly Catalan people. To think, just 20 years ago the city was strictly industrial, with pollutants from the factories trapped by the mountains so that it settled in the valley, choking the river and making it inhabitable for any fish or water life. Since the opening of the Guggenheim, the city has made huge strides to clean up the river and bolster tourism. Nowadays Bilbao’s primary economy is the service industry. Hortence, an employee of the Melia and life-time resident of the area said the difference is astounding and then boasted that his home town just outside the city is even more beautiful. Clearly it’s an area to which I need to return.
Perfectly gorgeous views of the Guggenheim Bilbao and the river wasted on hangry people.
Anish Kapoor's Tall Tree and the Eye
Louise Bourgeois’ Maman. Checking in at nearly 30 feet tall.
The World's Largest Chia Pet! Jeff Koons' Puppy (yes, the flowers are real).
"Tulips" also by Koons
Richard Serra's sculptures. Wow.
Bilbao Circle by Richard Long.
That night we went to the city’s old town, Casco Viejo for dinner at the remarkable Gyre Toki. Here’s the thing about Spanish food. There are several traditional categories: Tapas, Pintxos, Pinchos. Pintxos are a Basque thing – basically food pierced with a toothpick on toast. To make things confusing, sometimes they aren’t pierced, but definitely served on sliced baguette. Tapas are small snacky portions which accompany your drink order in Granada. They are free, except when they are not, like pretty much anywhere else in Spain. A pincho is like a pintxo except it always consists of meat, bread, toothpick and is free, that is unless you are outside of Salmanca in which case you better cough up the dough. Got it?
Here is my totally unofficial, admittedly ignorant take on the variations: Tapas are small share plates eaten as a snack. Real Spaniards do not eat tapas for dinner. They show up around 9:00, stand at the bar with a beer or glass of wine and absentmindedly pick at one little tapas plate while they talk and then promptly move on. If you show up at 7:30 when the staff is still setting up, order 30 tapas and 2 bottles of wine and inhale every little bite of food like you are starving and need to get the kids to bed pronto, you will reek of America. Don’t do this. Your server will love you, but you will be an embarrassment and fail at adopting to the ways of the Spanairds. Pinxtos are waaaaay more interesting. Beautiful pieces of art constructed on a slab of bread so delicious that you will forgo your low carb diet. Sometimes toothpicked, sometimes not. But you will know the difference because it is way freaking better than a tapas and better yet, not meant to be shared. Racione is a full size dinner portion of one item, to which I say, where is my vegetable and carb? I mean, who can eat just a giant plate of fried sardines for dinner? A half racione is more civilized unless, like me, you keep ordering the full racione because your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Oh dear. It’s a wonder I haven’t gained 100 lbs.
Wait, where was I? Oh yes, Gyre Toki, home of the best pintxos. And hands down my favorite meal in my entire month of Spain.
WHERE WE STAYED:
One of the nicest hotels in which we've stayed. Beautiful spaces, great rooms and wonderful people. Plus it's only 300 feet from the Guggenheim with fantastic river views and loads of parks nearby. The kids loved the tiny, heated pool and Chris got took a great run along the river.
WHAT WE DID:
We spent so much time here there wasn't much left to do anything else. After we got our fill of art, we went next door to the Ona cafe, bought a glass of wine and let the kids go wild in the cool climbing playground while we contemplated the architecture from outside. Perfect day.
WHERE WE ATE:
Go early, walk up to the glass case filled with beautifully crafted pintxos and just point. Or in our case, go late, luck out snagging one of the two tables and have your really cute, English speaking server bring you two of everything. Make sure to get the short ribs and the fried shrimp atop calamari stuffed with spicy sausage on bread.
We've been so busy and doing so much that I've barely had time to ruminate over our experiences. So I'm not even going to try. Sometimes it's OK to just be in the moment and enjoy it.
WHAT WE DID:
Cuevo del Gato
We drove to nearby Benaojan, parked at the train station and then hiked the long dusty trail along the river and past rural hotels to a partially collapsed footbridge. We ignored the danger signs and hiked to another bridge that took us under a viaduct and then a cave opening shaped like a cat’s head (I don't see it, but whatever). The waterfall spouted ice cold, crystal clear water into a large, sun dappled leafy pool. It was like something out of a fantasy.
It's not a hike with Chris unless you pass a few of these signs. Good thing we don't read Spanish, right?
This is Chris contemplating a dive: Just how deep is the water? If I hit rock, could Cheong pull me out? Where is the nearest hospital anyway? And if she dragged me back the 2 miles to the car, she couldn't even manage the stick shift. I'd be a goner for sure. Oh forget it.
