Home Again (Days 10-11 – Sevilla)

Our RCS in Spain 2019 adventure is complete, and everyone is home safe and sound! It was an amazing time of fun and learning. I believe it is an experience that the students will never forget, and one that will be able to draw upon in their future studies, both in Spanish and in other fields. Thank you again to everyone who contributed to the planning, fundraising, and supporting of this trip!

Our last morning in Sevilla, the students decided that the wanted to add an additional walking tour to our itinerary: the Seville Expo of ’92. Once a gleaming vision for the future, it is now a dilapidated relic of the past.
This biosphere was once at the center of the country pavilions at the Seville Expo.
This monument next to the Spain Pavilion honored all of the more than 200 countries (and 42 million people) that attended the Expo.
After our Expo visit, we had a kayaking expedition.
We traveled about a kilometer up the Guadalquivir River, where Columbus once sailed.
We had one minor problem with a leaking kayak.
Everyone made it back to shore, only slightly damper than at the beginning.
We also celebrated Katie’s 17th birthday with a cream cake!
After taking the high-speed AVE train back to Madrid, we said good-bye over a lovely dinner, and got as much sleep as we could before our 2:30 am wake-up call for our flight back to the U.S.A.

Thank you to everyone who followed this year’s edition of RCS in Spain! Adios y hasta luego!

Our Final Chapter in Sevilla (Days 8-9 – Sevilla)

We’ve come to the end of our time in Sevilla, as we prepare to head back to Madrid tomorrow afternoon. I think everyone has really enjoyed their time here, and learned a lot about the language and culture of Spain. These past two days have been absolutely jam-packed with all kinds of fun and interesting experiences, and we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg of all of the wonderful things that Spain has to offer.

We began our day yesterday at the Real Maestranza bull-fighting ring of Sevilla.
One of our stops was the chapel, where bull-fighters pray a special prayer and cross themselves before entering the ring.
We even got to walk out to the center of the ring!
Our next tour stop was the Cathedral of Sevilla, along with the Giralda tower, build by Muslims in the 1100s.
Inside, we saw this altarpiece that is used for Corpus Christi. It is made of 100% solid silver.
The Tomb of Christopher Columbus is also located within the Cathedral.
Our group climbed up the 35 floors of ramps to the top of the Giralda Tower.
It’s a stunning view of the top of both the Cathedral and the city.
We could also see all the way back to the Plaza de Espana and the gardens of the Alcazar Palace.
Next up was our visit to the Setas (Mushrooms), the largest all-wooden structure in the world.
The Setas are built on top of ancient Roman ruins from the 1st century.
We took the elevator to the top, where we got a stunning view of the city once again, looking back at the Giralda and Cathedral.
We got to eat a fancy pizza dinner all together. We had lots of toppings that we’d never tried before (like gorgonzola, chili peppers, chorizo, zucchini, and more!).
This morning, we went to the tiny town of El Rocio. This is the site of a religious pilgrimage that ended yesterday. During the festival, over 1 million people travel to this site from around the world to honor the image of the Virgin Mary.
From El Rocio, we continued on the the beach town of Matalascanas, where we spent the afternoon.
Everyone is slightly burnt, but we had a great time!
Tonight, 10 of us decided to go to a bull fight.
We had a quick mini-lesson on the parts of a bull fight, so that no one was surprised by how violent they are.
We saw the procession of bull fighters (matadores), assistants, and horses.
We were able to see 3 of the 6 bulls that were fought this evening.
None of the bull fighters were especially good, so none of them got to keep any of the “prizes” (ears or tails of the bull).
One matador got launched into the air as he tried to deliver the death blow with his sword.
We’re really going to miss this amazing city!

Just Chillin’ in Seville (Days 6-7 – Sevilla)

We’ve been in Sevilla for three days now, and almost all of our students say that it’s their favorite stop on the trip! We’ve been having lots of fun exploring the city and learning about its rich history. In the past two days, we’ve had scavenger hunts, historical tours of the city, and visited a water park. We’re making ourselves right at home and having an awesome time!

We started our historic tour of the city at the Cathedral of Sevilla.
We then moved to the Royal Alcazar, a Muslim fortress converted into a Catholic palace. This photo features the dome of the building, plated with gold.
We got to see the gardens of the Alcazar, which were one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones.
Enjoying the beautiful weather and the gorgeous gardens!
For lunch, we had home-made paella, one of the most famous dishes in Spain. It consists of rice, vegetables, chicken, and seafood.
After lunch, we had a mini-seminar on Spanish culture and festivals.
We learned to dance Sevillanas, a kind of flamenco dancing.
Coordinating the arms with the legs was definitely the hardest part.
This morning, we enjoyed a breakfast of churros and hot chocolate.
Later, we had a scavenger hunt. One of the first stops was taking a picture with your favorite food in the Marketplace of Triana.
The boys’ group won today, finishing in first place and having the answers to every question correct.
Everyone learned a lot about the layout of the city and how to get around!
We finished our day at the water park. It was one student’s birthday today, so we celebrated with delicious pastries from a local bakery!

On the Road Again (Days 4-5 – Toledo & Sevilla)

The past two days have been packed with all kinds of exciting things, as we traveled to the Medieval city of Toledo and to our final destination of Sevilla. Things have been going very smoothly and it seems like everyone is having a great time! This afternoon, we arrived in Sevilla and the student met their host families for the first time. We also toured the downtown of the city so that students could get familiar with their home for the next week. So far, so good, as everyone seems to absolutely love it here!

