Friday, 28 February 2014

Feliz Día de Andalucíá

34 years ago today, Andalucía became an autonomous community of Spain.
28th February, the regional holiday of Andalusia day, is a celebration not only of autonomy but of what it means to be Andaluz!

Having asked my students what Andalusia day means to them, it seems that its not very widely celebrated except in the schools. Children across Andalusia will be treated to a traditional Andaluz breakfast served by their teachers - a glass of orange juice and toast spread with olive oil. They will colour the regional flag, learn about the symbols of the area and also perform the regional anthem (usually on the recorder).

Particularly proud residents will bring out the bunting or decorate their balconies with flags, but it seems for the adult population of Andalusia, Andalusia Day is little more than an excuse for a lay in and a lazy lunch.

Wanting to fully experience the joys of Andalusia Day, as celebrated by true Spaniards, I have done practically nothing!

Woke up, pondered going in to town but decided against it and decided the day would be best spent studying. No sooner had I written one word on my page than I was being ushered out of the door for lunch in the sun in the village.

Luckily Eva, my boss, had booked a table because the place was buzzing. They had set places for us inside but when they saw our faces of disappointment at turning our backs on the sun, they told us to take it outside if we wanted. So that we did, we picked up our table, chipped plates and all, and put it in prime position on the terrace!
This restaurant 'The Four Corners' has the kind of atmosphere I'd always expected to find in Andalusia: full of life and chatter whilst everyone basks in the sun, the children running around the terrace, shrieking with laughter. It was like eating in your nan's back garden when the whole family is round for a BBQ - mismatched china and furniture but a lot of character and soul.

The food, as ever in Spain, was homely, plentiful and delicious, washed down with a cold beer as every kind of topic of conversation was batted around the table (from the latest trend in sunglasses to Turkey's possible entry in to the European Union).
 Tomato salad (Yes those are huge cubes of fresh garlic on top)
Fried cuttlefish
Beef in the best sauce you will ever taste!
As much as I love teaching the kids, I would take fiesta Fridays over adjectives and the past tense any day!

Bellies full and with the afternoon winds whipping up, there was nothing left to do but take a gentle stroll home. 

Writing this, eyes drooping, I'm thinking 'what better way to finish off the afternoon than a siesta?!'...guess it would be rude not too.

Until next time my lovelies...
Viva Andalucía!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

52 lists: List your best qualities

  1. I am a constructive advice giver.
  2. I'm always about to listen to your rants, share in your excitement and commiserate when things are kinda crummy.
  3. I am a excellent translator of Samlish/finder of lost words.
  4. I am a great steak eating companion (though don't be shocked if I put away a whole 14 ounce before you've had half of your 8 ounce).
  5. I usually cook to feed the entire street, so there is always food for you if you'd like to join me!
  6. I am trip planner extraordinaire.
  7. I am a great procrastinator - if you need stuff to distract you, I'm your girl.
  8. I give great hugs.
  9. If you have excess wine, I am always there to finish it for you.
  10. I am infinitely childish - Disney movies, duvet forts and colouring? I'm there! 
The 52 lists project is organised by Ema over at Made in Hunters, take a look at her list here

Monday, 24 February 2014

Taking stock... 'Hey, its ok'

Coming up to my Seville monthiversary, I was feeling a little disheartened. A whole month in Spain and what did I have to show for it? Unruly classes and a fairly well loved duvet fort, that's what!

I felt guilty for wasting valuable 'Year Abroad' time doing sod all. The more I thought about it, the worse I felt, the more I wallowed and the more time I wasted! A vicious circle indeed.

In the style of Glamour magazine, I've decided to tell myself 'Hey it's ok...' :

  • to procrastinate. Who the hell wants to work on their dissertation at 10pm after work or when its 20+ degrees outside? - NO ONE!
  • to give yourself time to settle in. Yes you want to have hobbies and friends and know all the coolest places to go, but Rome wasn't built in a day - give yourself a break, find your feet and don't try and run before you can walk.
  • to not be productive every second of the day. Everyone needs to veg sometimes - you're not Superwoman, even though you'd like to be. 
  • to not always be sunshine and smiles. Just because you've had a bad day or two doesn't mean your whole life is going down the pan! Don't get caught in the swirling vortex of 'life will always suck this much'. No one's life is perfect 24 hours a day 7 days a week - far from it. Take a moment, chin up and carry on regardless!
This morning, I just told myself to breathe, take stock and remember that even the smallest achievements are worth celebrating.

and you know what...
I feel more cheerful already. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

52 Lists: List the good things about your town

Ask a languages student about their town...go on, I dare you! Your reply could consist of:
1. grumbles and groans as they try to select a town
2. a list of 3 towns with pros and cons of each one. 

