Friday, June 27, 2014

The 7 Reasons I've Loved Living in Madrid

Usually I'm not up at 3am, but today my afternoon siesta turned out to be longer than I originally anticipated, hence why I'm currently wide awake. So, I figured that now is as good a time as any to blog about why I've loved living in Madrid this year. I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical coming into this year. My first two trips to Madrid were, well, just average. I don't know why, but the city didn't really captivate me at all. On my third trip to Madrid I started to like it, but coming to live here this year would be my fourth time in Madrid and I was hoping for the best. I have to say, Madrid has completely shattered all my expectations.

I've chosen 7 major reasons why Madrid has been such a great home away from home for me this year.  Now, I just have to say that obviously being surrounded by a great group of friends is a major reason why I've had such an unforgettable year, so thank you friends! You know who you are :) But, this blog post will focus on just the city aspect of living. So without further ado, here are the reasons why I believe Madrid is a great place to live.

7. It's SAFE- Yes, Madrid is a very safe city. In fact, I feel safer walking alone here at night than I would in Minneapolis or another american city. Sometimes I feel like I only feel safe because I live in a lively area and there's always people around, so there aren't really opportunities to do anything shady.  Plus, no one owns guns here. However, I looked up some quick facts on homicide rates and it turns out, it wasn't just a feeling, I really am safer here! Madrid only had 34 homicides last year out of its 6.5 million metro population giving it a rate of 0.52 per 100,000 people in 2013. Comparing that to an american city of similar size, Houston had a homicide rate of 10.0 per 100,000 people in 2012. The facts don't lie! The worst "crime" you're likely to be a victim of here is pick-pocketing, which (in my opinion) is totally preventable.

6. It's CLEAN- I've traveled to my fair share of big cities in Europe, South America and the U.S. and I must admit that many of them have that city smell. It usually smells like a mix of car exhaust, urine, and rotting garbage. I'm not just saying this, Madrid doesn't have that "smell". We got a little taste of what it would be like back in October during the garbage strike when Madrid wasn't cleaned for 14 days, but luckily now we're back to normal and the city smells normal. Plus, with the army of street cleaners that are constantly working in the center, you'll find significantly less litter here than in other cities.  As a neat freak, this was a huge bonus for me.

5. MASS TRANSPORTATION is convenient and easy- Madrid is the most well connected city in Spain, bar none. It has three train systems in just the community of Madrid itself (metro, light rail and Cercanias suburban train), not to mention the hundreds of trains (including high speed ones) that leave every day to other destinations in Spain and Europe! Furthermore, during regular weekday hours you never have to wait more than a few minutes for the next metro train. If trains aren't for you, there's a massive web of electric city buses as well that run 24 hours a day. Finally, Madrid's newest contribution to transportation is a series of electric bike stands that are all over the center. Rental is merely 60 cents for every thirty minutes (or 15 euros for the annual pass). I think the city still has a ways to go with installing bike lanes before it can call itself a truly "bike friendly" city, but it's trying.

4. Parks on parks on PARKS- Unlike many big cities, you never have to walk far in Madrid to find a city park. Some are small but others are HUGE like Casa de Campo (former royal hunting grounds) or the famous Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid's equivalent of central park). Not to mention the parks that line the Río Manzanares on the west side of Madrid. My point is that even in a big city like Madrid, you can get your fix of green and stretch your legs.

3. It's DIVERSE- It's no surprise that Madrid is a very diverse city like other capital cities, but I think it's one of the things that makes it great! It's true that you lose a bit of that "traditional Spanish" culture, but you gain so much more! Madrid has large populations of South American, Romanian, Moroccan, Bangladeshi, Indian and Chinese people. The best thing that these people bring with them is their FOOD! You can get tons of ethnic food all over Madrid, so you're never bored. But Madrid's diversity extends beyond ethnicity.  It's also diverse with a large gay population. Gay people are widely accepted in Madrid and same-sex marriages were legalized way back in 2005! Madrid has the biggest pride celebration in the country, unfortunately it's a week after I leave in July. All in all, don't expect just to see one type of person walking around Madrid.

