This past June, 48 students, teachers and parents explored the life and culture of a Spanish-speaking country. Students and parents raised funds over a two-year period for their 11-day trip throughout many cities in Spain.
The travelers started in the southwest city of Málaga and then journeyed across the entire country. They reached their final destination along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the city of Barcelona, which sits on the eastern edge of the country.
The travelers started out on a bus ride through the country-side, as they traveled by the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains to the city of Granada. There, travelers had their first glimpse into the Spanish lifestyle. Granada was also the first experience for many of living in a city.
For travelers the major highlight of Granada was visiting the Alhambra and the surrounding gardens. The Alhambra was a Muslim palace full of grand Arabic architecture and construction. It’s best known for its water and plumbing features that predate many of the surrounding areas and countries.
During the crusades, this palace was conquered by the Catholics. Many aspects of Christian architecture were then incorporated into the Alhambra. Some travelers attended a live gypsy flamenco show that was also visited by First Lady Michelle Obama. The show was portrayed in a cave in the hillside in Albayzin, the gypsy district of Granada.
From there travelers continued to an olive oil farm located en route to Seville. The travelers learned the ins and outs of a typical and traditional southern Spain livelihood. Southern Spain is littered with many olive oil farms due to the climate.
The travelers toured these facilities, learned the process of making olive oil, the difference between virgin olive oil, extra virgin and regular olive oil and then taste-tested samples of olive oil. For many travelers, this marked a first for drinking oil and tasting oil on ice cream.
The travelers’ next stop was Seville, which offered their first look at life in a big city in Spain. Students and parents visited many historic features of the city, including the cathedral and the bullring.
Travelers who were brave enough took the more than 400-step journey to the top of La Giralda for the panoramic view of the entire city. They also visited many buildings, courtyards and plazas from the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.
One of the plazas, the Plaza de España, was a student favorite since it was featured in one of the Star Wars films. Students took in some local nightlife by attending a traditional flamenco show and dancing the night away on a river cruise on the Guadalquivir River.
From Seville and en route to Madrid, travelers stopped briefly in Córdoba. They enjoyed free time in the rustic and rural city after touring the Mezquita, Córdoba Mosque. The Mezquita is unique in that it originated as a Christian Visigothic Church before splitting into part Christian cathedral and Islamic mosque after the year 784. It was finally reconquered by the Christians, and is now a working Catholic cathedral. However, much of its Arabic architecture and features were kept.
Travelers then visited the capitol city of Madrid, which many likened to New York City, so far as its size, layout and features. While in Madrid, the group visited the Royal Palace, the Prado museum, the Reina Sofia museum, El Retiro Park and the city center.
Many students were amazed to see the king and queen’s throne and the body of a saint entombed in a sarcophagus in the royal chapel. While in the king’s museum (Prado) and the queen’s museum (Reina Sofia), travelers caught an up-close view of many famous paintings from the likes of Picasso, Salvador Dali, Francisco de Goya, Diego Velazquez and Peter Paul Rubens. Probably the most famous painting that made every traveler’s list was Guernica by Pablo Picasso, which depicted the Spanish Civil War.
From there travelers boarded the AVE high-speed train to travel to their final destination of Barcelona. Their train traveled at a speed of more than 300 kilometers per hour, which equates to roughly 190 miles per hour. Barcelona is one of Spain’s most diverse cities in that it offers historical sites, modern structures and amenities and is nestled between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
While in Barcelona, travelers discovered Las Ramblas, a corridor of the city that offers many shops, local venders and markets. Travelers also visited Park Güell, the Sagrada Familia, the Barcelona Cathedral, and la playa (beach). Park Güell and the Sagrada Familia are world famous structures designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. The Sagrada Familia is a massive catholic cathedral, where construction started in 1882 and has yet to be finished.
The students and parents alike arrived back in the United States on June 29. Each person brought their own memories and favorite moments. Dana Swisher stated, “We had so much fun and got to see so much. It truly was the chance of a lifetime!”
Dana’s son, Dylan, seconded those comments, adding, “I had the best time, and I have a whole new confidence in my Spanish-speaking ability now.”
Other students on the trip offered these parting words.
“This was definitely a trip of a lifetime. I learned more about the Spanish culture in 10 days than I ever thought I would. Being immersed in the culture and language was incredible. I honestly fell in love with the country.”
– Megan Pease
“This trip was such an amazing experience. I learned way more than I ever could in a classroom. The culture is something that has to be experienced!”
– Natalie Lemmo
“This trip was something that I will remember forever. Being able to experience the culture and language was amazing. I learned so much more than I thought I would. I already wish I could go back!”
– Hannah Kirsch
As for future travel plans, Emily Zimdahl-McManus (“Profe”) and her husband, Kelly McManus, the Spanish trip leaders and organizers, stated, “We are definitely looking forward to our next trip abroad. We don’t know where we will be heading next.
“But we are glad that everyone had such a great time on this trip. We also would like to thank all of the students and parents for making this a wonderful experience and Señorita Lauren Crisafulli for all of her help throughout the trip.”