Being a language graduate myself, it was brilliant to have the opportunity within my day-to-day job to get to fulfill the role of Rayburn Tour Manager on a Spanish language tour and experience a new place from the point of view of the students!
I met the school group at Bristol airport before setting off for our Spanish adventure to the north of Spain – Cantabria! After only an hour and a half, we were landing into Bilbao and were greeted with stunning scenery (make sure you get yourself a window seat to take in the snowy mountains, red roofed vibrant buildings and stretches of green landscapes!).
Once we found our luggage and coach, which was very straight forward in a small efficient airport, we headed towards the quaint Spanish medieval town of Santillana de Mar where we were staying. Upon arrival we were greeted by the hotel manager, Paco, who was very friendly and welcoming. The hotel, Los Hidalgos, has a lovely traditional style with a real sense of homeliness. Right outside is a small local park which was fabulous for the younger students. Once everyone was settled into their rooms, we all had a hearty meal of spaghetti bolognese, as well as a second plate of chicken and chips!
Written by Lauren Evans
Educational Tour Consultant
Our second day consisted of a visit to the safari park followed by some time at the beach!
It was great how close everything was to our base in Santillana de Mar; it made the journey to and from excursions quick and easy! With our packed lunches at hand, we set off on a short 30 minute journey to el Parque Cabárceno. The coach driver happily drove us through the park, where students could hop on and off to see the animals as they wished, stopping at different enclosures along route. The scenery was stunning – mountainous and rocky, with lakes in between. The students were tasked with learning as many animal names as possible in Spanish. The highlight was seeing the gorillas and the many bears playing with each other, along with the sea lion show which was all in Spanish – great for the students learning the language.
In the afternoon, we went to the seaside town of Suances. As we were out of season it was a very quiet town, and the students were more than happy to play on the beach and order themselves an ice-cream, putting their language skills to the test. In the evening, we all enjoyed another homemade meal. Our meals consisted of a rice dish to start followed by fish, chips and veg! The students all had a bit a down time and enjoyed some time in the park chatting to the local children.
Our third day involved a bit of culture and some local shopping! The morning visit was to Altamira Caves, a local museum showcasing the art and history of the region. Again the scenery driving along the streets of Cantabria was stunning: blue beaches on one side, the snowy Picos de Europa mountain range on the other. Once at the caves, groups are not permitted to access the original caves due to preservation. However, the modern museum exhibited a brilliant replica of the cave, which you walk down into. The visit began with a short film about the history of the caves: how they formed and how locals who lived there created unusual artwork on the cave walls. We then explored the museum further, admiring the objects and art work depicting life in the caves.
Our next stop was the modern shopping center near Santander, where the group spent their pocket money in Spanish shops, buying souvenirs, whilst the teachers and myself stopped in a café and enjoyed some tapas. By the afternoon, we had brilliant weather: the sun was shining down in Santillana de Mar where we let the students explore the small quaint streets of the local Spanish town. Santillana de Mar itself is beautiful; it’s very small and peaceful, full of little side street cafes, local tavernas and souvenir shops. An afternoon spent here left us all feeling very relaxed. After a 10 minute walk we were back at the hotel. Paco allowed us to put on some Spanish music and we put on a quiz all about what new Spanish vocabulary the students had learnt throughout the trip.
On our final day in Cantabria, we had a laid back Sunday morning. Students enjoyed time in the local park before we all walked into Santillana town center where we attended the local mass service. It was an interesting experience and again, the students were fully immersed in the Spanish language. We then set off towards the airport for our departure. On the way, our coach driver kindly drove us through Bilbao city center so we could all see the famous Guggenheim Museum.
It was great to be part of St Paul’s School for Girls’ Spanish Tour as a Tour Manager, on hand to help with the smooth running of the itinerary and to experience such a beautiful part of Spain – the perfect place for student groups wanting to improve their Spanish and learn about the culture.