Tag Archives: Spain

They say Andalucia steals your heart…

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It’s official – the grey sky, Mum’s cooking and the fact that I’m wearing more than 2 layers of clothing proves it – I’m back in England!

Naturally, I’ve found myself reflecting on my time abroad and thinking about all of the things I enjoyed and have begun to start missing.  So here are a few of my favourite things about Estepona and Andalucia, Spain.

The Weather

As British as it may sound, the weather is something I will miss greatly.  Living on the southern coast of Spain was a treat of hot weather, light breezes and pleasant nights.  I’m sure that the more I reminisce, the more I’ll forget about the crazy weekend down pours and even the random day of hailstones (‘granizo’) in April!

But it’s true what they say – a sunny day can improve your mood, even if I did constantly complain about the tan lines!

The Views

I saw some wonderful things during my 9 months in Spain and I was lucky enough to experience many of them daily.

Estepona is a beautiful coastal town, and every morning I would begin my day walking along the promenade (‘el paseo maritimo’) in awe of the clarity and the majesty of the Gibraltar rock and Atlas Mountains.  In my office, located in the port of Estepona, we overlooked the marina and the luxury ships.  Lunch time meant wandering down to a relatively quiet area of La Rada beach, sitting on the rocks looking out to sea and with views of the great mountain in Marbella, named ‘La Concha’ the shell.  And in the evening, I could return to my flat, open up my window and look out into the bustling old town and the Sierra Bermeja Mountain that dominates the landscape behind Estepona.  Something I became quite fond of seeing every morning.

La Concha, Marbella – taken October 2011.

Sierra Bermeja – the backdrop of Estepona.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’d recommend to anyone travelling around Andalucia would be the drive to Ronda.  It is the most breathtaking journey where driving along the mountain you see thousands of trees lining the rocky area, and you go higher and higher until you feel like you’re on top of the world!  It may sound like I’m on the verge of saying it changed my life… it didn’t, but it was AMAZING.  A definite must-see.

Andalucia

When I first reached Estepona, I shamefully admit that my knowledge of Spanish regions was somewhat lacking.  I arrived to learn that Andalucia was a more traditional area of Spain, rich in culture and proudly speaking the Andalucian dialect of Spanish –‘andaluz’ – the second most spoken dialect in Spain, but with a reputation of being notoriously difficult to understand!

But after only 9 months in the Andalucian region, I feel a great love for the area for many reasons.  There are so many great cities and monuments in the region with the rich culture of Malaga, the vibrancy of Seville and the Sierra Nevada in Granada.  Generally, the people are friendly – occasionally over-friendly, but the people are lovely and help you along with your Spanish.  But most of all, Andalucia –and Spain- have an amazing way of life.  At nights and weekends, the streets, cafes and restaurants would fill up with friends and families of different generations, simply enjoying life.  In addition to the processions and festivals, it seemed like every day was a celebration in Spain – and it’s an uplifting feeling to see such enjoyment of life.

The Food

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the food in my final blog.  As a great appreciator of food, it’s no surprise that Spanish food became one of my favourite things too.

Some Spanish delicacies that I tried and came to order again and again include:

  • Puntillitas – fried baby shrimp.  Before reaching Spain, I swore I hated shrimp but I was proven wrong by these tasty little shrimp in batter, with a generous squirt of lemon juice
  • Almejas y Mejilliones – staying with seafood, an important food group in Spain, I also tried clams and mussels for the first time.  The mussels are usually served in a tomato sauce, and are quite tasty, but my favourite are the clams cooked in white wine with a squirt of lemon.  They taste great, but are dangerously small that you can keep eating and eating until the whole ‘ración’ is gone!
  • Solomillo al whisky – the Sevillan delicacy that I tried during my time in the wonderful city.  There are no words to describe the mouth watering taste of the fillets cooked in whisky!
  • Patatas bravas – what I consider to be the Spanish version of chips, these small chunks of fried potato with chilli and garlic sauce and the perfect accompaniment to any tapa.
  • Tomates aliñados – the beauty of this dish is in its sheer simplicity.  Slices of tasty Spanish tomato in olive oil, parsley and garlic – both refreshing and delicious
  • And speaking of olive oil, I can’t forget about the typical Andaluz breakfast of cafe con leche and toast (tostadas) with olive oil and salt.  A very satisfying breakfast!

