Monday, 26 November 2012

San José

There's nothing like deciding you want to DO something with your weekend, going on a day trip and spending approximately 8 hours alternating between sitting, eating and drinking. Bliss.

 San José is a tiny little town just beside the nature reserve, Cabo de Gata. During summer it has over 1000 inhabitants but in winter, the number falls to around 200. After arriving and having a quick look around we decided to get rid of the enormous weight of food we had brought with us and have a picnic. Four hours later, full of vino and mucha comida, and even a little sunburnt (in November!) we recharged our batteries with a quick coffee and went for a wander through the streets of white washed houses.

                                                                                   The view was truly stunning and it's not hard to see this area is so popular in summer. After following some mysterious "Studio arte" signs we found an adorable house belonging to a painter, who makes her living selling the works she paints from her window and opening her home to the public as a mini art gallery.

A glass of wine later and it was time for home.

Friday, 16 November 2012


Words cannot describe how pleased I am that I decided to go to Granada this weekend. Great city, great company and great memories.

We stayed at the Oasis Hostel, just five minutes away from Plaza Nueva and amidst a cluster of Moroccan trinket shops and teterías. Pretty much the perfect location for seeing the city and a really international hostel, full of backpackers. The first night we had a wander around before stopping for some Chinese tapas and returning to the hostel for paella. The first "wow I love this city!"'s could already be heard.

The next morning was an early start to trek up to the heights of the Albaicín, where we had a stunning view of the Alhambra and the rest of the city. Getting lost in this rustic barrio was both unavoidable and desirable as you constantly come across hidden Moorish monuments and winding side streets. Later in the afternoon we visited the 600 year old cathedral and sampled a few exotic teas in a tetería near our hostel. And had a cheeky cachimba.

That night, after a quick stop at the chupitería- a bar which specialises in shots, and they have hundreds of them, all for one euro- we went back to the Albaicín for slightly less cultural reasons. We went to a discoteca in a cave. Yes, that's right, a cave! Camborio  caters for erasmus students but it was packed with locals too who had braved the steep climb. It overlooks the Alhambra and had the rain not been torrential that night, it also has an outdoor patio area which gives you a view of the whole city.

A walk home in the rain assured the hangovers weren't too bad the next day and we set off for some shopping before heading to the Alhambra. It's probably the only thing in Spain where you HAVE to be at the right place at exactly the right time or they won't let you in. Not entirely sure how the locals cope. It's basically a huge palace made by Islamic leaders of the city which has had many additions as new hands and religions conquered Granada. Well worth a visit even if standing outside for 4 hours in Granada winter weather was a bit of a temperature shock for those who have been sheltered in Almería for the last two months!

I decided to stay another night after the others had already left for home as I couldn't bear the idea of leaving when I could so easily spend some more time exploring. My Monday was utterly perfect, as I wandered around parks and riversides with the book I'd bought at the 'feria' the night before and even made a return to Cafe Football, the student favourite which has enough sweet treats to give you diabetes just by stepping through the door.

Living only two hours away it's going to be a struggle to stop myself just hopping on the bus every few weeks. It's official, they told me it would happen, but I didn't believe them. I'm in love with Granada.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Breaking Stereotypes.

I had hoped to travel today but a combination of rain, wisdom tooth pain, lack of sleep and firm plans to travel further afield next weekend has left me with a cosy Saturday afternoon in. So I thought I'd put the kettle on and discuss all the stereotypes I had about Spain before I arrived and how they have been proven TRUE or FALSE.

Then I remembered Spanish homes don't have kettles so I'm waiting on my saucepan of boiling water. Bloody ridiculous...

1. Spanish people are always late. TRUE (more or less).
This has been a resoundingly true discovery. I added the 'more or less' because my school is a very well run one thus everything is pretty ship shape and bristle fashion, and my morning buses always run on time. However nights out, attraction openings, meal times, everything else is taken at a slightly slower pace. Now I am used things starting a bit later than stated. Northern Ireland tends to start most events 30 mins after it's advertised... but here I can be told we're leaving at 7pm and we eventually struggle out the door at 10pm, all without a single word of how "late" we are. Furthermore the entire structure of Spain seems to be based around the feeling that it doesn't matter if you're late. Traffic lights last forever, crossings on major roads are far apart and I feel like I'm running a race when I walk at my normal pace past the crowds of 'busy' workers meandering to work in the morning.

