10.07.2017 - 14.07.2017 104 °F
It's been about 11 months since my last entry, and a lot has happened on the domestic front in that time. On March 16, 2017, my wife gave birth to our first born child, Ethan James Beymer. Danielle and I were pretty sure that we were done with travel for the foreseeable future given the complexities and needs of a newborn, but this post is evidence that we both underestimated our levels of wanderlust.
Mr. Ethan James Beymer
You've probably done the math by now and figured out that we decided to take a three and a half month old on vacation...well, we made the DECISION when he was one month old. I had a presentation accepted at a scientific conference in Paris, and we decided to make it a family trip by visiting Spain for eight days, Switzerland for four days, and then finishing up in Paris for four days so I could attend the conference. Crazy, you ask? Probably, I'll answer. But here we go anyway.
Traveling with an infant has its pros and its cons. At three and a half months old, he only eats one thing and he isn't mobile which makes him easy to keep track of. In addition to that, he still seems to be at the age where most people think he's more cute than a nuisance. When we got to Spain, people would regularly come up to us, hold out their hands, just expecting us to hand over the baby so they could hold him. Those who were hesitant to hold him would still touch his legs, tickle him, and make funny faces. If anything, we got to have a less touristy experience because he was around. Lastly, we got to use taking Ethan as an excuse to take grandma Keri. It's definitely useful to have a third person around when your arm starts to feel dead from carrying a 15 pound human for over an hour.
The cons are that traveling with a child makes for a LOT of luggage, one bag was for the stroller, a second for the car seat, a third for the diaper bag, and a fourth for the boppy (think of it like a baby pillow). That doesn't include the 170+ diapers and 80+ ounces of formula that we also brought along and all of our clothes and equipment. In addition to that, you have to be mindful of the amount of time you spend out of the hotel for any one activity. Babies require regular naps, not to mention feedings, so it's best to go to a place where each activity is four hours or less. You also need to have a place that has a good kitchen sink to wash bottles and a lot of room to store the various bags that you need for the journey, and those requirements can limit your hotel options significantly. Lastly, I've been tired a lot lately as a new parent, but that fatigue triples when you are in a different country, carrying a baby, acting as a translator for the family, AND trying to figure out where you're going all at he same time.
Needed supplies in the back, child in the front, and an ice cream cone for sanity
The flight had the usual bulshittery of any US carrier. For example, this actually happened which led to our flight being stuck on the tarmac for three hours. Don't ask me how that situation affected a connecting flight from Atlanta, but hey, that's US aviation for you. Other than that, we arrived in Spain with a well-rested child and the rest of us needing a day to catch up.
On the second day, we finally got to go out an explore the awesome cuisine and sites that Madrid had to offer. We started with lunch at an amazing restaurant called Metro Bistro. It doesn't sound like anything special, but it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time. After lunch, we walked around to see various monuments and tour Madrid's largest urban park, Parque del Retiro.
Estamos en Espana!
Danielle enjoying her first authentic Spanish dish
Any meal where the baby is resting is an amazing one
Short lived, but he was in great spirits
Rice with Duck
Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple that was taken apart and then rebuilt in Madrid (see: stolen)
The National Cathedral from a distance
The family at Retiro Park
The focal point of Retiro Park, a Monument to King Alfonso XII
And it's close-up
Taking a break with Ethan
That night, Danielle and I had a date at La Lonja which is a wonderful restaurant next to the Royal Palace. We were treated to a seven-course meal which included octopus, salad with crab and mango, sturgeon, beef, and not one but TWO desserts. The meal was incredible, and I definitely think it's a place we'll go back to the next time we stop by this part of the world.
Crab and mango salad
Dessert #2 - The red flakes are Pop Rocks!
Our second full day involved a tour of the National Art Museum located in the heart of Madrid for our second outing. Our guide gave us a 90 minute tour of the highlights, and although pictures weren't allowed, we got to hear some great stories behind some of the pieces.
Grandma Keri and Ethan getting some of the museum's residual AC
The National Museum
The most famous painting is by an individual named Diego Valezquez who was hired to paint a picture of the King and Queen's five year-old daughter (pictured in the foreground of the picture below). Our guide said that the painting was famous because of its interesting perspective of a painting that essentially depicts a painting in progress. It's also interesting to note that behind the girl, there are two people reflected in a mirror. It's still a matter of historical debate, but the most popular hypothesis is that the King and Queen are looking in from the doorway on their daughter being painted.
A pair of paintings also hangs in the museum that were painted by Francisco Goya. In the first, there is a woman that is dressed sensually posing for the painting. In the second, it's the same picture, but without her clothes. At the time, it was considered pornographic to paint anyone in the nude who was not a deity or god. The tale was that he displayed the one with clothes in his house and had a pulley that would allow him to show the one in the nude depending on who was visiting. For the second painting, Goya was eventually found out and called in front of the Court of the Spanish Inquisition to answer for his crime. He ended up losing his position as the painter of the Spanish Court as a result of the trespass.
The Clothed Maja
The Naked Maja
And I thought this guy made beans, me = cultured
Later that evening, the four of us took in the views of the Royal Palace from our hotel's rooftop restaurant. Both the view and the food were magnificent, and we had as many tapas as our stomachs could fit. Once Ethan started getting restless, I took him downstairs for his dinner, and Danielle and Keri got to enjoy the view for a bit longer over a brownie and cheesecake.
The view from the rooftop restaurant
Ethan taking it in
I got the fancy water, I felt like I was in a cheesy advertisement
I've never had Bleu cheese this good
A view from the other side of the terrace
On our third full day in the city, grandma Keri babysat Ethan while Danielle and I awoke at 4:30 in the morning to take a tour to the country town of Segovia. If that sounds familiar, and you're a comic nerd like me, you are probably thinking of the town that was destroyed in the Avengers: Age of Ultron. That was Sokovia, not Segovia, but it was definitely just as picturesque (but no Avengers sightings).
After the hour long drive from Madrid, we boarded the vessel for our very first hot air balloon ride. The balloon took off and lighted drifted over Segovia for about an hour before landing in a field north of the city. In the pictures below, we got to see a castle, an ancient aqueduct, and the main cathedral in the town. The landing was a lot more gentle than the tutorial made it sound (probably a good thing), and we got back to Madrid later that morning.
Prepare for liftoff!
A second balloon ascending
Give me fuel, give me fire
The sun breaking through
The castle in Segovia
Beauty and the beast
After the ride
That night, I took care of Ethan while Keri and Danielle went to enjoy the Flamenco Show at Casa Patas. They got to see Flamenco in its native land, and they seemed to enjoy the show. It's off to Barcelona for food, fun, and familia, more to come soon.