In March, 15 of our Spanish language students took part in our annual international Spanish exchange with Institut Lluis Vivez in Barcelona.
The trip is an excellent opportunity for our students to immerse themselves in Spanish and Catalonian culture and get to grips with speaking Spanish fluently.
Arriving at Barcelona airport
After a journey of planes trains and automobiles (...buses) our intrepid group disembarked the airport shuttle at Plaça Espanya to screams of enthusiastic welcome from their host students, who had assembled to greet them.
Prior to the trip our students (once matched with a suitable partner) had the opportunity to converse over social media and get to know one and other, so to meet in person at last was akin to an emotional reunion, with much whooping and hugging.
Institut Lluis Vivez
Our students spent the whole weekend solely in the company of their hosts and their families - eating, sleeping and socialising the Catalonian way. As a group, all of the students met up for a day on the beach, to eat together, to go ice skating and to see many of the sights of Barcelona from a locals perspective. Some lucky students even got tickets to Camp Nou stadium to watch footballing legends Messi, Suarez and Neymar assist Barcelona in defeating Valencia (4-2) in La Liga.
Classes 'al aire libre'
On Monday morning it was back to school as usual for the Barcelona pupils, and also for Woodhouse students, as they got the chance to get to know Institut Lluis Vives a little better by sitting in on some classes with the younger students.
...and classes 'adentro'
Students first helped with project work and then played some conversational games to further improve their speaking Spanish, and help the Catalonian students with their English.
Stairway to the summit of Park Guell
After that it was off for a walk around Park Guell, the sprawling and ornate park designed by the famous Catalonian architect Antoni Gaudi in the early part of the 20th century.
The park offers amazing views across the whole of Barcelona along with twisting and turning ambulatory avenues full of lush plants, parakeets and tourists. In the blazing sunshine it almost felt like high summer and was a great opportunity for scenic selfies and ice creams.
Parklife in Barcelona...
And then it was back to school to meet up with their hosts at the end of the school day - 2.30pm! The Lluis Vives students have two types of working day. Some days they begin at 8.00am and work through until 2.30pm with a break, on others they start at 8.00am and then take a long lunch break from 1.30pm to 3.30pm, before returning to work until 5.30pm. A pattern that suggests they avoid working in high midday temperatures, but those early starts might be a bit much for some Woodhouse students.
The Director starts his history tour
On Tuesday our students took a short history lesson about the foundation of Barcelona by the Romans and the evolution of the city. This was followed by a guided tour, very kindly given by the Director of the ‘Institut’ (the equivalent of our Principal) around significant sites of interest relating to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
Plaça de Catalunya
The tour, which was for our Spanish host students too, took in monuments to fallen comrades, Catalonian revolutionaries meeting places and the site of barricades and battles in Plaça de Catalunya and Sant Felip Neri church.
Visible bomb damage (and students) at Sant Felip Neri church
At refuge 307 - a Spanish Civil War bomb shelter
Our group then visited a surviving bomb shelter, built to protect hundreds of residents during the late 1930s from bombing by the fascist Italian air force who were assisting the equally fascistic president of Spain at the time, the notorious General Franco.
Inside the shelter
The labyrinth of hand-dug tunnels coupled with the enthusiastic commentary by a local volunteer tour guide provided a vivid insight into the troubled past of the city.
Walking in the Gothic Quarter
After a long morning of history and walking the maze of avenues in the Gothic Quarter we returned to school for our students to enjoy an extended lunch break and brief siesta.
Later, the group took a short afternoon trek to probably Barcelona's most iconic sight - the Sagrada Familia.
The beach at Sitges
On Wednesday - the last full day of the trip - students enjoyed the freedom of Sitges, a picturesque coastal resort about 30 miles south of Barcelona, where they relaxed on the beach and toured the old town.
At Sitges station
Back in Barcelona, there was a final meal and goodbyes with the wonderful host families - but no goodbyes for the Spanish students, because the next morning they flew back to London with us, to begin the second leg of the exchange.
This story is to be continued…
You can see more photos of our Barcelona 2017 trip on our Flickr Pages here...