¡Estamos en un nuevo país!

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Well, I almost got detained by a security guard today.

Well, it was all in jest, but because we’re in Spain and he spoke Spanish, I UNDERSTOOD HIM! I’m so happy I get to put my Spanish-speaking abilities to use!

I woke up with a terrible crick in my neck — our night of sleep was atrocious with me invading Clare’s limited space and her invading mine — so I couldn’t wait to get off the overnight train. It was a night of broken sleep.

Once we got off the train, we hit an official a milestone: We’re in a country we’ve never been to before! That’s how it’ll be from here on out, but it’s still cool!

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When we arrived in Barcelona and got ready to hop on the train to Madrid, I couldn’t help but jump for joy because I actually speak the country’s language. Halle-freaking-lujah. Still, there are some words that are a bit foreign, so I didn’t understand that we had to get our passes stamped before we could go through security. I kept having to ask the security guy by the baggage check questions, but he kept being nice and pointing me in the right direction.

Our line in Spain to get tickets took about 10 minutes, and we were only at the window for about two. Efficiency, people. Efficiency.

Finally, we had all we needed to get to our train, and that’s when the security guy joked about how, while we had everything necessary, he was just going to keep us there with him. I mean, he was cute and all, but I had a train to catch. Priorities.

Clare and I grabbed empanadas for lunch, and the place where we got them was slicing the meat off the bone as we were in there watching. It looked a bit strange, but I’m all for trying new experiences. As an added bonus, the food was deliciosa.

The train to Madrid was just dandy (the Muppets was on the TV in Spanish), and the ride seemed to go pretty quickly. We traveled about 300 km/hour, which felt pretty fast, but I’m too lazy and too bad at math to try and convert that into mph. And Clare’s asleep right now, so I can’t make her do it for me.

Our cousin Emily met us at the train station, and it was about a 15-minute walk from there to her apartment. We dropped off our bags, bought a metro ticket, and headed into the center of the city. Emily has been living in Madrid for the past three-and-a-half years (she’s originally from Minnesota), and she’s very kindly letting us stay at her place, which she shares with her boyfriend, Dionisio, who is from Italy. Their kids are going to be amazing with languages. I’m jealous.

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Madrid is so cute! It was nice walking around with someone who knows the city — rather than just what Clare and I could gather from travel websites and street signs. We learned about the bear and the tree (the symbol of Madrid) and the 12 grapes people eat as the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s, saw some beautiful sites like the Plaza Royal, wandered through this amazing market and got to take a small step of the beaten path as we walked around some side streets.

We sat down to have something to drink around 6 p.m. (people here don’t eat until around 10 p.m.), and Emily ordered a tinto de verano, essentially wine mixed with some soda. I had no idea what would be good, so I ordered the same thing. I figure it’s safer to follow the lead of someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

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As we walked back to Emily’s apartment, Clare and I learned a little more about the city and little things like the fact that there aren’t a lot of Spanish flags because there isn’t a whole lot of national pride and the fact that people aren’t entirely sure how they feel about the new king. (Although the fact that the new queen was once a TV anchor gives me hope that I, too, could one day still wear a crown.)

After Dionisio came back from work and we all chatted a bit and caught up (we hadn’t seen them in about a year), Emily and Dionisio went to a restaurant across the street and brought back dinner so that we could watch the USA-Belgium soccer game. It was hard to concentrate on the game at times because the food was so good and demanded all my attention.

But here’s the big thing: Clare tried something new: octopus! She even liked it. It was part of the whole meal and was served with potatoes, and it was salty and delicious.Score one for Madrid. We also had tapas con un pincha de tortilla (“tortilla” here is more like an egg and potato dish and not something you make quesadillas with), salomitas mostazo and croquetas puchero. It was absolute heaven. I’m moving here tomorrow.

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While watching the soccer game, Clare and I obviously got more than a little into it, at one point scaring Emily and Dionisio’s bunny Jimi because of how we kept standing up and down and the slightly terrifying noises that kept escaping our mouth. (Sidenote: The bunny is adorable. He hops around the apartment, loves the room where Clare and I are sleeping as well and is just all-around precious.) Clare and I were trying to figure out how a bunny would work out with the three dogs and two cats we have at home. I’m pretty sure we could pull it off.

All I have to say about the game is: wow. All hail, Tim Howard.

I actually get to sleep in a bed tonight and not a bunk with a number of other people, so I’m readying myself for an amazing night of sleep!

Emily recommended a couple of day trips to other cities while we’re in Madrid, so we’re off to see Toledo tomorrow. I have no idea what to expect, but isn’t that sometimes the best?

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