From June 14-28 I was extremely fortunate and blessed to be able to travel to Spain for two weeks to experience the language, history, culture and people of this beautiful country.
I have been back for over a month now but haven’t blogged yet for a couple of reasons, one being my indecision over how to structure the posts. I have a lot of stories, pictures and adventures to share and wasn’t sure how to do so without creating one overwhelmingly long and annoying post. After going through a few different ideas I think I’ve figured it out, so here it goes.
My trip consisted of two parts: the travel week and the host family week. The first week, a group of 16 students from Mason High School (including myself), our two WONDERFUL chaperones Señora Perry and Señora Richardson, Live n Learn co-founders and trip planning geniuses Robin and Pablo, 18 students from Denver and their two chaperones Julie and Alberto traveled from New York City to Málaga to Sevilla to Granada to Madrid.
To get almost 40 Americans anywhere is impressive, but to get almost 40 of us to Europe and into hotels, restaurants and tours is incredible. I would like to thank Robin and Pablo for all of the hard work and time they put into making this trip an amazing learning experience for all involved. I will always be grateful for everything that you have done for me and for all of the American and Spanish students that are lucky enough to travel with your company. You were both there every step of the way making sure we were getting the most authentic experience possible. Muchas gracias!
Dia Una: Cincy to NYC to Málaga
After meeting at CVG we boarded our flight to JFK in New York. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Will Franzoni (aka the Spanish Joey Tribbiani) on this 90 minute flight, which was definitely an experience. Will (the tall gentleman in the red shirt on the right side of the picture) has a very unique sense of humor. I didn’t know him before the flight and didn’t know what I was in for, but luckily he is a very sweet person who is very easy to talk to. It was a great start to the trip!
We had a five hour layover at JFK before we boarded the plane to Málaga and we used this time to bond over cards, Panda Express, and our fear of staying with a host family and speaking a language we are still learning. It was comforting to realize we all had the same fears and it really helped us build a great group camaraderie. We met up with the Denver group and after a long wait finally said good bye to America and jetted off to Spain!
We landed in Málaga after an eight hour flight (I watched Kung Fu Panda 3 and absolutely loved it. Jack Black is never the wrong choice) and headed to our hotel. Everything was a new experience-from the lack of humidity to the push buttons on top of the toilets-and everyone was in awe of their surroundings. I was fortunate enough to room with Tori Berry and Emma Hoh the two nights we were in Málaga. The room was small but cozy and the three of us bonded over new experiences, being the only senior girls on the trip and many other things. These two girls are so sweet and smart and I am blessed to be able to call them my friends and to have shared this trip with them.
The 6 hour time change really messed with all of us the first day so it was important for us to try and get on the Spanish schedule ASAP. We dropped our things at the hotel and headed out into the city for lunch. Lunch was fantastic, although it was different from what I was expecting. When I think of Spain I think of the Mediterranean diet: olive oil, veggies, fruits, fish, etc. I was not expecting the fried food that is typical of Southern Spain. Lunch was also very interesting because we were all starving but exhausted so watching everyone eat ravenously when the food came and then fall asleep in between courses was comical.
After lunch we went on a bicicleta (bike) tour of the city to learn the history of Málaga and try to wake up! On the tour we passed an old fortress, the bull fighting ring, a memorial to Pablo Picasso and were able to ride along the beach. Through out the tour our groups were asked questions based on the history of Málaga and if we got them right we were given Scrabble letters that we would need at the end. The goal at the very end was to use our letters to create a Spanish phrase and the best phrase would win.
My group won with the phrase “Deme el sol o mi fin.” This translates to “Give me the sun or I end.” We came up with this phrase after learning that Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga but moved away at a fairly young age. Málaga is almost always sunny and nice but when he moved away he experienced rain, clouds and chilly weather. He went into a depression and longed for the sun in Málaga. We imagined him demanding the sun-knowing he would live a sad life without it- and used our letters to create the above phrase. This was a very cool moment for our group where we were able to take what we had learned about Málaga and connect that with Spanish we already knew.
