As you can probably guess from the title or the plethora of pictures I added, my lovely fam crossed the big pond for their first Spanish experience. Despite my drawn out anticipation to get to Madrid to join the family when they arrived, I missed my bus--sounds about right. Luckily, I was put on a better bus--the "supra" which is definitely more like first class bus ride so all's well that ends well. When I arrived to the Madrid hotel, I snuck up to the room to suprise the fam. Naturally, I started crying when I get the big bear hug from Conor. I guess I didn't realize how much I missed them until they were passing me around for my first round of many Nancy hugs that would happen over the next week. Since I arrived at night, we ran out for our first dinner at a Spanish restaurant for the first night, which we celebrated with a big bowl of paella and some traditional Spanish music. We spent our first full day together in Toledo, an hour outside of Madrid. The city was beautiful, full of history, from the extravegent cathedral to the Macaroon-filled Jewish quarter. Classic Williams moment in the military museum-because we are all so mature, we like to imitate every statue that we can when we go into museums. So Conor and I found a horse statue and while Conor was on his hands and knees imitating a horse, the guard walked in. Instead of pretending to be doing something natural, we both jumped and ran to the corner, giggling like little girls. About two minutes later, we also saw the no-pictures sign--I mean what do they really expect of us. Our last day in Madrid, we explored the Museo del Prado and the Botanical Gardens. From Madrid, we went to Granada.
We arrived in Granada later on, and it didnt take much convincing to get the fam to Los Italianos, the best gelato place in Granada. While enjoying our delicious gelato, we heard some trumpets playing. During Holy Week or Semana Santa in Granada and in most of southern Spain, the week is filled with processions. Unlike parades in the US, these are religious processions celebrating the week before Easter. Each procession is organized by a different group of people with their own history, members, colors, emblems, etc. There are the people dressed like the KKK, which, as we learned from my host mother, symbolize the accusation of Christ. During the Inquisition, they used to make people dress like that so everyone would know they were being accused of being bad Christians. So the dressing, although seems kind of scary, is actually a representation of Christ, being accused by the people of Jerusalem. That is the reader's digest version and all secondhand so I'm not 100% on the mean but it seems pretty legit. They also have HUGE float like things, that groups of people, usually men, carry for hours throughout the city. Each has their own representation of Mary and Jesus, and many times are centuries old. So back to the trumpets. So here we are, standing out in the middle of Granada at 11pm. So naturally, we start following the music. We keep going, relatively close to the band but following them so we can find the procession. Well what we didn't expect was for them to turn around on us. Stuck practically at the end of their horns, we enjoyed some late evening musical entertainment, my family's welcoming party to the place I now call home. I think we all agreed that it was a pretty good start to the second leg of the trip. The next day, we were unfortuantely faced with more rain, but still managed to see a few processions for Palm Sunday, then hiked over to my house for some traditional Easter treats with my host family. Having my two families together was a great experience. I worked as a translator, but it was easy to communicate between them. After, my host mom took us down to find our first official procession of Semana Santa. We ended the night at a restaurant with a beautiful view of the Alhambra. It was a great meal, minus my little incident of food poisoning which caused me to leave the meal a little early. Monday, we visited the Alhambra. Our tour guide, dressed like a traditional Spanish woman in a leopard coat and moon boots, lead us around the beautiful grounds of the old Arab palace. We had a quick lunch at a cafe that I frequent, then freshened up before our big dinner. Our Monday dinner, which Rosa joined us for, was at La Oliva, a small traditional Spanish store that converts into a restaurant at night for tastings of Spanish food. The 17 course meal included olives, almonds, tomato medlies, different types of chicken, plenty of ham, potatoes and traditional Spanish sweets for easter and Christmas, all paired with the appropriate wine. We enjoyed the night with the very vibrant and engaging owner of the store, as well at the two other groups that were joining us for the meal. It was definitely the best meal of the trip.
The next morning, we left early for Barcelona. When we arrived, we toured down the main street, Las Ramblas, towards the port. We had our best weather in Barcelona, finally seeing the Spanish sun that took a temporary vacation for the first portion of our trip. We enjoyed the view of the sea and wandering around the beautiful sea-side city, ending our night with a meal at a restaurant which served food from Basque country, the region of Spain with the best food. Wednesday was a full day, visiting Parc Guell, the Cathedral, la Iglesia de Santa Maria and the Picasso Museum. We had an interesting lunch at definitely one of the sketchiest lunch places, served by a man in a t-shirt that said Born to Lose, and with a menu that offered "Rabbit to the Oven with all that I smelled" and "Duck to the Wine." We finished the night by splitting up boys and girls. Conor and Dad went on a segway tour of Barcelona at night while Mom and I shopped and went out for Chinese. Our last day together, we woke up and went over to Sagrada Familia, where we were able to visit one of the most unique and beautiful churches that I have seen in all my travels. After, we then headed out to Montserrat. We almost regretted our decision when we had to take an hour long train ride, standing and sweating because the train was packed, but upon arrival, we knew it was worth it. The old monestary provided the most beautiful view and some great hiking as we explored the mountain and enjoyed the sun. It was a great way to end an awesome trip.
The fam left early on Friday morning, and although I missed the traditional Reedy brunch and Williams dinner on Easter, I was able to have the greatest Semana Santa, full of laughs, hugs, pictures and family. Having my two families meet and get along so well was probably the best part of the whole thing. Even with the language barrier, we spent some great days together. Having my parents and Conor here reminded me of how blessed I am, to be here, to have such a great family. It was just what I needed during a time of the year that is usually full of family for me. It was a great trip and I only wish they could have stayed longer. Getting to see Spain with the fam was definitely better than anything I could have asked for.
Miss you guys and love you. Can't wait to see you again soon :)