Sunday, 24 February 2013

Carnaval in Cádiz!

carnival [ˈkɑːnɪvəl]
a.  a festive occasion or period marked by merrymaking, processions, etc.: esp in some Roman Catholic countries, the period just before Lent

Carnaval is celebrated all throughout Spain for many weeks but the most famous place to go for Carnaval is Cádiz. The whole city goes absolutely insane: constant partying, crazy costumes and hundreds of satirical street performances, known as chirigotas. 

This year I had the opportunity to head to Cádiz for Los Carnavales with the Erasmus group from the university. 100 students just free from exams heading out on a 7 hour drive, to have 12 hours of partying and then head back again. Red bull at the ready. 

Dressing up was done in no small measure. I was a cowgirl (yehaa), and was accompanied by Danny and Sandy from Grease, the superhero group ' The erasmusables', Amy Winehouse, a fairy, the Spice Girls and, of course, the Pope. 

We arrived in the afternoon and the party was already going. After a "cultural" tour of the city we headed closer to the centre where a huge concert was taking place in one of the squares. 

After getting lost for quite a while we eventually made our way to the club for the night and danced the night away. Even managed to get a kebab on the way home, something I  SERIOUSLY miss in Spain. 

I have to be honest with you: I was a little too busy enjoying myself to actually take in much of the culture. I didn't see any chirigotas and i didn;t even pay much attention to what the others were wearing. However one aspect of the culture that did strike me immediately was the stereotype I had been told about: Everyone is so friendly! Seriously, we were all pushing and shoving, falling into each other and spilling drinks but everyone I met seemed to be in a fantastic mood.

Cádiz seemed to be a really lovely city full of lovely people. I would definitely go again but I think I need a rest before I try to tackle Carnaval again! 

PS We even attempted our own Harlem Shake!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason.

This post already wins the award for my longest title so far.

A few weeks ago a number of us decided to look up if there were any cheap flights within Spain that we grab for a quick weekend away. There was: Melilla. I now understand why they were so cheap.

Melilla is an autonomous city of Spain on the north coast of Morocco. It's 12.3km2 and it's borders are heavily guarded by Spanish authorities as it's often used as a gateway to Europe. Until recently it was mainly used as a base for soldiers which has led to a heavily male population and there is a broad mix of religions, with Christianity and Islam being the most prominent.

Three of the girls headed out on Friday morning, however Sarah and I were joining a day later as we both work Fridays. (from now on we shall distinguish ourselves as la francesa and la irlandesa- as our friends like to do regularly). Phone malfunctions meant that we didn't really get in contact with the other girls until the morning of our flight. In retrospect I'm rather glad of this as their first impressions had been pretty negative.
Our flight over gave me an idea of what it would be like to be an astronaut on a failed mission, hurtling towards Earth at the speed of wild horses and when we finally arrived I managed to break my phone. What a wonderful beginning.

We caught a taxi to our hostel, which we discovered to be shut upon arrival. We eventually got to dump our stuff and then head into the city to get lost looking for the others. The city was...unusual. It feels both modern and old at the same time, yet there is also an overriding sense of poverty.

Eventually we met with the others who had decided they were going to cross the border into Morocco. As we began to walk towards, what can only be described as the outskirts of Hell, me and Lena decided we didn't want to die/be kidnapped/mugged and decided to head back to the city with Sarah, who wasn't allowed across without a passport. The others made their way back to us later, shaken but not stirred and we took advantage of one of Melilla's positive points- duty free shopping.

The next day the others caught their flight at 9am and Sarah and I were left to take a look at the more touristy area. The old quarter was actually rather beautiful and full of history. We took a tour of the caves, and finished off the trip with the best paella I've had since coming to Spain. However the luck wasn't going to last long as we spent the afternoon being stalked by strange men in the parks, beach and then being accompanied by 'Ritchie' who had posed as a normal citizen, but really turned out to be as odd as the rest. The day ended by us finally finding a really nice tapas bar only for me to then get sunstroke and have to head home by 10pm.

When we arrived back in Almería the next day, me and Sarah did a little dance and hugged a telegraph pole.
So in summary:-
Thing I learned about Melilla:
1. Visiting it as a group of girls alone is a BAD IDEA.
2. You can see most of what there is to see in less than a day.
3. Don't go near the border- just don't.

4. I bloody love Almería.