On the 14th of March, after a lovely time in Lisbon, we picked up a rental car and headed for our next stop in Sotogrande.

Sotogrande is an upscale private community within the municipality of San Roque, on the Mediterranean sea. It’s known for golf, polo, and a beautiful marina and it is where our exchange partners, based in Madrid, have a second home – which would be our home base for eight days in Andalusia.

Our new ride parked outside our place at Sotogrande

Although the weather was not at all cooperative, Sotogrande proved to be a good base for us to explore Andalusia, the most populous of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities and its second largest in area. We thought we had a good inkling of what to expect but the truth is we quickly realized that Spain’s history, and Spain itself, is deeper and more complex than we had ever imagined.

We toured the area by car. Over the week, on days we weren’t doing school work (or playing golf), we did day trips to Marbella, Cádiz, Seville, Carmona, and Gibraltar. Spain knows how to do beach towns and, inspite of the weather, we enjoyed the boardwalks and marinas of the area’s many port towns. We were also blown away by the history and architecture which is pervasive and so well preserved here in Spain.

It was an honour and a pleasure to be invited by our exchange partners to Cadoso, their 15th-century Spanish manor outside of Seville. Partially in ruins, and partially renovated, the manor has been converted into a functioning commercial olive grove. We thoroughly enjoyed our one day and night together exploring Seville and Carmona and just hanging out with a charming, deeply-rooted Spanish family in an incredible setting. We look forward to reciprocating their kind hospitality when they visit us on PEI this summer.

Many of you will know that Spain (Hispania) shone brightly as ancient Rome’s western territory from around 284 to 711, and also that Arabs, bringing their many gifts, dominated the area from 711- 1500 before being driven out by, among other things, the Spanish Inquisition. Reminders of the past are on display everywhere here. Add to this Spain’s complex twentieth-century (civil war, Franco’s dictatorship) and current day politics and you have a bubbling cauldron of culture and customs which together loosely defines Spain. It’s mesmerizing. Indeed, we are quite enjoying our immersion in Spanish history even though we know we are just scratching the surface.

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