Monday, July 16, 2012

On the Road Again!

This past week had us running here, there, and everywhere!  On Tuesday evening, the group traveled to Almagro to attend a play.  The theater in Almagro is famous throughout Spain for its theater.  We enjoyed a night of theater under the stars at the Corral de Comedias, which is an outdoor theater similar to England’s Globe Theater that was built in 1628 and has been maintained to this day.  Almagro attracts some of the best theater companies in Spain, and we were fortunate enough to see Calderón de la Barca’s famous work La Vida es Sueño.  Seeing this play live could be very easily compared to seeing a Shakespearan play in English – and luckily the students had been well prepared in their classes so that they could truly appreciate the play.  Below you see a shot of the group all dressed up for their evening at the theater and a shot of the Corral de Comedias.

The students were grateful for a late start for classes on Wednesday morning after arriving back from the theater at around 1:30am!  We began the day at 11:00am and the students (and instructors!) were very happy to have more time to sleep and then proceed with business as usual.  Later that afternoon, about half of the group opted to go the movies.  All of a sudden, Friday was upon us, which marked our final whole group excursion to Madrid.  We gathered a couple hours earlier than normal to take the AVE, the high speed train that can reach up to 250km/hr.  We arrived in Madrid’s Atocha station after a one hour train ride ready to explore Spain’s capital city and all it has to offer.  Our first stop would be the famous art museum, El Prado.  Though we could not take pictures inside, all enjoyed seeing the famous paintings of Goya, Velázquez, El Greco, Sorolla, and Ribera up close.

Our next stop would be El Congreso de los Diputados, which can be compared to the United States’ Congress building.  The students were led on a tour of the beautiful building and were allowed to enter the Chamber where the Spanish government does its work.  In the photo below, the entrance shown with lion statues on either side may only be used by the King of Spain.

 After visiting the Congreso, the students were given some free time to explore Madrid.  Many of the students (and this instructor!) indulged in the first Starbucks we have seen since our departure from the States!  We reconvened to experience the subway system and travel to a different side of the city, where we took some outside shots near Spain’s royal palace and explored Spain’s famous Plaza Mayor. 

After an extremely long day of sightseeing in Madrid, we were driven home on the AVE by the host father of two of our students.  The next day, 21 of the 33 students traveled to the nearby town of Manzanares to see a Corrida de Toros to cap off a long but exciting week. 

It hasn’t completely hit home for the students or the staff that here begins some of the lasts of the program.  Today (Monday the 16th) begins or final week of classes, with our final exams and evaluations coming up on Friday.  Our farewell/thank you program will take place in just one week on the following Monday and then we will bid farewell to this wonderful place.  It just doesn’t seem possible that we are nearing the end when at times it truly feels as though we just arrived.  What an unbelievable group of students…. What an outstanding little family we have created…. This instructor hopes these moments will be etched in the students’ brains and that they will endure for many years to come.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Ciudad Real group has had lots of reasons to celebrate lately!  On July 1st, we joined in the festivities as the city gathered in the Plaza Mayor to cheer on La Roja in the championship game of the EuroCup against Italy.  We all came dressed in our red and yellow, waving (or wearing in some cases!) our flags, and with our faces painted.  Below you can see the big screen that was mounted outside City Hall and some shots of the group during the game! 

The excitement grew as Spain scored goal after goal and ended up with an impressive 4-0 victory over Italy.  As before, we celebrated the win in the fountain – and some photos of the group ended up in the newspaper the next day!   

Later in the week, we celebrated the Fourth of July with our host families.  The students helped their families prepare a dish and we held a big pitch-in at the school on Friday evening.  All enjoyed the delicious food, time with our families, and our attempt to sing the National Anthem the only time that the students have been allowed to use English since our arrival! 

This week, the group is looking forward to a trip to the theater in Almagro, similar to England's Globe Theater and our trip to Madrid!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Our trip to Granada was nothing short of breathtaking!  Upon arrival at the hotel, the group enjoyed a buffet dinner and watched some soccer to see which team would match up with Spain in the EuroCup final. 

The next morning, Luisa, who is originally from Granada, led the group on a short walk down the “Gran Vía,” which culminated in a spectacular view of the Alhambra from below.  

Later in the day, we also visited the Capilla Real, the cathedral where Queen Isabella, King Fernando and their family are buried. 

The group spent the majority of the day touring the Alhambra and its palaces and gardens, including the Generalife.  I just don’t have the words to convey the beauty of this place…

Thursday, July 5, 2012


After an exciting night of soccer, the group faced an early morning departure for our overnight excursion to Córdoba and Granada.  Luckily, we were able to take advantage of the four hour bus ride to catch up on lost sleep from the night before.  Once arriving, the sheer beauty of Córdoba was sure to wake everyone up!  Here are some shots of the city and our group before crossing the Puente Romano, which dates back to the first century!

Our first stop in Córdoba was the Alcazar, or the palace of the Christian Kings.  We climbed to the top of the towers and explored the beautiful gardens.  I could say more but the pictures just speak for themselves.

After touring the Alcazar, we had some free time to explore the city before reconvening at the Mezquita/Cathedral.  Again, to attempt to describe what we saw would be futile, so I´ll let the photos do the talking...

Follwing a day full of travel and sightseeing in Córdoba, the group posed outside the Mezquita for a photo.  All were anxious to arrive at our final destination – an overnight stay followed by another full day in Granada!