We are children of the world - we have our home town, our uni town and the town in which we currently reside, which one would you like a summary of?!

Despite the fact my uni town (Bath) and my current town (Seville) are both infinitely more interesting, I have chosen to delight you with a few facts about my home town.

If anyone asks me where I'm from, my automatic response is London. 1. It sounds far more glamorous. 2. Avoids the 'I've never heard of it, where's that?' scenario.

I, in fact, reside right out in zone 6 (the wild outer fringes of Greater London). In reality, two steps left and I would be in Kent! It's not the best of places, it may have a bit of a reputation in the area but it's home! So here goes...Orpington represent.

  1. Due to the lack of any decent shops on the high street (it's a charity shop and estate agent haven), we have an abundance of amazing restaurants. Most notably: Fiesta Mexicana, Xi'an Chinese, Ephesus Mediterranean.
  2. Jo Johnson is our MP. He is Boris Johnson's brother (Mayor of London). Occasionally, this brings the floppy haired, walking disaster zone to our lowly town, which is good for comic value, if nothing else.
  3. Nugent Retail Estate, which has bought both Nandos, Debenhams and TK Max in to our lives - enough said really.
  4. Our Wetherspoon's on the High Street, normally frequented on Tuesdays (for Steak Club), which is rough but always welcomes us for hours on end, with our sometimes questionable topics of discussion.
  5. It's proximity to London - A 15 minute fast train out of this dump, YAY!
  6. It's where I grew up and made some of the best friends a girl could ever wish for.
  7. No matter how scummy it is, it will always be home.

The 52 lists project is organised by Ema over at Made in Hunters. See her list here.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Spanish Life Lessons 2

Spaniards are sun-seekers. If there is one square meter of sun in the whole city, they will find it and bask.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Making friends: it can't be that hard, right?

My friend Isobel has, on more than one occasion, turned to me with a look of surprise and said 'how do you make friends with everyone?!'. Shop assistants, bus drivers, bar tenders, I'll talk to just about anyone like I've known them for years. Tis a source of amusement for many, Isobel included. 

Therefore, it is a juxtaposition that I am so terrified about tonight.

Tonight, one of my students has invited me out to meet her friends and the thought fills me with more than a mild sense of dread.

Since I turned 18, I have lived in 4 countries other than my native England and I've always done just fine - made friends, socialised - so I don't know why each and every time I reach a new place I doubt my ability to do it again.

Moving away is a bit of an assault on the senses - new place, new pace, new way of life. Everything just kind of smacks you in the face at once - new job, new language, new city. When the day is done, its tempting just to curl up in bed with a spoonful of Nutella and hibernate* (*This in no way alludes to how I have been spending the last three weeks in Seville *cough,cough*). Sooner or later, however, this little routine gets old - especially when you see your counterparts elsewhere in the world having an awesome time (damn news feed).

Its no secret that the best kept secrets of a town are known only by the locals and that life, alone, in another language can be pretty isolating. Unless you want to live life in your new town by the guidebook and spend your free time alone or worse, speaking English with other exchange students (never advisable), you're going to have to put yourself out of your comfort zone. When opportunities come knocking, you have to grab them with both hands even if you're inner worrier is bombarding you with every reason not to

What if it's awkward?
What if I don't know what to say?
What if they can't understand me?
What if they don't like me? 

For every awful 'what if' that's going through your head right now, there will be a worse 'what if' if you choose not to go: the wondering if those were the friends you could have had. 

Lessons to be learnt:
  • Even the most outgoing people get scared sometimes.
  • Take a deep breath and tell the voice in your head to pipe down (Jenna Marbles style)
  • Remember you've got nothing to lose but everything to gain.

