Spain

Your plan isn’t going to work – Stay calm (19/100)

Sometimes you screw up, don’t leave enough time to get a long-term visa, sign up as the last person on the last day for a short program, and end up meeting some of the best people.Segovia, Spain
I was devastated when I botched my plans to take time off University and spend 9 months living in Barcelona, but now I can’t imagine it any other way.

Spending just the summer in Spain allowed me to do less school and more travel, graduate college a semester early and end up with a killer job. Not to mention meet a few of my favorite people.

Don’t be discouraged if your original travel plans end up nothing like your actual experience. If you have a good attitude and stay flexible, you’re sure to have a good time.

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Being Vegetarian in Spain Means Tiptoeing Around Ham (18/100)

Jamon iberico in spainHam is an unavoidable component of Spanish life. If you’re lucky enough to end up in someone’s kitchen, there’s sure to be a leg propped on a special wooden stand and covered with a cloth; leaving the hoof and hairy ankle exposed. The American in me questions how sanitary this could be, but Spaniards won’t hesitate to cut off a slice straight from the block. A Spanish teen once told me that adept ham-cutting skills are a point of pride and assured me his mother slices the best, thinnest pieces of jamón.

I was in El Tigre getting tapas with a gaggle of Americans and used my then-limited Spanish to ask for something “vegeteriano por favor. No carne por favor.” The waiter thought he had just the thing for me and brought out a big plate of cheese croquets. One bite confirmed my suspicions that Spaniards don’t 100% understand my lifestyle. Apparently the little flecks of ham in the cheese don’t count as meat, right?

The World’s Largest Cathedral is a Hot Mess (17/100)

Seville Cathedral, biggest cathedral in the worldSevilla (or Seville for us non-Spaniards) is home to this hot mess of a cathedral. It was added to for ages and clearly they took some stylistic liberties along the way.

I didn’t go inside but the exterior is having a wonderful identity crisis. I kind of like it. Maybe it’s a more realistic house for spirituality. Because whose inner-life actually looks the Basilica Di Santa Maria?

In Madrid, Everyone Drinks (14/100)

Old lady drinking beerI was getting lunch down the street from Universidad Antonio de Nebrija when I spied an elderly woman eating a sandwich and drinking an afternoon beer.

The best part was she looked like my Mexican grandma.

The Spanish propensity to drink at anytime of day will always fascinate me.

Read more about my Madrid adventures and that one time a Spanish dog peed on me.

Respect – Barcelona Art (12/100)

Respect, graffiti, Barcelona, SpainI took the train from my friend’s house in Mollet de Valles into the city to go to the Picasso Museum.

Did you know the Picasso Museum is free on Sundays? If you’ve done any research on it I’m sure you do because every tourist and their mother was queued up in line extending down the street when I tried to capitalize on the free deal.

Do yourself a favor and pay the few euros on any day but Sunday.

I wandered the area instead and stumbled upon some great street art.

Barcelona was a series of unexpected finds for me. Like that time a random family took me in for a week.

Spiritual Graffiti in El Retiro (10/100)

god id big dios es grande

Dios es Grande – God is Big

All my friends were gone from Madrid and I was killing time in El Retiro until I could catch a bus to Lisbon.

There I stumbled upon a really interesting (and free!) museum, The Crystal Palace, and groups of Spaniards enjoying the park.

I was exploring part of the park that looked like a little horseshoe hub, when I found this spray painted on the back of the sign.

I’m not religious but there is something really beautiful about this. I think it unintentionally describes my philosophical ideolgy.

 

You have to love hidden graffiti gems. Check out some of my other street art finds:

Tourism Terrorism – Barcelona

Berlin Wall – Berlin

Mother Earth -Granada

Moms are the Best (8/100)

Parc Guell Spanish Mom

I was sitting in a Barcelona hostel -sick- while my friends explored the city. We only had two days in Barcelona before we had to take a train back to school in Madrid, but I knew I’d be back in a few weeks to visit friends. I took advantage of the free WiFi and skyped my mom for the first time in ages.

While catching up with her and my sister, she mentioned a Catalan student would be coming to my house in America to stay as my brother’s exchange student for the month. Interested, I emailed the kid’s family, told them I was in Barcelona for the weekend, and the next thing I knew they were making plans to pick me up at my hostel and take me to their house outside of the city for Sunday lunch.

They were so incredibly nice and hospitable. We ate lunch for hours, I told them and their son what to expect from my family and America, and they drove me back to my hostel. A few days later I got an email from them saying they would love me to come stay with them for a while. Score!

After backpacking on my own for about two weeks, I went back to their house and they took such fantastic care of me. They gave me a bed, made vegetarian food for me, drove me all over the place, took me on a day trip to the beach town Sitges and adopted me into their family life.

There are so many good people out there. Travel, find them, accept their hospitality, and return the favor some day.

Shout out to the little old lady in Madrid who took care of me and my other Barcelona mom Maria!

A Curious Granada Door Knob (7/100)

Unique doorknobSometime early on in Spain I realized how unique the doors were. They come in a brilliant assortment of sizes, colors, shapes and knobs. I told my good friend, who studied with me in Madrid, that I wanted to take photos of all the cool doors and create some kind of project that reflected my time in Spain through its doors.

She loved the idea and started snapping pictures for me – so much so that her Spanish novio said she had to stop showing him all her door shots.

I didn’t take nearly as many but I couldn’t help stopping to get this one in Granada.

I love how gingerly the hand is draped over the knob and I’m so curious how you open the door. One of the many finds that made Granada one of my favorite cities in Europe (even though The Worst Five Euros I’ve Ever Spent were in Granada).

Party on the Metro! (4/100)

Madrid Spain MetroI am in love with Madrid. I love that it’s acceptable to get breakfast at the bar;I love the alimentaciones on every block with their Spanish-Chinese shopkeepers; I love how blatant staring is normal and perpetual-smiling is odd; I love how Spanish women all wear exclusively flats and boots; I love eating outside; I even love the straightforward Spanish men.

I especially love the metro.

You can get anywhere on the metro and, as you can see, it’s clearly a blast. There’s a fairly solid chance that someone will try to pickpocket you, but it wouldn’t be Spain without a little disorder.

Read more about my thoughts on Madrid.