It’s been an interesting 12 days since arriving in Spain. I think I shared with you the mix-up at the Lisbon airport and the 9-hour wait, midnight arrival, an exhausted start to the Spanish part of my trip.
Well, you’ll be happy to know that everything worked out perfectly.
The apartment could have been an ad for Ikea. Everything was from there, including the pillows. The colors were lime, orange, red and yellow – and it all worked! Floor to ceiling doors opened to a view of a small cafe, several coffee shops, bakery plus Alberto’s Curiosity Shop on the walking-only street below. In the evening, when the late-dining and partying Madrid residents got a little too noisy, we could just turn on the air-conditioner and shut the doors. Did you know that dinnertime in Madrid is normally 10 PM? They are just getting warmed up and ready to have fun at midnight! But the noise level was no where near to what we had in Lisboa – thank goodness.
Madrid Centro is filled with fabulous and very old buildings dating back to the 1400’s. Many are massive and ‘gingerbread’ abounds not only in the stone details but the iron-work as well.
Statues, large and small can be found towering over a plaza or sitting on a column gazing peacefully at all who pass by.
Museums of every size and kind are also plentiful in this city of art and music lovers. Spaniards are passionate people and embrace the arts with great fever and love. Of course, Madrid is the home of the magnificent Prado where Picasso reigns, along with many of the old masters. The Sophia though is the home of his Guernica masterpiece, painted during the reign of Franco.
King Phillippe has his own cute, little Palace that he doesn’t even live in. Just uses it for State occasions. They must get enough money to keep the lights burning from all the tourists that walk through every day.
Nancy and I spent 3 days just wandering all over El Centro, getting lost and loving it. We enjoyed eating tapis and drinking lots of roja and stumbling upon the Mercardo San Miguel – a marketplace filled with vendors, each selling their own ‘small bites’ and libations to tempt your tummy. We were tempted and succumbed!
Last Thursday afternoon we met our fellow ‘teachers’ who the next day would begin the 8-day English language program near Salamaca in the small village of La Alberca. We had a great lunch followed by a demonstration of flamneca dancing.
Twenty-two Anglos (native English speakers) volunteered for this program. We came from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Spain and France. The company, DIVERBO, has been running these programs for over 20 years and they are extremely successful. They hold them in several locations in both Spain and Germany. This week the clients are adults needing or wanting to improve their conversational English, but they also offer classes for teens and youngsters.
Our group of Spanish adults worked for large corporations or were business owners themselves. We had several Masters and Doctoral students, plus a few teachers. Our group of 22 Spaniards ranged in ages from their mid-20’s to a senior airline pilot who was 60.
We all hopped on a huge coach for the 4-hour ride up to La Alberca early Friday morning. After a short stop overlooking the historical town of Alvila for coffee and a potty-break, we arrived at our home for the next 8 days.
We were housed in lovely villas. There was one Anglo and one Spaniard to a villa, each with our own en suite rooms, each with a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains.
Our days began at 9:00 a.m with breakfast in the dining hall. Seating was alternating two Anglos to 2 Spaniards at each table. Breakfast would last until 9:45, with a 15-minute break and then the really hard work began.
From 10:00 a.m. until 3:15 p.m. we talked. We sat, we walked, but we were always talking. We had hour-long, one-to-ones with each attendee during the week. We then had hour-long two-to-two discussion groups, entire group hour-long activities (games, presentations (both Anglos and Spaniards), round table discussion groups of 6 or 8 and finally we had lunch at 2:00 p.m. By the 2nd day everyone was hoarse! We all praised the courage and dedication of the Spaniards who were not allowed one word of Spanish the entire 8 days!
We did get a siesta from 3:15 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. and yes, I took a nap most days. Then, from 5:00 p.m until 10:30 p.m. we talked some more. Again, one-to-ones, groups of 4 or 6, total group activities, including plays and musical presentations. Dinner was served from 9:00 until 10:30. Did I mention that red and white wine was severed with both lunch and dinner and there never was a full bottle left on any table. The bar opened at 10:30 and stayed open until 1:00 a.m. for those who could stay awake! Tuesday night we had a dress-up dinner and dance that went on, for some, until 5:00 a.m.! There were many red eyes the next day when were got to go into the village for a tour and lunch.
The village is famous for it’s jambon and they even let a little pig roam from for several months, going from home to home and being fed and cuddled by the villagers. You can see from the statue which has a place of honor just outside the church door, they love their pigs!
And they love to EAT their pigs. Here is a photo of the inside of a jambon shop and we were all treated to a really yummy ham & local cheese & wine pre-lunch party. The slicer of the jambon is a master. They actually have contests on who can slice the thinnest slices in the most decorative pieces.
What was really interesting to me was that La Alberca is part of the Camino de Santiago. Though hard to find, the sign of the Camino, the shell, could be found in several places throughout the village.
We returned to Madrid yesterday evening – exhausted but so proud of ourselves and our ‘students’, each of who’s English had improved immeasurably. They finally got to speak their own language on the bus ride back after over a 100 hours of total English immersion.
Nancy flew home to Raleigh this morning and I checked-out of the colorful apartment and moved around the corner into an extremely nice hostel. I’m only here for one night so guess I can survive in a room with 5 other young women! Tonight I had the great pleasure of having dinner with friend and fellow IWA member, Jill Brennan, who is in Madrid for a month-long Spanish class. We met at the roof-top restaurant atop the Jardines du Sabitini which has a fabulous view of the Palicio Real.
Tomorrow morning I’m off once again to southern France – but this time a bit further north, near Toulouse. One of my fellow ‘teachers’ has a rambling farmhouse that he generously invites travelers to stop by, do a load or two of laundry and swim in the pool in return to helping with his garden, doing some paperwork or helping around the house. From there I will head to Germany where I will visit with dear friends just south of Frankfurt before going to Laubach where DIVERBO has one of their German locations. I was thrilled to be asked to spend 6 more days teaching English – to German execs!
The 4th of July will be spent with my friends before flying to Minnesota on the 5th for the wedding of my youngest and his beautiful bride-to-be, Melissa.
So until next time……