If you’re interested in learning Spanish in Spain, read on for this review of K2 Internacional Spanish School in Cadiz by my friend and blog reader Chris Grears.
Learning Spanish in Cadiz
For time away from UK during January and February, Spain is a good choice if only for the sure promise of sunshine. The first week was a bit chilly but it did warm up, gradually, to the point that people were lounging on the city beach by week three.
Dress in layers as it’s warm in the sun and by the beach, but cold in the shade.
I was told Cadiz is built on a grid system with narrow streets to provide wind tunnels to ventilate the city during the terrible summer heat. There were a few stiff breezes swirling around at times, indeed.
If you’re interested in Carnival in February and March, it’s worth planning your dates around it, as it’s one of the best-known carnivals in Spain. Read more about Carnival in Cadiz.
My Spanish Level
I would classify my Spanish level as going toward intermediate, having had recent gaps in practice and tuition. Three years ago, I completed an excellent two-week intensive course in Barcelona and then a year of evening class in Liverpool.
K2 Internacional: The School
K2 Internacional is situated in the Plaza Mentidero, a very small square with shops and bars in the north end of the city. The square, actually an elongated triangle, began to be constructed in 1755 to complete the city between Plaza de San Antonio and the quarters of Carlos III. Plaza de Mentidero was also known as Plaza de la Cruz de Mentiros, named after the locals who used to gather here to spread false rumors and fake news — yes, popular then too.
The 19th-century building is beautiful, tastefully restored, clean, and comfortable. It was the former home of an important newspaper publisher, and sustains an air of history.
The school has a reception area at the entrance, always with helpful staff member, and elevator for those who need it. There are two floors of classrooms, computer area, a library, kitchen, admin office, staff room, and bathrooms. An attractive roof terrace is available for relaxing in the sun, studying, and school parties.
The school offers group courses as well as individual sessions, and is Cervantes-approved.
During my stay there (January to early February 2019) the total student group averaged around 15-20. Students were from a wide range of countries and included a range of ages from 20 to 70.
An initial test on the first Monday morning leads to the groupings and class allocation. With the intensive 20-hour course, the classes are daily, 9.30 am to 1 pm, with a half-hour break from 11.30-12. There are also additional specific sessions on cultural topics.
I understand that when classes have fewer than three students, the sessions are reduced from four hours to two, presumably because students will receive a more intensive, possibly more personalized, session on a 1:1 or 2:1 basis. It will come down to a student’s personal preference as to whether their expectations might be met with the reduced hours policy.
In my first week at A2 level, my class contained six people, and during the second week there were four students.
Also, where additional activities are offered, some are dependent on a minimum number of sign-ups, and this could be difficult with a smaller group. The trips identified on the web-site are wide-ranging, and a small selection is offered on a weekly basis (I suspect a smaller offer, out of season).
These activities are at a fee, although the school does offer free orientation city walks. Other students noted that the school would benefit from more inexpensive and varied weekly activities.
On the first morning, after the test, joining class was really comfortable with the teacher and students introducing themselves and then straight into discussion about objectives for the week, and the course book Nuevo Prisma – Nivel A2 was issued.
The first session is planned grammar and the final hour is conversation and games. By day two I was settled in class and I think I was at the right level. It stretched me with regard to listening as Silvia, my teacher, spoke at normal pace (which is a bit too quick for me). This did help me improve, in the end.
I was at the right place with the grammar and revisiting some of the tenses but that was ok. During the week, there was a bit of shuffling, usually as a result of consultation or at the request of students.
One person left as they did not like the two-hour day that was offered to them because of their level. Another person went down a group and then came back. I found the school to be very flexible, making every effort to listen to the students’ points of view.
We had homework daily but this was optional (although everyone did it!) and a small project on legends which was good fun. The class also went out to the museum for some exercises on site. Maybe this happens more in the warmer months.
I think it is more difficult for these smaller schools when the numbers are smaller because it can result in a mixture of levels in the class which can’t be avoided. Some people felt a bit aggrieved, but I think the school was very open to trying to resolve the issues.
I think, of all of the Cadiz language schools, K2 seems to be the smallest and is an independent offer. One of the teachers, José, is the director and the small staff group seem to be tight-knit and a good team.
All flats have washing machines, and sheets and towels are supplied. Most, if not all, have shared bathrooms so if you really want your own bathroom check ahead. The school tries to assign accommodation so that students of similar ages but from different countries get to share, if possible.
I stayed in a flat in Calle Torre 5, which was very close to school. It was a large, period flat with high ceilings, three bedrooms (plus a tiny one), a recently refurbished kitchen and bathroom, and a shared living room with flat-screen TV.
Externally the facade was beautiful, but these old houses aren’t that well maintained and never have double glazing so are a bit drafty. The heating is free-standing electric fires.
We had only one in the living room, so I asked the school for another one as my room was cold, as well as a hairdryer. The school took me to the shop and bought new ones. There was never any hesitancy in supplying stuff for me or for other students on the program.
The other flat I visited was not of the same standard. I couldn’t have stayed there as the kitchen was too small and not well-equipped.
I only knew one person living with a host, and she said it was really comfortable but sometimes restrictive, as meal times were at set hours.
Cadiz is a very friendly city, and people in general were very welcoming and helpful. It has an incredible history, and features atmospheric buildings and plazas; meandering, cobbled lanes filled with small independent shops; and fantastic markets. Cadiz is very compact, making it extremely accessible on foot.
