Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m not much of a baker. I love to cook, but baking has always been a little too precise for my haphazard ways in the kitchen (just ask my sister who has to order me about whenever we bake together). But a friend of mine introduced me to this brownie recipe when we were in Spain and we made these tasty brownies quite a lot together without any major disasters. So now I’m home, I wanted to try them out for myself to see how it went. I’m super proud of myself because this is the first time I’ve ever successfully baked anything alone!
The recipe I used made 9 big brownies and was adapted from here, but I altered it a little by leaving out the bananas. Following the recipe below, the brownies contain dairy and gluten and aren’t vegan friendly, but in Spain we always made them with chickpea flour (gluten-free) and they tasted just as good!
In the Yorkhill neighbourhood of Glasgow’s West End, there’s a doughnut shop I’d been wanting to go to ever since it opened less than two years ago. I didn’t get a chance to go before going on my year abroad, but now I’m back it was top of my list of places to try, so my friend B and I took the opportunity to combine a long-due catch up with our mutual love of all things sweet and visit Tantrum Doughnuts earlier this week. You’ll find Tantrum Doughnuts on Old Dumbarton Road, very close to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum; it’s just a little bit along the road from the Finnieston area of the West End and is very easily accessible by public transport and on foot from the city centre.
For those of you who weren’t previously aware, I’m currently studying for an MA in French and Spanish at the University of Glasgow and I’ve just spent my third year abroad working as an English language assistant in Alcalá de Guadaíra just outside Sevilla in southern Spain. It’s now been almost a week since I flew back to sunny (ha!) Scotland, so I thought it was time to briefly round up my year abroad, so here goes…
Things I learned
Most people are inherently kind if you ask for help politely. But be careful about playing the hapless foreigner card…don’t let yourself be taken advantage of because you can’t speak a second language as well as your native one.
People in Spain stare. A lot. Especially if you’re not in a big city and you’re walking about speaking English. Sometimes in confusion, sometimes in pity, sometimes in curiosity. It varies. Not necessarily a bad thing.
For my last Saturday in Alcalá (side note: how did that happen?!?), my friend and I decided to take a day trip to Santiponce to visit the ruins of the ancient Roman city Italica. Now, neither of us had heard a thing about Italica prior to coming here, so don’t be surprised if you also have no clue what I’m talking about. In fact, the only reason I knew about Italica was because one of my schools had gone on a couple of trips there.
As we’re both fans of an early start, we got the bus from Alcalá into Sevilla at 8:10 in the morning and made our way from San Bernardo up into the centre of town. Last Friday (as in the week before the trip to Italica) we’d tried to go and visit the Basilica de Macarena but failed quite spectacularly by timing our visit to coincide pretty much perfectly with both evening Masses (oops), so we decided to two birds one stone it and visit the Basilica in the morning before going to catch the bus to Italica on the Saturday. The church was quite special inside, so if you find yourself with some time to kill in that part of the city I’d recommend a visit…but maybe not during Mass. After having visited the church we made our way to Plaza de Armas via Feria market where we picked up some supplies for a picnic lunch.
After the madness that was Feria last week, this weekend I decided to chill out a little bit with a nice relaxing day trip to Osuna, a small town in Sevilla province. A few Spaniards had recommended it to me and I’d been wanting to visit it for a while, so on Saturday I decided to make the most of the slightly cooler weather (25/26 degrees instead of more than 30) and make a day of it with my friend who lives here in Alcalá.
The day got off to an early start because we’d arranged to meet at the main bus stop in town at 7am so we could catch the bus into the city (unfortunately there are no direct buses between Alcalá and Osuna). This meant I’d set my alarm for 5:30am because it takes me forever to get ready to go anywhere as I’m so slow (and this is made about a million times worse when it’s early in the morning and I’m not properly woken up yet). But anyway, I made it to the bus stop just before 7 and, as there was a bus there waiting, I thought I’d hop on and wait for my friend on the bus itself. Mistake. As soon as I’d sat down the bus started moving…without my friend on it. Turns out that because of the Feria (which has only just finished – say what you want about them, but the people here do know how to party) the buses had been running behind, and the bus I ended up catching was the 6:40 bus that left 15-20 minutes late. As it turned out, what could have been an absolute disaster ended up working out alright because my friend caught the 7:10 bus we’d initially planned on getting and arrived at San Bernardo in Sevilla about 10 minutes after I did.
