Ugh I am so annoyed. I accidentally deleted this post using copy and paste. ARGH! But I will do my best to rewrite it.
So my parents finally came to visit me during my spring break! I have been trying to get them to visit me for what seems like forever. They didn’t come visit me when I studied abroad in Malaga (“you’re only going to be there for a semester anyways”). However this time I was going to be in Spain for a year and told them that their visiting was non-negotiable. They were going to come see me. And what was worse, they were going to like it too. Anyways, I don’t know why my mother didn’t jump at the chance when she first had it–God knows she has complained about visiting France a zillion times.
After their plane landed (they visited from April 16th-23rd), we took the train to Salamanca where we stayed Saturday through Monday. I had already visited Salamanca the previous fall, but I didn’t mind going back. The city is absolutely gorgeous and we were also there for the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week). My parents loved every minute of the Semana Santa procession we watched. There are different thrones used throughout the week for the different processions. People wear uniforms resembling what members of the KKK used to wear (but again I have to stress there is no relation between a Semana Santa procession and the KKK). Drumbeat/trumpety music accompanies the procession. And of course, there were lots of people gathered around the cathedral to watch the throne come out. We visited the old and new cathedral, climbed the cathedral tower, saw the Casa de las Conchas, visited the old university building (I found the frog for them on the facade), visited a secret garden named after characters in the Celestina, and also went into the Casa Lis, the art nouveau/deco museum.
The weather was beautiful and our hotel was fantastic in this renovated convent, el Convento San Esteban. I got my own room and didn’t have to share the king size bed! (and didn’t have to listen to Papa snore!) Both nights we ate in fantastic restaurants and had great wine (Papa LOVED the wine, he even bought some at the airport at the duty free shop before heading back to the States). We also had a lot of fun stork watching since in Salamanca, the storks like building their nests on top of all the historical buildings. We even sat in the beautiful Plaza Mayor at a cafe and people watched. We tried churros con chocolate, which Papa was not so fond of. It was a great way to start off the week.
For more info on Salamanca (the whole Old City is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salamanca
On Monday we took the train back to Madrid. I have to say the train ride from Salamanca to Madrid is beautiful–the Spanish landscape is very diverse and changes very quickly from rocky mountainous to green plains to arid fields to whatever comes next. It was also on this train ride that I noticed random people love coming up to my father to talk to him.
Once my parents got settled into their hotel in Madrid, I showed them my apartment and they got to meet my roommates. We then set off for the center and saw Puerta del Sol along with the bear statue, Madrid’s Plaza Mayor and the mercado San Miguel. The market was not too busy that day so my parents and I had fun eating the different foods offered at the different booths. My parents even tried some champagne. From here we headed over to the Palacio Real area and visited the Almudena Cathedral (finally got to go inside it!). Finally for dinner we ate in la Latina, a very happening little neighborhood with quite a number of tapas bars. I think it was a little hard for my parents to accept the fact Spaniards simply do not go out to eat before 9 PM. My dad kept insisting this week was an “exception” because it was a holiday week… well let’s just say if we showed up at a restaurant before 9, we were guaranteed to be the only ones there. I really am not exaggerating when I say Spaniards do not go out before 9… and when I say 9, I really mean 10!
The next day we went to El Escorial with this travel agency we had booked tickets with. El Escorial is this monastery/palace about 28 miles outside of Madrid, built by Philip II in the 16th century. The palace is right at the base of the Guadarrama mountains so the scenery is absolutely beautiful. We got to see Philip II’s apartments and the bed where he died, the basilica, this hallway entirely painted with frescoes depicting important Spanish military victories, a gigantic library with super old books, and the Pantheon of the Kings, where many members of the Hapsburg/Bourbon royal dynasties are buried. King Juan Carlos (Spain’s current king) parents are also buried there… or they will be, once their remains have turned to dust (I’m not too sure what the logic to that is but anyways). On the way to El Escorial, we passed by El Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), a basilica Franco had built to commemorate the Spanish Civil War victims (though really it was more a memorial to the victims who were his supporters). He is also buried here. We did not go because the basilica is currently closed for renovations, but my parents were able to see the austere structure as we passed by it on the bus. I’ve already been to both before-El Escorial and Valle de los Caidos.
For more info on El Escorial: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Escorial
I have to say our tour guide to El Escorial was hilarious–she was this squat old Spanish lady whose favorite line was “Look at the decoration! Just look at the decoration!” Now imagine hearing that with a Spanish accent.
That afternoon upon returning to Madrid, I took my parents to Madrid’s famous Retiro park. The weather had cleared up and they got to see the pond with the rowboats, the Crystal Palace and the turtle pond. It was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon, but then the Retiro is always a great way to spend the afternoon. After we got some ice cream, I took them to the Circulo de Bellas Artes building (place used for art exhibitions) because I had been told we could see a nice view of Madrid from the building’s rooftop. And it was a nice view! We even ran into another American family from New York (but upstate all the way up in Buffalo).
