Spain is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I was able to experience this country and its culture while on the foreign exchange trip with CurtisHigh School on Staten Island. With the group I traveled to Toledo, Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragoza, and Gijon where we learned about living and going to school in Spain.
In Spain I really learned a great sense of independence. Although there were chaperones I was not with my parents. I had to learn to manage money (although not always well). My money was spent on clothes and food as well, and there were many culinary gems to enjoy, including La Colmena in Barcelona which had a great assortment of traditional Spanish chocolates. There was also a fast food restaurant called Bocatta which serves up some delicious sandwiches with fries for reasonable prices.
On a more intellectual level though, I learned a about Gaudi while in Barcelona. During the trip we saw Park Guelle that Gaudi built. It was a magnificent display of curvy buildings, downed with flowers and vines, and from the park there is a great view of the city, second to none. But possibly the most outstanding piece of work I saw by Gaudi, or anybody else for that matter, was the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. The cathedral is absolutely magnificent towering over the city, with different styles of art that depict Jesus’ life. The art is from different eras showing how it has been worked on for years, shifting from one artistic style to another. Funny enough, even though building commenced in 1883 it still hasn’t been finished.
While in Madrid, we stayed in Hotel los Olivos, just outside the city by the highway. Although the hotel had all the accommodations we needed, the hotel was isolated with nothing around it. Also, the walk to the dining hall was not short, however the two or three euros needed to use a half hour of internet to stay in touch with family was very cheap.
Although I loved the history of Spain, the churches got to be a bit much after a while. The first couple were great like the “Museo De La Catedral de la Almundena y Subida a la Cupula”, which had a great panoramic view of Madrid. However, after seeing so many churches they all started to look alike, all old, and all prohibiting pictures, although I snuck more than my share. I would have preferred to see spots with fewer tourists; more residential hole in the wall treasures would have been fine by me. Especially since there were so many people. In heavily touristy areas especially gypsies are everywhere and we had to take precautions to make sure our bags were always close to us. However we took pictures of the gypsies from afar, but ran into no problems.
The trip was truly one I will never forget, with countless adventures. I learned to not to climb beautiful mountains in new Spanish sneakers because as much water was around I would never keep the dirt completely off of them. I also learned that glacier water tasted just as good if not better than the bottled stuff at home. But most of all I learned to appreciate. I learned to appreciate the air around me, the buildings, and people, nearly everything. That’s something I didn’t do at home, even with NYC’s skyscrapers just a little bit away. In Spain I was among gypsies, artwork, ancient architecture and the wonders of the out doors, along with a culture I never experienced before.
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