Friday, September 28, 2012

Photo Friday: Local Artists

In Madrid, as is so commonly seen in Paris, local artists sit in the open squares and paint canvases primarily purchased by tourists.  I love that they depict regional scenes and cultures, and found the brilliant colors of Spanish matadors and flamenco dancers fabulous.

This post is part of Photo Friday at

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My One Wish (Briefly) Comes True

My One Wish briefly came true.  I had no idea we had two seats in Business Class on our recent flight to New York until I looked at my ticket, looked at the seat number, looked again at my ticket and again at the seat number.  Was it a mistake?  Was the upgrade intended?  Why hadn't I received any brandish accolades from American Airlines announcing my customer loyalty to be so commendable as to be worthy of a class upgrade?

Just look at those fluffy comforters and standard size (as opposed to cereal box size) pillows with cotton (as opposed to scratchy, disposable, non-woven) pillow cases.  See how the seat almost fully reclines and a convenient foot-rest reduces the pesky risk of deep vein thrombosis, a.k.a. "econony-class syndrome".

Dilemna:  only two of our seats were in Business Class and there were three of us flying to New York. Obviously one would belong to me (momma's gotta have her rest), but would my husband or my son enjoy the luxury of a double arm rest, bountiful legroom, warm lunch, and a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie served with a smile by an attentive flight attendant?

My kind and generous husband surrendered the seat to my 13 year old son so he could gain the experience and -  I think - to hopefully motivate him to financially succeed in life in order to afford a little luxury once in awhile.  It might have worked.  Every time the flight attendant offered us something to eat my son would ask, "Is it free?" and the steward would say, "Of course!" to which my son would exclaim, "Cool!"  The deal was clinched for sure though when said flight attendant brought my son a Galaxy Tab for the duration of the flight.  For free.  Loaded with video games, TV shows, music, podcasts, and over 70 movies.  "Cool!" was then the exclamation from me, as I nested into my soft comforter, reclined my seat, and went to sleep.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Another Cooking Lesson

I couldn't let my German house guests get away without cooking us some Spätzle in addition to the delicious Klöße and Geschnetzeltes meal we made together, so Kathrin, my cousin's wife, led the kids (hers and mine) in another Spätzle lesson.  Every German cook has her own little tips on this simple German delicacy, and I didn't want to miss out on hers.

We got the boys to mix the dough.

 Everyone wanted a turn at the fun job of scraping the dough into boiling water.

Be sure to remove the dough after just a minute or two from the boiling water.

 So what is Kathrin's Spätzle secret?  Grilled onions.

We alternated layers of Edam cheese and Spätzle noodles in a casserole dish and baked until melted through.

Serve the Spätzle with grilled onions on top and the result is fabulous.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Making Klöße With Kids

My German cousin and his family have been gone only about two weeks and I miss our nightly meals together.  I enjoyed cooking typical American favorites such as hamburgers, tacos, casseroles, and barbeque beef burgers for them to taste, but my favorite dinners are when my German house guests cook for me! Last year my kids and I had lessons in Spätzle making, so this time around I suggested Klöße, also known as Knödel, which are German dumplings.  My cousin's sweet wife, Kathrin, had showed my daughter how she makes them at home in Sommerhausen when we were there two years ago:

The trick with making them here in the states, however, is to find the right dough, so Kathrin and I drove to the local German delicatessen to find the brand she likes best, called Henglein Seidenknödel.

No luck, so we bought these packages instead:

These are powder mixes, which Kathrin didn't think would taste as good as the fresh dough in the Henglein package.  But we forged ahead, with all four kids blending, mixing, and ball-rolling.

The rolled Klöße are placed in a pot of boiling salt water but should be immediately removed from heat and allowed to just gently simmer for 20 minutes.

We made the Klöße as a scrumptious side dish to Geschnetzeltes, sliced pork tenderloin with fresh mushrooms in a cream sauce.

The meal was enjoyed by all and the kids were very proud to have taken part in the cooking, of course. Of the two varieties of Knödel in the packages we bought, we thought the bayrisch, not the halb & halb, tasted a little bit better, but overall Kathrin still prefers the Henglein fresh dough she buys at home in Germany.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Photo Friday: More Royal Alcázar

Writing my post on Wednesday about the Royal Alcázar Palace in Seville brought back such beautiful memories I just had to post some more pictures.  We had such an extraordinary day here.

You can see the Giralda Tower of the Cathedral of Seville from the Alcázar courtyard.