Believe me when I say that the list goes on – and trust me, I could continue to talk about the amazing food that I tasted in Spain from ‘gambas pil-pil’ to ‘albondigas’, but I need to draw the line somewhere!

I haven’t even gone on to mention the excellent restaurants in Estepona, including:

Enjoying a massive mint chocolate sundae in Gelateria del Centro, Plaza del Dr Arce – August 2011.

  • La Pampa – a cosy restaurant with DELICIOUS food, all cooked to an excellent high-standard and somewhere I’d recommend without a doubt
  • La Taberna – excellent tapas in the port, a place with a great atmosphere
  • La Escollera – lots and lots of fish!
  • Sur – for a good grill, the Moroccan provides excellent dishes
  • Gelateria del Centro – best ice cream place!
  • Wang – good Chinese takeaway
  • La Taberna de Lucia – a chain of 4 restaurants in Estepona with great tapas dishes

And if you like to cook, the selection of fresh vegetables in the supermarket is fantastic with vegetables twice the size of those in England, extensive fish counters and an aisle solely dedicated to olives.

My year abroad has ended – but I’ll never forget it.  And now I’ve had my taste of Andalucia, I will be back, for sure.

Thank you for reading my blog.

I wanted to end with a song – and it took me a while to choose.  From Danza Kudoro (the song that every Spanish ERASMUS student now knows, I’m sure), the annoying catchy Ai se eu tu pego to the Juan Magan hit – Bailonda por ahi or one of Shakira’s many – Rabiosa.  In the end, I decided to go with the song that was Number 1 in the Spanish charts when I left Spain on 13th May 2012.

¡Hasta luego! 🙂

 

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El Dia de los Reyes Magos

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So Christmas may seem like a distant memory, with only the novelty of presents and an expanded waist line as a reminder of the festive time.  And yet, I returned to Spain January 4th feeling that post-Christmas gloom… only to celebrate it again!!  Well, Christmas in the Spanish style, known as ‘El dia de los reyes magos’.  Now, this day, January 6th was actually a while ago now, but due to poor internet, there was a bit of delay on this post, so we’ll just pretend I posted it last week, as I was supposed to.

So, I’ve put together a list of the top 3 things you can see during the ‘Three King’s Day’, as it is referred to in English.

3) PRESENTS

Alternatively celebrate with a dessert - though who knew Baileys, Tia Maria, Ameretto and chocolate would make you feel a little bit sick at night?

As a colleague of mine so eloquently explained, “In Spain, the Kings bring the presents, not the big fat beardy Coca-Cola man [Santa – wasn’t sure if I had to clarify that!]” As in the Bible, the Kings bring the presents, and this is the tradition that Spain follows.

Although this doesn’t fulfil Wizzard’s wish of “Christmas every dayyyyyyy”, it does mean that the Spanish can enjoy all the food, festivities and Christmas TV on December 25 and January 6th– pretty good deal!

2) ROSCON DE REYES

This can only be described as a big, sugary donut-like cake.  You’ll see these ‘Roscon de Reyes’ everywhere, they are the Christmas pudding of Spain.  I went to the supermarket on January 6th, and it was a similar sight to England, but with people making a mad dash for a roscon or two.

The roscon usually is suger-coated pastry filled with cream and topped with fruit (covered in sugar).  I did try the roscon with my colleagues, and it’s definitely something to try.  However, having a slice during my 10am coffee break meant that the by 11am I was on a considerable sugar high.

Spain also has a fun tradition where the cakes are filled with a little figure, either of Jesus or just a toy.  The person that finds the toy (in our case – a little Goofy) receives the toy and the title of king or queen.  This honour came complete with a gold card crown that we insisted Ana wear for a while.  The other ‘surprise’ in the cake is a bean – a somewhat unlucky surprise as the recipient then has to pay for the roscon!

The office Roscon del Reyes - I can taste the sugar!

1) CABALGATA DE LOS REYES

The biggest and most exciting thing you will hear about is the ‘Cabalgata de los reyes’ – the Kings parade, which usually takes place the day before the Dia de Reyes.  In towns all over Spain, kids will drag their parents to fill the streets and watch as the Kings go by throwing out sweets to the crowds of people.  Usually, this takes place after activities are held for the children somewhere in town.

