The flight from Ecuador to Madrid was a killer – not so much while we were actually on it, but dealing with a combination of lack of sleep and problems adjusting to the time change really wiped us out. We arrived at about 4am our time having had very little shut eye. We had to clear customs, change money, shoulder our packs and find the cheap bus into town (40 mins). From there we walked around until we managed to locate the apartment we had reserved ahead. Ecuador had been a good first choice country because they use the American dollars for currency and we know some very basic Spanish. Spain kept us in Spanish, but introduced us to the Euro (ouch) as well as the need to conquer public transportation. Mark’s iphone and mapping apps have definitely been coming in handy.
We have been finding budget apartments (looking on vrbo and flip key) are cheaper than even the cheap hotels because European hotels generally refuse to allow 4 people in a room – even when the kids are younger than ours. So that means we must pay the room rate times two. Hostels aren’t usually a great option either because they charge per person and times four that really adds up as well. The apartments also usually have wifi, full kitchens, more than one room and when we are lucky an outdoor space.
The apartment in Madrid was kind of depressing, but in a decent neighborhood, and what saved the day was a great little sidewalk café right outside our door that gave us our first introduction to tapas (my favorite thing about Spain). Also it had a washing machine and so we spent most of those first days doing our laundry and trying to get over a bad case of jet lag.
We did make it to the Prado Museum though and enjoyed that. Last minute train tickets to Lisbon and or Barcelona (our first choices) proved too expensive, but I finally located a cheap beach destination (Valencia via the 5 hour slow train).
The Valencia apartment proved more to our liking. Even though it was tiny and smelled somewhat of mildew, it was cute and just a 5 minute walk from the beach. Mark and I slept in a tiny loft and the kids had the futon and living room.
The city of Valencia itself, Mark said, reminded him of Long Beach but in a good way, and I agree. We even went to Spain’s version of the aquarium there. It was a bit of a cross between that and Sea World. We splurged for those tickets but it made for a fun day.
Staying in budget in Europe in August was definitely a bit of a challenge, even in Spain. We are for the most part eating one main meal a day (at about 9pm currently) and making do the rest of the time with a snack here and there. Mark did cook us a really good spaghetti dinner one night that made the kids especially happy.
Tomorrow we fly to Morocco. There will be yet a new currency and not a single language we know a word of. It should be a challenge, and we are really looking forward to a new landscape and culture. We will be there about 10 days before flying back to Madrid to take an overnight train to Lisbon, Portugal where we will stay for a week. From Lisbon we will fly to Paris. After that we will head to Frankfurt Germany where we are looking forward to staying with our good friends the Buzbees.
It is now very close to the end of our first month on the road. That is already 1/9th of our trip! It is too early to make any major generalizations, but for the most part we are managing well and getting along. While we miss people and even things from home (most often food), we don’t wish ourselves back there - yet.