Spain Travels: Madrid and Toledo + What to Pack for a Picnic

Waaaaay back in February, we traveled around Spain before the terms Covid or social distancing were in our everyday vocabulary. For part of our travels, we were with dear friends who were passing through Spain on their way back to Uganda, where they live.

For reasons due to a broken computer, Covid anxiety and busy-ness with life in general, this post is quite delayed. But the pictures are worth sharing and it is fun for me to relive my Spain experiences in looking at them. I hope you enjoy the photos. At the bottom, I will link to a couple of Spanish recipes that I am eager to try, as well as provide tips for what to pack for a picnic. Click here to jump to those recipes.

We were the American tourists who played tag with our kids in Plaza Mayor

The door to the building in which we stayed was absolutely beautiful! I love the architecture in Madrid.

A boat ride on the lake in the big park called El Retiro

And, of course, a picnic in our boats. 

Picnic Ideas

Some of my favorite foods are picnic foods: cheese, bread, hard-boiled eggs, olives. I don't tend to think of a lot of veggies when it comes to a picnic. Normally I aim for a good blend of protein and fat to provide ultimate satisfaction without having to pack too much. I save the veggies for later when I have access to a full kitchen.

Here are a few menu ideas for how to pack a perfect picnic. 

Menu One

- Fresh baked bread, whether homemade or store bought (if you use regular yeast you can try this recipe, or if you have a sourdough starter you can try this one)
- Good salted butter, like Kerrygold
- Your favorite cheese. I like so many kinds, but sharp Cheddar, Gruyere or Comte, and Manchego top the list. 
- Nuts
- Water for drinking, or cold brew iced coffee

Slice bread and cheese before packing it. Remember to bring knives and napkins. At your picnic, slather butter on bread and top with cheese. Enjoy nuts on the side. I like to drink my iced coffee afterward as a dessert. Don't forget to pack cups for the drinks, and half and half or whatever milk if you use it.

Menu Two

You may enjoy these previous posts about Spectacular Salads and Summer Salad

- Olives
- Fresh fruit
- Tuna salad
- Green salad

Even though I mentioned above that I don't typically pack a lot of veggies on picnics, salads can be easily pulled together ahead of time. I like a mix of greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, and red onion. Pack oil and vinegar on the side or, my favorite, bring along a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and spoon over top at the picnic. 

Mix up some tuna salad by opening a couple of jars of tuna and draining it. Add mayo (ideally homemade or free of vegetable oils), 2-3 tablespoons of diced onion (any kind), salt and pepper, and a splash of lemon juice or vinegar. 

At your picnic, top your salad with tuna salad and olives. Eat fresh fruit on the side. Drink basil lemonade. 

Menu Three

- BLT lettuce wraps
- Soft boiled eggs

Cook bacon until crisp, then drain on a paper towel (you can save the fat to cook potatoes or saute onions another time). Rinse and dry Romaine lettuce leaves. Slice large tomatoes into rounds. Lay out lettuce leaves one at a time, then slather with either mayo or pesto. Add tomato and bacon, then roll up. You may add the eggs to the wrap or eat them on the side.

Toledo. It was a magical mix of castles, nature, hills, and water.



Playing around at a sword shop. We got to see them making the swords.

It was fun to walk the old alleys. 

Such good friends. We had a wonderful time. 

Leaving Toledo. Can you believe cars fit through these alleys? We just press ourselves against the walls and hope our toes are out of the way. 

Recipes to try

It's getting hot out there, isn't it? 

You might enjoy this Corn Pesto Pasta. It's delicious hot or cold. 

I'm eager to try both of these cold Spanish soups. I have tried both, but have yet to make them. Let me know if you give them a try. I can't wait to get the ingredients and sip them on my deck.

Gazpacho A cold tomato soup. Don't think of an American tomato soup that's served cold. Think of a highly flavorful and refreshing blend of tomato and spices. 

Salmorejo This is probably my favorite cold soup from Spain. It is similar to gazpacho, except it has bread added to it. It's traditionally topped with hard boiled egg, cured ham and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. You can substitute bacon or pancetta for the ham if you need to. It won't be quite as sublime, but it will still taste amazing. 

So what do you think? Will you go on a picnic in the near future and try one of my menus? Or will you sip gazpacho and enjoy the flavors of summer? Let me know! I will join you from afar.