Well, that's it for Europe. I'm writing this from the plane, on our way to Austin after our 4 hour layover in Newark. In just a couple of days Walter will start back at school for exactly a month before we head to South America.
We really didn't do Madrid justice. We didn't even make it over near some of the major sights, like the Cathedral and National Palace. Part of the reason was because we squeezed in a bit of shopping, but the biggest reason is that Jie and I were both feeling worn down and a little sick. So we kept it casual and relaxed in Madrid, and our trip went out with a whimper instead of a bang. So it goes, you've got to roll with the punches. And hey, the only time any of us got sick at all on this trip was in the very last couple of days, so I count us very lucky.
We did get to explore some of the city, walking through some of the central squares including Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. Interestingly, Madrid has apparently allowed Vodafone to sponsor the biggest and most central square in the city, Puerta del Sol, so it actually shows up in many places as Vodafone Sol. Apparently some Madrilenos don't appreciate this, as in many places the Vodafone is scratched out or graffitied over.
We spent our first afternoon checking out the expansive Retiro Park and then the second day our major event was the Prado Museum. To the best of my recollection, the Prado is our only dedicated art museum of this entire trip. And I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure we picked the single best art museum of any city in our itinerary (in other words, any European city not Paris, Rome, or London). It was far more enjoyable than I would have expected, in large part because of the sheer number of masterpieces that I had actually seen pictures of or heard of prior to going. And Walter was a real trooper as well, armed with a map and list of masterpieces he did an excellent job leading us around the place. I wish he would have spent a little more time looking at the art instead of his map, but I'll absolutely take a happy and engaged 7 year old on a ~2 hour museum visit.
Madrid had a great vibe and I would love to come back one day. People were pretty friendly, there was a lot to see and do, and there were plentiful food options beyond Spanish food. This had become an issue for us, since we left Slovenia it's been hard to find anything but local food. Croatian, Greek, and Portuguese dinners are all seafood heavy and we were done. Spanish food was different and welcome, but we longed for good Indian or Asian food to mix things up, and we found it in Madrid. The highlight of Madrid for Walter was probably the Polish cab driver who took us to the airport. He spent the entire ride alternating between cracking jokes and teaching Walter words in Spanish and Chinese.
Over the next month I expect blogging to be pretty sparse as we ramp up for South America. I do want to put together some best-of posts, including maybe top 10 memories and top 10 photos. We'll see, it's all dependent on time and the clock is already ticking...34 days to Rio!