When I talk about this years’ trip to Spain as the trip of a lifetime for my family and me, I’m quite confident that we will experience more adventures very soon. But the best part of the three weeks we went to Spain was being able to spend uninterrupted time together, unplugged from electronics, and creating adventures.
Our first stop after landing in Madrid was the little medieval town of Alquezar, situated at the base of the National Park, surrounded by mountains, miles of rivers and trails, and stunning natural landscapes. The town is at the base of a small castle, built in the year 1000. Being able to visit the castle and seeing how small towns were mapped out to surround a castle (and protect it) was pretty incredible. Of course, every town has a church and this 800-year-old church is still the one the people that live in the town attend mass on Sundays.
I picked Alquezar out of the map thanks to my aunt’s recommendation. I asked her to suggest a small town that is out of the tourist route but still has modern accommodations for visitors (my husband and I needed a wifi connection to work from time to time); so a quick search through Airbnb, we found a location we loved. And I was thrilled, since this year was the first time the five of us went on a journey for three weeks, and perhaps this was the beginning of something very special that hopefully will turn into a yearly tradition.
This first week in Alquezar was fun. Our (very suburban) kids, went out on long hikes, played along the river bends, and learned all sorts of new and exciting things quite important in history. One of the great things about homeschooling is that everything can be a learning experience for both our children and adults. Before we head out to any new place, my husband and I will spend some time researching on the internet about the area and most importantly, what can our children learn that is of educational value?
I’ll give you an example. One day, we went to have a family picnic at the base of a Roman bridge (shown below), and that gave me the opportunity to explain to my kids how bridges were built in the year 700-1000. No, not the engineering side of it but the logistics of where bridges were placed.
You see, the Romans, who ruled most of Europe at the time, had not only mastered architecture; they had also mastered the art of logistical infrastructure; meaning, they knew exactly where to strategically place bridges to increase commerce, collect taxes, etc.
The way they build a bridge near a town to connect to the other side of a valley or river is summoning townspeople to build the bridge for minimal pay, but then also built a mill right next to the bridge as well. This mill was not built for electricity, this was way too early for that in history, the mill was a grain mill. When people crossed the bridge, they paid tolls, and the toll payment was a small sack of grain. This grain would be milled on site and used to pay back the people who worked on the bridge. It would also be sold to the townspeople as well, and that is how the Roman government would fill its coffers.
This helped me explain to my kids a lot of things, from very basic government principles, things that we think are not important (like the location of a bridge) but they really are, to investing time or money into something that will yield payoffs later -the latter a very difficult concept to understand in business terms but not so difficult when you are standing next to a 1200-year-old bridge, and it’s still standing.
The principle of learning through experience is exactly why this trip was so magical. My kids’ curiosity for the way things were and why they are now was ignited, all because we were fortunate enough to stay in Alquezar and visit the surrounding area at the base of the National Park.