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Urban Dictionary defines photobomb: “any time the background of a picture hijacks the original focus”

If you spend time around central London especially highly concentrated tourist spots such as Big Ben, Parliament, Tower of London, it’s obvious London is a photobomber’s dream. I still duck and attempt to stay out of other people’s photos but John has gotten into the game and loves to wave/smile big if he happens to run by when someone is taking a photo.  More and more I notice people posing in my photos. Recently, while walking along the canal near Regent’s Park, a runner stopped mid- stride and asked me if I wanted her in my photo. Awkward! If I said “No” she might feel rejected and “Yes” seemed a bit creepy.

During our short weekend trip to Spain, my daughter Logan was taking photos at Plaza de Puerta del Sol when a very colorfully dressed man did his best pose. First he sees his chance:

Opportunity Idenitfied

Opportunity identified

..and he definitely steals the focus while doing his best vogue:

Bam! Photobombed!

#Photo credit to Logan

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Madrid Wrap-Up

Nobody goes to bed in Madrid till they have killed the night!” – Ernest Hemingway

We didn’t “kill the night” but did our best to see as much as we could during our way too short visit to the wonderful city of Madrid!

Traveling has always been an obsession with me. The first “vacation” I planned on my own was at the age of 13 when I saved every babysitting dollar I made to pay for a flight to Disney World to visit family friends on my own. It took me a little over a year to save enough money for the trip and I had to wear the embarrassing “unaccompanied minor” sticker on my shirt but I made it. Fast forward many years and there’s always plans for a trip simmering away and Madrid has been on the travel list for a long time. So grateful I finally got a chance to experience it for myself.

After all those years of waiting to visit Spain’s capital, my top five favorites (in no particular order) are:

1) Madrid Marathon: well-organized and great atmosphere for both the runners and the spectators. A few degrees warmer would have been nice…

2) Chance to Practice my remedial  Spanish: I love being able to practice my Spanish with locals ~ especially those patient enough to endure the butchering of their language. The look in my daughter’s eyes when she sees me speaking Spanish is one of such respect ~ I can tell it gives her confidence to converse too. We both want to get much better at speaking Spanish so we’re looking into another trip to Spain so we can take Spanish immersion classes.

3) El Parque del Buen Retiro: my previous post said it all. This is a fabulous place to take a picnic, in-line skates and spend the day!

4) Museo del Prado: The Prado which is listed as one of the oldest and best art museum in the world. I have to agree.  Even though we were limited on time, we carved out a few hours to enjoy a stroll though some of the galleries to view beautiful and thought-provoking paintings. I used a Spanish audio guide so my understanding of some of the paintings might be suspect. Photography is not allowed. Backpacks must go through a security screening and left at the cloakroom. For more information, click here.

5) All the beautiful Plazas in Central Madrid: Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Santa Ana are my particular favorites. Would have loved to sit out at a café but the chilly weather prohibited any outdoor seating.

Recap in photos:

Iglesia de San  Jerónimo , across from The Prado, Madrid

Iglesia de San Jerónimo , across from The Prado, Madrid

Wedding in the beautiful Iglesia de San  Jerónimo

Wedding in the beautiful Iglesia de San Jerónimo

Ministry of Defence

Palacio de Comunicaciones (Currently City Hall Offices) at Plaza de Cibeles

Fernando Arch Fernando VII, Madrid

Fernando Arch Fernando VII, Madrid

Dark clouds over Madrid

Dark clouds over Madrid

Fernando Arch Fernando VII, Madrid

Fernando Arch Fernando VII, Madrid

Cherub Statue in Madrid

Cherub Fountain in Madrid

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Another Beautiful statue in Madrid

Another Beautiful statue in Madrid

Cellar seating at Botin Restaurant, Madrid ~ considered the oldest restaurant in the world

Cellar seating at Botin Restaurant, Madrid ~ considered the oldest restaurant in the world

Police presence at the Madrid Marathon

No Dogs Allowed ~ except this fuzz-ball

No Dogs Allowed ~ except this fuzz-ball (on left)

Murals in Madrid

Murals in Madrid

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It was a short walk from our hotel (Vincci Soma) to Parque del Buen Retiro, and as soon as I walked in, I realized I was going to want more then a mere weekend in Madrid. I could have stayed in the park for the entire day ~ it’s big, beautiful with lovely gardens, marble statues/monuments, acres of greenery, manmade lakes and an abundance of locals doing various exercises.