I didn’t truly understand the excitement of the whole thing until I tried to walk home and ended up battling my way through crowds and crowds of people that had lined the streets an hour early in anticipation for the arrival of the Kings.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch the parade but caught glimpses as it passed me by enroute to the supermarket.  Worst of all, I received no sweets, but you can’t really fight a 5 year old though.  What struck me is that, such is the mentality of keeping things clean in Spain, the parade was followed by a line of road sweepers who swept up the sweet wrappers as they went along.  An efficient and effective way of tackling mess around town, I thought.

But that there is your summary to Spanish Christmas – El Dia de los Reyes Magos, a post somewhat delayed but festive all the same, just like January 6th.

 

The joys of Spanish television.

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Whenever I go on holiday, childish instincts take over when I enter the hotel.  I run in to see the room, the view, choose a bed and without fail – get acquainted with the TV.  And most times, I am disappointed by the TV channels that are full of dubbed films, dramatic shows and token English-speaking channels – usually BBC News/CNN and MTV.  But, the best bit about a holiday, is that there are so many other things to day, you hardly use the TV anyway.

So imagine having these limited TV viewing choices every day for a year.  As a student, I was never too bothered by a lack of TV, especially in my first year at uni when I didn’t have a TV at all.  Why?  Because of that little thing called the Internet – whatever you want to watch at the click of a few keys.  However, when you have limited dial-up Internet connection in Spain, you find that the TV is all that you have…  So I ended up watching it and discovered a whole new world!

In Spain, my TV has the equivalent of English freeview, so a selection of random channels, of which I flick through a handful.

The two biggest networks, which for me are the equivalent of BBC and ITV, are la Sexta and La1.  I have two Le Sexta channels which give me a range of documentaries, sports and La Sexta 3, which is a channel that plays films ALL DAY.  Not bad, not bad at all.

However, you may sometimes tune into horrors such the ‘Bratz’ movie and other equally shocking “films”.  If learning Spanish, you can always watch these films dubbed in the language to practice.  Although it does sound a bit odd!  At the very least use should the subtitles.  When learning a language, you can forget everything your parents ever told you about TV being bad – it’s a brilliant way to immerse yourself in the language and pick up a few key words.

La1 is my go-to channel for a good ole Spanish telenovela (Spanish soap).  If you ever watched ‘Ugly Betty’, you might remember Betty’s father, Ignacio, who always used to watch these Spanish soaps, which were dramatic and sometimes badly filmed.

Well, my first exploration into the world of ‘telenovelas’ took me to Palos Verdes in Mexico, watching a soap about two people who had lost their partners for different reasons, but years later were learning to love again (Amar de Nuevo).  Sounds like your typical romcom, right?  Now throw in, the male protagonist – Roman’s deceased wife’s twin sister, Rosilda who is obsessed with him and does some crazy things to try to be with him, including faking an illness and faking the paternity of her child.  The programme has ended and I doubt anyone reading this was following it, so I won’t hesitate at leaking a spoiler.  Rosilda throws herself in front of a bullet and dies to save Roman.  And who shoots this bullet you ask?  Maximo, who is so rich and corrupt that he owns the whole town but was in love with Veronica who is learning to love again with Roman!  But Veronica marries Maximo to take revenge on him because it was he who sent the order to kill her first husband.  And who killed Veronica’s first husband?  Only Bulmaro, who killed Veronica’s husband under the orders of Maximo – his employer AND brother, despite being Veronica’s cousin!  Confused?!  Well, that’s only touching the surface of the storylines.  Though unsurprisingly, Roman and Veronica married (Roman’s brother – Leandro is a priest who married the couple, who has also been in love with Veronica his whole life) and a number of other couples also paired off in the show and everyone lived HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Luckily for you, I found an English trailer for it :)… enjoy!

And my colleagues used to laugh at me for watching it – it’s addictive.  And I always kept telling them – good for my Spanish!

Other channels include Clan – the kids channel.  Not going to lie, I was a frequent watcher when they played Penguins of Madagascar and Spongebob Square Pants.  Unfortunately, the selection of shows has now lost my interest.  Though I’m not sure even a toddler could manage about 3 hours of Peppa Pig – in Spanish or English!

Divinity is the channel for women.  Grey’s Anatomy, Sex & the City, Desperate Housewives, Style by Jury, Home Heist, Life Unexpected – basically the best and the worst of American TV.  Full of guilty pleasures and the channel to watch for daytime TV when you’re ill – Trust me, I know.

