Día 6 – último día, Ávila

We’re writing this last entry on our blog on the way to Barajas aeropuerto. The coach is filled with the noise of sobbing students and a thousand and one stories they’re planning to tell you all.  I get the feeling this has been one successful exchange, Izzy wants to move her family to Avila, she’s just said.  But before we got to this point in the day, what happened?

First thing in the morning they all went into lesson.  I can’t tell whether they were shocked at how a school lesson in Spain is run, or they simply were thankful at how less estricto the educational system is England.  My highlight?  Cory could not understand why the Spanish students had to learn the word “needn’t”… “who on earth uses that!?”

One lesson was enough for them, and so we headed out with the German students for an audience with the Alcalde.  Avila is a UNESCO World Heritage site and they genuinely feel proud of this. Its people, as we’ve come to experience, are very welcoming. We got presented a beautiful book to take with us back to school.  Anecdote of the day? Josh and I made a deal at the beginning of this trip, I would not take photos of him, provided he didn’t hide on the group ones; as the Mayor finished her speech she asked “who’s Josh?”. She happened to be friends with Josh’s Spanish family and promised she would have a picture taken with him! (LOL, as they say).  Noticed I have not included it though, I’m a woman of my word.

The next visit of the day was Avila’s muralla.  Before going up though, Cameron got a visit from his brother’s exchange parents, an exchange that took place 4 years ago. Once they left, and armed with audio guides, we walked several turrets, imagining how the king child was protected from the enemy or how the soldiers would have fought from the top.  An hour and a half later we went back to the school, this time for a quick tour with the Head. Everything is so diferente! And by the time we finished, our friends also finished their lessons and so we left to go and eat our last comida in Avila.

Well, and with this our trip has pretty much ended.  I’m not lying to you when I tell you that most of them are still crying inconsolably, I hope they can keep these new friendships going….

Día 5 – Aventuras en los árboles

Monday morning, so much to tell! It was lovely to hear how some visited Avila’s multiple sights, others went back to Madrid -this time to see some of the many historic buildings and squares-, or went to Segovia and felt insignificantly small next to the Roman aqueduct or in Quinn’s case got to experience a Primera Comunión ceremony.  Some students found the weekend with their Spanish families a bit harder than others, but all in all we can say it went well. 

Today our Spanish friends came with us on our day trip to the zip wire park, in Navaluenga. The road is full of curvas and it takes a while to get there, but when you come off the bus you’re greeted by the most beautifully smelling pine forest, or as Cameron learnt, “pinar”.  Soon it became apparent there was a sector who were struggling with the idea of having to go up on the trees, only to throw yourself down on a zip wire. The excuse wasn’t good enough though.. “I don’t want to wear a casco”, and so I gave them all a motivational speech: “you’re going up because I say so”. At that point I realised if I expected them to climb up, me and Mr D were going to have to follow suit (didn’t think that through properly). 

Anyway, safety briefing done and harnesses checked, we started our ruta through the trees. We moved slowly but safely, to some of our students’ frustration.  This is where you see what people is made off, and I have to say that the day threw great surprises at us.  Millie, Sophie, Izzy, Meghan and Josh resulted to be real pros, working steadily and efficiently.  Scott, who had asked to be the last one up but ended having to go one of the first ones, did two of the routes with the biggest of smiles on his cara.  Amelia, Lauren, Quinn and Dan ploughed through, even though they obviously didn’t enjoy it (they made me really proud).  Charlotte, Cameron, Poppy and Nyah just genuinely enjoyed themselves (well, Poppy didn’t see the funny side of having to be rescued at one point).  And Cory asked when could we return to an urban civilization because the ants in Spain were huge and were freaking him out!

From Mr D’s and my point of view, it was endearing to see them work as a equipo together with their Spanish friends, having to communicate in order to move around safely, helping each other when they were stuck half way on a wire.

Anyway, the clock is ticking and our time in Avila is nearing its final.  Tomorrow we will be based in town and we will visit the school. So, keep tuned!

