We all gathered at Gatwick Airport on the Thursday morning before the beginning of half-term, ready and excited to immerse ourselves into Spanish culture for a an intense long weekend.
Immediately after our arrival in Madrid, we went straight to the hotel we were staying in, unpacked, changed into our summery clothes, and left as a group to walk through the wonderful, meandering streets to the Prado museum. There, we ambled through the galleries, looking at some of the most famous Spanish masterpieces, including some astonishing Goya and Velazquez paintings, that gave us a small taste of the country’s art history. Sadly, we could not stay as long as we would have liked, as the museum closed for the evening, but made our way through the city for our well-deserved meal!
The next day, we woke up early, in time for breakfast in a charming cafe on our street, where we groggily practiced our Spanish, in preparation for our visit to the Instituto Pedro Salinas, a school only a short metro ride from the centre of Madrid. There, we spent time talking to the students, who then kindly gave up their break time to give us a tour of their school. This experience showed many of us that we really could communicate with people, in a way that we hadn’t yet realised! Having said goodbye and shared contact details with our new friends, we left to visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid. Here, we followed a tour showing us the inner workings of the building, as well as its sheer enormity, that ended with us sitting in a replica of the team’s tour bus, exhausted. We then returned to the hotel for a well-deserved rest, before heading off to a tapas restaurant to test out Spanish cuisine, which everyone agreed was delicious! Finally, to finish off this jam-packed day, we went for a very enjoyable bowling game, that ended our first full day in Madrid on a high note!
On Saturday morning, we took the coach to Toledo, approximately an hour’s drive from Madrid. It was a beautifully clear day, so as we approached the town, we could see it in all its glory, an ochre, medieval city covering a hill surrounded by a river. We spent the morning walking around the streets, observing the stunning medieval architecture and buying marzipan sweets in a Cistercian convent run by reclusive nuns. We were then released, tasked with buying ourselves some lunch, before regrouping for our guided tour in a little train, that explained to us the history of the city, all its cultural influences and gave us the opportunity to take some brilliant pictures of the view. We then returned to Madrid, in time for an afternoon tea of churros con chocolate, enjoyed in a lovely little cafe, that kept us going until our very late dinner. Later on, we went to an evening flamenco performance, in a small venue in a new part of the city we had not yet discovered. Here, we were all blown away at the grace and passion of the dancers, whose movements told stories better than words could, their flamboyant costumes revealing their agile, fast feet, dancing to the heart-wrenchingly played live music, that I’m sure will stay with many of us for the rest of our lives.
On our final morning, we had time to visit the Palacio Real and the Catedral de la Almudena. Both building were exquisite examples of Golden Age architecture, showing off the power of the Spanish monarchy, and again, brilliant photo opportunities! But, we had to leave to pick up our bags and go back to the airport, accidentally walking through an anti-bullfighting demonstration that was on our route to the hotel.
We were all sorry to have to take the plane back home, but this sojourn was fantastic and an experience we will all remember for a very long time. All that remains to be said is a huge thank you to Ms. Mañas and Ms. Bates who made this wonderful trip possible!