Last summer, my school put together a group that was going to go to Spain. We went through a larger, organized tour group called EF Tours. There were at least five other schools from around the US that were traveling with us. Per person, the trip cost about 3000 dollars plus money for food and souvenirs. That price included plane tickets to and from Spain, money for the tour guides, the charter bus, entrance into places like the royal palace in Madrid and the aquarium in Valencia, as well as hotel costs for two weeks. All of that made it seem cost effective to me and I would recommend that if any other schools wanted to go someplace, and it would not have to be to Spain, that they should look into using an organization such as EF tours.
However, we did miss our transfer flight in Amsterdam because we had only a one hour layover and our plane from Seattle had been delayed in leaving the airport. We had to rebook our flight after at least an hour of our teacher talking to the front counter and the tour foundation. We ended up going through Portugal and then to Madrid. But despite that we were still able to get to Spain and meet up with the rest of our group the same day and so did not miss anything exciting. My second piece of travel advice would thus be this: when traveling with a connection flight anywhere but especially internationally, plan to leave yourself at least two hours between the expected landing time and the next flights departure because unexpected situations such as an over booking or rerouting or even routine things such as customs will not cause you to miss your flight.
Despite the initial travel difficulties the trip was very exciting and rewarding. Every night the entirety of our group would go to a local restaurant and have dinner typical in the Spanish culture. This, I thought was one of the most efficient ways to experience a different culture because there food can be so much different then what we are used to and a lot of times people won’t try it on their own. They will find someplace that serves food similar to what they would eat at home and stick with that. The range of spices and foods used in creating the meals in Spain was so vast that had my dinner choices been up to me I would not have known what it was that I should try. There were many different foods that have stuck with me even after a year but because there were so many I will only describe two. The first one is an appetizer called gazpacho which is a cold soup. There are two kinds, a tomato one which is like our tomato soup here, and the other is a white gazpacho which can be made different ways, but my preference is a cucumber and yogurt gazpacho. I have twice made gazpacho at home. The other is a common rice dish called Paella. Paella is a combination of rice, vegetables, and typically seafood but can also be meat such as chicken.
During the day we would tour through cultural places such as the palace, churches, one of the largest aquariums in the world, and even a bull ring. Being able to experience how other people live their daily lives was an experience I would not trade for the world and I encourage other people to leave their comfort zone and see firsthand just how different humans can be.
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