Our familiar

Cava Baja2

After 75 days of packing up and moving on to unfamiliar territory, familiar feels good! Don’t get me wrong: We have loved exploring new places, and that is why we weren’t at all prepared for how good it would feel to come back to something we know.

Over two months ago we began this journey in Madrid, a city I expected we’d find too large and uninteresting. Compared to most of the cities we have stayed in, there really aren’t that many sights to see here in the capital. I thought we’d spend the first week in Madrid recuperating from jet lag and adjusting to the language difference. And after driving 4200 miles through the rest of Spain, we’d spend the last week in Madrid winding down and preparing for our flight home.

Madrid may be the largest city in Spain, but the distinct personalities of its neighborhoods, or barrios, give it such character. It is the kind of city you want to wander in. Within minutes you can stroll from the historic barrios of Palacio and Sol to the art museum promenade of Retiro, the international bohemia of Las Letras, the tapas bars of La Latina, or the chic boutiques of Chueca and Malasaña.

After ditching our luggage in the same apartment we stayed in in September—quickest check-in yet, all our host had to do was hand over the keys!—we turned in our third and final rental car and wandered back “home.” We delighted in seeing places we knew and knowing where we wanted to go. We stopped at an outdoor café on the Gran Vía (it’s still warm enough to have tables out in November!), ordered a couple of beers without having to worry if we got all the verb tenses right, munched on our daily dose of olives, and sat and watched the world go by. No car, no map, no worries. It’s good to be back!

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