The end of Las Fallas in Valencia made catching up on sleep a huge priority, and luckily the Monday we got back was a Spanish National Holiday! A refresher was needed for a week of rowing and cooking classes, topped off with an intercambio event at the local Malibu bar. At the intercambio event put on by a few of my local friends, I was able to converse in a unique way with some older Spanish businessmen and a girl with her friend in her upper twenties tutoring English in the town of Alicante. Both Spaniards were very exceptional in English as well, and asked if America is what it’s like in the movies. We talked a lot about the difference of sports, comradery, and business between both countries as well as football vs. soccer, American baseball, paddle, and the economy.
Through the end of the weekend my mindset shifted a little bit more towards school, since I had to tour and complete a museum worksheet for class, somehow register for class and figure out housing for my next semester at Mount Union, on top of having a spanish class final. Luckily there was another day off of class towards the end of the week because there was yet another strike going on at campus. I still am confident in saying that I have seen more strikes in my first month in Alicante than I have in my entire life. The Thursday of the strike also marked the day my mom and two brothers touched down in Spain! Yes, it was very sad news that my dad couldn’t get off of work for long enough and the fact that it worked out so perfectly for my family to arrive on the day of a national strike. Did I mention that it was April 1st as well? Maybe it was a whole joke that my family was coming to visit? I guess with limited access to wifi and no phones I would have never known if their flight had been cancelled or not, but luckily they made it to Hotel Mexico pleasantly.
My family planned to tour Madrid per some of my recommendations, visit the Palace and some museums, but definitely took advantage of things I was unable to see or that they stumbled upon. On Sunday they took one of the last 3-hour train rides from Madrid to Alicante, where I waited to see my brother sherpa lugging all the overweight bags my Mom managed to bring in addition to his own. I can’t complain of her packing though because she brought me a few things, in addition to some gifts for my host family. Barbecue sauce and hot sauce were a huge hit! Noting that the barbecue was gone within a week and now my host mom puts hot sauce on everything. These things I was really craving, since in Spain they don’t seem to comprehend the idea of a rich Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ and an actually spicy hot sauce!
The afternoon my family got into the train station, my host mom, sister, and her boyfriend waited with their cars to load up the luggage and drive to the Gran Sol, the tallest hotel in Alicante right along the port, where my family stayed. I rode with my host mom and sister, translating spanish back and forth as my mom was clinging to my arm excited to see me! Word of mouth says that my two brothers did exceptional in talking to my host sister’s boyfriend for the ride, but I find it hard to believe. The very same night my whole family and host family all went out for tapas together at a wonderful restaurant called Nou San Blas. They got a taste of some traditional spanish food like patatas bravas, calamares, among other things. The night was definitely a challenge for myself since I was constantly switching back and forth between speaking english and spanish translating! My head was pounding at the end, but the whole night was a magical moment, two families being united through my study abroad experience, with completely different backgrounds.
The first few days my family was in town I was still in school before spring break and had to take a Spanish for Business exam, but I was able to bring one of my brothers to our final rowing class in the port. Many people were already headed off on vacation so my brother and I were able to use a two-seater, much faster and more fun that the 8-person boat!
While I still had class I was able to enjoy the city with my family, who made homemade sangria everyday. Since I live with a host family I don’t get to go out to eat much, but took recommendations from some of my friends living closer to the barrio, or downtown bar/restaurant area. One night we went to a Chinese restaurant that serves spring rolls the size of burritos, 3-courses, dessert, and drink for about 6 Euros. Great deal, normally with a complimentary shot at the end, and my brother confidently said it was his favorite meal in Spain thus far. Ha! We also went to Mi Cachito de Sevilla, translated to My Little Piece of Seville, where I had the best paella in Alicante. It is safe to say that this was the best overall family meal we had together. Another food that my brother’s girlfriend told him he must try was a gofre, since she studied in Spain when she was in college. After the night we had rowing class we went to a stand right across from the Gran Sol and he devoured the dessert (waffle with chocolate sauce/or other mixings). I wonder if he liked it.
We also took advantage of el Castillo de Santa Barbara and hiked up to the top a few times, and my mom was astonished that there was a place named and entirely dedicated to her (her name is Barbara)! The same night I tried showing my brothers some Alicante nightlife but being a weekend the discoteca’s were closed. We managed to meet up with a bunch of my fellow study abroad and other local friends in the barrio at Havana, a bigger bar with music…but no discoteca.
The week my family came it was leading up to Easter…Holy Week or called Semana Santa in Spain. The week includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and there are magnificent processions the entire week. Up until about 2 AM people are winding the streets with huge religious floats of Jesus and other Catholic symbols, dressed in traditional costumes (that look similar KKK outfits but are not), and have bands playing. These are spread throughout the whole city and the most notable procession is the one that winds down from the castle, through the barrio, and all the way down La Rambla or main street. Spaniards seem to make every time of year or holiday the most fabulous or elaborate!
During the end of the week there were also vendors set up on the Explanada, and we paid a visit once more to my host family. My brother also got to try my favorite home cooked meal from my host mom: Arroz Cubana (rize, frankfurts, tomato paste, egg on top). Eventually the week winded down, and we were all ready to travel to Mallorca and Barcelona together, the beginning of my exciting spring break vacation!