A Travellerspoint blog

Where We Ate: Madrid

sunny 85 °F
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Pollos Asados La Cañada

This place was in our neighborhood near the Artilleros metro station. They sell roasted chickens, side dishes, and some pastries to go. If you're in the area, it's a decent place to get a meal to take back home to the family. They don't have a website, though.

Cañas y Tapas

Cañas are small glasses of beer, so the name of this Spanish chain is self-explanatory. We visited the location closest to the Puerta del Sol. We shared several tapas for dinner here, including croquetas and patatas bravas (ham-and-chicken croquettes and fried potatoes with a spicy sauce). Everything was good.


Website: http://www.canasytapas.es

Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes

In some ways, it feels unfair to include a place where we didn't even eat. Then again, their terrible service and lackluster menu are the reasons why we didn't eat here, so maybe it is fair after all.

I'll start with the good part, though. This Café has misters all around their outdoor seating, so it's comfortable even on a hot day. They also have excellent views of the city. That's why we visited (note: you pay admission to the roof/azotea, regardless of whether you eat at the café).


We arrived at the café around noon. We realized that this was early by Spanish standards, but thought that if we got something, that would help us get through the Prado without any hunger meltdowns. We sat down at a table and waited for at least 10 minutes for someone to acknowledge our presence. At that point, I walked up to the bar to ask for a couple of menus. The bartender scowled at me and pointed to a couple. I took them back to our table. They had light breakfast offerings, which didn't fit what we wanted; the menu shown online must be for later in the day. We moved on.

Website: https://www.azoteadelcirculo.com/cartas

VIPS (rhymes with "zips")

VIPS is a chain throughout Mexico, South America, and Spain that is similar to a Denny's. After striking out at the Azotea, we went to the location on Plaza Canovas del Castillo, near the Fuente de Neptuno along the Paseo de Prado. There are a couple of upsides to VIPS. First, they have a kiddie menu that comes with a coloring/activity sheet. Second, they are open at hours when Spaniards don't typically eat, which is handy when you're trying to eat at an odd time, like we were that day. When we arrived around noon, they were serving from both their breakfast and lunch menus. The girls had pancakes, and I had a sandwich (I think DH did as well). Everyone liked their food. Similar to Hippopotamus in Paris, this is not a quintessential Spanish experience, but it does the trick, especially if you have young kids who are hungry between traditional meal times.

Website: https://www.vips.es

Chocolatería San Ginés

Founded over 100 years ago and open 24/7, Chocolatería San Ginés is an institution located walking distance from the Puerta del Sol. Their hot chocolate and churros did not disappoint.


Website: https://chocolateriasangines.com

Pinocchio Trattoria

For our last night in Spain, we decided to eat... Italian food! That was not necessarily our plan, but we found this place and decided to give it a try. It's just across the square from the Reina Sofía Museum. Because of that location, no car traffic passes in front, which means it is a good spot for dining outside. The other factor that won us over was that they had a kid menu (https://www.pinocchio.es/menus.html#.XCdrxC2ZN-U), which includes an entree, drink, and dessert. The girls received coloring sheets to keep them entertained while they waited for their pizzas and ice cream.

I had the pasta amatriciana along with a hard cider called "Ladrón de Manzanas" (apple thief!).


DH ordered the "dolce vita", filled pasta that contained white truffle and a porcini (boletus) mushroom and cream sauce.


For dessert, I tried a scoop of lemon sorbet in a glass of cava (sparkling white wine) . DH had the hot apple cake with ice cream. In all, everything was good, and it was a convenient place to eat after visiting the museum.

Website: https://www.pinocchio.es/carta.html#.XBo4zy2ZN-V

Posted by amikulski 18:47 Archived in Spain Tagged children food restaurants spain Comments (0)

Where We Ate: Paris

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Work picked up, so my blogging slowed down, but I haven't stopped. You didn't think I would forget to post about the food in Paris, did you?!

