Last Christmas break we went back to the U.S. for my brother's wedding, and at the end of our trip, my parents told us that they intended to come visit us in Madrid, so as soon as Danny and I decided on the best time for them to visit, they said, they would start planning their trip. They booked their flights not long after the initial conversation, and after that point, it was like we were on a countdown - see you in three months...two months...six weeks...etc - June 17th couldn't come soon enough (see, I can still remember the date!).
My parents were our first visitors here in Madrid, and as we wrapped up our travelling for the spring, I was able to fully concentrate on planning their time with us. Danny and I brainstormed with each other, in addition to other friends who've had friends and family come see them in Madrid, about our favorite things to see and do in the city and further afield as well (we had decided that nine days in Madrid is a really long time to do the tourist thing here).
D - I know that for a lot of people a nine day visit from the in-laws sounds a bit nightmarish, but that wasn't true for me at all. I love my in-laws and I was really looking forward to their visit as well. If anything, I anticipated that they might grow a bit tired of me because I have a propensity for talking a bit more than everyone else. Okay, a lot more than everyone else, but it's not my fault that so many interesting things to say are always zooming around my brain just waiting to be plucked out and spoken into existence.
We finished school on the Thursday before my parents arrived and after a day of final preparations, visa paperwork, and getting our apartment ready (we would be moving out of it on my parents last day with us!), we were as ready as we would ever be!
We spent a lot of time that first weekend giving them a taste of our normal, everyday life: showing them our school where we work, giving them a tour around our grocery store, going to church together, cooking and eating meals, introducing them to our friends, walking to Corte Ingles and stopping at a few places along the way that we frequent for certain things, and, of course, taking the Metro and the bus. It was horribly, horribly hot - everyone told us that it was normal weather for August, but incredibly unusual for June (it was in the 100's during the day and hardly dipped below that at night), so we modified our plans for being outside and tried to seek out cool, indoor places as much as possible. We also did some things that aren't a part of our daily routine, but are important to Madrid and/or Spanish culture. For example, we ate churros dipped in cups of hot chocolate (in air conditioning!) and we visited the Royal Palace and Plaza Mayor.
D - We could have made our time outside more bearable but no one took my suggestion of buying some of those personal, handheld Disneyland-esque spraying fans seriously...
On Monday, we took a day trip to Segovia, a town of about 50,000 people that is roughly an hour from Madrid by car. Segovia is at a bit of an elevation, which means that the weather was a bit more tolerable, and we enjoyed our day of seeing the Roman Aqueduct, Alcazar, Cathedral, and hidden park that Danny and I seek out every time we visit Segovia (it's best in the fall, and seems to be a well-kept secret from all the tourists that Segovia gets on a daily basis coming up from Madrid). We also had to find somewhere for lunch when I misunderstood how our return bus tickets to Madrid worked, but 100 Montaditos came through for us in our time of hunger with their platters of mini sandwiches and pitchers of water - it's a Spanish institution, and my parents were lucky to make its acquaintance! ;) In all seriousness, though, Segovia was a particularly special day for everyone as it's where my mom lived when she studied abroad in Spain thirty years ago. She may not have that many clear memories of her time there, but it really was fun to be there all together, remembering a few old memories and making some new ones too.
D - 100 Montaditos (pronounced, "thien montaditos") is probably one of my favorite restaurants here in Spain. That's likely because it's Spain's closest approximation to its own fast food chain. You go inside and sit down, write which (and how many) of the 100 tiny sandwiches you want on an order slip, give it to someone at the counter, and then they call your name on the intercom when it's time to pick up your order. On Wednesdays and Saturdays everything is one euro. I still haven't eaten to my full potential there and that's a day I await in pregnant anticipation.
On Tuesday morning of my parents' visit, we rented a car and left Madrid for the south of Spain for cooler temperatures and a change of scenery. We returned on Friday evening to more of the same, at least as far as the weather went. We went out for breakfast on Saturday morning for pastries (or, in my dad's case, quiche) at the Brown Bear Bakery as we got out early before the sun became too intense. We walked through the historic Barrio de las Letras as we made our way to Retiro, considered by many to be Madrid's green lung and one of the city's most beautiful and historic parks. We continued our walk out of the park and past the Puerta de Alcala and onto Gran Via, a major shopping and entertainment street that is often full of crowds and traffic, but is also lined with grand buildings, perhaps some of the most elegant in Madrid. We didn't make many stops, but due to the heat, we couldn't resist a few times: once in the Real Madrid Official Store, another time for cool drinks, and finally at the top of the Corte Ingles off of Callao for views over downtown.
D - I don't know if I've written this before but if so I'll just write it again. I love walking down Gran Via becuase when I do the thought that I'm really living in a big city always hits me anew. It's like, "wow, we're a real cosmopolitan couple, we're like Beyonce and Jay-Z or something."
On Sunday, the realization that Danny and I had to be moved out of our apartment completely - as well as on our way to Istanbul - within 24 hours hit us, so unfortunately we couldn't spend the whole of the day traipsing around the city as we had some packing and cleaning to do. My parents we hugely helpful with all of this, but it was still a shame that their trip and our leaving Spain for the summer happened at the same time - we decided to go to Turkey long after they made their plans to come see us, and it was a pity how the last day or so turned out to be kind of hectic and stressful.
We did get out early again on Sunday, their last full day with us, to see another of our favorite parks, Parque Juan Carlos I, and because the Almudena Cathedral was closed when we'd tried to visit the weekend before, we went back to the area near the Royal Palace for a chance to go inside for a visit. Thankfully, we were able to this time around, as we were eager to show my parents a cathedral so different from the ones they'd see as they continued their European adventures in London and Paris in the week after leaving Madrid - the Almudena Cathedral was finished in 1993, so it's very different from, say, St. Paul's Cathedral in London, or Notre Dame in Paris.
We ate our last meal together at Lamiak, a small Basque restaurant that primarily serves pintxos. A friend first took us there about two years ago, and although we don't go often, it's kind of my go-to for meeting up with people, especially if it's for the first time. There's vegetarian options, but they definitely don't make up the majority of the menu, which makes it the kind of place I like to take non-vegetarians so that everyone feels comfortable. It was one of the most Spanish meals we had during my parents' visit (and one of the most tear-filled as well, since we knew they were leaving in the morning!), but it checked all the right boxes.
D - If I remember correctly, I was slightly at fault for the tears, as I just thanked Tom and Nancy for coming, told them how much it meant to us and apologized for probably getting on their nerves and speaking so many interesting thoughts into existence. I can't really be held at fault though as saying remotely sentimental around Shannon's family during potentially special moments is like being a blindfolded waiter carrying a tray of water glasses filled to the brim through a room with marbles spilled all over the floor. There's gonna be some spillage.
They left the next morning amidst our chaos of trying to get out of town and out of our apartment - we were leaving for the airport just a few hours after them, but despite our poor timing, we all had a great time together. It was so special to show them a bit of our lives in Madrid and hopefully help them experience what it's like to live here - the good, the bad, and the very, very hot! More to come soon on the trip we took with my parents out of Madrid and to the south of Spain!