October 31, 2015
Alcalá De Henares is a city about 35 kilometers from Madrid that is luckily still within the city zone which means I didn’t need to buy a transit ticket since I have a monthly pass, woo! (FYI, the public transport system is great in Madrid: only $20 a month if you are under 26 and you can go within all the zones!)
The small city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the birth place of the famous Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote (whom we all know at this point by the amount of times I bring him up that Spain is deeply proud of) and Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII (whom we all should all know if we took Social Studies 8).
One sunny/cloudy Saturday morning (which also happened to be Halloween but that has no relevance), my friends and I decided to take the train to visit Alcalá. The party consisted of Tuuli from Finland, Stacie from Texas, Katie from Chicago, and myself. We arrived before eleven and then looked around in confusion wondering where we should go. We began to walk in the direction we thought the university was in, stopping at a shoe store along the way where Katie brought some very nice but very high heels (these do become relevant later on in the story of Halloween). Once the shoes were bought, we marched onward until we found the university and admired it from the outside because we are frugal travelers and didn’t want to pay the entrance fee to go inside. It was very nice from the outside and I’m sure the inside is also very nice.
With the help of a local lady, we found Plaza de Cervantes square (more evidence that he is the pride and joy of Spain) and passed an old Cathedral where we marveled at the roses that were still in bloom. (I actually don’t know what the typical life span of a rose is, but any sort of flower living past the summer months is impressive to me) Every October 31, the church also serves as the set for the re-enactment of Don Juan but sadly we were would be gone by the time it started. Also, I think we spent more time admiring the huge storks that have built their nests in the bell tower than admiring the actual church.
Alcalá would not be complete without a museum dedicated to Cervantes. (Free entry!) Located on Calle Mayor, it was a house museum meaning that you walked through the different rooms furnished as though it was the 17th century. That party was cool because it offered a glimpse of what life was like back then. For example, we were staring at this pot/bowl in every room wondering what it was until we figured out that it was most likely their version of a toilet.
After walking through the streets and taking in the atmosphere, we settled down for a glass of Sangria. It took us a long time to find a place that was both cheap and able to seat four people. (What a busy day!) Eventually we found a place, though sadly they did not serve free tapas. Instead, the waiter walked around from table to table holding plates of food and asking if anyone wanted it. The pricing was based on how big the toothpick inside the food was. Although we told him from the start that we weren’t interested in eating, he never failed to come around and tempt us. That concluded our day in Alcalá De Henares. I have to admit, it was so fun to travel with friends again!