Monday, June 15, 2015

Week 2: Five Things I Learned This Week in Spain

This second week flew by so quickly. Every day was packed with new things to do: during the week, I visited el Museo Nacional del Prado for the first time and also got to explore two new neighborhoods, Chueca and la Latina. Then over the weekend, I spontaneously went to northern Spain with a new friend and visited León, Oviedo, and Gijón (new travels posts coming soon!). Here's what I learned this week:
{Plaza de Torros}
1. Exploring. This week has been a reminder that heading to the less-famous spots is sometimes the way to go. I finally wandered beyond Sol, where many of the au pairs often meet up, and found new neighborhoods, some cheap bars with good tapas, and the best view of the city I've seen yet. Likewise, the three cities I visited in the North aren't exactly the most popular tourist sites, and it was nice being able to escape the crowds for a while and see some lesser-known sights.
{admiring the buildings in La Latina}
{street art in la Latina}
2. The difference between alone and lonely. I went out exploring in Madrid by myself on Wednesday and really enjoyed being able to go where I wanted at my own pace. My plans with a friend fell through, so I walked around for a bit before exploring new neighborhoods. I got on the Metro and picked a random stop on the map and just went. I used to be really good at spending time by myself, but when I'm at home or at school, there's always someone around so alone time is more rare. I think it's important to have a good balance between introvert-extrovert and when I'm so far away from all my friends and family, it's nice to have a bit of space to enjoy time with myself.
{churros con chocolate from San Ginés}
3. Food. I came to Spain knowing that this trip was not going to be an endless food-venture; the country that prides itself in its jamón and seafood paella isn't exactly vegetarian-friendly. But I think I at some point this weekend I reached my breaking point. After all, there's only so much fruit, pastries, and tortillas de patata you can live on. Luckily, I found a vegetarian restaurant in Gijón and was able to enjoy just one meal on our trip that wasn't entirely white bread, fried potatoes, or fruit. And in about two weeks, I'll be able to eat all the authentic pizza, pasta, and gelato I desire when my family and I go to Italy.
{museum exploring}
{Catedral de La Almudena} 
4. TravelWith a five hour drive from Madrid to León, two hours from León to Oviedo, half an hour from Oviedo to Gijón, and seven and a half hours from Gijón to Madrid, I spent a lot of this weekend on ALSA busses, but I'm not complaining. For nearly all of the bus trips, we had decent wifi, ample leg room, and a trip that started and ended on time, which is much more than I can say for the Bolt Bus back home. 
Beyond that, while I haven't had the "traditional" hostel experience, complete with sharing a room with several strangers, I can now say I have experienced hostel life! Our hostels were easy to find online, fairly cheap, and centrally located in the cities we visited. I now feel much more confident planning my next trip around Spain.

{some greenery in Madrid}
5. Money. Compared to what I'm used to paying for lunch or drinks, everything here is so cheap! It's amazing to be able to get a beer, glass of wine, or full meal for the equivalent of a dollar. A new restaurant opened up in my neighborhood in DC and when I checked out their menu and saw a $7 sandwich I laughed; while this is a price I'm technically used to paying back home, I'd never pay more than 4€ here and in fact, I often pay just 1€.

All in all, it's been a busy week and I'm happy to be back in Madrid after a long weekend in the north. I found a quote somewhere that said, "Don't count the days; make the days count." While I can't help but do the former, I'm doing my best to make sure I do the latter as well. :) Have a good week!
~ V

Read also: Week 1

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