A voyage around Spain with a Perse travel award

Izzy Pearl (2022) shares an insight into how she used her Perse travel award.

I was awarded a grant from the school to support my travels around Spain. As a history student, I was eager to use the funds to explore the country’s rich historical past.

Our trip took us across the key cities of Spain, starting in Barcelona before heading to Madrid and finally Seville. I would absolutely recommend this route to anybody interested in exploring Spain.

We managed to experience the country’s natural beauty when travelling, as well as learning how the various regions ranged in terms of language, culture and history.

The difference between Barcelona – the capital of the independence-seeking Catalonia – and its neighbours was stark. Not only was the primary language distinct, but the city was adorned with the weird and wonderful work of Antoni Gaudi.

My grant allowed us to visit one of these works, with a trip to the top of his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. The debate that surrounded the climb was over whether the church was truly a place of worship or whether it had evolved into another of Gaudi’s tourist destinations, similar to the Park Guell that we had visited the day before.

It is easy to understand why one would argue the building had lost its religious value. Not only was it swarming with tourists, but it was also so unlike a typical church interior, especially when contrasted with the beautiful Seville Cathedral we visited later on our trip.

This church felt more like a project to showcase Gaudi’s architectural prowess than a place of worship. However, I was completely captivated by the stained glass which, in my opinion, was the most striking feature of the church and which projected a spectrum of colours across my feet as we entered.

The travel grant also funded a very fun trip up a cable car to visit the 17th Century Montjuïc Castle. It was clear why the site served as the historical core of Catalonia’s naval defences from the top of the castle, which boasted a panoramic view of Barcelona.

I found it fascinating that the castle has operated in a variety of capacities over the years, including as a lighthouse, defence stronghold, military prison and Jewish burial site on the mountain itself. Inside the castle, there was also a really interesting exhibition that highlighted how the 1992 Olympic Games motivated Barcelona to modernise its public transportation and public facilities.

I am very appreciative to the Perse for offering me this grant. In addition to these two main activities, it helped cover the costs of the metro, art galleries, museums and even a Flamenco show in Madrid. I feel that this trip has truly deepened my appreciation of Iberian history. 


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