2. WALK-ABILITY- I know I just got done bragging about the public transport, but the truth is it's not even necessary most of the time. If you live in one of the neighborhoods of the "centro," you can walk pretty much anywhere in less than 30 minutes. My location is very central so for me I'm only 10 minutes from Sol, 10 from Plaza Mayor, 5 from Atocha Station, 12 from Retiro Park and 15 from Gran Via. Now, the neighborhood I worked in required the metro but once I am back in the centre and running errands, I rarely use the metro. I love walking for a million reasons but mainly because it's green, free, good exercise and of course better for soaking up the atmosphere.

1. The ATMOSPHERE- I don't know how it happens, but the city of Madrid manages to capture the buzzing city vibe and the relaxed Mediterranean culture all in one. It's incredible how these polar opposite attributes perfectly meld together into one harmonious atmosphere that is totally Madrileño. While there are always people going about there business and it's nearly impossible to ride past a metro stop without seeing someone in a hurry, Madrid is still able to maintain a relaxing atmosphere. People still manage to sit down at a cafe and drink their cafe con leche out of real coffee cups, not paper ones and although there is no siesta in Madrid, people still enjoy their 2 hour-long lunch breaks daily. Yes, Madrileños love to relax, but I promise you that it's not dull. Something is ALWAYS happening in Madrid, there is never a dull moment. It's difficult to explain, so I guess you'll just have to come see it for yourself one day :)

Now I've missed a lot of things, like how Madrid is full of rich, historical culture and it's an extremely affordable city, but I tried to hit the main aspects that stick out to me.  Writing this post is making me feel a bit sentimental about leaving, but I can only say that it's been a total pleasure living here for the past 10 months and I look forward to the day I get back and visit! But I'm getting ahead of myself, I'm not done yet. 3 more days to enjoy this great city and everything it has to offer!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Okay, I'm behind on my blog again... and no one in surprised. I said a while back that I would blog about the Champions League Championship, but I never got around to it. And now the world cup is in full swing so I figured I would just combine both entries and dedicate one blog post to Spain's religious obsession... fútbol.

To be honest until this year I was just sort of a casual soccer fan, like most Americans. I basically only watched soccer in those brief moments when I was traveling abroad and when the World Cup and Olympics happens to come around. So... not often. Not even last year was I really into the soccer scene. Maybe it had to do with the fact that my three best friends were all females who weren't big fans. Well this year, my two best friends happen to be big soccer fans (probably has to do with their families' Greek heritage) and so I started watching with them. I used to be one of those people that found soccer to be pretty slow-moving and dull and now I can't remember why! Sure, there are slow games but most games are thrilling! Even some 0-0 games are nail-biters, and that's something I'm not sure I can say about other sports. Considering soccer is the most watched sport in the world, I don't know what took me (and what is taking Americans) so long to catch on.

A country that caught on a long, long time ago is Spain. Spain has a long history of fútbol and the sport has turned into a religious affair for most Spaniards that I know. I got my first taste of the fútbol fandom when I attended my first Real Madrid game back in January. Although it was just a casual "Copa del Rey" game against Osasuna, a pretty average team, I could feel the passion in the atmosphere. People literally live for this here. Although I can kind of compare fútbol here to (American) football at Saint John's University or basketball at Duke, it's not quite this same. People go "loco" for it here. After that first game, I was hooked. Not only was it fun to watch, but I began to feel even more connected to the Spanish culture, as cheesy as it sounds.

