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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Update on Claire, and Exporing the Spanish Coast.

Update on Claire

Here is a photo of Claire from a few weeks ago. She was on a trip with other American Field Service students in Italy. She says that she has really enjoyed meeting other teenagers from around the world who, like her, are crazy enough to land themselves in a foreign home with a language they don't know. They all speak English as well as their own language, and while some knew more Italian than Claire (it would have been hard not to) most had little knowledge of Italian.

Claire said that, as far as she can make out, she is, at 15, easily the youngest AFS student in Italy. Most people assume that she is 17 or 18. I suspect that she just smiles that enigmatic smile of hers and lets them think what they like.

Claire also says that her Italian is improving. She is starting to have real conversations. So now her teachers are actually expecting her to produce work. Two months into learning Italian she is now writing essays.

Greetings from the north coast of Spain.


Holidays make short work of school days in Spain in November and December. Between the two months, there is just one week without a holiday.

All Saints Day is a national holiday in Spain, and it happened to coincided with a holiday  of our cousins, Michelle, Remy and their boys, Gael and Dima, from France. So, our well experienced travel agent, which would be Matt, looked at places on the internet and arranged for us all to meet at a posado, that is an inn, near Santander.

Then, about 10 days before the trip, Oracle (not Delphic, not all knowing, but definitely all powerful) asked (kind of the way I “ask” the girls to do their chores) him to go on a business trip to South Africa. This trip followed closely on the heels of a trip to Dubai and London. Which was not long after a trip to Germany, and not long before a trip to Russia. So, Matt is pretty much Mr. Traveling Businessman.

Perhaps wanting to make up for not being with us, he got us first class tickets on the train

The girls painted pictures as I read Harry Potter, and the landscape zipped by at 150 to 200  miles an hour
When Remy asked me what kind of train we had been on, I was wishing Matt was there. He would have known that it was the high speed AVE, imported from France.

Adele, Iris and I agreed that this was quite likely the most comfortable and pleasant 4.5 hour journey we have taken. And thank goodness I didn’t drive, because I thought that Santander was on the Mediterranean coast, just south of the French boarder! We would have been a few hundred east of the Posado.

                                            You will find Santander on the coast, exactly due north of Madrid.

At first, when we saw the city:

And an abandoned developement by the posada (these are endemic in Spain),

and we realized that this part of Spain, called Cantabria, has the least sun and the most rain

we were thinking that we should have researched this a bit more. However, the coast is beautiful, it was great to be on beaches, and we had a wonderful time with our cousins.

Iris with Dima, Adele, and Gael holding up a "rock"

Me with my cousin, Michelle

Michelle's husband, Remy

On the coast east of Santander

Concord, Massachusetts and New England are never far from Iris and Adele's minds.
Our favorite beach was the stormiest.

Iris and Remy

The tide was coming in fast.
We could see a hermitage built into the cliff and, despite an approaching storm, Remy, the girls and I, decided to make our way out to it.

View from the Hermitage.
On Saturday, when it was particularly rainy, we retreated to a cave: the ancient caves with paintings in Altimira.

They are amazing. The caves we went into are reproductions, but quite good, and thank goodness for them, because some of the originals could only be approached by crawling through long narrow tunnels. And the people who made the paintings did so with torches.
We also went to a lovely medival village called Santillana del Mar.

We stopped and had a not very authentically medieval snack:

Remy and Gael watched a football match on the television.

And here is my very decorative, my girls would say horrifying, dinner at a Spanish reastaurant:

It was delicious. The Spanish LOVE to eat fish.

                                     Now on our way home. The girls discovered the Club Car.

That is it for my account of Santander. If you have any questions or comments, as always, leave a comment here or send me an email: .

NEXT: Stay tuned for our visiting blogger. Matt will give an account of his time in South Africa:

View of Capetown from the top of a Gondola ride.


  1. Ohhh.....I love reading this blog and seeing all the photos and drawings. What an amazingly fun gift you are giving all of us couch-travellers! I have trouble accessing my google account - so I am using Mia's. Let's email about Christmas.. Love you, Ellen

  2. Hi Ellen,
    Thanks for commenting. I just got some photos of our trip from my cousins which I am going to add on. They are pretty fun, so you might want to check back. Yes,we must be in touch toute suite about x-mas.
    xo, Margot

  3. Wow, I haven't been keeping up and now I am having fun reading these. I love your writing, Margot. Miss you.

  4. What's with the Austrian flag on the sundae? :-)

  5. Wow, good eye, Richard. I don't know about that.