Spain II: Madrid and Valencia

July 6 – 18th

“¿Qué tal vlogueros?” That means “what’s up vloggers?” in Spanish! It’s only one of many new words in my vocabulary. 

We’ve been here in Spain for two weeks now. Today marks the halfway point in our trip. So let’s review it, shall we? 


We got to Madrid on Thursday, July 7th and we hit the ground running. Kinda. After a long walk through the city, we got to our hostel and settled into our rooms. We learned how to operate the air conditioning in Spanish and that our key cards granted us electricity! After we settled in, we ventured out to grab dinner. Deanna and April led us to Plaza Santa Ana with many restaurants and many options. A bunch of us wanted to try the more traditional tapas. That’s where we met and fell in love with patatas bravas and calamari! Deanna gave us a list of foods to try while we travel and that was a great start. Afterward, we were free to walk around the city and explore. 

The next day, we met for breakfast at the Santa Cruz Plaza at the Corner Café. That’s where most of us would go for breakfast each morning in Madrid. The waitstaff, especially Xavier, was so friendly and funny! We tried different foods each morning, including napolitana, pan con tomate, Spanish tortilla (eggs and potatoes baked together in the shape of a pie), eggs, café con leche, and other types of fancy coffees. So delicious! 

Each day in Madrid, we had some kind of tour. On Friday the 8th, we had a tour around the city of Madrid! We found the oldest restaurant in the world, nuns who make yummy cookies, Felipe III, and the Plaza Mayor, and many others! That night, a group of us went to el Museo Nacional Del Prado — an art museum! With free admission! It was absolutely gorgeous, but we couldn’t take any photos. The next day, we went to the Royal Palace of Madrid. We got there early so we could see the changing of the guard and then had a digitally guided tour of the gorgeous palace. 


The next day, we were off to Valencia! We took a train to travel and met our host families. Some of us explored the city, others of us just stayed home to unwind. We are staying with host families for the next three weeks here in Valencia and it is an amazing opportunity for cultural immersion, from food to conversation to learning about different family dynamics. We all had our own ways to prepare for what the next day entailed: first day of classes. 

No matter what our level of Spanish was before this trip, or even our confidence in the language, we all struggled with the first few days of class. It’s all in Spanish for four hours every day. The days flip, one day we have morning classes with a free afternoon; the next day, we have a free morning (which most of us sleep in) and afternoon classes. Fortunately, we get 20-minute breaks between two hours of class and we all meet outside to say, “Wow. That was hard.” 

But each day, it gets easier. We have been totally immersed in the Spanish culture here in Valencia. From the heat and lack of air conditioners to different foods and paying for water, the culture shock is real. We found comfort in the small things and stuck together to get through the uncomfortable feelings. Just two weeks ago, a lot of us were strangers to each other, but now it feels like we’ve known each other for a lifetime. 

We spend our free mornings and afternoons in different ways: soaking up the sun on the beach — which is just 30 minutes away by bus, or by walking around Old Town, running in the park and trying to count the bridges, or catching up on our reading journals. We have been busy, busy, busy since we got to Madrid. Our vocabularies are growing more and more each day. Classes have gotten easier! We’ve each gotten used to our teacher’s way of teaching and they’ve learned where we are in our levels of Spanish. Whether we’re reviewing irregular verbs, trying to understand when to use subjunctive, or discussing Walt Disney, we all have been working hard in our Spanish classes. It makes our free time so much more valuable and we make sure to spend it well! From bullfights to museums to dinners of tapas and good conversation, we are enjoying everything we can that Spain has to offer us.  

And there are many activities the school puts on for us, as well. Every Tuesday, we get together as a school for the paella parties. Paella is a rice dish with different meats and vegetables. On Sundays, there are adventures to different parts of Valencia, outside of the city. Just a few days ago, we went to the beach, enjoyed more paella in the birthplace (Palmera) of the dish, and took a boat ride through the rice fields. Some of us learned how to salsa dance! We’ve got more activities coming up that we’ll tell you all about next week! Thanks for following us along!

-Ashley Mellinger

Rice Field Boat Tour