First, I want to mention a couple of general items I discovered that you can probably find in many places:

1. Schweppes Agrum' Citrus blend:


This soda/pop that is a blend of 4 citrus flavors. We discovered this at the Galleries Lafayette cafeteria when we were looking for air-conditioning and cold drinks. If you're a fan of Fanta Limón, you'll probably like this as well.

2. Danone Gervita Fraise Melba:


While DH was perusing the several yogurt aisles at the Carrefour, he found this and picked it up, thinking it was yogurt. He doesn't read French, but I do: I figured out that it wasn't yogurt, but rather a "sweetened dairy specialty" flavored with strawberries. The first ingredient was "frommage blanc," which I understood as the vague term "white cheese," but it turns out this term is for cottage cheese. That was followed by cream, strawberries and sugar. I gave a try, and it was pretty good! To me, it didn't taste like standard yogurt or cottage cheese. I thought it was more like eating marscapone cheese with strawberries.

Now for the specific restaurants...

Café Six
The Rick Steves Paris guidebook recommended a street near Saint Sulpice--Rue des Canettes--for restaurants. We checked it out, and found that several were closed because it was not yet 7 PM. Café Six was open, though. The website says that they specialize in Basque food, but we didn't pick up on that detail when we were there. There was no kid menu, so the girls split an order of pasta carbonara. DH had a steak, and I had turkey tagliatelle. Everyone enjoyed their food.

Website: https://lecafesix.fr.gd

Ambassade d'Auvergne
DH had heard about this place and their aligot, a kind of cheesy mashed potato that is a regional specialty of Auvergne. In fact, this whole restaurant focuses on dishes local to that region. For the most part, I appreciated this approach with its focus on ingredients from the area; however, it was a bit annoying that this focus meant that they do not serve any sodas/pops. This was a disappointment to my girls, who looked for every opportunity to drink Fanta Limon (as I often did myself). Instead, they each tried a local organic fruit juice at 6 euro apiece (the same price as my glass of wine, yikes!).

There was no kiddie menu here, so we had the girls share an adult dish: the country sausage and aligot. The kitchen was accommodating with this, bringing the dish divided on two plates instead of leaving us to do it. DH and I each ordered the roasted duck breast and aligot.


Before the food arrived, one of the kitchen staff visited our table with a pot of aligot and a wooden spoon to do some stirring and show the dish in its cheesy, stringy glory; when he would move the spoon up and out of the pot, the potato would form strings much like the way the cheese on a pizza gets stringy when you pull out a slice. It was fun for everyone to see. The aligot tasted good, too, although DH was somehow expecting it to be more transcendent than it actually was. That's not to say that any of us were disappointed. Our duck was really good, as were the girls' sausages. They needed a little bit of coaxing to try the food, but seemed to like it once they did.

In all, it was an interesting experience and was our fanciest night out, but if you have kids, beware the juices and the 7 PM opening time for dinner.

Website: http://ambassade-auvergne.fr/en/

Hippopotamus Grill


This is a chain restaurant. We visited the location in the mall (Centre Commercial Les Arcades) in Noisy Le Grand near our apartment. We didn't necessarily plan on eating here, but we knew that wandering in the sweltering heat on a Sunday night near the Galleries Lafayette in search of a restaurant was a bad idea. We headed back towards the apartment knowing that there should be something open and air-conditioned at the mall.

Not counting the quick dinner we had at a McDonald's, Hippopotamus was probably the most Americanized (American-esque?) place where we ate on our trip. It's sort of like an Outback Steakhouse with a French twist--no Aussie theme here. There's an extensive drink menu and a focus on grilled meats. I forgot to write down what DH had, but I remember it was a meat dish. I had a large salad with crunchy (breaded) chèvre. We both liked our food fine.

This was also one of the most kid-friendly restaurants we visited. The server brought out kiddie cocktails (similar to a Shirley Temple) for the girls as soon as they sat down. The kiddie menus had activities and came in a little box with a colored pencil and a hard candy. The meals themselves included a drink and a dessert and included entrees that you'd find on a kid menu in the US. The girls enjoyed mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and fruit-and-candy kabobs.

