Antoni Gaudi

Today we went to the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. It is the largest and most unique Catholic Church I’d ever seen in person. To me, it resembled more of a gothic palace than a church from the outside, but the inside was all church. This place felt like it had great energy even though there were still cranes outside and construction ladders inside. It’s hard to believe this place is only about half-way through construction.

When we left there I had to find out more about the building, so I went back to the business center at the hotel to do some investigating. It turns out the construction started on this church in 1882. In 1883 they changed architects to Antoni Gaudi. It was then his vision began to form into what we see today. You can tell a lot about a structure by the architect, so of course I dove further into the history of Antoni Gaudi.

Sagrada Familia

Gaudi spent most of his life, but especially his childhood, in pain. He had a condition that made him immobile. He had to lie in the house or travel by donkey everywhere he went. I can’t imagine not being able to play outside with the other kids. He must have been so envious! They say he watched them from his window. He also watched the scenes from nature. He’d watch the birds, the flowers, and all the wonders Mother Nature provided. Some say you can see his appreciation for nature in his architecture.

In school, Antoni studied religion and architecture. He attended a prep school that specialized in architecture and later on went to a university to continue his architectural journey. Between the time he finished school in 1878, Gaudi had worked on over twenty-five structures that are still standing today, including eight World Heritage sites.


I was thoroughly impressed with Antoni Gaudi. I read a lot about his works, his bad temper, and how he started the Modernism movement in Spain. The sad part about the story of his life came after his death. Raiders ransacked and stole the plans for the building of the Sagrada Familia during the Spanish Civil War. Now the construction of the church is up for interpretation. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the plans, but no matter what the construction has continued. The constructors plan to finish the church in 2026, the centennial of Antoni Gaudi’s death. Neat, huh?


  1. What was Antonio Gaudi’s childhood like?
  2. After looking at the picture of the Sagrada Familia, what would you highlight about its architecture?
  3. Watch this short documentary with images about Gaudi’s architecture: What impressed you the most?

Spanish Olives

I’m not a big fan of olives. There’s something about the texture and the flavor that throws me off. I love to use olive oil when I cook, though, so I was interested in the process of olive growing and the creation of olive products. Did you know there are 260 varieties of olives that grow in Spain? We traveled to the Spanish towns that border the Mediterranean Sea to find out more about Spanish olives.

The first place we went to was owned by a gentleman named Miguel. He said almost all of the places we would visit harvested Manzanilla olives. He said these are the most popular olives in the United States, but they’re not very good for making olive oil. Miguel also said he and his small team hand pick the olives once they are ripe. The best time to pick them is between September and November. I asked him why they didn’t use a machine to pick the olives, but he said they bruise easily, so hand-picking helps to avoid bruising. After a few people sampled Miguel’s olives, we left there to go to the next place.


Our second stop on the olive tour took us to a large tree farm owned by the Salazar family. The mom and dad are retired, and their four children, Rebeca, Maria, Berta, and Javier are the ones keeping the place running. Like Miguel told us, the Salazar family also harvested Manzanilla olives, but their specialty was Arbequina olives. These are the best for making olive oil and olive oil soap, their specialty. I’ve never heard of olive oil soap, but I used it for the first time when I washed my hands after using the restroom. It was light and it didn’t leave any kind of residue like most other soaps. I bought a bar from them before I left. The Salazars gave out more olive samples, which I declined.


I was glad to learn all about olives. It was pretty cool. The last stop we made for the day was at the largest of the farms we’d seen. It was ENORMOUS. They harvested Manzanilla, Arbequina, Empeltre, Queen, and like 100 more types of olives. They really didn’t want us to go through the grounds of the farm, but there was an olive buffet in our meeting room. The guide talked about the olives for a little while. There were black, brown, green, orange, purple, and red. Some were hollow and others were stuffed with anchovies, bacon, chorizo, cream cheese, jalapeño, red pepper, and much more. I still didn’t want to try any, but I asked the others to describe the taste. I told them to describe the olives in one word and some of the adjectives I got were meaty, nutty, salty, and sweet. Finally, I broke down and tried one. One word, Ewwww!!! I spit it out and gave everyone a good laugh. They say it’s an acquired taste. Let’s hope I acquire it much later in life, because right now it’s gross.


  1. What types of olives are mentioned in the text?
  2. Finish the sentence: Olives can be stuffed with…
  3. Watch the following video about olive oil What are some benefits of this product?