From January on my friends and I would make sure to catch Real Madrid games on TV when we could.  Real Madrid is one of two teams in Madrid.  There is another team, Atlético Madrid, who is also very good. I won't go into detail about the two teams, but basically Real Madrid is the older team with more history, more money and more star players while Atlético Madrid are the newer team with a smaller budget and less stars but definitely a force to be reckoned with.  Another thing that needs to be understood is that during the year, these teams play in more than one league (unlike US teams who only play in the NBA or NFL). The three leagues these teams play in are the Copa del Rey (King's Cup), La Liga (The Spanish League) and UEFA Champions League. The Copa del Rey is the least competitive for all Spanish associated clubs (1st and 2nd tier) and functions in knock-out fashion until there is one winner. La Liga is only the top 20 teams in Spain and functions on a point system; whoever has the most points at the end of the season wins. Then there is the Champions League, the most competitive, which consists of the best club teams in Europe and also ends the year with a knock out tournament.

Well, it was a very exciting year to be in Madrid as Real Madrid beat Barcelona and won the Copa del Rey, Atlético Madrid won La Liga, and both teams ended up playing in the Champions League Championship game. It was the first time in history that two teams from the same CITY played each other in the championship. Madrid was buzzing in the weeks leading up to the game. Even City Hall put up giant posters for each team. The famous government building in Puerta del Sol posted posters with a sign in between that read "Gane quien gane, gana Madrid" which translates to "Whoever wins, wins, Madrid wins." Something that made this game an even bigger deal was that Real Madrid was going for their 10th championship title with the Chamapions League also known as "La Décima" which they would be the first team to do it.

Celebrating in Cibeles
Game day finally rolled around on May 24th and Madrid was full of tension. Some friends and I made some game day food and then headed to a bar to watch the game. The game was a nail-biter! Atlético Madrid scored first early on in the game and after that no one seemed to be able to score! Until, Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid finally scored in the 90th minute during injury time. Then in overtime it took 20 brutal minutes before Real Madrid's Gareth Bale scored followed by two more goals in the remaining 10 minutes of overtime just to show off, ending the game in 4-1. My friends and I hugged other Real Madrid fans in the bar, complete strangers, some even kissed us on the cheek and we went wild! We all headed to Plaza Cibeles where Real Madrid fans traditionally go to celebrate. The police were ready as thousands and thousands of fans poured into the giant plaza. We had to go through a security check where they were searching for alcohol, fireworks, etc. We spent about an hour celebrating like crazy with other fans but we quickly tired out around 2am. The Real Madrid team (who played in nearby Lisbon), got a plane directly back to Madrid and came straight from the airport on a fan bus around 6am, but unfortunately we didn't make it until then. We found out later that the crowds had gotten so big that 200 injuries were reported. Yikes! The next day we got to briefly see the team drive by in a bus on their victory parade, unfortunately it was a closed bus but just knowing they were in there was exciting. Overall, an unforgettable experience.

Fast forward until a week and a half ago when the World Cup began. Once again, Spain was buzzing with excitement. Not only did Spain win the last World Cup, but they one the last two Euro Cups as well. You could say, the Spanish soccer team were becoming legendary. Another World Cup title would be unprecedented. Although Spain weren't the favorites heading into the cup, they were still ranked 4th out of the 32 teams. Everyone was so excited heading into the first game against the Netherlands and then, disaster struck. Spain looked like nervous school boys who had never played together and goalie Iker Casillas (once considered the best goalie in the world) was panicked and flustered. Netherlands murdered Spain 5-1. Moral was very low after that game, but we all thought it was just a fluke. Then, Spain choked again against Chile and ended their chances of making it to the knock out round. The country was shocked, devastated and absolutely crushed. But, everyone agreed that they didn't even deserve to win the way the played. Spain gained a little bit of their pride back in the third game beating Australia 3-0, but it was too little too late.

Although Spain's out, there is still World Cup excitement everywhere! Lots of South Americans live in Madrid, and nearly every night the bars are packed with Colombians, Ecuadorians, Brazilians, etc. still fighting for there teams! It's been a blast to be here for all of this soccer excitement, but hopefully USA will pass on through to the knock out round and I can cheer for team USA with my fellow yankees!

