MFL: Year 8 Visit to Cantabria 2014
Sixteen pupils from the two Year 8 Spanish groups at the Prep School set off for a 6-day visit to the region of Cantabria in northern Spain on Monday 29 September.
José Herrera, director of the tour operator Links into Spanish and great friend of Bede's, was waiting to greet the party at Bilbao airport and take them to the capital of Cantabria, Santander.
The children had their first flavour of Spain's particular style of autonomous regional government when they were shown round the parliament, housed in a beautiful neo-classical former hospital, and were introduced to its president.
The end of the first day involved transferring to the historical seaside village of Comillas and settling in to spacious rooms in the four star hotel overlooking the sea.
For the following three consecutive mornings, the children took lessons with Ana and Piedad, experienced teachers of Spanish as a foreign language, in another stunning and recently renovated building whose classrooms were originally dedicated to the teaching of Latin to members of the clergy.
Just opposite this amazing building Gennaro runs a small restaurant, and his wife, Isabel, is renowned as Comillas' best tortilla chef.
The children were fortunate enough one day to be allowed behind the scenes to see her at work, and it was they who beat the eggs and mixed in the potatoes, before eating their own tortilla - though not until Pedro, the deputy mayor of Comillas, had popped in to help judge the best tortilla of the day!
This was the day that groups of 4 pupils had teamed up to compete in the famous Busquedo de Tesoro: the Treasure Hunt. Clues in Spanish were deposited all over the town, each one leading to the next - and finally to the treasure itself!
Local people lent a hand and the children discovered that teamwork was everything - perhaps a more important lesson to learn than any other.
There were many other amazing experiences in this action-packed week in Spain - a chance to see the breath-taking prehistoric artwork of the Altamira caves, a trip to a huge wildlife sanctuary situated in an ancient Roman iron mine and a couple of hours at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, enjoying its architecture, sculpture and art, were some of the key ones.
The pupils also got to know, and played football or learnt to dance the flamenco with, a group of Spanish children at a local school, before all of them had fun on Comillas' beautiful beach in the early evening light.
Throughout their time in Cantabria, the children's Spanish was taking a firmer hold in their minds and their understanding of language as a key element of culture and identity was growing.
Experiences like these have a lasting impact on our young people; all will have important memories to return to in years to come; some will carry their Spanish forward and take part in the Fifth Form work experience programme that is jointly organised by José and the Modern Languages Department at Bede's Senior School.
An experience like this is a foundation on which they can build from now on, in whichever direction they choose to take it.