We’ve all experienced head-smacking moments during our travels. We realize that we forgot to bring enough cab money, or that the person who described December weather in Mexico as “cold” has clearly never been to the Midwest. Despite the plethora of travel guides available, there are some things that only an experienced traveler can tell you.

My friend David, a junior double-majoring in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering and Spanish, has been studying abroad in Toledo, Spain, since January. I asked him over email about some of the surprising things he’s discovered about life in Spain over the past few months.

1.  What was the first thing you bought in Spain?

Food, I think, as in groceries.

2. What was the last thing you bought?

A beer.

3. What do you wish you had remembered to pack?

My cord to connect my camera to my computer (luckily my brother brought it when he came to visit).

4. Was something insanely expensive there?

Food in restaurants. I love going to restaurants in the states to try new foods and was expecting to do so here. But unless you want to destroy your wallet, you don’t really go to restaurants.

5. What is surprisingly cheap?

Bread is surprisingly cheap. They eat baguette type bread with everything (you can get it anywhere) and it’s really good. It [costs] as low as 40 euro cents for a loaf of it, which is very filling. That’s less than a dollar.

6. Would you try to drive there?

I would not like to drive to Spain—getting over the Atlantic wouldn’t work too well! Now to answer the real question: I wouldn’t drive here, not because it would be too scary or they’re nuts, but its really not necessary. The public transportation is way better here than in the U.S.

7. What does the water taste like?

The water tastes like good ol’ H20.

8. What perception did you have of Spain before you arrived?

I expected Spaniards to be very standoffish since I’m American, but that is not the case from what I’ve seen. People seem to like Americans, if anything.

9. How do people in Spain perceive Americans?

I think the reason my friends and I are pretty well liked among Spaniards is that we do our best to speak Spanish. Often times when at a restaurant/bar we’ll come in and the bartender is standoffish at first (or maybe that’s just my perception). But we’ll speak Spanish with him/her and they brighten up. I think it’s just like any other place. There are some people who are just mean, some who are nice. Speaking Spanish with them definitely helps though.

10. What is the strangest thing you have eaten?

That’s a matter of opinion. I’ve had trip (cow stomach), liver, rabbit, and pig’s ear and any type of shellfish you can think of.

11. Most helpful tip from a travel guide?

One good tip I got from my buddy Rick Steves (seriously Rick Steves’ guidebook is fantastic) is that often times you’ll find signs out in front of restaurants for beautiful looking paella [a rice, meat, and vegetable dish]. Apparently, it’s all actually the same and from a box that they warm up in the microwave.

12. Least helpful tip?

Least helpful tip was the specifics about various upscale restaurants. A lot of the info in my guidebook shows [only] really expensive restaurants.

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