August 10 was the big day. After spending an incredible evening with my closest friends and family celebrating my departure and my birthday I was off. Having ventured an entire 15 minutes from my home for school, this felt like the beginning of something that should have happened long ago. Suitcase(s) in hand, I was ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
After flying all the way to Dallas, only to retrace my steps to Madrid I was exhausted. Silvia and Miguel– Alex’s parents–met me at the airport, greeting me with hugs and kisses. They took me through Madrid in their car and acted as a tour guide, explaining everything about the city.
Upon entering Madrid, you will see exactly four skyscrapers. No more, and no less. Madrid is one of the most ancient cities in Europe, so it has been made illegal to change the face of any building. This includes creating skyscrapers. It also includes shops. So, anyone wishing to renovate must preserve the original facade to maintain the authenticity of the city. With America being so young, it is difficult to fathom something so ancient that it must be preserved in this way. It’s also difficult to understand a major city without a huge skyline. Due to it’s age, Madrid is also very spread out. In modern American cities, you can continue to build outwards but this is not the case in Madrid.
After a short tour of Madrid, we went to Pozuelo, a suburb some 10 minutes from the city where they live. Here I was able to repack for my trip to Galecia, and here I had my first taste of Spanish cuisine.
Hay dios mios, la comida. I’m sure that the majority of this blog will be about food. We went out to eat early for lunch (2:30 is early… what?). Being an uncomfortable American in a very Spanish bistro, Silvia and Miguel ordered for us. We had gazpacho, tuna and tomatoes, small fried fishes, and a huge steak. Each dish came out one at a time, and honestly I thought that the whole meal was the gazpacho and the tuna. It was another surprise every time more food came out. By the time the meat came out I was incredibly full. Maybe I’ll get the hang of this in the future. After lunch it is typical to enjoy a “cup of coffee” which is actually a shot of espresso, and dessert. So. much. food. Everything is served on one dish in the middle for all to share.
Let me also explain the eating schedule in Spain. Breakfast at 10 or 11, then snack, then lunch at 4 or so, then snack, then probably another snack, then dinner around 10 or 11 at night always with dessert. You’re allowed to sleep at 2. All they do is eat.
Anyways, afterwards we drove the five hours north to Galecia. Galecia is a small fishing area in northern Spain above Portugal. Being in close proximity to Ireland, it shares a strong Celtic culture, rainy weather, and scenery. The family has a house in Galecia and we went to meet the entire family.
Madrid is very dry and mostly flat, but traveling north Spain becomes mountainous and green. Spain actually has the second most mountains in Europe, behind Switzerland. I saw many wind turbines and solar panels on the trip, and was told that many times villages can be completely fueled by these alternative energy sources. The drive was magnificent.
Upon arrival and after meeting the entire family we went to a Tapas bar and again over-indulged in Spanish cuisine. Tomato and mozerella, a sausage and potato dish, tortilla, chicken, and octopus all followed by a milkshake.
With 36 hours without sleep, it was finally time to sleep off my American habits.