This week, our group started classes and became acquainted with the beautiful city of Oviedo. Before going to Oviedo, we arrived in Madrid for an orientation and stayed there for five days. We were introduced to the Spanish culture while taking advantage of what the city had to offer. Much like New York City, Madrid is home to millions of people and a popular tourist attraction. While exploring the city the first day, a small group and I went to Madrid’s version of Times Square, la Puerta del Sol (“Gate of the Sun”). La Puerta del Sol is Madrid’s busiest plaza and it has everything one could possibly need. One street alone is filled with cafes, bars, clothing stores, and restaurants. As my group and I explored the city, we quickly found ourselves lost because of the lack of street signs. Street signs in Madrid are either non-existence or are placed on the streets themselves. The streets also had a peculiar set-up. Streets in America are mostly perpendicular and parallel to each other but this is not the case in Madrid so it is easy to get lost if you are not paying attention to where you’re going. Our stay in Madrid consisted of exploring the city as well as visiting a few nearby towns, with Ávila and Segovia as my personal favorites.
Located an hour and a half northeast of Madrid, Ávila is surrounded by a medieval- style stone wall that was built between the 11th and 14th centuries. Though its main attraction is the stone wall, Ávila is also famous for the architecture used to build religious monuments. Most Spaniards are Roman Catholic and because their religion is important to them, they put a lot of effort into creating churches that showed reverence to God, even if these took many years to build. An example of this is the Cathedral of Ávila, which contains architecture with Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque styles.
After visiting Ávila our group drove to the town of Segovia which is located half an hour from Ávila. This town is most famous for its still-standing aqueduct which was built by the Romans around the first and second centuries. Its fame is due to it still being held together without any mortar hundreds of years later. Upon arriving to Segovia our group had lunch in a restaurant in which we were served chicken with french fries for the first plate, and a pork roast for the second plate. French fries and pork are a staple of the Spanish cuisine. In America we usually eat french fries as fast food, but in Spain it’s considered a side dish and typically served with a meat. The Spanish also love to eat pork and they will usually eat it as ham.
After lunch we walked to the other side of the town and ended up at the base of the aqueduct. On it sits the Alcázar of Segovia, a castle that served as a royal palace, a prison, a Royal Artillery College, and a military academy. It used to have a drawbridge but it was later replaced with concrete bridge. After a long day, our trip to Segovia ended with a tour of the castle and a relaxing nap on the bus back to Madrid.