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From Island to Farm to Beach

By Sue

In addition to visiting the big cities of Barcelona, Sevilla and Madrid, our time in Spain has included more low-key destinations including the island of Mallorca, an organic farm in the La Axarquía region of Andalucía, and the Costa del Sol beaches of Torrox and Nerja.

On Mallorca we stayed in the lovely village of Santa Margalita. Our apartment was located across from the police station, four houses down from the church, and a few short steps to the town plaza. It was a great location from which to take in the sites and sounds of small town Spain including flea and farmer’s markets, pick up soccer games in the plaza, and lively meetings and choir practices in the  hall above the police station. When the hustle and bustle of life in Santa Margalita got to be too much, we could always retreat to the back terrace and gaze out onto the Malloracan countryside.

Welcome to Santa Margalida.

Welcome to Santa Margalida.

The church at the end of our street.

The church at the end of our street.

Soccer in the plaza.

Soccer in the plaza.

View from our terrace.

View from our terrace.

Hiking along the coast.

Hiking along the coast.

Our next stop was Casa Montes Negros (http://www.casamontesnegros.com/); a working organic farm located in the foothills of the Sierra Tejada mountain range. Our wonderful hosts, Rachael and Ramon, along with their kids Jasmine and Sam, have a lovely home and farm where they grow almonds, figs, olives and pomegranates. Their super sweet dog named Scooby kept us company throughout our stay, often napping in the sun on the terrace outside our rooms. Within a short drive was a beautiful national park where we went for a day hike and only encountered one other group of people (and a fox) the entire time. Even with the harrowing road filled with hairpin turns leading up the farm, it was hard to leave this idyllic location.

Casa Montes Negros.

Casa Montes Negros.

Our buddy Scooby.

Our buddy Scooby.

View from our porch of olive and almond grove.

View from our porch of olive and almond grove.

Hiking at the nearby national park.

Hiking at the nearby national park.

A fox comes by to bid us farewell.

A fox comes by to bid us farewell.

Rounding out our non-urban adventure was 10 days along the Costa del Sol. Here we spent a week up in the hills above Torrox, meeting up with Max’s high school friends Liz and Lauren, followed by 3 days in Marbella. Sleeping late, going to a different beach everyday, and floating on the Mediterranean Sea was the extent of our daily agenda. We did manage to motivate and drive to Granada to visit the Alhambra and while it deserves its own blog post, a couple of pictures will have to do.

Lovely beach in Nerja.

Lovely beach in Nerja.

Floating in the Mediterranean.

Floating in the Mediterranean.

The beautiful Alhambra.

The beautiful Alhambra.

A view of the Alhambra from the Generalife.

A view of the Alhambra from the Generalife.

Great visit with Liz and Lauren.

Great visit with Liz and Lauren.

Our biggest learning from these stops? It is really important to mix it up and get away from the main tourist destinations, especially when traveling in Europe. Until we arrived in Spain we were traveling off-season and in countries that have recently experienced a significant drop in tourism due to international reports of conflict and unrest in the region. When we arrived in Barcelona (our first stop in Europe) it was a bit overwhelming to see so many tourists everywhere. Building in time to explore less frequented areas has given us a window into Spain we could not have experienced by only visiting major cities and tourist destinations.

A Community Garden in Madrid

By Sue

As we wander through the cities and towns on our journey, each of us has something that elicits the following declaration: “We have to stop and check this out!” For the kids it might be a bakery window filled with tempting pastries or an outdoor exercise park; for Max, it’s a plaque detailing an important historical event or person. In my case it is, without question, a community garden tucked away in a quiet corner of the city. A few days ago while strolling through Madrid on our way to the Sunday flea market, I hit the jackpot!

As we walked down a sleepy, residential street an open gate along a beautiful mural-covered brick wall beckoned us to take a look. Stepping through the gate we were not disappointed. The sign that greeted us read as follows (translated from Spanish – thank you Google translate!):

This square is a community garden constructed by many people who opt for a coexistence based on mutual trust, ecology, regrowth and defending the common good. It’s a place to share and to experience the reality derived from these values in a public space.

Wall outside the garden.

Wall outside the garden.

Welcome sign when you enter.

Right away you notice that a building must have once stood on this site as the garden is bordered on three sides by tall apartment buildings. A roughly ten foot brick wall is all that remains of the previous structure and every inch is either adorned with art or has been transformed to serve a community function such as a teaching space built into an archway along the street wall.

View towards the entry.

View towards the entry.

Growing space - apartments in the background.

Growing space – apartments in the background.

Mural on inside wall.

Mural on inside wall.

Teachingl/learning space along the wall.

Teachingl/learning space along the wall.

In addition to plenty of room set aside to grow vegetables and tend fruit trees, this “plaza guapa”, roughly the size of half a football field, packs in many other wonderful features including a bike repair area, a geodesic dome/potting shed, outdoor oven, theater area for viewing movies, gazebo, teaching space, children’s play area, swings, and a game table. Each area is thoughtfully constructed from reclaimed and recycled materials.