So when six o'clock rolls around, I'll guess I'll have to suck it up, open the door and hope I don't make an arse of myself.

Friday, 14 February 2014

My Valentines LDR Survival Guide

Today, on the cheesiest of holidays, many girls will be waking up to flowers, breakfast in bed and a host of surprises to look forward to. I, on the other hand, have woke up alone with a nose bleed and the prospect of another afternoon of countable and uncountable nouns with 12 year olds - not comparable, huh? That, my friends, is the joy of the Long Distance Relationship.

Today, I'm recycling an article I wrote for the wonderful Scriptoeris magazine for their travel section: how to survive what most couples dread...

The life of an international girl often seems envious…gelato by the Trevi fountain, hot chocolate on a snowy Red Square, Peking duck in Shanghai. Though we’re grateful, those of us who are lucky enough to be living the dream will readily tell you that we’ve sacrificed things to allow us to make that dream a reality. For some it’s living without peanut butter (yet to be a hit in Russia), for others it’s going without a daily fix of drama from Albert Square. But of all the things we do without, the worst thing in the world to have to leave behind is a relationship.

The prospect of embarking on a Long Distance Relationship (LDR, from here on in!) is often daunting and the pages and pages of internet drivel on the subject are more likely to have you running scared than feeling reassured. LDR pintrest is enough to make you want to vomit (soppy is not even the word), magazines who claim to offer helpful advice end up printing what is effectively a guide to sexting. I know that there are no bunny-boilers amongst my readers and that, if you’re willing to commit to an LDR, your relationship is based on more than the occasional saucy picture.  With that in mind, to whom can you ‘sorted’ girls (and guys!) turn for advice?

The essential LDR Survival Guide, of course!

First things first, please don’t view your LDR as a second class alternative to your relationship at home! Of course you’d prefer to be there snuggled on the sofa together and sometimes you may resent being in an LDR but always remember that making your choice to live away doesn’t mean that you are sacrificing a life together. It may be different from the life that you’re used to but that doesn’t mean you’ll get any less from it. The best relationship advice that I have ever been given is to each live your own lives and also live your life together. Happiness is in the freedom to be your own person and make your own choices, and also to have someone to share those things with.

It may sound blatantly obvious, but trust is the most important basis of an LDR (and of any relationship for that matter!). How can a relationship survive across the miles if you’re living in constant fear of the girl that your Mr may or may not have spoken to on a lad’s night out? The fact that you have committed to a LDR says a lot about your relationship – if he wanted to be with someone else, he would have ended it before you got on that plane.

Balance is the key to a happy relationship wherever you may be. Any relationship is a two way street and effort has to be made on both sides – if one person instigates every conversation, sends messages to no avail and waits patiently on Skype when the other has forgotten a chat was even arranged, resentment is going to build.

Be considerate. If you’re the one on the adventure, you may want to launch in to an hour long account of all the exciting experiences you’ve had this week, but remember your other half has things they want to share too. Remember the little things – ask how that meeting went or how the essay reading is going. Though you’re off on a new adventure, let them know that you still want to know about their life back home. Equally, if you are the person left behind, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Sure it’s exciting being in a new place but it can also be quite isolating. Your other half could be waiting on a message from you and its always disappointing if it never comes – if you’re too busy to talk just let them know. Don’t underestimate the power of common courtesy!

With all the technology now open to us, the world has never been smaller. This is a godsend for those of us in LDRs! No more spending thousands on long distance calls and texts – all that you need in life is a smartphone and a couple of apps. By all means use Whatsapp for funny anecdotes, send cheeky pictures on SnapChat and share tourist snapshots on Instagram, but don’t let them become a substitute for actual conversation. After all you, don’t want to forget what his voice sounds like! Let Skype become your new best friend! It’s a great medium through which you can organise date nights too – what do you love to do together when you’re at home? If its popping down the pub, why not both buy your favourite tipple and have a virtual drink together? If it’s Saturday afternoons on the sofa watching Big Bang Theory reruns, why not watch the same episode together over Skype?

On hard days, you will most certainly have to remind yourself that an LDR isn’t a permanent arrangement – keep your end in sight. It always helps to have something to look forward to be that a visit from the Mr or a special day you have planned for when you get home. Spending your time moping won’t make the clock tick any faster, so throw yourself in to every new experience and take every opportunity that comes your way. You’re away for a reason – make it one to remember.

