I started off my spring break travels with a weekend in my host family’s pueblo (and one of my favorite places I’ve visited in Spain): Santa Cruz del Valle. The tiny town is nestled in a valley in the Sierra de Guadarrama about 2 hours north-west of Madrid. We went on a few hikes, and my host family also showed me around the nearby, larger town Arenas de San Pedro. It’s still incredible to think that there are buildings in these towns that have existed since the Middle Ages, and rather than tear them down to build more modern buildings, they just add on and repair the existing structures. Despite many of the younger people leaving the towns to find work in Madrid, they remain a time-capsule of old Spain, where everyone is a cousin or aunt or uncle, you buy wine from the neighbor, and church services are played throughout the town via a speaker system. Overall, it was an incredibly beautiful and relaxing weekend, and great way to start off a long trip!