As my time in Salamanca comes to an end, it’s time to look back on the blissful highs and hilariously tragic lows of my first semester abroad in Spain. Exams, losing just a few of my personal belongings, frustration at Spanish bureaucracy, language barriers and homesickness aside, the innumerable highlights by far outweigh the lows. Since there were so many memories to choose from, I decided to pick moments and trips I hadn’t mentioned in previous posts!
5. International Dinner
One evening in November, my flatmates and I decided to host an international dinner where everyone had to cook and bring a dish from their respective countries. We had crêpes, cake salé and tourte au thon from France, shortbread from Scotland, bifanas from Portugal, huevos rotos and empanadas from Spain and apple and blackberry crumble from England ! Take it as a sign that the food was so great that we didn’t have time to get photographic proof of our creations. Instead here’s some Google images of what we made…
Halloween was one of my favourite nights in Salamanca! Whilst it’s not typically Spanish in the slightest, it was the perfect opportunity to get all the Erasmus students together and exploit my friend Charlotte’s creativity with make-up and face paint. Over the course of a few hours, she transformed us into a range of characters including ghosts, vampires, a nun and a policewoman. Given my pale complexion, it only seemed fitting, if not a bit cliché, to be a vampire.
3. Surprising my grandparents in Malaga
My grandparents have lived in the Costa del Sol for twenty-six years now, having retired there after owning a bar there for over a decade. Unfortunately, my ninety-four-year-old grandad can’t fly on planes anymore and hasn’t returned to England for many years! Busy terms and busier summers spent travelling and working crept up on me and before I knew it I realised I hadn’t seen them in over a year and a half.
So…I decided to plan a surprise trip to see them, to coincide with my grandma’s birthday. One Thursday night in November, I embarked on an eleven-hour overnight bus ride to Malaga and then boarded a train to the seaside town of Fuengirola, without them having the faintest idea that I was coming.
On arrival, I struck lucky as the door to their apartment building was wide open- I didn’t even have to press their buzzer and could surprise them face to face at their front door. The look on my grandma’s face was priceless, my grandad was left speechless and their dog Monti was jumping around with excitement. I had a brilliant weekend catching up with them and even got the chance to go to the beach and eat my grandma’s traditional British roast dinner.
At the crack of dawn the day after my friends and I finished exams, we hopped on a train to Barcelona and eight hours later, we had arrived and were ready to settle into Hostel Teatro. It had a great location in downtown Barcelona, was minutes away from the beach and Las Ramblas and was well connected on the metro.
Here is a list of my recommendations:
- Park Güell– to get into the centre of the park to see the brightly-coloured mosaic benches designed by Gaudí, you have to pay up to €8 but entrance to the rest of the park is free and the views from the very top are amazing! There are also lots of buskers dotted around which create a lively ambiance.
- Las Ramblas– this long boulevard stretches across 1.2km of the heart of the city centre and is a vibrant spot for market stalls, restaurants, museums and theatres. It’s also notorious for pickpocketers so be careful when you’re walking around!
- Sagrada Familia– construction on the most visited monument in Spain started in 1882 and is planned to be completed in 2026, in time for the centenary of the death of Gaudí, the genius behind its exceptional design. At a planned 560 ft, this architectural masterpiece can supposedly be seen from any point in the city.
- Gothic quarter- take a wander through the narrow streets of the gothic quarter and you will come across quirky boutiques and unique tapas bars, as well as the cathedral.
- Port Vell- the port is a must-see for several reasons! There are lots of restaurants and little food stands scattered in front of dozens of lavish yachts and sailing boats which make the perfect backdrop to a sunset stroll. The port is always bustling with cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and, of course, tourists.
- Barceloneta beach- considering we visited Barcelona in the midst of winter, 16°c and clear blue skies were a welcome surprise after struggling through subzero temperatures in Salamanca. We found a great restaurant near the beach called Maka Maka which did the best burgers and cocktails!
- Montjuïc Fountain- due to poor planning we visited Montjuïc on a day it was closed (it’s only open on Friday and Saturday) so we didn’t actually see it. However, I went with my family when I was quite young and still remember the colourful displays, so in my opinion it’s worth a visit!
- Nightlife– whilst Barcelona is a lot pricier than Salamanca, it’s a different experience altogether and you’re spoilt for choice with clubs and bars all over the city with different music scenes. We went to a square off Las Ramblas called Plaça Reial which has lots of clubs altogether and we tried Jamboree, a place which played hip hop, funk and soul music!
1. Nuevos amigos
It is no exaggeration that my time in Salamanca would not have been the same without my amazing friends- you know who you are! I never imagined how quickly you can form such strong friendships with people, and it’s hard to believe I didn’t know you all a mere few months ago! Salamanca’s beautiful streets still astounded me as I wandered around the city every day, but it honestly wouldn’t have been half the fun without meeting all the people I have.
From spontaneous day trips to Peña de Francia and Segovia, weekend getaways to Madrid and Lisbon, countless night outs in Salamanca, coffee dates, tapas outings, long lectures and library sessions, gruelling group presentations and projects, and delicious flat meals, my five months have been jam-packed with the best memories and the best people.
Thank you to everyone who has made this semester so special…Santiago de Chile, you have a lot to live up to!