Climbing to the cave. More ignored signs, this time to identify a bird's nest near the opening.
Fishing for leaves. The kids had such a good time at Cuevo del Gato that Chris and the kids went back the next day.
Drinks with Alex and Ikuko
Ikuko is Japanese, but her husband was working for an Aussie firm that transferred him to Cortes. When they got divorced, he left, but she decided to stay. She’s been here for 12 years. I’m not quite sure what her deal is – she rents a small apartment to the handful of Japanese tourists that pass through Cortes each year and has a mysterious business in HK. But mostly she sits at Bar Pay Pay drinking beer and keeping Alex company while he throws back glass after glass of red wine.
Alex on the other hand is as forthcoming as Ikuko is mysterious. A British expat who has been traveling the world for 25 years. He’s been everywhere, done everything, living on very little and getting by on his charm. At 46 he’s been four times engaged, most recently to a woman in England. A couple of years ago his aunt left him a 10,000GBP inheritance. He took the money, bought a horse trailer (which he renovated and now lives in), and parked it on one hectare of Cortes land. He called fiancé #4 to join him, but alas, she had met someone else. He used the rest of the money to buy 100 oak trees which he infused with truffle spores, the get rich slow scheme being that in 10 years the trees will grow tall enough to host truffles that he will then cultivate, harvest and sell all over Europe. Ikuko rolls her eyes as Alex relays his plan. As he waits for his trees to grow, he sits at Pay Pay or the Petrol Station and drinks his eyes red and his teeth purple, and makes hilarious, sad, lustful comments about the small population of women that pass by. Oh and also, he’s written a book, which I dare say, is pretty good. http://www.amazon.com/Cursive-Alex-Wyndham-Baker/dp/1908122218/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid
A word about Cortes: I am not exaggerating when I say there is nothing to do here. The way that Alex tells it, there is a well-traveled ring of Pueblo Blancos. I’m sure you’ve been to some: Arcos de la Frontera, Casares, Grazalema, Ronda, Gaucin. The cluster of white houses shining in the valley, bougainvillea dripping down the Moorish corridors, quaint local shops, tourists wandering the shiny cobblestone paths, the terra cotta roofs, wrought iron balconies and the charming wooden siesta shutters. Then, smack in the middle is Cortes. The only ones that venture here are the ones that have lost their way, took a wrong turn on the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos. It’s true that the Oficina de Turismo is manned by a 16 year old. The day we visited, he was wearing a Boy Scout looking vest and simultaneously babysitting his little brother. He, like everyone else, speaks no English, but is pleasant as he hands over a map of the mountains and little else. In a country with a 25% unemployment rate, Cortes tops out at 50%, the cork trees in the valley being the town’s major source of income. But harvest season runs only two short months out of the year, which means a second job must be secured for the remaining ten months. It’s no wonder that the town has only four restaurants, but 22 bars.
When I ask Alex, how he could have traveled all over the world to end up at Cortes, he says, despite the local population that fornicates with the animals, despite the Spanish having no sense of humor, he loves Cortes because the living is easy. The wine really is cheaper than water and lunch, as in Ikuko’s case, can be had in a simple 1E chorizo sandwich. In all there are 20 of them in the village and another 30 in the valley; the Expat community tight as a knot and according to Ikuko, gossipy as sisters. Most of them unmarried, no kids, long-time residents muddling around in middle age. Aside from the obvious drinking, I can't help wonder how they idle their days.
Alex suggests we meet at the train station for a cerveza and then walk five miles to the next stop for another cerveza. As he puts it, “If you drive, the beer is good, but if you walk, the beer is excellent.” A hot, dusty walk along train tracks for a beer? I bristle at the efficiency of it. Did I mention there's not much to do here?
Estepona is the smaller, laid back cousin of Marbella on Spain’s Costa de Sol. It’s less touristy and glitzy than Marbella, which I prefer. I had heard they had an International School so we drove down hoping for some luck finding Halloween costumes. Not only did we get costumes, but we hit the jackpot with Spain's best supermercado yet. But first we walked the Old Town, had a long, leisurely lunch, shopped and went to the beach. Along the way we looked for the giant murals on the city’s mural walk.
Checking out Estepona's Beach Promenade.
Isoo and Chris on the rocky beach.
The jamon selection at the Estepona market. This beats the deli counter at Jewel.
The citywide art project showcases 22 murals (and counting) by local Spanish artists. Stop by the Visitor Center for a map of the route.
Each street in the Old Town features flowerpots of a different color. Left: Orange street. Right: Purple street.
