Wow! It had been an equally crazy afternoon. Let’s start in Madrid, where we had a two hour break between trains to grab some lunch.

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We went into the city center, since it was on the Metro line we needed and it should be easy to find some food there. The main square was taking on a number of construction projects, but it still felt very open and modern.

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This was the main fountain we used to keep track of where our metro station was. There were actually 2 fountains in the square so that was a smidge harder than it sounds! We grabbed some sandwiches and ice cream for lunch, since it was substantially warmer there than it was in France, then headed to the other train station to catch the third and final train of the day.

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The landscape changed dramatically over the course of the day. France was, as is usual there, full of greens, browns, blues, and grays. Crossing into Spain, there was a nearly immediate marked difference in the terrain; it became very rocky, full of red and browns, and reminded us of the American southwest. Past Madrid, though, the land softened into these kinds of yellows, browns, and greens. We had clearly crossed into a more agricultural area, and if it weren’t for the mountains still visible on many horizons, we could have been in western Kansas and not have noticed anything was incredibly different!

We finally pulled into Salamanca a hair over 12 hours after we left Toulouse…but what a city this has already proven to be! One of the first things we saw upon reaching the old city center where we’re staying was one of the towers of this church:

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Perfectly highlighted by the sun, it stopped us in our tracks. Pictures truly cannot do this city justice; even after a very long and frustrating day of trains and other such messes, just being here amongst this place makes it impossible to continue stressing out.

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The view from our hotel room alone drew us back into the city. I have been extremely impressed with the people here as well! My Spanish is…questionable at best, but everyone has gone out of their way to be helpful to us. 4 different complete strangers helped us in the span of about 2 minutes without us even asking; first, I dropped my bag, spilling a few things as the bus approached to take us to the  old city center, and an old man helped me pick it back up in time. Then we stopped on a street corner to check our map and had 2 different people stop to help us find our hotel before we even had the map completely unfolded. Then when we finally found the hotel, we were surprised to find the doors locked and no one answering the bell; a couple who lives across the street from the hotel were out on their balcony and called the owner for us so he would come let us in! Even the waiter at dinner was easy going, funny, and personable.

Though it certainly helped the dinner was fantastic! We started with gazpacho, a cold soup that is considered to be a Spanish classic, and some black rice with squid:

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Then we tried some local specialties, a pork chuchofrito, and…some kind of chicken breast? Honestly I’m not 100% sure what I ordered (again, there is a reason I don’t teach Spanish!), but it was chicken and zucchini with a balsamic type of drizzle.

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Finally, we finished it off with…some kind of awesome chocolate “cake” with a flaky pastry top and bottom and some dark honey:

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La comida fue muy rico! The food was extremely delicious! We started to walk around a bit after dinner, but it started getting chilly and we’re pretty tired from the day. Still, we’re super excited to explore tomorrow! I’m already wishing we’d scheduled more time here in Salamanca!

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