Postcard Pic: Madrid

Rooftop view of Madrid

By Geri Dreiling

In the United States, we refer to reddish-orange, clay roof coverings as “Spanish tiles.” In Spain, they’re simply tejas.

In this postcard picture, a storm gathers on the outskirts of Madrid, creating a cloudy backdrop for the gray dome of a church jutting up above the roofs blanketed with Spanish tiles. Continue reading...

Steamed Mussels

An affordable eatery near Madrid’s Gran Via

By Geri Dreiling

Madrid has world-class museums such as The Prado and Reina Sofia. It has the interesting architecture of the Gran Via. It has the Plaza Mayor, a preserved medieval grand square that stands as a testament to the reign of the Hapsburgs.

But it also has tasty tapas. And a visit to Spain’s capital would not be complete without exploring the city through food.

If you visit Madrid, a restaurant and tapas bar to consider is El Labriego, located about a block off of the Gran Via and a ten-minute walk from the Hotel Atlántico. With a great selection of tapas, a full restaurant menu and Spanish beer served in an atmosphere that is not overwhelmed with tourists, El Labriego is the perfect place to sample a variety of dishes without destroying your travel budget. Continue reading...

Hotel Atlantico Balcony Gran Via

European romance and charm on the Gran Vía

By Geri Dreiling

January 2013

“Let’s do something different,” I suggested to E before my fifth visit to Madrid. “Let’s check out a new hotel.” He paused for a few moments. The Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel had been great – modern, spacious and sophisticated. Trying something new meant risking disappointment. “It will be an adventure,” I prodded. He sighed gently and then we began researching Trip Advisor. Ultimately, we settled on Hotel Atlántico. After we booked I fretted silently, worrying it would turn out to be a disaster.

Instead, it turned out to be a wonderful choice. Continue reading...

Moorish Keyhole in Toledo, Spain - Edited

Photoshop Express is a free fix for lackluster pics

By Geri Dreiling

Even though trips must come to an end, travel photos live on. Who hasn’t taken a detour down vacation memory lane before paying online bills by opening a photo folder on the desktop and clicking through the images? How many adults have childhood memories of sitting cross-legged on the living room floor of their grandparents’ home and paging through a photo album stuffed with family road trip pictures?

Cameras have advanced tremendously since the days of black-and-white images framed by white borders. And yet, the pictures taken today still don’t always capture the richness of real life. An iPhone or Samsung Galaxy may be a convenient way to get a quick pic but the results would not be mistaken for those taken by a professional travel photographer. The colors can look drab. Shadows are more pronounced. The lighting isn’t quite right

But there is a free fix for lackluster pics. Adobe, the same company that provides the high-end Photoshop software used by professional photographers, also offers Photoshop Express for free. It can be a great alternative for amateur photographers who aren’t ready to invest in the premium software. Continue reading...

California family travel

How novel experiences boost well being

Geri Dreiling

I always smile when I look at an old picture of my young children -- clad in shorts and sweatshirts -- standing ankle deep in the Pacific Ocean surf on a hazy day. They are engrossed in a conversation that has long since been forgotten. And though the family trips sometimes blur together in my mind, the clarity of certain moments and specific emotions remain.

When I flip through photo albums, I recall the feeling of happiness and the sense of closeness. I remember the anticipation of a new adventure and delight that comes with encountering new experiences. The anxieties of navigating a new place, setting aside vacation time and sticking to a travel budget have been washed away like a sand castle at high tide. Continue reading...

Chicago Hyatt Elevator_edited

Sightseeing without ever leaving the hotel

By Geri Dreiling

June 2011

“It’s not like the movies,” I warned my Spanish friend once he decided to make his first trip to the United States to visit me in St. Louis.

“This isn’t Baywatch. You won’t see Pamela Anderson look-a-likes running around in bathing suits -- most certainly not in the Midwest,” I emphasized repeatedly.

Of course, I would eventually be wrong. But first, we had to figure out what an international visitor needed to do to enter the U.S. as a tourist. Continue reading...


By Geri Dreiling

It is early morning, the day after the Connecticut school shooting. I haven’t yet gathered the latest news. I dread reading the updates and seeing the photos of the young victims in the happier moments of their tragically short lives, but I know that eventually I will, feeling that I must somehow bear witness to the event rather than turn my back on it.

And my heart will break. Continue reading...


A King’s Ransom

Pedraza castle courtyard_resized

The colorful life of the Pedraza castle

By Geri L. Dreiling

March 2011

After the lamb luncheon at Hosteria de Pedraza and the entertainment provided by amorous storks, I strolled to the opposite end of the village with my travel companions. Eight minutes later, we were standing in front of the castle.

Pedraza’s castle was built in the Middle Ages. It is the site where two French princes were held captive as medieval bail and Basque painter Ignacio Zuloaga found inspiration. Continue reading...


Are We There Yet?

Along the road

4 tips for making family road trips easier

 By Geri Dreiling

If you live in the Midwest, driving is a fact of life. When I was growing up in Kansas, family vacations to California, Florida and Montana all involved road trips. I didn’t fly on an airplane until I was 19.

As an adult, I settled in St. Louis, Missouri. Although my kids have taken many airplane trips during their short lives, they’ve also spent a lot of time as passengers in various four-door sedans. We've taken road trips to visit relatives in far-flung states and driven to Washington D.C., Florida and even the Boundary Waters located on the Minnesota and Canada border.

I have found that there are four things I can do ranging from old-fashioned to high-tech that can improve the family road trip experience. Continue reading...

Plaza Mayor Pedraza

A new twist on dinner and a show

By Geri Dreiling

March 2011

Pedraza is a medieval village bathed in faint pink and earthy tan. Gray stone walls ring the settlement and Spanish tiles that vary in shades of red, orange and brown cap the buildings inside.  Located about an hour’s drive northwest of Madrid, the restored village that dates from the 12th century rises up from a plateau and provides sweeping views of the countryside and the Sierra of Guadarrama. When I visited in March with E and his parents, the peaks of the sierra were capped with snow.

There were two reasons for our visit to Pedraza. One was to see Pedraza’s castle which I will detail in a subsequent post. The second was to experience the food. We didn’t make the trek to enjoy the wildlife – but we did end up being treated to quite a show. Continue reading...