That night, my parents basically cooked for me (I was supposed to help… I did sort of) and then fed me, Nicole, and her friend who was visiting Teri (weirdly enough Teri is currently living in Papa’s hometown in France… small world!). I miss Papa’s homecooked meals sooooo much!!!! It was so nice (and slightly strange but in a good way) to have my parents interacting with my roommates (along with Teri and also Richard, Lindsey’s boyfriend who was also visiting). Everybody was getting along so well and my roommates proclaimed my parents to be “so cute!” (Which is something my friend often proclaim whenever they meet them)
The next day (Wednesday) my parents visited Segovia and Avila, but I stayed behind in Madrid to get work done. That night I took my parents to a tapas place my intercambio Laura had taken me just a few weeks prior (seriously have to give that girl a medal for all the food places she has been introducing me to) appropriately called Canas y Tapas. My parents got to try croquetas, tortilla de patatas, jamon, cheese and other little tapa-y things. Oh, this was also the same night Real Madrid won against Barcelona (thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s headbutt, I watched the end of the game partially because my other intermcambio Miguel insisted it was an important game and that I would basically be an idiot not to watch it). SO yeah as we were in the tapas place (totally empty because everybody was watching the game at home), we could hear the bartender reacting to the match haha. (Also just to point out: during the team’s victory parade bus ride in Madrid later that night, one of their team members DROPPED the Copa del Rey trophy from the top of the bus and the bus actually went right over it. But the trophy survived).
So yeah, my parents got to experience the local soccer culture too. While they were here, Real Madrid and Barcelona played against each other twice in one week, which is slightly unusual. Just think of the Red Sox and Yankees playing against each other. It’s that kind of rivalry.
On Thursday, we went to Toledo and had the same tour guide we had had in El Escorial. We were not able to visit the cathedral, probably due to Semana Santa (since it was Holy Thursday, one of the most important days procession wise). However we did visit el monasterio San Juan de los Reyes (a monastery where Isabel and Ferdinan, the Catholic monarchs, originally wanted to be buried), la Iglesia de Santo Tome where El Greco’s El Entierro del Conde Orgaz is housed (the Burial of the Count of Orgaz, a painting that has not been restored in 500 years), a synagogue called Santa Maria la Blanca (which looked rather mosquy since it was built in my beloved mudejar style, the architecture you see all over southern Spain). We also visited some blacksmith place where they handmake jewelry; Mom actually bought me some cute earrings there! Anyways there was way more to see in Toledo but we only had half day tickets which was too bad. I wanted to visit the El Greco museum but it was closed because of the holiday. Some other random Toledo facts: marzipan is a local delicacy and there are stores selling medieval looking weapons and armor all over the town.
For more info about cute Toledo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledo,_Spain
That afternoon my parents visited the Prado without me so they became very familiar with El Greco, Velazquez (including his VERY famous painting Las Meninas which my parents had never seen or heard of before, to my horror. That’s like not knowing what the Mona Lisa is here in this country), and Goya. And then that night we had dinner and saw a flamenco show at Casa Patas. I had booked the tickets awhile ago so we had great seats for the show–our table was literally right in front the stage, the dancers could have accidentally hit us in the face (we definitely felt their sweat!). My mom and I got a little dressed up for the occasion which was fun!
I have seen flamenco before I am pretty familiar with how passionate and dramatic the performers can get. The singers/guitarists/dancers take their art very seriously, but I think my parents didn’t realize how intense it can get. The show was phenomenal and I loved it was a mix of different things–singing, guitar playing, and dancing. Flamenco is more typical in southern Spain so I suppose you can say it’s a very touristy thing to do in Madrid. However, we had no time to get to Andalucia this week (next visit my dad promises, yay!). So yes it was touristy (we even ordered sangria), but it was amazing, just as I had hoped it would be. My parents absolutely loved the show and wouldn’t stop repeating the word “unbelievable” and “now I have seen a flamenco show, I can die happy!” (Though I am SURE there are bars in New York where they play flamenco) It was so great to see my parents in awe of what they had just experienced–I think they’re now starting to understand why I love this country so much.
The next day (Friday) my parents visited the Thyssen without me. I met up with them in the Botanical Gardens a little later in the day and we ended up eating at la Paella Real, a paella restaurant not too far from the Palacio Real. Again, paella is not typical of Madrid–make that more Valencia on the east coast of Spain. However the paella was very good (and I was unable to finish my plate though my parents totally finished theirs!) and I definitely recommend this restaurant (but make reservations!).
And after this whirlwind of a week (no more travel agencies my mother has proclaimed), I had to say goodbye that night since they were getting up early the next morning on Saturday. I will admit it was a tearful goodbye (mostly on my part) because it was a very emotional week for me. This visit was a huge deal for me personally because it marked the first time my parents really got to hear me speak Spanish. I obviously have no use for speaking it at home and it was so great to share the language with them, even if they had no idea what I was saying half the time.
And now that I’m staying another year, I really hope that they come back and visit again. I don’t think they realized how thrilled I was to show them around “my” city and show off my language skills. Of course, I had had some practice with visitors with Katy and Mimi. Speaking of which, it was SO GOOD to see Mimi again when she came. We pretty much did everything–visited the palacio real including discovering a new park campo del moro, plaza mayor, mercado san miguel, retiro, puerta del sol… I let Mimi go to the museums on her own and I also took her to the creperie (and she was also there when Laura took me to Canas y Tapas the first time). But I had a blast seeing Mimi again, since I hadn’t seen her since graduation last year.
Oh and my sister will be here in a few weeks so another visitor to look forward to!
Spring break this year was just so much fun (aside from the sinus infection). My roommates both had people visiting them so it was like one giant family of visitors.
And now classes are over. I have exams/final papers to get through and then a thesis. And some bureaucratic BS. And apartment stuff to figure out. But then I’m sort of home free…
Like I said a few posts ago, where did the year go? Too much stuff to do in too little time!