All good things must come to an end

Last Thursday was officially my last day teaching at the school. It turned out to be a lot more difficult to say goodbye than I thought it would be, mainly because the kids were very sad to see me go with many asking if I could stay or if they could come to England with me. They all made wrote messages saying thank you and good luck which was made into a book along with lots of drawings and pictures. It made me smile reading them all and is something to help me remember everybody.

The book of messages the school made me

The book of messages the school made me

One thing I did find quite funny was that in a lot of the messages the kids had told me how much I had taught them over the past year. However one thing it seemed they had never learnt is how to spell my name correctly. The name Josh is a difficult one for the Spanish to pronounce, although they did master it in the end it seemed they didn’t master the spelling. Some did get it correct, but the other variations included the likes of Yos, Yosh, Yorsh, Jos and Johs. It’s quite cute though.

Some of the messages from class 6C, our equivalent of Year 6

Some of the messages from class 6C, our equivalent of Year 6

A drawing from Nacho in class 1A, our equivalent of Year 1

A drawing from Nacho in class 1A, our equivalent of Year 1

I spent last Friday saying goodbye to lots of people that I have met over the past year. We went out for a meal and a few drinks before a couple of us headed to Sevilla’s stadium to watch Spain play against Bolivia in a warm up match for the World Cup. It was a great way to spend my final day in Sevilla doing one of the things I have enjoyed the most, watching the football! As usual it was a fantastic atmosphere, although it wasn’t the best of games, and it was great to see a few more big name players in action.

Talking about football, I couldn’t have picked a better year to spend in Sevilla as this year they won their third Europa League trophy. I went to the local bar to watch the final and when the winning penalty was scored in the shootout everybody went absolutely mental. I then went to the trophy parade in the city the day after and there were thousands and thousands of Sevilla fans lining the streets to see the players.

The Sevilla FC trophy parade

The Sevilla FC trophy parade

At the minute I am in Malaga doing some exploring before I go home tomorrow. I’ve been here since Saturday and have been enjoying the weather and doing some sightseeing. I expect I will put up a final post at the end of the week to say what I have been up to the past couple of days.

Freedom-The Last Few Weeks

A lot has been going on since I last uploaded a post to this blog. In mid-April I flew home to England for the Easter holidays which in Spain is only a week long and called Holy Week. It was nice to return home to see my family and catch up on the things I miss doing whilst I am here in Spain, like taking my car out for a drive, playing golf, seeing friends and going to the football. As I was only home for a week the time of course flew by and in next to no time I was back in Seville.

Unfortunately instead of being able to enjoy myself my time had to mostly be dedicated to one thing, writing the dreaded Year Abroad Research Project (YARP) which represents 1/7 of my degree and is how I am assessed during this year. This meant that for the next two weeks I was confined to the four walls of my bedroom trying to get it done. In the end I finished and submitted it last Tuesday meaning the YARP, 6000 Spanish words of hell, was over and I could focus my attentions on enjoying my last few weeks in Spain.

So what have I been up to over the past week. Recently there has been a football tournament going on during the break between each class. Then last Tuesday there was a special teacher vs students game that when asked I was more than happy to take part in. I was put up front and in my determination to score a goal I ran around like a mad man which wasn’t the best of ideas considering we were playing at 12 o’clock in the 30 degree midday heat and I had classes to teach in the afternoon. Fortunately I had a change of clothes, a towel and a can of deodorant. As it turned out I didn’t get on the score sheet, but I created a few chances and at the end I was told that I had played well for an Englishman. I’ll take that as a compliment. We, the teachers, ended up winning 4-0.

Last week was also Sevilla’s Fería (Fair) which is a very famous event unique to Sevilla. It starts from midnight Monday evening (or is that Tuesday morning?) and lasts until midnight on Sunday. It is more or less a way for the local people to enjoy themselves with friends and family, drink alcohol and eat food. There is a special area reserved for it in the west of the city, just the other side of the river, where there is over 1,000 ‘casetas’, what we call marquees, of which some are public but most are privately owned. The women wear traditional dresses called ‘traje de gitano’ which are long, colourful, gypsy style dresses. Some people travel by horse and carriage to the fair and you can even see some men drinking and eating whilst still mounting their horse. Everywhere you go you can here authentic Spanish music and in each marquee there are people dancing ‘sevillana’ which is a style of flamenco traditional to Sevilla.

Fería 1

The entrance to the fería

The horse and carriages

The horse and carriages

My first trip was on Wednesday with some of my fellow teachers from school. At 2pm when the school bell rang we went to the staff room for some nibbles before hopping on the metro to make our way to the fair. When we arrived we headed to a tent which was specifically for teachers where we had a drink called ‘rebujito’. This is the traditional drink during the fair and is basically sherry mixed with 7up or lemonade. It was very refreshing considering how hot it was (it now reaches at least 30 degrees everyday in Sevilla). After a while we headed off to another marquee where we had food and more drink and this was the theme for the whole evening. We ended up staying for many hours and it wasn’t until 11pm that I returned home.

