Salamanca, a picturesque university city with a long tradition of learning, is the perfect place to base your international living experience. The University of Salamanca, chartered in 1218, is considered the oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest western universities in the world. Each year more than 25,000 students come to Salamanca to study, and language instruction is an eminent focal point. Salamanca is the city for learning Spanish. The university and its students inject prestige and vibrancy into the city itself, a lovely confluence of golden stone, narrow streets, rich façades and friendly faces. Many of the university buildings were built between the 15th and the 18th centuries by a dynasty of architects, decorators and sculptors from Catalonia. The shadows of impressive Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and baroque monuments fall across the grand Plaza Mayor, where local residents gather to eat, drink and watch the world go by. On this exclusive travel program, you will enjoy elegant accommodations just seven blocks from the Old City. In 1988, the Old City of Salamanca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2002 it was awarded the status of European Capital of Culture. Throughout the year, the city hosts a multitude of cultural events, conferences and festivals. Golf is also a popular pastime. Without a doubt, this is the ideal location to enjoy all that Spain has to offer.
One of Europe’s premiere cultural capitals, Madrid rarely sleeps. The capital of Spain has grown from humble beginnings into an international crossroads, abundant in world-class nightlife, fashion, art, music and cuisine. The city practically buzzes with the enthusiasm of the madrileños, Madrid residents, who migrate from all over the world to savor the cosmopolitan Spanish lifestyle. Spend your first and last days in Spain admiring the highlights of Madrid. From your luxurious accommodations at the Hotel Wellington, walk to Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three world-famous museums: Prado Museum, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Then take a cue from the madrileños and stroll through nearby Retiro Park, Madrid’s most popular green space.
The beautiful, fortified town of Ávila was founded as a bulwark against Moorish invasion into Spanish territory. An impressively intact 11th-century Romanesque wall encloses Ávila’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Within the wall lies a wealth of medieval buildings built by the nobles who moved there after the town came under permanent Christian control in the 11th century. In the 16th century, Ávila served as the birthplace and home of Saint Teresa, a prominent Catholic mystic and theologian. In 2010, the European Commission gave Ávila the first ever Access City Award, which recognizes disabled-friendly cities and exemplary efforts to improve accessibility to public buildings, transport and tourism facilities. During your full-day excursion in Ávila, you will enjoy lunch in the city’s parador, located in a 16th-century palace built into the town wall.
A colossal Roman aqueduct dominates the ancient, quiet town of Segovia. Built around A.D. 50 to tap into the waters of the Río Acebeda 11 miles away, the remarkably well-preserved monument is a feat of civil engineering and helped earn the city designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The aqueduct still conveys water to the upper town, ending at the Alcázar, a castle on a rocky crag that dates from the 11th century. Favored by monarchs of the Kingdom of Castilla, the Alcázar was a key defensive fortress in the Middle Ages. The town also boasts a massive, 16th-century Gothic cathedral on its enchanting Plaza Mayor. During your full-day excursion in Segovia, you will enjoy lunch in a historic restaurant serving a traditional local favorite: suckling pig.
Located along the Duero River on a rocky hill about 30 miles from the Portuguese border, Zamora is a charming medieval town with much to offer. It has earned a reputation as an architectural museum of Romanesque art due to its magnificent cathedral and 24 Romanesque churches built during the 12th and 13th centuries. The town’s rich and fascinating history saw numerous clashes between the Spanish Christian monarchy and the Moors. During your full-day excursion in Zamora, you will enjoy lunch in the city’s parador, located in a magnificent 15th-century Renaissance palace.
Villages of Castilla: La Alberca and Miranda del Castanar
Journey to La Alberca and Miranda del Castanar, two tiny villages that
offer a glimpse of provincial Spanish life. La Alberca is a proud,
deeply religious community located in the heart of the Sierra de la Peña
de Francia. This National Historic Landmark town is famous for its
medieval buildings and half-timbered houses arranged along lovely,
winding streets, as well as its distinctive, rich-tasting ham, called
jamon. Miranda del Castanar is a quaint hilltop mountain village with
narrow winding streets and a lovely castle and beautiful views over the
Sierra de Francia mountains. During your full-day excursion, you will
enjoy free time to savor lunch and go shopping in these delightful
The term castellano, Castilian Spanish, refers to the Latin-based language spoken in northern and central Spain. Originally the local dialect of Cantabria in north central Spain, Castilian spread through the region and became the official language of King Alfonso X’s government in the 13th century. This laid the foundation for Castilian to become the basis of standard Spanish. Other Spanish dialects are spoken throughout the country and the world; in fact, thanks to Spain’s long history of exploration and conquest, Spanish is second only to Chinese as the most commonly spoken language in the world. The Castilian region, and Salamanca in particular, has retained its status as the home of the purest form of Spanish, making it the perfect place to study this practical language.
