Over the last puente, I was lucky enough to be invited to a Casa Rural with my host family. A Casa Rural is a common type of accommodation in rural Spain, a rustic but well-maintained house in a small village; and well sometimes you can rent individual rooms or beds my family rented an entire house with a group of friends my host dad has had since college.
It was a great weekend with lovely people in a beautiful place, and I nearly missed all of it.
I'm really not good at talking to new people. In fact, I'm ‘I ordered delivery and told them to leave it outside’ levels of bad with new people.
I'm also borderline obsessed with travel shows. And there's one scenario that appears in all of them: the spontaneous dinner/coffee/weekend with locals. While I know that in reality, these shows have people who make those ‘spontaneous’ encounters happen it's still something I've always dreamed about. But you can't meet the locals if you refuse to talk to people.
Agreeing to live with a host family was already a big deal for me, I’m still adjusting, but overall it’s been amazing. So, in the spirit of using this year to push myself out of my comfort zone, when they asked me if I wanted to go on vacation with them I said yes before giving myself time to overthink.
I’ve become comfortable with a lot in my travels, from squat toilets to chicken buses. But, spending a weekend with people I’d never met, many who have known each other since college, was incredibly uncomfortable. It was also awesome.
The trip started with a long and somewhat cramped drive, the last part of which was up a dirt road I sincerely doubted the cars ability to navigate. But we made it.
The house itself was amazing, the type of old that’s built like a maze. It made me feel like I should be on a guided tour, not sleeping there. It was a side of Spain I knew existed but had never managed to set foot in.
The stereotypical-ness was almost laughable. Our first dinner was tortilla de patatas and jamon and cured sausages. My host mom gave me a step-by-step explanation of how to assemble a proper pa amb tomáquet (for those curious it goes bread, tomato, salt, olive oil).
Our first full day there started with a casual trip to the supermarket. The supermarket happened to be in Rubielos de Mora, which was founded around the 12thcentury. It looked like it fell out of a storybook. The streets were also filled with people in traditional dress as festivities for El Pilar were in full swing. We got a massive amount of food and wandered the town. I discovered some of the decorative fountains in Spain pour clean drinking water, and then we headed back to the house. Our first lunch was paella prepared by my host dad and friends. I’ve wondered if the giant pans were actually used or if they were a cool decoration in eccentric kitchenware stores. It turns out they're perfectly functional provided you want to feed an army.
Our afternoon was slow; you can only do so much after eating your bodyweight in paella. And, because it was a Spanish vacation we spent hours after lunch at the table, enjoying a sobremesa.
Saturday started with a futile attempt to balance out the eating we'd done, and the eating planned for the rest of the trip. This took the form of a hike. We walked through the tiny town of Olba and followed a trail through the woods, over a small ridge, and to a lovely spot on the river. I need to learn to bring water when I hike but overall it was great.
The morning’s healthy aspirations were immediately counteracted by lunch: an assortment of literally 8 different meats cooked on an old brick stove with an open wood fire.
In all it was an amazing weekend, I ate well, drank well, saw a brand new part of Spain, and learned more about what life is really like here then I did in months of study abroad. It wasn’t the crazy whirlwind tour I tend to use long weekends for. It was a family vacation, and because I managed to say yes I was lucky enough to be part of the family.