Friday the 1st was April Fools Day, but although it seemed like a prank, we left in the afternoon for spring break in Spain. We did have to get a Covid test, which turned out to be at a drive through shipping container at a strip mall in Sterling. After a quick Lyft to Dulles, we had a late departure on KLM. I’d asked for the low sodium meal and had a spinach saag that was the best airplane meal of my life. Unfortunately it was a red-eye and all of us had little sleep by the time we arrived in Amsterdam. We discovered that Nina had left behind the Timekettle earbuds I’d just given her, and found a lost and found next to the baggage storage we left our carryons at, but they hadn’t gotten any.
We waited outside Schiphol airport for bus 397 that dropped us right outside our first destination, the Van Gogh Museum. We were a little late for our timed ticket, but the lady let us in. We rented audio devices and chose the highlights tour. When Nina and Jill went to the Van Gogh in DC, Nina had really liked Van Gogh’s “Sunflower” painting, and she enjoyed seeing the real thing (and the gift shop of course). After we were done, Nina and Jill took a tram one way and I took one another to go shopping. I went to Velvet Music where they had a great bargain bin while they went to Stephen & Penelope. We both saw the canals as we walked, then met up at the Amsterdam Centraal train station to take a train back to the airport.
We got to the airport with 2 hours before our flight, but waited in the longest security line of our trip to get back in for nearly an hour. We made it to our gate at end of C gates where there was Cafe Communal, a small restaurant with mostly premade food. There wasn’t much I could eat, so I had Pringles, a banana and beer while Nina had pizza. I went back as they had a small bar and asked for a Jameson’s on the rocks. The bartender asked if I wanted a double and I wisely said yes. Nina and I fell asleep before takeoff and slept the whole flight (Jill slept some) and we were somewhat refreshed when we arrived in Málaga.
We didn’t have a gate, so the airplane parked in the middle and they sent buses. Nina and Jill just got on the first one, then I got on the next one and we went through health screening/customs. We were waiting for our luggage a while, when we noticed everyone who was waiting was leaving. We followed them to find our luggage was already off the carousel. We went downstairs to the car rental and waited a long time to get our car, but finally got our Volkswagen Golf Life and got on the highway.
The reason for the almost impromptu trip was that our neighbors here, Ursula and Kevin, had decided when Fairfax Country schools were going all virtual in the fall of 2020 to move the whole family to Spain temporarily so their kids could go to school there (their oldest is in fifth grade like Nina). It was already dark when we got to the house they’d rented in Torre de Benagalbón. The kids played Mario Kart and we shared pizza.
Nina had a bit of a cold Thursday night before we left, and by Saturday night she was coughing enough that Jill thought she needed her nebulizer. I’d planned to bring an adapter for our plugs, but had completely forgotten about the voltage conversion. That meant her nebulizer ran for about 30 seconds before acrid smoke came pouring out of it. She was banned into our room while I tried to get the smell out of ours. We managed to get her to sleep with just her inhaler.
After both Nina and I slept for 12 hours, Sunday looked up. Kevin made me eggs and toast, and I had a shower. In the afternoon, we piled into their minivan and drove to Nerja. We visited the Balcony of Europe, but it was very windy and couldn’t see too far across the Mediterranean Sea. We retreated and had an early dinner on the patio of Mediterraneo. I had lamb and beer. On the way back Ursula had helped Jill find a drugstore with a nebulizer, and they picked it up.
That night Ursula and their daughter took us to Málaga to see flamenco. We were late as the police had set up roadblocks to the old city. We didn’t know why until we’d parked and walked in, and saw there was a parade for La Semana Santa. We finally made it to Centro de Arte Flamenco to see Kelipe. There was a guitarist and 3 singers – except one of the singers was also the dancer, which was surprising. There was also a serve yourself bar – I had a beer and Nina had OJ.
On Monday the 4th we woke to the news that Kevin’s flight home had been cancelled and now he was leaving Wednesday (he split work remote vs. US). We had stayed up late enough the night before that the couple terrible timed tickets available for the Alhambra palace had switched to full availability, and we left midmorning to drive there over bridges and through tunnels. I had managed to catch Nina’s cold, so I had a runny nose all day (at least it’s hard to give to people when you’re wearing a mask). The palace was very cool, but afterwards we had a snack break and decided to leave. I wanted to stop at Discos Bora-Bora, a record store nearby, so we found a garage. Jill and Nina liked the look of El Cambalache Restaurant, so we ate there, with probably the most translation trouble of our trip, but we still had a delicious meal. After we got back, the kids were out of school and Nina played with them while Jill and I shopped at Mercadona, then had a shared dinner with everyone.
