The past two weeks have been some of my favorite so far because my family was in Spain! The days leading up to them coming I could barely focus and all I wanted to do was pack suitcase. My family arrived Thursday morning, 7/3/19 (in Spanish the day and month are flipped) and after my morning class I took the train to Madrid to meet them. We then all took the train to Málaga together for the weekend. Since they were only here for 10 days, they wanted to see as much of Spain as possible. This can get hard because Spain is the second largest country in Europe but thanks to the AVE trains, you can get to a destination in 2 or 3 hours instead of 5 or 6. We arrived in Málaga late afternoon on Thursday and went to our Airbnb which was a really nice apartment on the 14th floor with views of the ocean and the city center of Málaga. For dinner we walked into the center to go to a restaurant my host mom suggested called El Pimpi. It was a very popular restaurant located right next to the Alcazaba and roman theater. We all got seafood for dinner including grilled octopus and prawns. After dinner, we explored the city center a little bit and ended the night with gelato.

For the second day, we hopped on a bus and took a tour of Granada, about 2 hours away by car. Granada is a completely different environment from Málaga because it is located up in the mountains, it’s about 10 degrees cooler and the mountains have snow on them. For the morning part of our tour, we got to explore around Granada, so we went to the cathedral, the statue of Christopher Columbus asking the Queen for permission to sail to India and we ate peccadillos with Fanta Limon (both very common Spanish things). March 8thwas also International Women’s Day which is celebrated very heavily in Spain because less than 50 years ago they were still under rule of a dictator. There were multiple marches going on in the streets and it was very empowering to witness all of the different women, and some men, take pride in their feminism. In the afternoon we had our tour of Alhambra- inside the walls there were very beautiful gardens and architecture to see. In addition, you can look out and see all of Granada including the mountains and the old wall built around the city. After the tour we went back to Málaga and had dinner at a restaurant in the city center again. While we were eating there was a processional for Lent happening in the street, which involved lots of people young and old. For dinner, my mom and I had seafood paella and my dad and Ryan had a huge ribeye steak.

On day 3, everyone else slept till at least 11 so I got up, watched the sunrise and then convinced Ryan to go on a walk with me. Our Airbnb was only a couple blocks from the Port of Malaga so we could saw all the big ships coming in to dock. We had a breakfast/lunch around noon which included a very yummy yogurt bowl with fresh fruit and caramelized bananas. After lunch, we went to the beach for a couple hours and all got FRIED, but it was awesome because I did not think the weather was going to be nice enough for us to do that. After beach time, we took a tour of the Alcazaba- the castle/fortress in the middle of Malaga, it was very similar to Alhambra. There is also another castle, Gibralfaro,but we didn’t have time to see both. The other castle is up at the very top of a hill in Malaga with an impressive view of the city. My dad really wanted to go up to the top, so we rented Lime scooters, and after teaching mom and dad how to drive them, we rode up to the top a little before sunset. For the top you can see inside the bullfighting ring that was right next to our Airbnb, that was pretty cool since we couldn’t go inside the ring due to construction. After many pictures, we rode our scooters around the city and then to boardwalk by the port where we had dinner- pasta and pescaito (another recommendation by Isabel)- it’s a mixed platter of different kinds of fried fish such as calamari, octopus, anchovies etc. To end night 3, we went to a Flamenco show right by the restaurant. The show was very fun, and it was so impressive to watch how the flamenco dancers danced with such energy and passion.

Day 4, Disclaimer: we planned what we were doing the next day during dinner the night before, talk about last minute. We went to the Málaga train station in the morning, and after churros and chocolate, we rented a car and drove to Gibraltar. 1stoff, Gibraltar wasn’t even on my list of places I wanted to visit- I thought we were going to Córdoba instead. 2nd, its faster to drive to Gibraltar from Málaga than Brainerd to Minneapolis. We arrived in Gibraltar after one of the easiest customs ever and took a drive around the rock. On the south side of the rock there is a tunnel you have to drive on that goes directly through it. Gibraltar is only 3 miles long, but it is covered head to toe in housing, business etc. It was also interesting how quickly thing switch from Spanish to English when you cross the border. In addition, everything there is to see and do is on the rock so we took a taxi, the local taxi drivers double as tour guides, and our driver- Daniel, took us to the Pillars of Hercules- originally the rock of Gibraltar and a mountain in Morocco that were known as the gates to the Mediterranean, to Saint Michaels Cave- a huge cave in the rock which is now used to shows and entertainment, the top of the rock-where you can get your photo taken with the monkeys that live there (originally brought as pets from the Moors) and the Great Siege tunnels-that were built by the hands of the British soldiers during the great siege war against the Spanish. After the tour, we got lunch at a very nice restaurant on the south tip of the peninsula by the university. It seemed like a typical Mau experience because everyone else in the place was dressed nicely and had a reservation and we strolled, baseball caps and all, and got a table. The lunch was amazing to with a mix of options from Morocco, Spain and the UK, and the most delicious desserts that my dad and I got (salted caramel cheesecake and a black cherry truffle), and a view of the Straight and Morocco. After lunch we went to the east side beach for a couple hours. The water was freezing but the sun was shining, there were hundreds of beautiful shells on the shore. Not to mention, at one-point Ryan and I saw a plane land right over our heads… the airport runs horizontally at the top of the peninsula, is considered the 4thmost dangerous in the world because it has two different wind directions and the only airport in the world where people can walk and drive across the runway. That concluded our day in Gibraltar, and I have to say was one of my favorite places so far, a top 3 experience for sure. The night ended with a late (late by American standards, normal by Spanish standards) dinner at the Hard Rock Café on the boardwalk, it was also their opening night that night so that was funny.

