Many of us are planning our summer holiday around this time of year. So, I am featuring Spain in this blog post as well as information and tips that will complement your children’s language acquisition as well as make your family’s language endeavor a bit more fun and memorable.
When I think of Spain, I think variety. Variety of scenery, language, ancestors, architecture, food and the arts.
Scenery: Spain is perhaps Europe’s most geographically diverse country ranging from the near deserts of Andalucía to the green countryside and deep coastal inlets of Galicia. From the sun-baked uplands of Castilla-La Mancha to the rugged, snow-covered Pyrenees. From the Balearic Islands to the Canary Islands. Spain is made up of 17 Comunidades autónomas (autonomous regions) that are divided into provinces. Spain is the second biggest country in Western Europe.
Language: Although castellano (Spanish or Castilian) is spoken throughout Spain, three other regional languages are widely spoken in Spain. Catalán is spoken in Cataluña, the Balearic Islands and Valencia. Gallego (Galician) is spoken in Galicia, and euskera (Basque) is spoken in Pais Vasco and Navarra.
Ancestors: Spain’s various inhabitants over the centuries have influenced the art, architecture, music and so much more throughout the country. When you travel around the different regions, you can not help but be transported to the period in which the particular peoples were inhabiting the location you find yourself in and can not help but wonder what it was like when… The various Spanish ancestors include Phoenicians, Jews and Arabs from the Middle East, tribes from Morocco and Visigoths from the Balkans.
Architectural styles throughout the country represent the various historic inhabitants and their influence. Magnificent old buildings dot the entire county and remind you of the rich multicultural history of Spain. You will observe the variety of architectural styles as you visit Roman aqueducts, Islamic edifices, Gothic cathedrals, medieval castles and Gaudi’s buildings and structures in the style known as Modernismo Catalán mostly located in Barcelona. Click here to see one of my favorite Gaudi Buildings that always attracts children’s attention.
Food. Spanish cooking reflects the Roman, Arabic, Jewish and French influences in Spain. The Spanish are known for cooking with spices such as saffron and cumin and they also use fruits and almonds in their dishes, as well as enjoy honeyed sweets and pastries – all of which are Arabic contributions and hail back to the Muslim era. You will savor a variety of the typical Spanish foods as as you travel around Spain. You will quickly discover that the same dishes are prepared differently in different regions. For example, paella, gazpacho, tortilla de patatas (a.k.a tortilla española), pinchos (a.k.a. Moroccan style kebabs) will taste and possibly look different depending on your geographic location. So, my advice is to “go for the gusto” and compare and contrast these dishes as you travel around Spain and enjoy the food with your children!
“Spanish Food For Kids” in Family Travel Scoop.com provides an acurrate list and description of Spanish foods that kids typically will try and may enjoy – (depending on their palate, of course)!! Some of my children’s favorites are: empanadas, albondigas, sautéed squid, tortilla de patatas, paella, and one of Spain’s best kept secrets –fideuà. Fideuà originated in Valencia and is similar to paella, but is made with short strands noodles (instead of rice) and seafood. It is a colorful and flavorful dish and it is an ideal seaside meal to enjoy as a family while on summer holiday on a Mediterranean beach.
Preparing Spanish dishes at home such as paella and tortilla de patatas has become a fun-filled and regular event in our family and has contributed to the broadening of their palate as they discover new flavors and textures.
Now, that you have enough general background, let me take you on a quick tour of a few of our favorite places in Spain:
Madrid is the capital city of Spain. If you find yourself in Madrid you will want to visit Museo del Prado where you and your your children will enjoy viewing the works of Spain’s greatest masters: Velazquez, Goya and El Greco as well as other Spanish artists. The museum offers Family Programs throughout the year (in Spanish). If and you and your children are comfortable speaking Spanish, plan ahead and sign up for one of their many family programs that include children’s theater, gallery visits and seasonal events.
If modern (1900 – 1960s) art interests you, then a stop at Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is warranted. There are plenty of works by Miró, Solana, Gris, and Dalí to see on your way to Picasso’s Guernica. Children’s Weekend Workshops are offered throughout the year for children to explore different ways to interpret and interact with the museum’s works of art.
A third museum worth visiting in Madrid , if you have time, is the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza which houses a prestigious collection in the former Palacio de Villahermosa. Family activities are offered in English on alternate Saturdays and Sunday. Click here for more information.
If your children enjoy music, theatre and history, then consider adding the Opera House (Teatro Real) and the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) onto your list of places to visit in Madrid. Teatro Real is located directly across the street from the Royal Palace and it offers programs such as operas, puppet shows and workshops tailored for children of all ages. Click here for Teatro Real 2017 schedule. Walk across the street and take a tour of Palacio Real and walk through the Palace Gardens (Campo del Moro) for a relaxing stroll.
Madrid can be an excellent launching pad from which to take day trips to nearby locations such as: El Escorial, Toledo and Segovia.
A trip to Spain or other country where your family’s target language is spoken is a sure way to reinforce your children’s language learning! Click here for more immersion tips from a fellow blogger at Kid World Citizen. However, if you are not traveling abroad any time soon with your children, remember you could take your children on a vicarious trip to a far away place any time you are in any big city. The Metropolitan Opera House, for example, offers a rendition of a different opera tailored for children once a year. The Barber of Seville was a fantastic and fun way to infuse a little of Spain without boarding a plane!
Spain is a family-friendly, stimulating, yet relaxing place for families to explore and make memories. A word to the wise: seasoned travelers have been known to say: “The more you travel in Spain, the bigger it seems to get.”
Tell us which places you and your children have enjoyed in Spain.
Hasta la próxima, amigos!