A typical caseta

A typical caseta

The traditional dresses

The traditional dresses

 

I then returned on Saturday with some friends where we got up to more of the same. A theme of these two days was people asking me if I could dance ‘Sevillana’ which I can’t. In the end people tried to teach me but I just couldn’t get my head round it, I don’t think me and dancing go well together and I was fine just sticking to the eating and drinking part. Overall I really enjoyed spending time at the fair and learning some more about Spanish and Sevillian life. It was completely different to anything we have in England and it took a while to take it all in but it was well worth the experience.

 

The busy streets during the fería

The busy streets during the fería

My First Visit to Africa

Last weekend I went to Northern Morocco for what was not only my first trip to Africa but also my first adventure outside of Europe so I was excited to say the least. Being as Morocco is so close to Sevilla and the south coast of Spain it was somewhere I wanted to visit since the start of my year abroad. It was an amazing experience but if I had to use one word to describe it, that word would probably be ‘weird’, but in the good sense mainly because it was not what I expected.

We left Friday morning and headed straight to Gibraltar which on the coach is about 2 and a half hours away. When we arrived we crossed the border into Gibraltar and jumped straight on a minibus for a tour of the main sights including Europa Point, St. Michael’s Caves and a stop to see the monkeys. For those of you who don’t know, even though Gibraltar is in mainland Spain it is owned by Britain, hence the need for border checks and one of the reasons why I described this experience as ‘weird’. It felt like we were in Spain, the weather was Spanish, the people looked Spanish, the buildings looked Spanish, the scenery and landscape looked Spanish, yet upon closer inspection I realised how similar to England it is. Everybody speaks English, all the road signs and traffic lights are exactly the same as what you get in England, you can go into a shop and pay for something using English pounds, we even drove past a Morrison’s supermarket! It was a truly bizarre feeling thinking your in Spain but realising you are technically in Britain.

I see Africa!

I see Africa!

So we went stopped off at Europa Point where I got my first sight of Africa. You can clearly see it as it’s only around 14 km or 9 miles away which is nothing. We then went to visit the caves which were beautiful and had floor to ceiling stalagmites/stalactites (I don’t know which are which). Finally we went to the ape den to see the monkey’s which was probably the part of the trip I was most looking forward to. Monkeys are my favourite animal, the animal I most look forward to seeing whenever I go to the zoo or the safari park with my family so to see them in the ‘wild’ is amazing. I use the term wild loosely as although they are semi-domesticated animals. They do live in the wild but they have people who look after them and give them food. There was both adults and babies and they are very friendly, if you give them the chance and stay still for long enough they probably will try to climb on you. I managed to take a picture of myself with a baby monkey who then climbed on my arm before running off to play with his mates.

Me and my monkey friend

Me and my monkey friend

The St Michael Caves

The St Michael Caves

Afterwards we left Gibraltar and went to Algeciras to catch the ferry to Ceuta in the north of Morocco. Even though Ceuta is part of mainland Africa it is actually Spanish owned which is again confusing. It took quite a while to then cross the border into Morocco and we then drove to Tangiers which is where we spent the night in a hotel. Saturday morning we got straight on the coach after breakfast and headed on a drive to have a small tour of some parts of the city. This was quite handy as it was raining and we got to see the city in the dry. Apparently the King of Morocco was in town which is why there was loads of police checkpoints on the roads and Moroccan flags hanging everywhere. We drove past a palace and our tour guide said the King was inside as his guards were on guard outside. The first stop we made was at a lighthouse which doesn’t sound that exciting but it marks the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea and the start of the Straight of Gibraltar. The next stop was to go to the beach to ride a camel. This was another strange experience as when I think of camels I think of riding them through the desert in the scorching hot sun, yet we were riding them along the beach and in the rain! I seemed to have the angry camel as he kept making funny noises and wouldn’t walk in a straight line, then when we finished and he decided to sit down he sat on his front legs and left his hind legs standing so I had to hold on tight to make sure I didn’t fall off.

