The first friend I made at Valdelavilla was Anthony, a New York native with an infectious laugh living in Madrid.

We actually met at the tapas reception the night before we left, but still. He was my first friend. Following the reception, he and I went out for a bit in Madrid, grabbing a drink and some non-tapas food.

The second friend I made was Silvia, a 24-year-old consultant living 50 KM north of Spain.

We actually met on the bus to Valdelavilla, but still.

Anthony and I were sitting next to each other on the bus. I really wanted nothing more than to just turn on my music, watch the Spanish countryside pass by and eventually close my eyes and sleep.

But, that wasn’t going to happen.

We needed to sit next to one of the Spanish-speaking people and converse with them in English.

I grudgingly surrendered the seat next to Anthony and surveyed the bus for a seat next to someone who did not speak English as their native language.

Most of the seats were taken, save one or two.

One empty seat was next to a girl with a head full of massive curls and a smile that spread across her entire face.  She looked friendly. And likely easy to talk to.

I walked up to her, sitting alone in the window seat (damn).

“This seat taken?” I asked her, having a “Forrest Gump” moment and vividly recalling the poor boy in his youth trying to sit next to someone on the bus only to be turned down.

“No, please,” she said. Warm smile lighting up her face and transferring immediately to mine.

“I’m D.”

“Silvia,” she said.

And that was it. Instant friends. 

We talked nearly the entire bus ride, minus our brief bus siesta following lunch in Medinaceli, a gorgeous little town situated on the top of a mountain providing spectacular views of the surrounding geography (mostly barren mountains spotted with wind turbines and greener valleys below).

After hours meandering down roads busses had no business meandering down, we arrived in our tiny village of Valdelavilla. And it took my breath away.

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