Madrid was just as fantastic as Lisbon for the same reason: our kids. I honestly cannot recall a single time that I was annoyed by them or wanted to get away from them on this trip. It sounds preposterous, I know. Surely I must have a selective or defective memory? Because all I remember is feeling so appreciative and grateful and happy, not in spite of them but specifically because of them. Experiencing Machu Picchu with my husband was unforgettably spectacular, but I cherish our Lisbon and Madrid experiences in a way that could never be possible without our kids. They were the most amazing troupers through to the very chaotic end.
The walking food tour I wanted to do in Madrid didn’t permit guests under the age of 12, so we created our own food tour by eating our way through the city. By the end of the day we had logged over 18,000 steps according to the tracker in our cell phones, which tends to underestimate. The kids certainly did many more steps because they would often run, skip, or twirl ahead of us and then backtrack. They did this day after day, excursion after excursion. We booked only one sightseeing tour of city highlights, including the El Escorial Monastery, and once again the kids thoroughly impressed our tour guide with their stamina. Not only were they capable of walking astonishing distances, they could could appreciate non-kid-centered activities. On a particularly wet and chilly day, we wanted to remain indoors and decided to visit some museums. We explored masterpiece collections in Museo del Prado, admired contemporary art in Museo Reina Sofía, and toured the Royal Palace, with the kids following every step of the way. I was more captivated watching my child be captivated by art than I was by the art itself.
I loved how the kids made fun things more fun, but I loved them even more through the ordeal of returning home. It was a stressful, grueling process that took, door-to-door, over 24 hours: rising before dawn, braving inclement weather, rushing to catch metro trains, panicking over expired tickets, waiting in line, navigating airports, dealing with luggage transfers, making plane connections, surviving layovers, going through customs, searching for taxis, and battling crazy jet lag and exhaustion. I don’t think many full-grown adults (including my mother) could have endured the trip with as much grace. I’m not claiming that my kids were perfect 100% of the time and that absolutely zero tears were shed, but the amount of whimpers were so minuscule, so understandable, and so justifiable under the circumstances, that our mutual suffering made me love them just as much as our mutual joy.