We’re traveling again, but this time with 23 students and the Oxford on-site director, Jacque. We get to spend 12 days traveling Spain, hitting Girona, Barcelona, Valencia, Avila and Madrid. I’ll confess that Spain hasn’t ever been on my list of top places to visit, but I was exciting about coming, seeing new things, and spending time with the great set of students we have. And I loved the fact that Jacque planned all the hotels, activities, transportation, meals… I’ve done a lot of trip planning in the past year or so.
But I loved my first tastes of Spain! The first few days here have been amazingly beautiful and very different from many of the other places we’ve visited. As we arrived on Saturday afternoon, I was struck by how lovely this city is, and we ventured out to explore the Old Town where we are staying. The crepes and churros didn’t lessen the charm one bit!
Sunday morning, our group boarded a bus for a two-hour drive to Montserrat — serrated mountain — a national park and monastery, as well as a pilgrimage stop for hundred of years and thousands of pilgrims. Pilgrims wait in line to touch the orb of the Black Madonna, a 12th century statue of the virgin and child.
In addition to being a place of pilgrimage, the monastery at Montserrat is nestled into the mountains and the surrounding area is beautiful. We had a little time to hike about, but we could have spent hours more.
Sunday had whetted our hiking appetite, so Monday morning we headed out on a hike from Girona to the point of San Miguel. After passing by two monasteries in the city, the hike led us by several old farm houses and other ruins to the castle/signal tower on the top of Mont San Miguel. The hike took us most of the day, much longer than we had anticipated — thank goodness for sunflower seeds and other small snacks! — but it was a beautiful hike and we were rewarded with great views at the top.
Tuesday, we headed out walking again, this time along the old city walls of Girona. And so I’ll continue to gush about how beautiful of a city Girona is. The city walls afforded us great views from its towers and passages to lovely little gardens tucked along the way. We even ran into a few of our (very brave) students.
Tuesday was our last evening in Girona, so we had a dinner with the whole group. Dinner with our fantastic students was a perfect way to end our time in Girona!
Wednesday morning we boarded a bus for Barcelona! More on that soon!