Loggerhead Turtles

Of all the excursions we’ve been on, I’d have to say today’s was the best. We thought we were going to get another boring lesson on marine animals, but it turned out to be much more than that! We met at the marina in Arrecife where we boarded a good-sized boat. The captain was a lady named Sara. She was a very serious woman, and also happened to be our tour guide. Sara explained that we would have a brief lecture and video on the Loggerhead turtles and then go out to find some. That’s exactly what happened.

First we watched the video. It talked about the Loggerhead being a turtle that can be found all around the world. They are mostly sea animals, but the females come ashore to lay eggs. These turtles feed on seaweed and bottom-dwelling animals. This was all basic information, but then the video started getting more interesting when it started to explain that the females are the more aggressive gender. They will circle each other, snap at each other, and then swim off in a different direction. Sounds like most of the “girl fights” I’ve ever seen.

After the video, Sara said there wasn’t any time for the lecture because we’d arrived at our destination. We were in the middle of nowhere! No land in sight, but we were at our destination. OK, Sara, whatever you say! Sara must have seen our confusion, so she said that the way we learn about marine life is to personally observe them, not to watch videos or have lectures. She said this was the place to see a large population of Loggerheads. Sara asked me to help her hand out snorkels and SCUBA gear, so we could go in the water. She asked who was SCUBA-certified, which I was, and who was not, which was everyone else. I looked at Sara, and she smiled at me and said I was in for a treat. That was the first smile she gave all day, so I didn’t know whether to be afraid or excited.


I got into the water after I put on my gear. I tested the oxygen pack and the dive mask, all of which worked properly. After Sara gave the rest of the crew snorkeling instructions, she waved me and my dive buddy, Manolo, to go down into the water. It was a whole new world down there! There were tons of colorful fish swimming around. The fish got bigger as we swam further and further towards the bottom of the ocean. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many schools of fish at one time. It was like Finding Nemo times twenty. Finally, we found the Loggerhead areas. Believe me, there was nothing slow about these turtles. They swam so fast! All I could see were grayish brown shells with yellow spotted heads and arms poking out. The shells were cool. I think I’ve seen the same pattern on my best friend’s tile floors. The patterns were that perfect!

I got some amazing underwater pictures. I saw one that was about three feet long. Later Sara told me that some of these turtles can get up to 250 pounds. That’s a lot more than I weigh! I got another picture of a baby turtle. It was all one color and about two inches long. I felt sorry for the rest of the group, but I was happy to have experienced the thrill of swimming with the turtles.


  1. How do female turtles lay eggs?
  2. Would you like to go SCUBA diving? Why or why not?
  3. Go to Google Maps and find where the town of Arrecife is. What factors do you think may be affecting the ecosystem of this town and the reef nearby?

Juan Luis Guerra

Tonight was awesome!!! We went to the Juan Luis Guerra concert in Santo Domingo. You can’t imagine how handsome he is. He’s super-tall, like 6’5”, with long, dark, wavy hair (almost always covered by a hat), light brown eyes, and a full beard. He got his height from his father, who was a famous basketball player, but he got his looks from his mom: she was amazingly beautiful.

I was completely engulfed in his music. The band was rocking and his voice was so angelic. I couldn’t put my finger on his style. It was a mix between salsa and merengue and bachata with little flecks of soft rock. For a minute there, I could almost hear some gospel, jazz, and Afro-pop. Now, I believe the jazz part because he studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, but where did he get the gospel and Afro-pop from?


The band, Cuatro Cuarenta, has two women and one other guy. I heard a story about how they used to pile up in an old VW Beetle and drive to their gigs before they got famous. They would ride around on their days off and hope they’d hear their songs on the radio. That sounds like something I would do. LOL!  I also heard that Juan Luis used to write jingles for a living when he first got back from Boston. I think that’s a cool way to get started in the business.

When they played my favorite song, Ojalá que llueva café, I had to close my eyes and sing along. When I opened my eyes, I swear he was smiling at me. OK, maybe he was smiling in my direction, but I like to think he was smiling at me.

OK, I’m exhausted and going to bed now. Thanks for the good times tonight, Juan Luis Guerra.


La Playa de las Catedrales

Imagine going to a beach and discovering that the rocks are more famous than the sand or the water. Most people don’t associate rocks with the beach, but today we went to the Playa de las Catedrales in Galicia, which is famous for its rock formations, and the rocks were a big hit.