2. Spanish people love food. TRUE.
They love their food and they know how they like it. Tapas menus are usually really long and the Spanish people at the table know exactly what they want, often before they've sat down. Sweet treats, pasteries and churros are less of a guilty pleasure and more a way of life, which is made up for by the copious amounts of seafood and olive oil consumed. However the difference I've noticed from home is that they are not half as fussy about their drinks. You ask for a caña or a tubo and they bring you whatever beer is on tap. If I did that in my bar at home complaints would be made to the manager... 

3. They drink a lot but do not get drunk. FALSE.
Possibly the biggest lie I ever heard about Spain was that you would have to calm down on a night out because the Spanish are much more civilised and never get borracho. Lies, lies, lies. Due to the timetable you are much less likely to see people throwing up on the street or falling over drunk. The bar stays open so late that you didn't feel the need to rush a few shots down your neck. And the walk to the next time will probably take about 30 minutes so that's enough time to sober up a little. You've eaten all through your pre drinks and anyway you've most likely been having a lunch time beer or three since you were 14 so why would a bottle of vodka affect you? I have seen p-l-e-n-t-y of drunk Spanish people here, the difference is they're allowed to stay in the club rather than being chucked out. 

4. Spanish people are more rude. TRUE/FALSE.
Yea, you cannot pin this one down more than with any other culture. The language is certainly more brusk, such as when a teacher in the school looked at me and asked directly "Who are you?" At home this would be rude, but that's simply a normal way to address someone here. Banks etc normally have rather grumpy staff but most waiters and shop assistants I've encountered have been lovely. However in Almería the people are famous for being much nicer than in some parts of Spain. 

5. Everyone smokes. FALSE.
There certainly are more smokers than at home but that's a climate thing. When Spain makes you go outside to smoke, you were probably going to sit outside anyway. At home it would be freezing to death and trying to shield your cigarette from the rain. Nevertheless while there are more smokers, it's certainly not the rule. 

6. Spanish men are creepy. FALSE (mostly)
My experience may differ to some. However generally I don;t agree with this stereotype. The creeps on the street are far more vocal at trying to pull you than at home but you can't judge a culture by the weirdos. Generally on nights out I've found the men here to be better behaved than those at home. It's a more touchy feely culture so someone getting close to you is not an attempt to crowd you but actually rather normal. 

7. Spain doesn't 'do' Halloween. FALSE.
Ok well false in Almería. Other year abroad friends across Spain has posted about their disappointment  about not getting to dress up on Halloween. However on Wednesday night, Almería was BUZZING. People dressed up to the nines everywhere, the city covered in black bin bags on the cobbled streets, with people employed to dress up and scare you from behind them, Thriller flashmobs, music, parades and chinese lanterns. Any excuse for fiesta! 

8. Everyone in Spain speaks English. FALSE. 
False- thank god. Most Spaniards know some English simply because it was a requirement at school, but kind of in the way most of us know some French or Spanish from school days. I've met a number of Spaniards with very good English but then I've met many who don't speak it at all. A very unusual but regular occurrence is when waiters like to test out their English on me but still expect me to be fluent Spanish. For instance, one who told me very clearly "Hello" "goodbye" and "two euros, thank you" but also gave me a full five minutes of Spanish on his opinion of Scotland. Interesting. 

9. Spanish people aren't friendly. FALSE. 
In Almería at least I have found the complete opposite. This attitude probably spawns from the people who were disappointed by the lack of English spoken. If you try to make an effort to show that you are trying out Spanish lifestyle and language people will welcome you with open arms. I've been invited to dinner, coffees, been offered rooms to stay in  and had many people go out of their way to help me with directions or advice when I really needed it. Just get used to them calling you "gorda" (fatty) as a term of affection and you'll realise that they're actually being nice to you. 

In conclusion, if you want to know about Spain come and live here. You'll get your siesta and tapas but you still get to dress up at Halloween :)