Riding a camel along the beach

Riding a camel along the beach

We then went to some more caves where a local monk showed us round and tried to tell us that all the marks we could see on the walls represented different things. He said the entrance to the cave was meant to look like Africa and although I saw the resemblance I thought it was more coincidence and wave erosion than any type of superstition. We then went for lunch which was a two hour drive to the mountain town of Chefchauoenne.  This town is very well known and popular with tourists as all the walls are painted blue. This is because all the streets are narrow and winding so in the summer the blue colour reflects heat to keep the streets warm and also helps in repelling mosquitoes. We stopped off at a local fabric shop to see how they made traditional Moroccan shawls, rugs and other fabrics before having some free time to explore the town ourselves and do some shopping. We used this time to stop grab a mint tea, something that is iconic of Morocco and considering I don’t like tea in England it was surprisingly good. Then in the evening we drive to Tetuan where we spent the last night. For our evening meal we went to an Arabian palace for a five course dinner with typical Moroccan foods. We had a vegetable soup, a Moroccan salad, a meatball dish cooked in a tagine, chicken with vegetables and cous cous and to finish some more Moroccan mint tea and biscuits. We were lucky enough to have live music along with entertainment such as a belly dancer and some nutter who ran around balancing a tray of candles on his head. This whole experience is exactly what would have happened at a traditional event in the Palace such as a wedding.

The blue streets of Chefchaouenne

The blue streets of Chefchaouenne

Dinner in the Arabian palace

Dinner in the Arabian palace

The final day was the nicest weather wise so it was unfortunate to have to leave. Most of us had been to the club the night before so were functioning on little sleep. I joined in in a spot of Moroccan dancing which turns out to mainly consist of randomly jumping up and down whilst waving your arms and legs. I am sure it is much more complicated than that but that’s what it looked like to me. Our last trip was to explore Tetuan and the Medina, which if you don’t know is more or less a city within a city made up of narrow winding roads, small markets, mosques and all enclosed by a wall that runs around the outside. As we walked through we saw the tiny traditional Moroccan shops, including the local butcher’s. I walked passed to see live chickens in a cage and a man choosing which one he wanted before the butcher picked it up and chopped its head off. Not something you see everyday!  We had time to do some more shopping and I picked up a leather wallet and a nice little handcrafted wooden pot that caught my eye. In Morocco it is custom to haggle prices, so no matter what price they offer to start with you try and get them lower. Being a bargain hunter I loved this and as well as haggling prices for my own purchases started doing it for other peoples too! It must be some kind of Del Boy Trotter instinct I have inside of me, but it seemed to work as I got the wooden pot fromm 15 euros down to 7 euros so less than half price and the leather wallet for just 5 euros.

The leather shops in the Medina in Tetuan

The leather shops in the Medina in Tetuan

That was another thing bizarre about Morocco. As we were in the north and so close to Spain, all shops took accepted either the local currency of dirhams or euros too. Also, in Morocco they speak Arabic, Berber and French, yet being as we were white they assumed we were Spanish so spoke to us in Spanish as the people are fluent in Spanish too. Most speak good English as well. Lastly we stopped at a traditional Moroccan pharmacy where the chemist talked to us about how they make all their lotions and potions and gave us free samples. I must have tried at least 10 different creams and oils. We then jumped on the bus and headed home. I really enjoyed the trip yet I got a completely different outlook on Africa than I expected. Instead of really hot weather it was probably some of the coldest temperatures I have experienced. It was incredibly green too, even in the mountains and completely different to the sand I was expecting. I guess that was because Africa is such a big place and we were right in the north. It also looked a lot like Spain, both in the countryside and the big cities, it wasn’t until the smaller places that you realised you were on a different continent but then I guess that is because of the proximity of the two and the fact that Sevilla has a lot of Arabic influences. What is certain is I definitely would love to return at some point.

The traditional pharmacy in Tetuan

The traditional pharmacy in Tetuan

An action-packed weekend in Portugal

I know it has been a few weeks since I last updated this blog, but being as I haven’t been up to anything different to what I have written before and with a lot of my time being dedicated to the year abroad project, I thought I would wait until something worth writing about came along. That time has now come and I hope the size and content of this one makes up for the wait. If you don’t already know or if you can’t work it out from my very imaginative title for this post, I spent last weekend in Portugal. I booked this trip at the end of January with a company called Planet Spain and it has been something I looked forward to ever since, mainly because it would be my first trip to the country.

We left on Friday at 10 am from one of the bus stations in Seville that thankfully is only a ten minute walk from my flat so it meant I could sleep in a little bit longer. We headed straight to Evora which is a small historical town in central Portugal and around 4 hours from Seville. As soon as we arrived we headed to a restaurant to get lunch. It was a buffet style lunch of Portuguese food meaning you could eat and drink as much beer as you could manage which proved to be a common theme for the rest of the trip. Afterwards we were given a little more than an hour to explore the town which although doesn’t sound long, was adequate given the smallness of the town. The most popular place to visit, and probably what Evora is most famous for, was the Capela dos Ossos or in English the Chapel of Bones. As the name suggests, this is a small chapel made entirely from human bones and apparently over 5000 skulls were used. It was quite weird feeling being surrounded by human bodies but also quite cool too (I don’t know why!).

