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A Festival-Filled Long Weekend: Continued

My stomach was rumbling, my legs were cramped, and I felt sore from sitting in one position on the bus for the four hours it took to drive from Madrid to Zaragoza. But all that discomfort instantly dissolved as we turned the corner and I caught my first glimpse of the magnificent Basílica del Pilar, with its colorfully-tiled dome tops and looming bell towers. I gasped aloud, along with most of the people on the bus, and my heart starting pumping with excitement for the day ahead.

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We were herded off the bus, handed tourist maps, and set free to roam the city to our heart’s content. My friend and I immediately made it our mission to visit as many of the historic landmarks as we could. Lucky for us, they’re all pretty much located on one quadrant of the city, starting at the Basílica. As we walked, we passed something old and beautiful nearly every couple of minutes, and squealed in awe every time.

Then, for just five euros (student discount), we could tour the museums of Zaragoza’s ancient theatre, public baths, forum, and river port - remnants of the city’s Roman origins. At the theatre museum, I was utterly fascinated to learn that the ruins had been so buried underground that no one had realized they even existed until 1972. I stood there, surrounded by the crumbling benches, and closed my eyes, trying to imagine the once magnificent, three-story theatre. I could picture Romans filling the rows, laughing and reacting together to the performance before them. What a sight it must have been.

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Suddenly, the upbeat sounds of a marching band interrupted my nostalgic thoughts and I was brought back to the present, to modern-day Zaragoza. The music was wafting down from the streets above, signaling that a parade was passing by. My friend and I decided to join in the festivities and hurried out of the museum to fall in line with the crowds of people dancing and marching down the street. Many were dressed head to toe in a bright royal blue color, with scarfs that had the word “Zaragoza” printed in crisp, white print. Many also carried bottles of wine with glasses, taking advantage of the fact that during the festival it is legal to serve and consume alcoholic beverages on the streets.

We then made our way to the riverfront, where countless artisans had set up stalls to sell their homemade goods and food. We passed a giant shrine of flowers made to honor saint Pilar, and a stage where local artists played their sets throughout the day and night. Spontaneous traditional dancing filled the streets - the kind that makes you wish you knew the steps so you could jump in. And, of course, fireworks went off at night to celebrate the end of the festival.

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By the time my friend and I re-boarded our bus at 2:30 in the morning, we were dizzy from the whirlwind adventures of the day. As I dragged my extremely exhausted body back home from the bus stop at 6:30 in the morning, head pounding and feet aching, I couldn’t help but feel grateful. Grateful to be here, living in Spain, and having the opportunity to experience magical days like the Festival del Pilar, and hopefully many more come!

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