The Park was originally laid out by Felipe IV in the 1600s for the use of the Royals and close family/friends but the park was opened to the public in 1868. Throughout the following years, statues and buildings have been added with the most recent being the “Bosque de Recuerdo” (memorial forest) which is a memorial for the 191 victims of the 11 March 2004 train bombings.

Exercise for your legs, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Exercise for your legs, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Whole lot of exercising going on in this part of the park, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Whole lot of exercising going on in this part of the park, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

In-line Skaters of all ages were everywhere in the Park ~ lots of lessons, too.

In-line Skaters of all ages were everywhere in the Park ~ lots of lessons, too.

True Love: a girl and her Iphone

True Love: a girl and her Iphone

Big Bubble, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Big Bubble, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Spanish Guitar music in Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Spanish Guitar music in Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

It’s a great place for the Madrileños to enjoy a pleasant walk, a vigorous workout or just to sit and watch the world go by.

El Ángel Caído (Fallen Angel), Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

El Ángel Caído (Fallen Angel), Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

At the base of El Ángel Caído

At the base of El Ángel Caído

El Ángel Caído (Fallen Angel), Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

El Ángel Caído (Fallen Angel), Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

The park has many beautiful marble statues including El Ángel Caído (The Fallen Angel ~ Satan) by  Ricardo Bellver. He is said to have been inspired by a passage from Paradise Lost (John Milton). The gargoyles around the base of the statues creeped me out more than the statue itself. From my research, it looks to be the only public statue of Lucifer and supposedly it sits at 666m above sea level.

Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Madrid Day II Woman Statue

Columns near the Alfonzo XXII statue, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Columns near the Alfonzo XXII statue, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Dolphins, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Dolphins, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Statue in Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Statue in Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Statue, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Statue, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Fountain in Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Fountain in Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Alfonzo XXII Statue, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Alfonzo XXII Statue, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Cuba Monument, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Cuba Monument, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Besides the lovely statues, there are several beautiful buildings including Palacio de Cristal which was built in 1887 as a winter garden but is now being used for temporary exhibitions of modern artwork. If you look closely at the photo below, those color discs are the artwork currently on display.

Palacio de Cristal ~ the color discs hanging from the ceiling are part of the Modern Art Exhibit

Palacio de Cristal ~ the color discs hanging from the ceiling are part of the Modern Art Exhibit

Inside the Palacio de Cristal ~ dics on the floor are part of the modern art exhibition

Inside the Palacio de Cristal ~ dics on the floor are part of the modern art exhibition

Logan in the Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Logan in the Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Park Vendor outside Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Park Vendor outside Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Our time in Parque del Buen Retiro was wonderful and I definitely would have stayed longer but after a few hours it was time to head over to Museo del Prado to see the Goyas. The Museum is a short walk just outside of the park…

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Couldn’t believe it was 34°F when John left for the start of the marathon. Burrr…

JP getting ready to head out for the Madrid Marathon

JP getting ready to head out for the Madrid Marathon

We next saw John at Plaza del Sol which was the 18km mark and where a great Rock and Roll band was playing:

JP found us!

JP found us!

Logan and I attempted to catch John again at the finish line but he ran too fast and we miscalculated. He ended up finishing the marathon with a 4:05:05. Yeah to John!

John’s observations of the Madrid Marathon are:

  • Mostly the runners are from Spain with not a lot of foreign runners. More of a local marathon than a destination marathon
  • Fewer women than other marathons he’s run
  • Not as many people were “dressed up” ~ although we did see Nacho Libre and Minnie Mouse outfits
  • They had in-line medical volunteers amongst the runners spraying “icy hot” on runner’s joints and vaseline for chafing. John only saw one “wipe-out”
  • All runners including marathon (elite as well), 1/2 marathon and 10k started in the same corrals at the same time then diverted at different stages of the race. Usually runners start at different times.
  • Course was a bit hilly
  • Only food handed out along the course was power gel at one station
  • Bottles of water and electrolytes were handed out but the large bottles were more than he needed at one stop. He prefers the smaller cups
  • Lots of Porta Potties
  • Lots of wonderful bands (after all it was a Rock and Roll Marathon)
  • Overall, he loved the marathon and would like to run it again!