Bike repair ares.

Bike repair area.

Outdoor theater.

Outdoor theater.

Gazebo area.

Gazebo area.

Outdoor oven.

Outdoor oven.

Imagine how many different ways neighbors and visitors connect with this space, experience community, and feel a sense of ownership and pride in what they have created! The collective creativity and energy that built and sustains this space is evident in every detail throughout the garden. I felt so lucky to stumble upon this hidden gem in the heart of busy, energetic Madrid. It made my day and sent me on my way inspired and excited to reconnect with my own community garden (Hillman City P-Patch) when we return.

Sevilla by Bike

By Max

One glorious, but really hot day in Sevilla, we discovered a wonderful way to see a large European city in a way that appeals to our whole group; renting bicycles! As Sevilla is a relatively flat city with many bike friendly routes we set out on a Sunday morning to see as much as we could.

We're on our way.

We’re on our way!

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Starting with a beautiful ride along the Guadalquivir River we made it quickly to our first stop, the Museo Del Castillo De San Jorge (Castle of St. George).  I was really eager to see the castle as it is home to an interactive museum on the Spanish Inquisition. From 1481 – 1785 the castle was the headquarters of the Inquisition in Spain. What a powerful experience to read, see, and engage with artifacts of this time in Spanish history. We all left with a deeper understanding of the scope and intensity of the Inquisition.

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Having met our educational goal for the day, Sue insisted that we take in the local culture by visiting some ceramics shops and a highly acclaimed bakery.  While Noah, Caleb and I were pretty bored by the pottery, the bakery definitely lived up to its billing!

The amazing selection at Dulceria Manu Jara.

The amazing selection at Dulceria Manu Jara.

Romi can't wait to dive in!

Romi can’t wait to dive in!

Caleb pretending to be interested in the ceramics store.

Caleb pretending to be interested in the ceramics store.

From the bakery, somehow it was time for sushi.  Yes, that’s right- baked goods followed by sushi!  A few days earlier we had spied some beautiful looking fish at the Triana Market and Noah insisted that we return to make sure it tasted as good as it looked.  We were not disappointed!

This way to sushi

This way to sushi.

Satisfied customers.

Satisfied customers.

Next, it was Romi’s turn to take the lead as we biked towards the Maria Luisa Park.  Maria Luisa Park is a beautiful car free zone in the middle of the city.  Home to the Plaza de España, acres of gardens, and museums, we biked through dirt paths trying to stay in the shade as much as possible.

Maria Luisa Park

Maria Luisa Park

Plaza Espana

Plaza Espana

As the day got even hotter, it was Sue’s turn to choose our next destination.  This typically makes us nervous as she has a habit of finding big hills with boring stuff at the top.  This time, however, her wanderings led to pay dirt.  As we rode along abandoned streets (by now siesta time on a Sunday), she found what appeared to be a modern art school and public space.  It was well over 90 degrees and for the first time that day, we started hearing groans of “can’t we go home now?”  We pushed on and to our surprise, behind the school was a bandstand with a jazz ensemble and refreshments! As we sat there with drinks and snacks we all agreed on how lucky we are to share in these great experiences together.

Enjoying jazz outdoors.

Enjoying jazz outdoors.

Caleb Gets Published

In an earlier post, Learning on the Road, Caleb shared an essay he wrote describing his experiences learning outside the classroom. He found out this week that a revised version of that original essay has been published on the Getting Smart website.  He has worked very hard on this piece, making several revisions along the way.  See the published version here:

Caleb’s blog post

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GOALLLLLL!!!

By Caleb

When we were planning our time in Barcelona, one thing I really wanted to do was see a FC Barcelona match.  My dad and I bought tickets way back in November and after many months of waiting, the big day finally arrived. To get to the game we first had to take the subway across town. We got there so early that they weren’t even letting people in yet (there were loads of people waiting to get in). That gave me time to buy a jersey and a scarf.

Picking up some FC  Barcelona swag

Picking up some FC
Barcelona swag before the game

Entrance to the stadium

Entrance to the stadium

We got to our seats so early that they were still watering the field so we walked around the stadium. Barcelona played Real Sociedad that night and for majority of the game Barcelona had the ball and was basically in control. Barcelona won 2-0 with two goals in the second half including a bicycle kick by Pedro.

Early arrival

Still not many fans at the stadium

FCB3

Watching the game in Barcelona was much different then watching a game in the U.S. During the game people are cheering, but mostly for specific things like a good play or a bad call. At the games in the U.S. there is usually constant cheering and noise. During the entire Barcelona game everyone stayed seated and concentrated on the game. At the games in the U.S. there are so many distractions and people are always moving around the stadium.

A full stadium ready for a match!

A full stadium ready for a match!

I prefer the Spanish way of watching soccer because it is much more about the game than anything else. My dad and I watched another FC Barcelona game in a bar and it was the same feeling of focus and concentration. In Spain watching sports is an important community experience. On game nights all the bars and restaurants are packed and you can hear cheering and yelling across the neighborhood.

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