As with life, all good things must come to an end.
While our time in Barcelona was over, we were excited to head to the next destination of our celebratory trip: Costa Brava, a paradise that has been described as the Hamptons of Spain.
For us, Costa Brava was in the “triangle” on the way to Madrid, where we would end our trip and fly home.
Hostal de La Gavina, the hotel that Adler & Marlow had arranged for us to stay, was situated overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
My first breakfast on my terrace gave me views of the boats and kayakers making their way through the sea, which I would be doing later in the afternoon. It would be an adventure through those clear, pristine waters kayaking away.
A van picked us up and brought us to a park, where the kayak rental place was located, but no one told me I would have to walk a mile in 90-degree weather to get there!
It was fun to share the kayak with my grandkids Blake and Addy. We got the rhythm of our oars in sync by singing an old marching camp song: “Left, left, left my wife with 48 kids.” It worked, as we steered our kayak into the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
We made our way to a cove where we all “parked” our kayaks and had a picnic lunch of sandwiches and snacks that our guide provided.
Adding to our adventure was meeting the “hermit” who lives in a tiny stone hut all year by himself with a wood-burning fireplace to cook and warm himself.
The next day, we took a boat to a quiet cove where we snorkeled and water paddled. Our captain cooked lunch on board, including a paella filled with juicy meats and fish. It was my son Josh’s favorite paella to date! We also feasted on cheeses, hams and anchovies.
But sadly, the next day we had to bid goodbye to Costa Brava and took a van to meet an expert on Spanish-Jewish history in the ancient city of Besalú, where we were privately toured a 12th-century mikveh, a Jewish ritual bathhouse, one of the few surviving of its kind in Spain and Europe.
The ruins reminded me of the travails of our people and centuries of persecution, but also survival.
Although it was over 90 degrees, we had a delightful lunch eating modern Catalan fare of salads with rich, red tomatoes, fish, meat and what became our favorite food, croquettes, this one filled with mushrooms, while seated in an open air restaurant overlooking the stream around the ancient town.
We were off to our last destination, taking the high-speed train to Madrid.
The trip by car would take five hours, but the “super” train was only three. We all enjoyed the scenes of the colors of the passing farmlands. I wish I had a paintbrush to capture the colors of the fields as our train “flew” through the towns.
When we got to the Madrid Atocha train station, an enormous building like our Grand Central Station, the afternoon sun was still stiflingly hot, but the shady sides of the streets helped as we took a long, long walk to find our van.
There must have been hundreds of taxis lined up waiting for people coming off the dozens of trains stopping in Madrid, but we finally found our driver.
We were relieved when we arrived at the charming URSO Hotel & Spa located in an old-world neighborhood in Madrid. I couldn’t wait for a cool, refreshing shower and swim before dinner.
Danny Adler, our tour guide company leader, made reservations for us at Bosco de Lobos and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
All 13 of us sat upstairs in the wine room at a round table surrounded by hundreds of wine bottles nestled in the cabinets behind us. Music from downstairs filtered up and we enjoyed the festive environment and, of course, the meal.
It’s funny how throughout our trip we found similar dishes on the different menus. Our favorites included each city’s crunchy fresh breads, burrata cheese salad, steak, fish and good, old-fashioned pasta. A new treat we fell in love with were croquettes filled with potatoes and either spinach, fish or mushrooms. We all came to look for it on the menus!
Of course, each meal was accompanied by red and white wines, always from regions in Spain. If I find them in the states, I will share them — they were terrific, full-bodied wines at fair prices.
To finish each meal, it became our tradition to eat gelato for dessert at nearby sweet shops offering dozens of flavors.
Our first full day in Madrid was spent with a guide viewing historic buildings and wide boulevards from our air-conditioned van, fortunately, sitting comfortably and not outside in the 90-plus-degree heat.
Madrid is a cosmopolitan city of about 3.5 million people. The once-walled city has Roman roots going back 2,000 years. In the late 1800s, the stone walls came down to enable the city to grow, and grow it has.
Today there are skyscrapers, one owned by the family that owns the world famous Zara clothing brand, but most of the city has the charm of its turn-of-the-20th-century architecture. We visited a rooftop building to get a spectacular view of the city skyline filled with orange tile roofs.
My last day in Madrid was so special because I had my 16-year-old Blake and 13-year-old Jonah, the bar mitzvah boy, all to myself. The rest of the family explored the city on their own.
Our journey together began at the Alex Katz exhibit at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and then went on to the Museo Reina Sofía to see the world famous Pablo Picasso Guernica mural painted in his surrealist period. Another famous Spaniard, the great Salvador Dalí’s work, was in the next room. What fun to walk through the air-conditioned, historic halls of the museum. We then stopped at the cafe there.
In the plaza outside of the museum is a massive Roy Lichtenstein sculpture standing tall in the stunningly renovated courtyard and new wing facing walls of the original museum built in the 1700s.
Madrid is very quiet in August, with many Spaniards leaving on vacation, making it easy to be a tourist. There were no lines for museums and tables at the best restaurants were always available.
But the most special memory for me of Madrid was walking down the streets with my two boys on my arms.
We had a spectacular day exploring the beauty that is Madrid.
Many thanks to my perfectly planned tour company Adler & Marlow and its owner Danny Adler for perfectly planning our celebratory bar and bat mitzvah trip!
Spain is a special place to share superb memories. I’m so grateful we went!