|Family selfie in front of a Christmas tree in Madrid|
I’m so glad they did, because the four of us had a blast running around Spain between the day after Christmas and New Year’s Day. It wasn’t without its challenges, and jetlag, lots of walking, weird food options, and translating from Spanish to English left us all pretty pooped at the end of each day, but we made the most of the short time that we had together as a family and got to experience a lot of this exciting country.
Everyone enjoyed Spain in the end, but we ran into a little turbulence at the beginning when American Airlines canceled my family’s flight from Dallas to Madrid. I found this out while attempting to fall asleep on the night train to Madrid, and promptly freaked out and got zero sleep that night. They ultimately got on the next plane to London and from there made their way down to Spain, but we lost our whole first day in the capital.
|Chamberí Metro station, closed in the ‘60s|
When they did finally leave security at Madrid-Barajas’ baggage claim, I learned that their luggage had been lost—in fact, the bags were still back in Texas. Extremely frustrating, but there was nothing we could do except file a lost luggage report and go to the hotel. After freshening up a bit, we walked into the old town, split four or five raciones or platters of food at Lizarrán, and explored historic Madrid at midnight…which was a kind of trashy place with drunk people stumbling about and trash everywhere. Still, we rounded off our first “night out in Spain” with some churros and hot chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés.
After breakfast on the next day, we did some emergency clothes shopping at H&M to hold my mom, dad, and brother over until their suitcases would show up, and made a brief walking tour of the Madrid de los Austrias, peeking through the iron grating at the Royal Palace and swimming through crowds at the Almudena Cathedral. Riding the Metro was a big culture shock for my suburbanite parents…at one point the subway train lived up to the “packed in like sardines” reputation you often hear about!
|The aqueduct of Segovia|
Half-timbered houses, city walls, narrow winding streets, and 800-year-old Romanesque churches all competed for our attention as we hit up the big sights like the Roman aqueduct, the late-Gothic cathedral, or the fairy-tale Alcázar castle. I treated my family to a tasty dinner of cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) at Mesón Don Jimeno, and my mom and I tried ponche, the local marzipan-covered cake. On a foggy Sunday morning, we signed up for a guided tour of the cathedral’s bell tower, which was a really unique experience…even if the wind and the rain at the top was a little too much to handle. Later that evening, my family’s suitcases finally arrived and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
|Christmas lights in Santiago’s Alameda Park|
With only a day and a half to spend in Santiago, we slept in and stuck mainly to the highlights. On the 30th of December, we got to see the botafumeiro fly across the cathedral’s transept, that five-foot silver “incense-spewer,” all the while a grand, very Catholic procession of priests and chanting monks circled the church for the Traslación mass.
|Rooftop tour of Santiago’s cathedral|
I think our first dinner at Bodegón Os Concheiros Pulpería of octopus, fried peppers, and various pork products was a little too much for my family (although my dad did share a platter of octopus with me!), so the next day we had sandwiches, burgers, and platos combinados at Restaurante Da-Ca right by my apartment with lovely views of Belvís Park. Thanks to my English teacher’s recommendation, we even got a taste of Galician-Argentine barbecue ribs our last night in town.
The train from Santiago back to Madrid left us at the Chamartín train station just barely after the Cercanías commuter rail trains had stopped running, so we were forced to take a taxi back to the hotel—quite an experience for my parents!
|My brother and I being tourists in Santiago’s Alameda Park|
Apparently it worked, as my family’s flight back to Dallas went off without a hitch, and they arrived home with all their luggage.
If you’ve ever lived abroad for a spell, has your family ever come to visit you? What did they think of your adopted home—the language, the food, the culture? Share your experiences in the comments below!