Hola. Como esta. Gracias. Uno. Quesadilla. Adios.
Those sparse words that completed my whole Spanish vocabulary sounded rigid with my American tongue. I couldn’t roll my r’s so gracias always echoed as grass-ee-ahs. Though I could only muster “where is the bathroom,” I wanted to see my cousin after ten years so I convinced my family to send me to beautiful Espana. My heart took off with the plane.
I woke up on Spanish soil — it was foreign; it was hot; it was beautiful. The plane had landed, and soon we were flying through Madrid in a bus at midnight.
We walked: uphill, downhill, forwards, backwards, on our feet, on our hands, and around corners. This will be a reoccurring motif. We mastered Madrid: visiting the palace at night, illuminated by the same spotlights that highlight Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World (I had on the same face for both), gobbling down as much tapas (learn the word, you will see it everywhere) as we could, filling our bellies with these yummy appetizers like the Serrano ham, watching world famous flamenco dancers perform emotional choreographies, eating Spain’s famous paellas, a combination of fried rice, seafood, chicken, and spices, taking café de leche under huge umbrellas in the plaza as a light mist from overhead disguised the sweat droplets that gathered on our foreheads, trying new flavors and discovering that though the blanco y negro looks like an ice cream float in coffee, it’s actually rum (always check if it is truly coffee by asking“¿Es café?”)
We traveled—first off to Toledo, (which they pronounce toe-lay-doe and get very insulted at the usual American toe-lee-do) a mere hour long RENFE train ride from Madrid. Undoubtedly my favorite, this historic city encompasses every romantic aspect of the Spanish culture; the long narrow cobbled streets — weaving through this fortress like an old postcard — are protected overtop with a draping canopy. At the heart of the city sits the great Cathedral of Toledo, the most beautiful I have ever beheld. Older and more ornate than Westminster Abbey, the cathedral is infamous for its gothic, arched ceilings and flowery retable depicting carvings and statues of angelical creatures. Stretching your neck back won’t guarantee a sight of the top!
We decided to travel to Malaga and stay with some of her friends. I am forever indebted to that family for their pains; try to stay with a true Spanish family for it is quite different. We ate with them, shopped with them, and beached with them at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We took short train rides to Cordoba and Granada, the latter the home of the Alhambra, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its title is justified — a true marvel of the human world. Meaning “the red one” the Alhambra reflects ancient Muslim architecture and art; stepping into this palace is like taking a step back in time when life moved more slowly and blissfully. But do not buy the audio guides, they are worthless. The expansive walking will tire you quickly, but the beauty of the city should not be sacrificed.
My favorite word that I learned in Spain: rebajas. Plastered across the windows of every store in downtown Madrid it means sale. Compared to other European countries, Spain has affordable prices on most items, especially clothes. I loved the culture. It was colorful and flavorful, adding a few spices to my normally drab life. I learned to speak another language by merely listening to the people, to their inflection. I don’t regret a single moment, so for now, hasta la vista.
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