I’ve been in Spain for the past few days and let me tell you: it’s an experience. That’s for sure. The food is brilliant, the architecture is stunning and the art is otherworldly. I do miss my family and dogs, though. That’s the “too long; didn’t read” synopsis.
I arrived Wednesday morning, groggy and a little nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect. I just hoped I wasn’t scammed or something. I was glad to know that SPI was indeed a legit program.
Anyway, I met all of the other students when I landed and we immediately jumped into things. We visited El Templo de Debod, a gift to Spain from Egypt for helping with the Nile. All of the countries that aided Egypt received such a temple. From the outside, it doesn’t seem like much, but it was very interesting (and very hot!) in the inside. The best part, in my opinion, was the view behind it. You could see everything. Greenery. Monuments. Houses. Streets. It filled me with awe.
After the temple, we went to a plaza near our hotel. I forgot the name of it, but there’s this monument to remember El Dos de Mayo, an important date in Spanish history. There was a period of time when the French were in control of Spain and a ton of people lost their lives fighting the French. There’s even a little legend that surrounds it. Once there was a young woman named Manuela Malasaña and she led a group against the French. She was a great leader and fighter, but inevitably was caught by the French. She and the others were executed and the Spaniards back home honored her by naming streets after her, creating artwork based of the legend and building monuments. Here, my friend group and I indulged ourselves in our first bite of Spanish cuisine. It was rocking
We went to Toledo the next day. Toledo is completely different from Madrid. It’s rockier and has a more medieval feel to it. They say girls from Toledo have the best butts, just from all the uphill walking. There we toured the cathedral and saw a few paintings by El Greco (Wow! I know!). We also saw the Jewish Synagogue, which was a lot more humble than the cathedral and pretty in its own way. Besides being the “the city of three religions,” Toledo is known for its amazing view. It’s a beautiful place to be.
On Friday, we got to choose what we wanted to do. Like the giant nerd I am, I chose to go to the Museo de la Historia de Madrid instead of the Real Madrid stadium. Not a lot of people went and so it was great just quietly interacting with the art. I learned that the Spanish really liked their paintings dark and truly were fans of intricate models of their city. Later, we got to see the Royal Palace. The best part, though, was when my museum pals and I went to this place called Crepes and Waffles. OH MY GOSH. I had a dinner crepe with fresh mozzarella cheese, Iberian ham and caramelized onions. It doesn’t sound that good, but it totally was. My dessert crepe was the highlight of the evening. It was a banana crepe with bourbon sauce, hardened caramel and vanilla ice cream paired with a cup of coffee. A complete dream, if you ask me.
Saturday was the day I finally got to meet my roommate. My roomie, Margaret, flew in later than I did. She’s the coolest and is truly the definition of a southern belle. We went to the park and I was super hype to see the Palacio de Cristal but we didn’t have enough time. Naturally I was bummed about that. I’ve wanted to go since 7th grade. Regardless, I still had a fantastic time at El Puerto del Sol and La Plaza Mayor.
We left for San Sebastián on Sunday. It’s a four hour bus ride from Madrid. However, we stopped in Segovia to learn about the aqueducts, which were made by the Romans in the first century. It blows my mind that nothing holds the bricks together but gravity. Also, we met our homestay families. My “madre” is an 81-year-old woman who loves soccer and cooking. She has no qualms about anything. She’s so sassy and I love it.
Low key: Monday was hard. Class was fairly easy. I was placed in the advanced class, but after school it hit me how long I was going to be here. Six weeks is a long time. I didn’t know if I could get used to cold showers or being with my roommate 24/7. I’m an only kid, so I’m not really used to that dynamic. But churros fixed that problem real fast.
Tuesday was a much better day. Well, not better. Just funny. We headed to the La Concha, one of the beaches. After probably 20 minutes of swimming, I went back to drink some water and half of our stuff was swept by the tide. Poor Michael tried grabbing our things for us. How sad. Once we gathered our bearings, we went on a pintxos tour. (Pintxos is the Basque word for tapas). I tried cow cheek, octopus, ox tail, you name it. Every single snack was delicious.
Wednesday definitely was not as exciting as the day before. I had class as usual. Ate lunch and napped by the beach. We also toured La Casa de La Paz, the beach house of Francisco Franco. Apparently, he loved San Sebastián, but hated Basque so…
I truly do think I will be a better person from this experience. I can’t wait to flourish.