Year 7 Linguists Enjoy Visit to Cantabria


It’s hard to believe just how much you can pack into a trip overseas in just five days.

The region of Cantabria, for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of visiting this stunning region of the Iberian peninsular, is bordered to the south by the magnificent Picos de Europa, and to the North by some of the most stunning coastline in all of Spain. One particular jewel which stands out along the coast is Comillas, a fashionable summer destination amongst those looking to escape the long hot summers further south. We stay at the ABBA Golf Hotel and as a base it allows the pupils to use the pool in the evenings, whilst providing really comfortable accommodation and superb food.


Since our arrival on Monday, pupils have been fully engaged in a whole range of activities and education visits. From the very first day their capacity to communicate in Spanish has been put to the test. After an hour of Spanish lessons on Tuesday morning they were introduced to their Spanish counterparts from the Colegio María Reina Inmaculada in Santander. After the introductory getting to know you games, pupils from both schools enjoyed participating in a flamenco dance workshop as well as competing in a five-a-side indoor football tournament made up of boys and girls in mixed Anglo-Hispanic groups. Following lunch the pupils collaborated together over an hour and a half to produce oral presentations on subjects such as Comillas, Cantabria as well as comparative study of Bede's and Colegio María Reina Inmaculada. English spoken by the Spanish pupils and vice versa. Some great performances in a language other than their own showed courage and some great examples of creativity and impressive public speaking skills. Group 3 won that particular competition and were rewarded with a small prize from Jose.


It was then time to visit the beach, run around, bury each other and generally let off some steam after so much brain gym.

Sooner or later our Spanish friends would need to be getting back to Santander, and so we migrated back to the hotel for a swim before supper. A full buffet awaited us with cake and candles for Jago who was celebrating his 12th birthday. We had also promised to show the champions league match for those who weren´t ready to sleep. By 10pm, all was quiet. And that was day 1.

On Wednesday, pupils divided into groups for their Spanish lessons in the village. Language centred around shopping, food and asking directions. Two hours of hard concentration was rewarded with a trip to the replica pre-historic village of Cabezón de la Sal, share a guided tour and some brilliant story telling from our tour owner Jose, allowed pupils to see how Cantabria has been populated by many different civilisations over the millennia. Time then allowed for us to have a couple of hours at the beach, a swim in the hotel pool and, for those who were interested, some Spanish commentary on the TV in the Champions League match Lessons in the morning, Cabezón de la Sal, Beach for an hour or so, followed by a tour of the village and some time to explore the village, swimming pool at the Hotel and a Champions league match.


The next morning we woke to beautiful weather, and after a fabulous breakfast, pupils lessons focused on the day’s visit to the beautiful Cabárceno Nature Park. The best way to see the animals and the spectacular countryside and landscape is by cable car, and we also had the fortune to watch the sealion display – these extraordinary animals had been rescued from all over the world. In the afternoon the birds of prey display wowed the crowd and provided a further insight into the rich biodiversity of this part of Spain.

Following the tour, we returned to Comillas village, and pupils experienced the delights of ‘chocolate con churros’. Probably the richest chocolate most had ever tasted! Once we had refuelled, the next task was to complete the team treasure hunt. With the aid of hidden clues and local shop keepers who who were expecting the children, and insisted on them speaking Spanish, pupils finished the task in record time. This was a really busy day, and it was finished off with a meal at the local bar and restaurant La Filipina. As the sun began to lower in the sky, our tired legs took us back to the hotel for a good night’ s sleep…


On Friday, we were to have the opportunity to meet another group of Spanish pupils – this time in situ, and we made the journey over to Santander, although this time in the pouring rain. It didn’t matter though as this part of the week was to be spent interacting with the Spanish pupils inside their school, as well as accompanying them into their classes. Friendships were made incredibly quickly, and by eleven o’clock the sun had returned in time for us to say goodbye and make our way to the famous Altamira cave and museum. A fascinating replica of the original Altamira cave, gave further insight into Cantabria life 35,000 years ago! From learning about the origins of the cave paintings by these hunter gatherers to the modern day was fascinating. No hunter gathering for our pupils as they were treated to a paella lunch at the museum’s restaurant. Half an hour later we were gathered at the entrance of Santillana, a stunning medieval village, where pupils had ample time to wander in groups and look at the souvenir shops.


Our last day in Spain was equally busy. Once we were sure we had not left anything behind, the pupils said goodbye to our hosts at the hotel, and we made the journey back to Bilbao. There we had a visit booked at the world famous Guggenheim. A spectacular and memorable tour was followed by the opportunity to have lunch in a local restaurant serving pintxos – small tapas served as open sandwiches in the Basque tradition. From there we made the quick hop to the airport and home…


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