Grazalema to Nerja—Boulders, Bosque, and Beaches

The Sierra de Grazalema boasts annual rainfall totals of nearly 80 inches per year (the most in all of Spain), but we had nothing but sun during our time there. The views of this breathtaking gem of Spanish geography were postcard worthy, as evidenced by the photo below, taken from the balcony of our hotel.

Sunrise over the Sierra de Grazalema.

Sunrise over the Sierra de Grazalema from La Villa Turística El Olivar.

Canyoning (n: the sport of exploring a canyon by engaging in such activities as rappelling, sliding, and jumping) through the heart of the Garganta Verde while surrounded by vultures, Peregrine Falcons, endangered fauna, and beautiful rock formations allowed the group to express a bit of its adventurous side. We had a blast in our helmets and wetsuits with our local guides Tere, Mata, and Manu, traversing the terrain, conquering our fears, and learning about the parque natural.

Suited up and ready to go, our group awaits its first rappel while canyoning in Grazalema's Garganta Verde.

Suited up and ready to go, our group awaits its first rappel while canyoning in Grazalema’s Garganta Verde.

The following day we made our international radio debut when we appeared on Monday morning’s edition of “Magazin Madrigal” from Radio Grazalema. While Ira Glass may not have understood a word we said (it was all in Spanish), the group’s journalism would have made him proud. We reflected on our quick trip through Madrid, homestays in Sevilla, and all other things ‘Spain’ snuggled up inside the confines of the quaint studio.

Ms. Bryant, Natalya, Thomas, Arielle, and Paul in the studios of Radio Grazalema.

Ms. Bryant, Natalya, Thomas, Arielle, and Paul in the studios of Radio Grazalema.

After loading our suitcases onto the bus and a short ride to the mouth of the trail, we hiked along the refreshing waters of the Majaceite River to our penultimate destination—El Bosque. Upon our arrival, we took a trip back in time, making our own bread at a watermill-powered panadería. 

Cait, Logan, and Lily react to our Spanish bread maker's instructions. ¡Eso es pan!

Cait, Logan, and Lily react to our Spanish bread maker’s instructions. ¡Eso es pan!

Jumping on the bus yet again, we were headed for the sands and sun of Nerja, a beautiful Mediterranean beach town. We were able to catch some rays, eat some paella, and enjoy our last few hours in Spain.

Mediterranean views from the terrace of our hotel in Nerja.

Mediterranean views from the terrace of our hotel in Nerja.

In just a few short hours, we will be back on the bus one last time, headed to the Pablo Ruiz Picasso terminal at the Málaga International Airport. Connections in Madrid and London will bring the group to Logan International at 6:55 PM Eastern Time, officially bringing an end to Wayland Spain 2015.

Adios, Aljarafe!

Our final day at school found the Wayland students in a role reversal—they were now the teachers! We visited two elementary school English courses to teach them some songs and games in English. “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” Duck, Duck, Goose!, and “Happy Birthday” were among the favorites, both for us and for the niños.

(Clockwise from top of photo) Jamie, Kami, Logan, and Paul teach some third graders a game in English.

(Clockwise from top of photo) Jamie, Kami, Logan, and Paul teach some third graders a game in English.

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Izzy, Emily, Thomas, and their group of third grade boys after an intense game of Red Light, Green Light. Note the bunny ears…

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Arielle and Cate giving the girls a ride around the school grounds on “caballito”.

With Sevilla’s famous Feria de Abril just around the corner, it was imperative for us to learn the famous Sevillanas dance moves. Accompanied by our host brothers and sisters, we practiced our palmas, pasadas, and our ¡Olé! (the dance ends with that shouted an accented, out-of-breath finale).

The group in the later stages of the dance course with our teacher, Eva.

The group in the later stages of the dance course with our teacher, Eva.

Natalya, Lily, Arielle, Taylor, Andrea, Thomas, and a few Spanish host brothers and sisters take a rest during our "Sevillanas" class.

Natalya, Lily, Arielle, Taylor, Andrea, Thomas, and a few Spanish host brothers and sisters take a rest during our “Sevillanas” class.

The host parents organized a farewell picnic for us at the school, full of the typical Spanish dishes they had been feeding us all week. In typical Spanish fashion, we had more than enough food, besos, and abrazos to last us the remainder of the trip.

The whole group of Wayland/Aljarafe homestay brothers and sisters (minus Paul, who was watching his host brother Manu's soccer team win 12-0).

The whole group of Wayland/Aljarafe homestay brothers and sisters (minus Paul and his host brother Manu, who were watching Manu’s soccer team win 12-0!) at our farewell picnic.

Overall, the homestays were an incredible experience for the students from both Wayland and Aljarafe and the host families as well. Everything went off without a hitch, and the only question we were left with was, “¿Y cuándo volvéis?” The entire group was assured that whenever our return might be, we’ve all got a home in Aljarafe.

Just before our final, teary farewell...

Just before our final, teary farewell…

Up next, action and adventure in the beautiful Andalusian villages of Grazalema and El Bosque before one final day at the Mediterranean beach town of Nerja. As they say in Spanish, “el tiempo vuela…”

La Vida Sevillana

After a full day of class at Colegio Aljarafe on Tuesday, the entire group took a bike tour of Sevilla, visiting the beautiful Plaza de España, Sevilla’s famous tobacco factory-turned-university, the majestic Puente de Triana, and more. We split into two groups and headed out into the city with our host brothers and sisters.