Día 2 – Madrid

Today we went to Madrid.  This morning’s excursión to Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, home of Real Madrid Football club, was received with mixed emotions. On one hand we had those passionate about the sport, who had been gearing themselves up for this and couldn’t contain the excitement, Cory, Josh, Scott, Nyah and Dan. And then, there was the rest. But it’s fair to say that everyone enjoyed it, there’s no doubt that this is one impressive tour and by the end, they were all feeling the colours (ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration…). Sadly Izzy lost her phone, and despite all our and the Security team efforts, we never got to find it.

The second part of the day was definitely to everyone’s taste. We ventured into the tráfico madrileño, not something I particularly recommend, and sure enough, 20 minutes later we arrived to Madrid’s theme park, El Parque de Atracciones. Charlotte and Quinn were in their element, “of my god! I’m definitely going on that!” they screamed at unison. All I could think was “no way José”. The day was a bit lluvioso but that would not stop us having fun. 

Mr D, Manuel -the Spanish teacher- and I safely retreated to a “thrill-less” meeting point (ok, yes I admit it, the cafe) whilst the students run, literally, to the most loco ride in sight. A while later Mr D and I thought it would be a good idea to go for a walk, see what they were up to and take a few photos.  Little did we know… Poppy’s persuading skills are second to none and before we knew it we were strapped to this innocent looking ride. Meghan took pity of me and decided to seat by my side. “How lovely” I hear you say… she laughed out loud the whole way! It didn’t end there, as we stopped, she proudly announced to the group “Miss is crying!”. I kid you not, I’ll get them back. Mr D wasn’t much better, half way through the ride he realised he was swearing, to Josh’s amusement. 

So, all in all a great day.  Now they’ve all got ahead a lovely weekend with their families. I’m sure we’ll hear all about it on Monday. 

¡Buen fin de semana a todos!

What’s that little dot down there?

Hurry up taking the photo Miss! We want to go in!

Don’t even ask…

Post ride…

Día 1 – Salamanca

Our journey to Avila went very smoothly.  We set off from school and arrived to Bristol airport with plenty of time for a hamburguesa. Everyone was happy with the flight seating arrangements (phew, I thought!) and quicker than we expected we were landing in Madrid. First impressions?… “it’s so hot!”. They stripped down to their camisetas, but this wasn’t enough, so they all ended improvising fans whilst having a good old moan. “I ask for hot weather in England, but this is just too much”, said Nyah to a general “yeah!”. 

As we approached Avila, the noise level went down, I guess they started to feel a bit nervous at the prospect of meeting the families. This didn’t last, as soon they got reunited with their Spanish amigos and left for their first night in their homes.

This morning they all couldn’t wait to share with each other all about their first night with their familia española. “Why do Spanish people eat their cereal in a mug?” asked me Josh. Well, I don’t know, we just do. “It’s so weird!” said Dan. I guess the distinction between weird and different is not that clear at their age.

Anyway, today we visited Salamanca, and we did so together with 13 German students from Berlin who, just like us, are here as part of an exchange.  Salamanca is one of those Spanish cities that stays in your memory. It’s home to the oldest Spanish Universidad (founded in 1134) and 3rd oldest in Europe after Bologna and Oxford, and has not just one cathedral, but two.  We decided to climb the bell tower of the newest one, which proved more than challenging for some of our students. I mean, you have to put yourselves in their place, we’re talking about several hundred steps up a narrow spiral escalera. Going down wasn’t any easier.  I was particularly proud of Dan and Scott who pushed themselves as far as they possibly could. 

Before some free time, we found a lost frog on the University’s facade, which, according to tradition, will bring luck in their exams to those who find it. “So, does this mean I can know close my libros and not bother with studying?” asked Cameron. Hmm.. not sure that would go down well.

And before we knew it, we were back in Avila just in time for our main meal of the day, la comida. 

Tomorrow we’re going to Madrid. Keep tuned!

Can you see the frog?

Friends reunited