I can't believe I'm down to my last week in Madrid! It's very bittersweet as I'm still so happy here in Madrid but I've gotta say I can't wait to see my friends and family. 7 days!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Basque Country

I'm a few weeks late, but I finally have time to write about my trip to Basque Country! As an aspiring foodie (I call myself "aspiring" because I currently lack the funds to eat out at nice restaurants on a regular basis) visiting Basque Country has been a top priority since I first moved to Spain! However, last year it was not only expensive but extremely time-consuming to get to Basque Country from Almería. This year, I was determined to get there, but it took all the way until my second-to-last month to go, but I made it! And let me tell you, it was well worth the wait.

I've heard so much about Basque Country since I started learning Spanish.  Not only is it well-known for it's exceptional cuisine, but it's also rich in history and culture as well.  Now when I'm talking about "Basque Country" it can be a bit confusing. There is "Pais Vasco" (Basque Country) the Autonomous Community of Spain and Basque Country the cultural region that extends from Northeastern Spain across the Pyrenees into Southwestern France.  I visited the autonomous region of Spain, which also happens to lie within the cultural region. Now, back tracking to that rich history I was talking about. Some historians say that basque culture is the least assimilated culture surviving from the Paleolithic Age. THATS OLD! Also, basque language has absolutely no ties to any other language in the world! It's completely unique and historians believe that the language dates back to the Stone Age and might be one of the oldest (if not THE oldest) language in the world. If that didn't get your nerdy juices flowing, I don't know what will. Maybe it's just extra exciting for a language nerd like me.  Anyway, the basque people are very proud of their language and culture and try to maintain it as much as possible. In fact, the majority of families in the autonomous region País Vasco choose to have their children educated in the basque language with Spanish as a compulsory secondary language.  Furthermore, Basque Country has a long history of trying to succeed from Spain and France and become it's own country because they truly feel like a separate culture from their respective countries. For all of these reasons and more, I was over the moon when my roommate Heidi and I finally booked tickets to Bilbao and San Sebastian the second weekend of May!

Guggenheim Museum
Heidi and I hopped on a night bus at 2am on Friday night and made the 5 hour journey to Bilbao. We arrived early morning and we didn't have accommodation so we took our backpacks and spent the first couple of hours wandering around the city. Most people warned me that Bilbao was very industrialized and kinda ugly but I found it to be quite a charming city. Whilst wandering we happened upon a fish and meat market that was just opening up for the day. We got to see freshly caught deep-sea fish beautifully displayed in stand after stand. There was a group of locals waiting outside for the market doors to open at 8am, and the charged once they did. I guess the locals really care about getting the best and freshest fish! Then, we took refuge in a café for about an hour and waited for the Guggenheim museum to open up. Truly, the museum is the only reason we originally decided to make the stop in Bilbao. For those of you who don't know, the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao is one of three (soon to be four) renowned contemporary art museums in the world, the other locations being New York City, Venice, and soon to be Abu Dhabi. I'm usually into modern art, but this museum is so prestigious that I had to check it out for myself.  We ended up spending close to three hours in the museum. The permanent collection was a little too weird for me, but everyone told me that it's the traveling exhibitions that you go for. One of the traveling exhibits was Yoko Ono's work, which I didn't really care for. However, the other one was a cool, interactive art exhibition made by a Brazilian named Ernesto Neto that involved us touching, climbing, smelling and playing with a lot of sculptures and structures. Plus, just seeing the building itself makes it worth the visit. After the museum we grabbed lunch and then caught a bus to San Sebastian (known as Donostia in the basque language).

