MONDAY: Our History of Spain papers were due via e-mail by some point that night, so after class Emmaleigh and I stayed at school until we finished them so we could e-mail them. My Works Cited page was a little scarce with information, but at least the paper was done. We went to Institute as usual, and then for FHE we all went over to the Browns and as preparation for our stop in Salamanca, watched Vantage Point, which supposedly takes place there, except today at church we heard a rumor that a replica was made in Mexico and actually the whole movie was filmed there. That was a little disappointment, but at the time we didn’t know so we got really pumped up. We also tried to make dirt & worms, but apparently the pudding didn’t work, so we just ate Oreos and gummy bears. Then we went home to pack and get some rest.
TUESDAY: I ended up kind of packing a lot, plus I brought my laptop so I could study during the trip, so when we left our house with plans to walk to the train station I was a little unhappy. We walked down the street, Emmaleigh easily dragging her suitcase with wheels and me attempting to not fall over from the weight of my duffel bag as usual, and as we crossed the street near the roundabout we saw the bus that we were attempting to meet at the train station drive by. I pointed it out to Emmaleigh, and I guess the driver took that as a wave because he motioned for us to go over there. I didn’t recognize him at all, I’m pretty sure he hasn’t ever been with us, but he pulled over to the side of the road, opened the bottom storage for our luggage and the doors for us, and minutes later we pulled up to the train station in our preferred seats, much to the dismay of the students who had been waiting. That was probably the best start to a trip we’d ever had. Our first stop was in Ávila, where the main attraction is the city wall. We hung out for a few hours there, went up on the wall to look at the city, ate chocolate croissants, then left. We arrived at our destination, Salamanca, with enough time to see some sights. Our first stop, after we went to the hotel to drop off our stuff and discover that our toilet didn’t flush, was the Plaza Mayor, where Vantage Point takes place. We got some ice cream, took pictures, and just hung out there. We also saw the cathedral [always, always] that has an astronaut on the outside [a little one]; the university, which is really famous; a Roman bridge; and a convent that for some reason Emmaleigh REALLY wanted to go into. We paid €2 to enter a courtyard that was being jackhammered the whole time we were there. There was also an upstairs that we could look at, but the only thing really to see was this one room that had a really slippery floor. We had fun sliding around for a little while, and when we walked out we noticed about 12 security camera feeds and the man who took our money scowling at us. I didn’t even feel bad. Ben wasn’t feeling well and he had stayed in the hotel to sleep, so we went back to get him at this point and walked around some more. We saw the Plaza Mayor again, went shopping for the boys, and found a Mexican restaurant to eat dinner at. The food was pretty good, but there were bones in the chicken in my burrito and the regular Spanish vegetables cooked in olive oil. I’m excited to eat Café Rio again. After dinner we just went back to the hotel and rested up.
WEDNESDAY: Bus again. Our destination of the day was Santiago de Compostela, which was the point of the whole trip, but our Professor recently stopped deciding exactly what we are going to do each day and instead decided to just stop wherever he wanted. This trip, he wanted to stop in a tiny town in the mountains called something like “O Sombreiro.” There is a supposed Holy Grail there, so we stopped, but it was in another city on exhibition until 4 pm that day, so we left after finding a GIANT dog [not as big as the one in Bilbao]. After leaving this town, Kimball had the brilliant idea of playing Travel Bingo. We made a list of 25 things we might see OUTSIDE the bus, made them into Bingo cards, and distributed them. Some people were really into it and some BORING people refused to play, but overall I’d say it was a success. Sami and Megan won the first Bingo, and Jessie and Mark won the Blackout. We arrived in Santiago, ditched our stuff, and went over to the cathedral. On our way, Kimball and Allyson needed to get money out of the ATM and while I unwisely waited for them, the rest of the group disappeared around a corner. We tried to catch up but couldn’t see them anywhere, so we just started wandering around and asking people where it was. We asked one guy who pointed in a general direction, and since we hadn’t seen anything really cathedral-like I asked him what it looked like, just to make sure it didn’t look different for some reason that would cause us to not be able to find it. He pretty much laughed hysterically. Then we turned around and saw it looming in the distance. We eventually got there and I immediately fell in love. Quick explanation: Santiago is James in Spanish. The apostle James is the patron saint of Spain, and supposedly he crossed the ocean from Jerusalem to Spain on horseback and when he came out of the water he was covered in scallop shells. Santiago de Compostela is one of the top three pilgrimage sites for the Catholic Church, the other two being Rome and Jerusalem. The remains of the apostle James are theoretically in this cathedral, and there is a strong scallop-shell theme. In the cathedral there is a statue of Santiago that you can go up and hug, and every day at noon they have a pilgrim’s mass. The cathedral is really the center of the town and was the only thing we really spent time in. After the first viewing of the cathedral we went into a parador [old building restored into a hotel] nearby where you can stay as a pilgrim and Sierra and Kim dazzled us with their piano skills. We didn’t even get in trouble for touching the really nice piano because they were so good. The rest of the night we just walked around the city and ate dinner. The restaurant was pretty cheap for the amount of food we got, but we had some interesting experiences there. Courtney and Ali ordered calamari and it came out basically just-dead, looking like it was poured directly from the ocean onto the plate. Sierra ordered something that Ben told her was noodles and peas, and it turned out to be something very paella-like. Unfortunately she hates seafood, so I ate it and she ate mine, and Ben felt REALLY bad for inadvertently giving her the wrong information. After dinner Courtney cut my hair and we went to bed.
