Gladly welcoming the warmth of the mid May air, we arrived at Malaga airport and met our trip representatives and well experienced guides from the Spanish Tourist board. The aim of the trip was to showcase the hidden gems in Andalucía and explore the breadth of subject specific focused trips and visits that the region has to offer, which certainly was delivered!
Andalucía is made up of eight provinces, our trip covering 3 of these - Córdoba, Granada and Malaga, all bursting with rich cultural heritage and representing Southern Spain fantastically.
We flew into Malaga airport, being the 4th busiest airport in Spain that has great transport links and is well serviced from airports throughout the UK. The first stop on our tour was Cordoba, less than 2 hour transfer from Malaga this quaint town has the heritage of Muslim decent and is a major Islamic centre of the Middle Age so lends itself a perfect destination for R.E and language based subject focuses. After checking into our hotel, we embarked on a guided walking tour of the old city. Coincidently whilst we were there the ‘Festival of the Patios’ was in full swing, where once a year the doors of private properties open and everyone is invited in to see the wonders of Córdoba’s patios that are decorated by residents with colourful flowers, stone mosaics and ceramic decorations. After seeing many Patios in full glory, our tour led us on to the ‘Mosque-Cathedral’ of Cordoba (Cordoba Mezquita) which is the most important monument in the Western Islamic world, and one of the most amazing in the world. The Mosque is one of the main ‘must sees’ in Cordoba. Spanish culture has been shaped and influenced by its diverse past and the mosque-cathedral and is a Masterpiece of architectural art, boasting 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite. The evening was finished perfectly with some local tapas.
The following day after spending a packed morning of seminars and supplier ‘meet and greets’ we checked out of the hotel and visited another potential hotel accommodation option for school groups which had on-site sports facilities and a swimming pool.
On our way to the next city Granada, we stopped off at the Almazara (Oil Press) Baena which is one of the most important producers of olive oil in Spain. This authentic oil press is quite basic yet gives you an insight into oil production and is an authentic visit – all of the packaging is still handmade and we were lucky enough to see the local employees at work, preparing boxes and boxes of bottles ready to be shipped off into Europe. We stocked up on Olive oil from the on-site shop and continued our transfer to Granada which took 2 hours. That evening we visited The Albaycín Quarter, and took part in a master class of “flamenco’ at Carmen de las Cuevas – the dance school is located within the caves and was a really different venue to anywhere I had ever been. The class was followed by dinner and a flamenco show at the Gardens of Soralla which was one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen! The show was very moving and a real eye opener to traditional Spanish culture.
Bright and early the next morning we started our day with a visit to the Science Park of Granada. This huge indoor and outdoor centre has interactive exhibitions that is perfect for school groups and would suit audiences of all ages.
Next was the visit we were all looking forward to - the guided tour of the amazing Alhambra - one of Spain's major tourist attractions.
The Alhambra tucked away in the hills of Granada is a 14thCentury building with Christian and Muslim influences, known as ‘the red one’ it was originally built as a small fortress in 889 AD on the site of Roman fortifications. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has stood as a symbol of strength and beauty throughout the years and showcases a vast range of Muslim art that has been gathered over centuries. This visit could easily eat up three/four hours without you realising it – the splendour of the Nasrid palaces and the gardens are certain to impress students, who will love the opportunity to experience the rich history and spectacular architecture. We had a ‘quick’ two hour tour, covering the most popular buildings/parts of the palace. Sad to leave this regal place we were welcomed to an amazing 3 course lunch at Casa Paco restaurant a 5 minute drive from the Alhambra which had breathtaking views over the city of Granada. Feeling rather full from a (typical Spanish style lunch we had just enough time for a quick Siesta during the transfer to Sierra Nevada resort - although it was difficult not to keep looking out of the window at the glorious scenery through the mountainous roads, and amazing blue lake at the foot of the hill! The Sierra Nevada ski resort holds the title of being the most southerly ski resort in the whole of Europe and with skiing above 3,300 metres is a very unique resort in the fact you can ski and visit the beach all a one day! Sierra Nevada is definitely an alternative experience to the traditional Alpine resorts. The resort was completely closed/ deserted as it is the transition period from winter to summer months – all of the hotels were undergoing renovation and redecoration, but it still had a small mountain style village feel and would love to go back to see it during the winter season covered in snow. It appears to be a great resort for beginners and would suit schools looking for something a little bit unique but still good quality accommodation, skiing and culture.
Malaga bound, we took the route along the tropical coast and stopped off at FINCA SAN RAMÓN 9a family ran tropical fruit farm) – the farm owners gave us an educational interactive and tasting session in the grounds of their house learning about the fruits grown there and was a really interesting and unique visit. We then transferred to Malaga and checked into our final hotel of the trip.
On our final day in Malaga was jam packed with various visits around the city. The first stop was newly renovated language school ‘On Spain’ that has two campuses in the city – this school would be great to develop Spanish language skills whether students are total beginners or experienced. There are an abundance of Language schools in Malaga and the surrounding city – too many to visit so it was nice to get a taster of one school. We then headed towards Malaga Port and welcoming the air con we visited the new Pompidou Museum! The museum opened in 2015 at Malaga Port and is a branch of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, located in ‘El Cubo’, a cuboid glass structure which stands out on the port. This museum eradicates the ‘old fashioned’ feel of classic museums and has lots of contemporary, inspirational and thought-provoking pieces of Art and exhibitions. Continuing the art and design focus we then went on to visit the Picasso Museum – Malaga is the birth place of Pablo Picasso and so is a poignant museum that has 285 works donated by members of Picasso's family. I would also highly recommend this museum for a quick visit. Lunch was at El Palmeral (in the Malaga Port) and of course we ensured that we had a little bit of time for souvenir shopping and a quick stroll around the markets at the Port. The airport transfer was an extremely quick 20 minute journey and sadly we said our goodbyes to our new found friends. I was left leaving Spain the with the determination to make it this year’s goal to learn Spanish after being inspired and develop a second language!
All in all, this trip has proven that there’s an abundance of opportunities to immerse students into Spanish culture, as well as broaden their curriculum knowledge in numerous subjects. I was left in no doubt that whatever your tour requirements, this is one destination that really can cater to everyone, I truly feel that Andalucia is a great Year-round destination with its Mediterranean climate, interesting culture and an inspiring destination!
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