I have always been captivated by stories of people who, when traveling abroad, became consumed by a “larger than life” feeling – the powerful sensation that there is something bigger out there than the mundane hum of a small New Jersey town.
“Beware of the bug,” I was told prior to embarking on my very first journey overseas; Symptoms included restlessness, discontentment with the ordinary and a yearning to explore.
Assuming I was immune to such a fabricated “disease”, I landed in Madrid, Spain with no reservations, only excitement. It wasn’t until I witnessed the sun rise over the breath-taking city that my mind went numb, my heart spewed emotion and the “bug” quickly began to spread within my soul. Right then and there, the prior warnings preceded me and I accepted the fact that I was plagued with the travel bug. After drinking a cup of notoriously potent Spanish coffee, my fellow participants in the Spanish exchange and I were ready to explore Madrid.
Years of textbook studying came to life when we toured the Royal Palace, or Palacio Real de Madrid, and learned about the works of Diego VelÃ¡zquez, Francisco Goya and El Greco. Although I am not normally intrigued by paintings, I truly felt a sense of enlightenment being up close to such incredible pieces of the Spanish culture. Undeniably, the ornate Royal Palace was the birthplace of my ability to appreciate art.
With a fresh perspective, I decided to ditch the calorie counting and indulge in a traditional Spanish dish, paella. Filling myself up with food and ambiance, my satisfied taste buds prompted me to shout, “QuÃ© fantÃ¡stico!” Like a majority of my friends, I was lucky to enjoy the dish that would be a frequent meal for the duration of our stay.
After engaging in the traditional double cheek kiss with the chef and waiters, we boarded the bus and headed up to Toledo, which is south of Madrid. While listening to the tour guide explain the history of the city, my friends and I went through our souvenirs, blissfully unaware of how badly the exchange rate had cheated us.
The drive up to Toledo was beautiful, giving us a bird’s eye view of the seemingly massive city. To everyone’s amazement, we watched a craftsman hammer threads of gold into jewelry pieces, a famous trait of Toledo. For my family, I purchased plates with the city of Toledo in the center, handmade by the gold hammerer, as I preferred to call him.
A huge selling point in my lighthearted dreams to live in Spain was siesta. During this time, the entire city closes down to take a nap. If you are not fond of sleeping mid-afternoon, the lack of activity will, without a doubt, stimulate fatigue.
Despite the extreme time difference resulting in severe sleep deprivation, we all dressed up and went to a Flamenco show for our night out on the town. Personally, I was blown away by the number of times the dancers feet hit the floor during a nanosecond. The intricate hand movements and complex use of scarves left me drooling into my sangria.
At the end of my first night in Spain, I already began thinking up a cure to the travel bug.
Before drifting off to sleep, the cure came to me: a plane ticket to Greece.
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