Restaurante los Rosales
It's hard to get the kids to sit still in the middle of the day so our long, leisurely lunch was a real treat. Restaurante los Rosales is located off the main square in the heart of Old Town Estepona. The weather was perfect, we sat at a canopied table in a charming, cobblestoned street ladened with hanging flowerpots. Isoo ate an entire, fresh caught fish. Oona ate four pork chops. After the World's Best Rice Pudding our waiter brought out a Spanish limoncello dessert drink for Chris and I to taste while an accordion player serenaded the kids. Perfect.
Parque Natural los Alcornocales
Saul told us about the “vulture restaurants” in this stunning forest dense with cork trees. Nope, they are not restaurants that serve vulture, but in fact, restaurants that cater to vultures. Twice weekly local farmers, hunters, butchers and restauranteurs dispose of carcasses in a government controlled dump. Hundreds of Griffon, Egyptian, Black and Ruppell’s vultures blacken the sky as they descend. Or so we were told. Unfortunately, the feedings are not posted so the viewings are hit or miss, but we did spy many vultures flying overhead as we hiked the cork forests anyway.
The cork is scored and removed by hand, and then the trees marked with a number to indicate the next time it can be harvested. Cork trees are sustainable and can be reharvested every 10-12 years without injury to the tree. You can tell by the wet, dark bark that these trees were likely farmed this summer.
The cork is then used in bottling, flooring, for shoes, coasters, etc. The industry has recently come under duress as man-made alternatives to cork stoppers have gained in popularity, threatening not only the livelihood of the cork farmers, but the wildlife such as the Iberian lynx, Barbary deer and numerous bird species that live in the forest.
Taberna de Flores
Ali, Saul's girlfriend, had suggested we check out Taberna de Flores in Colmenar after our hike through the cork forest to sample their delicious cheesecake. Unfortunately, we got there just after the chef left for his afternoon nap. A note about small town Andalusia - it takes its siesta culture seriously. I once went into a store at 1:28pm and the shopkeeper escorted me out 2 minutes later, slamming the gate behind me. The streets go quiet and nothing opens back up till 5:30pm. We haven't quite adapted to the culture so we typically use this time to hike, wander a nearby town or hit the beach. Fortunately, they never stop pouring wine.
Cooking Class with Alex and Mar
While sightseeing Ronda, we had popped into a new Spanish language school I had read about on Tripadvisor. I was hoping for a one hour drop in class to give us a chance to brush up on our basics, but when we walked into the happy, sunlight space and got to chatting with Mar, the owner, we had a change of plans. A week later we returned for a four hour private gardening session with her business partner/boyfriend, Alex (not to be confused with British Cortes Alex), followed by a cooking class at their apartment, and a lunch overlooking the Ronda mountains. Alex took us to the local community garden where we gathered herbs and vegetables for our lunch, teaching us the Spanish words for the ingredients along the way. Then we walked a short distance to their very cute apartment and had cervezas and jamon on the terrace before we got to the business of cooking. Mar and the kids made Salmorejo (basically a gazpacho that’s blended and topped with chopped hard boiled eggs) while Chris and I made a traditional Spanish Tortilla and Stuffed Mushroom Caps. For dessert Mar made homemade yogurt and laid out an assortment of cheese with local honey and fruit. We drank a fantastic bottle of wine they flinched from their friend’s vineyard across the valley. I know. Ridiculous.
Their school, Escuela Entrelenguas, had started as a one-time project hosting and teaching a group of foreign exchange students on a month-long trip to Ronda. Four months later, Mar and Alex are still in business. No surprise; they are a wonderful couple – smart, fun, energetic, ambitious and genuinely kind. There is not a false note about them. We had such a great time in their beautiful home, cooking and eating amazing food. You can feel the enthusiasm, preparation and pride they put into the class. I highly recommend a visit to their school.
And while their typical cooking classes take place in the school at 8pm, they made the exception for us and hosted lunch at their apartment on their day off just to accommodate the kids early bedtime. Crazy, right? There is something special about visiting a local's home. You get a real sense of how one lives, who they are, and deeper insight into the culture. That’s probably why this and the visit to Madeline’s house in Ireland, were so important and memorable for me.
By the way, my Spanish still sucks, but it has less to do with the teacher than the hard headed student.
Chris and Alex harvesting pimientos and herbs for lunch.
Getting ready to cook.
Prepping potatoes for the tortilla.
Alex points out the vineyards as well as the local olive, almond and orange groves in the valley. The bottle of DV wine on the table was made by his friend just outside of Ronda.
Vocab words of the day.
Oona explains how to make salmorejo.
Lunch is served!
Chris, the kiddos and our gracious teachers, Alex and Mar.
