By Victoria G. ’17
Photos by Carlie A. ’17
Perhaps Mrs. Turner said it best. Talking to Señora Heim, she confessed to laughing every time one of the 23 students on the Span Civ trip came running up to Señora with a look of awe, describing a lesson learned in class that the student had just actually experienced in Spain. “Did you think she was lying to you?” she teased. But it’s hard not to be overcome with wonder and amazement when the topics of the lectures, books, debates, tests and essays from class come to life right before your eyes.
It did not take long for the students to embrace Spanish culture. Even before we had left the Madrid airport, many of us had already ordered in Spanish and gobbled down the fabled (and delicious) jamón Ibérico. A short flight took us to begin our adventure in Barcelona, and our excitement and enthusiasm did not wane. Our first day in Barcelona was spent exploring the marketplace, a cathedral, shops, and of course a tapas restaurant.
The following day was devoted to the works of the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Although Gaudí designed many of his structures more than 100 years ago, his creativity allowed him to imagine designs so ahead of his time that his buildings are considered modern even today. We took in several Gaudí structures, climbing to the roof of the curvy bonelike apartment building known as Casa Milá, meandering through the beautifully tiled walls of the Parque Güell, and standing with jaws agape in front of the radiant stained glass windows in the Sagrada Familia.
On our final day in Barcelona, we hiked the peaks of Montserrat and listened to the boys choir singing in the monastery at the base of the mountain. Later, we shopped and walked along the Mediterranean, and a few members of our group decided to plunge into the sea — fully clothed.
We left Barcelona via a high speed train for Córdoba, where we explored the Mezquita, an ancient mosque built by the Moors that kind of resembles a candy cane. Next we hopped on a bus and continued to Sevilla, where our night walk through the city ended up in the same place as a procession for Holy Week. The following morning was filled with exploring the plaza and the Alcázar before driving to a bull farm to meet a matador, see the bulls, and gain a deeper understanding of the Spanish tradition of bullfighting.
That night, we cruised off the Spanish coast aboard a boat that offered a choice venue for a dance party (during which an unfortunate but thankfully not serious knee injury was incurred while doing the worm).
From Sevilla, we headed to Granada and explored the Alhambra and Generalife. The former is so beautiful and impressive that after expelling the Moors from Spain, Ferdinand and Isabel chose to reside there. It was easy to see why. The intricately tiled, colorful, and symmetrical architecture was stunning.
After visiting the Alhambra, we toured the adjacent Generalife gardens, which exhibited the same dedication to beauty and symmetry. Later that night, we were joined by another LCDS student, Samantha Cockroft, before travelling to the historic Sacromonte caves to observe a passionate flamenco performance.
Saying goodbye to Granada, we drove to Toledo, stopping to take in the famous windmills that Don Quijote mistook for giants and attempted to battle in Cervantes’ classic. Although we had already read the book in class, standing in the place where the story takes place added a deeper dimension of understanding and appreciation for the tale.
Leaving La Mancha behind, we made our way to our last stops. In Madrid, we experienced the shops, food, people, and visited two famous art museums, the Reina Sofia and the Prado.
Inside the Reina Sofia hung Picasso’s colossal monument to the suffering and chaos of war, the painting “Guernica.” The piece is so powerful that it would move anyone who beheld it; however, our prior studies of the painting in relation to the Spanish Civil War made it even more meaningful.
Inside the Prado, each student was able to locate and describe the painting by Goya that they had researched and presented to the class.
We spent our final day travelling to Segovia to visit its famous aqueduct, as well as the controversial monument known as the Valley of the Fallen.
After the Spanish Civil War, military dictator Francisco Franco ordered the construction of the monument to honor all those who died in the war. However, prisoners from the losing Republican side labored to build the monument, and Franco himself is buried behind the massive altar. This led to a lively debate among the students over whether the monument should exist.
At the end of the trip, the students were left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our teachers and the beautiful country of Spain. ¡Gracias!
LCDS Global Programs include a robust, curricular, experiential learning travel program and a diverse international student community. For more information on our travel opportunities or learning about the rewards of hosting an international student, please contact Heather Woodbridge, Director of Global Programs.