¡Viva Espana!

Even a sanitation workers' week-long strike cannot hide the beauty and stature of Spain's capital city of Madrid. It's certainly never a welcoming sight when you step out of the metro station into the city centre and come across piles of trash strewn about as if a concert has just taken place. When you realize that the trash continues as every block, you realize something is up.

This, however, is why it is not possible or wise to judge a city based on the first few minutes. Combined with my running around trying to get to a tour within an hour of arriving from the train station in an unfamiliar, it certainly would have been easy to be very critical of Madrid.

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Temporary problems aside, Madrid feels more royal, with a kind of stately feel to the architecture and lifestyle, compared to Barcelona. I know it sounds kind of obvious, being the capital city and everything, but since Madrid was (and actually technically still is) a village prior to being the largest Spanish city, there are parts that look like it was built when the crown moved into Madrid. Places like Plaza Mayor and the areas surrounding the palace and the Gran Via seem to seamlessly blend into the original parts of the city, creating a cool blend.

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The past half week that I've been in Spain has been a great introduction to the two largest cities in this vast and diverse country. I definitely would like to come back and go more in-depth, but for the amount of time spent, I certainly believe I've gotten a literal and figurative taste of the Spanish culture. With food being such an important piece of the picture, I feel somewhat infused in Spanish culture after finally having some authentic jamon and paellas and tapas, etc. Also being able to kinda speak the language and get by with my six years of school language feels both amazing and humbling to be able to know enough to bridge something like a language barrier....I was even confused for a local by someone at one of the walking tours I went on simply because I was speaking Spanish!

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As an avid traveler, that kind of little experience or little moments of wonder makes all the effort, the money, the potential stress all the more worthwhile. Diving into a country head-on and becoming as immersed as one can possibly get makes the trip more enjoyable and more fun than simply going at it like a typical tourist. It makes spending just two days in a city In Madrid feel like it has been much, much longer. That's when travel becomes fun. And that's when I genuinely enjoy it.

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-- Robby Veronesi, WSA Intern Fall 2013, DIS, Copenhagen


Sarah Pajeau, Joliet Junior College

Happy Backpackers

I had such a fun time in Edinburgh! If it weren't for my tour guide, I wouldn't be able to see so much and have experienced it all! Michael knew so much information about the city so I was able to learn a lot!

Sarah Pajeau, Joliet Junior College ~ Carlow College, Spring 2016

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