2016 Spain Adventure Highlights
After some tearful goodbyes at Logan and a long layover at JFK airport, we boarded our overnight Iberia Airlines flight to Madrid The kids were comfortable on the flight and enjoyed having access to so many current movies! We all did our best to get some rest on the plane — but morning came quickly. After collecting ourbags and meeting up with our wonderful courier, Victoria, we boarded our coach bus for the short drive into the center of the city.
Our hotel is wonderful! After taking a few minutes to rest and get cleaned up, we took to the streets for a brief walking tour of the city. The students had the chance to see Puerta del Sol (the social center of the city — and the site of kilómetro cero, from which all distances in Spain are measured), Plaza Mayor and el Mercado San Miguel. In the Mercado, the kids sampled a variety of Spanish delicacies, including the famous jamón ibérico!
After a stroll through the grounds of el Palacio Real (the original home of the royal family), we made our way back to the hotel for some much needed R&R. We are just now returning from a delicious dinner that included a (generous!) portion of paella…mmmmmm…tan buena.
We’re turning in early this evening as everyone is quite tired and we have a full day tomorrow — Toledo (the ancient capital of Spain) and back to Madrid for the Prado Museum and a tapas dinner!
What a fantastic 2nd day in España! After a quick breakfast at our hotel, we boarded our private coach bus for the hour drive to the ancient capital of Spain — Toledo. What an impressive city! We had the chance to stop at a sword making factory (the city is famous for its handmade swords) nd see a sword maker in action…what a cool job. After the demonstration, a few students may or may not have purchased some of these handmade swords… :/
We then began our tour of the city, including stops at the synagogue and cathedral, both of which were fascinating. The cathedral is massive and beautiful and took many centuries to complete! After some lunch and shopping we returned to the bus to make the trip back to Madrid. We then visited the Madrid bullring (Las Ventas) and El Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, where the Real Madrid soccer team plays! We then visited the Prado Museum — where we saw some amazing works by Greco, Velazques and others. The students have been so well-behaved and the museum was no exception. They were attentive and interested and our guide commented on their stellar behavior and great questions!
After some downtime in the hotel, some of us visited the official Real Madrid store, where official jerseys do not come cheap! We then ate a tapa style dinner and were bombarded with an endless parade of delicacies, including jamón, tortilla española, calamari, chorizo, croquestas and much more… It was a real feast.
This morning we boarded our bus to make the hour-long drive to Segovia. Situated northwest of Madrid, Segovia lies near the Sierra Norte, a mountainous stretch of the country. The views of snow-capped mountains along the way are gorgeous! Segovia is known for its alcázar (fortress/castle), which is one of the most striking in all of Spain. After a brief tour of the alcázar, which includes some beautiful, Arab-inspired tile work, we made our way through Segovia’s winding streets towards the cathedral — what an impressive, Gothic structure!! (google it…)
We ended our time in Segovia with a visit to the Roman aqueduct, which remains very much intact today and towers over the city. The students had the chance to climb the stairs to the top for some amazing pics! After making the return trip to Madrid, we all purchased lunch goodies and took them to Retiro Park for a picnic…what a lovely way to spend some down time. The boys even assembled a quick, pick-up game of soccer… :)
We are now packing our rooms in preparation for our departure tomorrow on the AVE (high speed) train to Sevilla via Córdoba… But, tonight — our final dinner in Madrid, followed by churros y chocolate and a flamenco show. We are all looking forward to the evening and the adventures that await us tomorrow!
It’s hard to believe we have already spent nearly four days in Spain… What an adventure it has been.
This morning we left our Madrid hotel and boarded the famous, high-speed AVE train to begin our journey into the south of Spain. Traveling on the AVE is a fantastic experience! The train moves at almost 200 mph…but the ride is extremely smooth! In less than two hours we arrived at our first stop — Córdoba. If you can believe it, Córdoba was once the largest city in Europe — with over 500,000 inhabitants. It is most well-known for its magnificent mesquita (mosque) that has also served as a cathedral. The structure is very large and boasts an eclectic mix of architecture. The city is known for being a place in which many different religious groups (Jews, Christians, Muslims) coexisted peacefully. After a lovely stroll through the Jewish quarter and a tour of the mosque/cathedral, we settled in for a very traditional Spanish meal, including a delicious paella, tortilla española and salmorejo — a thick, gazpacho-like soup that is native to the area. ¡Qué rico todo!
