Semana Santa in Andalucía

Let’s cast our minds all the way back to April and Semana Santa (Holy Week). You may already be familiar with the famous processions that are held in Spain during Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. In Andalucía, they typically feature huge, heavy floats supported by lots of strong men and a lot of people wearing pointy hoods reminiscent of a certain American clan.

Semana Santa
To witness these processions first-hand (the tradition doesn’t really exist as far north as Oviedo) I used my lovely ten days of holidays from school to travel to Málaga, Granada and Córdoba in Andalucía.

An excruciatingly long overnight bus trip (including a stopover in the early hours of the morning in Madrid bus station) and I made it to Málaga. The weather was warm, the sun was shining and I was exhausted. Málaga turned out to be a great spot to relax for the first few days of my holidays. I did a little touristy sight-seeing, a lot of old, tiny street wandering (I could never, ever find my hostel), sat in the sun at the beach, spotted a few processions and joined the crowds to watch, and then ate ice cream. It was so good to see the sun for the first time in months. Sadly, most of the rest of my trip to Andalucía was shrouded in cloud and drizzle as the good weather didn’t hold out.

After a few nights, I hopped on another bus to Granada. Granada turned out to be the absolute highlight of my trip, not just because of the Alhambra (which needs a whole post of its own), but because the whole city is utterly gorgeous. I had a fabulous time there, in spite of a very, very early start one morning to buy tickets to the Alhambra (book in advance! Especially if you are visiting at one of the peak holiday times!) and a subsequent cold from sitting around in the cold and wet at 7 am. I spotted a few more processions, had my palm force-read by a gypsy, went on an excellent walking tour of the city and bought handmade dulces from a convent.
A sneak peek photo from the Alhambra for you.

My last stop, and sadly only for one night, was Córdoba. I visited the famous Mezquita cathedral-turned-mosque-turned-cathedral and the magnificent gardens of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, the castle/fortress of the Christian Monarchs, ie King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who reconquered Spain from the Moors in the late 15th century.

The trip back to Oviedo was another long, overnight bus ride. I arrived home at 6 am on Saturday morning and spent the rest of the Easter weekend sleeping off my cold. I couldn’t say it was a relaxing Easter break but, in light of the things I saw and did, totally worth it. It was a bit of a different Easter, but certainly refreshing to see barely any Easter eggs (unlike the way they seem to pop up in supermarkets in Australia the day after Christmas) but to see a religious focus instead, albeit a very Catholic one with all those floats of the Virgin Mary.

If you fancy it there are photos from Málaga and Córdoba over on Flickr.

TTFN.

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Filed under Andalucía, Spain, Travel

Adjusting.

So I was away for over eight months and I’ve now been home nearly eight weeks. Want to know which part feels like it has passed most of my year? The eight weeks I’ve been home. It has been both hectic and dull; first with the initial bustle of arriving home, moving houses and job hunting, followed by weeks of tedium as no job offers rolled in, bank accounts dried up and I sank into an awful state of apathy and laziness.

But now, just short of eight weeks back in Australia, with a full-time job beckoning me to start in December, I’m giving myself November to post the stories and photos I’ve been sitting on for months and permitting myself to live in the past and glory in the memories of this year.

Because I did have an amazing time, met wonderful people (if any La Ería kids are reading this: I miss you!) and made memories that I hope will last a lifetime. Now I’m making myself relive them and enjoy them all over again, and I hope that you will too!

I have added some photos of my trip to Andalucía at Easter to my Flickr (follow the link down the side to see them) and I’ve updated my Tripline map (again, the link is on the right hand side there) so that it shows my full itinerary of travels around Europe between June and September. Enjoy!

TTFN.

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There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…

So we are home again. I’ve renamed my blog “Alexandra (was) in España”, which made me sadder than I had expected. And life goes on much the same as it ever did.

I do intend to write up all of my stories, from my last weeks in Spain and from our travels, so don’t abandon ship just yet. Once I can get my head around the thousands of photos those will be going up too.

Thanks for being so patient with me, apparently I am an awful blogger! But I promise, more fun to come.

TTFN.

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An update from the road.

I am writing this post for you all from Heidelberg, Germany, 35 days in to our wonderful travels. The number of stories and photos I have to share is incredible so for now I will just give you a brief list of some of the amazing things we have already seen and done.

1. We spent a fantastic week in London and barely scratched the surface of things we wanted to do.

2. While in London, we met two of our favourite actors, David Tennant and Catherine Tate, and had our photos taken with them!!

3. I pretended I was in a Jane Austen novel in Bath, and even drank the nasty spa water.

4. Although boating on Loch Ness didn’t bring any Nessie sightings, we did take in the peace and tranquility of all that water.

