This June, ten travelers departed central Arkansas on a quest to experience Spain: the history, the culture, the languages, and, of course, the food. On the ten-day journey, sponsored by instructors from the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton and including overnight stops in Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Costa del Sol, these adventurers discovered plenty of reasons to think and plenty of reasons to smile.
The group first arrived in Barcelona, a magical place steeped in both the Roman history that lies under its cobbled streets and the art and architecture of Antoni Gaudi. His style, though labeled Modernist, is thoroughly original and makes observers feel like they have been transported to a world something like an enchanted forest and something like a Dr. Seuss book. Barcelona is home to most of Gaudi’s life’s works, so his presence is felt in most every corner of the city. Park Guell, a 37-acre space overlooking the Barcelona, provides visitors with the opportunity to view Gaudi’s work in a natural environment where his whimsical bridges, fountains, and stone and tilework both stick out and blend in to the natural environment. Sagrada Familia, one of seven works of Gaudi registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, towers above the city like a beautiful, impossible fever dream. A church 140 years in the making and scheduled to be finished in 2026, but likely delayed by the Covid pandemic, Sagrada Familia is an overwhelming feast for the senses. Every surface is filled both with Christian imagery and more secular flora and fauna, so the eye and imagination of every viewer is arrested by something different. For even the most experienced travelers, Sagrada Familia is a church like none other in the world.
The adventurers then traveled to Madrid by way of the lovely riverside town of Zaragosa and a side trip to the walled medieval town of Toledo, where they marveled at the Cathedral Toledo, one of the largest in the world. The city center of Madrid features large squares contained by 17th century buildings, but only containing to the senses. The group enjoyed a charming evening of tapas, sangria, and people watching on one such square, the Plaza Mayor, where a light rain only enhanced the experience.
As the group traveled south by bus, they noticed the wide expanses of farmland, especially the lovely olive trees, some hundreds of years old. Traveling south also brought a change in architecture. Much of southern Spain was under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492, and the local art and architecture begins to subtly include the tiles, bricks, and arches indicative of Islamic architecture. No where was this more apparent than in the Cathedral of Cordoba, a dizzying combination of opulent Catholic chapels and colorful Moorish arches. The Spain Square in Seville also offered the group a gorgeous example of the blending of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures and delighted the Star Wars fans in the group, who recognized it as a filming location for Attack of the Clones. No where was the Islamic art and architecture more apparent, however, than in the Alhambra in Granada. The former palace is an opulent buffet of fountains, tile work, and gardens that transported the travelers to another time and place.
Traveling provides life-long learning and opportunities to experience both the vastness of our planet and the common bonds of all humans. Spain provides this in a beautiful, sundrenched package. The UACCM travelers are planning their next adventure to South Africa next May where they will experience culture, natural beauty, and a thrilling safari in Kruger National Park. If you are interested in seeing the world with curious, experienced, and fun travelers, join us. For more information, check out explorica.com/Daniel-2969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.