Saturday, June 30, 2012

España vs. Portugal

On Wednesday, after a warm, sunny afternoon of deportes, many students found themselves out with friends or family to watch the showdown on the soccer field between Spain and Portugal. Whether at home or in the Plaza Mayor or in un bar close by, students were quick to take part in the excitement and fesitivities. The game was long and tense, but in the end - worth every cheer as Spain earned itself a place in the finals.

¡El tapeo! - A delicious way to see León

On Tuesday evening, we invited students to join us in a typical tapeo, or night of tapas, here in León. We used the curious, centrally located statue as our meeting point and we warned the students to not only come hungry, but be prepared to try something NEW. 

As local tradition has the small appetizer provided with purchase of a beverage, many students were suprised by the quantity and variety of tapas they received. Each small group made 3 to 4 stops throughout the city center, allowing students to try traditional favorites such as croquetas (croquettes filled with ham, chicken, cod or the popular choice of the students - pizza), aceitunas (typical green olives), salmorejo (similar to gazpacho, but thicker and served with jamón serrano and hard boiled egg on top) and of course, patatas, which many students found to be much more enjoyable than the American variety of "chips." To drink, many students tried mosto, a white grape juice-like beverage recommended to them by their host families.

                                 More pictures to follow and hopefully, a second tapeo as well!

Las fiestas de San Juan y San Pedro

After a tasty excursion to Astorga (be sure to ask your students about the chocolate!) and an exciting fútbol game against France, many students and their families brought the night to a close by watching the fireworks and the traditional hoguera, or bonfire,  that officially commence the festivities in celebration of San Juan and San Pedro.

The hoguera traditionally is a symbol of purification for those who take part and local legend has it that those who write down a wish and throw the paper into the fire will see it come true.

España vs. Francia

After the earlier trip to Astorga, many of our students gathered later that evening in León´s Plaza Mayor to watch Spain´s national soccer team take on France in the Euro Cup. As you can tell, it didn´t take long for students and staff alike to catch the fútbol fever and enthusiastically cheer La Roja on to victory over their long-standing rival.

After the earlier trip to Astorga, many of our students gathered later that evening in León´s Plaza Mayor to watch Spain´s national soccer team take on France in the Euro Cup. As you can tell, it didn´t take long for students and staff alike to catch the fútbol fever and enthusiastically cheer La Roja on to victory over their long-standing rival.

Astorga - Gaudí, chocolate y más...

Last Saturday was a busy day for our group here in León. Not only was there an optional excursion for students, but it also marked the beginning of the local fiestas and a key match for Spain´s national team in the Euro Cup.   

In spite of having to get up a bit earlier than usual on the weekend, many students decided to join us for the optional excursion to Astorga. Astorga, once a key city under the rule of the Roman Empire, is about an hour away (by bus) from León and is also a stop for many as they follow the Camino de Santiago through northern Spain. On our agenda for the morning visit was a tour of a palace constructed by Gaudí, the chocolate museum and the cathedral, which dates back to the 15th century.

The cathedral, declared a national monument in the 20th century, was under construction for nearly three centuries and thus exhibits design elements from Gothic, Neo-Classicist, Baroque and Renaissance styles.

As you can see, some of our students (and staff!) were eager to show their support for La Roja and proudly wore the team jersey on the excursion. Many of the locals were pleasantly suprised by how "well dressed" our students were. :)

The work of Catalan architect Antoní Gaudí , shown above, was originally intended to be an episcopal palace. As the building was never inhabited, it was later converted  into the Museo de los caminos, serving as a home for both historic and contemporary art pieces reflective of  life´s many caminos.

After touring the Gaudí´s palace, our next stop was one that many students had been looking forward to - the Museo de chocolate. Here, students not only got to learn about the history of chocolate and it´s production in Spain, but they also got to TASTE it. Needless to say, many souvenirs (and snacks) were bought during the visit. Hopefully, some of these treats will make it back to the U.S.!

Having tried all the chocolate they could (ranging from darkest to white, bitter to sweet, plain or with frutos secos), students were then given free time to visit the city and do some additional sight seeing. Shown below is the Plaza Mayor, which our students found to be rather small and low-key when compared with that in León.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

León - Una visita

On Friday, the city center became our classroom for a special visit to some of the most well-known and historical sites in León: the cathedral and the Real Colegiata de San Isidoro.   Although we did not have to travel far for this excursion, students were challenged to learn all that they could about their host city and to then test their knowledge of "all things Leonese" by successfully completing their gincana, or scavenger hunt. Winners were of course awarded with prizes representing the city, and a certificate for our favorite ice cream shop, Holy Cow (or as we say around here, La vaca sagrada).

Our first stop was the cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century. Here the students were able to tour the main floor nave, choir area, altar and some of the cathedral´s 120+ stained glass windows.

 Then, we braved the narrow stairwell (shown below) to go up to the scaffolding and take a closer look at the on-going restauration process of the stained class. Students were amazed to learn not only how long they have already been working but also that there is still no definite "end date" in sight.

After watching a brief video detailing the restauration process (and being able to see before/after pieces), students came back down to the Plaza de Regla to have a snack (el almuerzo) and start the gincana.

 Armed with maps, dictionaries and a list of sites to find and questions to answer, the students set off with a 45 minute time limit. The three girls below were proud to have finished first (and then could celebrate their victory with ice cream).
After the gincana, we went on to the Real Colegiata - a church that was first dedicated in 1063. Here, students were given a true lesson in Leonese history as 23 former kings are buried on site and they were able to see ancient manuscripts and a few treasures of the church. Students impressed teachers and the guide alike with their questions and sincere interest as they traveled back in time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

El Alcázar

Because a large part of this 12th century castle was destroyed by fire in 1862, it´s restoration has been an ongoing effort with historical pieces being sought throughout Spain and well beyond her borders. This castle was also where Columbus´ financiers, known as the “Catholic Monarchs,” Fernando and Isabel, first met. Here, students not only saw the thrones of one of Spain´s famous couples but also a wide array of tapestries, arms and paintings. Some of our students even climbed to the top of the castle´s tower, which was once used as  prison.
Below, one of the many breathtaking views from the castle´s back terrace.