October 2017 saw us travelling to the beautiful city of Barcelona with a group of 14 to 17 year olds. It has been a busy year for this age group, with activity breaks and a sports camp. This was our second 14 to 17 international and it did not disappoint!
Flying from Gatwick, we met the night before at our hotel and it was clear to see that the whole group was excited to get away.
Following an early start, we arrived in Barcelona, checked into our hotel and set off to explore the Gothic Quarter in Old Town Barcelona. The introduction to our tour was very sensory, we took in the smells of the old town and were given a taste of the types of cheese that would have been typical of Barcelona in olden times.
We then ventured to one of the oldest chapels in Barcelona, Santa Ana, hidden away in the old plaza, with an ornate curving stone archway leading into the chapel itself. We walked through the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, finding many little shops and getting a taste of turrón, a dessert similar to nougat, usually eaten at Christmas time in Spain. We then continued to explore Barcelona and ended up in the smallest alleyway where you could touch both sides of the alley at the same time.
After our tour ended, we travelled to a small food place to sample some of the finest Iberian ham that Barcelona had to offer. After this taster into Spanish and Catalan culture, our first day ended with some tasty food and a well-earned night’s sleep.
Day two saw us travelling to Parc Guell for a guided tour where much was learnt about the construction of Antoni Gaudi’s beautiful park. Our group learnt how recycled materials sourced from the hill on which the park lies, were used to create some of the amazing structures in the park.
We were fascinated to find out how rainwater is recycled and filtered within the core of the park and that all the surrounding plant life had been purposefully selected for its health benefits. All of the larger structures are supported by leaning towers and posts which our group were able to walk through and explore – a truly wonderful place.
After our visit to Parc Guell, we ventured back into the city to visit La Sagrada Familia – the magnificent, ever growing cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi, which began construction back in 1882. We were fascinated by the outside walls (or façades) which represent various points of the life of Jesus, The Nativity Façade, the Glory Façade, and the Passion Façade, each as striking as the last.
Once inside La Sagrada Familia, we were able to feel a floor plan of the basilica itself and appreciate the sheer size of the building. In addition, the stained glass windows radiated a spectrum of wonderful colours into the building giving it a magical feel. Finally, after another busy day we spent a bit of time in the afternoon relaxing, before heading off for dinner.
Our final full day in Barcelona saw us travelling to the other side of the city to El Poble Espanyol. This is an open-air museum featuring a typical Spanish village, showcasing themed shops and areas based on the various autonomous regions of Spain. Upon arriving at El Poble Espanyol, we were greeted by two giant models displaying typical Spanish dress. We then walked around the area and ventured into various shops. One shop made guitars, another was a glass blowing workshop and there were various traditional jewellers and inviting cafés selling typical Spanish goods to enjoy.
After visiting El Poble Espanyol, we ventured down to the beach, but not before getting a group picture by the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, which is located outside the Palau Nacional. After a metro ride, a walk and some lunch, we got to the beach and relaxed with an afternoon of sunshine and some swimming. We then headed back to our hotel for our final night and after a wonderful last dinner in Barcelona we all headed to bed.
Our final morning was spent packing and relaxing before heading to the airport and flying back to the UK. For some of our participants it was their first time travelling abroad without their parents, helping to increase their independence and confidence while experiencing a new culture, and enjoying the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.
We look forward to 2018 and the tremendous range of activities we have planned for our 14 to 17 year olds.
Written by John Smith, Activities Coordinator at VICTA.