If you read my last post, you’ll already know about all the preparations that went into finding me an outfit to go to the Feria de Abril in Sevilla this year. This post is more about what happened on the day itself and what I thought of the whole experience.
Now, as I said before, the Feria as it is today is definitely not the modest agricultural fair it started out life as back in 1847. These days the Feria takes place in a part of the city that is, essentially, completely empty for the year until the week of Feria comes around. And when the Feria does come around, it doesn’t do so by halves – no, no, this is a MASSIVE event (in both the literal and metaphorical sense). Just to give you a sense of scale, the real de la feria covers an area of 1km2 or even more, the portada (or entrance gate to the Feria) is around 50m tall, and there are over 1000 casetas (think marquee tents, each with its own bar, seating area, and stage for dancing on). Yup. It’s big. And it’s definitely a BIG event in the social calendar here in Sevilla too. And if you know the right kind of people, you can get a coveted invite to one of the private casetas. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy yourself without an invite, because there are a lot of public casetas too and a huge amusement park (for lack of a better term) with food and drink stalls that is, appropriately called Calle de Infierno, or Hell Street (ha!).
Picture the scene… me: embarrassed and awkward as always, frantically jumping trouser-less around my hall, trying my best to pull a flamenco skirt borrowed from a teacher over my thighs and hips (think I’ve inherited my Granny’s jeans genes there – the love for cake is strong in my family!). The teacher in question is there too trying to help, and we’re both laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of it all. A few minutes and a lot of stretching later, and I’m zipped in to the skirt. Barely able to walk, sit down, or breathe, but finally in the skirt. The skirt I’ll be wearing to the Feria de Abril in Sevilla the following day.
The Feria as it is known today has come a long way from its humble origins as an agricultural fair. First held in 1847 from the 18th – 20th of April at Prado de San Sebastián, the Feria nowadays is a week-long party held in Los Remedios, a neighbourhood on the other side of the Guadalquivir from the city centre. And, as a student of Spanish culture, I thought it would be silly not to take the opportunity to experience it this year while I’m here!
Thought I’d return to my ‘things to do’ posts this week with a recommendation to visit the Cathedral in Sevilla. Having now visited twice (once back in October at night time and once when Louise came to visit in March during the day), I feel ‘done’ enough of the Cathedral to give it a decent-ish write up.
I couldn’t really spend my year abroad in the South of Spain without experiencing Semana Santa in Sevilla now could I?! Along with La Tomatina and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, this is one of the classic Spanish festivals that British people (at least in my experience) have actually heard of.
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is celebrated in the week running up to Easter every year in Sevilla (and elsewhere in Spain too). Large processions of nazarenos (the people wearing capirotes – the pointy hats with the holes for the eyes) pass through the streets barefoot or in sandals in silence, following the Guiding Cross. The nazarenos where a different coloured hood and robe depending on which Brotherhood they belong to and where they are in the procession, and they also carry large wax candles which they light a night. The processions I saw ranged from a few hundred to around 2000 nazarenos.
Guess whose family have come out to Spain to visit her twice on her year abroad?! This gal!
After arriving back from Madrid mid-Monday afternoon fairly exhausted I had little time to rest because my mum, dad, and sister were coming to see me on the Tuesday and staying until the following Monday. Unfortunately, because this was still a normal working week, I had to go to school as always and only went in to the city to see them once during the week. But this post isn’t about their whole week here, rather the day trip we all took to Córdoba on the Saturday. Now, I’d already been to Córdoba back in the mists of time October, but when I’d been before it absolutely chucked it down, so I definitely didn’t get to see the best side of the city. However, now I’ve been back again, I can say without a doubt that I prefer it to Sevilla (oops). I can’t put my finger on why exactly, but it’s certainly a lot smaller than the capital of Andalucía and, for me at least, has more charm.