Whirlwind of Adventure!!

I took tons of pictures! I have only posted a few of the highlights, but I linked all the locations to my own pics. All 805 of the pictures are here.

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The last few weeks have been packed full of adventure, sadness, joy, stress, happiness, and the occasional goodbye. Josh came home from Italy the same day Ben arrived from the states. The first day here is always a resting day, jet-lag is awful when you're coming from the states! We stayed home at acted weird, cuz that's how we roll ;)

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The next day we did a short jaunt to El Escorial. I don't get tired of seeing that gorgeous place... and once again we were able to go inside (Josh had never seen inside either). When we got home we started prepping for the weekend. A bu-bye party for the Neil's. A few drinks, 90's hits, a couple rounds of pictograms, and some good food. It was fun... and sad. We had 11 kids at our house (just 3 families) and they all played together beautifully. Hooray for pools and playrooms! Good times were had by all :)

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Ben said he wanted to do some hiking and we were more than happy to oblige. It was sweltering down by our house, but we got up to the mountains and it was actually cold. I was sorry I had worn a tank top and had a towel wrapped around me for awhile there. We had a great hike, though... up to the old civil war bunker, which we had to climb into! The next two days we had a lot going on so we didn't go anywhere except for the airport.

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My Jessica is gone. They left a little over a week ago. We dropped everyone off at the airport and after crying the entire way home I was ready to get out and do something. After all, Ben was here visiting and that's definitely something to be happy about!

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We headed downtown via the metro system, and we stayed there for 8 hours. I finally got to see the inside of the Palacio Real and Templo de Debod!! Ben saw every "plaza" (sol, espana, mayor...) and we ate some good food. Madrid is all about food :)

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The following day we went to a nearby town called Aranjuez. I couldn't believe such a beautiful place had been just sitting here, a mere 30 minutes away from me, and I had never seen it. There were parks, gardens, palaces, mansions, rivers, fountains... it had it all. We loved Aranjuez and it may very well still be my favorite place we went while Ben was here.

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We took a day off to plan and get packed and headed out to Zaragoza. Our plan was to stop at Monasterio de Piedra on the way there, spend one night, see the city the next day, head back home and stop to see Belchite on the way back. The drive there was breathtaking! The Monasterio de Piedra and Natural Reserve was even more beautiful. Waterfalls, caves, and trees everywhere!

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The Monastery has been partially converted into a hotel while the other parts have been turned into a museum of sorts. We learned that the Monks there were the first to make chocolate. They also made wine.

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We got to our hotel in Zaragoza with enough time to shower and change for dinner. Unfortunately, we parked in a garage for a store and when it closed, the garage closed. The next day was Sunday, and though we had planned to head out... nothing was open, including the parking garage. So, since our van was held hostage we extended our stay and were able to see all of Zaragoza on Sunday... not too bad a deal. Zaragoza was eclectic and fascinating and we ate quite a bit of excellent food. We walked for over 9 hours and were exhausted afterward, but we saw nearly everything in the city. On foot. With kids. Very impressed with us ;) Roman walls, Moorish churches, a gothic castle, and plenty more.

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After our two nights in Zaragoza we were finally able to get our van and head back home, hitting Belchite on the way. Belchite is a preserved historic site where a Spanish Civil War battle ensued. Over 3,000 people were killed there in the span of 15hrs and it is said to be one of the most haunted places in Spain. They decided to leave it as it stood as an homage to all those who perished during the war. It was surreal to say the least.

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The churches had perfect holes in the ceilings where bombs presumably made their way through. Apartment buildings still had basic structure and paint on the walls, even some leftover belongings on the higher shelves. Some buildings were completely demolished and only a small hole remained where a doorway used to be, which was quite sad. We even found a garage with 2 cars still inside.

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We found a few human bones on the slope between the church and convent that had been slowly uncovered by passers-by, which made it all that much more real. We think they were a femur and some phalanges and possibly part of the hip was exposed. We thought it best to let it lie. Oddly enough a farmer led his flock of sheep and goats right through the town after we climbed the clock tower and his donkey allowed the boys to pet him and gave Ben a nice kiss on the arm. We spent a few hours scouring the area, taking in all the history, and then started back home.

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Our last day was spent hanging out at home. We had a great time with Ben! Once he left it really hit me how much more boring my days are going to be. I miss my family and friends, but I am still happy to be in Spain with my own little family... and I still have a few pretty awesome friends left here ;) Next week I am going on my own little vacation to Garmisch, Germany to see my good friend and fellow photog Kevin. Let the exploration and picture-taking continue!!
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