The new town is outside the old city walls and starts from the Plaza de la Constitución; it runs down to where the land runs out and where the narrow spit starts and continues down to the salt flats and San Fernando town.
Cadiz was right up my street as far as history, architecture, art and culture go. I love islands — and this, apart from the small technicality of a 9k long thin strip of land connecting Cadiz and San Fernando, is as near as dammit. Cadiz is not the “Costas,” I am so happy to say. I really don’t think there are so many Brits homing in, even in the summer months.
I think the Spanish keep this treasure for themselves. It’s not on the main traffic runs of air traffic, trains, or buses like Seville or Malaga. It is the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe, and has a phenomenal history which is represented in a very understated way. Museums and galleries tend to be small but very interesting.
Best Things to do in Cadiz
- La Caleta beach – the town beach on the north-west corner, previously the natural harbor where the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans arrived and which was used when the city was the main point of trade with the Americas in the 18th century. There are two castles enclosing the harbor.
- Three other amazing long beaches (Victoria, Santa Maria and Cortadura) which run along the west side of the new city area, with small bars and restaurants snaking down to the edge of town.
- Genoves Park: Beautiful botanical park at the north of the city, Completed by the Valencian gardener Genoves y Puig at the end of the 18th century.
- La Catedral (€6 entry with tower climb included) – A number of architects worked on the cathedral so it features multiple styles: a baroque beginning, a bit of rococo thrown in, and a neo-classical finish. A school staff member told me that marble was the initial material but, when the money started to run out, compacted seashells were dredged up from the harbor and used for certain parts. Fantastic bell tower with great views and amazing acoustics in the crypt where two famous Gaditanos (natives of Cadiz) are buried, Falla (composer) and Pemán (poet and playwright).
- Gran Teatro Falla – neo-Mudejan (Moorish) design. Very important for the Carnival in February. During my time there the concurso de las comparsas had begun. Highly competitive. We had no chance of getting tickets as they had been sold out months ago and heavy security on the door. People could be heard practicing in bars, on the street, or in their homes in preparation for their stint on stage.
- Museo de Arqueologia Belles Artes y Etnografia (free) – The excellent ground floor exhibition shows the history of the city. Upstairs some paintings by Spanish artists like Zurbarán and Murillo.
- Yacimiento Arqueológico Gadir (free but entrance on the hour and numbers restricted) – A real find. Remains of a Phoenician site (9th century BC) right under the puppet theater, 9 meters down. Very rare. It contains two cobbled streets, eight homes, salt vats for fish preservation, utensils, a human skeleton in a case, and even a dead cat in the street. Spooky but fascinating.
- Museo del Titere (free) – Totally charming and quite extensive collection of puppets from all over the word. There’s also a big community connection as there are a number of shows by local kids and adults.
- Peña Flamenca la Perla de Cádiz – ahhh the flamenco! Very well-attended and old school organization – and very cheap (€5). Loved it. Could go every week.
- Mercado Central de Abastos – Spain’s oldest covered market. Very lively on weekends and lunchtimes, especially for tapas and sherry. It sells meat, fruit and vegetables, cheese and breads, etc. from its stalls as well as many other things.
Other activities to pursue individually include surfing (a few students rented equipment and/or took lessons) You can also rent bicycles and bike along the seawall.
Trips outside of town
- The sherry triangle – We went to Puerto Santa Maria by catamaran from the docks. We did a tour of a small family bodega, Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía (€11). It was really interesting and six different sherries to taste!
- The Andalucian Horse Show – in Jerez (about €13). We had mixed feelings, I have to say, mainly about the tricks the horses need to learn. My friend says they did that to intimidate the opposition in war. These horses are beautiful and are very well looked after. The show was quite long but we enjoyed it.
Like the rest of Spain, it’s easy to get a three-course lunch, menu del día, for around 10 euros including wine.
Lovely tapas here and very cheap: usually about €2.50/3. Some popular dishes:
- Fish – lots of pescaito frito (with a number of fish and chip shops- just like home, except different varieties)
- Chicharrones – dressed slices of pork belly
- Fritos – pork scratchings
- Longaniza picante – spiced sausage
- Salmorejo – cold tomato soup
- Tortillitos de camarones – shrimp fritters
- Los payoyos – local goat cheese, lovely and unusual
- Papas alinas
- Barbadillo – local white wine
- Cruzcampo beer
Final note: A big thanks to Jose and Silvia and all of the staff at K2 who made my stay so enjoyable!
Chris Grears is a Cumbrian that now calls Liverpool home. A mum to two great lads, Chris previously worked as a childcare inspector and consultant.
After intermittently studying Spanish for a decade, Chris is focused on improving her Spanish in retirement. She has traveled for 30 years, including solo world circumnavigation. Chris loves adventure travel, anything Spanish, and flapjacks!
Note: Chris’s fellow K2 students Roberta and Julia also contributed to this review. Many thanks for their help!
You may also like:
– Banner: By Julian Hacker from Pixabay
– Historic center, Cadiz: By bernswaelz from Pixabay
– Cat on the breakwater, Cadiz: By cocoparisienne from Pixabay
– Museo del Titere, Cadiz: Courtesy Chris Grears
Have feedback about learning Spanish in Cadiz or a Spanish school recommendation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.