Things to do // Real Alcázar, Sevilla

In my previous post I mentioned that my friend Louise came to visit for the weekend; and the first thing on our agenda for that visit was a trip to the Real Alcázar. Having previously visited the palaces and gardens back in October, I knew they’d be fairly busy (especially as its now tourist season in Sevilla), so I’d booked our tickets online the week before and saved us a wait in a MASSIVE queue on the Saturday morning. Seriously, it cut our waiting time down to about ten minutes compared to the at least an hour the other queue had to wait for. If you’re planning on visiting during your time in Sevilla, I cannot recommend highly enough pre-booking your tickets (or showing up stupidly early in the morning before the queue builds up).

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Tourist in my own city: a weekend in Sevilla

I can’t believe how quickly this semester is going past…it honestly seems like just last weekend I was in Granada, but now my second visitor of the semester has been and gone! My friend Louise came to visit this past weekend and because this was her first time ever in Spain we decided to book an airbnb in the centre of Sevilla and experience a weekend a true Sevillanas!

Although I go to Sevilla for writing group every so often and vaguely know my way about most of the city, because I don’t actually live in the city there are a lot of ‘must do/see’ things that I hadn’t done prior to this past weekend (expect blog posts on some of them over the coming weeks/months/whenever I pull the finger out and actually get around to writing them…). There were a few things I really thought Louise should experience in order to say she’d properly seen Sevilla – the Real Alcázar, the Cathedral, and Plaza de España – so those were first on the list for the weekend. I mean, obviously, we did more than just those three, but they were definitely my priorities.

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Things to do // boat cruise, Sevilla.

This week the primary three classes from one of my schools went on a trip into the centre of Sevilla using different kinds of public transport and they asked me if I wanted to help out… The answer was obviously yes. Kind of inspired by that, I thought I might start a series of posts here where I write about things to do and places to go wherever I’m currently living. And this is the first post in the series (not sure how many more there will be, but we’ll see).

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A day trip to Carmona

Another month, another long weekend here in Spain… This time I was on economy drive having just booked trains to Madrid for the half marathon and accommodation in the centre of Sevilla for when a friend comes to visit later in March, so didn’t want to travel too far away. I went into the city on Sunday to have lunch with my friend Betty and her friends who were down from La Mancha for the weekend. And on Monday I went on a day trip with the other auxiliar who lives in Alcalá and her friend from Austria who was also visiting this weekend. Due to all parties having had a fairly tiring/busy weekend (on top of going into Sevilla on Sunday, I also managed my longest run since September at 9.5 miles on Saturday!), we decided to visit the nearby town of Carmona.

Carmona is a small town of maybe 30,000 people and is around 30km outside of Sevilla and, conveniently for us, there is a direct bus between it and Alcalá which made travelling there and back very easy. Having said that, the buses aren’t super frequent from Alcalá, so we caught one of the five buses per day at 9:30am and got into Carmona around 10:15am. And naturally our first priority was breakfast – I’m slowly but surely coming around to the Spanish breakfast of tostada con jamón (toast with olive oil and ham), so opted for that with my usual café con leche. Suitably fed and watered we passed through the Puerta de Sevilla and set about exploring the old Roman walled town. Having planned on coming back around 1 or 2pm because we didn’t think there’d be that much to see we ended up enjoying it so much we stayed there until 6!!

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A weekend in Granada

This week I got my first visitor of the semester – my friend Audrey came to Andalucía for the weekend so we could to Granada together!! She’d visited the city at the same time last year and loved it and I’d never been before, so it was the ideal weekend trip for both of us.

She’d arrived in Málaga the night before and spent the day in Ronda before travelling on to Granada; and I’d been at work until 2pm, caught the bus into Sevilla around 5pm, before catching the train/train replacement bus to Granada, so by the time we arrived (after a loooooooong day of travelling on both parts) we were fairly exhausted and just wanted to have some dinner and go to sleep. Thankfully our accommodation for the trip, Oasis hostel, was just off one of the main touristy/market streets in the Albaicín neighbourhood so finding some dinner quickly wasn’t an issue in the slightest. We settled for the first Moroccan place we found and had some (fairly average) hummus, falafel, and veggie tajine.

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A brief history of bread-making in Alcalá de Guadaíra.

This week’s post is inspired by a trip I made to the Harinera del Guadaíra this weekend. I understood the gist of the guided tour but not all of it, so I thought it might be fun (and good Spanish practice) to take photos of their info signs and try translating them into English. And since I used to work in the bakery of a supermarket back home (and am generally waaaay too into food – I’m telling you, it’s a real problem), it’s actually something I’m quite interested in too. So, without further ado, here is summary of what I learned over the course of the weekend!

As I’m sure you already know, the main ingredient in bread is flour, which is the powder that we extract from grinding grains. The most commonly used flour in Europe (according to their information signs anyway) is wheat flour, but flour can also be extracted from rye, oats, corn, rice, etc. Bread is one of the staple foods of many European, Middle Eastern, and African diets (in comparison with many East Asian countries, where rice is generally the staple).