Maybe this is not the quintessential French food experience, but you could certainly do worse, especially if you have young kids.

Website: https://restaurant.hippopotamus.fr/fr/ile-de-france/seine-saint-denis/93051/noisy-le-grand

Café du Metro

We were once again near Saint Sulpice, looking for a place to eat. Even though we had liked Cafe Six, we wanted to try something new. Unfortunately, we were hungry for dinner before 7 PM, so many of the nearby restaurants were closed. We walked towards the metro, vowing to stop at the first open place where the menu looked like it had choices for everybody.

This place looks like it will give you that quintessential French experience, with its awning and outdoor seating. The reality is much less glamorous. Those streetside tables were cramped, smoky, and noisy. There were customers smoking at nearby tables, and you had to talk over the busy street traffic. The server didn't wedge his way back into our corner very often, so we went a long time without drinks. I don't remember much about the food, other than the girls and me eating fries. I wouldn't go back.


Eric Kayser

This is a local bakery chain. DH read that it was one of the best places to get lunch for under 10 euro. The food was good and affordable. I had a quiche with spinach and cheese, while the rest of the group ordered sandwiches. We also had macarons for dessert.


We grabbed breakfast at their location near our gate at Orly, so we can also vouch for their tasty pastries (we tried the pain au chocolate and an apple-filled one).

Website: https://www.maison-kayser.com/boulangeries

Le Studio Café

I wasn't expecting much from this place because of its super-touristy location at the bottom of the hill from Sacre-Coeur. It's the type of place I would ordinarily avoid for that reason, but we were all so hungry after visiting the church that we agreed to eat at the first acceptable place we could find. I'm glad we visited because this was my favorite lunch in Paris, with the best croque monsieur I had on the trip.


Le Studio also offers a good selection of savory and sweet crepes. The girls shared a ham and cheese one for their main course, and then we ordered two sweet ones (Nutella and lemon-and-sugar) for dessert. Everything was great. If they had a website, I'd share it with you!

Café Beaubourg

This was where we ate our last dinner in Paris. It is on the Stravinsky plaza/fountain near the Pompidou Center. Because there is no car traffic, the outdoor seating is peaceful. There was no kid menu here, so the girls ordered grown-up stuff. Café Beaubourg may have changed their offerings though, because the online menu doesn't show the pizza DD2 had or DH's duck.


DD1 had a croque monsieur, and I had a croque madame.


I thought that the food was fine, but a bit pricey for what it was, even by Paris standards.

Website: https://cafebeaubourg.com/en/

I still have notes on food in Madrid, so I will get to those as well. Thanks for reading!

Posted by amikulski 09:24 Archived in France Tagged children food france Comments (0)

Where we ate: Salamanca

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Cuzco Bodega

Another blogger recommended this place just off the Plaza Mayor, and it did not disappoint. The menu is non-traditional tapas. I enjoyed my mini duck burrito and some goat cheese with caramelized onions. They have some mini-burgers with local beef, which worked for DD1. DD2 had ibérico ham on toast.

Café Novelty

One of the servers at Cuzco Bodega said that this was the best ice cream place in town. I believe her: we liked it so much that we went a second time. All of the flavors that we tried were good, but my absolute favorite was Chocolate with Orange. Café Novelty is located on the Plaza Mayor.

Leonardo Fast Food

Much of the food we ordered here was disappointing. Everyone's fries were undercooked, and the croquetas were frozen ones that had been heated up to serve to us.

Posted by amikulski 18:51 Archived in Spain Tagged restaurants Comments (0)

Where we ate: Barcelona

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Even though we had been to Spain before with DD1, this was our first time really navigating restaurant food with kids. Back then, DD1 had just turned 1, so she ate baby food and assorted bites of our food. We did find a few kid menus on our trip, but none on this stop. There was still some good food for all, though. We just tended to order tapas for the girls (and often ourselves) to get the right-sized portions. Although we tried to choose what seemed like the kid-friendliest items on the menu, we did meet with resistance at times. Fortunately, we managed to get the girls to eat something.

