Posts Tagged tapas

One Day Layover in Madrid with my “Dog”

We arrived in Madrid early in the morning after our overnight train adventure.  Officially, our hotel check-in was at noon (which is pretty common elsewhere in the world, but is usually 3 PM in the US).  But we were so tired after missing a night of sleep that we hoped they would have a room ready for us when we arrived.

They did!  We enjoyed glorious slumber in a fully reclined position (including our feet) with clean sheets, an abundance of pillows, space to spare, and silence.  Beds are so wonderful after trying to sleep in a full train compartment.


On this leg of the 30/40 World Tour, we only had a day in Madrid before joining VaughanTown early the next morning.  The program organizers told us that laundry service would be very expensive at the hotel in Gredos, so laundry was one of our priorities. With 3 pairs of underwear, laundry was a consistent concern on our 10-week trip.

We asked at our hotel in Madrid; they didn’t have weekend laundry service.  We wouldn’t have gotten our clothes back until Monday, but were leaving on Sunday.  So we scoured the internet for local laundromats and wrote down the addresses.

We had 3 laundromats on our list.  Surely, one of them would be open.

Lavanderia in Madrid

Closed lavanderia disappoints Ms. HalfEmpty

The first one no longer existed.  We walked up and down the block, but it was long gone.  The second laundromat was still in existence…yay!  But it was closed for the entire month of August…boo!

Isn’t it amazing that much of Spain takes the entire month off?  Plus, they get siestas when they are working!  I think I need to move.

We still had one final laundromat opportunity.  The third time’s the charm, right?  As we approached the third establishment, it looked open.  Our excitement started to build when we saw people inside!

If you remember our laundry experience in New Caledonia, speaking the native language was rather important in a laundromat.  The same was true in Spain.  Between bumbling our way through Spanish (difficult) and reading the signs on the wall (much easier), we learned that they were getting ready to close and were also closed on Sundays.  So once again we wouldn’t get our laundry back until Monday; by then we’d be long gone.  Super bummer!

So we ended up taking our dirty laundry to VaughanTown and planned to do some sink washing.  Apparently, there are many people who are not able to bring clean laundry to VaughanTown despite the warnings, so there was a special announcement about laundry when we arrived.

Before we were even allowed to check into our rooms, Mr. MC gathered the group in the meeting room to go over a list of rules.  Mr. MC was a young humorous Brit, so don’t think it was a long boring lecture.  There were definitely lots of laughs.

One rule concerned laundry:  we were not allowed to do laundry in the bathtub and turn on the jets.  Hahahaha!  A DIY washing machine with agitator!

I know that rules only exist because it happened before.  So I asked Mr. MC about this afterward, and learned that pair of underwear got clogged in a jet during a past session.  How embarrassing is that?  I wonder if the person reported the broken jets or if the hotel staff found the rogue underwear after check-out.


Our short trip in Madrid (this time — we’ll have more for you after the VaughanTown posts, Tracy) wasn’t a total bust.  One of my dear friends from home introduced me to her friends from Kansas City who now live outside Madrid.  Mr. and Mrs. Missionary met us for lunch at El Museo del Jamón.

El Museo del Jamón

Mr. HalfFull with Mr. & Mrs. Missionary at Museo del Jamón

As we learned in Barcelona, Mr. HalfFull is unable to resist hanging legs of meat.  I think they make him feel like a manly hunter.  So how could he resist a restaurant called The MUSEUM of Ham???  A museum where you could eat the exhibits!

He was irrationally excited.  In fact, I think he picked our hotel because of it’s proximity to El Museo del Jamón.  Plus, Mr. & Mrs. Missionary didn’t object, so the location was decided.

I’m not sure if Mr. HalfFull realized El Museo del Jamón wasn’t really a museum or that it was a chain restaurant.  But it was inexpensive and the tapas weren’t bad.

The company was great.  We learned that Mr. & Mrs. Missionary had just come from the protests in Puerta del Sol.  As part of the 15-M Movement (because it began on May 15, 2011), young Spaniards occupied the square to protest high unemployment and the political establishment.  Earlier in the summer, they had erected a tent city like the Occupy movements throughout the world.

Mr. HalfFull and I aren’t religious and we didn’t know that Mr. & Mrs. Missionary were missionaries before we met them.  But we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were not singularly focused proselytizers.  We had great conversations on a range of topics.  I don’t think we discussed religion at all.

¿Cómo se dice “Dog?”

Perros No

Mr. HalfFull pretends to tinkle by the “Perros No” sign

I often call Mr. HalfFull Dog (or Dogg, Dawg, etc.).  I’m quite bad with names, but I don’t think I started calling him that until we were married.  So I doubt it was a name placeholder (like the way my dad calls all 4 of his children “Baby” because he can’t remember our names).  I think Dog was in the media at the time and it just stuck.