First, we took a panoramic tour of the city of Toledo, surrounded by the Tagus River.
It was the perfect day for a visit — completely sunny and about 85 degrees.
Our guide took us inside the old city walls to explore the city’s rich history.
Our first stop in Toledo (the city of three religions) was the Monastery of St. John. It was a great stop for learning some Spanish history about the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish occupations of Spain.
At the center of the monastery is a beautiful garden with many kinds of religious symbols.
Next up was the main synagogue of the city. This is an important monument because it shows the city’s history: a Jewish synagogue with a Christian name (St. Mary’s) and Muslim architecture.
Our RCS group was interested in taking an extra tour of the cathedral, so we went inside and explored.
This cathedral has one of the most impressive altars in all of Spain, telling the entire story of Jesus in statues.
We also saw the Sacristy, featuring a Sistine-like painted ceiling and some of El Greco’s most famous pieces of artwork.
After all of the touring, we enjoyed being able to relax at the resort pool.
We also had some great views of the city of Toledo and the surrounding countryside.
Today, we made the 5-hour trip down to Sevilla, in the south of Spain. Profe took the students on a walking tour of his once-home, featuring the famous Plaza de Espana.
We ended our day at the Parque Maria Luisa, which I’m sure our students will continue to explore throughout their time here.

Mad City (Day 3 – Madrid)

Today, we wrapped up our exploration of Madrid with food, sightseeing, and (of course) a lot more walking. Everyone is still doing great, and (for the first time ever) no one got anything stolen on the Madrid Metro! We can’t wait to begin our travels to Toledo tomorrow morning!

We had a Spanish breakfast this morning at our hotel, complete with tostadas, cold meats, and cheeses.
Our first tour stop of the day was the San Jeronimo church, constructed back in the early 1500s.
From there, we took a walk through the Retiro Park gardens.
Some of us got cozy on the row-boats.
Others floated along leisurely in the amazing Madrid summer weather.
We took a stroll through the historic Bourbon district of Madrid, including the Alcala Gate, which used to be part of one of the walls that protected Madrid.
We made it to the Plaza de Cibeles, which used to be a palace, then the main post office of Spain, and
is now the Madrid Town Hall.
Our last tour stop for the day was the Prado Museum, which does not allow pictures of the paintings. However, our students recognized many of the pieces of artwork from Spanish courses and art classes at RCS!
We had a “Tapas Tour” for lunch, where we tried foods like tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), montaditos (finger sandwiches), gazpacho (cold vegetable soup), ensaladilla (potato salad with tuna), croquetas (fried dumplings), and parrillada (grilled meat).
After lunch, we used our free-time for a Profe-led tour in Spanglish. We started at the Bear and Cherry Tree statue, which is the symbol of Madrid, and continued to the shopping district and Gran Via, Spain’s version of Broadway in New York City.
We also stopped by the Sabatini Gardens next to the Royal Palace.
The 2,200-year-old Templo de Debod was a gift from Egypt to Spain, transported piece-by-piece in the 20th century.
We finished our excellent day overlooking the biggest park in Madrid, Campo del Moro, which features views of the Cathedral in the background.

Mamas, We Made It (Days 1-2, Madrid)

We’ve arrived safely in Spain! Our group of very tired students has been full of troopers today, as we hit the ground running (or at least walking quickly for long distances) in the Spanish capital city today. We packed a lot into a sleepless two-day period, and we’re already looking forward to another excellent day in Madrid tomorrow!

Starting off our voyage from RDU > JFK > MAD
We got a rainy start to our trip yesterday in New York City, but our weather in Madrid has been perfect so far!
Some of us slept for a couple hours on the flight, others didn’t blink an eye.
A safety orientation awaited our very tired students this morning, with some of them even managing to stay awake.
Our first order of business was getting some lunch — I think we took to Spanish sandwiches pretty well!
We got a brief peek at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where the Real Madrid soccer team (featuring Cristiano Ronaldo) plays.
Next up was the walking tour of historic Madrid with a local guide.
We started at the Catedral de la Almudena, the church often used for Spain’s Royal Weddings.
Just across from the Cathedral is the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) with its 3,000 rooms.
One stop on our tour took us the museum of Madrid History, where we saw artifacts ranging from old wells and paintings to mammoth skulls.
Our walking tour also took us through the Plaza Mayor, the central square of Spain.
And finally we ended up at the Puerta del Sol (the Sun Gate), where all of Spain’s roads begin, and New Year’s Eve is celebrated on national TV each year with the eating of 12 grapes.
We finished our first (and second) days of travel with an excellent Spanish meal at a local restaurant.
And we’re looking forward to many more great experiences to come!

The Adventure Awaits!

To all of our family, friends, and supporters:

We’re almost ready for departure! Tomorrow, June 5th, we’ll be leaving North Carolina behind for 11 days as we explore the cities of Madrid, Toledo, and Sevilla in Spain. This is an outstanding opportunity for our students to practice their language skills, contextualize their understanding of Spanish culture, and gain real-world travel experience.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed in some way to our adventure. We greatly appreciate all of the support from our school community! ¡Hasta pronto!