I was sleeping in what was supposed to be Nina’s room, but Jill thought something was triggering her asthma in there, so Nina slept with her. I woke after 11 hours of sleep on Tuesday to find it raining and damp plus now Jill had caught the cold. Ursula took Jill and me to lunch at Café Terranova where I decided to try an eggs with shrimp dish (revuelto de champiñones y langostinos), but when it came out it looked like it was sprinkled with eels. Jill gave me a look but I ate what I could. It wasn’t until we got home I felt safe looking up what it was: mushrooms (almost as bad).
In the afternoon Nina took a motorized scooter to pickup the kids at school. Meanwhile, I picked up tickets for Dead & Company since I figured out the time difference to the US. That night Ursula urged Jill and I to have a date night. First we went to Restaurante Antonio where we got a weird vibe. I had a Mediterranean lobster and Jill had some fish, then we left, only to find that they were closing early. We were still hungry, so stopped at La Calma Playa where I had a tomato burrata salad and a beef poke bowl, both delicious.
Wednesday the 6th I slept in again, and was starting to feel better. We drove into Málaga and had lunch at D’Platos where I had salad and a lamb burger while the girls had paella. Next we visited the Picasso Museum Málaga which had his works laid out chronologically so you could really get a sense of his evolution as an artist. Next to D’Platos we had seen Martonela and Nina wanted that, so we got ice cream there, then onto the Interactive Music Museum where half of it was given over to instruments everyone could play (drums were easy, but I’d never tried playing a cello before). The other museum we wanted to go to was closed that day, so we headed back where we did beach, reading & TV. We shared pizza we got from Telepizza we got delivered for dinner.
Thursday I slept in again. I made myself crepes with eggs, cheese & tomato sauce for breakfast and Nina and I went to the beach before we returned to Málaga and went to the Museum of the Imagination, where the last room is selfie heaven. We drove to the old city and parked, then enjoyed one of our favorite things from our last trip to Spain in 2006: chocolate and churros at Casa Aranda. Then we went shopping; I went to Discos Candilejas and Sleazy Records for CDs (only picked up 1 though) and Pull & Bear for a shirt and belt since they were also clothes shopping, then we met for dinner at La Barra de Zapata. Jill knew someone who had been to Málaga recently and recommended this University of Maryland alumni’s restaurant, and it was definitely our best meal in Spain. We had a variety of tapas (Nina’s favorite was momo dumplings) and Jill really enjoyed her tinto de verano. That night I was surprised as I never thought we’d hear another Pink Floyd song, but they released one in support of Ukraine.
Friday afternoon Ursula and the kids left for their spring break. We had packed, and went to the beach one more time to eat at Chiringuito Marina Playa as the breeze whipped around (the windsurfer enjoyed it). The girls had fish while I had squid, then we said goodbye to Málaga and went to the airport. We got our Covid test done, then went through security. I had a burger and the girls had pizza and pasta, then when I got a snack for the plane at the gate I noticed they were selling cans of beer so got one of those too.
We got to Amsterdam and somewhere between the plane and the exit Jill lost her phone. We tried a couple things with no luck, but it was already midnight and we were tired. The in airport hotel had been booked, but happily the Hilton was a quick walk through a building away. Saturday Jill got up early to try and find her phone without success, then joined us for a very nice breakfast buffet at the Hilton. There was a much shorter line at security this time, and we had time to have a snack at a café we’d seen before that looked like it came from Alice in Wonderland.
We found out as we tried to board we didn’t have the correct boarding passes and forms, so we had to go through all that. Luckily I had snagged the forms from the Covid test and had already downloaded the pdfs as Jill no longer had access to her Gmail without her phone (next time we’ll make sure we can sign in on each other’s phones before we leave). I’d forgotten to order ahead the low sodium meal and skipped the airplane meal (Indian again), but had packed snacks anyway. I read comics (actually finished all the digital ones I brought) while they watched movies. When we got to Dulles, there was a very long customs line, but we only spent an hour in it thanks to noticing some people were switching to a shorter line if they filled out their customs information online. We got a Lyft home, got Reston Kabob and Popeyes and that was it. The next day I posted this: Sooooo… we just got back from spring break. In Spain. We didn’t want to say anything to jinx it before we left (the Covid rules are ever changing), but it was a great time. More details to come.
