Texans in Europe for 20: Toledo, Spain

Our 20th anniversary trip to Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba and Sevilla, Spain; Fatima, Santarém and Lisbon, Portugal; and Rome, Italy, was flat out amazing. To read all about it, just click on those links.

I have been busting to share our adventure in Europe with y’all. It was so fun to live it in real-time over on Instagram, but there was so much more to our trip than all those snaps. I’ll be sharing a bit more (and a ton more photos!) here on the blog. But I think it’s important to share this before I dive into all things tapas, sangria, old churches and fantastic landscapes: one does not have to travel to Europe to feed a marriage.

We saved and planned and it worked out beautifully that Scott had business in Italy just a few months after we celebrated year 20. But I would still love this man, I would still cherish all these years with him, even if Europe had never happened. I am BEYOND grateful God led us to three stunning countries to celebrate!

Okay, here we go.

The weeks preceding our European getaway had me more than a little anxious. Months before we left, we decided asking six families to care for an extra kid was an easier sell than asking one family to take them all. The logistics in making that happen? Holy smokes. Plus, Scott was gone nine days before me. I won’t lie. Leaving on that plane was really hard. So many worries bubbled to the surface. But, a blessing from my priest, hugs from sweet Dominican sisters and time in front of the Tabernacle put my heart in the right place. And the kids had a total blast with friends and family. Win-win.


Off I flew. I first met Scott in Rome and then we rechecked our luggage and flew straight to Madrid. It was a whole frequent flyer mile thing, long story, not important. Seeing him as I walked out of baggage claim made me feel like a newlywed again. OH MY GOSH I WAS EXCITED. Sorry, that needed all caps. But while we made it to Spain, our bags didn’t. Insert all the characters: *#$^!)%**!


At first we thought the bags might be on the next flight, arriving two hours later. No big shake, we thought. But can I tell you how hard it is to communicate your frustration in a language you do not speak? Dammit, why didn’t I pay more attention in Spanish class? I only know the curse words. After two trips to the airport via the metro, a hilarious stop at the market to shop in a language we don’t speak and an entertaining trip to the makeup store on the Gran Via we got our luggage 24 hours later. I have no idea what we bought, but it was all handmade and the guy even made Scott some aftershave cream. LOVE! In the meantime…

I finally slept after being up for 36 hours and we boarded a cool train to TOLEDO!






The stunner here is the Cathedral of Toledo.




We’ve seen Chartres, France, but boy does this one mark Toledo on the gothic church map. Originally built in the 1200s on the site of a former mosque, this cathedral not only houses amazing altars and frescoes, but it’s like a mini-art museum with original pieces by El Greco, Bellini, Goya and Raphael. What the what?! Turns out El Greco lived in Toledo and became good friends with the dean of the cathedral who commissioned him to paint several pieces. I can’t even. Ask Scott, I teared up more than once here. I first learned about the awesomeness of El Greco here.




We spent the entire morning here (get the audio tour if you go, worth every penny) and boy was it jaw-dropping. I think what really got me here was the vastness of beauty. I mean, there was the mini art museum, beautifully crafted altar pieces by Bellini, the hand-painted chapter room, side chapels, an outdoor cloister filled with frescoes, the handcarved choir stalls and it just kept going. The creativity and faith of humankind was on grand display in a way I’ve never seen before. Bottom line? Go to Toledo.



This monstrance is, huge. Once a year, they take it out of the case, put Jesus on display and process both through the streets of Toledo on the Feast of Corpus Christi (usually in June). Can you imagine that sight?


We meandered our way around town and got our workout. I swear, every cool European city is built on a hill and it’s uphill everywhere you walk. It was great fun, though, to see all the swords on display (they are EVERYWHERE) and finally find our perfect piece of Lladró ceramics. Oh, I can’t wait until Advent to bust that one out. The gal selling it to us asked if we collected it, “We do now,” said Scott. Ha!

The cutest restaurant was just the spot for our lunch. I had Spanish tortillas (not to be confused with the Texas kind) and Scott had partridge. It was fantastic. We picked up some mazapán, too. No photos of that, it didn’t last long enough!






We dashed to the airport after arriving back in Madrid. Literally. And prayed for luggage. Good thing I brought my passport because that was the only way we got our luggage back. I have never grabbed baggage and walked that fast out of an airport, ever. On our way back to the hotel, we ran into two of the nicest Texans, both college students studying abroad and one was from Baylor! Scott and I did the best we could with clothes and hair (okay, maybe that was just me) and walked back out the door just in time to meet our Spanish photographer, Francisco, with Flytographer. It’s this brilliant business model that allows travelers to find a photographer in 190 cities worldwide. If not for them, I’m not sure how many photos Scott and I would’ve had of just the two of us with all heads and feet in the picture, completely in focus. And awesome ones, at that. It was my anniversary gift to Scott and worth all the money I saved for them. They were far beyond what I imagined they could be. Here’s my four favorites. Don’t worry, I have a whole post about our experience with these photographers coming soon.





We loved Francisco so much, that we met him and his girlfriend, Laura, for tapas and drinks a few nights later. That’s what I call living like a local. Isn’t it so great to meet friends in new places? Texans, we never meet a stranger.

After photos, Francisco walked us over to the Mercado de San Miguel. Also known as tapas and sangria heaven. The day was completely saved. The food amazing. The company outstanding. We ended up chatting with two gals from Chicago who were a total hoot, then a group of three Italian couples on a long weekend in Madrid. Can you even?? Proof that language knows no barriers. We ended the night with churros in chocolate, and then promptly spilled them all over us. Call us Grace and Graceful. We got back to the hotel well after midnight and deemed it the best day ever. Right after we soaked our clothes in water!




Tomorrow? We experience a spa, Arabian style, see a sight usually reserved for Holy Week in Sevilla and do the walk of shame at McDonald’s (I promise, it’s not what you think).

Links for the Day
Toledo Cathedral
Madrid Airport
Gran Via
Mercado de San Miguel
Rick Steves: Spain (our lifesaver of a book on the trip)
Hotel Opera

This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Sarah Fearn Johnson on October 18, 2016 at 8:10 am

    My son (USNA ’02) and I went to Toledo in 2001. We had to pick up his Graduation Sword from the Barrameo Sword Factory. He had gone to Madrid to visit Navy friends stationed at our Embassy in Madrid in 2000 on his Spring Break. He came home and told me his sword was being made in Toledo and that we had to pick it up in person! Fortunately, our friends were still in Madrid and we visited them and went to get the sword with them in Toledo. We stayed at a Hostel across the river for a few days. Christmas in Spain with friends and my oldest son. Wonderful!

    • Kathryn on October 18, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Now I know who buys all those swords!! They were beautiful. That must’ve been a Christmas to remember, for sure.

  2. Nicole on October 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Happy to live vicariously through your travels! I don’t think Europe is on our list for the foreseeable future, and it’s been a-g-e-s since I was there. You sold me on Toledo… adding that to my list of someday destinations!

  3. […] you want to read more about our European getaway, click on over! This post contains affiliate […]

  4. Aileen on October 19, 2016 at 8:09 am

    I love this post! I spent about half my childhood in Europe, mostly Germany, because my Dad was in the Air Force. I was last there when I was 19 with my mother. She had been born and raised in Germany. I was smiling, nodding and tearing up not only at you and your husband but the pictures brought me back. It always happens whenever I look at great photos or see Europe on tv. It is so different from the US. I’ve been following your journey on Instagram, too. Thank you for taking us along! 🙂

    • Kathryn on October 19, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Oh, awesome! Germany is on my bucket list…maybe the next European trip?!

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