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Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

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Wagga Wagga...
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Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

Ongoing trip report of our family of 5 from Australia (Myself, Hubby, 18yo son, 16 & 13 yo daughters) exploring Spain and the South of France for 3 weeks in Dec 13/Jan 14. Sorry it’s taken so long to post.

Wagga Wagga...
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1. Re: Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

Day 1 - Friday 27 December 2013

3 of us made it to Madrid after the usual long trip via Sydney, Guangzhou & Amsterdam. We were down 2 of our number as 2 days before we were due to fly out, 18yo says he has a sore stomach and his self-google diagnosis was appendicitis. I think to myself what a hypochondriac, but given we’re less than 48 hours away from flying take him to our local Doctor. In a true case of mother not knowing best, some 5 hours later he’s on the operating table having it removed. To anyone who’d contemplate international travel without travel insurance – don’t do it! Thankfully we were insured and decided that hubby would stay home with son until the surgeon was happy for him to travel, meanwhile the heartless females in the family left as scheduled.

We landed at lunchtime, hopped in a taxi to the exotically named “Hostal Acapulco” on the 4th floor of an old building. We quickly unpacked and the girls decided to be good and make their first activity in Madrid a 2 hour swim training session in an indoor pool about a 10min walk away. The hostal were incredibly responsive via email during my booking process, and were able to give me details for the local pools. We almost hit a snag when we discovered that there was a minimum age of 16, but luckily the receptionist could speak English and realised 13yo was a competent swimmer here for training so let her in. I was walking with them into the pool to watch, only to be stopped as you cannot be in the pool area if you are not in swimmers. I ended up spending an hour wandering round the shops, then came back and waited in reception. At one point they pulled out their flippers to do a set their coach had written for them, only to have a lifeguard rush up and say flippers were not allowed....some obviously some new swimming rules in Spain we need to adjust to.

Not surprisingly the girls were pretty exhausted by now and their desire for bed was overwhelming. I was adamant that being asleep by 5pm would have us awake at 3am so after a little rest we headed out again to walk to the Reina Sofia Museum which has free admittance after 7pm. We had a very ordinary pizza dinner directly opposite and watched the queue form. By 7pm it was huge, but thankfully shuffled along reasonably well. The highlight of the museum is Picasso’s “Guernica” (which my older daughter had studied) painted during the Spanish Civil War about the bombing of the city of Guernica. The museum itself was huge, but we were all dead on our feet, and as it was free entrance felt quite justified in seeing only one canvas, well plus a couple of Salvador Dali’s we spotted on the way in. Reina Sofia obviously deserves far more time than we were able to give, but with our schedule it was that or nothing. The intention was to metro back, but we couldn’t find the station and were right at a taxi rank so got a cab – earning me the girls undying gratitude. I pointed out something to them on the way home and the driver started laughing and mimed sleeping – they’d both nodded off in the back seat.

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2. Re: Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

Day 2 - Saturday 28 December 2013

I needn’t have worried about waking early if we went to bed early. When I stirred this morning the hotel and street were so quiet, I thought it was 4am. Eventually I checked the time, only to bolt up as it was 8.40am and we were meeting a guide at 10am. When I woke the girls they couldn’t believe they’d slept that long. I’ve never slept so well on the first night in a new country...obviously no hubby is conducive to a better nights sleep!

Our guide today was Edurne Gonzalez, who I’d booked based on great TA reviews. She was a brilliant guide, so enthusiastic and very interesting to listen to. Our first stop was the Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real). It’s no longer the residence of the King & Queen but is used on official occasions. It was absolutely stunning, but frustratingly you are not permitted to take photos inside, it was really killing me. The interiors are on a par with Versailles, but with much more variety in design. Versailles (understandably) is all French, from a fairly narrow time period, while this Palace developed over a long time and as you move from room to room, the difference in design can be quite startling. My favourite room was a roccoco & Asian inspired design with the most stunning embroidered wallpaper. There is an amazing armoury there that was interesting to wander through as well. We were so lucky today to have glorious blue skies, was a perfect setting for photos outside at least.

Next Edurne walked us the 30mins through Madrid to the Prado Museum. It was great walking with her as she had plenty of stories to share and pointed out so many things we would have otherwise missed. It was here that Edurne really excelled, her knowledge and appreciation of art was amazing. The first piece I was dying to see was Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. It’s painted in 1500 and the detail and imagery is mind blowing. There are parts that look almost sci-fi and certainly centuries ahead of its time. Edurne’s descriptions brought it even more to life, we must have been there about 20mins talking throught it and could have spent longer. Another mind blowing one was Tintoretto’s “Christ washing the disciples feet”, the perspective tricks in this had our jaws dropping. The painting was huge and looked completely different from different sides. We spent most of our time on Spanish art, particularly Goya & Velazquez (whose “Las Mininas” portrait of the royal family was another highlight). 16yo gave a jolt as we approached one famous Goya painting that she’d studied for art. She told me later that “it felt like I’d seen a famous person, I wanted to wave and say hello.” Our enjoyment factor was much higher thanks to Edurne’s skill at bringing it to life, and her ability to zip around to find the best in what was a vast sea of rooms and paintings.

