I am jealous and slightly suspicious of the broadly beaming family that steps off a 12 hour flight after a two week international haul and exclaims to anyone speaking their language, "That was the BEST TRIP EVER!" Hello, narcotics dog? Sniff that.
From experience, I can say that these will happen on any group adventure:
something will be lost
something will break
something will change forever
angry words will be spoken
memories will be made- good and bad
someone will cry
someone will puke
someone will lose their way
someone will be ripped off
expectations will meet reality
regrets will surface
an injury will occur
blame, anger and fatigue will best at least one companion
someone will feel superior
a desired activity will be nixed
realizations of simplicity will surface
you will see something you never thought you'd ever see in your lifetime
you will make plans
you will make promises
you will change
Let's start with Madrid... in and out and under 8 hours
I like to take taxis, ride in the front seat and ask a lot of questions. I try to insert as much native language as possible, and always eavesdrop on their phone calls. There are a lot of unhappily married cabbies out there. This dude had all sorts of things to say, of which I picked up a 1/12th of ... but I smiled a lot. This arch is outside the city, important enough for him to point out. We also drove past the Queen's residence, which some stupid tour bus blocked from photo view. sigh.
We wandered a bit, bought some fans and castanets. drank this:
saw this sign, and wished we had more time to go.
wandered a bit for this:
which has a story: Following a dispute in the 13th century over hunting rights on the land which was owned by the church, agreement was reached that the church owned the soil, but Madrilenos owned everything above the ground - namely game. Hence the symbol of Madrid was born - a Bear (the church's emblem) sniffing a tree. This bear can be seen across the city today, emblazened on taxis, buses, pavements, bins and almost everything belonging to "the city".
El Oso y el Madroño (The Bear and the Strawberry tree)
and then found our way back to the airport using this:
I need to return to Spain a, little less encumbered and way less rushed... next time, the north for the running of the bulls, or the south for beaches, gypsies and a boat to Africa.