This is the final story of a four part series on The University of Alabama’s Executive MBA Class of 2016’s international trip to Morocco and Spain from February 27 to March 8, 2016.
Executive MBA Programs throughout the world have provided international trips to their students to further global business, political, historical and cultural understanding. For The University of Alabama Executive MBA, like most EMBA programs, the trip is a required part of an international business course. However, over the last couple of years, UA EMBA has offered an optional extension at the end of the required trip. The optional trip offers the students an opportunity to extend their cultural and historical understanding of a country as well as fulfill a dream to visit a bucket list location. In the past we have made visits to Valipariso, Chile, Machu Picchu, Peru, Izmir and Ephesus, Turkey and this year to Barcelona, Spain.
Thirty-three of the sixty EMBA students, alumni, staff and spouses journeyed to the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region on March 5. Defined by quirky art and architecture, imaginative food and a vibrant street life. We arrived by high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona. The trip took two-and-a-half hours and afforded us a beautiful view of the countryside. Upon arrival we took in a breathtaking view atop the city looking over the Marina, then we explored the Raval, a large boulevard crowded with pedestrians and a fountain that locals swear that if you drink from you will return again one day to Barcelona.
After checking in at our hotel we made our way to La Sagrada Família. This beautiful and haunting site was the obsession of famed architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s influence touches all of Barcelona, but none is more amazing than this magnificent temple.
The first stone was set in 1882, and in 1883, Gaudí joined the project and transformed it, adding his personal touch of Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. He devoted the last years of his life to the building, but died at the age of 76, before he had the chance to finish his masterpiece. At the time of his death, less than 25% of the building was finished. Today 65% has been completed with an anticipated completion date of 2026.
In the afternoon, we separated to shop, visit Gaudí’s La Pedrera (a family residence designed by the architect with a rooftop that conjured up scenes from Dr. Seuss) or Pauk Güell, stroll the Raval, or have a drink in the local cafes. For many of us, it was still hard to adjust to having dinner so late. Restaurants do not open until 8:00 p.m., and most locals do not dine until 10:00 p.m. Although by now, we were getting accustomed to mid afternoon tapas, Sangria or hot chocolate to tied us over until dinner.
On Sunday we spent the day touring Caves Montau de Sadurni, a small winery, founded in 1530, located outside the city. No visit is complete without a sampling of the winery’s white and red wines and a country lunch of salad, olives, sliced meats and sausages, tomatoes, rice and for dessert flan.
The next day we spent in Tarragona, the capital of Hispania Citerior during the Roman Empire (its origins date back to around 218 BC). We strolled along the old Amphitheater, Placa de la Font, Cathedral of Santa Maria, and the Central Market. The afternoon was spent at the impressive Cistercian Monastery, El Poblet, founded in 1150, it is found hidden in the mountains. Although we did not see any monks we found solace and beautiful vistas to photograph, as well as icons to take home of Saint George, the patron saint of Catalina, who according to legend slew a dragon.
We returned to Barcelona for a group dinner above the city at Restaurante Mirabé. The beautiful views of the city lit below brought us full circle from the site overlooking the Marina the day we arrived. We recounted our journey and the many lovely people we had met and the memories made. One last toast to Morocco and Spain and to more journeys ahead.
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