We've done it before, we're doing it again and we're still going strong!

What are your tips for surviving long distance relationships?

P.S. Happy Valentines ;)

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

52 lists: List your to-do list this week.

As a participant of this project of ours, what I am about to say may sound slightly perverse. 

I am totally averse to to-do lists
...I know, I 'll give you a second or two to recover from the shock. 

About a year ago, determined to be a more conscientious, hard working student, I purchased a to-do list book (from Paper Chase, no less!).  I had grand notions of productivity and imagined feeling that satisfaction that to-do list pros describe when talking about crossing out completed tasks. Alas, my flirtation with the idea was short lived. I got no pleasure out of it. The lists got longer and longer, the ticks of completion appeared less and less often and I got more and more stressed.

It turns out making lists doesn't suddenly give you the superhuman qualities that the perfect version of you would possess. 


As an ESL teacher, you often don't have a clue what will happen hour by hour (or even minute by minute) but some how time still passes: classes work out somehow and you survive another day. Days pass, the week ends and a lot of the time you don't know where it went or what you did! A dreadful cycle - one I definitely need to snap out of quick!

Maybe a to-do list intervention is needed to find a balance between all my lives? My ESLteacher/placement life, my study/dissertation life, my explorer life and my social life (which is currently non existent). Just for you guys, I'll give it a half hearted bash!

1. Sort dissertation work in to my new folder and do questionnaire analysis up to question 8.

2. Do something blog worthy then write about it (I was rained in all weekend!! Andalucía has 0 wet weather activities)

3. Crack on reading 'The Book Thief' in Spanish.

4. Open the grammar book.

5. Paint my nails (to prevent biting them all off again - damn nervous habit!).

6. Spend some lazy time with an eye mask on (the poor little buggers are so tired!)

7. Find a group general hobby/friend making activity and vow to take part next week. 

8. Make the Banana and Nutella Cheesecake before I eat all the Nutella with a spoon!

9. Find some activities to add to my games box for the children at work.

10. Work out a way to celebrate Valentine's day long-distance (Idea's of Skype dates welcome!)

The 52 lists project is organised by Ema over at Made in Hunters. See her list here.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Spanish life lessons 1

There is a reason why teachers are caffeine's a replacement for all the alcohol they wish they were drinking instead!

Friday, 7 February 2014

La Plaza de Toros: The Bull Ring!

Like it or loath it, the bull ring is a Spanish institution. Dating back hundreds of years, millions of Spaniards have taken part, in one way or another, in the time honoured tradition of the la corrida (bull fight).
Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla (bit of a mouthful eh?)
Some Seville Plaza de Toros facts:

  • Its is the oldest working bull ring in the world and the build took 120 years to complete.
  • It is one of only 4 private bull rings in Spain.
  • The ring itself is not completely circular and its stands as the only oval bullring in the world.

As my tour guide Lauren is helpfully pointing out, there a five gates in to the ring itself and each one serves its own purpose. 
  1. The first gate is the one from which the matador enters the ring. 
  2. Gate two is where the bull enters the ring. 
  3. Gate three is the infirmary, which, at best, is rarely used.
  4.  Gate four is where the bull is dragged to exit the ring after the fight. 
  5. Gate five is the Prince's Gate, situated under the Royal Box, through which a matador with three trophies or more can enter. The 'trophies' that are presented after a successful fight are either the ears or the tails of the conquered bull.

The Royal Box is reserved exclusively for members of the Spanish Royal Family. Either side are small balconies, at one side sit members of the Bull Ring committee and at the other the president of Spain if he chooses to visit. A vet is present at all fights.
Seat prices can vary from 120€ for a top price ticket to 25€ for the cheapest tier. The prices don't just depend on how far away from the ring you are sat but also if you are sat in the shade or the glare of the sun - it is a very precise art!
Once you've left the ring, there are various small exhibits to look at. The first being of art of  la corrida (bull fight), where you can see various colourful representations of the long celebrated tradition. The statue below is the artists model for its larger counterpart which stands imposingly at the front of the bullring. The numbers indicated how to put together the pieces of the statue itself when it was erected piece by piece in its current home.
The next room shows a plotted history of la corrida, with many of the exhibition pieces relating directly to the bull ring in Seville. The uniform below is that of the owner of the bull ring and is still in use today. It gives a real sense of the pomp and ceremony of the fights even today.
 As a controversial sport, la corrida has always had its opponents. One of the French kings notoriously tried to encourage the Spanish to give up bull fighting in favour of these interesting medieval games:
The cavalry were challenged to get a lance through the loop held by the bird. 
 False heads were also used for lance target practice.
Although these games proved to be popular war training apparatus and were used many times in the square in front of Seville's fame cathedral, the tradition of la corrida lived on. Sorry Mr French Guy!