5. After years of seeing photos and videos sent by our friends in the Lake District, we finally made it there and even climbed a small hill: Rannerdale Knots.

6. We rode on the Eurostar Chunnel train and barely even noticed the time we were underwater.

7. Sat in front of the Sacre-Coeur looking out over Paris while eating a fresh baguette and camembert cheese for lunch.

8. We dined on fabulous French food in a restaurant in Lyon.

9. We biked through some beautiful parks on a wonderful sunny Sunday in Strasbourg.

10. Perhaps we have already consumed more ice-creams than is decent, including my all-time favourite here in Heidelberg.

So far we have taken two buses, eleven trains (not including changes for the same trip) and stayed in thirteen different accommodations, including the very memorable Inglis International Hotel just outside the Lakes. I have updated the map (the link to which you’ll find on the right-hand side of the page) with our full itinerary so far.

With one month already gone the time is passing far too quickly but we are squeezing in as much as we can. Hopefully I’ll be able to tease you all with some of my photos soon!

TTFN.

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Filed under Things that blow my mind, Travel, Update

[Catching Up] Madrid: Day Three

(I can’t believe I’m still writing about April…)
On my last day in Madrid I was all by myself (my amiga was on the plane to Barcelona) and had a lot of activities to fit in.

I started early and headed to the Museo de la Reina Sofia for the Sunday morning free entry. The Reina Sofia is a gallery of modern art and its most famous piece is Picasso’s Guernica, his large, black and white, cubist depiction of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It is a very striking piece, taking up almost a whole wall. Even in the cubist style (which I confess I don’t really ‘get’) the anguish and pain on the faces is very real and very scary.

My next stop was the Museo de Sorolla, a gallery of paintings by Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla. As it was a nice day and because I am pig-headed, I decided I could walk there and save myself the Metro fare. The gallery is in the painter’s house, which he designed in an Andalusian-style with a lovely patio garden. The artworks are displayed inside the house, including in his studio. I love his wonderfully bright and light paintings and highly recommend that everyone checks them out.

By this point my art quota had been well and truly met for the weekend so I skipped the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the third major gallery in the capital (behind the Prado and Reina Sofia). Instead I went to the Parque del Retiro, a great big open park with plenty of grass, trees and even a pond for boating. I ate an ice cream and soaked up the sun.

Lollipop trees


Boating

One smooth train ride that evening and I was back in Oviedo, in the rain.

TTFN.

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Sunday session of sol y sídra

On my last weekend in Oviedo, after Kyle had joined me, we went out on a beautiful, sunny Sunday for a bottle of Asturias’s specialty: sídra.

Sídra is an alcoholic apple cider that requires a very particular manner of pouring and drinking. The cider is still, rather than sparkling, so to aerate it a small amount must be poured into a glass from a large height, hitting the inside of the glass on the way down, and then drunk quickly like a shot. The pouring is a skill, but the bartenders in Asturias have it down to such a fine art that they barely even look at what they are doing, and can pour with three glasses in hand.


I have to admit I am not a huge fan of the flavour, and I am terribly bad at drinking it all down in one go. Still, it is refreshing on a sunny day (although I found there were only about three of those during the whole of May) and it is an important part of the regional identity. Plus, it is super cheap: two bottles (which equals about six of the small glasses per bottle) for €5.20.

TTFN.

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Wordy Wednesday: Chickens, pigs and fish.

The more I learn about languages the more I love those silly little idioms that we use all the time without giving them a second thought. I am especially fond of those that feature animals.

One day I looked up the word “chicken” in an English to Spanish online dictionary, because I was curious to know if chickens are equally as vilified as being cowards in Spanish as in English. Turns out they are and you can call someone a chicken or a gallina in both languages.

Dictionaries are great (nerd alert) because they can send you down a whole rabbit-hole of new meanings, expressions and idioms. In this vein, while on the page for “chicken”, I came across the phrase: Cuando las gallinas meen. Literally: When chickens pee. Idiomatically: When pigs fly.

Then I found this phrase: Estar como una gallina en corral ajeno. Literally: To be a chicken in a farmyard that belongs to someone else. Idiomatically: To be a fish out of water.

Falling a little further through the rabbit-hole, I remembered this one that a teacher at school had told me: Beber como un cosaco. Literally: To drink like a Cossack. Idiomatically: To drink like a fish.

So there we go. A few new fun animal idioms (except for the Cossack one. Don’t know what they did to earn that saying.) to think about.

Technically it’s no longer Wednesday here as it is past midnight but I’m still counting it as a Wordy Wednesday. One another note, it’s amazing (and a little scary) to think that this time in two weeks I will be in London. Where did these five months go?? It seems like only yesterday I was writing about being halfway through. However the date on that post and my nearly empty second tube of Vegemite can attest that it was most definitely not yesterday.

TTFN.

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