Another thing for us to get used to was the late dinners in Spain. We tried to eat around the early end of dinner time: around 8 PM.

Here are some of the places where we ate in Barcelona.

Macxipan (aka Maxcipa)

This is a bakery chain. From what I saw, none of the locations have seating, but they have tasty and affordable pastries that you can get to go.

El Forn del Poble

This was our other go-to place for tasty and affordable pastries. DH also liked the coffee there.

Nou Celler

I've eaten at this restaurant in the Barri Gotic on every trip I have taken to Barcelona and have enjoyed it every time. My favorite here is the pollo a la catalana. DH had the country paella. The girls did tapas. Everything is good, but I remember the meatballs and fuet the most.

Café de l'académie

This is another place in the Barri Gotic. We ate here with our friends, and everyone in group of 4 adults and 4 kids was happy with what they ordered.

El Rincón de Luca

We had tapas here for dinner on our first night. It's near the Collblanc metro. The menu is limited, but everything we ordered was good.

Churrería Fernández

Good churros with super-thick hot chocolate near the Collblanc metro.

Posted by amikulski 18:48 Archived in Spain Tagged restaurants Comments (0)


sunny 80 °F
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Paris wiped us out--all those consecutive days without an afternoon rest/nap and only getting the girls to bed on time once, despite our best efforts. Our departure day was also tiring; we woke up early so that we could leave the apartment at 7:45 AM. It's good that we gave ourselves plenty of time because the traffic en route to the airport (Orly this time) was awful. It definitely put Paris into perspective: it's a beautiful city, but I would never want to deal with the highway traffic every day.

Our flight went smoothly, but the girls didn't sleep. Once we got the keys to our apartment in Madrid and found lunch, we took a nap. After we woke up, we decided to go to the Puerta del Sol via bus so we could get a look at the city along the way.


We went for dinner and churros and called it a night.

The next day we took the same bus to Retiro Park and checked out some of the playgrounds that are scattered throughout. We also looked at some monuments and the lake.


We had booked tickets to a flamenco show for the evening. Our idea was to drop by the Prado before the show, during their free admission hours (6-8 PM), but that didn't work out: we arrived just a few minutes after 6 to find a huge line. We kept on walking towards the show, finding a place for an ice cream snack along the way. I had my doubts about seeing flamenco outside of Andalucía, but they were immediately put to rest. The show was amazing, and the girls loved it.

The next day was our last full day in Madrid. We had decided to take on the formidable task of doing 2 art museums in 1 day so that our art-loving DD1 could see some "greatest hits" without boring DD2 to tears. Our plan was to get to the Prado around lunch time because that's when it is the least crowded and visit the Reina Sofía during the evening free hours.

On the way to the Prado, we stopped at the CÍrculo de Bellas Artes to take in the view from the roof.


We were hoping for an early lunch at the cafe there--no way were we doing an art museum on empty stomachs--but their offerings weren't what we were looking for. We found somewhere else and made it to the Prado with full bellies. We checked out Velasquez, Bosch, and most of the Goyas before calling quits.

At around 6:30, we lined up to get into the Reina Sofía during free hours, which started at 7 PM.


Luckily, our hunch was correct, and the line for free hours was much shorter than the one we had seen for the Prado. We were in just after 7. We kept our visit here short and sweet, seeing Guernica, some other Picassos, and some Dalís before heading out for the last dinner of our vacation.

We were up early the next morning to get to the airport. Getting back home went pretty smoothly, but we were exhausted. Everyone got to bed early!

Thanks for reading! I plan to follow with reviews of where we stayed and some of the places where we ate.

Posted by amikulski 09:25 Archived in Spain Tagged art museums parks spain flamenco Comments (0)

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