This is one of the most revered stars of La Corrida (who's name currently escapes me!). He started training with real bulls when he was only 9 years old and turned professional aged 14. Unfortunately, he came to his untimely end aged 25 in the Plaza de Toros of Toledo.
Of all the impressive finery in the cabinets of the museum, this traje de luz (the real name for the costumes of the matadors) is by far the youngest at only 2 years old. It graces the collection to mark a first in the Plaza de Toros of Seville: the first and only time a bull has won a fight. On rare occasions, the life of the bull can be saved by the committee if they decide that it has shown particular bravery or that it shows aptitude for ring fighting. Said bull now resides peacefully back at the ranch, never to face the ring again.
These beautiful capes are those that the matador uses in the ring. The famed symbol of la corrida! The embellished one at the top is used only for presentation and the more plain one folded below is used for the fight itself. It is a common myth that bulls are enraged by the colour red as they are, in fact, colour blind (you heard it here first!). It is the movement of the cape itself that winds them up!
Though there are many bulls heads mounted on the walls as you wander the halls of the museum, there is only one cow's head and that is of this lovely lady, Islera. Islera was the mother of the bull who killed Spain's most famous matador. As a very superstitious community, the breeders thought it best to sacrifice her to ensure that she bred no more killer sons!
As well as being a suspicious lot, the bull fighting community is deeply religious, none more so than the matadors themselves. There is an on-site chapel containing a beautiful icon of the patron saint of bull fighters( La Macarena), to whom the matadors pray before each and every fight.
One of the most famous and important rooms in the bull ring is the contaduria where the matadors get paid their fees for the fight. There are only two rules: that pay is cash in hand and that it is received before the fight takes place. The one at the plaza de toros in Seville is no longer in use.
My visit to the Plaza de Toros was by far my favourite part of  last week's Seville Saturday. Our guide, Lauren, was very informative and the visit taught me a lot about a subject that I previously knew very little about. 

La Plaza de Toros
Paseo de Cristóbal Colón 12
41001 Sevilla

Visits are guided only.
Tours run approximately every 20 minutes in various languages including English and French.

Entrance fee: Adults 7€
Concessions: 4€
Children aged 7 -11: 3€
Under 7's go free.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Una vuelta: Citysightseeing Seville

I will confess something to blog tag line is a sham. 'The art of wandering' she says! Up until this point I have been quite adept at's how I find my way through this little adventure we call life - that is until now (or last Wednesday to be more precise!). 

I had just finished my day of home tuition in and around Seville and it was the first time I had been left to my own devices in my new city.  Armed with my memory map of where my boss, Eva, had walked me, I set of in search of tapas and the cathedral by night. 

After wandering, in completely the wrong direction, I managed to find my way after a kindly old man out strolling gave me directions. 
A good time was had by all (and by all I mean me, little loner!).

Then the problems started...

I wanted to get the bus station but wandering led me astray. Everyone I asked for directions pointed me in the opposite direction to the person before them. The streets were getting narrower, less crowded, darker and everything looked so ominous... I had a little cry. 

When I finally found my way to the bus station, the departure boards were broken. There was no way of knowing when the bus was going or even if there was a bus at all. No one seemed to know anything despite asking two members of staff...luckily a woman catching my bus overheard my desperate questioning and pointed me in the right direction. I had another little cry.

