Fifteen U5 and L6 girls are travelling to Spain over half term. They will be staying with Spanish families and enjoying a programme of activities. Updates from their trip will appear here.
Thursday was our 'free time' day. However, we had language and culture lessons in the morning. During our culture lesson we visited the Parque María Luisa and spoke to some locals about the effects of tourism on Seville. Unfortunately, due to the rain, we couldn´t take part in the planned bicycle ride and had to turn to shopping instead (something definitely better than in England). We enjoyed the relaxed Spanish cafes and bars, and giving Lydia a new wardrobe.
We met before class this morning to try the thick hot chocolate and churros (deep-fried potato rings in sugar in this case, but more usually bearing a close ressemblance to doughnut mixture). A hearty start to the day.
Later on the girls headed to a local market seeking the answer to various culinary conumdrums such as the ingredients for 'cocido' (a typical stew from Seville), how much a kilo of apples costs (around two euros) and where you would find acedía (in the sea). Having been slightly disappointed by the potato churros earlier in the morning the girls were keen to try the doughnut variety. We watched them being made in a snail shell pattern about 50cm in diameter before being broken into smaller pieces. Tastier than the potato version? Definitely.
In the afternoon we visited the cathedral (the third largest in the world after St Peter's in the Vatican and St Paul´s in London). We climbed the Giralda which was originally used to call the faithful to prayer when a mosque stood on the site of the cathedral and which has ramps instead of stairs so that the muezzin could go to the top on horseback instead of having to walk. Later, we explored the narrow alleys of the judería (Jewish quarter) enjoying Aurora's legends about local families including the Jewish girl who warned her Christian boyfriend that the Christians were to be attached by the Jews only to see her father killed and find herself abandoned by her boyfriend.
In the evening we enjoyed a thrilling flamenco performance. We were struck above all by the singing - its power and sadness - and by the speed of the dancers´steps.
The morning saw 15 sleepy girls embarking on a cultural journey into the realms of modern Spain by way of contemporary music.
In the afternoon our first stop was at the Archivos de Indias, a building encapsulating the journeys of Christopher Columbus and the subsequent colonization of the New World. Shelves and shelves of documents filed in boxes lined the walls of the archives, 46,000 documents detailing contracts and agreements. Originally a commercial hub when Seville was the sole port to be allowed to trade with the Americas, the building was converted into slum housing when the Guadalquivir river silted up and trade moved away from Seville. Much later it was restored and converted into the depository of documents about the New World, many of which have been digitised and can now be viewed on-line.
Next stop was the Torre de Oro which stood on the river originally twinned with the Torre de Plata. No-one is sure why it has this name, but we were very sure that it was a wild and windy destination on a wet October afternoon in Seville.
Our final stop was the Plaza de Toros. We were horrified by the cruel yet highly skilled art of bullfighting. The Plaza de Toros, like the Colloseium (spelling?) offered two seating choices: sun or shade. We learned that each show had 6 bulls and 3 bullfighters with each fight lasting about 25 minutes. The main bullfighter (torero) dispatches the bull as cleanly as possible once it has been enraged by an earlier bullfighter who pricks it with a lance. If a bull fights particularly bravely its life may be spared and it will never come to the ring again, but will be used for breeding. Unfortunately some bullfighters lose their lives and 1922 saw the death of the only torero to have dies in Seville.
The evening ended on a lighter note with tapas and a variety of stories and new flavours.
Delphine Legat (L6)
As the Sevillanos were slowly rising so was the pain in Mia´s ankle. We soon found out that her seemingly innocuous fall had resulted in a sprained ankle. While she was being treated at the hospital the rest of us listened intently to Elena, our Spanish teacher from the San Fernando Spanish School. We started with two hours of grammar followed by two hours of interesting Spanish culture focusing on festivals.
We took our new-found knowledge out onto the streets of Seville asking passers-by about culture and their favourite festivals. We returned to our home stay families for lunch and a short siesta. In the afternoon we ventured out with Mia in a wheelchair to the Alcázar, Seville´s royal palace. Its lavish decorations made us envy the lives of the Spanish royals. We toured the palace, our love for it evident in the loud gasps we made as we entered each spectacular room. The garden was a special favourite as it had a romantic story attached to it. The king, whose wife came from 'las montañas' and missed the snow, planted trees with white blossom to make her feel at home.
In the evening we went to a 'festival of nations'. It was a festival with food and other products from a variety of different countries. As we prowled towards the stands we saw the (metaphoric) dribble of the shop owners hungry to taste the flesh of our plentiful purses. Leaving with unnecessary purchases, we made our way through a silent Seville after a tiring but memorable day.
Mia Vallance, Megan Bespolka, Chimaka Oke, Aneesha Dhillon (all U5)
In the absence of any significant jet lag, seventeen intrigued linguists piled onto a bus which led us to Córdoba just as the sun was rising in sleepy Seville. Eager to practice our Spanish as much as possible, we listened intently to Aurora, our forgiving guide, and learnt that this small and pristine city was once the largest in Europe.
After learning Spanish in a classroom, it was refreshing to practice the language in context as we toured the city and focussed on the elaborate architechture which had been influenced by a number of different religions including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Almost as exciting as the Seville orange juice (which we spent many of our euros on) was the famously grand mosque which sits proudly in the heart of Córdoba. Excluding Maggie's wasted €10 on a piece of rosemary from a sneaky gypsy, most of our money was well spent in the local artisan shops.
Exhausted by our hot and busy day in Córdoba, the bus was unusually quiet on the way back to Seville. However after a two hour siesta, we woke up in 'La Plaza de Espana' to see the stunning canal which winds through the park. Our senses were filled with the smell of roasting chestnuts, sounds of trotting horses pulling carriages, the overwhelming beauty of the building and the sun on our skin. As we messily cracked open and ate chestnuts, Aneesha, Megan, Chi and I waited in the queue for hiring rowing boats in the canal as the others shopped, finding themselves in flamenco dress heaven.
I'm sure you would be surprised to hear that this group of such competent lacrosse players did not quite stun the Spaniards with their rowing skills. Aneesha and Megan took the oars and the boat was spinning around in a circle when Ms Gandee appeared on the sideline. We were rescued by her instructions and began to glide through the water at a wonderfully slow pace! I do fear that we were disliked slightly by the other rowers as we sang merrily and narrowly avoided crashing on a number of occasions. However, after an hour of saying 'perdona', we returned to the edge of the canal and walked back to our hosts’ flats as the red sun set in the sky.
Mia Vallance (U5)