Last week, I was lucky enough to have my mom and brother visit me in Madrid! It was really fun showing them around, introducing them to my host family, teaching them a little Spanish, and eating lots of churros and tapas together. They stayed in Madrid the whole time, but over the weekend we went on day trips to Toledo, Salamanca, and Ávila. I’m excited to go on longer trips during my time here but there are also so many beautiful cities and towns that are just an hour and a half or less by bus or train from Madrid.
On Friday, we took the train to Toledo, which was about half an hour. Toledo is such an old, beautiful city that even the train station looks like this:
Toledo is full of beautiful old buildings, winding narrow streets, and very steep hills. There is a lot of Middle Eastern influence in the architecture (some parts of Spain were ruled by Arabs for 700 years!) and in the food. We went to a Syrian restaurant near the plaza and I was excited to have something a little different than typical Spanish food.
We had a great time in Toledo and I would really recommend it to anyone who is looking to get out of Madrid for a while without paying a lot of money or having to book a hotel. The roundtrip ticket was 10 euros.
On Saturday, we went to Salamanca and Ávila, which are a both a little further outside of Madrid in the community of Castilla y León. It took about two and a half hours to get to Salamanca by
I really enjoyed being in Salamanca. It is full of beautiful, historic buildings and one of the world’s oldest universities. Because of its university, Salamanca has been the home of some of Spain’s most famous authors, philosophers, and intellectuals.
It also has really delicious food! One of the most traditional things to eat in Salamanca is the hornazo, which is sort of like an empanada filled with hard boiled eggs, ham, and more meat. Unfortunately, I don’t love ham, which has been a challenge for me in Spain, but I had a bite of my brother’s and it was really good.
Next, we went to Ávila on the way back to Madrid. Ávila is around an hour and a half away from Madrid by bus and is famous for being a walled city. It’s at a higher altitude than Madrid, so it’s a bit colder and it would be really nice to go there during the summer or early fall.
We were only in Ávila for a little over an hour, but it was really interesting walking around the city and seeing the cathedral they built into the wall to protect it from potential attacks. Most city walls have been dismantled and used to build houses, but since Ávila has always had a small population, their city walls are still intact. There are also places where you can pay a few euros to walk on top of the wall, but unfortunately, we didn’t have time.
In Ávila they are famous for their chuletón, which is a huge steak, and their judías blancas (white beans). The most traditional dessert in Ávila is yemas. Yemas are made out of egg yolk, flour, and sugar. I tried one and it tastes exactly how you would think an egg yolk mixed with sugar would. I would recommend it if you really love the taste of egg yolks.
I really enjoyed spending time in and around Madrid with my mom and brother last weekend. Showing them around my neighborhood made me realize how lucky I am to be here in Madrid and how much more comfortable I’ve become getting around the city and speaking Spanish.