Determined to learn from Wednesdays alien experience, the first stop on Seville Saturday had to be the tourist office.
City map in hand, I made my way to the biro circle which marked the nearest tour bus stop! After getting so ferociously lost, I thought Citysightseeing Seville would be the best way to connect the dots - where had I been, where should I have gone and where should I go in the future (both direction wise and sighseeing wise!).
The route was pretty extensive and covered all major districts of the city (all that had things to see obviously!). The route itself takes 1hour and half if you don't take advantage of the various stops on offer. As I got on the bus pretty late, around 5, I thought it best to stay on board so as not to finish the tour in fading light! Besides, with 5 months still to go, who needs to do everything in one day?!

Your ticket includes entry to a number of normally payable attractions, gives you discounts and freebies at a number of shops and eateries and enables you to join walking tour groups across the city. Bonus: the ticket is valid for 48 hours so you can cram in everything it has to offer! Unfortunately, many of the attractions included close before 6pm whilst the buses run til gone 8pm so make sure you hop on early if you want to make the most of the free entry element.

All in all the tour was interesting and gave a general overview of many different aspects of the city enabling you to see which attractions attract you most! My only bug bear is that the bus spent a lot of time waiting at the stops. Only 5 minutes in to the tour, the bus stopped to 'adjust to the timetable' and waited for 15 minutes! YOU'VE ONLY JUST SET OFF, HOW CAN YOU NEED TO ADJUST ALREADY?!

The tour helped me to:
  • get my bearings and see how the city was laid out,
  • get a bit of background information about my new home,
  • compile a list of sights to visit at a later date.
I wish that I had purchased the ticket when I had a spare day the following day so I could have joined one of the walking tours and visited some of the free attractions (which I will now have to fork out for!). 

I don't think the tour itself is worth the 15€ student price I paid for it, but if you take advantage of all the other elements included then it is truly great value! Something I will probably recommend to my family when I'm busy with the kids at work.

The route starts on the
Paseo de Colon, near the Toro del Oro (the Gold Tower)
from 10am - buses run every 20 to 30 minutes

Prices: Adult 17€
Child 7€
Student/concessions 15€

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Seville Street Art

Street art never ceases to amaze me. For someone who manages to draw a stick man disproportionately with a pen, it literally blows my mind to think these artists,who have had one shot to get it right, manage to create such masterpieces with a spray can. Unlike your standard graffiti of tags and obscenities, the term street art implies actual artistic merit. Although it's technically still vandalism, I can't help but marvel at how beautiful some pieces are. 

These colourful examples are what grace the walls of the bus station at the Plaza de Armas, Seville.
I love that the famous symbol of the city, the orange, has made an appearance.

Street art can be seen all over Seville and even creeps its way up the hill in to Camas, the town en route to the local villages like Valencina where I live. 

As time goes on, I hope to capture more street art scenes like these...I guess I'll have to spend some time wandering to scouting some out!

What do you think of street art? a good way to use otherwise blank space or an eye sore?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

52 Lists: List the things that make you happy you're alive

Being consciously grateful for the things you have is something that easily missed. Often time runs away with us, life gets in the way and the things that bring a smile to our lips are often the least prominent in our memory when the day is done. This week's list is one to remind us what we're here for and when all is said and done what makes this crazy roller-coaster we call life worth the ride. 

  • After a hearty dinner, sitting in the living room surrounded by family for collective wine and tele time.
  • Craziness with my sister - be it animal attacks via what's app, blanket sofa snuggles or random ramblings and sing-alongs. 
  • Being able to pick up the phone any time of day or night, from anywhere in the world and knowing there will always be a friend ready to celebrate or commiserate at the other end of the line.
  • Catching myself smiling when I think about Rich, how I love that boy...
  • When little puppy Max is in a cuddly mood rather than zipping about like a mad thing making a mess!
  • When they both decide that life is a bit too much and collectively nap on top of me.
  • Knowing that whatever crazy things I decide to do with my life, I have the best people in the world to support me on my way. 
  • The wonderful experiences I have whilst living abroad - the people I meet, the cultures I am welcomed in to, the sights I am lucky enough to visit.
  • The opportunity to learn everyday - skills through university and things about yourself through the university of life!
  • Writing almost every day.
  • Tea time (preferably in Lady Grey in vintage china, with or without a tea-for-one sized teapot!)
  • Always planning the next adventure...

The 52 lists project is organised by Ema over at Made in Hunters. See her list here