Zaragoza is beautiful. It holds so much incredible history that I couldn't even begin to absorb in my short time there. We visited huge, beautiful cathedrals, walked past the ruins of a wall built by the Romans, took pictures of an old Roman amphitheater, toured a castle first built by the Arabs while Spain was under Muslim rule for 800 years and then taken over by the Christians/Catholics, visited an amusement park, went swimming, and learned to appreciate an afternoon siesta (nap). We walked across a rock bridge built by the Romans (but obviously reconstructed since then) on a daily basis. We saw plazas full of people everywhere we went and took part in the culture of taking time to sit, grab a drink, and enjoy each other's company. We tried a lot of new foods, and I ate so many different kinds of seafood that I can't even tell you what it all was. We ate mid/late-afternoon lunches and very late night dinners. We slept in late every day and didn't go to bed until midnight or after every night.
I loved Spain, so much more than I expected. I struggled to use their vosotros verb form, but I communicated and understood just fine while there. I soaked in the tranquility of life that was so evident all around me (obviously even a little more tranquil than normal due to it being summer).
But all the touring around Spain was just an extra blessing. Watching Juan David and his sister reconnect and spend so much time together meant more to me than anything. Laura could not take her hands off of her brother, wanting to hold his hand all the time. And it didn't take long for them to pick up right where they left off seven years ago, picking on each other, squabbling, and teasing each other just like normal siblings do, as if they'd never lived a day apart. We also got to video call with their older brother, Julian, and finally catch all three of them in a picture together. I tried to send him as many pics as I could throughout the week. I wished so badly he could have been there, but I know his time will come that he can also reunite with his sister. If anything, our visit at least opened the door to that possibility.
Laura's mom embraced both of us and treated us like part of the family from the moment we arrived. This trip meant just as much to her as it did to us. Juan and I could fill her in on so many parts of her daughter's life that she missed and didn't have any way to fill without us. Because of our visit, she now knows so much more about her precious daughter. And now we have a relationship that will likely continue for the rest of our lives, two moms on two different continents, raising siblings who love each other with everything in them.
Playing soccer together in one of the many, many parks.
Some of the many typical foods we tried.
Taken from one of the towers in the Cathedral.
These pillars stood on both sides of the bridge with lions at the top. The lion is the symbol of Zaragoza. (The word Zaragoza evolved from the name Caesar Augustus.)
The remains of a wall built by the Romans.
Juan, being Juan.
Tables and chairs everywhere.
An old Roman amphitheater
Siblings. Fighting one minute.
Goofing off the next minute.
Spain's version of a tortilla (which is atually just an egg and potato omelet).
Migas (Spain's version of stuffing)
Coffee. (Comes in very tiny cups!)
A restaurant that specializes in typical food from Aragon (the "state" or region of Spain where Zaragoza is located)
The original horchata (tastes quite a bit different than in Mexico)
Open plazas everywhere. Since nearly everyone lives in an apartment (you don't even see houses), the open plazas and parks are essential to life there.
A day for Julian. Finally all three siblings on one screen. They were all smiles through that phonecall. All of them.
The one remaining castle. Aljaferia.
The throne room. Very intricately detailed.
The Kings of Aragon. Juan found his name--four different times!
Where the bullfights take place.
More new foods.
And little coffees.
A newly developed area with very modern architecture, built in 2008, around the theme of water.
From an aerial view, this building looks like a water drop.
Just a few little restaurants where we ate, learning to "tapear" (get a special bite-sized specialty from each restaurant before moving on to the next).
The day Laura took us out. Visiting Parque Grande and enjoying each other's company.
Crepes and coffee. Mmmmmmm.
A tour bus ride all over Zaragoza.
More seafood. Not even sure what it was, but they fried it like onion rings. Very tasty.
I even tried octopus on our last day. Tasty and chewy.
Our last night. About five or six hours before we left for the bus station.
The wind didn't cooperate, but there are four flags. First, the flag of Zaragoza. Second the flag of Spain. Third, the flag of Aragon. Fourth, the flag of Europe. You saw all four of these flags hanging together often.
I hope you enjoyed this little tour of many sights in Zaragoza. Sorry to put it all in one post, but I couldn't figure out how to divide it all. We embarked on our journey without a single plan in place. People asked us what we were going to do while there, and since we didn't really even know Laura's mom yet, we didn't plan anything and figured we'd just see how things went. Once we got there, we found that she had planned out every single day for us and very intentionally gave us a taste of not only the history and culture of Zaragoza, but also a glimpse into the beautiful life God had given to Laura over the last six years and a half years since Juan David had seen her last.
The day that Laura herself took us out, after riding the little three and four wheelers around the park, we sat down and had something to drink together. I mentioned to her about what a wonderful life she's had in Spain, saying she must be very happy there. She just confidently smiled and said, "Yes, I really am." As the mom who prepared for her and lost her, it did my heart a world of good to hear that straight from her.
No more wondering about her or what kind of life she lived. We saw it. We tasted it. And now we are a part of it again.