Saturday, April 24, 2010

Parakeets in Amsterdam?

It's true! 
There are actually a few thousand of these little green parakeets around Amsterdam. 
They perfectly match the leaves making it difficult to be sure if what you spotted was real not...but I caught this little guy taking off for a trip. Can you spot him? 

Find out more on Amsterdam's wildlife here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Am I Picnic Obsessed?

Because I can lay in the park and see a view like this:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Madrid To Segovia By Train

During our time in Madrid we took a day trip to Segovia. It was about 2 (long) hours on the train. It's an old city in the mountains with gothic architecture, cobblestone streets and an old Roman aqueduct. What a nice day to enjoy in the sun and stomp around history.

On the train we passed some mountains, quite exciting after living in such a flat country for months.

Segovia is fully equipped with aqueducts...You can't escape the Roman Empire!

No, really. You can't escape Rome

Working our way up...

Having a drink in the sun...

Spring in Spain!

Want to know more? Just click the blue link below this map to view information on some of my favorite spots around Madrid.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Madrid City Guide

This is the map of Madrid I put together for the trip. You can find all the places I've blogged about right here:

View lilymargaret's madrid map in a larger map.
Plaza Mayor was actually one of my least favorite spots in Madrid. It's just overwhelming with confused tourists and street performers and these really annoying bird sounding toys. They make a terribly squawking noise that creates an instant migraine!
I got a nice picture and then we got out of there as quickly as possible.

This cute street just off Plaza Mayor leads to an even cuter alley where the sun shines perfectly in the afternoon creating a lovely sunny spot for a coffee break.

Chocolatería San Ginés where we sat in the previously mentioned sun and enjoyed a mid afternoon drink.

Our first day there was 20 degrees celsius and sunny! So, we wandered the city a bit, down the Calle de Prado and into the park where were decided it was the perfect time for a nap in the sun.

Caixa Forum is a cultural center with films, music, lectures, and performances. What do you think about the wall covered in flowers out front? Lovely, isn't it?

It's easy to get lost in this dizzying market, but so crowded and crazy that it's definitely a 'must see' for any visitor. 
If you're looking for anything from antiques to beads to brightly colored new age hippie garb then this is the place for you!

Empty bike racks are a rare sight back in Amsterdam...

Have you ever tried horchata ice cream? All I have to say is, "yum!"

Eating My Way Through Madrid

The weather in Madrid was gorgeous, but the eating experience wasn't exactly what I'd imagined. I know, I know, it's tapas galore...but lacking in variety for vegetarians. One can only handle so many plates of patatas bravas and olives.

I found it really charming to see locals standing at the bar of the cafe, sipping an espresso or dunking a churro in their hot chocolate. I can't say my churro experience resulted in the best thing I've ever tasted. It was exactly what you'd expect from plain, deep fried dough. A few bites was just enough. Unfortunately, it wasn't the sweet, cinnamon churro I was expecting, but, 'when in Rome...'

In Madrid, I developed a taste for cappuccino, a nice switch from my standard black tea with honey. The coffee was great and thus an addiction was born. Plus, after five months of winter in Amsterdam, it was just so nice to have a drink outside in the SUN!

Next up... tapas with sangria, of course! And check out the vegetarian delicacies previously mentioned: olives and potatoes were some of the only vegetarian things on the menu. But, this meal was still quite yummy.
Viva La Vida was conveniently located really close to the flat where we stayed. Lucky me! Their vegetable paella was delish. And their sweets? Yum! I walked in with my mouth watering when I spotted the plentiful vegetarian buffet and I left stuffed with organic, vegetarian goodness. Both locations a wide range of savory and sweet veggie treats and the spot on Calle Huertos has small organic market inside. INFO: Vivia La Vida @ Calle Huertas 57. Tel. 91367254 and @ Costanilla de San Andres 16. PLasa de la Paja. Tel. 913663349.

During one of our walks around the city I spotted a group of children staring intently at the window of a shop. A few steps closer and I discovered the object of their affection, crazy amounts of candy. It's a pretty impressive display but somehow I managed to stay out of this shop.

For my birthday dinner I ordered the basil lasagna from El Septiemo, which had a lot of great vegetarian options. This intimate restaurant is decorated with antiques that exuded a the feeling of dining at a friend's country cottage. I made the mistake of thinking that dinner reservations for 9pm was sufficient for adapting to Madrid's nocturnal eating schedule but we were some of the only people there until about half way through the main course. INFO: El Septiemo, Calle de Diego de Leon 7, Madrid. Tel: 915622940

The meal concluded with a glass of champagne and mango tart with passionfruit sorbet. "Happy Birthday to, me!"

Want to know more? Just click the blue link below this map to view information on some of my favorite spots in Madrid.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Madrid's Mercado San Miguel

Marcado San Miguel was a bustling market in the early 20th century but later abandoned and broken down until some investors got together and restored it to re-open in 2003. Now, this space once again houses stalls filled with all kinds of fresh foods, from fruit and vegetables to sweets, beer, wine and even a small library! This indoor market is just off the Plaza Mayor and equally as crowded. Maybe, because it was a weekend but I really had to squeeze through masses of people just to get a view of the stalls. Despite the prices being a bit high, this was one of my favorite lunches in Madrid. Partially because I was able to pick out great vegetarian options but also because of the whole atmosphere inside the market. Sure, it was a bit chaotic at times but the crowd had such an enthusiastic spirit for the food! Check out this NY Times article about the market's history and renovation.

How great are the high ceilings and iron details? And of course, I loved the garlic hanging all over!

After browsing all the stalls I picked up a fresh lunch. A mix of Spanish cheeses and olives with mozzarella and peppers. A bit pricey, but definitely worth it!

And these juicy Spanish strawberries

What a perfectly delicious start to a great day in Madrid!

Cilck the blue link below this map to view information on some of my favorite spots around Madrid.
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Views of Madrid

We did a lot of walking in Madrid. After living in Amsterdam for six months, it was very weird to not be on a bike. But, given the hilly landscape of the city, walking was the best way to check out all the fantastic architecture! Here's some of my favorites.

I passed this building so many times and love the art nouveau ladies.

Madrid has really cute street lamps

Hi, from Madrid!

It was Easter, so...

Want to know more? Just cilck the blue link below this map to view information and locations for some of my favorite spots around Madrid.
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