Over the last few centuries, high winds and crashing waves carved out arches and caves from the rocks. Thankfully we went during low tide, so we walked down a set of stairs to the sand. From there we could appreciate how incredible this place was. The arches were at least 100 feet high, and they were perfectly shaped. You would have thought someone carved them out by hand, they were so perfect. A couple people in the group were brave enough to walk into the caves, but I was not going in there without a flashlight and a hard hat. Who knew if there were falling objects or bats or anything in there, so I kept my distance.


There were people who came to rock climb. It looked like fun, but why would anyone climb the rocks when there was a perfectly good set of stairs to climb? LOL! I wondered what else there was to do in this area. Of course we took a million pictures, and when the sunset approached, I focused my camera through one of the archways. I just knew I’d get the most amazing pictures.

I was all ready to snap my picture with a steady hand and steady eye, when someone ran past me, hit me on the arm, and yelled “Tag, you’re it!” I hadn’t played tag in so long! At that point I had a choice to make. Stay and get incredible pictures or go play and risk losing the opportunity to take breath-taking pictures to take home. Stay or go? Stay or go? Silly me, I went. Five minutes of play time couldn’t hurt, right?


The Playa de las Catedrales was voted one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, yet we were out there playing tag. And out of the entire half mile of the beach, everyone wanted to hide in a cave because they knew I was a wimp and wouldn’t go all the way in. I went to the closest cave, which was a shallow one, and stuck one hand in to feel around. I touched someone and an unfamiliar voice yelled “Excuse you!” I was so embarrassed! I apologized into the darkness. The person behind the voice came out of the cave and said “I’m just playing, you got me.” At that point I knew it was time to go back to taking pictures. Thank goodness I did, because I was just in time to get my sunset pictures. Awesome, right???


  1. Where is Galicia? Go to Google Maps and find a few important towns in Galicia.
  2. Do you think all the beaches in Spain are similar to the Playa de las Catedrales? Why?
  3. ¡A investigar! There is a relationship between Galicia and the British Isles. Investigate about the two regions and come up with a few ideas about how the two might be linked. Support your ideas.


I don’t understand why we are always in a rush. Sometimes it’s our own fault, like when we come back late from an excursion and only have twenty minutes to pack and get to the bus. But other times, I feel they schedule our desafíos too close to our initial arrival challenge.

Today was a great example of that. We started off in Seville—amazing city, by the way—and we had to solve the riddle. It was noon when we finished that challenge and we had to be in Madrid in about four hours. The drive is about five and a half hours, so there was no way we were going to make it. I got really frustrated because I didn’t know what our task would be, and I didn’t want to have to finish up in the dark. By this time I was fuming, so I went outside to take a break.

About five minutes later a woman came outside and told me to simply take the AVE. I told her “ha ha, very funny. I’m sure a bird is going to get us there faster.” She said it wasn’t a bird; it was a high-speed train. I know the trains back home are pretty fast, but they make frequent stops. The woman told me to come to her office and look up the schedules and fares. I was hesitant, because I wasn’t sure if this train could get us there in time, but I didn’t have much of a choice since I didn’t want to be late.

The website was pretty cool. It gave me some great information about the AVE trains. These are high speed trains, and they go in excess of 150 mph. The site said the trip from Seville to Cordoba would “only” go about 155 mph because there were a lot of steep curves, but the speed would increase from 155 to 185 from Cordoba to Madrid. How awesome is that? The total trip time was three hours and fifteen minutes. Three hours and fifteen minute  of 150–185 mph sounded like motion sickness waiting to happen!


The discount tab was another cool feature of the website. There was a special fare for students and people under twenty-five. Sis didn’t make the cut, so she had to pay full price, which actually wasn’t that expensive. There was a train leaving in about half an hour, so we had to buy and print our tickets and rush out of the office. The bottom of the ticket said the gates close two minutes before departure, so that left us twenty-eight minutes to jump in a taxi to get there. Sis told the driver to step on it, and he really did. We were flying around the streets of Seville. Did I mention that Seville is amazing?



  1. AVE is an acronym and means Alta Velocidad Española. Guess the meaning for these acronyms in Spanish:
    Mexico D.F.
    Barcelona F.C.
  2. Go to Google Maps and find the cities of Córdoba and Sevilla. Then, describe the train route between both cities.