From the New World to the Old in Spain

Adrienne Prillaman is a student at University of North Texas and an an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with a high school student leadership class in Keller, Texas. Adrienne is studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain on an ISA Fall 4 program.

While the fact I was surrounded by so much history was not as evident in the big city of Madrid (except in the museums), it was impossible to miss in Toledo, El Escorial, and my new home: Salamanca, Spain. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t despise Madrid – there was a lot of interesting things to see in the museums and neat places around the city- but I’ve seen plenty of big cities. I was ready to get into a smaller, more intimate atmosphere. Madrid was okay, Toledo and El Escorial were better, but Salamanca… I couldn’t have picked a better place to live for these 3 months.

Our Group In Front of ‘The White Bacon’

In Madrid, we went to the Museo del Prado and the Reina Sofía – our first glimpse at the real works of art that were created many years ago in areas much closer to where we were now than in our homes in the U.S. Seeing the creations of El Greco, Goya, and Velázquez at the Prado, and Dalí and Picasso at the Reina Sofía was certainly something I had aspired to do. I preferred the Prado, since I am not really much of a modern art fan, and that’s what was displayed at the Reina Sofía. However, there was an interesting large work of art in front of the Reina Sofía that we thought prompted a photo, and we decided to call it “The White Bacon.

Of course we also visited the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, as any Plaza Mayor is a must see, and had lunch there. However, I felt overall that most of Madrid was not exactly my cup of tea, and was eager to venture on.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid.

Toledo, our next stop, was breathtaking. It’s impossible not to feel the history all around you in Toledo. The overlook of the city is spectacular, and we enjoyed just strolling through the old city. Still, Toledo didn’t feel quite like home should; especially since I wasn’t particular fond of the fact that to get between certain parts of Toledo, a taxi was necessary.

My Roommate, Meg, and I On Top of Toledo

We took one final stop on the way to Salamanca – El Escorial. Also a beautiful and very ancient looking city, but still not quite home. After this short stop, we departed for our final destination. Meg (my roommate) and I met our host family (in my biased opinion the best host family of all), and finally were able to unpack! The next day we were able to see the Plaza Mayor of our new home in Salamanca.

An Always Active Plaza Mayor

I couldn’t be happier that of all these cities, this is the one I chose.
More to come soon!

Author: Adrienne Abrahamson

Texas native, world traveler, food enthusiast, Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanatic.

39 thoughts

    1. Wow! How is the weather over there? Everything looks so nice! What season is it over there? It looks like summer. I’m super jealous that you get to just travel around the world to just learn.

    2. Kelsey- Yes, I am living in Salamanca for a total of 3 months, so I go walk around the city everyday, and usually once a week or so, I walk to parts of the city I haven’t been to or don’t know very well. It’s so beautiful, more photos of the city in my next post!

      Minh- The weather over WAS excellent, haha. Until about the middle of October, it was basically like summer! Especially in Madrid and Toledo, it was very warm. In Salamanca, it was a bit cooler, but about a week or two ago it started getting cold and now scarves and jackets are necessary. It has been raining a lot here as well, which is very abnormal for Salamanca, because it usually have a cool dry climate, so that hasn’t been helping the weather. But usually, it is very beautiful here!

  1. Wow! How is the weather over there? Everything looks so nice! What season is it over there? It looks like summer. I’m super jealous that you get to just travel around the world to just learn.

  2. It is good to know that you are very intrigued with the new places you have been to
    and also love your new home city! Will you be travelling further any time soon and also if so, any special landmarks that you would like to see?

  3. Monica – Yes, I am traveling A LOT. Besides the places listed in my post, I have also been to Segovia (famous for it’s aqueducts) and Granada (famous for a big castle – La Alhambra). I will post a couple pictures from there soon hopefully! Tomorrow, I leave for Sevilla, and then for Morocco! I am also traveling to Paris (I have been once before), Lisbon, Barcelona, Vienna (also have been once before) and Dublin! Maybe some other places too, not sure yet, but I’m super excited!!!

  4. Hi Adrienne! I’m glad you’ve been traveling safely and the places you’re exploring are AMAZING! Other than sight seeing, do you get to do any extreme activities like hike up significant mountains or go parasailing?

    1. I don’t think I am doing anything like that! The most extreme thing I’ve done is ride a camel, haha. I have some friends who have done cliff jumping, but for me this trip is mostly exploring and sightseeing. I wish I had more time and opportunities to do things like that, but not this trip unfortunately!

