In the early hours of Friday, 14th October, 2016, a group of girls from Farlington’s Years 10 and 11 boarded an EasyJet flight to Madrid for four days of immersing themselves in Spanish life. Led by Señora Briggs, the trip was designed to introduce the girls to Spanish culture and history, and enable them to experience everyday life in a Spanish city whilst improving their linguistic skills. From the moment they landed at Madrid airport the rule was – ‘sólo Español’; only Spanish spoken here!
After checking in to the hotel, conveniently located close to the famous Retiro Park and a stone’s throw from the centre of Madrid, they were ready for lunch in a nearby restaurant where the girls had their first chance to practise ordering food in Spanish as the waiter didn’t understand much English! After lunch the students strolled down the Paseo del Prado to the Prado Museum, where their guide took them on a tour through the history of painting from the early renaissance to the 18th century, encompassing paintings by the great Spanish artists Velazquez and Goya.
The second day found them in the historical city of Toledo, 45 minutes’ drive from Madrid, perched on a hilltop above the Tajo River. Entering the city via the Puente de San Martin (St Martin’s Bridge), they were transported back to mediaeval Spain. Wandering through the winding cobbled streets, they stopped to visit the magnificent Cathedral, the El Greco Museum and the El Transito Synagogue, and the girls found time to try some traditional Spanish food, including delicious ‘churros’. Señora Briggs ensured that nobody got left behind as she led everyone through the crowds brandishing her yellow folder and calling out “¡Seguir la carpeta amarilla!”
On the third day, the students took the metro to La Plaza Monumental de Las Ventas for a guided tour of Madrid’s bullring. There was a lot of activity as the final bullfight of the season was due to take place that afternoon; the bulls were being selected for the “corrida” and the picadors’ horses were warming up in the sand school. After this unusual experience, some retail therapy and lunch was called for at the Príncipe Pío, a popular shopping centre housed in an old railway station, where the girls enjoyed exploring the many shops and cafés. After viewing the Manzanares river and the Casa de Campo, the group took the metro to the Retiro Park for ice creams and to “pasearse “in the afternoon sunshine like true “Madrileños” before returning to the hotel to get ready for what was to prove the highlight of the trip. One of the oldest flamenco venues in the capital, Tablao Villa Rosa is the most emblematic of 1920s Madrid with its picturesque Andalusian wall tiles. Here the girls enjoyed a delicious dinner of tapas and paella and were treated to a spectacular display of traditional flamenco by internationally renowned dancers and singers.
The final day in Madrid brought with it a reminder of home – rain! Undeterred, the girls spent the morning looking around the magnificent Palacio Real, considered by many to be one of the finest palaces in Europe, followed by a stroll back through the old city to the Plaza Mayor. The girls then had some free time in which to have lunch and do a bit more shopping around the Puerta del Sol (the symbolic centre of Spain) before catching the No. 32 bus back to the hotel to prepare for the departure to the airport.
The trip was a great success and the girls were so enthusiastic about all things Spanish that by the end of the four days, even those who are not taking GCSE Spanish, were trying out newly learned phrases!