The bus was just a hour-long journey but it was enough time for me to sneak in a cat nap, after all we had only slept five hours the night before.  I felt rejuvenated as we stepped off the bus in San Sebastian. We made the 20 minute walk from the bus station to the city center and found our hostel in the heart of the old part of town also known as "Casco Viejo". The first night we walked around a bit and then headed out to get some pinxtos! Pinxtos (pronounced "peen-chos") are Basque Country's alternative to tapas. Most pintxos are little pieces of bread topped with different toppings which are mostly variants of meat, cheese, fish and veggies.  Sometimes pinxtos come in ball (like croquetas), or skewer (like a meat kebab) or sandwich form. Most range in price from 1.50-3.00 euros. 2-3 is usually enough to fill you up, but it's easy to get carried away. My mouth watered as we walked by bar after bar that had anywhere from 20-60 varieties of pinxtos on display. We chose a bar and quickly learned the ordering system. First, ask the bartender for a drink and then they will had you a plate. On the plate you can put one or more pinxtos just by taking them off the display plate and putting it onto yours. Then, if any of the pinxtos are meant to be served warm, the bartender will take the plate back from you and heat those up. Then, INDULGE! The quality of the ingredients was off the charts.  The basque cuisine has mastered the art of simplicity by pairing ordinary yet exquisite flavors together. The two of us visited three tapas bars and had 3-4 pinxtos each. By then, it was nearly midnight and we were ready for bed.

First night at the pinxtos bars!
The next day, we headed out to take a walking tour. The tour we planned to take had been canceled, but Heidi and I met an Australian girl who was also looking to take a tour. So, we went to the tourist office and found one there! Our tour guide gave a 1.5 hour-long tour in both English and French. Being so close to the border here, a lot of the tourism comes from France, so many people can speak the language.  We learned even more about Basque history as we walked up and down the streets of old town. After the tour, the three of us (Aussie included) had a lunch of pintxos. After lunch, we climbed up Monte Urgell which is considered a mountain but is really more of a steep hill. It only took about 30 minutes to climb. From the top, both beaches of San Sebastian can be seen: La Concha, the larger and more famous beach that is protected from the sea by man-made barriers and a natural island and La Zurriola, the smaller surfer's beach. Also at the top, there is an old fortress which a free museum inside about San Sebastian's history, and a statue of Jesus Christ. Later on that night, we met up with our Aussie friend, Jo, and a friend she made at the hostel who also happened to be from Australia. The four of us went out for... you guessed it PINXTOS! With the such a wide variety of pinxtos, I'm not sure I could ever get tired of them.  We hopped between a few bars and enjoyed a night of delicious food and great conversation. I love meeting traveler's and hearing their stories!

The view from Monte Igueldo
On Sunday we met Jo again in the morning and walked down La Concha beach to Monte Igueldo which truly is a mountain. Because it was truly steep, we needed to take a funicular (inclined cable car) to get to the top.  At the top of Monte Igueldo there is a small amusement park, a lookout tower, and the best view of San Sebastian! It's truly breath-taking to look out over the picturesque city at this post-card-worthy view. By the time we got back down, we only had time for a lunch (of pinxtos!) and a quick gelato before Heidi and I had to catch our bus back to Madrid. We said goodbye to our new friend and headed on our way. 

All in all, San Sebastian was fantastic. It definitely lived up to my foodie-dream expectations. But beyond the food, I will take away a respect for the rich culture and history of Basque Country. If you're ever in Spain, Basque Country may seem like it's out of the way, but trust me, it's worth the trip :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

"El Pueblo"

Let me introduce you to a place where the population grows times 10 on the weekend, where a fifteen year old drinking beer is acceptable, and where the party ends when the sun comes up. It probably seems like I'm talking about some crazy party city on the coast in Spain, but in fact I'm talking about a small Spanish village in the mountains of Burgos.