Student Life in Salamanca
¿Hablas español? This program includes 24 hours of Spanish instruction at Lingua Globe, an accredited center of the Cervantes Institute. The Cervantes Institute is a public, not-for-profit institution founded by the government of Spain in 1991 to promote Spanish culture and language education. Headquartered in Madrid, the institute is the world’s largest international Spanish teaching organization, with more than 70 centers on four continents. Lingua Globe is a leading provider of Spanish instruction in the Castilla region. Held Monday through Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., your language classes are limited to five students per teacher and are tailored to your skill level, guaranteeing individual attention and a comfortable progression through the lessons. You will complete a skills assessment before you arrive in Salamanca in addition to a placement test on the first day of class. Everyone from beginners to Spanish majors will develop their skills and put them to use in the city with the help of the Lifestyle Guides. You will be provided with school supplies and a personalized student ID card that allows for discounts at certain venues, such as shops and museums. In addition to an extensive library, computers and multimedia facilities, Lingua Globe will provide all students with access to its virtual platform, which you may continue to access after the conclusion of your program. Before you leave Salamanca, you will complete a final skills assessment and receive a certificate of attendance.
Time seems to run differently in Spain. The day begins with breakfast: a small meal of sweet rolls, jam or mild cheese and café con leche, coffee with milk. Late morning tapas sate the appetite until 2 p.m., when Spaniards sit down to the largest meal of the day, la comida, which usually consists of multiple courses and is accompanied by sherry, wine or beer. This hearty meal is followed by a siesta. Businesses close shop for this two- to three-hour break each day, a tradition that dates back to early regional agriculture and the need for a midday break from the hot Spanish sun. The afternoon begins with a return to work at 5 p.m., but it doesn’t last long, as evening begins at 8 p.m., when thoughts turn to wine and other refreshing beverages. La cena, dinner, is typically served after 9 p.m. and is smaller and simpler than la comida. Spaniards typically go to bed around midnight, earning them the reputation of Europe’s night owls. After a few days in Salamanca, you’ll find yourself operating on unhurried Spanish time — and liking it.
The Castilian Pantry
A country renowned for its cuisine, Spain boasts rich, well-seasoned fare and distinctly Mediterranean ingredients. A typical Spanish pantry includes extra virgin olive oil, red or white wine vinegar, olives, rice, beans, lentils, saffron, smoked paprika, capers and artichoke hearts. In most of Spain, meat is enjoyed in moderation; dry cured Serrano ham, lamb, chorizo sausage and chicken are used in small amounts to add flavor and texture to dishes such as paella, a Valencian rice dish. Omelets are also popular, and seafood is customary along the coast. Bread is served with every meal, often with oil for dipping, and is also a common snack served with cheese. Castilian-Leonese cuisine is distinguished by hearty stews and centerpiece roasted meats such as carne asada and suckling pig. The stews are made of three basic ingredients: meat, pulses (beans, lentils or chickpeas, grown locally) and vegetables. Nuts or bread are added to thicken the stew and enrich the flavor. The Castilian region is the birthplace of the Spanish national dish, a hearty stew called cocido. The region also produces Spain’s best-known cheese, Manchego. Castilian desserts often feature candied almonds and marzipan. The most famous characteristic of Spanish cuisine is tapas, small appetizers served hot and cold to accompany sherry, wine or beer. While innumerable interpretations of classic small plates can be found all over Spain, some restaurants and bars are known for a particular type of tapas. Many Spaniards like to make several stops to enjoy their favorites. In addition to offering you the chance to enjoy three full weeks of authentic Spanish food, this program includes a special cooking demonstration and tasting. Optional cooking classes are available at an additional cost. What better souvenir from your time in Spain than a repertoire of delicious Spanish recipes?
The Castilian Wine Cellar
A Spanish meal isn’t complete without wine! The Castilla region claims some 400 wineries and 10 Denomination of Origin (DO) wines: Ribera del Duero, Cigales, Rueda, Toro, Bierzo, Arlanza, Arribes, Tierras de León, Valles de Benavente and Tierra del vino de Zamora. Many of the region’s vineyards lie along the Duero River, which provides much-needed moisture in an otherwise arid climate. The dry, hot summers are followed by long, cold winters, both of which influence the flavor of the grapes and the character of the wine. Both red and white wines are produced in Castilla, along with sparkling wine; licoroso, wine with a particularly high alcoholic content; and aguardiente, a variety of liqueur. Another Spanish beverage that has achieved worldwide repute is sangría, a refreshing summer punch that combines wine with fruit, seltzer and sugar. Spain is also the birthplace of sherry, wine fortified with brandy. To this day, all wine labeled as "sherry" in Europe must come from the Sherry Triangle in the Cádiz region of Spain. For a non-alcoholic treat, try a homemade horchata de chufa, a sweet, milky drink made from ground tigernuts.
Spanish Tuna Music
While in Salamanca, you will be treated to a performance by a traditional Spanish music group called a tuna. The tuna dates from the Middle Ages, when ensembles of university students would display their musical talents in return for food or money to pay for their studies. More than 700 years later, students throughout Spain and the world continue the tradition. Membership in a tuna is an honor guarded by a set of initiation rites, similar to U.S. fraternities. The tuna usually includes two to six charismatic students, tunos, who meander through streets, festivals, parties and restaurants, singing traditional Spanish music as well as popular and folk songs, and accompanying themselves on guitar, tambourine, lute and bandurria. The tunos don traditional Iberian gear, including stockings, baggy pants, a white collared shirt, a tight doublet, a cloak and a sash called a beca, colored to reflect the student’s course of study.