Sunshine, Siestas, and the Sala de Murillo: A Rivers Spanish Adventure

A group of Upper School students, dressed in suitably summery outfits and dreaming of nonstop ice cream, set out on a journey to Cádiz, Spain, in June. The trip, renowned on campus for its incredible sights and cultural immersion, did not disappoint.

Students stayed with local families and spent their days participating in Spanish life. When they weren’t spending time in classrooms and museums, students explored the city with its rich historic architecture and landmarks set against beautiful coastal views.

Each day began with perfect weather (see the trip blog or our SmugMug gallery for photos from the trip). As one blog post had it, “Today was another typical Cádiz day—70 degrees and a radiantly blue sky.”

Days were filled with enough warmth and light for seemingly endless activity. On a trip to nearby Granada, the group walked to el Centro de Granada. They visited el Corral del Carbón, a 14th-century monument, and the Catedral de Granada. The students enjoyed visiting la Capilla Real, or royal chapel, the burial site of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and they explored many styles of architecture throughout the Alhambra. Culture and history intertwined as they capped the first day of the two-day Granada jaunt with shopping, a flamenco performance, and family-style dinner at a local restaurant.

Most days started at a relaxed 10 a.m., when students attended classes to augment their study of the Spanish language. The program has a strong academic component, as the students ultimately create a capstone project upon their return and receive academic credit for the trip. However, they also learn a tremendous amount outside the classroom. Their knowledgeable guide, Álvaro, toured the group through many of the unmissable sights and experiences in and around the gorgeous coastal town. Students were intrigued with the layered history to be found in this old part of Spain, which has been inhabited for thousands of years.

Students also connected with the locals and tried their hand at cooking one of the most famous Spanish dishes, paella, with everyone participating in the chopping, slicing, stirring, and pouring of the ingredients. They even encountered a “high point,” according to the blog, while visiting City Hall: “[It] was not about history but about the mayor just happening by in his polo shirt and unkempt hair and saying hello to the students. He seemed like a very nice, if casual, newly elected politician.”

The students also had the opportunity to visit a local center that welcomes immigrants to the area. As recorded on the blog, “A super-charming (and fast-talking) volunteer explained the nature of immigration to Spain and how the immigrants were more and more often undocumented women and young children. Our students were moved by the difficulties such immigrants face and fascinated to learn more about how the immigrants struggle to earn a living and to stay in Spain.”

Throughout their action-packed 10 days, the students journeyed through history and the city. One afternoon in the Museo de Cádiz, described on the blog, perhaps sums up the trip: “Once we had seen the pair of Phoenician sarcophagi, the monumental statue of the Emperor Hadrian, and the famous Murillo paintings in the Sala de Murillo, the students had a little competition to find the answers to Álvaro’s questionnaire. All the students were winners, but a certain someone did get a free ice cream for having the most correct answers. Then, the students were off to have lunch with their family and soon after that to the beach!” For this group of students, the trip was a perfect blend of art, culture, language, history—and, of course, ice cream.

—Joelle Mentis '18