Postcard Home: A Spanish Dream Come True


MY BROTHER, Roemer, studied in Salamanca, Spain for five months this past year, and I longed to be in his beautiful FaceTime background and experience the life he so happily enjoyed.  Finally, this summer, he and I traveled to Spain, and I got to see its beauty in real-life. 

Just days after school got out in June, flying to our highly anticipated destination, we narrowly escaped what would be a full week of rain here in Manchester-by-the-Sea.  Perhaps our town was displaying sadness at our departure?  (Don’t worry … we’re back now.)

Arriving in beautiful Spain, there was neither a drop of rain nor sliver of sadness to be found.  (If sunshine and rainbows weren’t so cliché, perhaps I would use it to describe this trip).

The journey began with a night in Madrid.  We settled into our hotel and headed out.  At midnight restaurants were still bustling and we had dinner; Spain never sleeps.

Though we had been there for just a few hours, our interactions in Spanish with the airport staff, hotel receptionist, and restaurant waiter went well.  I knew this trip would be filled with happiness and great practice for all those Spanish skills I’d been learning at school. 

Salamanca, "The Golden City"

The next morning, we took a train west to Salamanca and I was introduced to the beautiful landscapes of Spain we enjoyed throughout the many train rides in our trip.  One notable memory was the perfectly planted olive trees.  Seemingly, every tree was planted with total precision and each branch had the perfect bouquet of leaves.

Salamanca is special, and I finally saw the city that was my brother’s home for five months, and it certainly did not disappoint. 

Every building, despite its purpose and interior, features the same, historic exterior that is cohesive, whether you’re at Zara shopping or at a cathedral.  One stroll through this phenomenon served as a window to the 18th Century.  It was a sight I will never forget.

Also, every building’s exterior was created with sandstone that changes colors depending on the sunlight illuminating them.  Especially at sunset, the soft light makes them glow.  No wonder Salamanca is called “The Golden City.”  

Some essential sites to visit are the Cathedral of Salamanca and Plaza Mayor, but also notable was the small antique bookstore hidden between the many shops and the ledge near the university that serves as a lookout point over the city. 

The cathedral is open to tourists both inside and outside.  Indoors, there is a tremendous amount of detail and imagery.  Visitors can scale up the clock tower and overlook the entire city peacefully, or nervously depending on one’s feelings towards heights.  It was magical. 

Salamanca’s popular university guarantees a vibrant student-life filled with mid-day drinks at cute cafés and hour-long singing and dancing at lively “discotecas” and bars.  Don’t worry, there are plenty of sights to see, people to meet, food to enjoy, and overall happy thoughts to be felt no matter your age.

The Fortress City of Toledo

After three days in Salamanca, it was off to Toledo.  As Roemer and I exited the train station, we were instantly greeted with a flash of heat.  Despite the feeling of being inside a preheated oven, we walked to the hotel.  The stunning views distracted us … until we arrived at the stairs. 

Toledo, you see, is like a castle, sitting high on a hill surrounded by a protective river.  To get to the city center, we needed to climb a daunting set of stairs.  Luckily, as one of the many perks of traveling with my brother, Roemer carried both of our suitcases.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t just sit there. I made sure to get some good pictures and videos of him!)

Toledo is uniquely designed to cope with the hot temperatures.  Its buildings are so close together that they create shade in the streets below and make the narrow streets surprisingly cool and comfortable.

As you move further south, there is a fusion of Moorish and Christian influence.  This was clear in Toledo, as we visited the Alcázar, the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, and many other beautiful locations. 

After two days, Roemer and I left Toledo, heading back to the station, this time down the steps and carrying our own luggage, and continued south to Granada. 

Granada, a much bigger city than the others we’d visited, and, like Toledo, it was hot, but that certainly didn’t stop us from exploring.  

Southern Spain: Granada & Seville

Arguably the biggest site on our to-do list was the Alhambra, a Moorish palace and fortress.  It’s hard to accurately describe the beauty of this ancient place.  Simply walking in the gardens acted as a portal to my dreams.  Roemer and I often found ourselves discussing what our lives would look like living in such a grand environment. 

Not only is the Alhambra dreamy to look at, but its rich history of royalty and defense make it beyond interesting.  We spent a whole day viewing its many towers, gardens, and palace buildings as well as enjoying a few Coke Zero breaks in-between. 

At the Alhambra, one specialty is the Arabic poems that are hidden within the detailed walls.  It’s like walking through a fairytale.

In the following days, we visited the Cathedral as well as the Mirador de San Nicolás, which serves as a breathtaking outlook point of the city and the Alhambra. 

If you decide to take a break from touring, Granada has an excellent collection of shops, and a little taste of home can be found at the Dunkin’ right next to the Burger King in the city center. Granada is lively with vibrant streetlights and music, and from nearly anywhere you had a view of the beautiful distant mountain ranges. With our Granada visit complete, we headed to Seville.

Our first stop was the Cathedral of Seville, which holds the grave of Christopher Columbus, a praised man in Seville.  It’s huge and had a sense of alluring gloom inside, contrasting its outer walls which are bright and happy.

Next up was the Plaza de España which holds the infamous little bridges with colorful tiles.  It is surrounded by acres of park space where one can enjoy a drink or treat in the shade of palm trees and other plants.

Every once in a while, one can see a parakeet fly by.

For two nights, we visited the Royal Alcazar.  Roemer and I again talked of our future palace lives.  There, we listened in awe to two concerts, most notably, the traditional flamenco music.

As we arrived at the concert entrance, we were surrounded by beautiful gardens and a family of peacocks—displaying the richness of the Royal Alcazar’s past inhabitants. 

We filled the rest of our time in Seville simply walking around.  Though it filled every store the eye could see, I unfortunately did not buy a flamenco dress, nor suit for my brother.  Next time. 

Leaving this magical place, we knew we would never really be leaving, because every sight and every memory will forever stay with us. 

Phileine de Widt is a rising senior at MERHS. She is co-editor-in-chief of The Independent. She is interning at The Cricket this summer. 

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