“Now say, ‘Estoy aquí para comprar galletas’,” Rick Steves says into my ear as I wander through what can only be described as a friendly alleyway.
It’s my first solo trip, two days in Madrid, yet as a woman and an extrovert, I find myself torn between staying in public, well-lit areas and following a Rick Steves’ audio tour down this side street in search of a local adventure.
With a spur of the moment decision that my mother would not approve of, I press the buzzer. It took me a few tries walking up and down this street to find the aged wooden door standing so unobtrusively.
I’m told by my audio tour that this is a nunnery and if I press the buzzer and say these magical words, a door will open and there will be cookies that I can buy.
Forever lured by the promise of sugar, yet not at all a Spanish speaker, I press the button and talk, hoping that I’m not cursing at a nun.
The man in my ear does not whisper sweet nothings, oh no. Instead, he tells me that at the end of the corridor I will find a nun sitting behind a Lazy Susan with a curtain shielding me from viewing the nun.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a Lazy Susan, it’s a table with a center that turns so that you have easier access to the food. Heaven forbid you ask someone to pass the potatoes.
But I digress.
What Rick Steves failed to mention is that inside this unsuspecting nunnery, it’s not a straight shot to the cookies. You have to hunt for them.
Walking straight inside, as seems logical, I kept strolling to find myself face to face with a stone wall, and all of the signs in Spanish.
“They have underestimated the will of a 20-year-old American in search of sugar,” I said to myself.
Doubling back to the only other door beside the exit, I pushed my way into a courtyard and opened the next available door.
Half of a Lazy Susan and a hanging black cloth sat in front of me in this very underlit stone hall. To the left, a menu of cookies completely in Spanish.
The woman spoke and I could only assume that she was asking what sweets I would like to purchase.
In a classic college student style, I picked the cheapest ones, put a 20-euro bill on the table, and spun it around.
Around came four large boxes of cookies. Now don’t get me wrong, I could easily eat 80 cookies in a week, however, I still had a good hour of my walking tour left, and I wasn’t keen to lug 4 boxes of cookies around Madrid.
“Uno!” I cried, thanking years of card games for knowing how to aggressively yell “one”. The table spun back around, and one box reemerged along with my change.
“Gracias,” I said in my sharp American accent and high-tailed it out of there, back through the courtyard and out into the sun.
I put my headphones back in and pressed play, ready to refuel with my delicious discovery.
“Now, if you don’t want to go inside the nunnery to purchase cookies, you can actually get the same ones from a little store just up the street!” Rick Steves informed me.
I sighed but then smiled to myself, biting into a cookie, and said to no one in particular, “They do taste so much better with a story behind them.”
From 48 hours in San Sebastian to incredible vegan restaurants in Madrid, Spain is a fantastic place to explore! The best time to visit Spain varies by destination, so be sure to do your research ahead of time!
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