Spanish villages or "pueblos" represent a lot more here than just a speck on the Spanish map. Spending the weekend in the "pueblo" is an integral piece of the Spanish way of life. Nearly every Spaniard I know has a pueblo or two, which are the little villages that their parents or grandparents originally came from. 50+ years ago the pueblos, although small, were full of families who lived their year-round. A lot has changed in the last half of a century or so and most of those families have moved into bigger cities for job opportunities, better education and convenience factors. However, Spanish people still make a means to stick to their roots, and many Spanish families spend nearly every weekend and a large portion of their summer vacation in the pueblos where they originally came from.

Although the word "pueblo" is used loosely here in Spain, in general it means a small town with anywhere from a 10 to a couple hundred houses in an isolated area of Spain. Pueblos are in every region in every corner or Spain. Because Spain is an older country, the concept of "suburbs" never fully developed here. Although now the suburb equivalent of "urbanizaciónes" are sprouting here and there, the majority of Spain is either big city or pueblos. Every weekend, Spanish families pack up and head out to their pueblo for a couple days. Some families have a short 30 minute drive to their pueblo, and others make 4+ hour journeys, it all depends about how far you've strayed from your family roots. This idea of heading to the pueblo for the weekend is something I would compare to Minnesotan cabin culture, except for the fact that pueblos usually aren't on lakes.

I was lucky enough to be invited by my Spanish friend, Isabel, to spend the weekend in the pueblo with her family. I was extra lucky because she invited me to come on a special weekend for her pueblo, to celebrate the patron saint "San Pedro" of Burgos, the region where her pueblo is.  In this case, the "pueblo" is her father's village, and he and his family of 10 lived there until he was 14 years old. Although he and his eight brothers and sisters have spread out a bit now, many of them reunite for weekends in the pueblo.

We left Madrid late afternoon on Friday because Isabel and her parents wanted to stop in Burgos on the way to the village to show me the city. Burgos is located about 2.5 hours north of Madrid in the Castilla y Leon region. It's a city with a population just shy of 200,000 inhabitants located along a babbling river. The pride and joy of the city is it's beautiful cathedral that dates back to the 11th century. It was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 80s, and rightfully so. It's a gorgeous, massive cathedral with beautiful French-gothic towers and tons of detailed work. Isabel and I spent about an hour walking around the city while her parents did some grocery shopping. They warned me that there was no convenience store in the whole pueblo. After our stop in Burgos, we made the 40 minute drive to the village through winding mountain roads that were beautiful but my stomach didn't love. Finally, just after dusk, we arrived in their village called La Pineda de la Sierra, which roughly translates to the pine trees in the mountains. Although it was dark, I got my first look at the stone houses with red-tiled roofs. They told me that during the week, a mere 25 people live there but on the weekend the population grows to about 300. We pulled up to their house and I was quite surprised to see how modern it was on the inside. The house's exterior blends in with the rest of the town, which I later found out is part of a village ordinance that requires all houses to be stone with red roofs to maintain the traditional look of the town. The inside, however, was completely modern with a beautiful granite kitchen and a state of the art fire place. They later told me that they had the house built just a few years before after spending many years in an old rented house. Just across the yard was a bigger and equally beautiful house that belongs to Isabel's aunt and uncle. Between the two houses, they can host the majority of the family.

