Last weekend my organization organized a trip specifically for the yearlong students! In total there are 16 I think, and 2 from my program (Advanced Liberal Arts) including me. Our destination was Salamanca. I was super excited because Salamanca is somewhere I really wanted to go but I don’t think I would have taken a trip by myself, since it’s about 6 hours away. I was also excited because there were two spots open for Spaniards to encourage us to keep speaking Spanish, so I got to invite my friend Leticia. It was awesome to be able to spend more time with her, and she also had friends studying in Salamanca so we got some great recommendations.
The first day was spent mostly on the bus, but we broke up the 6 hour ride by visiting Mérida in the province of Extremadura. There we saw some really impressive ancient Roman ruins, went to a museum, walked around a little bit and then drove the rest of the way to Salamanca. After we checked into the hostel we took a walk to the Plaza Mayor at night. It was really beautiful. After, we broke off,walked around a little and went to a street famous for its tapas. I went tapas hopping for the first time! I ended up getting three different tapas in three different places for around 5 Euro total. The food was decent (except the first place hwere the only thing I could eat was a sad plate of potatoes), lots of cheese for me of course, but it was more the experience of popping in, getting a bite, and heading to the next place, paired with some great conversation. That just doesn’t exist in the US – I felt really authentic. I even threw my napkin on the floor for the first time too haha (it’s actually completely normal to throw trash on the floor. It makes it easier for the bartender because a lot of people come and go and that way trash isn’t piling up on top of the bar). After we ate, it was around 11:30 so we went back and hung out at a bar close to the hostel for a little, but went to bed rather early because we had a long day the next day.
The next day after breakfast we went back to the Plaza Mayor to learn a little of the history. On the walls surrounding, there are portraits of famous intellects, kings and political leaders etc. The one of Franco had the marks of many eggs thrown and paint splattered over the years. The most impressive thing about the Plaza Mayor is how full of life it is – even on a chilly winter day, it was full of people. We spent the rest of the day seeing other sights around the city such as the Cathedral and the University of Salamanca (one of the oldest universities in the world, with a famous hidden frog on its façade and famous alumni including Cervantes, Fray Luis de León, Luis de Góngora, and Unamuno).
We went for lunch, wandered to the river and back, did an optional visit to an art Noveau museum and then brief trip to a Masonic Lodge/museum, which I liked particularly because I had to write a paper on the Freemasons for one of my classes last semester. That night, we went tapas hopping again and then went out in the city of University students – it earned its reputation. Literally all night the streets were FULL of young people. We had an awesome night and got back to the hostel around 5:30.
Unfortunately, we had to wake up 3 hours later and prepare for the last day. Our last scheduled trip was a convent but it was freezing, everyone was either exhausted (me) hung over, or still drunk and we ended up leaving about an hour after for the trek back home. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I loved Salamanca. All of the buildings had the same beautiful stone and the street signs had the same beautiful typography. It was also just full of life, and full of people my own age. I think I would have liked it even more if I wasn’t such a cold weenie. And it was a great chance to bond with Leticia and meet the other students that made the same decision as I did (to stay a year) and see if our mentalities and goals were similar. Overall it was a really great weekend.