Halloween on our old street is about as perfect a picture of suburban bliss as it gets. It’s near impossible to park on our street because people actually drive to our neighborhood just to trick or treat. Houses (two in particular) take their decorations very seriously. There are entire families dressed in theme costumes. We buy bags and bags of candy the size of pillowcases. Dan passes out mini glasses of wine to the adults. Afterwards Susan makes a fantastic dinner, the kids spread out their loot to trade Dip It Sticks for chocolate bars, gather around some silly Mr. Bean movie and Isoo falls asleep in full ghoul makeup. It’s tradition.
So it’s bad enough we sold our house, but Oona was heartbroken to miss out on the holiday. We asked around and were told that while celebrated in the north, Halloween is not widely acknowledged in the south. Ali said when her girls Trick or Treated a couple of years ago, grandmas would scream at them in Spanish to stop banging on their doors and to get off their stoop. So this year, the expats were taking matters into their own hands and throwing a party at the edge of town featuring a punk rock show followed by late night Trick or Treating.
Fearing that it was not the kind of kid friendly party our kids were hoping for, I frantically searched out Halloween activities in a 60 mile radius and discovered that the hotel we had stayed at previously, the Marbella Marriott, was putting on a carnival for the local British and American expats the night before Halloween. I called for the rate, popped my eyeballs back into their sockets, and coughed up the dough for the overnight stay.
The kids played carnival games, went through a creepy tunnel, and Trick or Treated around the property while Chris and I lounged around the pool doing crossword puzzles. Seriously, I think this is the way to do all future Halloweens.
My kids are so creepy. Isoo really wanted to be the Travelocity Gnome, but have I mentioned that we are in a small town? We had to drive 1.5 hours just to scrounge up these costumes.
The kids stop by the pool to say boo!
The Marriott staff led the kids around the property screaming, "Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something sweet to eat. If you don't, I don't care, I'll pull down your underwear!" Isoo and Oona refused to chant because they thought it sounded "bratty". They didn't get much candy, but both had a blast playing carnival games and were legitimately scared silly by the haunted house.
Then We Did Halloween Again
We were on our way home, an hour outside of Cortes when I got an email from Ikuko informing us that this year, Cortes was throwing a Halloween party for the kids down at the Parador. Oona threw on costume #2 and high tailed it from the car straight to the party. Typically, Paradors are monasteries or castles converted into luxury hotels run by the state. In the case of downtrodden Cortes, it needed but minimal decoration to convert it into an abandoned haunted house.
Spooky decorations courtesy of Martha Stewart, er, I mean, poverty.
There were kids, cake, costumes, zombie dance and not much else. Several of the older kids played in the empty dumpster in the parking lot. We stood there eating our cake and when we were done, we walked aimlessly from one crowded room to the other, talking to each other or standing around not talking to each other. It was sort of sad and lonely, but we forced ourselves to stay long enough to mark the occasion. Afterwards we went home and as Chris and I made dinner, Oona emptied a bag of candy into a bowl and literally stood in the door shouting “Tenemos caramelos!”.
"Hola! Come here! Tenemos caramelos! Hola? Is anybody out there? Happy Halloween!"
I had warned her that it was unlikely there would be Trick or Treaters, but she was hopeful and swore she could hear children in the distance. So I put on my shoes, grabbed their masks and left Chris to finish dinner.
We followed a couple with two young kids dressed in costumes, hoping they would lead us to candy. After a couple of blocks, Isoo turned to me and whispered, “Mom, I think they’re just going home,” but Oona scampered ahead, unwilling to give up. After much coercing, she trode back up the hill and said with equal parts frustration and determination, “Mom, I just don’t understand how they do it here.”
“Isn’t it funny how this is an American holiday and we’re the ones who don’t know how to do it?” I mused.
And then she said with a firmness that reminded me of why she is so good at life, “No, Mom, we have to relearn it their way. C’mon.”
We finally found another group, just as aimless, running from one shop to another only to emerge empty handed. We had been out for a half hour and only 3 houses answered our knocks, filling our bag with bright blue unwrapped marshmallows. When we neared our house, I shouted, “Come, follow me! Tenemos caramelos!” I lead the way and Isoo and Oona scampered back and forth excitedly as we tried to lure the unruly pack to our doorstep. But as they got near our darkened street, they stopped, veered off, suddenly suspicious and uncertain. Even when Chris eagerly ran to meet us on the corner with our big bowl of chocolates, the kids regarded us nervously, politely taking just one before scampering back to their parents.
By the time we finished dinner we were all exhausted from the effort. We ended up skipping the punk rock band and instead, put on our pjs, crawled into our bed and watched E.T. on the laptop. Isoo fell asleep before it ended.
Isoo trailing the pack.
Score! One of a handful of shops passing out candy.