This Friday evening the group were treated to an evening sampling the local specialty of tapas! Tapas are one of most popular ways to dine in Spain - the cheap, small portions make eating a much more social experience than you would expect in most other countries, and allow you to try a wide variety of dishes without breaking the bank (or the belt!). Students were put into pairs and given €20 to split between them, with each challenged to go into the city independently, head to a tapas location of their choice and navigate the menu in the target language! Negotiating a restaurant is one of the most deceptively challenging parts of learning a new language, but our students more than relished the challenge (the puns are going nowhere). Here are just some of the dishes they tried...
The staff were not only impressed by how students managed to put their language skills to good use when ordering their food, but also that they chose some particular local favourites, from oxtail croquetas to salmorejo, a kind of chilled tomato soup that's a close relative of the more famous gazpacho. It quite literally gave the students a better taste of the local lifestyle here in Cádiz.
Saturday morning and group hopped the bus to Jerez de la Frontera, a beautiful town in the Cádiz province famous for its sherry wine (although we did not tell the students this!). After a half-hour drive from Cádiz, during the morning we stopped off at the botanic zoo, where we came face to face with some extraordinary wildlife. It is home to species common to many zoos, such as giraffes, hippos and even a lion, but it also hosts some of Spain's most feared predators including the Iberian wolf and lynx. During the hottest part of the day in the brutal southern Andalusian climate, it was a relaxed way to spend some time and even put some new animal vocabulary to their memory.
Later on, we escaped the searing heat of the Jerez summer by visiting Área Sur, one of Jerez's largest shopping malls. This gave everyone a chance to cool off in the air conditioning, as well as taking advantage of the sales! It helped us all to recharge some batteries during the part of the day when most locals would be taking their siesta.
When the weather had started to cool, we took a trip into central Jerez to visit its beautiful 17th Century cathedral. The cathedral is typical of many of Andalusia's monuments, in that it is a harmonious blend of vastly different architectural styles, blending together elements of the Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical. There is even a notable Arabesque influence, particularly visible in its porticoes and in its bell tower. Many major aspects of the building are reminiscent of some of the greatest examples of Andalusian architecture, including Córdoba's cathedral, once a mosque in its own right.
Togehter we explored the cathedral and its many collections and treasures, including a painting by Spanish master Francisco de Zurbarán. Then it was time for a spot of climbing as we ascended the nearby bell tower to take in breathtaking views of the cathedral and its grounds, before returning to terra firma and stopping off for an ice cream and a drink to cool off.
After a long day on Saturday, Sunday morning took a more relaxed pace with a trip to a local cafe to sample favourite local breakfast of churros and chocolate. Straight after, things once again took a turn for the cultural as the group stopped off at Cádiz's Roman theatre, a structure dating back almost 2100 years. It is a symbol of Cádiz old and new, with the structure of the original gradient still visible, but the stage and portico buried underneath the medieval El Pópulo district of the city.
Later on, by popular demand the group hit the beach once again! As the day was beginning to cool we arrived at Santa María beach for a spot of sunbathing and swimming. It did everyone some good to relax a while after what had been an intense few days. As day turned to night, our coordinator Víctor treated us to a rendition of his favourite songs on Spanish guitar, before handing over to the group who shared their repertoire of guitar music from Dylan and The Beatles to Rihanna and Maroon 5! It was a wonderful way to see off those of us leaving the course this week, with plenty of emotional goodbyes even from those who had only just joined. As the sun went down we waved a fond farewell to the four students set to cross the Atlantic once more. For the rest of us, another busy week awaited...
Paul Hyland recently graduated with a PhD in Spanish and Latin American literature from the University of Cambridge. He also holds a first class degree in Spanish and German, as well as an MPhil in European Literature from the same institution.