For the longest time I had been umming and ahhing what to do during the Christmas break. I had 2 weeks off but all of my friends that I had made here had made plans and I was thinking of doing some solo travel. It wasn’t until about a month before Christmas that my father messages me that he got tickets for the three of them (mum, dad and brother) to come over on Christmas day and spend two weeks in Europe. Problem solved.
They arrived early Christmas morning, looking completely jet-lagged from their 36 hour journey to the other side of the world.
I tried to keep them as awake as I could throughout the day and it wasn’t until about 8pm that they all crashed and were in bed. The next day I began to feel sick and sat this one out whilst they explored Madrid.
Their idea coming to Spain was to travel throughout Spain especially the towns of importance where my great-grandparents were born and grew up in. Our first stop was Barcelona. By this point I was feeling worse with a fever but my dad was on a mission to get to Barcelona as soon as possible as one of his university friends who lives in Brazil was going to be there a couple of hours before flying back home. Our airbnb in Barcelona was a tiny yacht, big enough for only two people but there were 4 adults. We only lasted here 1 night out of the 3 intended nights. Although we ended up changing airbnb for Barcelona the morning view was beautiful in the marina.
Our first full day in Barcelona began with us visiting La Sagrada Familia. This time I was able to get tickets in advance to enter inside. It was absolutely beautiful inside, nothing like another other religious structure I have ever visited. You can definitely see Gaudi’s style which truly makes La Sagrada Familia unique and well worth the visit. Most of the interior photos attached are from the Apse which was mostly neo-gothic style which are capped by pinnacles. The Nativity Facade is also attached which displays the Nativity scene and also the Passion Facade which displays Christ’s final days from the last supper to his crucifixion. In the Passion Facade there is also a cryptogram which always adds up to 33, which is the age of when Christ died. The aim is to have the church completed by 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death, however it looks like this won’t be completed until the 2040’s.
As we started the day with Gaudi we thought to end it with Gaudi too by visiting Park Guell and were able to stay to see a beautiful sunset. Park Guell is where Gaudi turned to landscape gardening. This park originated in 1900 for Count Guell who then abandoned the project in 1914 but it didn’t become a public park until 1922.
The next day we spent walking around and discovering Barcelona at a more relaxed pace strolling through Las Ramblas, visiting Barcelona Cathedral, walking through the Gothic quarter, drinking buckets of sangria as a family and visiting the mercat de la llibertat.
The next place on our tour around Spain with the fambam was to Burgos where my father’s grandfather was born and raised up until he moved to Argentina. We got there New Years Eve but sadly it wasn’t a crazy one as the whole family had gotten sick by this point and I also had conjunctivitis, but we did participate in eating 12 grapes at midnight. This is a tradition done by Spaniards, once the clock hits midnight you have 12 seconds to eat 12 grapes, each grape symbolising a month. I made sure to get the canned grapes that come seedless because I heard these were the easiest to down once the clock strikes midnight. It is quite intense and I did choke a little on the grapes which made me laugh which in turn delayed me in my grape eating process but nevertheless it was a fun tradition. On New Years Day we went to the Burgos Cathedral as my father said my great grandfather used to play on the steps of the Cathedral and it was really sweet to visit as we are learning more about our ancestors.
On our way to our next stop to Santiago de Compostela, Galicia we stopped at a tiny town where my great-grandmother from my fathers side was born in Santa Maria de la Isla in Castilla y Leon. There were literally no shops and I have never seen such a small town before but it was a very sweet little town. And to think my great-grandmother came from something so small to a big city like Buenos Aires would have been such a scary and overwhelming but exciting experience.
We then reached Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. There we attended mass in the Cathedral where the apostle James has been laid to rest. At the end of the mass the big incense swung from one side of the Cathedral to the other. Such a great experience and such a sacred sight.
In Galicia, we were able to visit another place of familiar importance, the town Orense where my great-grandfather from my mother’s side was born and raised before immigrating to Argentina. Orense is known for it’s natural hot springs and it would have been great to take a dip if I was brave enough withstand the cold before entering the hot-spring.
We decided last minute to head over to Oporto, Portugal for a couple of nights. Oporto is famous for its Port wine and Francesinha (sandwich from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, fresh sausage, steak dried sausage and covered in melted cheese with a hot thick tomato/beer sauce). Although it sounds sickening, it was delicious but not something you could eat everyday without having a heart attack. Porto is also known for its beautifully tiled buildings. We did a cheesy bus tour around the city and visited Livaria Lello which is a bookstore which the staircase inside this bookstore is featured in the Harry Potter films. To top off Porto our airbnb had the most amazing view.
As we were returning to Madrid, we made a brief stop in Salamanca and driving through the A6 it began to snow. At first this was exciting, we are Australians and this rarely happens. It isn’t until we can barely see outside, we have no chains on the tires and are driving at 10km/hr we start to realise that this isn’t as exciting as we initially thought. We were about 85km from Madrid in Villacastin when we decide we should get off the highway and find an alternative route back. The lady at the toll booth was extremely unhelpful and it wasn’t until my father spotted a truck driver, who told us that the best thing for us to do is to park the car and spend to night there. We park the car in front of a cafe but of course it was closed because it was the 6th of January the day of the Tres Reyes (The three wise men). Another truck driver tells us that there is a hostel about a 5 minute walk and that we should see if there were any rooms available. My father goes out as he actually brought snow clothes to Spain. We see him return with a bag of food which in-turn meant no accommodation for us. However, we weren’t going to starve! We tried to get all the clothes out of our bags and layer up. Mum and dad huddled together and my brother and I tried to huddle. This really was the definition of family bonding. I don’t think any of us really slept that night, we were all cold and uncomfortable. We couldn’t turn on the heating very often as we didn’t want to waste the car’s battery but luckily the next day the cafe opened and we were able to eat and drink a hot beverage. As we got out of the car there were about 10 other cars surrounding ours in the same situation as us. The police arrived and along with some shovels and the car was eventually freed. The amount of snow on top of our car was incredible, I don’t think I have ever seen that much snow in my life. We finally got moving and made it back to Madrid safely. This was definitely an experience I will never forget.