The Snow in Spain Falls Mainly in Madrid

All of my kiddos practically spat out the words when I saw them: “THEY SAY IT’S GOING TO SNOW ON FRIDAY CAT!” I had enjoyed a few blissful minutes of Iberian sunshine and warmth after arriving back to Spain from frigid Austria, only to have my reverie interrupted by some smart-ass weatherman on the radio who warned that temperatures in Sevilla, the hottest city in Spain, might get as low as one or two celcius degrees (35-37 F).
“Not like it matters for you,” Kike said. “You’ll be in Madrid and it will snow there for sure.”
And snow it did. A LOT. I arrived to Atocha about 21h30 and met Alvaro and Isabel, two friends who live there. We headed out for some din and a few beers and I went to bed early. I had to go to Madrid to get a visa to go to China, and the office is only open a few hours a week.
When I left Alvarito’s house at 9am the following morning, the snow was starting to fall but not sticking. It left wet puddles all over Puerta de Toledo. I hopped on the Metro and went 17 (yes, créetelo. 17) stops to Ciudad Lineal. Callejero street guide in hand, I followed Alvaro’s advice and hailed a cab. The Chinese Consulate is practically at the airport! I hailed a cab and he told me that the traffic was so bad because of the sudden snowfall, I would be better off walking. So I asked a bus driver. He told me the same things – half of the buses that should have been out on the streets, weren’t. So I took off walking, happy to have my umbrella with me because the flakes were FAT. And wet. My new boots have a line of salt halfway up because I walked nearly a kilometer.
I was so cold- the bus stops along the way read -1 celcius or lower – and thinking that with my luck, the consulate would have been moved to another location. Thankfully, 40 Josefina Valcarcel had posters written in chinese character welcomed me. It took a whopping three minutes to get to the front of the line and the lady was wonderfully helpful and nice. I ended up paying 123E for the visa – 90 for just being American and 33 to have it expedited immediately so I didn’t have to come back. Then it was back into the tundra, passing four of the same buses and traipsing through about 12 cm of snow.

Plaza Nueva under a blanket of snow

I met my buddy Jeremy in Plaza de España, one of the central plazas in Madrid. The whole city was blanketed in snow, but it didn’t stop the Madrileños from coming out of their houses and building snowmen, throwing snow balls and marveling in how the city had been converted into a white playground. Jeremy, who is from Chicago as well, took me to a shadddddy Chinese restaurant underneath the plaza. We ordered dumplings, rice, chicken with vegetables, sesame bean curd deliciousness and soup, and Jeremy taught me to use chopsticks (joder, I’m in trouble!). Then he said, “OMG LET’S GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!” as if the native Chicagoan had never seen snow. We walked around Plaza del Debod, Campo de Casa, past the Palace and national Cathedral, through Puerta de Toledo and Sol.

Later, I met Alvaro and his two roommates to have dinner at their house and we switched on the news. Alvaro told me he didn’t make it into work because the roads were shit with the snow. 400km had been full of cars and traffic jams in and around Madrid, the airport shut down for a few hours. These people get snow a few times a year but the whole city shut down on Friday.

I spent the rest of the weekend with Alvarito and Izzy and made it out to Valladolid to celebrate Lucia’s 2.5 birthday and see Aurora’s new convertible. Why anyone would buy a car like that for a city that gets four months of warm weather a year is beyond me. It was nice to have real food and be in good company. I love Spanish host moms.

