Sunday, June 19, 2016

Astorga, Ponferrada, and more!

Friday brought us our very first official program excursion to Astorga and Ponferrada. We departed bright and early at 8:00am (complete with family-made picnic lunches in hand) for the beautiful city of Astorga which, like León, was the site of an ancient Roman settlement long before Spain existed. Today, Astorga is home to an amazingly ornate cathedral ALMOST as impressive as León's cathedral (on the left in the photo below) and a famous and beautiful palace designed by Antoni Gaudi (on the right in the photo below). 

After a breath-taking visit to the Cathedral and the Palace, we headed to Astorga's other claim to fame - the chocolate museum. Led by an informative tour guide, we learned about Spain's initial discovery of cacao, the long history of cultivation and the process developed over centuries to refine cacao into the various artisan chocolate products that have by now come to be associated closely with Astorgan craftsmanship. Far more importantly, we ATE CHOCOLATE, and oh my, was it good. We had a brief sampling of different forms of chocolate with varying percentages of cacao (the higher percentage of cacao, the more bitter and the more healthy). Needless to say, there were many chocolate souvenirs purchased from the gift shop.

After a picnic lunch in Astorga's main plaza and a bit of time to explore the city's other touristic attractions, we re-boarded the bus and headed out for Ponferrada. The visit to Ponferrada was entirely geared toward one specific destination: an ancient templar castle (below).

Students outside the Templar Castle (accidentally photobombed by my thumb)

The castle was enormous, and even the 90 minutes we had to explore was barely enough time to see most of it - from a supposedly haunted cellar area, to an ancient Templar Library (complete with replicas of centuries-old religious texts), to a bodega area for feasting and music, to a lookout tower with a winding spiraled staircase, this castle had everything you could ever want from a castle!

We finally arrived back in León in the evening as the sun was beginning to set - just in time to head to our respective homes to watch Spain take on Turkey in the Eurocopa (Spain won 3-0). The day was long and full of excitement, and although the weather did not cooperate with us (it was cold and rained off and on), the students had an absolute blast. Most agreed that some day, they would like to have either a chocolate museum or a templar castle of their own, and I don't blame them.

Finally, we wished a very merry birthday to Kaitlyn! It's very important to us to celebrate our team's birthdays when they happen during the program, so we sang Feliz Cumpleaños to Kaitlyn loud and proud. All in all, it was a beautiful day.

More updates to come soon (including the annual Color Run, the Melendi concert, and the second full week of classes...)

Hasta la próxima,

No comments:

Post a Comment