  5. Hi Adrienne! It looks like you’re having an amazing time in Spain! I’m extremely jealous that you get to travel to all the beautiful cities and sight-see those landmarks. Have you visited any restaurants where you tried new foods that you like or dislike?

    1. Well, I ate at the most EXCELLENT Thai restaurant in Madrid, it was so delicious and they had cilantro, which is pretty difficult to find in Spain! I’ve tried paella and lots of different tapas (appetizers) at lots of places.. At a place in Granada I had blood sausage as a tapa, the sausage itself wasn’t so delicious but the sauce was great! I really love tortilla española (a potato omelet essentially) but I did go to one restaurant close to my school where I had that and it was very gross, I don’t know how they messed it up but they did haha. Also, telepizza, one of pizza chains here is cheap, but not very good. I prefer the local pizza places or smaller chains, which are also fairly cheap. I have written a post that will be put up soon that is all about food!

  6. You say Madrid wasn’t “your cup of tea” why? The Picasso exhibit sounds amazing! Glad everything is going well!

    1. Madrid is just SUCH a big city, and just a bit overwhelming for me. I am going back this weekend to visit a friend, so maybe I’ll see a different side of it. To me, it’s just kind of another large city packed with people and tall buildings and I prefer being in a smaller city where you can get around on foot more and see the history surrounding you more than the modern

  7. The pictures look AMAZING and you seem to be having so much fun! The weather seems to be nice as in every picture I’ve noticed that there’s always a blue sky. What place would you say is your favorite so far and why?

    1. Yes, the weather was lovely for my first few weeks, but now it is usually cold with gray skies, but that’s just winter I suppose! Hmmm, that’s tough! I’ve really enjoyed everywhere, but my favorite would either be Granada or Sevilla. They are both gorgeous cities in the south of Spain (so much warmer, haha) and are quite a bit bigger than Salamanca, but not impossible to get around. Granada has a LOT of hills though, so that would be rough. And Sevilla has an excellent bike renting system with stations set up around the city, but it’s very easy to get lost because they don’t mark the streets very well, and very few places have street numbers posted. But they are both very beautiful, and full of Arabic origins!

    1. Oh definitely! Personally, I would love to never grow up and just teach English all over the world. Live in Spain for a year, move to China, whatever. That would be my dream. However, it’s hard to do when you are in a long-term relationship and are an only child (my parents have major empty nest syndrome), so it ultimately depends on if my boyfriend would be able to do something like this with me when we are married. Hopefully at least once, even if just for a little while, we will be able to!

  8. Spain look so beautiful! what would you say is the most intriguing part of Salamanca? what are you most excited about seeing while in Spain?

    1. Hmm, the most intriguing part of Salamanca… I guess I would say it would either be all the old buildings that I get to walk by everyday that make the history of this city so vivid, or how the city is really catered to students. I mean, people come from all over the world to study here, the university I am at is almost 800 years old! So the fact I am studying at the same university that Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quijote, went to.. that’s pretty amazing.

  9. It is so awesome that you get to experience a different culture and have the opportunity to travel! I was just wondering if it has been a big culture clash for you, or if there’s been any foods or people that have intrigued or surprised you? I’ve heard the waiters in Spain tend to be rude and that most public places like resteraunts and such allow smoking, have you experienced any of this?
    Have fun eating churros with chocolate y cajeta!

    1. You know, I haven’t really really felt the culture clash like a lot of people have… Maybe it’s because I’m accustomed to traveling a lot and have been to Europe before? But of course, there are still big differences in culture, but it’s not always a clash. I guess if I had to pick anything relatively close to a “clash” it would be that it’s a little frustrating that a lot of places (especially banks and pharmacies) close in the middle of the day for “siesta” and a lot of places are closed Saturday and practically nothing is open Sunday. People are very nice when you get to know them, they are just very private and keep to themselves in public. The waiters in Spain aren’t necessarily rude, they just basically take your order, bring you your order and usually don’t check on you. They won’t talk to you unless you ask them for something, and only bring the bill once you ask for it. This is because they don’t work for tips, they get paid the same no matter what, so how nice they are really doesn’t matter. But I’ve had some really nice waiters, who I’m sure could tell I was a foreigner, that talked with me and checked on me. It’s just not as common as in the states because they aren’t preoccupied with tips. Most places don’t allow smoking inside anymore, but smoking right outside the door is allowed. That’s another kind of frustrating thing, I really abhor smoking and it makes me cough a lot, but I never tell a Spaniard to not do it, even if they ask me if it’s okay, because I feel that it’s rude for me to not allow them to do their custom. But almost all of them smoke, and smoke A LOT.

