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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Godparents’ visit and the end of a wonderful semester!

Last Wednesday, I had my first visitors from the U.S.! My wonderful Godparents, Vera and Mark from Colorado, came to Caceres, Spain. I was supposed to call their hotel around 4 or 4:30 to make sure they made it and then come meet them. However, when I called, they hadn’t arrived yet. I decided to head over there a little while later and just sit and read a book while I waited for them to arrive. Right as I reached the courtyard in front of the hotel, I saw them just getting out of their rental car! Coincidence? We embraced each other with hugs (multiple times) and after we all calmed down, we checked into their hotel and within minutes, they were ready to see my city!

Lola adding some more "nata" to Vera's strawberries!
We met up with my roommate and another friend at La Guinda (our favorite pastry shop in Caceres), and took in some caffeine and sugar. We then walked around the old city of Caceres, stopped for some white wine, did some much needed catching up, and then went to the Plaza Mayor for sangria. (I promise we’re not alcoholics!) We walked around a little more, and then it was time for another amazing meal made by my host mom. We walked in the piso, and the table was set with many different types of typical Spanish food. Lola had made tortilla patata, my favorite fried cod fish, Spanish salad, and we had slices of ham and cheese from Extremadura, and last but not least… bread! For dessert we had strawberries with cream and honey and then of course chupitos! Claire and I both had fun translating the conversations throughout dinner and we had the Madrid vs Barcelona soccer game on in the background. It was an incredible night to say the least.

On Thursday after class, I met up with my Godparents and we ate a restaurant that Lola recommended in the old city of Caceres. We had some yummy lasagna and a waitress who tried practicing her English with us. After lunch, we were true Spaniards and took a siesta! When we woke up, we explored the old city a little more and headed to the Plaza Mayor for tapas; I introduced my Godparents to tinto de verano and we had dinner there as well. Thursday night was also the celebration of San Jorge in Caceres. This is a huge celebration in Caceres that happens once a year. They put on a huge production of the story of San Jorge and they burn a dragon. I think every single person in Caceres was in the Plaza! I thought it was neat that my Godparents got to be a part of a traditional Caceres celebration. After they started the dragon on fire, I walked them back to their hotel where we watched the fireworks go off in the Plaza Mayor from their balcony. It was a great way to end the night.

On Friday, I met my Godparents in the morning and took them to my favorite churros place where we had traditional churros con chocolate and some good café con leche for breakfast. Breakfast of champions, right? We then began our roadtrip to Nazare, Portugal! 

Does this even count as a toilet?
Our trip to Portugal took about 5 hours and we had some interesting bathroom encounters. We stopped at a gas station where we used the bathrooms that had no toilet paper. (This is pretty typical in Spain.) However, at our second rest stop…  we walked up to the bathrooms where they had toilet paper OUTSIDE of the bathrooms that you are supposed to take with you before you enter the bathroom. (Also not very uncommon here.) We were so excited that they had toilet paper since they didn’t at the last place (and frankly, I don’t like to drip-dry) but when we walked into those bathrooms… well, just look at the photo and you’ll understand how we felt. We obviously had to squat, right? Well, apparently Vera didn’t squat and that resulted in some unwanted liquids on her pants. 

We finally got to Nazare and the Atlantic Ocean! When we got to Nazare, we didn’t even check into our hotel… we headed straight for a RSR (Rick Steve’s Recommended) restaurant. Or as my Godparents call him… “Ricky boy”? Vera and I ordered a very common fish from Portugal – Bacalao, which is a type of cod, and Mark ordered fish stew. All of our dishes were incredible. So incredible that I can say that it was the best seafood that I’ve ever eaten without a doubt. 

Mark is excited for some fish stew!

We checked into our hotel, and Vera and I headed straight for the beach. We laid on the sand for about 5 minutes when it started to rain on us. We then went to a wonderful little pastry shop and ended the night playing a couple games of cribbage!

The funicular!
On Saturday, we took the funicular (cool word, huh?) up to the small town of Sitio. The view of Nazare and the ocean from the cliffs of Sitio was incredible. We visited the church in Sitio, walked along the cliff, and decided on a place for lunch. We found a place that we wanted to eat, but it was closed. The lady must have seen us peeking in so she came over to tell us that she would open the restaurant in a half hour. As we were about to leave, she came back to find us and told us she would open it early for us. She seated us (the only ones in the restaurant) and took our order. It was a small little place and she was the only one cooking. It was neat because the kitchen was visible from the dining area and we watched her bring up the fresh fish and other seafood and make our meals from scratch. It was like having our own little home-cooked meal! I had the fish stew, Mark had the fish platter, and Vera had some giant shrimp. Everything was obviously delicious.

The view from Sitio!

Sippin' on some white sangria!
After lunch, we took the funicular back down to Nazare, walked along the beach for a while, and then we ate. Yes, we ate for the entire rest of the day. We had gelato (where they had my favorite – hazelnut!), we went back to that pastry shop, and then we went for tapas/dinner! We had shrimp, calamari, French fries, and some white Sangria. We returned to our hotel where we played Gin Rummy. It was long before Vera and I got upset that Mark won almost every single time so I taught them a new game… 31. Vera owned that game – so she was pretty content by the end of the night.

Before we left Nazare on Sunday, we stopped by the food market where we picked up some bread, cheese, and fruit for the way home. We also stopped in a small town outside of Nazare, called Obidos. This was a cute little town known for chocolate and its long castle. We spent some time walking along the castle, shopping in the cute little stores, and trying some chocolate. Then we headed back for Spain. They dropped me off in Caceres and we said our goodbyes. I can’t even express how wonderful it was to see them. It was a great way to spend my last weekend of the semester.

Me with my Godparents :)

I'll miss my Claire Bear!
Speaking of the end of the semester… today was the last day of the program. About 6 students from our group left for Madrid today since they have to fly out tomorrow morning. This includes my roommate, Claire. Just a few hours ago, Lola, Maria, and I all took Claire to the bus station and said our goodbyes. It was sad to see her go, not because I’m going to miss her… we’ll see each other in just a couple of months. It’s mostly because things won’t be the same. I know we’ll remain close friends, but we won’t get to be with Lola and in Caceres together anymore. 

Tonight, Lola is making my favorite fish for dinner and we’re going to eat with her mom who is visiting here in Caceres. I’m going to finish packing (hopefully), meet up with some friends tonight for ice cream, and then I leave tomorrow afternoon for Madrid. I’ll stay one night in Madrid and then Friday morning, I’m picking up my Dad at the airport!

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