Monday the 11th my mom and her husband were also headed to Europe, taking a river cruise that ironically ended in Amsterdam. Unfortunately they’d taken their Covid tests too early, and I scrambled to schedule some for them in Logan, where they had a long layover and got to see my sister and her family before they flew again. Wednesday night the school had a fundraiser at Honeygrow where I got a nice salad. Thursday and Friday Nina had an elevated temperature and was coughing frequently. I took her to the doctor and kept her home both days – thankfully her teacher emailed us things she could do on her laptop. She was feeling better by Friday night and we got Flippin’ Pizza for takeout.
Saturday the 16th I found out I’d won tickets to see Suz Slezak (from David Wax Museum) with Anthony da Costa for a WNRN private concert at the brand new David Wax Museum studio barn. Jill wasn’t interested, so I made a day of it: stops for shopping at Plan 9 Music and Sidetracks Music, early dinner at Citizen Burger Bar downtown, beer run at Three Chopt, and then a fun show in a small space. If only c wasn’t so far away. To make up for my time away, I spent all day Sunday working on the yard. We’d had Miles come and remove all the weed and put in plants and mulch. I went to Reston Farm Garden Market and picked up a couple more plants as I discovered 2 of the plants they’d left were cherry trees, and I wanted to try my hand at a vegetable garden for the first time. I also mowed, trimmed, and we moved the mulch I removed to the front where there was a bare patch.
Tuesday Sue and Ava came to visit us for a couple days during Ava’s spring break. They mostly were visiting DC, but we had dinner together in the evenings (Nina convinced them to try Big Buns to much acclaim). Thursday I had to get Wacker plumbing to fix the outside faucet again, and I realized we’d gotten the wrong message last time: it’s not turning the water off inside that matters, but disconnecting the hose. Hopefully we won’t forget.
Friday the 22nd Nina had her first class field trip since 2019, this time to the Baltimore Aquarium. Jill got her from school, and then dropped her off at her Girl Scout troop leader, as they were doing a 2 night camp out at Camp May Flather. Sue and Ava left that night. Saturday Jill and I went out to pick up some pinball glass in Purcellville for Tony, and since Catoctin Creek Distilling Company was nearby, picked up a bottle there. Since we had no plans that night, I had made reservations at Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano in Vienna. In all the time I’d been going to fancy restaurants in DC, I had never made it to one of Chef Roberto Donna’s restaurants, and now he was close by. The dinner was delicious (especially the lamb and the cocktails), and next time we’ll know to ask which dish he’s preparing tableside.
Nina was back from camp the next night, but we were out as I’d snagged tickets to see Jon Stewart get the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center. First we had a delicious dinner outside at Imperfecto (since awarded a Michelin Star), then walked over to Foggy Bottom and caught the shuttle. A warm up comedian came out first, then music from musical director Gary Clark Jr. who surprised us with an unannounced guest: Bruce Springsteen, and they did a duet on The Beatles’ “Come Together”. Bruce was pretty good by himself, too. We got to see standup (mostly roasts) from Jimmy Kimmel, Pete Davidson, Olivia Munn, Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, Bassem Youssef, Ed Helms (replacing Stephen Colbert, who was out with Covid) & Dave Chappelle before Jon himself took the stage for a long set.
We had also started working on Nina switching bedrooms that weekend but soon realized there was way too much work. So Jill got on TaskRabbit and on Monday and Tuesday a painter came to repaint Nina’s new room; also Tuesday we had Nina’s loft bed disassembled and the sofabed moved into the kitchen. Thursday Belfort Furniture came and delivered the new queen bed for the guest room. Thursday night I was supposed to go see Lindsey Buckingham, but he cancelled due to Covid; we also got our first goslings of the year on our lawn. Friday we got takeout from Senor Ramon.
Saturday the 30th was a very busy day. While Jill took Nina over to Jammin’ Java for rehearsals, I went to Reston Hospital to drop off expired medicine, then joined them as Nina sang with the school house band for their school open mic. Then we went over to Frying Pan Park for their Horse Expo as Nina’s interested in riding. Finally Michael Clem came over for the first Lake Thoreau Concerts of the year, and the weather really cooperated (I was unsure about an April date when he scheduled it).