Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Our Way Out of Europe and back

We took the train from Limoges, France to Poitiers, and there we finally tried Grimbergen, a beer we'd been curious about while we were in Belgium this summer. Brewing since 1128? Yes, that is a year. And it's the monks who have been brewing it that long, no doubt.

In Poitiers we caught the night train on it's way from Paris to Madrid. We got on fairly late at night, so we were shown our cabin and promptly went to sleep in our beds. The night trains to and from Spain are the Spanish Trenhotels and they are known as the nicest trains in Europe. We didn't have dinner in the dining car, as it was quite late, and we didn't even go to the bar. But we did have breakfast looking out the huge windows at the Spanish landscape. We had clearly traveled south - trees are a darker and somehow paler green, pines and cypress and ceders that can handle long days in the sun. The rocky, somewhat mountainous landscape was definitely a change from the wet and green of western France.

We arrived a little before 10am in Madrid and went straight to the Metro. The stations seemed entirely too huge, cavernous and empty - and very, very new. We stayed with a fantastic couple through the website We highly recommend using this site, and if you do, let them know that we recommended it to you - I think we get credit although we haven't figured out how yet. Air BnB is a site where you can browse listings by locals who have a couch, spare room, or whole apartment or house that they are willing to rent out, usually at much better prices than you'd pay for a hotel room. We used this in Venice also, and stayed with a really nice couple. In both places we were treated very well, allowed to show up when it was convenient for us, and given the local insight on where to go and what to see. Highly recommended.

We spent most of the day wandering around Madrid. Joshua got a shave and haircut and we bought a few things for our flight the next morning to Boston. Madrid is a fantastic city, and we are hoping we'll spend some more time in Spain in the near future. We had the obligatory sangria and tapas, and later found the most delicious restaurant where we ate dinner alone (the Spanish don't eat until at least 10pm and we hoped to be in bed by then). So if you ever find yourself in Madrid, go to Gabriel. You will not regret it - both meaty local specialties as well as delicious vegetarian options are always on the menu.

For a couple of weeks we traveled New England to visit with family and friends. First to celebrate my (Ramona's) cousin Lucy's bat mitzvah, and see some friends down in Quincy, and then to see Joshua's family in Maine and friends in Vermont and even upstate New York. We spent some time on the farm where Joshua was a shepherd and farm manager for a number of years. We got a ton of family time in with both families at large, fun gatherings and then spent some time catching up with old friends.

Thanks Bly, Judy, Christopher, and Benjamin! Thanks Sarah, Dave, Owen, and Anya! Thanks David, Yesenia, Austin, and Lana! Thanks Judy and Ike Moody! Thanks Jana, Zak, Django, and Desmond! And thanks Lucy for bat mizvah'ing, and all the Abrams and Marks family members we got to see in Boston! Lots and lots of love to every one of you.

And then suddenly we were in a rooftop room (another Airbnb find) in Lisbon, Portugal, on our way to the next house sit.

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