  10. The pictures are beautiful! What do you feel is the biggest difference from the life in the US to that of Spain?

    1. Thank you! Ha, there are a lot! I will be writing a post soon that focuses mainly on this, but I’ll give you a couple now. One of the biggest differences is walking by old buildings all the time and seeing things from hundreds of years ago on a daily basis – that part is spectacular. A think that is also very different, that I don’t necessarily like or dislike, is that when you are walking around the city, everybody pays attention only to themselves and nobody really says hello, or waves, or talks to strangers. It’s almost like people are wearing blinders like horses at times… when I’m in a tranquil mood where I prefer to be alone I like this, but when I’m in a talkative mood it is much more difficult, haha

  11. Everything looks so amazing! It makes me want to get out of my comfort zone and travel there! Is Salamanca one of your new favorites as far as where you have visited? How are the people of Salamanca? Friendly?

    1. I definitely love Salamanca, and it is one of my favorite cities in Spain, and a great home. People are generally friendly, you just have to get to know them. They put on a slightly cold exterior, but are generally very kind and helpful if you ask a question or seem lost, as long as you don’t try talking to them in English! This is rude in almost every country. It’s better to attempt their language than just assume they speak yours. But all my professors and local friends and people who work at the school I volunteer at are all very nice!

  12. The scenery looks breath taking in all those pictures! If you could choose one of those places to recommend for someone to visit, which one would it be and why?

    1. Oh gosh, well obviously I am biased towards Salamanca. But really, I would choose Toledo to recommend. It has the most breathtaking views, and the city has an old part and a new part. It’s a great place to get the feel of Spain, and was once the capital of Spain! It is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.

  13. Hi Adrienne, hope all is well in Salamanca! Okay, I don’t mean to sound like a downer, and hopefully this is becoming more of a positive but, what has been the most challenging thing for you to overcome on this trip?

    1. Thanks, everything is great! No, no, that’s a great question to ask! People will probably assume study abroad is just one magical journey without any problems, but that’s not true. It’s important to know about things like that. For me, I was pretty homesick my 3rd week in, especially because of missing my boyfriend of almost 2 years. That was really tough, but when you think about how short this experience really is, it’s not so bad. We usually text almost every day, but we actually have only skyped or talked on the phone maybe 4 times total. Another challenging thing for me is that I am with a lot of people who aren’t of the legal age to drink in the states, but are old enough here, whereas I have already been 21 for a while. I personally am not a big party-er, and trying to go out and have fun but not drink very much sometimes give others the impression I am not fun to be with, or even a prude. This is definitely not the case, I just really don’t enjoy drinking to get drunk, because being drunk to me is just horrible, but other people enjoy it. I shouldn’t care so much about what people think of me, and my real friends respect my decision and that’s what matters, but it is hard. There really isn’t a lot to do to have fun at night without there being a lot of alcohol involved, so I don’t go out a whole whole lot, and when I do, I drink only a little. I prefer more the experience of studying and traveling in another country than the party life, although going out can be really fun. So I guess finding that balance is a little difficult, and trying not to care what others think of you for choosing what you choose.

  14. The scenery and buildings look beautiful. I wish I could experience the different culture. Is there anything that you don’t really like about Spain?

    1. I am not a huge fan of the food, although there are some dishes I really enjoy. But overall, it’s kind of bland.

  15. Wow! Looks like you’re having loads of fun! How is the weather? What has your favorite place been so far?

    1. I really loved visiting Sevilla and Granada in Spain, the south of Spain is just incredible. The weather in Spain varies over the whole country, and in Salamanca it’s pretty cold and dry during the winter, although it stayed fairly warm until mid October.

  16. It seems like you are settling in well! It looks absolutely beautiful there and I am insanely jealous of you right now! (: what’s your favorite part of visiting all of the different Plaza Mayors?

    1. It’s just really interesting to see what they are showcasing in the center of their towns, and gives a great opportunity to people watch :)

  17. You seem like you’re enjoying the weather there! How is the weather? also, That place looks AMAZING! just looking at your pictures, makes me feel like It’s actually there! Is it a hassle traveling places to places? Such as “time consuming”?

    1. Sometimes traveling can be quite a hassle, you have to pack and I’ve had buses make me late for trains, and planes make me late for buses. That really affects the bank account in a negative way. But usually you can make the trip worth it, despite the un-fun part of getting there.

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