Oliver in Spain: Morella and Madrid

Two weekends ago I went to Morella on the last school organized excursion. UVA in Valencia had organized three free excursions for all of the students and I took full advantage of them. The first was to Peñiscola (a town on the beach about two hours north of Valencia), the second was to Xátiva (a small town about two hours south of Valencia), and Morella is a tiny mountainous town, two hours northwest of Valencia. Each of these three excursions presented an awesome opportunity to see Spanish towns that you would never visit otherwise. Whenever anyone visits Spain they only see Madrid and Barcelona but these small towns scattered across Spain offer a more authentic trip. The people who live in these towns do not have much exposure to tourists, so being almost conversationally fluent in Spanish (as I am) is a huge benefit. Each of these towns has history dating back to the 8th century and so we followed a tour guide around for a couple hours to understand the cultural history of each place. I think Peñiscola was my favorite but Morella was a close second.

Since Morella is so high up, the weather is awfully cold (and by awfully cold I mean about 50 degrees Fahrenheit…Valencia has made me weak to cold weather), but to be honest the cold breeze was a welcome change to the regular 70 degree, sunny weather of Valencia in November. Parts of this small town of less than 3,000 inhabitants date back to 1000 BC but the majority of it dates back to Moorish history of the 8th century (like the majority of Spain thanks to the Islamic conquest). The town had a quaint feel and after touring the fort on the top of the hill we sat down at a local café for some food and drinks.

A view from the fort on the top of the mountain

A view from the fort on the top of the mountain

I finally knocked Madrid off my list this past weekend after being on there since hearing about my acceptance into the Valencia program. Contrary to popular opinion amongst my friends, I actually preferred Madrid. I don’t know how to explain why, but it just felt more organized and put together. I think Barcelona felt too spread apart for me with no real purpose if that makes any sense. Then again, I was only in both of these cities for two days each. We blitzed Madrid by seeing the King’s palace, the cathedral, and retiro park (central park of Madrid). However, the best experience was the free tickets on the 7th row of an Atlético Madrid game. They won 3-1!

55,000 screaming fans

55,000 screaming fans

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I’m definitely sad to realize that this past weekend to Madrid wrapped up my Spanish trips, as next week will be London and the following, Italy. The end of this semester is now less than a month away and it is starting to fly by. My experience so far has been life changing. I always knew I could be this independent but to be thrown into a foreign speaking country three months ago and to see how I’ve come out of it on the other side has been a very rewarding experience. I’m growing as a person day by day and it feels amazing. That being said, there is no doubt that this weekend will be hard because I will be away from my family this Thanksgiving for the first time. A shout out to them: I miss you guys so much and I’ll see you in a month! These last four weeks are going to be a ridiculous whirlwind of good times.

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