Sunday, 4 November 2012

Autumn has arrived!

On Sundays, the city is tranquil. The shops are all closed, the roads are empty and everyone is at home or church.
It's the perfect time to go for a walk, explore the city, or as I did today, go to your friend's house for lunch/dinner.
The leaves have begun to change colour and fall, the air is cooler and two weeks of rain  signal autumn's arrival. Reassuringly, the rain will end soon and then it will just be cooler.
Blue skies and sunshine, cosy coats, cute hats and soft scarves.
There are so many reasons I love autumn.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Spanish Ken Lee

In the first year of university, I got completely obsessed with Il Divo. A mix between opera and pop music, their voices are magnificent and I fell in love Sébastien whom I completely expected to be gay if the past is an indication.

For some reason, I thought their songs were in Portuguese, I must've read this somewhere, but no, some of the songs such as the one above are actually in Spanish! So I've started to listen to them again. 

Singing along, it suddenly hits me. I'm Valentina Hasan.
The singer in the Bulgarian Pop Idol.

I'm the girl in the ball gown, singing my heart out, to nonsense.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Happy Halloween!


Halloween is my favourite party holiday. As a girl, it's the one time of year you are allowed to leave your morals with wild abandon, wear the craziest/sexiest thing you can muster and not a soul will judge you.
The greatest part of the fun is deciding what to wear. This time last year my friends and I spent a month planning and preparing for Halloween. There's a fine line between sexy and trashy and it's important for a girl to not only know where that line is, but walk on it.
Seeing other people's creativity is quite a kick too. Just on Facebook I saw a friend as "the cool guy from youtube" wearing a massive cardboard youtube frame around himself.

But in Spain, it's not such a big deal. You'd barely know it was even a thing if we didn't all have a holiday on the 1st November. It seemed to be a very niche market with only a few people dressing up.

Oh, but when they do, they were very scary! Which is what I guess Halloween should be about.I saw plenty of ghouls and grungy emo angels. I suspect that for some, this is also the one time of year they can actually wear what they like, in a city that's probably 98% Catholic (don't quote me) and would find Halloween a little too pagan, I think some people would find it hard to be accepted if they wore the punk grunge look daily. This ain't no Camden. 

The first Halloween was a costume birthday party, and only having decided on the morning that I would go, I had only a few hours to hash together some sort of costume.
I ended up as a Native American. Think chick from Night at the Museum rather than Pocahontas.

The second Halloween started off as a few beers after work, me donning my home-made cat ears which I had worn all day in school and a black dress. Other teachers had also worn witches hats and face paint. Halloween with the students is always fun, playing games where they have to "trick or treat" for candy. It's a nice break from the daily grind of textbooks and some guy in some country doing some thing that they don't care about.

As is tradition of human beings when they don't have to work the next day (woop Spain!) we ended up staying out late and went to the ever popular irish pub, O'Donaghue's.
If I had ever thought that Córdoba had just forgotten Halloween, walking through the door of this pub was like going though a wormhole to a different dimension.

The whole place was covered in beautiful spiders webs hanging from zombies, skeletons, mummys, vampires, monsters, and other delightfully ugly decorations.
It was obvious that a lot of time and effort had gone in to decorating the place and for a homesick halloween kitty, it was definitely appreciated.

Going there with a few teachers from my school and their other halves, it was nice to meet some other Spanish people. I really hope that my Spanish will improve over the next month to the point where I can have a conversation. I was glad I made the decision to go out and not chicken out home which is what I almost did!

The drinks at O'Donaghue's were massive!!! It took us girls a long time to finish one drink, but mysteriously, the ice didn't melt! Culture tip #17 they put a lot of alcohol in their mixed drinks! I was prefectly happy sipping on my mammoth wine glass of vodka lemonade for the rest of the night.

The night was perfect for me. It wasn't crazy, we had a good group in a place with amazing atmosphere. The music could've probably been better but it was hardly noticeable.

The next holiday now will be my favouritest of them all: Christmas!!!

Thursday, 25 October 2012


It'd be madness to come and live in Spain without going to see a Flamenco show. So I took the opportunity to go when my mum came to visit. She had come during Columbus Day, which just so happened to be on a Friday this year, and to mark the holiday, the show had guest performers from other parts of Spain.

The show opened with traditional singing, Spanish guitar and ambient lighting while we sat in a patio under the stars.

It was a warm night (for us Brits anyway) but the dancing was hot. The dresses hugged their hips as they swirled and sauntered, stamping their feet in time to the music.

Flamenco music has a distinctive 12 beat rhythm, and it's the most common although there are also dances to 3 and 4 beats.Try keeping in time clapping and at first, it's very difficult and requires way more concentration than you think it would as they clap away apparently with ease and minimal brain power.

