Read this lovely account by Dashiell Wood, Form 4 of the Spanish Trip:
Waking up even earlier than normal for a regular Thursday, I dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and a coat rather than our usual smart school uniform. Instead of my school bag, I grabbed a suitcase; for today was the day I had been waiting for. Today I would finally get the opportunity to put my three years of Spanish learning to the test in the field!
Sitting restlessly in the fifth and, what would be my final lesson of Thursday, I excitedly awaited the moment when I and thirteen other students, accompanied by two teachers, were to depart from St Columba’s. Our destination? The sunny Spanish town of Cordoba. The split-second the bell rang I dashed out of my chair and sprinted to the door. First to the door, I ran out the classroom calling out “thanks for the lesson Miss” as I went, leaving my perplexed teacher wondering why I was so excited. The excitement soon faded as we stood huddled in the cold at Westminster Lodge. As the minutes crept by and the shivers crept in, we heard Mrs Manrique on the phone enquiring about the whereabouts of the coach that should have arrived half an hour ago. Despite briefly wondering whether this was some kind of bad omen we communally decided not to allow this to put a dampener on our spirits. Listening to music we cracked cheesy jokes and chatted about what we were going to do when, not if, we got to Spain.
Thankfully our optimism paid off and, despite the coach’s late arrival, we reached Luton airport in good time. After a speedy check-in we were free to wander around the airport’s shopping area, provided we stayed in pairs. Taking a cursory glance around the airport’s small selection of shops showed us that there really wasn’t a lot to do in Luton airport. We gladly departed both Luton Airport and the freezing cold of English weather after what seemed like a long wait, setting off towards the scalding Spanish sun.
Several hours later, we left the plane in the heavy beating rain and decided Malaga airport was a decided improvement on Luton. The coach ride from the airport to Cordoba took us into the late evening and it was only then we were able to say “adios” to Mr Hyde and Mrs Manrique, as well as our classmates, and finally meet our host family who drove us to their home and fed us a delicious home-cooked meal of chicken soup followed by the traditional Spanish tortilla, a very thick omelette dotted with cooked vegetables. After being shown to our rooms we settled down for a good night's sleep.
Four hours later we were sluggishly eating breakfast while making feeble attempts at Spanish conversation. It was then back to the city centre to try to brush up our Spanish which we had now realised was inadequate to the task of coping with a genuine Spaniard.. We were lucky to be taught by native Spanish teachers who helped us improve our grammar and vocabulary as well as some useful idioms.
Afternoons were devoted to trips, beginning with the Andlousian Horse Farm where we learned how the famous horses were kept and bred. We enjoyed seeing the horses dance in a dressage display that impressed us with its precision and beauty. Returning to the town center we then enjoyed traditional chocolate con churros in a cafe. More culture followed that evening when we watched a fantastic flamenco performance, before returning to our host families for a meal.
It was on Saturday when we were somewhat horrified to realise we were going to try flamenco for ourselves. Equipped with an hour and a halfs experience of watching it performed the day before, we were marched through the narrow streets of Cordoba to the dance studio. We spent a confusing hour or so lamely shuffling around a compact room, desperately trying to imitate the grace and elegance of our skilled instructor, watched by an amused Mr Hyde, who much to our alarm, insisted on captured our dismay on camera. A guided tour around Cordoba’s Mosque-Cathedral followed. Bemused by the strange amalgamation of both Islamic mosque and Catholic Cathedral we marvelled at this strange church consisting of a large square mosque cut in half by an almost comical entire cathedral haphazardly thrown through the middle. The interior was decorated with both beautiful Islamic architecture and Christian depictions of Christ. We left the cathedral for a refreshingly short mass in a much more conventional church, and some free time in town with friends.
Our next morning would be our final full day in Spain. A little relieved not to have formal lessons that day, we embarked on a full day trip to Granada, some 208km away. After several hours of watching the large hills and green meadows of the countryside roll by, protected from the scalding hot sun by the cool tinted coach windows, we ground to a halt in Granada. We were immediately enthralled by the beautiful view over the countryside we could see from the picturesque mountaintop town. As we strolled through the attractive orange-paved streets, snapping photos along the way, our eyes were drawn to the imposing figure of the Alhambra. This huge historic palace sat upon a particularly high peak of the mountain, looking down over the miniscule town. After a relaxing walk around the palace and its huge gardens we were reluctantly herded back onto the cramped coach for the lengthy ride back to Cordoba.
The final day of our trip in Spain dawned began with packing and then proudly presenting my host family with a large tin of English shortbread while thanking them for their hospitality and kindness. We then met back up with the rest of our classmates for a final three hours Spanish learning, rewarded at the end by a delicious traditional tapas lunch. With a belly full of tapas we climbed back in the coach for the long trip back to the airport. As the plane ascended, we gazed mournfully back, already wanting to return.