THURSDAY: Our plan was for the bus to pick us up and take us a little way out of the city so we could walk on the pilgrim’s road and get there in time for mass, but the bus couldn’t get near the hotel so we ended up just walking via the normal streets. We walked around the city until mass, which was a really cool experience. It’s been years since I’ve been to a Catholic mass, and it was interesting to me how much the prayers sounded like our prayers, just memorized. There was a really cool part where they listed where all the pilgrims that were attending were from. We met one girl named Jess who was from Vermont and just decided two weeks ago to pick up and come to Spain to do the pilgrimage. She started in our Holy Grail city and walked for nine days. She was the bomb. I want to do a pilgrimage. If I wasn’t Mormon, I think I would be Catholic… After the mass Courtney and I got some food at a grocery store and just hung out in a really pretty park with some wild roosters. I eventually made my way back to the hotel and tried to study but ended up instead going back out to try to make the pilgrimage. Ali, Kimball and I walked near the cathedral and followed the pilgrim’s road backwards for a while, until we turned around and made the pilgrimage for real. It was actually SO exciting when we got there; we had a really friendly woman take a picture of us. We ate dinner at this really good Asian place and went back to the cathedral for a free orchestra/choir concert. It was INCREDIBLE, some woman sitting next to us told us that the concert was written by a Spanish man who lived in France for twenty years and wrote it as a mass for the dead. It was very beautiful and I felt very peaceful instead of really busy, like I normally feel on trips. On our way out we met a Spanish man carrying a Brazil bag [Kimball has a weakness for people who have something to do with Brazil] who wouldn’t stop talking to us and then KISSED MY FACE when we were leaving. We also saw an Irish guy playing the guitar who was VERY happy and played us a Beatles song until his string broke. Overall, Santiago de Compostela was one of my favorite places we’ve been. Also, I forgot to mention how beautiful Galicia is. Very.
FRIDAY: We got up even earlier and started the trek to Léon. We stopped at the Holy Grail town again, but this time it was there. I don’t buy it. We arrived in Léon about lunchtime and were supposed to go to the cathedral at four. Ben’s younger brother is serving in the Bilbao mission and got transferred from Bilbao to Léon right before we went to Bilbao. We weren’t planning on staying the night in Léon, but on Monday in class Professor Brown told us, and by the time Ben found out it was too late to e-mail his brother and tell him. Thus, we were all on the lookout for him. After lunch Emmaleigh, Mark and I started walking around instead of going straight to the cathedral, and we hung out by this map of the city for a while, where we encountered Tim, Jessie, Kiley and Lauren. We were about to walk over to the cathedral when we saw this bank that was originally designed by Gaudí, our favorite architect from Barcelona. Tim and Emmaleigh went to look at it for an amount of time that seemed undesirable to the rest of us, but while we were waiting, we saw some missionaries walking by. I FREAKED OUT and went up to them and when I saw one had a nametag that said Elder Ashby I got SO excited I could hardly express myself. Someone eventually communicated that his brother, Ben, was part of our group, and at that point I vowed to not rest until Ben and his brother had been united. Ben was planning on taking a nap instead of coming right to the cathedral with us, but we went in anyway to check out if he was there. He wasn’t, so I tried calling him, but his phone was off, so someone whipped out a map from the hotel and I called the hotel and asked for his room. He answered grumpily and I demanded to know what he was doing. He said he and Kimball were “busy” and I said “not too busy for this!” and handed the phone to his brother. From what I could hear they had a pretty excited conversation and Ben said he would get over to the cathedral ASAP. They had an adorable reunion and made a plan to meet a little later so Ben could go teach a lesson with them. We went up onto some scaffolding in the cathedral to look at the stained glass windows in detail, listened to a seriously boring 35 minute lecture in Spanish about how to restore the windows, and then just walked around the city. It was Courtney’s birthday, so we went out to dinner at some bar with a REALLY rude waiter, and then tried to go to Valor for chocolate and churros but it was closed, so we went to another bar with a [probably] REALLY drunk waitress. We went back to the hotel to hang out, and then Kimball and I decided to give Léon one more chance to impress us. We went out at about one in search of discotecas, but there were none. All we could find were tango clubs or bars full of people in their 40s and 50s. One of them was FULL and people were dancing, so we thought it might be a good bet, but the most exciting thing we saw was the DJ dancing to “Man, I Feel Like a Woman,” so we got out of there pretty fast. At least we could say in good conscience that Léon was the lamest place we’ve been in Spain. Also, I accept that we just had to go there so Ben could see his brother.
SATURDAY: We didn’t leave until eleven, I guess so we could have more time in the morning to see stuff, but I was so over that city and just slept in instead. Our one remaining stop was Coca so we could see some castle, but we got there at just about two and it was CLOSED for siesta. Also, it was freezing and the bus driver needed a 45-minute break. We packed into some gas station to wait and use the bathroom, which ran out of toilet paper pretty quickly. We all gave two thumbs down on Coca. We made one more stop before getting home, which was about an hour from Alcalá, and when we got out of the bus IT WAS SNOWING. SO not okay. Luckily it wasn’t snowing when we got to Alcalá, but it was definitely colder. We went over to the Browns so I could book hostels, and went home to do homework and go to bed.
SUNDAY: Daylight Savings Time, finally. We got to church on time without waiting for TOO long, which is a miracle for us lately, and had some good lessons. In Sacrament Meeting Mark and I finished the Spanish hymnbook and felt really accomplished, and we came home and had a delicious lunch. It is really cold so we’re not spending any time outside, but I don’t mind—it’s been good to have some rest.
Summary: Galicia is beautiful and I can’t believe we’re leaving Spain THIS week. The end.