For some good Spanish TV, I would recommend a guilty pleasure telenovela to get stuck into, despite the usually over-the-top opening credits.  Once you get into them, there’s no getting out and you’ll be addicted.  I once missed one episode and the show had jumped 9 months into the future – I guess that’s one way to not have to think of 9 months worth of storylines!  A popular documentary that is good to watch is variations of ‘Españoles en el Mundo’, which basically shows the lives of Spaniards around the world and how they have adapted to different countries.  Quite a gem for a cultural insight into other countries and good for some Spanish practice.

Of course, I can’t talk about Spanish TV without mentioning TV adverts.  It seems that whenever I switch on my TV, the Spaniards are always switched on!  Adverts full of singing and dancing – be that an advert for the dentist to insurance, you will be entertained.  There is also a significant lack of watershed here.  Two examples – during Halloween, horror movies would be advertised all day, with very graphic scenes.  And secondly, Spain thoroughly embraces the saying that sex sells, and they will show adverts to this effect all day… and the most explicit is used to sell cooker cleaner… cooker cleaner!

So there’s my insight into Spanish TV and a survival guide should you find yourself in the situation of watching only Spanish TV.  But remember, if you can’t find something you want to watch, you can always amuse yourself by watching films dubbed into Spanish.  I didn’t think it could get any odder than Jackie Chan dubbed into Spanish, until I flicked onto the Spanish-dubbed Mahatma Gandhi movie!

To end, here are a few ‘useful’ things that TV can teach you:

Vocab from Spongebob Square Pants = Bob Esponja 

Sponge = esponja, crab = cangrejo, sand = arena, pineapple = piña, under

You may laugh, but it means I can now ask the very important question of:

Que vive en piña debajo del mar? – who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

From telenovelas:

“No te metas en mi vida!” – Don’t get involved in my life!

“Te amo con todo mi alma” – I love you will my soul

“Largate!” – get out!

I think it’s now evident how dramatic the soap was!

Snapshots of Spain

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I mentioned in an earlier post that there was a bank holiday.  Normally in Spain the holidays are for some religious purpose.  August 15th was a normal day, but it was by night that the festival began!  I live in a flat overlooking Estepona ‘old town’ so I luckily had a brilliant view of the whole parade that went down ‘Calle Real’.  After a quick wiki search, I found that the Spanish, along with many others, celebrate the Assumption of Mary – otherwise known as the Virgin Mary’s heavenly birthday when she was accepted into heaven.  It went on for over an hour and the news showed that similar festivities occurred around Spain.  Some highlights (which you can see in the photo) include two brass bands, the men holding the statue of the Virgin Mary shouting “guapa, guapa, guapa” and women dressed as brides.

The statue of the Virgin Mary being carried through 'Calle Real', where people had lined the streets. and the second band following behind.

The whole street was full of people and there was an amazing atmosphere that was great to be a part of.  And that wasn’t even the biggest celebration – that happens in July, can’t wait to experience that one!

More recently, a few sales meetings took me to Gibraltar.  For those of you who may not know, Gibraltar – commonly known as ‘the rock’ is found between southern Spain and North Africa.  It is a British territory, so I was very much considering my little trip to Gibraltar as a potential cure for my home sickness.  After crossing the border, with lots of flashes of your passport, you pass the Gibraltar airport runways.  Literally, you can walk straight past the runways and you see the planes take off from the island very closely, which is pretty cool.

As soon as you look around you see ‘Winston Churchill Road’ and English signs everywhere.  The Gibraltarians have their own accent, something difficult to describe but interesting to hear.  And of course, you can see English everywhere – a language I understand with ease! J

After the sales part of the day, we treated ourselves to fish, chips and mushy peas from one of the many fish and chips places in Gibraltar.  It did feel a bit like home – with Burger Kind, McDonalds and Subway all in sight – but sitting in 37 degrees heat!  All followed by a cheeky visit to Morrisons to pick up things that are missing in Spain (big box of cereal, chilli sauce and a massive pack of Typhoo tea) and catch up on the English headlines (and I may have aww-ed when I saw the British currency – I do miss the Queen on my money!).

I took this trip with one of the directors of the company who’s also a photographer. This led to my next destination of Sotogranda, Cadiz where ‘locations’ were looked at, lighting was discussed and I suddenly felt quite glamorous.  We drove into Sotogrande on a road lined with palm trees – more LA, less promenade style.  At the end of the road was a roundabout with a Porsche sat on it – bit of casual advertisement of a PORSHE on a roundabout!  And I got to see some of the most amazing houses, flats, buildings, yachts, boats and views I have ever seen!  One of the things that particularly

The Burger Bar.

stuck out for me was an American style burger bar that you’d think would be out of place, but for some reason was completely fitting despite the luxury of Sotogrande.  A very glamorous place – I’ll remember it when I’m a multimillionaire looking to buy my third house…. well, we’ll see!

