First off, I want to apologize for the cheesy title of this blog post that bears reference to the 2010 thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception. With that out of the way…
There are so many things that I love about living, working, and studying in Spain. The classes that we are teaching are lively and enlightening, as well as rewarding; while Western New York was slammed with a blizzard last week, the weather here has been steadily in the 60s for at least the last few weeks; and as Luci Sena (fellow Jamestown Community College student who is participating in the same internship) highlighted in her last blog post, the food here is absolutely delectable. However, one of the best parts of being in Spain (or any European country, really) is the opportunity to do even more traveling. There is a pretty extensive network of high-speed trains here that connects many great cities together! While we have not had a ton of free time with our busy schedules to explore the many cities that surround Valladolid, I’m going to highlight two short trips that Luci, Jamie (another intern from Pittsburgh), and I have taken since we arrived: one to Salamanca and one to Madrid.
It goes without saying that Salamanca, Spain is VERY different from Salamanca, New York. Although Salamanca, New York is very nice, Salamanca here is credited as being one of the “most beautiful” Spanish cities. This made it a perfect destination for a Saturday afternoon excursion. By train, the city is only about an hour away. There was so much to see there! The two main sights we visited were the Iglesia del Espíritu Santo La Clerecía and the Plaza Mayor. The Iglesia del Espíritu Santo La Clerecía was my favorite part of Salamanca. This church, whose construction began in 1617 and was finished in 1754, was magnificent. The architecture was stunning, and the pictures below speak for themselves. We were even able to go to the top of the bell towers and get a bird’s eye view of the city of Salamanca. The view was absolutely breathtaking!
The majority of prominent Spanish cities have a plaza named Plaza Mayor. Salamanca, Madrid, and Valladolid are no exceptions! The Plaza Mayor is the center of the city, with many different shops and restaurants surrounding it. People often meet here and hang out on nice days, and tourists like ourselves take pictures of the beautiful architecture of the plaza!
A couple weeks ago, we had a few days off for Carnaval (which is similar to Mardi Gras in the United States). With this time off, we decided to embark on another adventure, this time to Madrid. We had been in Madrid briefly when we arrived in Spain, but we did not see much more than the airport and train stations. This time, we were able to spend three days exploring the city! For this trip, points of interest included the Prado, the Catedral de la Almudena, and Vicente Calderón Stadium.
When we got to Madrid, the Prado was our first destination. This is a world renowned art museum with HUNDREDS of works from artists such as Francisco de Goya, Diego Velázquez, and El Greco. Although we spent a good amount of time trying to navigate the streets of Madrid with paper maps looking for the museum itself, it was definitely worth all the time we spent searching. Following our long stop at the Prado, we went to Tommy Mel’s, an American, 50s style diner, to curb our strong appetites. There’s nothing wrong with some good old fashioned American food (burgers, cheese fries, and milkshakes) after we have been away from them for so long!
The next day was Ash Wednesday. We had the wonderful opportunity to attend Holy Mass at the Catedral de la Almudena, the cathedral of Madrid. It was an absolutely exquisite church and kicking off the season of Lent there this year is something I will not forget for the rest of my life. We were fortunate enough to have wonderful weather for the entire day, and as night fell, we made our way to Vicente Calderón Stadium to watch the Spanish national soccer team take on the Italian team in a friendly match. This game had been in the back of our minds even before we came to Spain, and we were very fortunate that we had the opportunity to go! The atmosphere of the stadium was OUTSTANDING! The precision of the players is unmatched (by literally anyone in the world!) and the fact that Spain won topped off the perfect day in Madrid.
We officially have LESS THAN a month until we are going to make our way back to the United States. We have a busy, eventful month ahead of us and I can’t wait to see what the rest of our time here has in store!!