Although initially bread-production was an artisan process, it’s popular appeal gave rise to (pun intended) rapid industrialisation, which is reflected in Alcalá de Guadaíra which used to have two working harineras (more-industrialised and modern version of a flour mill…don’t think there’s a direct translation to English, but if there are any bilingual bread fans out there who know for sure, hit me up), as well as multiple bakeries.

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A day in the life of an English language assistant.

As I’m now officially half way through my time in Spain (how did that happen?!?) as an auxiliar de conversación, or English language assistant for those of you who don’t speak Spanish, I thought I’d give you a run-down of how a typical day generally goes. I can obviously only speak from my own experience and being in two schools this year means this will no doubt differ from the norm. I’ve chosen Tuesday because it’s my longest and busiest day by far.

7:30: Reluctantly get and of bed and try to find the willpower to switch off both of my alarms.

7:35-8:25: Get ready for the day. First, a bowl of porridge with a banana and a cup of tea (you can take the girl out of Scotland…), then I get dressed, make sure I have everything I’ll need for the day in my bag and try to time going to the bathroom so I don’t get in my flatmates’ way and they don’t get in mine.

8:25-8:45: Walk to school! Late last year when the weather was horrible and the days were short, this was fairly grim, but now it’s actually quite pleasant. I always enjoy a walk in the morning to try and fit in my 10,000 steps a day wake myself up.

8:45-9:00: Wait for one of the other teachers to arrive and let me in because I don’t have keys to the school and mentally prepare myself to say ‘buenos días’ about a million times over as everyone arrives.

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Jerez de la Frontera

Sticking to my unofficial goal of trying to travel two weekends every month for the rest of my time here, this Saturday I went on a day trip to Jerez de la Frontera with the other auxiliar who lives in my town. There are trains from Sevilla to Jerez just about every hour, and at just under €18 for a return ticket, it would have been silly not to take the opportunity to visit Jerez at some point during my stay here.

We had a stupidly early start in order to catch the bus from Alcalá into Sevilla at 8:40, but we thankfully made it with plenty of time to catch the 9:45 train to Jerez. Having taken the same journey before (en route to Cadiz), it was nice to be able to see the view this time because I was travelling by day. The journey itself passed by very quickly and we arrived in Jerez within an hour. After asking the guy at the ticket office for directions into the city centre, we set off. A word of caution for those maybe planning on spending a weekend in the city, it really isn’t that big. Don’t get me wrong, it was the perfect size for a day trip, but I think you’d run out of things to do fairly quickly if you wanted to go for a whole weekend (unless you like churches, of course, which seems to be a theme here in Andalucía).

After having successfully navigated our way to the tourist information centre to ask for some recommendations and pick up a map,  we sat on a bench and planned out a vague idea of what we wanted to do and see. We also swiftly devoured the kilo of strawberries we’d picked up for €2 in the Mercado de Abastos which were delicious – not too sweet, not too sour, just right. The abundance of good quality fresh produce here is fantastic!

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The perks of working with kids

Last week turned out to be one of my busiest (in terms of stuff to-do during the week itself – and that’s with one less private class than normal!!) since I moved to Spain, so naturally this weekend I was pretty exhausted.

After my usual private classes on Tuesday, I had a break for a few hours before going to my first ever language exchange. Little bit of a daunting experience because while I only speak Spanish with my flatmates and obviously need to use Spanish while out and about in my town, I’ve never actually had a properly long conversation in the language. Thankfully I think I managed alright, but my usual problem of ‘oh gosh, what do I say next? what do I ask them about? what if they think I’m really boring?’ is (unsurprisingly) a lot worse when trying to speak in a foreign language. But hey, at least I’m aware it’s an issue I have to work on, right?! We’ll see.

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Spain: take two

In the immortal words of Eminem, “Guess who’s back? Back again?”
That’s riiiiiiiight – I’m now back in Spain for the second ( and longer) semester of my year abroad. This time round it’s five months rather than three, which is great for me because it means more time for travelling and improving my Spanish (gotta get a head start on those 2017 goals, right?!).

After celebrating Christmas, New Year, and my sister’s 21st back home (and putting on two kilos thanks to countless desserts), I arrived back in Spain last weekend on the 6th. Unfortunately due to flight times I missed all of the celebrations for Los Reyes, but I guess that means I’ll just have to come back some other New Year to experience it.

This time around I decided to fly into Málaga rather than Sevilla for two main reasons: i) there are direct flights from Glasgow which means no stupidly long layover in London, ii) one of my favourite artists has his first European retrospective exhibit in the Contemporary Arts Centre in Málaga at the moment. I figured I’d rather just fly there and spend the weekend instead of travelling there some other weekend purely to see an art exhibit.

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