This post is part of Photo Friday at

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alcázar Palace in Seville

It's time to present some Moorish architecture, and I do so now with a newly enlightened, genuinely astonished, profound and humble appreciation for these North African people whom, I learned, brought arts and sciences, architectural design, a peaceful religion, sophisticated irrigation systems and civilized government to the Iberian peninsula, while the rest of Europe languished in the Dark Ages.  This all began with the migration of the Moors to what is now Andalusia as early as the 8th century and their inhabitance continued for over 700 years.  It is to our huge benefit that some of their buildings, customs and traditions have endured over the centuries for us to marvel at today.

The most outstanding surviving examples of Moorish architecture in Spain are the Alhambra palace in Granada, the Alcázar Palace in Seville, and the Mezquita in Córdoba.  My family made it a priority to visit all three this summer.  These are all glorious, unique, works of art.

Of the three sites, unanimously our favorite was the Alcázar in Seville.  The exterior is deceptive.  The massive red Lion's Gate at the entrance looks like a military fortress, not a palace.

My kids in front of the Lion's Gate.

Even once inside the immediate courtyard, the Lion's Patio, the intricacies of the exquisite interior architecture are not yet revealed.

Lion's Patio inside Seville's Alcázar Palace.

Through the triple arches another courtyard, called the Patio de la Montería, allows us to see the entrance of the Palacio Pedro I, the original palace of King Pedro I, constructed in 1364 on the site of a lavish grand mosque.  Many subsequent monarchs added to the construction of the palace and the upper floor is still regularly used by the Spanish royal family today.

Patio de la Montería.

The palace façade is decorated in Mudéjar style with emblematic horseshoe arches and carved stonework.

Immediately upon entering the palace our gasps began.  We had rented audio guides, and even the kids were spellbound by the history and descriptions of the centuries of craftsmen who designed this magnificent complex.

The grand buildings and halls are arranged around a number of patios, and the elements of light and water were obviously carefully considered in their delicate construction.  Water is ultimately significant in Islamic culture - water is life - so everywhere there are fountains, reflecting pools, and narrow running canals (which, if in the U.S., would be cordoned off as tripping hazards) through rooms and halls.

Beauty in the Alcázar, ankle breakers in the U.S.

Ceramic tilework (azulejo) and mosaics are abundant and beautiful.

Over centuries of additions and reconstructions by Moors and then Spanish Christians after the Reconquista, Alcázar Palace now exhibits a fusion of Mudéjar, Gothic, Renaissance, and Neoclassical architectural styles.  The result, if I haven't already mentioned it, is an absolutely stunning work of art.  The four of us took over 300 pictures.  Photos never seem to do justice to ceilings, but these domes, squares, and polygons were wondrous, too.

Just when my husband, son, daughter, and I thought we couldn't be any more impressed on that hot July day inside the walls of the Alcázar, we entered the gardens.  I think their description will have to wait for another blog post.

Fast facts about the Alcázar Palace in Seville:

•  Touring with toddlers or young children is no problem.  The halls and rooms are mostly empty of furniture or breakables.  The gardens are expansive and full of peacocks, pond fish, and friendly stray kittens.  There's even a garden bush labyrinth.

•  Some websites mistakenly state that the Alcázar is closed on Mondays.  It is open on Mondays.

•  Admission is 8.50€ per adult, 6.50€ per child.

•  Audio guides are informative and essential to understanding the history and beauty of the Royal Alcázar.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11: Patriot Day

My husband, son, and I visited the National September 11 Memorial in NYC in August this year.
It's a very touching site.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Movie Monday: The Three Musketeers

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To Europe With Kids presents Movie Monday as an occasional feature to recommend films that might expose children and their families to any small bit of European history, folklore, scenery, or animated imagery as entertainment, perhaps new knowledge, or just a couple of hours of electronic babysitting.
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Now here's a movie with scenery close to my heart:  much of it was filmed in Würzburg, my mother's hometown in Germany, and other villages nearby.  I'm talking about the 2011 release of The Three Musketeers with Matthew MacFadyen, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, and Orlando Bloom.

Cast of The Three Musketeers.

I was giddy with excitement to see Würzburg's Residenz Palace starring in the film as the king's palace.

Scene from the movie filmed at the Residenz Palace.

My kids at the Residenz Palace in Würzburg.

There were scenes filmed on the Old Main Bridge and Fortress Marienburg as well.

Fortress Marienburg.
Old Main Bridge.

My whole family enjoyed seeing these familiar places in the feature film, plus we watched it with some German relatives who actually live in Würzburg and chimed in during the movie about the street closures during filming, their friends who played extras, and the occasional star spotting.

Was it a good movie though?  Well, it's just another adaption of Alexandre Dumas's French novel and you know the story line, but this plot is a little far-fetched from the original.  It's rated PG-13 for adventure action violence, but nothing serious.  It's definitely a worthy contender for family movie night.

Other Movie Monday posts:

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