After the tour we went to dinner at a very cute restaurant and I had Spanish tortillas for the first time. Tortillas in Spain are very similar to quiche for us. They are eggs filled with potatoes that look like slices of cake. I loved it and was very happy that I was able to eat tortillas a few times throughout the trip. After dinner we had our first taste of helado (ice cream) in Spain and it was delicious! Their ice cream is basically gelato and it is displayed behind the glass with toppings that make it look even tastier. I ordered my tiramisu helado by myself in Spanish for the first time and was very proud of myself. I will never forget that feeling of accomplishment I got when the lady taking my order understood me. It was one of the many moments on this trip where something clicked for me and I realized how cool and useful and amazing speaking a second language is.
Feeling full and content, we headed back to the hotel to spend our first night in Spain. The first day of the trip exceeded my expectations and was definitely an indicator to how the rest of my time in Spain would be. After one day I was already in love with Spain and excited to see what the next two weeks had in store for me.
Dia Dos: Day Trip to Nerja
Our hotel did not serve us breakfast so during our time in Málaga we had to wander down the street to a cafe for our morning meal. Sitting outside the cafe at 6 or 7 in the morning in the cool, quiet air was relaxing and refreshing. On top of the serene environment, the cafe also provided us with a great breakfast to start the day.
Spaniards don’t eat the typical eggs, bacon and cereal breakfast we are used to so ordering that first morning was exciting and different for us. I ended up with cafe con leche (coffee with milk), fresh squeezed orange juice and a popular Spanish sandwich that consisted of French-like bread, jamón (ham) and a tomato/olive oil paste. I’m not a huge coffee or orange juice drinker but I was obsessed with cafe con leche and the fresh juice. I will never go back to the processed American orange juice we are used to. The sandwich is still one of my favorite foods I had while traveling and I’m sure I will end up trying to make it at home.
After breakfast we headed back to the bus for a 45 minute drive to Nerja-another city right on the beach. The drive there was filled with mountains, pueblos and olive fields and was very scenic. We had mountains on our left and the Mediterranean Ocean on our right. Before heading to the beach we were able to tour Las Cuevas de Nerja (the caves of Nerja). Our tour guide spoke Spanish the whole time and I’m proud to say I understood most of it. The caves were very cool and were also a nice escape from the heat outside.
We finally made our way down to the beach and I was so excited! Nerja is built on cliffs and towered over us by the time we got onto the beach. The beach was lined with restaurants and shops and fairly full of people. There were two things about it that surprised me. First, the sand isn’t like the sand we are used to. It isn’t hot on your feet or soft at all. It’s made up of little rocks and pebbles that actually really hurt your feet if you are not used to it. A group of our girls tried to go on a few walks up and down by the water, but these all ended with us hopping around trying to stay off of our sore feet. Secondly, the water was freezing. We were told the warm season for the Mediterranean is usually from July to November so we had just missed it.
Despite these unexpected differences I really enjoyed the beach and was happy to be relaxing by the water. Before lunch the students from the Mason group started a volleyball game with a few local students our age who were there for a day trip as well. This was a very cool experience because they were so friendly and patient with our Spanish and it was our first chance to speak Spanish with people our own age (other than amongst ourselves.)
For lunch we ate at a famous beach side place that served paella. Paella is a mix of rice, vegetables, seafood and chicken that is cooked in one giant skillet/pot. It is my favorite food from Spain because it is very filling and rich. Usually the paella has shrimp in it, but the shrimp still have their heads on so those of us who were brave enough learned how to suck the shrimp head and peel the entire shrimp.
When we returned to Málaga for the evening we had a few hours of free time. A group of us decided to go check out the traveling Ferris Wheel that was in town for the summer. The eight of us fit into one car and were able to go around in the glass car three times. We were up in the Ferris Wheel during sunset and it was perfect. The pictures and videos we took are gorgeous and it was one of my favorite moments from the entire trip.
For dinner that night we had a variety of tapas and then went on another helado run. Tori and Emma and I had a fun conversation before bed and after writing about my day and saying a prayer in my prayer journal it was lights out! The next day we were leaving Málaga and while I was sad to leave I was excited to explore more of Spain. Málaga is a place I would love to visit again and I have put it on my list to visit. I was truly blessed to have such a wonderful beginning to my trip.
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