Mom and daughter prove that independence and bucking societal norms make for a happy, loving life!

Tag: Single Mom

Relaxing With LUSH!

Soaking in a relaxing bath after a long day is one of life’s simple luxuries. Although our apartment in Madrid is lovely, it doesn’t come equipped with a bathtub. We only have a shower, and after four months without soaking in a tub, I knew […]

Christmas in Paris: A Dream Come True (Part 3: Cruise Down the Seine River, Christmas Day and Macarons Galore!)

As excited as I was to spend the Christmas holiday in Paris, I was a bit concerned that we might not find places open for business, but we were fortunate that this wasn’t the case. Cruise down the Seine River We purchased tickets for a […]

Christmas in Paris: A Dream Come True (Part 2: The Louvre)

Our visit to Paris, though short, was magical. There were several places we wanted to visit, and were determined to make this a reality. Three nights and four days? No problem!

The Louvre Museum

Since the Louvre would be closed on Christmas day as well as the day after, we knew that we would have to go on Christmas Eve.  We didn’t have to wait long to get inside, and there was no line at all to get tickets. Children get in free, so I only had to purchase one ticket!

The Louvre originally opened on August 10, 1793 and at the time only housed 537 paintings. The Louvre Museum is now said to be the largest art museum in the world and has approximately 38,000 exhibits. It is said that even if someone were to go to the Louvre for 100 days straight, and only look at each exhibit for 30 seconds, that you still wouldn’t be able to see everything that this incredible place has to offer.  Knowing this, I made a plan.

Our Map and Plan

After we got our tickets, I looked at the map, and we made a B-line to the The Mona Lisa exhibit. This is easily one of the most famous paintings in the world, and I knew I wanted to see the original and relish in the work. There was a guard at the foot of the steps and we weren’t allowed to go up. We were told that they were taking extra precautions because of an “unattended bag.” (I am learning very quickly that the United States isn’t the only country to take extra security precautions.)

At first, I was a bit disheartened, but we tried to find another way around. The entry way eventually opened up, and we were able to find The Mona Lisa. There was a crowd of people, but I took Scarlett’s hand and we gently maneuvered ourselves around the side and up to the front. I wasn’t going to leave without getting a decent photo.

 

 

I have to say that The Mona Lisa has never been one of my favorite paintings. However, there is something surreal and magical about seeing such a notorious work of art up close. The original is actually much more beautiful than any of the reprints I have seen, as they don’t do the painting justice.

My heart did that fluttering thing it always does whenever I see something majestic, or meet someone interesting. I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that Leonardo da Vinci painted this with his own two hands! It was the same feeling I got when I was 20 years old and shook former President Bill Clinton’s hand. At first, I just wanted to meet him because he was the president; I wasn’t expecting to feel anything but a normal nice to meet you feeling. When it hit me that I was shaking the most powerful man in America’s hand, my stomach got butterflies. But, I digress. I relished in the fact that we had a wonderful view of The Mona Lisa and then I moved to the side in order to give others a better view. I now have another thing to check off of my bucket list. 🙂

This place is massive!

After perusing more exhibits, we realized that we couldn’t find our map, and were lost in a labyrinth of Greek sculptures. My bladder was not happy, and when we finally found one of the exhibit employees, he didn’t seem to find my dry American humor about being lost in a labyrinth of Greek artwork humorous. Oh well. I’m not here to make him laugh. Seriously though, at one point I thought we were going to run into David Bowie’s ghost and he was going to show us our dreams.

One of my favorite sculptures of Hercules

 

 

This statue of the Sphinxes reminded us of The Neverending Story (I’m not quite sure why the Greek exhibits kept reminding us of 80’s fantasy movies)

After we found our way to the restroom, we looked around a bit more. After three and a half hours, we were exhausted, and we still didn’t make a dent! On our next visit, we will check out a different area that we didn’t get to. In the meantime, here are a few more photos for your enjoyment.

 

To skip the line or not

If you ever get the chance to visit the Louvre in the winter, the skip the line pass will most likely be unnecessary. I did some research, and several people said that the lines aren’t that long in the winter, so I opted to save the extra money. Don’t get me wrong, the museum was crowded, but from what I understand, not nearly as crowded as it can be. I imagine that if you choose to visit Paris and the Louvre in the spring or summer, the skip the line tickets would be a good investment. Either way, you should try to get there at least once in your life.

 

What Happens If You Get Sick in Madrid?

Being sick is never fun. If you happen to fall ill while in another country, and don’t speak the language that well, it can be a little frightening. Typically, I am a very healthy person who hardly ever gets sick. Yes, I’m the person who […]

How to Embrace the Holidays While Living Abroad

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I love virtually everything about it. I love the constant holiday music that can be heard at most retailers, and the vast array of decorations and lights that can be seen as soon as you step out on your […]

How We Get Around In Madrid

Before we left the United States to come to Madrid, I can’t tell you how many people asked me what I was going to do with my van, and if I was going to either rent or purchase a vehicle when we arrive in Spain.

The short answer to this question is that my middle son is currently driving/taking care of my van (at least I hope he is taking care of it), and we of course are not renting or purchasing a vehicle. Since Europe is notorious for their fabulous public transportation system, I knew that we would be utilizing this form of transport in Madrid.

Taxis and Uber: I have only taken a taxi once so far since our arrival in Madrid, and that was from the airport. I downloaded the Uber app (no, I had never used Uber in the states) when I wanted a slightly less expensive option of transportation after we left our AirBnb for our apartment. I didn’t want to take the Metro when we had heavy bags with us, and at this time I was still fairly green when trying to get around the city.

The Metro: We are on the Metro almost two hours a day five days a week with our commute to work and school. This has taken some getting used to, but for the most part it is the cheapest and most convenient way to travel around Madrid if you don’t have a personal vehicle.

