España: Verano 2016

We are finally into Week 2! This week is where I lived with my host family in Madrid and spoke almost completely in Spanish. Week 2 was challenging in many different ways, but I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to share it with you.


Dia Siete: Granada to Madrid

I was sad to leave Granada, but I know I will be back at some point. We all hopped back onto the bus and drove about an hour to Jaén to tour an olive oil plantation and factory. I’m not even going to try to explain the detailed process of making olive oil, so I will just say they our tour guide was very passionate and the tour was interesting, even though it was extremely hot outside. We were able to try some of the famous olive oil, and it was so good that I had to buy a few bottles to bring home. I was starting to wonder how I would get everything in my suitcase!


An olive tree in Jaén. June 21, 2016

Next, we drove a short fifteen minutes to a tiny town in the mountains for lunch. The chef at the restaurant we ate at is very famous and has worked at many well-known places around the world, but decided to come back and cook in his hometown. The food was amazing. I had ox tail, which tastes very similar to a beef roast or beef stew. After meeting the chef, we set off on our journey to Madrid with full stomachs.

We were all so nervous when we got to Madrid. It was both exciting and terrifying to meet my host family for the first time. Luckily, they are so so nice and really challenged me by speaking almost exclusively in Spanish (even though they are very good English speakers). Looking back, even though it was hard to speak so much Spanish, I’m really glad they pushed me and had faith in me because it is exactly what I needed to grow more as a Spanish speaker and person.

The first night was a little bit awkward, but they really liked all of the presents I brought for them and we had a wonderful family dinner. Also, I met their dog Coco, a tiny Yorkie, and he was so cute and sweet! I knew it would be hard to be away from my American friends all week, but I also knew that I would have a great week, full of memories I will never forget!

Dia Ocho: Madrid

Today was my first full day with the Lara-Rey family. They were awesome and let me sleep in and when I woke up Carmen (my host sister) was still sleeping! When she got up she was so nice and made breakfast for me! We had freshly squeezed orange juice (Carmen and Javi were shocked that we don’t make fresh juice everyday in the states) and had a really good tomato jam on toast. I needed to be back at the apartment at one to meet up with old family friends (who I’ll explain about later), so we headed out to visit the four tallest towers in Madrid.

We took the subway, which was a little intimidating at first, but Perla (my host mom) was so mice and bought me ten passes and I became fairly comfortable on it as we continued to use it throughout the week. The four buildings are all grouped together and, if I understood Carmen and Javi correctly, two are office buildings, one is a hotel, and one is an embassy. We tried to go to the top of the hotel and the embassy to look out over Madrid but we were blocked. Instead of moping around we headed for the Starbucks across the street for a few mini-frappachinos.

Carmen then had to go back into school to get her final report card, so Javi was going to take me back to the apartment to meet with my friends for lunch. We walked away from the metro station we had used to get to the buildings in the first place and attempted to find a bus station. I think. We never found the station and ended up walking through random parking lots until Javi decided that going back to the original metro station was the best idea. He was really sorry about the whole thing but I didn’t mind because it gave us the chance to have a nice conversation and get to know each other. It was really nice to not have cell service on this trip because it forced me to be more in the moment. And, when I do have WiFi in my downtime, it’s more meaningful and relaxing.

When Javi and I got back to the apartment Victoriano called.

Backstory: Victoriano and Isabelle Lopez-Pinto (or Nano and Titabel as I call them) are old family friends that are from Madrid and still live in Madrid. They are my grandparents age, and when their daughter Isabelle stayed with a host family in America about thirty years ago, she stayed with my mom and my grandparents in Boston. Our families have kept in touch all of these years later, and when they found out I was going to be in Madrid they wanted to meet up with me and invited me to their house for lunch. I had never meet them before.

When Nano called I could not understand his Spanish for the life of me, so I put him on speaker phone and had Javi translate everything to me in English. This made me even more nervous to meet them for the first time because they don’t speak a lot of English and I wasn’t sure I would be able to understand them. They have very strong accents (as many older Spaniards do) and it was not something I was used to.

Luckily their son Antonio and his daughters Carmen (16) and Elena (8) came to pick me up and Antonio and Carmen both speak English. Carmen was actually leaving a few days after our lunch for Boston to stay with an old friend of my moms and go to camp. They were very nice and made me feel much more comfortable with the entire situation.

I would also like to add that Perla is a saint and is the one who set up the entire lunch for me, even though her family doesn’t know the Lopez-Pintos. I could not have asked for a better host mom or family.

By the time we got to Nano and Titabel’s house I felt much better. Their house was beautiful! It was in an older neighborhood of the city and had a front yard, library, huge kitchen, and everything! And they were so incredibly nice! Antonio and Carmen helped translate and we talked about how I was going to visit my Mammy and Papa (my mom’s parents, who the Lopez-Pintos know) for their 50th wedding anniversary and how Nano and Titabel had just celebrated their 50th the past year. We had a delicious, home cooked lunch, and then they showed me pictures of their family and of my mom when she came to visit them in Mallorca as a teenager. I also showed them where Cincy and Boston are on a map and they were in shock at how far away all of the cities in the states are!


From left to right: Carmen, Nano, me, Titabel, and Elena at their house. June 22, 2016

They also gave me a bottle of wine from their vineyard with a silhouette of their daughter Isabelle. Isabelle was friends with my mom and passed away many years ago. It was a very touching present. We also took pictures together before I left. I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to such a nice family. It was so special to be able to meet with them and I am so glad I did, even though I was very nervous.

When I got back to the Lara-Rey residence, we decided to go see the palace. We took the bus to get there and I was amazed by the palaces size and beauty. We couldn’t go in because the tours were already done for the day, but seeing it was still amazing. We also saw the cathedral and it was absolutely beautiful! Next, we headed to the Corte Ingles (giant supermarket/Macy’s combo store) and went to the top floor to get a beautiful view of the city at sunset.


Me and Carmen at the palace. June 22, 2016

For dinner (another homemade meal at the apartment) we had chicken and tomatoes and that is one of my favorite food combinations, so I loved it! Before bed we watched MasterChef and had quiet time to relax. It was a jam-packed but fun first day and got me excited for the rest of the week!

Click on images below to enlarge and view as a slideshow.




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