And The Winner Is...
As the school year ends and the journey back home looms over my head, I’ve had some time to reminisce and ponder these past ten months. The people I’ve met, the food I’ve tasted, and the sights I’ve seen. While reminiscing, I can't help but hear the tedious question that I’ll be asked once I get home; “So which place was your favorite?”. Honestly, this is too general of a question to just choose one place. So instead, I have made a list of winners for various categories.
Best Food: Spain! I say that this must be an obvious one and slightly biased because it is the country where I have spent the most time and have eaten the most. My favorite foods to enjoy while here have been the ever classic tortilla de patata, un bocadillo de jamón, and cafe con leche. I eat these three dishes at least four times a week. It helps that the prices in Spain are reasonably cheap. A full lunch meal, including drink, main dish, and dessert on average is less than 13 euros.
Milan, Italy will come in as a close second! Photos will do all the talking.
Best Architecture: Paris, France. Paris is truly an architectural wonder. The buildings are beautiful, classic, and unapologetically French. While strolling through the streets on a scorching summer day, my mind scrambled to find architectural comparisons but inevitably it came up short.
Most public transportation friendly: The Netherlands. I spent a good length of time in distinct parts of this country. I can say, without a doubt, its public transportation system is amazingly easy to understand. I have visited Amsterdam, Arnhem, Haarlem, Zwolle, and The Hague. With ease, I caught the train to and from all these cities. Within these cities, they have extremely easy to navigate trams and buses as well. What I really enjoyed about their public transportation is that in Amsterdam, you can buy transportation bundle passes for up to four days. This is a pass that will allow you to take any transportation within Amsterdam free of hassle. Their buses also allow you to tap in and out with credit cards, which made it quite easy and friendly.
Most Friendly Population: Dublin, Ireland. Irish people, I have been told, are the Spanish of the UK. In other words, they’re very friendly and open, and my experience agrees with this statement. Dublin is not only very international and diverse, but in general, the people always had a smile on their faces and were truly kind.
Biggest culture shock: Morocco; In Morocco, I visited Tangier and Chefcoucaen. I traveled with a large group of tourists under Citylife Madrid, and we had a personal tour guide. Our tour guide was deeply knowledgeable and fun. As an Islamic and patriarchal country, I was more conscientious of what I wore and how I interacted with males. When we were given time to explore the cities on our own, I found that communicating in English didn't lend me the results that I had hoped. The likelihood of finding someone over the age of thirty who spoke English was low. Instead, Arabic and French are mostly spoken. Two languages in which I know only a handful of phrases. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful country, and I would happily return, while keeping a few cultural aspects in mind.
Best Landscape: Morocco wins again! While in Morocco, I was able to ride a camel on the beach, climb steep hills in a city painted in a variety of blue, and watch the sunset from a steep hilltop.
Most English friendly speaking: Copenhagen, Denmark. Scandinavia in general has a good reputation for having a strong hold on the English language. I particularly recall not having to pull out google translate for anything and was able to strike up small talk with Danish people quite easily in English.
Best Female Solo Travel Place: Dublin, Amsterdam, Palma de Mallorca. All these places I felt safe in. But if I were to choose a place where a female could travel by themselves without the need to speak the local language, I would recommend Dublin.
The list could go on for hours. Honestly, every place that I visited won a place in my heart for various reasons, and who knows, perhaps one of these places may be my next home soon.
As I sit on the train on my way to my first day of school, I share some reflections on my first week as an Aux in Madrid.