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How Spain Stole My Heart | Interim Term 2020

Avery Harder '21
Junior Avery Harder shares her recent Interim Term trip experience.
 
Growing up at Second Baptist School, I looked forward to Interim Term most of my life. I saw the two-week period as a time to broaden my horizons and learn about the world beyond my classrooms. Freshman and sophomore year of high school brought fulfilling memories I will never forget. My first two Interim Terms I tried different forms of exercise, became lifeguard certified and toured several colleges. However, my most rewarding and exciting trip was yet to come. Junior year, after a frenzied sign-up, I managed to claim a spot on the trip to Spain.

My friends and I became increasingly thrilled about the upcoming international trip and made sure to prepare our wardrobes accordingly. As the departure date drew near, tensions continuously arose because of developing concerns about COVID-19. Our group was cleared to travel and all 28 students boarded the nine-hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Our layover was short, and finally, after an additional three-hour flight, we made it to Spain. We drove into Barcelona and spent the first evening in wide-eyed admiration of the city and culture, despite many of us being exhausted from being awake for over thirty hours. After a good night’s rest, the group was more than ready to hit the ground running and take in the sights of the city.

To me, one of the most compelling aspects of Barcelona is the diversity built into the city. We learned of Barcelona’s complex past, stretching from the rule of the Romans to the 1992 Summer Olympics. The mix of ancient and modern structures amazed me; the union of the past and present was unlike anything I had seen in the United States. The Olympics sparked financial prosperity in Barcelona, and the city’s gratefulness for tourists was evident. We spent three nights in Barcelona and explored the city to our maximum potential. My favorite part was Antoni Gaudí’s Basilica of the Sagrada Família, a church nearing the end of construction of more than 130 years. Both the basilica’s outside and inside featured unparalleled beauty. Impossibly intricate carvings covered every inch of stone, and multicolored stained-glass windows illuminated the interior with breathtaking hues. Our final day in Barcelona took our group to Figueres, and we were curious as to what more Spain had to offer.

Salvador Dalí’s museum in the artist’s hometown Figueres was our first destination. The museum was strangely unique, and Dalí’s work was the same. The artist’s paintings, sculptures and films entranced our group, with bizarrely unusual contortions of the human body and seemingly random objects strewn about. We ate lunch in the small town, drove back to spend the night in Barcelona, then traveled to Córdoba the next day.

Córdoba was a refreshing change from the clustered city we had traveled from. While Barcelona was reminiscent of New York City, Córdoba felt more like a small town. White buildings studded with bright blue flower pots holding pink flowers created picture-perfect scenery everywhere we looked. The city made taking memorable pictures easy, and my camera roll is filled with beautiful photos of Córdoba. Even simple alleyways looked like a postcard brought to life. Evidence of past life in the city peeks through the worn stone roads and detailed architecture. Roman, Muslim and Christian influence was evident through the cathedrals and mosques in the city. Córdoba quickly stole everyone’s hearts, and I believe most of us would say it was our favorite stop on the tour.

Our next destination was Seville. Upon our arrival, we went to the Plaza de España, an outdoor square created to welcome visitors with open arms. The landmark stretched out in a half-circle and showcased major Spanish cities through mosaics lining the interior. Seville’s scenery was similar to that of Córdoba, featuring mostly white buildings with vibrant flowers. Orange trees were abundant, lining every street and filling the air with a lovely fragrance. Sophisticated architecture characteristic of every Spanish city we had encountered was also found in Seville. A flamenco lesson followed by a professional performance established the strange yet jaw-dropping complexity of the cultural phenomenon. Filled with an appreciation for Seville’s abundant culture, our group had to move on to the next city.

Following Seville, we drove to the nearby town of Zuheros to explore an underground cave. The Cuevas de los Murciélagos astounded me; the stone walls seemed as though they would be soft to the touch as wind, water and time had worn the stone to velvety smoothness. As our group climbed up and down about 700 steps, we learned about the stalactites, stalagmites and even human remains found in the cave. Once out, we ate lunch in the village of Zuheros, population 700. There were only two options for lunch, but the tiny town charmed us with its quaint beauty. After strolling amongst the streets for a bit, it was time to travel to our final Spanish city.

Granada immediately proved why it is beloved by so many. Our guide took us to an overlook of the city, and what rested before us looked like a still from a fairytale. The Granada Palacio De Carlos V showed us how centuries of diverse religions and cultures could come together and form a masterpiece that generations to come will marvel over. Granada is famous for the number of mosaics it possesses, and for good reason. Beautiful tile masterpieces covered many buildings throughout the city. Our final night in Spain was tearful, and upon reflecting on our favorite cities and moments, it became clear how memorable the entire experience would always be to all of us. One twelve-hour flight later, we were back in Houston.

Our group was blessed with perfect weather for the entirety of the trip: sunny and 60 degrees in nearly every city. At the end of our trip, the reality of the global pandemic was setting in. We landed in Houston approximately eight hours before the European travel ban took effect. We were greeted in the airport by emotional parents who had been praying for many days, and thankfully no one from our group became sick. This trip is something I will forever remember, and I will always be especially thankful to our chaperones (Mr. Brooks, Mrs. Farias, Mr. Klingsmith and Mrs. Towne) for making this Interim Term such an incredible experience. Spain solidified a special place in my heart, and I am already looking forward to where I might travel next year for my final Interim Term experience.

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