Return to the Homeland

Above: the Ayuntamiento of Valladolid, where I studied for five weeks in 2005
Below: My Spanish family: La abuela, Lucia, Aurora, Jose Luis, Carmen and Monica

My love affair with Spain started nearly three years ago when I studied in a town called Valladolid in the northern half of Spain. Located just two hours northwest of Madrid, this town was once the intellectual, political and de facto capital of Spain. It wasn’t until the early 17th century that Madrid (then a realllllly small village of like 5.000) became the capital. For five weeks, I studied modern Spanish lit and cultural at the Universidad de Valladolid and lived with a family in the neighborhood of Rondilla. I really had it all – the opportunity to live in Spain and speak a lot of Spanish, live like a Spaniard and meet Spaniards. Part of this was due to my luck in living with a family that took really good care of me and helped me learn a lot. Aurora and Aurora (mother and eldest daughter) and I have kept in contact over the last three years, and they invited me to visit them and stay with them in Valladolid. And after being here nearly seven months, I finally had a chance to go! Though Spain is about the size of Texas, the road system isnt as advanced, so going from south to north took about five hours, not including pit stops.

We left Sevilla, a toasty 28 grados, and drove straight north on the Ruta de la Plata. When riches from the New World came to Spain, they passed through Sevilla’s port, past Roman Mérida, Cáceres and up toward Madrid. I have wanted to see Extremadura for some time because I have a friend from Mérida, and I was in awe of how rustic it is. Cows and sheep wander in and out of ruined stone houses, towns of forty houses cluster around a central church spire, the valleys are covered in trees, green grass and yellow and purple flowers. And, once we hit Salamanca, it got flat like the Castilla-León I know. We passed all kinds of castles, and my excitement just kept growing once we got back into Vdoid.

Since I was there last, young Aurora had a baby girl, who I was really anxious to meet. Although we had problems with the directions, I remembered the city really well. When we arrived at the apartment, the abuela greeted us. She’s a little bit senile, so she thought I had traveled from the States with my American boyfriend. She was like, “He speaks Spanish really well!” And I said, “Well, he’s Spanish and has lived here for 28 years.” And then, like the good mama she was, she asked if I needed any clothes washed! Aurora arrived home with her baby Lucia, who is 20 months old. She looked like a mini Carolina with soft brown hair and big eyes and a big barriga (belly). She is one of the sweetest and smartest kids I’ve met. She and Kike immediately fell in love with each other, and it was really sweet watching him play with her and teach her things. She’s even learning English in school! Aurora the younger one has hosted a lot of students in the past few years, but I’m the only one who has made it back to Vdoid. She also said she remembered me speaking in Spanish better than anyone, but had noted an improvement. Truth be told, I was so nervous to be there, unable to speak. I have good days and bad days. Lately, they’ve been bad days. And I know plenty of Spaniards. I get nervous with my boyfriend and roommate! But anyway, we all sat around drinking wine and talking (Lucia even knows the famous, ARRIBA! ABAJO! cheer and joined us with her bottle). I showed Kike around some of the sights at night that were lit up and we went to SU for 2lit beers (for 3,00 euros) and Sotobanco for some copas. Sadly, Enrico was not there and I had to pay for my drinks. Good times.

The next morning, we took a walk around the city. Even though Kike lived in Salamanca, which is just over an hour away, he had never been in the city. We saw the Antigua, the theatres and Plaza Mayor, the cathedral, the university, etc. Really, there isn’t much to see, but it’s a gorgeous town. It’s very stately and very well-preserved. But after living in Andalucia for 7 months, I realize just how Catholic and reserved it is. People in Sevilla really do live in the streets because of the heat, and though they’re Catholic, it’s not as out in the open. There’s so much variedad in this country, and Sevilla is worlds away from Valladolid. I almost felt like I was bringing Kike home to meet my family there, and show him around my city. But we spent much more time back at Aurora’s on her terraza drinking Baileys and playing with the kids. Monica has grown into a little brat who dictates EVERYTHING, but I suppose that’s four-year olds. After spending the whole day snacking and talking and drinking, Kike and I headed out to a bunch of bars in the area.

Although the weekend was really relaxed, I was happy. Really, really happy. I’ve come a long way in the last seven months, and now I really feel comfortable here. I feel like I have every last thing I need here. And I’ve only got two months left here.

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