Monday, January 31, 2011

¡Saludos de España!

Hello from Spain!!  After months of researching programs, filling out endless amounts paperwork, planning my semester, packing, and a 20 hour trip from Stevens Point, WI to Madrid, I am finally here in Spain! 

On my flight over the Atlantic I was lucky enough to be seated next to another girl in my program which made the flight a lot less scary and shortly after arriving at the Madrid airport we met many other students in our group.  Once at the hotel I had just enough time to shower before I was to meet my host family from an exchange trip I participated in three summers ago.  See them again was a wonderful way to start my trip.  We went out to a restaurant and had tortas (an open faced sandwich with a variety of topping choices), bacalao ( a fish spread), and a potato dish with fried eggs and jamón iberico....everything was so delicious!  Afterward we took a walk through the streets of Madrid and it felt like no time had passed since we last saw each other.
Me and my host family from the summer of 2007 in Puerta del Sol.  The sculpture of the bear and the tree are the symbol of the city of Madrid.
El Palacio Real.
Paella and tinto de verano....a typical Spanish lunch.
Churros y chocolate. ¡DELICIOSO!

Today, after a delicious breakfast in the hotel we walked to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace).  We toured the royal pharmacy and royal armory before touring the palace itself.  One interesting bit of information the tour guide shared with us was that the pomegranate is one of the symbols of Spanish royalty.  Also, in Spain the pomegranate is called a 'granada' which is what the city of Granada (in southern Spain) is named after since it was the last city to be conquered by the Spanish monarchy and the red Alhambra in Granada is a similar color to the pomegranate.  This afternoon we had free time to get lost in the streets of Madrid.  A small group of us found a small bar that served paella (a traditional Spanish rice dish) and tinto de verano (red wine with bubbles that can be found 'on tap' nearly anywhere.  However, the best part so far has been our stop at the oldest chocolateria in Madrid.  While churros and chocolate are traditionally consumed after a long night out on the town, they are delicious any time of day! The chocolate drink has a thick consistency and is like a melted Hershey bar.

Considering I have been more of a tourist for the past day or so I haven't had any major "culture shock" experiences.  For me it is interesting though that so many people I see in the streets are smokers but yet every public building in Spain is smoke free, something that was just implemented at the beginning of this calendar year.

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