Salamanca (-or- Always Trust Carlo)

Never trust Carlo.

I learned several things this weekend: One being that the people in Salamanca are really self-righteous. The second thing is that the best ham in the world comes from a small town right outside of Salamanca called Gijuelo.  The third thing is that the best looking girls come from the small towns, like said Gijuelo.  The last thing I learned is: Never trust Carlo.

Let me begin.

This was the second time I’ve been to Salamanca: the first time I went with my parents. It was a little sad going there without them, but I was in the best of company this time around. When my parents and I went last December we had a completely different experience than the one this weekend. Let’s just say that spending the afternoon there with mom and dad is a whole lot different than going with 6 or 7 of your closest friends.  It was Jose Luis (you know if he comes on a trip, it’s gonna get crazy!), Jeremy, who I’m getting closer and closer to each day and that makes me really happy because he’s a great guy (he’s also from France and speaks the best Spanish ever), Fabio, one of Carlo’s best buds from back home, who is now one of my closest friends here (he’s here on erasmus [the kid cracks me up, even though he’s so reserved and quiet. There’s something about him that’ll kill you with laughter, but in such a subtle way]), Angel, who is from California, who is also an auxiliary here in Spain like me, and I find him a ton of fun, and then of course Carlo, and Marta, who is one of the sweetest people you could ever meet (it’s no wonder Carlo started dating her), and myself.  I don’t think you could ask for better company. These kids left me laughing till my cheeks and stomach were aching all weekend long.

Our ridiculous and absolutely hysterical adventure began early Friday. Carlo assured us that we didn’t need to buy train tickets because he goes to Salamanca all the time to visit La Marta (his girl friend). So we trusted him.

But learned quick. Never trust Carlo.

First, we ended up taking the strangest route I’ve ever taken by metro to get to the correct train station. According to our faithful guide, Carlo, it is a much faster way of getting to Salamanca by starting at some random station, rather than going to the one closest to our place. But after three train transfers, and a good 30-minute excursion along the countryside of Madrid, we finally arrived. I’m still unconvinced this was the fastest way. But that doesn’t matter now.

All that does is that you should never trust Carlo.

Then, we asked the taquilla, or ticket box, if there were tickets left. Tren Completo.


Carlo says that it’s no big deal and that we’ll just ask the conductor if there are any seats left. He seems unfazed by this, but Angel and I were preparing ourselves for the worst, which would mean waiting there at the station another 2-hours before the next available train would come. And of course we didn’t want to wait, it was Friday afternoon and we were anxious, antsy, and excited to see the night life that Salamanca is so highly acclaimed for having.

Finally, the train arrived and instead of talking to the ticket collector, Carlo and Fabio board the train directly. Angel and I freeze.

You can’t just get on the bus. They’ll ticket you. Or kick you off the train. Or both. Or worse; deport you.

So Angel and I just stand there and say, “No, Carlo. Qué no!” Carlo then explains to us that he does this every week and the conductor will be able to sell us a ticket once we’re aboard. But my rationale is that if there are no seats, there won’t be any tickets, and then one of the aforementioned things would happen to us.

To make this ordeal short: we got on regardless. As there were no seats, we had to sit in the hallway and just wait until the ticket collector arrived.

Angel refuses to sit because he’s so nervous. I’m pretty nervous as well. The whole situation just doesn’t seem right. We keep asking Carlo over and over if he’s absolutely 100% positive he is able to buy the tickets aboard the train and that nothing bad is going to happen to us. Fabio on the other hand is just chilling there completely relaxed and enjoying the ride. He told us, “Just do what Carlo says. I’ve known him my whole life and we just trust in The Carlo.” I don’t know, I thought skeptically…

Then Fabio tells that he has bad luck when he travels.

Great. Just great, Fabio. Thanks for sharing that.

So Angel and I jump at almost every person that walks into the room because we think it’s the guy coming to deport us. But he never showed up.

So the first stop arrives and Angel and I are ready to jump off and buy tickets. But Carlo stops us, calls us idiots, tells us to calm down, and that if we got off, the ticket guy would see us and we would have to pay for the trip from Madrid to Salamanca (his idea was to say we boarded at the first stop, Ávila, so it would cost us less money). I guess he had a point…and there were seats now so we could sit. And that made Angel and I feel much better.

All we had to do now was wait for the guy to come by. So we wait. And wait. And wait.

Finally, we got to Salamanca and the guy never came by.

So remember when I said never trust Carlo? Well, now I take that all back. We got a free ride.  This weekend was starting off perfectly.

Carlo is a genius.

Then the rest of the weekend went spectacularly, and it’s all thanks to Marta for hosting us, and above all, putting up with us, because let’s face it, we’re all pretty pesado (obnoxious) when we get together (for instance, us yelling BASTAAAA every two minutes. Basta means “enough” and for some reason, it is just the most fun word to yell. Especially out of windows; Carlo really enjoyed doing that to the disturbance of Marta’s neighbors, I’m sure).