The wall inside the chapel made from human bones and skulls

The wall inside the chapel made from human bones and skulls

A skeleton hanging from the wall

A skeleton hanging from the wall

Once we left we headed back onto the coach to continue on our journey to Lisbon which took another two hours. We arrived around 7:30 Portuguese time (Portugal is one hour behind Spain and the same time as England) and spent the next hour settling into our rooms in the hostel before heading out for food at another hostel owned by the same company. It was a traditional Portuguese bbq on the roof terrace which isn’t burgers and sausages like you get in England but more steaks, chicken and pork chops which I thoroughly enjoyed as I love a good bbq and can’t remember the last time I had one. There was also jugs of sangria to get us started for the night ahead! Music was being played too and once people had finished they headed over to the dance floor to bust a few moves. The guy who worked there was an absolute nutter and had more dance moves than I knew existed and was trying to get people to dance with him. It was quite funny as it was mostly the Americans and the Spanish dancing with the Brits and the blokes casually chatting in the corner.

After a while we then decided to head out to the bairro alto which is the area of Lisbon where most of the nightlife is based. We went to a Portuguese/Brazilian themed bar with live music which was really good. The drinks were also popular with pint sized mojitos and caipirinhas at bargain prices. We partied until the early hours of the morning before most people decided it was time to call it a night. However me and four others decided the night was still young so decided to keep the party going and try and find a club to go to. With us not knowing Lisbon we had to ask people where they recommended going and although we ended up getting lost we eventually found somewhere. The club is different to what you get in England as when you enter instead of paying you are given a card. You then get your first drink free and you get your card signed for any you want after. Then before you leave you go to a till and pay for the entrance fee and all your drinks. Unfortunately being a guy has its disadvantages as to get in was almost double what the girls had to. It eventually got to a point when we decided it was time to head home and we got back to the hostel at five in the morning! When we got back one of the Spanish guys of our group was sat in reception because he had broken his hand in a fight. He said someone had tried to mug him so he had to go to the hospital.

After no more than three and a half hours sleep it was time to wake up Saturday morning for breakfast and then after we headed out for a guided tour of Lisbon. Unfortunately it was raining which seems to be a common theme whenever I go travelling  but thankfully it never got too heavy so we didn’t get that wet. We were shown some famous churches dotted around the city and we slowly mad our way up towards the top of the hill. I really liked Lisbon as although it is a very popular place for people to visit I wouldn’t describe it as being touristy which means it keeps it’s character. It is quite and old city though and some older buildings are houses are crumbling. At the top of the hill in the neighbourhood of Alfama is a really big flea market that we got to look round. It seemed you could buy absolutely anything there and it was filled with both traditional handmade items and a load of absolute rubbish that people were trying to sell. Before lunch we then went to the castle of St. George which is at the top of the hill and overlooks the the city of Lisbon which was quite interesting to look round although because of the weather the views weren’t as great as they could have been.

St George Castle

St George Castle

The view from one of the turrets

The view from one of the turrets

 

Lunch was a six course meal in a small restaurant and they basically brought the plates to the table one by one and you helped yourself to whatever you wanted. I didn’t know what most of it was but it definitely tasted good. Afterwards we had some free time to do whatever we wanted. While a lot of people went back to the hostel for a siesta we planned to go to the big tower in the centre which gave good views of the city. For some reason though the queue was massive and due to the weather we didn’t think it would be worth the wait. Instead we went to the main square near the hostel to listen to a music concert with a few more beers. Even though I didn’t understand what they were singing I enjoyed it. In some ways Portuguese is similar to Spanish, so much so that when it was written down I could understand some of it due to some words looking the same. However when it is spoken and definitely sounds like a different language. To me it sounded like Spanish being mixed with Russian, it did sound strange.

We then had our evening meal in another restaurant which was another buffet. By this time it seemed like people were fed up of buffet food but why I don’t know. What’s not to like about being able to eat as much as you like without having to pay extra! For me it I see it as more of a challenge where I see how much I can eat to get maximum value for money. First time round I made the schoolboy error of piling too many side dishes onto my plate that by the time it came to the meat I had run out of room! Then once we had finished we went back to the same bar in the bairro alto as it was a popular choice first time round. The second stop was a small club just round the corner where although the music was great it was too small and hot inside. Jesters in Southampton seems quite spacious in comparison! We then headed back to the hostel around 3 am ready for an early start on the final day.