Here’s a bit of what I saw while cheering the runners:

Elite Men, Madrid Marathon

Elite Men, Madrid Marathon

One of the Elite men, Madrid Marathon

One of the Elite men, Madrid Marathon

Elite Runner, Madrid Marathon

Elite Runner, Madrid Marathon

Fun Band at the 18K, Madrid Marathon

Fun Band at the 18km, Madrid Marathon

Madrid Marathon at the 18K

Madrid Marathon at the 18km

Two Minnies, Madrid Marathon

Back of Two Minnies and a Mickey, Madrid Marathon 2013

Back of Two Minnies and a Mickey, Madrid Marathon 2013

Nacho Libre (?) at the end of the Madrid Marathon

Nacho Libre (?) at the end of the Madrid Marathon

Helping Mom and Dad to the Finish Line

Helping Mom and Dad to the Finish Line

End of the Marathon Band

End of the Marathon Band

John’s marathon shirt was too small for him, so lucky me, I have a new shirt to wear to my next tennis match.

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Although I promised myself not to book a before 8am flight out of Gatwick ever again, the £24 (each way) to Madrid was too tempting. I booked our flight at 7:25 am.  Not wanting to repeat our mad dash to catch our flight like we did when we traveled to Malaga, we got up at 3am, caught the 3:53 night bus to St Pancras Station and then caught the 4:24 am train to Gatwick. And then it happened, I JINXED myself by gloating how great we did getting to the train early enough to relax. We were about 5 minutes out of Gatwick when the train came to a dead stop. We sat for about five minutes then we were told there was a fire alarm going off at “Three Bridges” signalling center and we would have to back up to the previous station. We still had about 2 hours before our flight so I wasn’t too worried but there were several panicking folks on the train who had flights taking off within the hour. We finally got to the airport and then…we waited and waited. Our flight was delayed due to maintenance issues and our 7:25 flight took off a little after 11am. Which is fine with me. I’d rather be safe than on time.

I thought I’d get to Madrid too tired to do anything but once we caught the Metro our hotel in the Salamanca barrio and, BONUS, got upgraded to a one bedroom apartment, I was ready to go out and hit the town.

Vincci Soma Apartmen

Vincci Soma Apartment

Vincci Soma apartment (Kitchen)

Vincci Soma apartment (Kitchen)

I booked this hotel based on it being close to the start and finish line of the marathon. Turns out it’s in the high-end district and in a very desireable location. Love it when it works out that way even though I didn’t plan it.

We went to the convention center to pick up John’s marathon packet. I have great respect for runners, especially those who can run 26.2 miles and love being around them as they pick up their numbers and timing chip. Such an energetic atmosphere ~ and it’s contagious.

John getting his goodie bag for the Madrid Marathon

John getting his goodie bag for the Madrid Marathon

Madrid in the running for 2020 Olympics

Madrid in the running for 2020 Olympics

By the time we finished at the convention center, it was time for dinner or so we thought. It was 8:30 but the vegetarian restaurant we decided to eat at didn’t open for dinner until 9:00! So late for me but when in Spain…we walked around the block until they opened and I’m glad we waited, it was delicious food.

Isla del Tesoro, Vegetarian Restaurant

Isla del Tesoro, Vegetarian Restaurant

Veggie Paella at Isla del Tesoro

Veggie Paella at Isla del Tesoro

Spicy Noodle dish at Isla del Tesoro

Spicy Noodle dish at Isla del Tesoro

Logan at Isla del Tesoro. Interesting decor and a huge burning candle with years worth of wax

Logan at Isla del Tesoro. Interesting decor and a huge burning candle with years worth of wax

Burning Candle and all it's wax at Isla del Tesoro

Burning Candle and all it’s wax at Isla del Tesoro

We purchased a three-day Metro pass at the airport for €18 each. It allows us unlimited travel within zone A which includes the airport. It’s well worth the money as we’ve used it several times and it has more than paid for itself. The Metro is clean, efficient and easy to use:

With Logan at the Bilbao Metro stop in Madrid

With Logan at the Bilbao Metro stop in Madrid

And we happened to run across this billboard on the walk back to the hotel:

Logan and a larger than life Iker (her favorite football player) in Madrid

Logan and a larger than life Iker (her favorite football player) in Madrid

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Along Pall Mall, London Marathon 2013

Along Pall Mall, London Marathon 2013

This past Sunday was a perfect day for the 33rd London Marathon. John wasn’t selected to run this year so we went out to cheer on the 34,631 runners. We took the bus to Trafalgar Square then walked down Pall Mall to the finish line. Prince Harry gave out the medals and attracts quite a crowd on his own, let alone all the runners and spectators, so we decided the 25 mile marker was a better viewing spot then the finish line.

Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya ~ Women's Elite Winner of the London Marathon 2013

Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya ~ Women’s Elite Winner of the London Marathon 2013

Effortlessly Gliding at the 25 mile mark of the London Marathon

Effortlessly Gliding at the 25 mile mark of the London Marathon

Wheelchair Participants in the London Marathon 2013

Wheelchair Participants in the London Marathon 2013

London sure knows how to cheer on these wonderful athletes ~ especially in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. No doubt Madrid’s Rock ‘n Roll Marathon next week will be just as exciting and John will be running in that one.

Loved the Steel Band playing for the Jolly Man Runner

Loved the Steel Band playing for the Jolly Man Runner

St James Park, A Restful Spot during the Marathon

St James Park, A Restful Spot during the Marathon

Photographer Policeman at the London Marathon

Photographer Policeman at the London Marathon

Big Ben

Big Ben

Cheering the Runner of the London Marathon 2013

Cheering a Runner of the London Marathon 2013

Looking Over Her Shoulder, London Marathon 2013

Looking Over Her Shoulder, London Marathon 2013

Along the London Marathon Route

Along the London Marathon Route

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¡Adiós a Malaga!

I could have definitely stayed another few days enjoying beautiful Malaga but as always it’s nice to be back home.

For our last day there, we took a train to Torremolinos to enjoy a bit of sun and sand. The train ride is about 20 minutes and costs €1.95 each. The short but meandering walk from the train station to the beach is lined with cafes and shops (mostly touristy stuff but a few artist shops).

Torremolinos Beach ~ looking toward Malaga

Torremolinos Beach ~ looking toward Malaga

A la Playa

A la Playa

Spain 2013

Spain 2013

On the Boadwalk in Torremolinos

On the boardwalk in Torremolinos

Fountain in Torremolinos

Fountain in Torremolinos near Train Station

One of the hotels in Torremolinos

One of the hotels in Torremolinos

Clocks in Torremolinos

Clocks in Torremolinos

Looking Fierce

Looking Fierce

While it was nice to spend time walking along the beach and having lunch on a patio enjoying the sunshine, I’m so glad we chose to stay in the city rather than at the beach. So much more character in Malaga and lots more cultural things to do. We stayed at Barcelo Malaga hotel located adjacent to the Malaga Maria Zambrano train station. Very contemporary decor, friendly staff, large rooms and great location. So easy (and cheap) to get to the beaches and airport. The walk from the hotel to the town center or to the Pier took about 10-15 minutes. They have a slide in the lobby which Logan couldn’t resist:

Slide at Hotel Barcelo in Malaga

Slide at Hotel Barcelo in Malaga

On our travels, we usually purchase an item to remind us of our visit. I prefer to buy from local artists so I was excited to see a shop in the town center which carries only local Spanish artwork. It’s called “Versión Original Málaga” and is located at Calle Granada, 71.  I’d popped into the shop several times and finally decided on hand painted poppy earrings:

Poppy Earring from Malaga (local artist)

Poppy Earring from Malaga (local artist)

And for John’s Valentine’s gift, I bought a hand painted mask. We’ve collected a few masks on our travels so this will add to the collection. How could I go wrong with fish and gnomes on it…

Hand-painted Mask from Malaga

Hand-painted Mask from Malaga

Logan and I definitely fell in love with Malaga. We’re excited to return to Spain and we’ve already booked a visit to Madrid ~ thanks to Easy Jet for the $126.00 roundtrip flight from London to Madrid.

A highlight of our trip to Malaga was being able to practice our Spanish. It was wonderful to communicate in another language and actually understand when they spoke back to me (as long as they spoke slowly!). It warmed my heart when my daughter said she was so proud of me for speaking Spanish even though I’m not fluent. Hopefully, I set a good example of what a traveler should do ~ respect the culture, attempt the language (even if it’s rudimentary) and keep an open mind. Now, here’s hoping the people of Madrid are just as patient with us.

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