Monday, June 15, 2009

The Expedition

From Madrid to Sevilla, Spain is graced with elaborate cathedrals, palaces, and hilltop fortresses—grand monuments from a captivating past. Spain also pulses with youthful passion and spirit, evident in lively flamenco halls and bustling city plazas. Powerful empires have left their mark here, including the ancient Romans and the Moors of North Africa. Experience the artistry of the Moors, the music of the Gypsy culture, the historical legacy of the Spanish Empire, and the flavors of the Mediterranean as you explore Spain through an On Assignment project of your choice—Photography, People & Cultures, or Filmmaking.

Student Expedition Map for Spain

5 days. With its spacious parks, grand architecture, and vibrant street life, Madrid is one of Europe's great cities. During a comprehensive orientation, get acquainted as a group and begin to work together in your On Assignment teams. Set out to discover some of Madrid's lively neighborhoods, from the hip and elegant Lavapiés to the open-air cafés of the Plaza Mayor and the jazz clubs of Plaza de Santa Ana. Examine the works of the masters at museums such as the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, Reina Sofía, and Casa Sorolla. Stroll through the ornate halls of the Palacio Real, still used by King Juan Carlos I for ceremonial events. Meet for a picnic in the Parque del Buen Retiro, and a take a rowboat out on the lake past beautiful rolling parklands.

10 days. Travel by rail to Granada. The city was the seat of Islamic Spain until the Moors were expelled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. Traces of the Moors' long presence can be found in the meandering alleyways of the Albaicín neighborhood, the lacy arcades of the Alhambra's courtyards, and the city's Arab baths and tea nooks. With its underlying Gypsy, or
gitano, culture; its flamenco caves; and its free-tapas establishments, Granada is one of the liveliest of the Andalusian cities.

Spend ten days exploring Granada and the surrounding countryside with your team—film, shoot photos, or practice Spanish with locals. In the ornate Renaissance cathedral, see the tombs of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Take the back road up to the Alhambra, and visit the gravity-powered fountains of the Generalife gardens. Catch a train to Córdoba, and venture into a maze of striped archways at the Mezquita—a mosque so vast that an entire Christian cathedral is nestled within it. Visit the lesser known town of Úbeda, whose miraculously preserved Renaissance mansions have earned it a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ascend into the snowcapped Sierra Nevada, Spain's highest mountain range, and hike to the whitewashed hamlets of Las Alpujarras. Tucked into orchard-covered hillsides, these villages remain largely unchanged since they were established by Moors fleeing the Spanish reconquest in the late 15th century.

6 days. Travel through western Andalusia to Sevilla, an important military center in Roman times. Sevilla served as the entrepôt for much of the silver and gold pillaged from the Americas at the height of the Spanish Empire. Wander the lively streets of the Barrio de Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter), and discover hidden plazas. With your On Assignment groups, explore the cathedral, the Giralda tower, and the Alcázar—impressive monuments to God and royalty that were funded by spoils from the New World. Hike among the striking rock formations in the rugged mountains of Andalusia, and travel to remote hilltop towns such as Ronda and Arcos de la Frontera. Our program ends on the historic Costa de la Luz. Discover the vibrant seaside city of Cádiz, stroll along the beach, and bathe in the refreshing waters of the Atlantic Ocean. We'll cap off our Spanish adventure with presentations of our On Assignment projects before traveling to Málaga for the flight home.