On the Sunday we headed to Sintra which is described as they fairy tale city of Portugal. First stop was the Pena Palace which is a bright and multicoloured palace at the top of a hill that was a struggle for the coach to climb. It was really interesting looking around but it was incredibly misty, so much so that on one side we tried to look out over the wall but could only see a blanket of grey cloud. The second stop was the Palace of Regaleira which I liked the most. The palace itself was very small but the gardens were what made it worth the visit. They were massive and very green and included beautiful statues, monuments and waterfalls. My favourite was what can only be described as an upside down tower which basically heads down underground instead of up. At the bottom there are some caves and tunnels which lead to underground ponds and waterfalls and it was truly beautiful. After this visit we headed to a restaurant where I had probably one of the best steaks I have ever tasted before making the six hour journey back home to Seville.

The Pena Palace

The Pena Palace

The Palace of Regaleira

The Palace of Regaleira

The 'underground tower'

The ‘underground tower’

 

Recently I did one of those surveys that are going round on Facebook that said my ideal country to live in would be Portugal and I can see why. The food there is delicious, the music is really good and there is loads to see and do. Lisbon seems to also be  really chilled and laid back compared to the hustle and bustle of other big cities which suits me well. Somebody told me that drugs are decriminalised in Portugal and this proved to be true when a man approached me trying to sell me marijuana. Overall though I really enjoyed my trip and would love to explore more of Portugal in the future.

 

A visit from a friend

Last weekend my mate Ed who I went to school with came to Sevilla to see some of the sights of the south of the Spain. He’s currently living in Salamanca as part of his year abroad and we thought it would be a good chance to catch up considering we haven’t seen each other properly since we left school. Here is how our weekend unfolded:

Thursday 6th February

As I was working during the day, Ed used this time to see the sights of Sevilla like the Cathedral and the Alcazar. We then met up in the evening for food and planned what we were going to do for the rest of the weekend.

Friday 7th February

Friday morning we jumped on a train to Cadiz in order to see what this city has to offer. It is an interesting city as it is technically an island that is joined to mainland Spain by a bridge. When we got off the train it was a welcome relief to find that it was very warm with hardly a cloud in the sky and an early decision was made that we would be spending some time on the beach. As soon as we arrived we headed to the tourist information centre to get a map and find out what sights were worth seeing. They told us about some walking trails around the old town so we thought that it would be a good idea to follow these to make sure we didn’t miss anything. One thing we were told was worth seeing was the Tavira Tower, which is the highest building in Cadiz and if you climb to the top you can see the whole of the city. It wasn’t half as tall as I thought it would be, but didn’t need to be as there are no other tall buildings in the city, and on a clear day like it was the views were fantastic. The building also had a ‘camera obscura’, basically a glorified periscope, that projected images of the city onto a screen and we were told more about the city. We then went to the supermarket to buy lunch and then headed to the beach to catch some rays being the Brits that we are. The afternoon was spent walking the coast and seeing the rest of the city before finishing off by getting a coffee before our train back.

Cadiz cathedral

Cadiz cathedral

 

View from Tavira Tower

View from Tavira Tower

 

Cadiz beach

Cadiz beach

 

Saturday 8th February

On the Saturday we decided to head to Cordoba on the AVE (high speed train) which meant a journey of an hour and a half was done in half the time. Unfortunately the weather had turned and we arrived to very dark and grey skies and light rain. In the morning we went to see the two main sights of the city, the Mezcita and the Alcazar. The Mezcita is a very famous building in Andalucía as it was once a mosque but has since been converted into a Cathedral. We went inside and to me it just didn’t look right seeing a mix of the two religions in the same building. The Alcazar was well worth the visit too and is more or less the same as the Alcazar in Sevilla but on a smaller scale. The gardens were stunning and I could only imagine how good they would have looked in glorious sunshine. Lunchtime then arrived and we headed into La Juderia (the Jewish quarter) to find somewhere to eat. We stumbled upon a nice little restaurant where we had the menu of the day. For me, a beer, a paella, a flamenquin cordobes (pork stuffed with serrano ham and then deep fried served with chips) and a flan came to 10 euros which was great value for money as it was like having two main courses. When we left the restaurant the rain was lashing down and our plan to walk the rest of the city no longer looked such a good idea. In fact, we did end up getting soaked and had to head into an art gallery to keep out the rain and try to dry off. We found a little room with a heater in it which we took refuge next to whilst we sat down and received updates of the football scores from Ed’s dad. A woman who worked there had a go at us for putting our coats and bags on the floor to dry and decided the best way to get us to move was to turn the heater off. It worked. After walking round for a bit we decided to leave after realising that walking round in the rain would be more enjoyable then walking round an art gallery. The rest of the day was spent in a cafe, sheltering in the doorway of a bike shop and then trying to dry our drenched selves at the train station.

