On the first official day of March vacation, some Belmont Hill students traveled to Madrid, Spain, hoping to improve their Spanish speaking abilities, as well as learn more about the Spanish culture. The students were accompanied by Spanish teachers Señor Steffey, Señor Harder, and Señora Brabo. After everyone said their goodbyes to family members, we boarded our connecting flight to Paris, and then boarded a separate plane set for Madrid.
The first day in Spain had little planned for us in an effort to regain our energy and adjust to the different time zones. The second day began with an early morning day trip to nearby Toledo, where we walked as a group throughout the narrow streets, periodically stepping into the various shops and restaurants, as well as taking tours inside both the Cathedral of Toledo and El Alcázar, a museum filled with historical artifacts from the different Spanish Wars. The night ended by watching a critically acclaimed Spanish movie called Relatos Salvajes, which combined six different stories of madness and chaos into one movie, and, despite the lack of subtitles, everyone agreed that the movie was very entertaining.
The second full day in Madrid served as the busiest of the trip, as we started by traveling to El Museo Nacional del Prado, one of the most famous museums in the city, thanks to its abundance of paintings made by famous artists like Francisco Goya, El Greco, and Diego Velázquez. The group then traveled to the Sede Prim to learn about an educational program offered by Middlebury College for college students. Then, we prepared for the most exciting part of the trip: watching the Champions League game between Atlético Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen in Atlético’s stadium. The game eventually reached penalty kicks, where Atlético Madrid won and moved on to the next round of the Champions League.
The next day, the group toured through the nearby cities of Avila and Sergovia and visited the main attractions like the Aqueduct of Sergovia, the Alcázar of Segovia, and the tall stone walls that protected the city of Avila during the middle ages. That night, some of our more passionate soccer fans traveled to Spanish restaurants to watch another Champions League game between Manchester City and Barcelona.
One of the highlights of the following morning was a trip through El Escorial, a royal site which functions as a monastery, museum, and royal palace. Yet below the ground level of the palace, there is a burial site where the majority of Spanish kings have been laid to rest for five centuries. Then, we hopped onto our tour bus and drove to the burial site of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Inside, the tomb was primarily made of marble inside the side of a mountain, and after walking through the illustrious halls, we eventually saw Franco’s final resting place in the ground of the cave.
In our second to last day, the group traveled in two different buses to the base of a small mountain, which we climbed over the course of several hours. On our way to the top, the tour guides stopped us at several places to point out the interesting aspects of that particular forest, some of which included the different rivers, unique trees, or monuments in dedication to important Spanish figures. Even though by the end, we were all relatively sore and tired, the ride back to the hotel was immediately followed up with a walk to a local indoor bath place in the heart of Madrid. The Hammam Al Ándalus contained three baths of progressively higher temperatures, as well as a sauna room that went up to 150 degrees. Overall, the bath place was a great place to unwind after the tiring hike earlier in the day. On our second to last night in Spain, we decided to eat dinner at the oldest recognized restaurant in world history, Sobrino de Botín. For appetizers, the group ate a variety of seafood options, including shrimp, calamari, and oysters. For the main course, we were given an option of either suckling pig or chicken, with a side of potatoes. Lastly, the dinner concluded with a mixed plate of filling desserts, ranging from chocolate mousse to vanilla filled angel cake.
The Spanish trip allowed all students to improve their Spanish speaking abilities, while also being introduced to a different setting outside of the United States. While it certainly helps to practice Spanish within the Belmont Hill classroom, there is nothing like having the opportunity to speak the language in an entirely new environment, and overall, the Spain trip served as a great learning experience for everyone who took part in this memorable experience. To anyone who would consider going on the trip at some point in the future, I highly recommend going, as a way to practice the language and enjoy the Spanish culture with classmates.