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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Madrid | 'Feeling' European

Updated: Feb 22, 2021

Our first morning in Madrid, we had to run to the store to get a few items that we needed for the duration of the trip, so we headed to Costco!!

Costco in Madrid

Part of the reason for going was the novelty of going to a Costco in Europe; plus, it was conveniently located across the highway from our hotel. We headed in and it some ways we felt like we were transported back to Canada - it felt/looked very similar to the Costco back home! It was also interesting to see the same Kirkland brand items that we have back in Canada/US here in Spain as well. I think I was partly expecting to see things packaged in smaller quantities because housing is smaller in Europe, but it was all the same sizes. We picked up the exact same Kirkland brand diapers that we have back at home, but they were quite a bit more expensive - 44 Euro (almost 66 CND) for 180 diapers, whereas it is somewhere around $30 CND at home. Normally things like diapers are cheapest at Costco, but later that day we went to Carre Four and a box of 180 diapers there was slightly cheaper at 39 Euros. We figured it might be because they actually had to import the Kirkland diapers from North America here. However, it was interesting to check it out and our daughter enjoyed showing the Costco card to the person at the door, but she was a little disappointed that the person didn't make the smiley face on the back of the receipt like they do at home.

Madrid Old Town

We headed into the Old Town of Madrid for the day, after experiencing some heavy traffic along the way. The tunnels through the city were quite intense - they were some of the longest tunnels through a city we had seen in Europe. One of them went right underneath the futbol stadium. We checked out a few of the plazas, including Plaza Mayor, and stopped at McDonalds for our daughter to get some lunch - she had been a trooper so far. I tell you, McDonalds brand marketing specialists are genius - our daughter can spot a McDonalds across an entire plaza with just the golden arches! I think they definitely designed it with kids in mind.

Alex and I went to the Mercado de San Miguel for lunch instead and enjoyed a plate of Paella. The market itself was very cool with all different types of food vendors selling tapas, meals, beer, fruit, drinks, etc. If we didn't have a stroller and kids, we would have definitely spent more time there eating and drinking some cool tapas and drinks.

Parque de el Retiro

We wandered over to the Palacio de Cibeles, but were reminded of how things close down for Siesta time in Spain for a couple of hours anytime between 1-4 p.m. So instead we walked over to Parque de el Retiro. We walked through the park, which had a garden feel to parts of it and then rented a row boat on the lake there. It was 6 Euro for the boat for 45 minutes and it was a lot of fun. Our daughter really enjoyed it and even a few days later was still talking about it. It was fun to row up to the statues and fountains and some ambient music from the musicians on the opposite side of the lake. We stopped to watch the ducks and dance a little in the boat. We even saw a cute little mommy duck with her 12 babies. It felt very 'European.'

On the way out of the park we stopped at a playground for some playtime.

There were a couple of mascots that were hanging out in the park trying to get some extra tip money, so Clara was pretty excited to run into Marshall from Paw Patrol, one of her favorite shows. She also enjoyed watching some of her familiar cartoons on TV in the morning at the hotel - it has been interesting to watch Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig in Spanish. I myself was pretty entertained with Peppa Pig in Spanish because she obviously can't have an English accent here...ha ha! But I was surprised to see she was just as entertained even though she can't understand what is being said.

Palacio de Cibeles

We headed back to the Palacio de Cibeles, now that Siesta time was over, and headed to the top for a view of the city below and then headed back to our car which was parked in an underground garage. For about 6 hours of parking in downtown Madrid it cost us about 14 Euros.

Picking Up Some Essentials

Before heading back to our hotel for the night, we stopped at Carre Four and Toys R Us to get some food for lunches and snacks and some other essentials we needed. We didn't have access to a refrigerator for the first few days so we just were going to get Peanut Butter, but Alex said that there was only 1 type of Peanut Butter in Spain, but so many different selections of Nutella, so maybe we'll have to convert. ;-) It was interesting to check out the variations of favorites back home and I spent quite a bit of time in the baby food aisle trying to figure out what different food was - luckily there were pictures on most of them!

Naps & Jetlag for a 3-Year-Old

This was one of the toughest nights for jet lag for Clara and one that had us still guessing on how to handle naps. Our daughter fell asleep on the walk back to the parking garage, so we let her sleep until we got to the Carre Four. However, when we got there and woke her up, she was a complete crab. While we were shopping, she fell asleep in the stroller again so we decided maybe we would try to let her keep sleeping and then maybe just transfer her to bed when we got back. Alex and I enjoyed some dinner and then as we were heading back to the car she woke up - in a fairly good mood. So much for an early bedtime that night; of course, it took a couple hours later to get her to fall asleep because she had such a late nap. In hindsight, I'm not sure what we would have done differently, as she would have been equally crabby if we tried to keep her awake, but I guess it's just par for the course of international travel with a 3-year-old and luckily short-lived.

Day 2: Casa de Campo & Real Palace of Madrid

Our second day in Madrid, we parked this time at the lake in Casa de Campo, which was actually free parking and was only a 15-20 minute walk away from attractions like the Real Palace of Madrid. It was a little cloudy and rainy this day, but luckily the rain held off and when there was precipitation it was very minimal. Casa de Campo was huge - one thing I read said it was 5 times the size of Central Park, and I'd believe it! It was like a little forest in the middle of the city. We walked to the Real Palace of Madrid and stopped at the Crypt Cathedral next to it. It was a bargain of a deal for admission as it was a freewill donation.

When we arrived at the Real Palace the doors to the ticket office were closed and at closer look we saw the Palace was closed that day for Official events; so unfortunately we didn't get to go inside. However, we tried to enjoy the view on the steps adjacent to the Palace by having our picnic lunch there and Clara enjoyed playing on the steps. Later that afternoon we walked through the Palace Gardens, which were beautiful as well.

Churros & Chocolate

After our lunch we headed back to the Plaza Mayor area and went to Chocolateria de San Gines for some of the acclaimed churros and chocolate. The line up was long, but as they only serve chocolate and churros it went quite fast and we were soon enjoying some freshly fried churros and warm melted chocolate - quite delish! We ran out of churros, so we even started to dip some bananas that we had in our bags with the remainder of the chocolate.

We walked back to the car and figured we would do a kid friendly activity like going to the zoo - so we drove to the Madrid Zoo located in Casa de Campo. However, the price to get in was about 23 Euro per adult and 18 Euro for our 3-year-old daughter, so we made the decision to skip it this time around instead of forking out over $100 CND for us. Instead we found this awesome playground that was shaped like a pirate ship!

Clara loved it and we spent a fair bit of time there. Of course, as we were driving away to head back to the hotel she told us she wanted to go to the zoo still though. Oops!

Note to self: Don't tell her where we're going if there might be a slight change in plans - 3-year-olds aren't quite ready to be adaptable travelers. :-)

We tried to follow the advice of the car's GPS for a family friendly place to eat. Unfortunately, the place it took us wasn't there and about 3 places we asked all didn't allow kids. So instead we found a little takeout food place and got some chicken drumsticks, spaghetti and peas and located a park nearby to eat our 'gourmet meal' - ha ha! Our daughter loved it though because she got another playground to play at!

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