Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Caves, beaches, and mountains (oh my!)

From this past Wednesday to Saturday, we went on a number of excursions to sites of natural beauty, exploring the mysterious Caves of Valporquero (just an hour or so outside of León), the gorgeous beaches and beautiful Asturian city of Gijón, and the scenic landscapes of the Lakes of Covadonga. Needless to say, it was an active week!

Wednesday brought us to the Caves of Valporquero, a natural phenomenon famous among locals and even well known throughout other parts of Spain. The caves are home to incredible displays of stalactites, stalagmites, underground pools, and other amazing rock formations. Led by our tour guide (who, incidentally, was very impressed with how well our group of students spoke Spanish), we delved deeply into the geological wonders of Valporquero...

Enthralled as we were by the caves, greater destinations still lay ahead, for Friday morning took us to Gijón, a port city in Asturias famous for its shellfish and beaches. As we boarded the bus bright and early Friday morning, we were alarmed to see that the favorable weather forecasts from the night before had changed drastically overnight (as they sadly tend to do in Northern Spain) - instead of the low 80s and sunshine we had been expecting, we were driving into cloudy skies, light rain, and slightly chilly temperatures. Nevertheless, Team León arrived boldly, ready to face whatever weather awaited us. We took the opportunity in the morning to explore downtown a bit, see the Plaza Mayor, and a number of students chose to hike to a monument with an expansive view out to the Cantabrian Sea. A number of tougher students, however, wasted no time and dove right in - literally. The water was - to put it in diplomatic terms - brisk and refreshing, but sure enough in a couple hours the temperatures rose and the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, and by early afternoon, it was a perfect day at the beach. Volleyball, soccer, sunbathing, frisbee, and swimming were among some of the preferred activities. 

Finally, Saturday brought us an optional excursion (which nearly all students chose to attend) to the Lakes of Covadonga, a natural landscape beyond compare. The excursion was full of hiking and scenic photography, as well as visits to picturesque nearby towns. Needless to say, students will be returning home full of photos and souvenirs from this week!

...speaking of returning home, it seems our time in León is drawing to an end. Amazing how quickly the weeks have flown by here. Tomorrow (Wednesday) will be the final day of the regular class schedule. On Thursday we'll be celebrating the Farewell Party with host families, during which the students will perform either Latin dance choreography or theater/comedy routines. The Farewell event is always a beautiful evening, as it also allows students to show their gratitude to their host families for having welcomed them into their homes for the summer. Rest assured that many joyful tears will be shed.

The weekend will be free time for the students to enjoy with their host families and then, before you know it, we'll be on our way to Madrid for a brief 1 1/2 day visit to Madrid, and then we'll be saying adios to Spain (for now). Expect at least one more update before we depart.

Hasta la próxima,

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