La Mezquita

La Mezquita

The ALcazar gardens

The Alcazar gardens

 

Sunday 9th February

Again the days plans were spoiled by the rain. In the morning we had tickets to go and watch Spain v Czech Republic in the FedCup tennis at the stadium in East Sevilla. The match started at 10 am and after 15 minutes the rain started to fall. Fortunately despite the rain, play continued until 11 am but by then the court had become too wet and the match came to a stop. Time was then spent hanging around in the cafe hoping the rain would stop before deciding to go and get lunch somewhere. We ended up in an American diner for the next few hours eating and making the most of the free wifi before deciding the rain wasn’t actually going to stop, in fact it was just getting worse, so we headed home for the rest of the afternoon. It was a great shame as it was the first tennis match I had been to and I really enjoyed the first hour of play and wanted to see more. We could only imagine what a great event it would have been with the sun beating down. In the evening we went to watch Sevilla take on Barcelona in the football which was an experience to say the least. Tickets were incredibly expensive with the cheapest being 70 euros for the general public but when they went on sale I managed to use my Spanish skills to negotiate a price with a season ticket holder who was selling on his tickets for a profit. In the end I managed to get 100 euro tickets for 70 euros each; he earned money, we saved money and had better seats than we were originally going to get for the same price. A win-win for all of us. Due to it not raining in Sevilla very often (apart from this weekend) the stadium was built without a roof which during a thunderstorm doesn’t sound a pleasant experience but it did make the match more memorable. At one point there was a torrential downpour meaning everyone was quick to put up their umbrellas obscuring our view of the pitch, but the rain was so heavy we could hardly see through it anyway and with the winds the umbrellas didn’t stay up long! It reminded me of going to watch Cheltenham play at Brighton’s old ground when we were in an un-roofed terrace in the pouring rain, each wearing a not very waterproof poncho we had been given, but that’s a story for another day (we ended up going crazy after a last minute equaliser by fans’ favourite Andy Gallinagh to make it 3-3). The Sevilla game finished 4-1 to Barcelona and it was a privilege seeing players as talented as Messi and Iniesta play football. Despite the weather the atmosphere was amazing too.

Players warming up for the FedCup tennis

Players warming up for the FedCup tennis

 

Sevilla v Barcelona about to kick-off

Sevilla v Barcelona about to kick-off

 

So there it is, my incredibly busy but eventful weekend. Until next time 🙂

 

Over half way

It dawned on me the other day that I am now over half way through my year abroad. I finish my role as a language assistant at the end of May which means there is only four months left, including the shortest month of the year and a week back home in Easter. The teachers at my school asked me if I wanted to stay another year,  unfortunately I had to decline as in September I have to return to Southampton to finish my final year at uni, but it made me realised that it was this time last year when I applied to be a teaching assistant. It’s crazy how quick the time has gone.

As for what I have been up to, I have been fairly busy and in the coming weeks it seems as if this will continue which is of course a good thing. Last week I went to the town of Santiponce for a look round and to visit some of the ruins of the Roman city of Italica. This town is only about half hour away by bus as towards the north of Sevilla. Although I’m not a big history nerd it was quite interesting to learn about it and even more impressive to see it. Admittedly, some things just looked like a pile of rocks, or was just a boring old wall, but what I liked most were the tiled mosaics that during the time were the floors of the Roman houses and also the big Amphitheater which you could walk through.

 

Tiled mosaic, probably the one in the worst condition but I liked it the most!

Tiled mosaic, probably the one in the worst condition but I liked it the most!

The Amphitheatre

The Amphitheatre

The past couple of weeks I have also been playing a bit of footie every Monday. It’s 5-a-side with three teams, you play the other teams twice and a winner is crowned at the end of it. As it had been a while since I last ‘put on my boots’ so to speak, the first weak absolutely killed me and by the end I felt like a dead man walking followed by my legs being as stiff as a plank for the next few days! Shows how unfit I actually am. But last week I didn’t end up so sore at the end and I even managed to score a goal and set one up too which helped my team finish second.

This weekend sees Ed, an old friend from school, come to visit. Apart from bumping into him in town once, I haven’t seen him for almost three years so it will be good to catch up. We have a lot planned but I will save those stories for next time. I have also booked a weekend away in Portugal at the end of February. Have had my eye on it for a few weeks now but finally got round to paying for it so that is something else to look forward to.

Christmas and the first weeks back

Hey everyone! I realise it has been a while since my last post so apologies if you have missed them but I will now take time to update you on what’s been going on.

The end of December saw me return back to England for the two week Christmas holidays. I stepped off the plane to be greeted by howling winds and pouring rain and this was to be a constant in my time back home. If I remember correctly, there were only three or four days that were completely dry meaning that my home town of Gloucester and the surrounding areas would flood once again, as they seem to do every time we get heavy rainfall.

