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home : news : news May 25, 2016

7/8/2013 1:04:00 PM
To Spain and back
Intern Alex Long returns from two-week trip abroad
The hotel in Ronda had one of the most impressive views, looking off a massive cliff onto the surrounding countryside.
+ click to enlarge
The hotel in Ronda had one of the most impressive views, looking off a massive cliff onto the surrounding countryside.

By Alex Long

I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to travel through Spain with.

Spending 13 days switching between planes, buses, and walking can take the toll on any group of people, especially if they are people you only know from school, and even more so if half of them you have never met before.

The joint 2013 Spain trip between Byron and Pine Island returned to the

stormy Rochester airport sometime around midnight on June 24, and I

consider it an honor to have been travelling with them. The trip really

began sometime early in the school year when Mrs. Adkins, or simply

'Profé,' a Byron Spanish teacher and main trip coordinator, announced

the plans for a trip this summer through the territory of Andalucía, in

Southern Spain.

From there it was slowly organized in a series of meetings at the High

School and in between classes, when Mrs. Adkins would pull us into her

room to show off her newest addition to the itinerary.

Traditionally, Byron graduates of Spanish 2 have the chance to take the

trip every other year, but in the past couple years Mrs. Adkins has

found herself returning annually. Increased yearly interest among

students and parents plays a large part. Well over 20 students

tagged along last year, and this year our number was 25, including Pine

Island. That number did grow once we got to Spain and picked up a few


Esperanza Lopez-Lawson, the president of our tour agency and a longtime

friend of Adkins, picked us up in the Madrid airport, along with her

daughter, and joined us on the first part of our journey. Was her

surprise arrival excellent customer service or an excuse to take a

vacation in her native country? Either answer is plausible. Esperanza

was a fantastic, joyous, and enthusiastic ambassador and it was

wonderful to hear her talk about a country that she had dedicated

herself to helping others enjoy.

The first thing I noticed, driving from Madrid to the smaller but

slightly less tourist-y Toledo, was advertising. We take far too many of

the ads we see every day in the U.S. for granted. The amount of money

put into billboards, posters, and kiosks was shocking. There was hardly

any at all. At first glance, Madrid was far less impressive than the

grand, Americanized, corporate influence you might expect from New York

or a city of equivalent size. However, as we traveled on it became

apparent that Spain was just as impressive, albeit on a smaller scale.

We saw cathedrals, streets narrow enough for me to touch both sides at

once, the famed windmills of La Mancha, the real Sierra Nevadas, a

haunted castle, whitewashed cities on the fringes of the Mediterranean,

Roman aqueducts, and giant cherries (which my mom, a Washington native,

scoffed at). Along the way we met new people, both Spanish and within

our group, and changed for the better with each new revelation into the

Spanish culture.

One of the main draws of this trip, for me, was the lodging. We stayed

in seven different hotels, five of which were Paradors, castles converted by

the Spanish government into luxury hotels. By the end of our two weeks I

was nearly becoming an expert on comparing European hotels. It's all

about the view, placement of functioning Wi-Fi, and bidet quality.

All the time outside of our hotel was spent travelling. We rarely

stopped moving, usually only to eat. Critiques of the varied food of

Spain could, and I'm sure do, take up many books. The Spanish use olive

oil almost exclusively. They fry potatoes in it, serve it with bread and

more olives, make lotions out of it, and use it for almost every

possible purpose they can. I would place olive oil second highest in

sheer volume among the liquids we consumed on the trip, behind water and

just ahead of, for the adults, wine.

And then, before we knew it, the trip was over and we were returned to a

humid, flat, but welcoming Minnesota. I've been outside of the country

and overseas before, but this trip was the longest and will remain the

most important with me because of how it changed my view of the world.

At the first meeting to discuss the trip, we were reminded that this was

a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and my decision to go was based

largely on that fact. After getting to peek at the best Spain has to

offer, I can say that I am glad I went, and I would do it again, but I

know that I could never have the exact same experience again. Like Mrs.

Adkins' biennial trips, each route won't be the same, or with the same

people. Now, the 2013 Spain trip rests only in the memories of the Byron

and Pine Island travelers, and in the imaginations of those whom they

share it with.

Claremont Service

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