There are mornings when I get fairly aggravated with taking the Metro everyday. The morning rush hour is typically the worst. During the morning rush hour, we are literally bumping into strangers and getting bumped into while trying to find a post to grab onto. Since I typically like my space, this caused me some slight anxiety at first. I figured I needed to just suck it up and deal, and that is what I do. 🙂 It is almost impossible to get a seat in the morning for the first seven stops. After we switch trains, we can usually find a seat because this particular train isn’t usually as crowded for some reason. You take the good with the bad, and there are times when the Metro can even be fun!

                             

Public Transport Card (Abono): Scarlett and I were able to get a public transport card or Abono, for the Metro. The process for getting the card was fairly simple. I went to the website and made an appointment at the nearest Metro station that offers this service. We had to bring a copy of our passports plus the original. They asked a few questions, and we were on our way. Scarlett’s card is only 20 Euros a month, and mine is about 54 Euros a month since I am over the age of 26. I suppose 74 Euros a month isn’t that bad for transportation fees. I usually paid more than that for gas in the United States, and that didn’t include any maintenance on the vehicle.

Buses: There is also the option to take the bus, and the public transportation card can be used for this as well. We haven’t taken the bus yet, but I have spoken to people who like the bus better. We may try the bus one of these days, but at the moment we have our route down and it is working for us.

                          

Walking: We definitely walk more here in Madrid compared to when we were in America. Personally, I think this is a wonderful thing. When we get off of a stop, we typically have to walk anywhere from five to ten minutes to reach the final destination.  Of course there are times when we opt to take the “scenic route” and skip the train altogether!

       

Do I Miss Driving?: Yes! We have been here for two and a half months, and this is the longest I have gone without driving in a very long time! I don’t miss sitting in rush hour traffic, but I do miss driving. In fact, that is one of the main things I miss about the U.S. However, I think that the Metro is a very efficient way to travel, and I think that it would be worthwhile for most metropolitan cities in the U.S. to implement such a system.

 

 

 

Keeping Up With Your Favorite TV Shows While Abroad!

One of the thrills of traveling overseas is immersing yourself in a completely different culture. However, there are times when you just want to curl up on the couch or in bed and watch a familiar television series from home. Before we left, I purchased […]

3 Weeks In Madrid! Apartment Hunts, School and More!

Finding Our Apartment: I have been promising a blog with the details about our apartment hunt, and here it is. Apparently finding an apartment in Madrid is very similar to finding an apartment while living in New York City. While I have personally never lived in […]

Holy Cow! We Are Flying to Madrid!

After all of the planning, packing, and stress, the day is finally here! We are flying to Madrid!

Savings: I purchased our airline tickets a couple of months ago, and chose to fly out of Atlanta instead of Nashville since I ended up saving well over $1,000 for both Scarlett and I to fly. The flights from Nashville to Madrid were between $2000 and $2400, and I was able to purchase the flight from Atlanta to Madrid for $400. Including travel insurance, it was about $1000 for the purchase of the tickets for both of us.

I played around with different dates and times leaving from both cities until I found a rate I was happy with. I called American Airlines to ensure that I didn’t get a basic economy with no checked bags by accident, but the agent assured me that it was a normal ticket and added that it was indeed a wonderful rate for an international flight. He said he didn’t remember ever seeing such a good rate before. Yes! Things were starting to fall into place.

Realization: It was such a surreal feeling driving through both the downtown areas of Nashville and Atlanta, and saying goodbye, at least for awhile, to the city skylines that I have come to know for so many years. I grew up in the Atlanta area, and although I have lived in several different states, Nashville has been the city I have called home for a large majority of my life. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything but excitement since I was finally accomplishing a bucket list goal of mine and moving to Europe. I suppose even with the love/hate relationship I have come to have with the Southeast, the pleasant memories I have of friends and family overcome the negative. That twinge of sadness mixed with the realization that I am actually going to miss things about my “home” set in for a few minutes. This feeling was most likely elevated by the fact that I was going on about five hours of sleep within the span of two days. We had just finished packing up our apartment, loading the storage unit, and cleaning/clearing the apartment in order to turn in our keys.

Flight Day: This morning we left my mom’s house at 6 a.m. Eastern time to catch a 10 a.m. flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia. My ex-husband and middle son drove Scarlett and I to the airport in my van. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I am allowing my middle son to use my van while we are gone.)

I receive flight rewards via American Airlines, and I have used this airline ever since I flew to Costa Rica a few years ago. Why not continue to add up the miles, right?  I decided to check out the Admirals Club after our arrival in Philadelphia since we had a six hour layover. I have never utilized this service because I always assumed it was for those who were already members, and that the price was astronomical. I was so wrong.

It is only $59 for a day pass! This is per person, but since Scarlett is under the age of 18, she gets to come in for free. They have complimentary snacks and drinks, including wine. The seating is more comfortable, they provide you with a free wifi password, and it is overall a much better experience. By the time I would have paid for coffee and food in the regular waiting area, the cost would have most likely been around $59 anyway, so I am very happy that we had this option!

We are scheduled to arrive in Madrid in a few hours. I have never been on an overnight flight, so the plan is to sleep if at all possible, in order to (hopefully) trick my body’s schedule into thinking we are magically on Madrid time by the time we arrive tomorrow morning. Hey, one can hope! 🙂

Considering all of the mixed emotions, I can say that I am both exhilarated and nervous about the start of this new adventure for both myself and my daughter!

 

 

We Got Our Visas! (A Step By Step Guide to the Visa Application Process)

After receiving the news that I was accepted as a language assistant in Madrid, I knew that both my daughter and I would have to apply for visas. Thinking that this would be about as painless as obtaining a United States Passport, I soon realized […]