On Monday, 11/3/19, we went back to Madrid by train and took the afternoon to walk around Retiro Park and have lunch- including tortilla and patatas bravas. After the park, I gave everyone a tour of the Museo del Prado (which I had recently toured and learned about a lot of the paintings). That was fun to flex some of my knowledge on everyone so at least they know I’m learning something while in Spain. After the Prado tour, I went back to Toledo for the week and they went to Barcelona until Thursday where they met up with me again in Toledo.

Trip Continued.. Thursday 14/3/19.

I had class all day until 6pm but my family managed to get form Barcelona to Madrid to Toledo and to the Fundación (not an easy find) by the time I finished class. After giving them a brief tour of the Fundación, they showed me where their Airbnb was, which happened to be just up the hill (less than a 2-minute walk). The Airbnb was adorable with a separate room for everyone. Alberto, the host, picked my family up from the train station and drove them straight there. In addition, he provided them with ideas of places to go in Toledo and there were homemade cakes and cookies in the kitchen for us to eat! The best part of the Airbnb was that it had a terrace on the roof that gave you a view of the whole city of Toledo, it was absolutely magic. After the Airbnb, I gave my parents a little tour of the places I walk by daily including the cathedral and plaza del Zocodover. Then we went and got tapas at one of my favorite spots called Bibula. The first two rounds of tapas were at Bibula and the third was at Malquerida, a bar located next to the cathedral, and in the middle stopped for some mazapan (a Toledo must). For the night, I took Ryan out with some of my friends from the Fundación so he could see what Toledo nightlife was like.

The next morning, we got up and went straight to the cathedral. Visiting the cathedral of Toledo has been on my bucket list for a very long time and I am so happy I was finally able to go and see it. One of the highlights for me was seeing the disrobing of Christ painting by El Greco because I have been learning about that in my grand master painters’ class.

After a couple hours in the cathedral we walked around the Jewish Quarter and saw the synagogues, the monastery, the mosque and the church that are around that area. We didn’t go inside though because the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we wanted to spend our time outside. After grabbing lunch, we took a bus up to the panoramic view of Toledo across the river and saw the cathedral, alcazar and even spotted out Airbnb! Afterwards, we made our way back to Zocodover, stopping for some gelato, the Puerta de Bisagra and Zara. We made it back just in time to watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace.

To the end the evening, I took my parents to my house in Poligono where they met everyone in my family (Isabel, Jose, Rodrigo, Borja and Gregario). For dinner Isabel made salad, a potato and ham platter, a cheese platter and two tortillas. The dinner was really fun and chaotic sometimes because one of my host family members would be taking to me and then I would have to translate what they said for my parents and vice versa. And then we had another Isabel delicious pastry to end our meal.

The whole time spent at the house was so special and I loved being able to share my parents with my host family. On our way back to the Airbnb that night we stopped at the cathedral because Borja told us that there is a pond of water in the square and its purpose is so you can take pictures of the cathedral and its reflection. Below are some of our best attempts.

On Saturday morning, we got up and went on a nature walk. There is a trail along the river that wraps all around one side of Toledo, so we got to see some nice views, enjoy the weather and watch some fishermen catch fish in the river. After our walk, we stopped for some pastries before Alberto (the Airbnb host) took us on a drive up to the panoramic view again and then we hiked up to another spot on the mountain for an even better view. After the tour, we took the train into Madrid for the rest of the day where we saw el Mercado de San Miguel, the royal palace, la cathedral, la plaza mayor and the Puerta de sol. We tried to take a tour bus around the city but unfortunately, they had to cancel due to a march/protest occurring in the city center. We did, however, get to end the trip at a cute restaurant close to our Airbnb where we had patatas, asparagus, cod, beef stew, the restaurants famous tapa and flan and Basque cream.

The trip with my family was full of highs and lows but I am so happy that they were able to make the trip over here and all see Spain for the first time (and a lot of it). Not to mention, they got to see where I live and go to school. I am beyond grateful to them for the opportunity to go on this crazy adventure and thankful for all that they have done to support since I’ve been here. I can’t wait to reunite again in May.