By the time we’d finished and farewelled Edurne it was after 3pm. We’d grabbed a bagel for breakfast so were ready to eat and pleased we’d adjusted to the Spanish schedule (which is lunch around 2pm and dinner no earlier than 9pm). Shared some divine risotto and a chicken dish for lunch at a restaurant behind the Prado and then spent a very pleasant hour walking through the huge Retiro Park visiting the Cristal Palace and being entertained by some fantastic street performers. After a short rest in the hotel it was much easier than last night to drag the girls out to the packed streets. It seemed like all of Madrid was enjoying the evening, at one point we were squished with a couple of thousand people at an intersection of 3 streets watching a musical bear displaying singing something Christmasy in Spanish on the facade of a department store. After a couple of hours trawling the streets with the crowds we scored some very welcome (& rare) seats for our “dinner” of churros and chocolate – basically long sticks of donut like fat dunked in a cup of melted chocolate....oh sooo good

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3. Re: Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

TMBHL:

Good report! Everyone should learn the symptoms of appendicitis. Many years ago my appendix burst and I had to be operated on immediately. My wife saved my life by insisting I see a doctor. I hope your son is well now.

Wagga Wagga...
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4. Re: Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

Thanks Benny - wow you must have been in pain for a while if it got to the bursting stage. Luckily our son caught it very early so had a quick recovery and is fine now.

Day 3 - Sunday 29 December 2013

We walked to the Sunday El Rastro markets this morning. I’d read mixed reviews on them, but thought it was worth a try. Unfortunately the bad reviews were right and they were pretty junky, our only purchase was 2 key rings for the girls. It was nice just to wander round another part of Madrid though, and it was on the way to our main attraction of the day, a Segway tour with Madsegs. It took us quite a while to walk to the Segway office, which was down on the river. We were getting worried about being late, and seemed to be back in our usual holiday position of being semi-lost in an industrial type area with no other tourists around, when suddenly all came good and we arrived bang on 12noon.

Segway-ing was so much fun, it was the first time we were all feeling that the boys would have loved every minute. Although a sad thought, it didn’t dampen our experience too much as it was just so darn enjoyable. Another day of glorious blue skies made for perfect conditions to zip around the city. It feels wrong to be powering up a hill expending no energy whatsoever, but we soon adjusted. They were very easy to operate, we even went up and down stairs on them. The owner of the business (Antony) was an interesting guy, born in Scotland, lived in South Africa for 10 years and now in Spain. He showed us such an interesting side to Madrid, my favourites were the church where Goya is buried which has his stunning frescoes on the roof (in our guides opinion, better than his works in the Prado and I’d agree), the new Madrid Cathedral opened by Pope John Paul II and the 2100 year old Egyptian temple of Debod. We stopped for drinks and tapas of a delicious spanish omlette. There were only 5 of us on the tour, the other couple were from New York. Antony explained the Spaniards concept of Christmas to us. They do celebrate on December 25, but their main celebration time is Epiphany on January 6. That is traditionally the date that the wise men brought gifts to Jesus, so it is on that date that they exchange presents. Many Spaniards are on holidays from Christmas – Ephiphany, which explains why it has been so incredibly crowded here, he thinks this is the busiest he’s ever seen Madrid. We hadn’t been on a local bus yet in Madrid, and Antony was nice enough to give us tickets for the bus right outside his office tour that took us most of the way back to the hotel.

We were back in the room briefly for the girls to get swimmered up and head for another training session. This time they knew not to take flippers, but the set called for paddles so packed them. Needless to say once they went to put them on in the pool the guard was running up again to say that was yet another piece of contraband in the Spanish pool system. While the girls swam I walked over to the Cibeles Fountain, which is the symbol for the Real Madrid soccer team. We’d also learnt about it yesterday at the Prado where the athletes who were turned into the lions of the statue are paintedThe streets were jam packed yet again, the main difference though being that Sunday in Madrid is obviously the day all old ladies come out to wander oh so slowly around in their long fur coats, we must have seen dozens of them. We’d only snacked during the day, so by the time the girls finished swimming at 7pm we were all starving and had an “early” (by Spanish standards) dinner. We learnt today that Spaniards throw their paper napkins on the floor of restaurants (while tourists never do). So if you see a place with napkins all over the floor, you know it’s popular with locals. The girls spotted a napkin strewn tapas bar, so in we went and after ordering our 3 drinks we had enough free tapas for dinner – a very cheap meal. What came for free with the drinks was a plate of bread (french stick like pieces) topped with salami, ham or cheese plus another plate of delicious potato pieces. I had been craving calamari so we did also order a plate, which was superb.

Edited: 17 March 2014, 03:41
Wagga Wagga...
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5. Re: Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

Day 4 - Monday 30 December 2013

Madrid really does not get going early, as we discovered when trying to get breakfast before 7.30am. We eventually found a Starbucks open, but even then they were still getting organised and we didn’t get all our food till nearly 8am. The bonus was they had free wi-fi, which meant we could face time the boys who (after getting the all clear to travel)were now at Paris airport awaiting their flight to Madrid. They are due to land a few hours after we’re due to leave. Madrid farewelled us with a gorgeous sunrise as we drove to meet our 9am train to Cordoba.

I'll continue this in the Cordoba forum, will post a link once I've loaded it.

Wagga Wagga...
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6. Re: Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

Cordoba link below;

tripadvisor.com.au/ShowTopic-g187430-i733-k7…

7. Re: Trip Report - Family of 5 in Spain/France for 3 weeks

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