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This past week marked my thirty@#*&^ birthday.  Excuse me, my fingers cramped. Anyway, my expat friends and I celebrated birthday eve by taking the boat out on the canals with an Albert Heijn picnic. This ride wasn’t quite as adventurous as my first but as nothing goes exactly as planned here, we still had our share of excitement. Flooded boat, running into walls, etc. Once we got in a groove and putted along the canals I had yet another moment where I find myself hardly believing my own life. Not a bad way to ring in my thirty#$)%(* year.

Wednesday evening I left for Vienna, Austria, my 16th European country. I had a meeting planned for Thursday, so when I booked my trip I took Friday as a holiday and scheduled my return flight for Saturday evening. In two days I walked the entire city of Vienna taking in the sights and the delicious food. Vienna is a beautiful city and I was glad I had two full days of sightseeing on this trip.

I think I’m starting to get the hang of traveling alone, walking cities, and making the most of these trips. Going solo allows the freedom to do whatever strikes me at the moment and make up my agenda as I go. If I’m walking one direction but see something interesting over there, I can turn and change course without worry. I can stand and stare at something as long (or short) as I want. Or just stop as the mood strikes to sit on a park bench and people watch. On the downside, my meals tend to be quick and somewhat utilitarian without anyone to talk to, and the nights are early without anyone to experience the nightlife with. Not huge downfalls, just differences.

The good news is that for my next trip I will have just such a travel partner. Next Sunday I am off to Madrid and will be joined by my colleague. This is the person who has shown me the ropes since day one and who I travel with all of the time anyway, though this will be the first time he’s extended the journey along with me. And what better country than to have someone to dine and drink with than Spain? A culture of long meals, tasty drinks, and late nights. It also means I won’t have to stand in front of a landmark with my left arm outstretched, camera turned back my way, trying to take a picture of myself. Bonus!

Any must see/do/eat recommendations for Madrid?

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