Facial expressions were part of the show as the dancers would not only show passion with their feet but also on their faces. It demanded the audience to take them seriously; there was power in their movements and fire in their soul.

Every dancer chose to wear the traditional flamenco colour of red. Each dress was ornate and beautifully put together, perfectly tailored to curve with every contour, and flip with every kick.

I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a fat flamenco dancer. The 15-20 minute performances were high energy and fast paced. After each performance, the dancers were breathing heavily and sweating.

This guy was the Michael Flatley of flamenco. The tappy shoes weren't that far off either. He was the grand finale of the show, with fast footwork and enough passion to make you pregnant just by looking at you.

Seeing flamenco live was spectacular. It far exceeded my expectations in entertainment value. It was good value for money at €20 per person including a free drink. We were able to reserve a table at the time of booking the tickets which ensured our great seats but even the worst seats in the house would have still been great.

I'm going to try and find lessons that fit around my schedule - it's a perfect combination of cultural integration and great exercise! And if not that, then I want the pretty dress and an excuse to pin a big flower on my head!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Palacio De Viana

The Palacio De Viana is one of the biggest private palaces in Spain that's open to the public. There are 12 patios or gardens, each with it's own name and theme. The palace itself is an accumulation of the different architectural styles from the 14th century to now.

On a sunny Sunday morning, I went to check out the Palace mainly in preparation for the maternal visit so I would know where it was and what it would be like.

I think she would enjoy it, with all the trees, flowers and fountains, it was also a brilliant cultural experience, with a brief glimpse in to Córdoba's aristocratic past. 

This garden looks a bit like a jungle in this picture, but it had hedges that made it into a maze and it is the biggest garden of the twelve.

I love the symmetry of this palm tree contrasting against the blue sky. If England had palm trees, it would probably be easier to go back!

This patio had painted tennis balls on the ground but I wasn't sure why - other than for decorative purposes. They weren't secured down, so a gust of wind could've turned it in to a ball pit, but luckily for them, this is Spain, and the weather is nice for the most part.

I love the walls covered with terracotta pot plants. In May, the flowers are in full bloom and that's when people from all over Spain will come to Córdoba to see all the beautiful blooming patios.

The palace gardens were so romantic, it would've been a perfect setting for some period drama. A story about forbidden love perhaps, a cultural/class divide where the protagonists have to sneak around and hide in the gardens.

I can't wait to see what it'll look like in May!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Pan y Mantequilla

This song is so catchy! It's another that's been stuck in my head for a while now.
Must admit, the lyrics don't necessarily make the most sense to me. The title is called "Bread and Butter" so I thought that somewhere in the song he would say "we go together like bread and butter" or something equally cheesy.
But the actual line is "I want to eat you like bread and butter"
Which is strange because they don't really have butter over here.

Regardless, the song is upbeat and cheerful and I bet you'll be humming it after you hear it!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


The inevitable time came when university started and we had to say goodbye to Miriam.
We travelled 4 hours from Córdoba to Mazarrón, Murcia through green valleys covered row after row in olive trees spotted with distant white towns, dry dusty deserts with mystery green fruit, then onwards to Cartagena through the mountains with one eye on the Mediterranean.

What is this? Is it an unripe pomegranate?

We left early on Saturday morning to begin the 456km journey to Mazarrón where the family have a house by the beach.

As soon as we arrived, we headed straight to the beach where Miriam and I chilled and worked on our tans. The Kindle once again came in to it's own as I read Tom Sawyer on the beach.

Mazarrón is a port, hence the full name of the area is called Puerto de Mazzarón. The boats in the harbour set with a background of blue skies, turquoise sea and rugged mountain was just as picturesque as Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief. Obviously, I'm Grace Kelly.

When we got bored of turning brown, we went up to the viewing deck, where, on the railings were attached "love padlocks". I had never seen them before, but apparently they're quite the fad now across the world. It symbolises eternal love by locking two padlocks together, each with a name engraved on it.
It's not that different to the "ball and chain" metaphor really, but in this instance, the padlock holding the ball around your ankle is called love.

I've been to white sandy beaches, I've been to black sandy beaches, but I've never seen sand that glitters gold. It's most obvious when the sand is wet and it sparkles at you as you're walking along. I don't know what it was but it was beautiful.

The drive from Mazarrón to Cartegena was about an hour long. We went through some beautiful scenery that strongly reminded me of the Colorado leg of my Great American Road Trip. Green on one side, desert on the other. I never realised before how beautiful the landscape in Spain was.

We helped Miriam unpack and settle in her room. As we made our way back to Mazarrón, the sun was setting, casting the twilight glow on the world that makes it my favourite time of day.

The family also have an apartment on the 15th floor which allowed us a privileged view of the whole area. Sitting out on the balcony looking out at the view, I felt lucky to be included with this family's life and as the sunset behind the mountains in the distance, I didn't have a care in the world.