Yep, I’m bringing it all the way back to the trip that started it all.
The very first time I visited Europe was a nine-day, seven-city, organized educational trip to Spain during my junior year of high school. I was sixteen years old at the time, and had never, ever been anywhere without my parents or entertained the idea of ever leaving the country. Case in point, I was friggin’ terrified.
When I say this is the trip that started it all, it truly did. Before this trip, I would have never considered seeing anything outside of my little town on Long Island. Seriously, because of this trip I chose to go away to college, and it’s the biggest inspiration for my trips to other destinations. You could safely say I caught the “bug” the second I set foot on Spanish soil….
Madrid: Our first stop! Our hotel was in Puerta del Sol, a quintessentially European, pedestrian-only plaza, and we have our own bus to see the contrasting, incredibly modern city. We visited Plaza Mayor, El Parque Retiro, the Reina Sofia (Modern Art Museum), the Royal Place, and El Prado Museum (Old Art Museum- AKA the Spanish Metropolitan Museum of Art), and ended our time in Madrid with Churros con Chocolate (To. Die. For. I still remember this four years later. I even sent one of my best friends to it when she studied abroad last Spring!)
Toledo: A significantly smaller, sleepier town in comparison to metropolitan Madrid, we only spent an afternoon in Toledo on our way to Granada. The first stop was a Damasquindo and Sword Factory. These are beautifully crafted pins, jewelry, and weaponry with interlaying metal elements. Toledo is known for this kind of art work. So basically, approximately two hours, 40 teenagers, and a ton of lethal weapons.
This is also where we started seeing all of the incredible Spanish cathedrals, and most likely where my fascination with them was born. We visited La Cathedral de Toledo, which unfortunately does not allow pictures inside.
Granada: Granada’s main attraction is La Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens. La Alhambra is a Moorish palace, with Arabic architecture and all, preserved for all visitors to walk through.
Sevilla: Without a doubt one of my favorite stops on the trip. This beautiful city in the south of Spain looked like it was straight out of a textbook or a travel channel episode. Sevilla is also the best place to practice Spanish, as the most grammatically correct form of Spanish is taught and spoken in Sevilla (many people study abroad here!). Highlights include the Plaza de Espana, El Alcazar (three different palaces from three different time periods), and La Giralda (Another cathedral because #theobsessionisreal). You can climb the Giralda Tower and get the most incredible view of Sevilla if you’re willing to walk up 35 moderately steep ramps. From experience, it is not as easy as it sounds…
Cordoba: Another small, sleepy town where we stopped to visit La Mezquita, the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba. We also boarded an AVE train here to travel to Barcelona!
Barcelona: If it’s a major city, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll love it. Barcelona, a whimsical city with a charm all its own, was our last stop before heading home. Most of the places to see revolve around Antonio Gaudi and his work. The Parc Guell (also the sight for a catchy song from the Cheetah Girls 2 movie), the Casa Mila (a 1920s apartment building turned museum), La Sagrada Familia (Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral), and Casa Batillo are sights not to be missed. It was here we also insisted that we must stick our feet in the Mediterranean Sea because we had to say we did it…
I haven’t made it back to this beautiful, inspiring country since, but you can bet I’m working on it. I owe all of the adventures I’ve had since 2011 to this trip… So, muchas gracias, Espana. Hope to see you soon.
*Click the underlined words for more information about each site. Even better, the company I traveled with still runs student tours, just under a different name! Click here: http://id.educationaltravel.com/ws/