Wayland students with their Spanish host brothers and sisters after our bike tour of Sevilla.

Wayland students with their Spanish host brothers and sisters after our bike tour of Sevilla.

Wednesday was our chance to get out and see all Sevilla has to offer. We visited the famous Alcazár gardens, spent a relaxing afternoon at the Baños Árabes, completed the inaugural Wayland Sevilla Selfie Challenge, and finished our afternoon atop the famous Giralda of Sevilla’s cathedral. Aside from some afternoon rain on Wednesday, the weather has been beautiful.

Though the clouds brought us some rain and kept the sun away, the views from the top of the Giralda were breathtaking nevertheless.

Though the clouds brought us some rain and kept the sun away, the views from the top of the Giralda were breathtaking nevertheless.

Overall, the homestays have been a great chance for the students to see what it is like to live as Spanish teenagers. Each day has been packed with opportunities for them to use the Spanish they’ve already learned, acquire new vocabulary, and absorb the Andalusian culture.

Taken from a reflection activity the students did during school, here are some student reactions so far:

“I love my homestay family already!”

Emily and Izzy at school with their homestay sisters and friends.

Emily and Izzy at school with their homestay sisters and friends.

“¡Este viajes es una experiencia increíble y fantástica!”

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Arielle, Izzy, Emily, Caitlin, Lily, Taylor, Thomas, Kami, and Andrea and their host brothers and sisters posing in front of some beautiful Mudejar architecture during our bike tour.

“¡El pavo real es muy guay!” (pavo real literally translates to “royal turkey,” but is a peacock; guay=cool)

“The chorizo is outstanding—the sandwich is just that and bread, but that’s all it needs!”

The group after finishing up a great lunch at one of  the best new restaurants in Sevilla, Perro Viejo.

The group after finishing up a great lunch at one of the best new restaurants in Sevilla, Perro Viejo.

“Everyone is extremely welcoming and friendly! Lots of kisses on the cheeks!”

“I was very nervous to meet my homestay sister, but we quickly became friends.”

 

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Logan, Owen, Caroline, Paul, and Spanish homestay friends at the famous Plaza de España.

Tomorrow will be our last day here at Aljarafe, and we will head off for the more adventurous part of our trip as we visit Grazalema, El Bosque, and the beaches of Nerja. Plenty of sun, lots of fun, and mucho español will make for some memorable moments.

Madrid in the Morning, Sevilla By Sunset

Our first fully rested day in Madrid began with a walk through Madrid’s famous Retiro park. Exclusive to the royal family until the end of the 19th century, El Parque del Buen Retiro is the city’s gorgeous green lung, neatly nestled right in its center. As Spring is in full bloom in Madrid, we were able to see the park in nearly full bloom, taking in the scenery as much as the Spanish sun.

Wayland students at Madrid's gorgeous Parque del Buen Retiro.

Wayland students at Madrid’s gorgeous Parque del Buen Retiro.

Directly beside Retiro lies another one of Madrid’s famous art museums, El Museo del Prado. Home to the paintings of early Spanish masters such as Goya and Velázquez, as well as various other 12–19th century masterpieces, the group was led through the different levels of the museum, exploring the intricacies of themes from the Hapsburgs to the Bourbons and Renaissance to Romanticism.

Wayland students with their Sevillan homestay brothers and sisters.

Wayland students with their Sevillan homestay brothers and sisters.

After the Prado we took Spain’s high-speed AVE train from Madrid to Sevilla. Traveling at a maximum velocity of 300 km/hr (186 mph!!!), we arrived to our host families in the early evening. After saying goodbye to the group, all the students left for their first night of the homestay. The upcoming days here in Sevilla will be action-packed and full of adventure and learning.

¡Madrileños, todos!

Arriving just after 6:00 a.m., the group quickly found itself surrounded by the hustle and bustle of all that is Madrid’s capital city. We started the day with a morning walk through the beautiful Parque del Oeste, seeing the Palacio Real and the Catedral de la Almudena on our way to a tapas lunch at the beautiful Mercado de San Miguel. After lunch, we headed to Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia where we were able to take in the work of some of Spain’s finest artists such as Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and many more.
Tomorrow we hop on Spain’s famous high speed train, the AVE, to Sevilla to start our homestays with families from Colegio Aljarafe. We will be living as Sevillanos for the next week, dancing, biking, and sightseeing our way through the famous southern city.
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Arrival at Madrid’s Barajas Airport!

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Group Leaders, Melissa, Brock, and Nicole.

 


The group has arrived in Madrid!

We have received word that the group has arrived safely and on time in Madrid.  They have had a busy day and jet lag is starting to take its toll, so no one will have trouble sleeping tonight!  The group leaders will post pictures soon.

Bienvenidos!

We know that parents, families, and friends love to keep up to date on their students’ activities during our programs. Our trip leaders will post updates to this blog in order to keep you updated on the group’s progress. While the blog posts will not provide detailed information about your child, they will keep you informed about the activities, projects and successes of the program, as well as comfort the usual worries in sending a son or daughter to a far-away place.

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