Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Hmmm. Where to begin? How about: I'll forever associate Bilbao with vomit. But, I think I'm getting ahead of myself. Thanks to the crazy holiday schedule the Spanish keep, we had a 4-day weekend and we decided to make the most of it by driving to Bilbao. The last time I visited Bilbao was in 2004 with my mother and I got a terrible case of food poisoning that made a 4-hour bus ride back to Madrid one of the worst experiences of my life. This time things were going to be different. We rented a VW Tourvan (not sure if they sell these in the States, but it's a perfect family-mobile) and headed out on Sat. morning. Kyle had made a reservation for a tour and lunch at the Marques de Riscal winery and hotel in Enciego. The hotel was designed by Frank Gehry and it may be the most amazing hotel I've ever had the pleasure of entering. We were running late so sadly lunch was a bit rushed so that we could make the winery tour. Nonetheless lunch was delicious, the service was extraordinary and the view was not to be believed - it was worth the splurge. The winery itself is beautiful and very old but in my opinion is totally outshined by the Gehry building. By 5:30 we were off to Bilbao only about an hour away. An hour doesn't sound like a great distance - UNLESS you're traveling with a baby that will not be soothed. That was the longest hour of all of our lives exacerbated by the fact that even though our hotel was located right across the street from the Guggenheim, it took us approximately 45 minutes just to figure out how to get to it. We could see where it had to be, but getting there was a whole other story. Luckily, when we pulled over so Kyle could call the hotel back for something like the SIXTH time, some local took pity on us, hopped in the car and directed us straight there. The hotel was very modern and perfectly nice, but really the nicest part of our stay there was the pleasure of eating breakfast every morning while overlooking the Guggenheim. I'll add that breakfast was pricey and Kyle called it the place where millionaires go to eat breakfast. Sunday morning we woke up and prepared to head 30 minutes out of town to attend the world championship for cross-cycling. While Kyle pulled the car around the front of the hotel, I took Brodie for one last potty break in the lobby bathroom. As soon as I walked in I saw it. Perfectly rectangular, perfectly crisp, perfectly laid out on the floor as if just for me - a 50 Euro bill. This never happens to me! I reported to the front desk that I had found some money in case anyone came asking and then promptly began hoping no one would and mentally spending it. No one ever claimed it! Back to the race: cross-cycling is where cyclists race around a short dirt/mud track and at times have to hop off and carry their bikes because a hill might be too short and steep and/or too muddy. Kyle does this kind of racing in Austin, but the sport is way bigger in Europe - it was a fun and interesting way to spend the day and we appeared to be the lone Americans rooting for the lone American racing. After a long day, we were ready to eat some traditional Basque food and then head to bed. We walked to the plaza where a restaurant that had been recommended was located, but of course it was closed. I get freaked out when I think that we aren't going to have access to healthy food for the girls. I could live on bread, but it really stresses me out when there aren't good food options for them. Luckily, I've trained myself to always carry fruit and bread so the girls made due with that while Kyle and I made do with pinxos. Pinxos are mini-food portions always presented on a slice of bread. They were ok, but at this point all I wanted was a salad. Not long after we got back to the hotel I began to feel sick -really sick. While I never actually threw up, I was plenty miserable most of the night - the curse of Bilbao! When I woke up Monday morning, everything seemed to have passed and we were all ready to tackle the Guggenheim and the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit. Things were going pretty smoothly and both girls seemed happy when we decided to have lunch in the museum cafe. It was then we noticed that Sabine seemed a little warm, so Kyle took both girls outside for some air and that's when Sabine threw up - ON Kyle. The curse of Bilbao! Having only gone through 2 0f the 3 floors, Kyle took Sabine back to the hotel and Brodie and I viewed the last floor and shopped in the gift shop. Poor Sabine is still on the mend (not eating or sleeping well) but the fever is gone and her spirits have lifted. Anyway, by Tuesday morning we were ready to get home. We had breakfast and headed out. As we were driving home and while both girls slept, Kyle and I discussed where we'll be in a year. It finally hit me that it probably won't be Austin, in fact it almost definitely won't be Austin and that made me homesick. Oddly, later in the drive, out of nowhere, Brodie blurted out, "I miss Austin." It just made me realize how sensitive children are to our moods and that I need to keep mine in check. Today I plan to go out of my way to celebrate something uniquely Madrid with Brodie so that we never lose sight of just how lucky we are to be here.


  1. I'm really enjoying the blog Maria. Your writing totally transports me to Spain and I love getting the non-tourist account of life over there - especially with two littles (both gorgeous BTW). Do you mostly speak Spanish over there? Or do you find most speak English? Are the girls learning Spanish? Keep the posts coming - I can't get enough of them!

  2. Such a great read Maria. You are a wonderful Mom and the girls are lucky to have you! I especially like how you're reflecting on your experience and seeing what is best for your kiddos. I wish you all the best and look forward to reading more.

  3. What ?? You guys are not moving back ?
    This is bad news for sure.


  4. Hi Erin! We mainly speak English, but I introduce Spanish words all day long and try to make a game of it. Brodie is in school and I'm told will be speaking it easily by the end of the year! Thank you Dena! Kenny: Austin isn't completely out of the question, but it's highly unlikely. Kyle thinks Dallas - ugh.