The high humid temperatures of 43 degrees didn’t stop 45 students from Years 9 to 12 from enjoying their time in Madrid, Spain. Visiting all the main cultural and eventful places that Madrid has to offer, students were on their first day able to experience the 49-acre wildlife and aquarium park that famously houses giant pandas: Bing Xing (Daddy Panda) and Hua Zui Ba (Mummy Panda), and their two cubs, Po and De De. Sharks, dolphins and giant sea turtles were also a highlight, who didn’t seem to notice the heatwave – though the heat for the chimps proved too much, and as a result, they were throwing wet tea-towels on their own heads to keep cool.
Admiring the brush strokes of the likes of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Matisse, Goya and Picasso, students were able to see some of the world's finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the 21st century in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Museo del Prado. We were also able to visualise how the other half lived when we visited Spain’s palace – I’m not exaggerating when I say that there were chandeliers as big as bedrooms!
Picturesque and without doubt a step back in time, we toured Toledo, Spain’s ‘Imperial City’ – a beautiful place that has old convents, monasteries and synagogues. Circling the perimeter and climbing its peak, we enjoyed an ice-cream at the top and soaked in the handsome views of an ancient wonder. Our guide, Gloria Martinez, explained how it is a cultural and architectural heritage that strives for peace and harmony.
Culture is not just about things ‘old,’ as we soon discovered. For many of the ladies, the thought of spending an afternoon at The Real Madrid Club’s, Stadium Bernabeu was uneventful – but oh how we were wrong! Amazed and bedazzled by the splendour and scale of the stadium, we were faced with quality and panache – we witnessed football memorabilia of the highest calibre and were able to walk through the changing rooms of both home and away sides. Sitting on the actual pitch was in itself inspiring; the vastness far more overwhelming than what can be perceived on the television. We couldn’t help but buy a ‘Real Madrid’ footie, which was certainly kicked around each night after our evening meal on the marble square by our hotel, by us and the locals.
One of our favourite spots was The Debod Temple and Parque del Retiro in which we were able to relax and soak our feet whilst taking in the scenery of palm trees, statues, exotic flowers, rowing boats, crystal palaces and terrapins, something we also witnessed in Madrid’s train station – unlike any other train station, it is a tropical garden with wildlife and quaint stalls that sell hand-crafted objects.
For one day, we took off our culture vulture hats and our growing acceptance of Spanish cuisine, and were immersed in the highs and lows of the Warner Bros Theme Park. Filled with milkshakes, humongous burgers and French fries, we donned our capes and flew on Superman: The Attraction of Steel, a floorless/flawless piece of machinery that really did make your superhero dreams come true – at three points in the ride you become totally weightless. Batman: The Escape, an inverted roller coaster, had more loops than a packet of Hula Hoops and Stunt Fall, a giant inverted boomerang with a vertical drop of 54'4m reaching a top speed of 115 km/h proved to be a winner. With no queues, students were able to go on rides over and over again and even welcomed a soaking from the log-flumes and water rapids, as you dried off from the sun in less than 15 minutes.
Our shopping day in Madrid, for those who wanted to buy some last minute gifts, also enabled students to try out some tapas, see the Spanish fashions, and take in all the street theatre that was at every corner. On the whole, despite the odd power cut, a delayed flight and a ‘turbot’ meal that left us all a little more aware of how to use a fish fork properly (which is no bad thing), we had a great time. Well done to all involved and those students who made the trip an enjoyable and memorable one.
Words and pictures courtesy of Mrs Halloway