After three months living and getting used to life in Spain it was good to be home to see my family and friends once again but the two weeks just flew by which unfortunately meant that I couldn’t manage to see some people. The weather also meant that I was unable to get out on the golf course or go ice skating with my brother and sister which was a shame too. However I did manage to get to Cheltenham to watch a few of their games (saw my first win of the season!) and got to eat some wonderful British food once again. Although the food in Spain is amazing, it’s surprising how much I missed the likes of a good curry, roast dinner, steak and kidney pie, chicken casserole, cider, cottage pie, custard creams…the list just goes on!

Making mince pies with my brother and sister

Making mince pies with my brother and sister

 

Christmas dinner with the family

Christmas dinner with the family

So after two weeks it was time to leave rainy England and an early wake up call, 3:30 am, was needed in order to make it to Gatwick in time for my flight.  When I arrived it was very sunny with a clear blue sky, a vast contrast to the weather back home but very welcome nonetheless. The first week was mainly a time to settle back into my life here and get back into the groove of teaching. It was interesting to talk to some of the teachers and see how Christmas was celebrated in our own countries. There was also some work I had to write for uni which took up some of my time too. Last week I was meant to playing football, however my usually good sense of direction for once failed me which ended up in me getting lost over the other side of the river and missing the game. Thankfully I now know where the pitches are so i can go again tomorrow. Have also been to meet up with a few friends over the past two weeks over drinks and food. Now I am settled in Seville and have explored all it has to offer (I think) I am planning on travelling a bit further afield in the coming months and currently looking at what are the best places to visit, there seems to be so many.

 

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

The big day is fast approaching and over the past few weeks Christmas has hit Seville. The shops are filled with goodies, the decorations are up and the festivities have started. Throughout the centre, there are hundreds of Christmas lights hung up in the streets and it seems as if each square and street has its own ideas, but they are all amazing to look at with bright colours and interesting designs. Much better than what you get back home. There are also some small stores that have been set up near the Cathedral which sell small Christmas ornaments like those you might find in a nativity scene. Very typical for Spain being the Catholic country it is. There is no Christmas market as such but there are a lot of food stalls that are dotted around the city selling traditional treats like roast chestnuts and Christmas sweets. I also saw there is an ice rink underneath the giant mushrooms but decided not to have a go, although my brother and sister has said they want to go ice skating with me when I’m back so I will wait until then to make a fool out of myself. Talking about going home, it is a week today that I will be on my way back. I have to say I am looking forward to it now as although I’m starting to get in the Christmas spirit it isn’t the same without my family. Plus the fact I haven’t seen them for three months it will be good to be back and get a taste of England again.

Christmas lights down Avenida de la Constitucion, the main street in the centre

Christmas lights down Avenida de la Constitucion, the main street in the centre

Lights on the town hall

Lights on the town hall

 

Colour changing icicles in Plaza Salvador

Colour changing icicles in Plaza Salvador

 

With it being Christmas time it has meant in school we have also been doing lots of Christmas activities. These have included drawing Christmas pictures, making icicles, Christmas crackers, advent calendars, snowmen on a string and singing Christmas carols with Jingle Bells proving a popular hit with the pre-school. Over the past two weeks I have also had a mini project to make with the help of my fellow English teachers Carolina and Manuel and all the students which should be finished next week and I will hopefully be able to grab a picture of it. All will be revealed!

Derby Day

Sunday saw the biggest game of the football calendar take place as it was the day of the Seville derby. This derby is seen as one of the strongest rivalries between two Spanish teams (Sevilla and Betis), if not the greatest, and it was easy to see why. The game didn’t kick off until 9 o’clock in the evening, yet much earlier than that is when the party started and I think party is a good word to describe the atmosphere.

Betis fans gather at their stadium from around 5 o’clock where they go through their pre-match celebrations before they are escorted through the streets of Seville by police to Sevilla’s stadium, the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. For such a big game their was understandably a very large police presence, but I was surprised about how many police were actually there. To escort the Betis fans across the city it took around 6 police vans, 5 horses and a load of officers on foot. I saw the Betis’ players coach drive past at one point which was being given an escort by 5 police cars and 5 police bikes. All that just for one coach. Then around the stadium there was a police car parked on every street corner before and after the game as well as many horses and policemen on foot. It was clear that security was a priority and considering how much the two sets of fans hated each other no chances were going to be taken. Every song the fans sang about the other team seemed to contain at least one swear word and some even wished death upon their rivals.

Sevilla fans are very passionate people and before the game this was evident. The streets near the ground were packed full of supporters singing, letting off flares, fireworks and drinking. And boy did they drink. In England games on this scale are scheduled for as early in the day as possible to give supporters as little drinking time as possible to avoid violence. With this game not starting until late in the evening it gave fans as much time as they wanted. The practice seemed to be to head out in the afternoon to get your spot with your drink and stay there until it was time to go in the ground. They weren’t just having a few beers either, groups of men were stood around benches with whole bottles of spirits and mixer and one guy even had ice in his cup! An example of how it should be done.