So in the French-speaking countries on the 30/40 World Tour, like New Caledonia and Mauritius, I would call him Chien.  Of course, in Spain I had to call him Perro (and practice my rolling Rs).

Walking back to our hotel in Madrid, I saw the perfect sign.  It read “Perros No.”  So of course, I had to have my dog pose with it.


Eurobuilding 2

Ms. HalfEmpty @ Eurobuilding 2

Our final activity in Madrid before heading off to VaughanTown, was to meet the other VaughanTown volunteers (aka Anglos) at a tapas reception the night before our departure.  Free food and drinks are always a great way to gather a crowd, but this was probably a brilliant idea to make sure everyone could find Eurobuilding 2 and not be late for the early bus departure.

I was surprised to find that many Anglos knew each other and had already been to VaughanTown.  Many of them were expats from the UK and US living in Spain, mostly as English tutors/teachers.

It seemed like an interesting mix of people.  We were nervous and excited about the upcoming week at VaughanTown.

  • When did you most appreciate a bed?
  • Have you ever lost an article of clothing in a laundry attempt?
  • Have you met a friend-of-a-friend abroad?
  • Do you have a silly name for your significant other? 
  • Have you considered living and working abroad?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Flamenco Fires Up Mr. HalfFull

El Poble Espanyol

Just a sample of the beautiful buildings inside El Poble Espanyol

As a former dancer, I thoroughly enjoy dance performances. What better dance to see in Spain than Flamenco?

cat chilling @ El Poble Espanyol

Even the cat finds a peaceful place to nestle. There is no wheeled traffic at El Poble Espanyol, nestled in the natural surroundings of the hill at Montjuïc.

El Poble Espanyol is a fake town that was built in 1929 to showcase various regions of Spain for the Barcelona International Exhibition.  The goal was to create a model Spanish village with the main characteristics of all the towns and villages in the peninsula.  This design included 117 buildings, streets, and squares reproduced to scale.  The facades were only meant to survive the six-month duration of the exhibition, but the area was so successful that it still stands today.

El Poble Espanyol is quite charming with large open squares, small alleys, and quaint storefronts. Some of the stores and studios have resident artisans painting, sculpting, creating stained glass, working with leather, and more.

woman building guitars @ El Poble Espanyol

A woman builds guitars inside one of the shops

leather worker @ Poble Espanyol

Artisan working with leather in another storefront










shards of glass around edge of Poble Espanyol

Even the security system (shards of colored glass on top of the exterior wall) is artistic

One of the strangest physical features of El Poble Espanyol was the shards of colored glass on top of the high walls to act as artistic barbed wire. How creative!

The place has enough twists and turns to require a map. We circled through a few times enjoying the architecture before we found the small alley in the Andalusia region with the Flamenco show at El Tablao de Carmen.

tapas at flamenco show

Sangria and tapas of manchego cheese, cured meats, and bread — delicious!

Since we had just eaten a huge lunch, we opted not to do the 3-course meal. Instead, we enjoyed tapas and sangria.


female flamenco dancer

The teenage flamenco dancer

male flamenco dancer

Manuel Jimenez “Bartolo” is the artistic director at El Tablao de Carmen and started flamenco at age 8.  Sounds like Mr. HalfFull has some serious catch-up to do!








The performance highlighted the various forms of flamenco — music (guitars and drums), song, and dance.  The dancers performed with such emotion and absolutely commanding claps.

The tabalos have historically served as an artistic school and a springboard to fame for young artists.  So in addition to the more seasoned performers, we also saw a girl who seemed like she was just a teenager, but she too, was an expert performer with seriousness beyond her years.

pretend flamenco dancer

Mr. HalfFull pretends to be a flamenco dancer

We thoroughly enjoyed the performance, so much so that Mr. HalfFull was striking poses in the street on the walk home. His ferocity was compellingly hilarious! He was also inspired to learn to play flamenco guitar. We’ll see when that happens…

  • What types of dance do you enjoy doing and/or watching?
  • When do you think Mr. HalfFull will take up the guitar?
  • Has a performance inspired you to learn a new skill?

sculpture garden @ El Poble Espanyol

I found some dancers in the sculpture garden!  But I think these were perhaps ballet or modern, not flamenco.

hand rail statue in Cervantes Alley @ Poble Espanyol

Even the handrails are topped with sculptures like this one in Cervantes Alley

Poble Espanyol

Gorgeous view up in El Poble Espanyol

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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