We planned it for a year. Christmas in Spain with our adult children and their husbands. Bonding time, gorgeous cities, new experiences in tourism and cuisine. Souvenirs. History.

 And it all came true. Madrid was gorgeous and cosmopolitan. Of course, we got there on Christmas Eve. So after our three hour walking tour with a charming English-speaking guide, she informed us that the Prado would only be open for one more hour, and so we would have to hustle if we wanted to visit it, because it would be closed on Christmas day. Our Spanish speaking daughter, who had been there before, led us running through the museum to “see” the highlights. I saw a wonderful and famous Goya for a split second before we had to rush up a floor for the El Greco paintings. I think I passed a Rubens on the way, and out of the corner of my eye I saw some people standing in front of what looked like a Vermeer. But I can’t be sure.

 Then we strolled through a beautiful garden. My feet were killing me. My husband, who had hernia surgery three months prior, started to limp. He whispered to me that he thought “it might be coming back,” but we had to hustle to keep up with our kids, two of whom had just hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, one who rides horses every day, and the other who works out religiously. We were outnumbered by the young and fit—who had evidently made a pact not to miss one single important thing. Before closing time on Christmas Eve.

 We rested up on Christmas day, when nothing was open, thankfully. We actually strolled through a beautiful park. I petted every Spanish dog I saw. We took pictures of a lot of geese, which my daughters apparently love more than life itself.

 In Cordoba, we walked (for three hours, again with the sore feet) with a tour guide who told us about the wonderful history and beautiful houses. There were still flowers blooming everywhere. It was lovely. The ancient Mosque was fascinating. It was freezing in there. The kids took pictures and immediately posted them on Facebook. We visited forty souvenir shops.

 On to Granada, the home of the Alhambra, which took our breath away. The Sultans knew how to live. The tile work was beyond belief. This tour lasted a mere five hours. Or so it seemed. I was in different shoes, but my big toe hurt. My husband whispered, “I am making a doctor’s appointment as soon as we get home.” Our daughters took about seventy pictures of the feral street cats. Their husbands found a bar and disappeared for a few hours. The girls didn’t seem to notice.

 In Seville, there was much celebration of the New Year. There is one small square in which about three thousand people squeeze to wait until midnight, when they all kiss and ring bells or something. We were too pooped to join them. Even the kids. They went back to the hotel and tweeted. 

The next day, we took another wonderful tour of the Alcazar with a delightful guide. By then, we were feeling fitter. Those nine hours zipped by. My husband only clutched his groin for the last two and a half hours. My big toe was by then resigned to the experience.

 Here is what I learned on the trip: Spain is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Ham is worshipped in Spain. I am a vegetarian. Tapas are considered to be extremely delicious, and consist of small plates of ham combined with fish. I now know that I am not a Tapas kind of gal. Olives and bread in Spain are the best in the world. I ate my weight in them both. The Spanish people are charming, friendly, and passionate about their country. With very good reason. Family bonding is great, and the key to a successful family tourist experience? Split up as much as possible. 

And for heaven’s sake, bring comfortable shoes.




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