La Pineda de la Sierra
The first thing they did when we arrived was switch on the heating because it was FREEZING. We're talking like, 40 degrees. I know that doesn't sound so cold to you Minnesotans, but after weeks of 70/80 degree weather in Madrid, it felt cold. As the house warmed up, Isabel's parents prepared a simple dinner of Spanish tortilla, angulas (best described as mock eels), and cold fried sardines (don't knock it til you've tried it!). After that, Isabel took me into town to meet her friends. She took me to a building she called the "chamizo" which is building donated by the town government as a place for all of the young people of the village to hang out. Although it's basically just a garage, the jóvenes (young people) have put a lot of work into it to make it their own. The garage has black lights, a laser, smoke machine, disco lights and a bunch of speakers hooked up to the wall. Isabel introduced me to all of her friends, which required me giving "besitos" to 20+ people. I quickly learned through the introductions that nearly everyone was related to someone else somehow whether it was siblings, cousins, second cousins or cousin of a cousin.  The chamizo is the gathering place for everyone ages 15-30 in the village. Usually they just sit around on the plastic bar chairs, listen to music and have drinks. Beyond this building, the only other community places in the city are the church and the two bars in town, so hang-out locations are limited. After a few hours of chatting with her friends, we called it a night.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, we went to mass with the rest of the village. Usually the mass on "San Pedro" weekend is held out doors but unfortunately it was raining. I have to say, it's the first time I've ever seen a church packed with people for a mass, but I think it was because it's really more of a social event for the people of the village. After mass, everyone is given a GIANT sandwich filled with tuna, anchovies and roasted red pepper on olive oil bread, which is traditional to eat on San Pedro. We took the sandwiches back to the chamizo and ate them with the rest of Isabel's friends. Soon after, the drinking festivities began. Isabel recommended that we save the drinking for later considering the party would last until morning hours, and it was only 2pm at this point. We spent the afternoon in the chamizo playing games and watching some of the younger kids (15, 16, 17 year-olds) drink lots of alcohol, which apparently in the village is totally acceptable.  Later in the afternoon, we went up to a bar that's a short 5 minute drive away and further up the mountain. At this point, the younger kids were all sufficiently drunk and finally got the courage to talk to me in English, which was pretty funny because up until this point it was all Spanish. Their English was a little rough, but I was glad they tried. After a drink at that bar, we headed back into the village to go to the two bars there. I met some of the adults of the village who were very friendly to me. Isabel told me it's not common to have an outsider in the village, let alone an American, so naturally I attracted attention wherever I went.

Around 10 o'clock we went back to Isabel's house and prepared dinner. In typical Spanish fashion, dinner was served at around 11 at the aunt and uncles house with about 15 family members. After a delicious dinner of mussels, wild mushrooms, rabbit and cured ham, everyone headed back to the main plaza of the village for the "disco mobil" which is basically a truck that converts into a stage for two live DJs. Luckily the rain had stopped by then, but the weather was still freezing so everyone had their winter jackets on.  The whole town was there (children included, even though it was after midnight) to dance to the music. The type of music is what I would imagine Spanish wedding reception music is like considering they were songs every generation seemed to know and most of them had specific dance moves that coordinated with the song (including doing the "electric slide" to a translated version of "Achey-Breaky Heart" haha).  They played music from 12-3am, then there was an hour-long break, and more music again from 4-6am. I'll admit, there was a point around 4am that I thought about calling it a night, but I was determined to stay awake with the rest of the Spaniards! Most of the adults and young children didn't come back for round two of the disco mobil, but the jóvenes were going strong! After the disco mobil ended, the party continued in the chamizo with lights, music and dancing.  Finally, around 7am, the sun was up and Isabel and I called it a night.  Others stayed out to 9am. I don't know how they do it! The way Spaniards celebrate and party here is inhuman to me. Although it was fun to do it for a night, I much prefer the American party schedule.

Dancing at the Disco Mobil
Sunday we slept in and then enjoyed a delicious Spanish BBQ for lunch. After lunch, Isabel and I met up with some of her friends outside the church and just spent the afternoon hanging around there and the bar. We finally headed back to Madrid around 9PM.  I feel so lucky to have experienced a weekend in a traditional Spanish pueblo and to celebrate a special holiday with everyone.  I can definitely see why the pueblos are so beloved by Spanish people. It's time to spend with friends and family with tons of great conversation and great food. These people have grown up together and share a special bond with each other and the village. There's not a lot to do in the town, but that doesn't matter to them; all they care about is good company. It's something that I think Americans could learn from; rather than spending tons of money on activities to keep each other entertained on the weekend, just enjoy one another's presence and have a good time :)

P.S. I'm very behind on my blog entries! Coming soon: Basque Country, Champions League Final and Top Chef BBQ