Sevilla banner in the home end

Sevilla banner in the home end

The game itself was a good one and didn’t fail to meet expectations. It ended 4-0 to Sevilla and the gulf in class was evident although a sending off at 1-0 for a Betis player just before half-time probably didn’t help their cause. Tackles were flying from the first minute and it seemed Betis were resorting to foul play to try and stop their opponents but it didn’t work. I recorded a series of videos which I will post below so you can see what the atmosphere was like if you wish.

On another note, over the past week I have been busy doing work on my project but I did finally manage to get one important job done and have a haircut! One has been needed for a few weeks but I was a little anxious about going with fear of something going wrong or being lost in translation. In the end though it went surprising well and the bloke did a pretty good job, I even learnt some new words such as ‘las patillas’ which are your sideburns and ‘el flequillo’ which is your fringe and I can use those next time.

The haircut was a success!

The haircut was a success!

5 things…

I have now been here for two months, 9 weeks exactly, and I thought I would create a few posts where I list 5 things on a chosen subject. Hence the title, 5 things. I will kick it off with what I like about Sevilla.

5 things I love about Sevilla

  1. The weather – When I first arrived the weather was amazing and it reached 30 degrees pretty much every day until mid-October. It was then around 25 degrees up to November before it started getting ‘colder’. I find it weird how quickly I have adapted to the temperature as we seem to have recently entered a cold snap and I leave the flat in the morning with it being around 10 degrees but it feels like it should be 0 degrees with everything covered in frost. During the day it will then reach around15-18 but that still fells pretty cold.
  2. Prices – If you know where to look you can pick up a few bargains around Sevilla. Food and alcohol is very reasonable with a weekly shop costing no more than 30 euros and you can go out for food and spend no more than 15 euros on a three course meal with the set menu. Tapas are cheap too. Some restaurants charge 6 euros a plate but in the right place they are no more than half that price. In some bars you can pick up a caña (small beer) for little more than a euro and on a night out you can go out with just 10 euros and get plenty to drink with the different offers they have on, the general low prices in the right places (tequila shots 1 euro, beer and a shot 1 euro, 5 shots 2,50) and the fact that in some bars they hand out free shots, although that seems to be the disgusting stuff they’re trying to get rid of as nobody is buying it.
  3. The Food –  This sort of ties in with the last point but the food here is amazing and the price makes it even better. If you go out for tapas you can sample a little bit of everything at a low cost. There’s the more traditional such as Spanish omelette, croquettes, ham and gazpacho (basically soup) or go for something else like the millions of chicken and fish dishes there seems to be around all with different sauces and spices. All washed down with a nice cold beer. The wine is pretty good too apparently, but I wouldn’t know as it’s not for me. Will just stick to the beer.
  4. The sights – There is plenty to see in Sevilla, no matter where you are. In the centre you have the iconic monuments like the Cathedral, the Alcazar and the mushrooms as well as many, many more. I went inside the Cathedral for the first time last weekend and it is extremely beautiful. I’m not religious at all but it did seem to have an aura about it. I will post a few of the many pictures I took at the bottom. You can also leave the house just to go to the shops and you will probably walk past something worth looking at, whether it be remains of the viaduct, remains of the city wall, a historical building or one of gardens that seem to be dotted around. It’s so easy to walk around Sevilla too.
  5. The people – Everybody here is very friendly and will always help you when you need it. They’re also easy to talk to which is good for practicing my Spanish. Several times I have been told that the people from Seville are very close and don’t like to accept or talk to people from outside Sevilla but I have yet to notice this. Not sure what makes them think that but never mind.

So there is my first ‘5 things post’ and I’m sure another will follow at some point. Last week I went to a charity match at Sevilla’s ground with three other assistants and I bought tickets for Sunday’s derby with one of them which I’m really looking forward to. Also went to an Irish pub Tuesday night to watch the England game. Also went for some drinks with some Spanish friends over the weekend too and we had tapas. The rest of my time has been taken up teaching or writing some of the YARP which we have to hand in at the beginning of December. Now for some of those photos from the cathedral.

The Cathedral was a very impressive building

The Cathedral was a very impressive building

...and the architecture was so good you had to take pictures of the ceiling

…and the architecture was so good you had to take pictures of the ceiling

The view from the top wasn't too bad either!

The view from the top wasn’t too bad either!

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Picture of La Giralda taken from the courtyard

Picture of the courtyard taken from La Giralda, 34 sets of stairs (or ramps) up

Picture of the courtyard taken from La Giralda, 34 sets of stairs (or ramps) up

The supposed final resting place of Christopher Columbus

The supposed final resting place of Christopher Columbus

 

 

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