After a leisurely stroll (and some ice cream…), we boarded the AVE once again to make the 40 min journey to Sevilla. Tomorrow we will tour the city, including stops at the alcázar, Plaza de España and a river cruise! We are resting now before dinner and a walk… Everyone is happy and healthy, and the group has bonded in a very sweet way.
Today we experienced the beauty of Sevilla… what a truly gorgeous city. The lovely scent of the ‘azahar’ flower (orange blossom) pervades the entire city in a wonderful way. The kids have commented on it many times — ‘what is that amazing smell??’ It really does add to the feel of the city.
We began our tour by seeing many of the ‘pabellones’ (pavilions) that were constructed for the Ibero-American Expo that took place in Sevilla in 1929. Each country represented at the expo built a structure — and many are now used as consulate buildings. After a stroll through Maria Luisa park, which included several minutes of bird-feeding and som orange harvesting (and eating), we visited Plaza de España, also built for the 1929 expo. It is magnificent! There are images made of ceramic tile for each of the 50 provinces of Spain — each one depicting an important historical event from that province.
Our tour ended with a visit to the city’s cathedral, which is the third largest in the world! The students had the opportunity to climb the bell tower for a magnificent, 360° view of the city and surrounding area. Then it was off to a delicious lunch along the Guadalquivir River (and some ice creem…sensing a theme here?). Afterwards, we boarded a river boat for our afternoon cruise. It was wonderful seeing the city from a different perspective and learning a bit about the many bridges that straddle the river.
Tonight — our final Sevilla dinner, then we prepare to make the journey to Granada tomorrow to visit the magical Alhambra palace before making our way to Torremolinos on the coast.
Today was another great day… After an early breakfast, we departed Sevilla in our coach bus for the three hour journey east to Granada. If you have not visited the Alhambra Palace in Granada, you should make a point to do so. It is truly a magical place — and was, I think, an unforgettable experience for the kids. Built in the 13th century by the Moors, the palace served as the residence and fortress for the sultans who ruled this part of Spain for many centuries. Much of it has been preserved and is unbelievably beautiful. There is an abundance of colorfully tiled walls, fountains, orange trees and magnificent architecture.
After touring the palace and surrounding areas, our guide led us through the Generalife — which served as a hunting lodge/country retreat for the sultans and their wives. From the Generalife, we had a fantastic view of the Alhambra and Granada below. What a truly wonderful couple of hours!
Following a few gift shop purchases we departed Granada and made the journey south to Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol. The kids were so excited to reach the coast and get to the beach! We settled into our (very nice!!) hotel and walked across to the beach for some time to relax. What a fun group this is! Some jumped directly into the Mediterranean, some played soccer, and some buried Brady Churchville in roughly 20 pounds of sand (he happily agreed). It was so nice to have some down time to enjoy the ocean.
We are now resting before dinner…tomorrow the group will have more free time to frolic on the beach and do some last minute shopping. It’s hard to believe that we have only one day left together!
Final full day in España!! What a week it has been! Today we had more free time to make some last minute purchases and enjoy the ocean. This is the first morning that we were not obliged to wake at a particular time — and the kids were very pleased!
Although the morning was a bit rainy, the group was in great spirits and we made our way to Calle San Miguel — which is a pedestrian only stretch of Torremolinos. The road contains many shops and the kids bought some gifts/souvenirs. After returning to the hotel, a group of us ventured out to sample some of the town’s famous seafood. WOW — what a treat. Sardines grilled over charcoal, fried mini-squid, fresh fish, etc!! it was a perfect meal for the setting…
The sun finally returned (as we were hoping!) and we ventured back to the beach for a bit more swimming and fun in the sand… We are now resting before dinner and our, eh-hem, 3:00 a.m. wake-up call… :/
Maria and I have commented so many times on how great this group is…always on time, great attitudes, and eager to make the most of every experience. It has truly been a pleasure being here with them.
Enjoy your Saturday!