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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

¡Saludos de Madrid! – Spain Language: Madrid, Barcelona & the Costa del Sol

¡Hola queridos padres y amigos!  ¡Saludos de Madrid!

Our trip is having a great time in Spain!  Though we have only been here a few days, everyone seems to be making friends, learning about the culture, and improving their Spanish. 

Our wonderful hotel is in a great location, near a main street and the Palacio Real (Royal Palace).  The first day the trip members were able to explore the neighborhood, and many enjoyed sitting at cafés and people-watching.  Everyone recognized the uniqueness of Spain’s culture.  Jill said she appreciates the atmosphere, commenting, “I like that everything seems to move a little slower.”  Elana and Rachel also noted how proud the Spaniards are about their culture.

For our first dinner, we tried classic tapas (appetizers) and entrees at a Spanish restaurant, including

tortilla española (potato omelet),

patatas bravas (fried potatoes),

queso manchego (local cheese), and

croquetas (chicken croquettes, which the trip members thought were mozarella sticks). 

Everyone made an effort to try the food, and several declared it “deliciosa.”  A few trip members have been even more adventurous with the food.  For example, Mike has tried cuddlefish and learned to eat crab from a local. By the end of the first day the group had bonded, thanks in part to the fun ice breaker games we played to get to know each other.  Rachel commented, “It’s been nice to be able to talk to new people.”  Vikki echoed that sentiment, saying, “Me gusta la oportunidad de conocer a muchas personas interesantes y divertidos.”  (“I like the opportunity to get to know many interesting and fun people.”)  Clearly the friendships here will be one of lasting memories, or as Allison D. and Shani said in unison, “¡Mi cosa favorita es mis amigas!”  (“My favorite thing here is my friends!”)

Saturday the trip members explored the area around Plaza del Sol, the center of Madrid.  The restaurants and shops were good places for them to practice their Spanish.  Sammi W. said that, “People are really understanding that we are trying to learn the language.”  Another highlight from the Plaza del Sol was a flash mob, which has inspired us to plan our own flash mobs in our staff groups to perform sometime during our trip. 

That afternoon we went to the Palacio Real, the official residence of the royal family.  (Though they don’t actually live there; it’s just for ceremonial use.)  The opulent palace was made of gold, velvet, and crystal, and one special room was made entirely out of porcelain.  Jenna thought it was “muy bonita,” (“very pretty”) and Steven said the experience “fue increíble.” (“It was incredible.”)

Saturday night we went to an outdoor promenade, where the trip members ate dinner with their staff groups at the restaurant of their choosing.  Later we got ice cream and crepes.  This was one of Shani and Emily’s favorite activities because it gave them a chance to observe how Spaniards hang out.  A band was playing and Dani E., Elana, Dani S. and Jenna danced on stage to “Mrs. Robinson.”

Sunday morning Josh, Perri, Jake H., Jessica, Helen, Sara K., Nicole, and Meredith went running through Madrid with Trip Leaders Marcie and Evan.  Then we celebrated Lisa’s birthday by singing “feliz cumpleaños” (“happy birthday”) and presented her with a Spanish hat, a bracelet, a fan, and a poster that we all signed.  She said it was “el mejor cumpleaños.”  (“The best birthday.”) Later that day we visited the medieval city of Toledo, which Lacey described as “really beautiful.”  The trip members enjoyed exploring the winding streets and admiring the traditional crafts of sword making and jewelry making.  Vikki said, “It was how I imagined Spain before I came here.  If I ever moved to Spain, it’s the kind of place where I would want to live.” 

One thing that sets Toledo apart from other cities is that Jews, Christians, and Moors lived there together peacefully for centuries.  Accordingly, we visited a historic synagogue and the cathedral.  Many of the students enjoyed the 14th-century Sinagoga del Tránsito (and Museo Sefardí), which is one of only three synagogues left in Spain that predates the Inquisition.  Steven said, “Disfruté la sinagoga.”  (“I enjoyed the synagogue.”)  Murielle elaborated, saying, “I liked that the synagogue was so old.  The architecture was so detailed.  It’s amazing that something so complex was made so long ago.”  Dani S. also commented that, “The temple was very interesting because I saw my own heritage.” 

The cathedral was also a very popular visit.  Sarah G. mentioned that, as a Catholic, she appreciated it from a religious perspective, but also admired the artistry.  Alex felt similarly about the craftsmanship, saying, “I was amazed that it took 250 years to build.  People had to be so persistent over the years to accomplish that.”  Sara B. said, “La catedral es muy rica.  Los detalles en oro son muy impresionantes.”  (“The cathedral is very wealthy/beautiful.  The gold details are really impressive.”)  Kath remarked that, “La catedral fue mi parte favorito porque me gusta las ventanas coloradas.”  (“The cathedral was my favorite part because I liked the stained glass.”)

There were several other highlights in Toledo.  Samie W., Jake R., and Jessica were interested in the artwork of El Greco and made a special trip to see his most famous painting, the Burial of the Count of Orgaz.  The trip members also did a silly scavenger hunt, which required them to do silly things like take a picture with a statue of Don Quixote, interview locals in Spanish, and sing the Spanish national anthem with a Spaniard.  (Yes, it’s all on video!)  Allison D., Rachel, Kath, Becca B., and Brian were the winners of the scavenger hunt.  We tried to have our dinner conversation completely in Spanish, and then later each dinner group did a skit in the plaza – in Spanish, of course.  Finally, on the bus ride back, Trip Leaders Lee and Jaime taught everyone the lyrics to our morning song, “Ave María,” by Spanish singer Divid Bisbál.  Sarah K. summed up the whole experience, saying, “¡Me encanta Toledo!”

As you can see, the trip members are having a great time, and Joe has remarked that the trip exceeds his expectations.  Just as importantly, they are embracing the Spanish language and culture.  Danielle A. has said, “Mi cosa favorita es aprendiendo más español y hablando español con las personas de España.”  (“My favorite part is learning more Spanish and speaking Spanish with the people of Spain.”)  Sammy T. has also mentioned that she likes “seeing the Spanish heritage.”

We will bring you more updates as we continue our stay in Madrid this week. 

Hasta Luego,

The Westcoast Blogger

Got yourself interested? Experience a 21-day or 28-day trip to Madrid, Barcelona and Costa del Sol and improve your language skills with our spanish programs for high school students.