My first sight of Sotogrande which wow-ed me, near the 'Hippy Market'

And to top it all off, a sighting of a Spanish A-List celeb ended the

trip.  We saw the daughter of the Duquesa de Alba, who was the subject of the Flamenco show I saw see post ‘Tans, Flamenco and early starts’.  Like I said, Spanish A-list, so unfortunately I didn’t make the most of the experience, nor did I know who she actually was until we left.  But a brush with fame all the same!

A day of British treats, Spanish luxury and a touch of glamour – and all part of work!  A brilliant day which renewed a fresh burst of Spanish enthusiasm in me!

Another beautiful view of Sotogrande.

All things Spanish.

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Every country has its own traditions, its own customs and its own habits.  It’s only natural that when you spend time in a country you notice them.  When living in a country, they become even more apparent as you try to adjust to them.  Here are a few things that I’ve noticed about Estepona, Spain.

Siestas:

When you think of Spain, siestas are something that comes to mind.  The siesta falls between 2pm and 5pm – generally considered the hottest time of the day.  Although, it does seems hot ALL the time here in Estepona!  Lunch falls within the siesta.  As I have already mentioned in other posts, lunch at 2pm is something rather difficult to adjust to when a 12pm/1pm lunch in the UK is the norm.

I might add here that contrary to popular belief, I DO NOT get a siesta.  If I’m honest, I get more of a siesta at uni, even if this does mean having a nap in the library :P.  However, siestas do mean that a LOT of shops, banks etc. are not open.  Which leads me to my next point…

Opening times:

Opening times take a lot of getting used to, and until you do, they may seem completely random.  With a massive break in the middle of the day, most places are open early morning and/or late into the night.  On Sundays you will find that most things are closed other than the big supermarkets.

August is the holiday season in Spain.  As you’ll find in England, many people will take their summer holiday at this time of the year, as in Spain.  However, you may also find here that some shops will close for the whole month or people will be out of the office for ages!

Hello:

Standard greeting in the UK to answer the phone: Hello?  Can I help? etc.

In Spain, ‘dígame’ is widely used.  Grammatically, this is an imperative – so some may consider it a bit abrupt.  I had to think about it the first time I heard it.  However this greeting, used for answering phone calls to working on the fish counter at Mercadona, is used everywhere.  Literally meaning ‘tell me,’ this custom, which does seem to make things more efficient, is a common understood greeting in Spain and something I’m getting used to.  Eventually, I’m sure I’ll be answering my phone ‘dígame’ instead of ‘hola’.

Good morning? :

A quick guide to polite greetings, but more importantly, WHEN to use them –

Good morning = Buenos días (from early morning until about 2/3pm)
Good afternoon = Buenas tardes (3pm- around 9/10pm)
Good evening = Buenas noches (onwards)

Andalucía accent:

The accents and slang of the UK will widely differ from formal, ‘proper’ English taught in foreign schools.  Similarly, the Andalucía accent, from what I’ve heard, is a much more relaxed version of the ‘school-taught’ Spanish with shortened words and strong accents (e.g. you can’t tell the difference between a ‘b’ and a ‘v’ in speech).   This is what I’m trying to adapt to.  That and the speed of naturally spoken Spanish!

Roads and traffic lights:

Generally, a little confusing.  Not as strict or structured as the UK but certainly not the challenge faced in countries like India.  Though they do like to use their horns here, a lot.

The view.

Here are just a few observations about Spain that I’m adapting to – things to bear in mind if you are in Spain.

Though generally, what a brilliant lifestyle here!  I’m sitting in my flat, my windows well open.  They look out onto the streets of the ‘old town’ in Estepona, which has been buzzing all day, full of tourists and locals.  Especially at this time, the siesta, when the smell of food is wafting in.  Lovely!

Another point, people look much younger than they are here.  Whether it’s the climate, the way of life or the siestas, they’re certainly doing something right here in Spain.  As my high school Spanish teacher used to say, and a phrase he very much liked to use (shout out to Mr.Gough)

“Que vida más buena que tenemos” – what a good life we have!