A passionate linguist and proud County Durham man was left astonished when opening his post to discover a Christmas card from the Spanish Royal family. 

Having studied the Spanish language for years, 84-year-old Jimmy Nicol, from Cockfield, has built up a sizeable bank of knowledge on Spanish culture. 

Wanting to combine his love of the language with his love for the North East, just before Christmas, Jimmy sent a calendar featuring many of County Durham's stunning landscapes to the Spanish royals King Felipe, Queen Letizia, and Princesses Leonor and Sofia. 

Expecting a response from one of the royal family's many representatives, Jimmy was astonished and delighted to receive a letter of thanks and a Christmas card directly from the royals. 

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"Receiving the card was very special to me," Jimmy said. "I am very passionate about the Spanish language, culture, and people. The effort put into the beautiful letter and card is unbelievable, and it is a lovely souvenir.  

"I am very interested in the Spanish language, so I was kicking myself when I missed Queen Letizia of Spain opening the Spanish art gallery in town. I only found out she had visited Bishop Auckland after the fact, from the television!

"But as she visited the area in spring, I thought it would be a good chance to send her a calendar of Bishop Auckland for Christmas."

Auckland Castle has been home to Francisco de Zurbarán’s series of Spanish masterpieces Jacob and His Twelve Sons, for over 250 years. These striking paintings are the starting point for the young Spanish gallery, in the heart of Bishop Auckland.

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Despite only opening last spring, the gallery holds UK's largest collection of 16th and 17th-century Spanish artworks outside London.

Jimmy is a big proponent of the Spanish Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland which he says adds to the "cultural richness" of the town. 

"It is an absolute asset to Bishop Auckland - everyone should go visit the gallery."

Jimmy added: "The surroundings right on our doorstep are absolutely amazing; people come to visit the area and are just blown away.

"So often, the North East is overlooked, so it is good to get recognition for the region." 

As well as his interest in the Spanish language, Jimmy is also a proud volunteer at Raby Castle, and is pleased to fly the flag for Raby Castle, and for tourism in the whole of the North East. 

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"Along with the calendar I sent the royals information regarding Kynren, Raby Castle and the Auckland project, to promote the local area. 

"Our area is amazing, and we are all lucky to have so much right outside our door. Raby Castle is absolutely brilliant, and in my role as a volunteer, I have seen people come from far and wide to visit. 

"The castle is very popular, and it is not difficult to see why!"

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