I woke up to a hint of sunlight, feeling strange that I was not in my own bed. Then it came to me: I was in Madrid, Spain, 3,000 miles and an ocean away from the United States. I weaved my way through my three roommates and stepped out onto the hotel balcony. The numerous cars, blaring horns, throngs of people, and skyscrapers reminded me of many American cities. However, Madrid, at the same time, cannot be more different from those cities. Besides the obvious linguistic differences, Madrid possesses a rich cultural history not found in most American cities. The low-standing buildings, narrow side streets, ancient churches, and numerous street restaurants compile its’ profile.
Lunch in Madrid was one of my most memorable experiences. Back in America, a normal lunch usually means a quick run to the café across the street or a sandwich at your desk. Lunch in Spain, however, was an event. Sitting under an umbrella next to a cobblestone street while eating delicious food and watching street performers and musicians was a sight I had never seen before.
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From there, our group toured the magnificent and elegant Royal Palace. The lavishness of the rooms astounded me. The huge, impeccably detailed paintings and murals watched over the rooms from the walls and ceilings. Gold and silver slithered along the sides of the art and about everything is somehow comprised of those precious metals. The grandiose throne room, however, dwarfed everything else. The room was luxuriously carpeted, with numerous tall, gold-framed mirrors. Diamond chandeliers seemed to fill the room and beautifully carved statues were everywhere. The whole palace’s striking and rich features were unlike anything I had ever seen.
That night we decided to take a stroll through the streets of Madrid in order to experience some nightlife. We passed through the Plaza del Sol, with its many side streets darting in every direction, and took in the illuminated buildings and locals. People of every age it seemed were walking around laughing, dancing to the one street band which still remained, and eating in the street restaurants. That’s when it finally hit me. Perhaps Spain was different from America on the surface, but what lies underneath, the people living in each country, are remarkably similar. We all enjoy the same things: a good meal, dancing, and spending time with friends and family. We enjoy sports and competition, whether it be baseball, bull-fighting, or even “fútbol.” And at our most basic, we all have people who love us and whom we love.
Traveling to another country opens your eyes to the cultures and people of other countries. It is striking how many different customs, languages, foods, and art forms have arisen from these close-quartered countries. In America, nothing could compare to the regality of the Royal Palace. Even the White House exudes a different aura – one more businesslike than majestic. There are no wide, open plazas and not many street restaurants. But the people in America, Spain, and every other country share the same characteristics. Despite the various external differences between American cities and Spanish cities, the foundation of the cities, the humanity and people living in them, remains the same.
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