Jose Luis and Jeremy weren’t there Friday night, the just the 5 of us went out and we had a great time exploring a little bit of Salamanca’s night life, but we took it easy since we knew that once the rest of the crew showed up, it’d be intense. So we called it an early night by going home around 5.30 in the morning.

Angel and I were left alone there as well; Carlo and Marta went home because they’re all “in love and stuff,” and Fabio met some girl to keep him occupied for the night. So Angel and I meandered the city for a good hour in the rain in hopeless attempts to find Marta’s flat. At one point, I asked this group of girls for directions and they immediately began speaking to me in Portuguese saying that they weren’t Spanish. Then one girl said that I looked like Justin Beiber (Oh, did I forget to mention they were really rude?) Well, thank god for Angel, who says to her, “Well you look like Ronaldinho!” Her face dropped cold. All I’m saying is Ronaldinho makes Chunk from The Goonies look like Brad Pitt (this may be a slight exaggeration…)

To say the least, we finally found home.

The following day, we all woke up in the early afternoon and took a nice walk through the city and got lunch. Later, we went home and relaxed because we were so tired. Eventually, we got ready to go out and see Jose Luis and Jeremy who had now arrived (they had to stay in a hostel since there wasn’t any more room at Marta’s.)

Saturday night was spent having an enormous dinner at some restaurant with some of Marta’s friends and then going out. Again another early morning. We called it quits at like 7am. No big deal.

Sunday was easily my favorite day though.

On Sunday, Marta’s parents went above and beyond and took us to Gijuelo. Angel and I got to ride with her parents, which was the most interesting car ride of my life. They gave us an incredibly detailed tour of Salamanca and the countryside, the history of jamón in Spain, and a bunch of other details that only a local could know about. Eventually we arrived to our destination of Gijuelo and we went directly to the voting poll since it was election day in Spain.

Marta’s father parked the car, and me expecting to just stay there while he went to vote, to my surprise, he came back to my door, opened it up and stared at me. I decided to speak up since he kept staring at me, “Do you want me to get out?” And he says, “Of course! We’re going to go vote!”

So I climb out and we got to go into the polling room and everything. I thought that was pretty cool. Especially since Marta’s father gave us a politics lesson on how the government in Spain works. Also, they voted inside Marta’s old elementary school and it was neat to see where she grew up and everything.

Marta and the rest of the gang still hadn’t arrived yet, so once we finished voting we went and grabbed some wine and tapas. Marta’s father ordered for us because he knows the best wine and tapas. It was so nice just to get to relax, drink great wine, eat amazing food that you can’t find anywhere else in the world, and talk to Marta’s parents, who were honestly a complete riot! They were incredibly open and friendly with us, but they’re also absolutely hysterically funny. Marta’s mother works at a language school there and since the town is so small, a lot of her students walked by us on the streets and she made an effort to introduce Angel and I to all the girls.

Finally, everyone showed up and we had a wonderful lunch.

Afterwards, Marta’s father gave us a lengthy tour through the ham factory that he owns! His father started the business and now he runs it. We got to see everything except the killing process (thank goodness). We got to see all the hams hanging there, curing, how they’re made, and then at the end, we got free samples! It was so great of them to show us all that. There was even a part where Marta’s dad wouldn’t let me photograph because if it gets out, it could blow his secret recipe.

Marta was wonderful and so were her parents. They gave us each a bed and anything we needed. I honestly cannot thank them enough for giving me one of the most exciting and fun weekends I’ve had in Spain. This is not an exaggeration. I haven’t laughed harder or longer in my life. I owe them so much for giving me this unforgettable opportunity.

Write more later,


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6 thoughts on “Salamanca (-or- Always Trust Carlo)

  1. Eres Guay!!! You know yesterday I was walking along a street in Guijuelo and I met the best ex-wife for you, next time you visit us I¨ll introduce her and you can visit us whenever you want. It was a pleasure meeting you. Never Change!!!!


  2. Graham,

    What a great story! I enjoyed reading this post and like you, would have been freaked OUT on that train ride to Salamanca. When I came to Spain in May, I bought a RENFE 6 trip pass and travelled on it for a few weeks. I was shocked that it was only checked twice, so I ended up using it for almost ten trips. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

    Oh, I also liked the pictures. I think it’s endearing that everyone else has black, black, gray, or black on and you have this bright red flannel. Love it!



    1. Yes! Gotta love Renfe when they don’t follow through :) Hahaha I didn’t really notice that, but now that point that out, it’s pretty funny. When I bought that jacket, all my friends were like….American! Oh well! haha


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