Moments on tour

Off the beaten path:
A warm welcome in the Spanish countryside

A homemade meal at a gracious host’s home. Sweet cherries, hand-picked and gifted by a local-farmer-turned-friend. Fresh olive oil, sampled among the very olive trees from where it was harvested. These are the kinds of experiences that make EF tours so special.

Last summer, Group Leader Stephanie R. took her students on an EF tour to Spain. The travelers loved seeing the country’s famous sites—everywhere from the Alhambra in Granada to La Sagrada Família in Barcelona—but (not so) surprisingly, their stop at a small village in the southern area of Andalusia ended up being one of their favorite moments.

Far from the throngs of tourists in the major cities, the students got the chance to immerse themselves in the town the same way locals would. And between the group’s local guide, the kind women who welcomed the students into their homes for lunch, and the other friendly passersby who stopped to say hello, the only things warmer than the village’s sun-soaked streets were the villagers themselves.

Scroll through the photos below to get a better feel for this heart-warming experience. Then, browse our Spain tours to see how you can earn your own place setting at a home-cooked meal in the beautiful Spanish countryside.

A morning journey into the mountains

The EF group hopped on their tour bus in Granada, soon swapping their views of Moorish architecture for an endless panorama of elevated fields and olive trees. After climbing higher and higher up, the bus finally arrived at a mountaintop olive oil factory, where the group got to meet their local guide. He was a gregarious man who lived and worked in the neighboring village, and explained that almost everyone in the small town was connected to the olive oil industry in one way or another.

Olive oil for the traveler’s soul

You might already know that Spain is known for its olive oil—but it’s Andalusia in particular that produces 40% of the country’s product. And as the students from this EF tour could tell you, that product is good. In between satisfying samples, the group got a quick tour of the manufactory and learned all about the process that goes into making the culinary staple.

Venturing into the village

Once the group got their fill of the beautiful natural setting (and olive oil) they went off to explore the village itself. Think: narrow streets, white-washed houses, mosaic signs, and lots and lots of colorful flowers. At one point, one of the local villagers came to say hello. He was so friendly, and even plucked a flower straight from his neighbor’s yard to give to Stephanie.

Almuerzo o’clock

Finally, the students got to meet “las abuelas,” a group of local women coined as such for their warm-hearted spirits (and delicious home-cooked meals). The students split up into smaller groups, and each one was welcomed into one of las abuela’s homes for almuerzo, or lunch. All of the meals were different—it just depended on what the host preferred to serve! But a few things each meal had in common: They were delicious, and they were really, really large.

Connecting over courses (and more courses, and more courses)

The meals lasted for about two hours, and included soup, salad (served with olive oil, of course), a charcuterie board with jamón, chorizo, and Manchego, a main meat-based dish, fruit, cookies, and coffee. In addition to the feast, the students got to chat with their hosts, see their family photos, and learn their stories. As one student, Jillian, said, “It was so neat to see inside of [las abuelas’] houses. It made us feel like we were really part of their town, part of their family almost.”

Cheers to the chefs

Finally, with their hearts and stomachs full, the students said goodbye to las abuelas, giving them hugs and a round of applause. Even though they had only met the women a couple hours before, everyone felt the special connection. “Being there made me feel like I was back at my grandma’s house,” said student Aayush—proving that the name “las abuelas” couldn’t have fit the women any better. His friend, Joe, added, “I’ll never forget this experience. We just wished we could bring our host into our home just like they brought us into theirs.”

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Sarah McLaughlin

Sarah is a senior copywriter at EF Education First. When she isn’t writing, you can find her browsing through bookshops, trying to cook, or going to improv class (which is basically just an excuse for adults to play make-believe).