One part of the trip that was amazing was the food! Not only was the food delicious, it was an incredible cultural experience at every meal. One of the few differences was the times they usually eat. Breakfast is usually between 9 and 11am, Lunch is between 2 and 5pm, and Dinner usually starts at 9pm. Us girls usually eat at those times when we’re in America anyway, it was just interesting to see that our irregular eating schedule was a norm in Madrid.
We stayed at the Intercontinental Madrid where breakfast was served fresh everyday. After this meal we all were in pure bliss! Being at a hotel, the set-up was a buffet style and all you can eat. There were about five tables filled with food. One had different types of jamon, which was Anna’s favorite. Another with every type of carb you could want like doughnuts, white bread, wheat bread, churros, rye bread, croissants, muffins, pastries, and bagels; also Anna’s favorite. Next to the bread was a table with butter and strawberry jam, raspberry jam, blueberry jam, grape jam, and pineapple jam, all fresh. Another cart had scrambled eggs, bacon, what looked and tasted like baked beans, poached eggs, and delicious hash browns; Jenni’s absolute favorite. There was also a beverage table that had your typical milk, juice and yogurt, but this juice was freshly squeezed orange, mango, grapefruit, pineapple and peach juice. They also had cava-champagne, for morning mimosa, which we veered away from considering we had to dance all day at the Adidas 5 event. Last but not least was the fruit table. This had freshly cut mangos, strawberry, kiwi, watermelon, pineapple, and papaya, just to name a few. Needless to say, this meal started our day right.
The most interesting meal we had was tapas at the Plaza Mayor. A “tapa” is a small plate of food with a drink. We ate croquetas, which we thought was fried mashed potatoes. After looking it up and finding out that it’s a deep fried ball of leftovers, it reminded me how interesting the taste was. We also had ensalada – salad, very thick calamari – squid, the extremely popular jamon – spanish cured ham, pan – bread, and patatas con queso – potatoes with cheese. The majority of the food had a different flavor and texture than we were used to. Another interesting meal we had was at the Adidas 5 event. The first day we had wraps. One wrap tasted like a turkey salad and the other was chicken, walnuts, peanut butter and lettuce. Throughout the trip, lunch was always surprising.
The best meals were dinner. The first night we were there, the NBA staff, Nuria, Alex, Srea, Matt, Gizela, Clement, Fatih, Laura, and Rocio treated us out to eat at the Casa Juan Restaurante. We started off with tapas which were jamon, pan, verduras – vegetables, ensalada, and chorizo – spicy sausage. The most popular entrée we ordered was the sirloin which came out in slices with a griddle to cook it on your own. The beverages were red aged wine and sodas. For desert, we had Natillas – similar to cold custard, Aroz con leche – rice and milk pudding, and chocolate cake. Dinner was an amazing cultural experience because they were all teaching us the proper pronunciation of food, how to ask for it politely, and when it’s necessary to excuse yourself form the table. For example to get someone’s attention you would say, “desculpe” instead of perdon. For the restroom you would say servicio instead of bano because it’s like saying restroom instead of toilet. We learned if you need to excuse yourself to the “servicio” you would need to do so before dessert is served.
It seemed like they kept bringing food and drinks out. Our favorite was the sorbete de cava – special blended mixture of Sorbet and Cava. You would call it Champagne in France and “Cava” in Spain or anywhere in the Catalonia region. They also brought out Paharan, which is an alcoholic digestive drink given to diners “on the house.” Our last dinner, and we had to do it, was McDonald’s. It was actually amazing! Some things they had on the menu that we don’t were seasoned potato wedges, chicken wings, and different types of sandwiches like the CBO, which was cheddar, bacon, and onion rings.
Every single meal was surprising in one way or another. I feel like it was one of the best parts of the trip because as a group we bonded, laughed more than ever, and most of all we really go to experience a part of the beautiful culture of Spain!