Thursday, 25 October 2012


It'd be madness to come and live in Spain without going to see a Flamenco show. So I took the opportunity to go when my mum came to visit. She had come during Columbus Day, which just so happened to be on a Friday this year, and to mark the holiday, the show had guest performers from other parts of Spain.

The show opened with traditional singing, Spanish guitar and ambient lighting while we sat in a patio under the stars.

It was a warm night (for us Brits anyway) but the dancing was hot. The dresses hugged their hips as they swirled and sauntered, stamping their feet in time to the music.

Flamenco music has a distinctive 12 beat rhythm, and it's the most common although there are also dances to 3 and 4 beats.Try keeping in time clapping and at first, it's very difficult and requires way more concentration than you think it would as they clap away apparently with ease and minimal brain power.

Facial expressions were part of the show as the dancers would not only show passion with their feet but also on their faces. It demanded the audience to take them seriously; there was power in their movements and fire in their soul.

Every dancer chose to wear the traditional flamenco colour of red. Each dress was ornate and beautifully put together, perfectly tailored to curve with every contour, and flip with every kick.

I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a fat flamenco dancer. The 15-20 minute performances were high energy and fast paced. After each performance, the dancers were breathing heavily and sweating.

This guy was the Michael Flatley of flamenco. The tappy shoes weren't that far off either. He was the grand finale of the show, with fast footwork and enough passion to make you pregnant just by looking at you.

Seeing flamenco live was spectacular. It far exceeded my expectations in entertainment value. It was good value for money at €20 per person including a free drink. We were able to reserve a table at the time of booking the tickets which ensured our great seats but even the worst seats in the house would have still been great.

I'm going to try and find lessons that fit around my schedule - it's a perfect combination of cultural integration and great exercise! And if not that, then I want the pretty dress and an excuse to pin a big flower on my head!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Palacio De Viana

The Palacio De Viana is one of the biggest private palaces in Spain that's open to the public. There are 12 patios or gardens, each with it's own name and theme. The palace itself is an accumulation of the different architectural styles from the 14th century to now.

On a sunny Sunday morning, I went to check out the Palace mainly in preparation for the maternal visit so I would know where it was and what it would be like.

I think she would enjoy it, with all the trees, flowers and fountains, it was also a brilliant cultural experience, with a brief glimpse in to Córdoba's aristocratic past. 

This garden looks a bit like a jungle in this picture, but it had hedges that made it into a maze and it is the biggest garden of the twelve.

I love the symmetry of this palm tree contrasting against the blue sky. If England had palm trees, it would probably be easier to go back!

This patio had painted tennis balls on the ground but I wasn't sure why - other than for decorative purposes. They weren't secured down, so a gust of wind could've turned it in to a ball pit, but luckily for them, this is Spain, and the weather is nice for the most part.

I love the walls covered with terracotta pot plants. In May, the flowers are in full bloom and that's when people from all over Spain will come to Córdoba to see all the beautiful blooming patios.

The palace gardens were so romantic, it would've been a perfect setting for some period drama. A story about forbidden love perhaps, a cultural/class divide where the protagonists have to sneak around and hide in the gardens.

I can't wait to see what it'll look like in May!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Pan y Mantequilla

This song is so catchy! It's another that's been stuck in my head for a while now.
Must admit, the lyrics don't necessarily make the most sense to me. The title is called "Bread and Butter" so I thought that somewhere in the song he would say "we go together like bread and butter" or something equally cheesy.
But the actual line is "I want to eat you like bread and butter"
Which is strange because they don't really have butter over here.

Regardless, the song is upbeat and cheerful and I bet you'll be humming it after you hear it!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


The inevitable time came when university started and we had to say goodbye to Miriam.
We travelled 4 hours from Córdoba to Mazarrón, Murcia through green valleys covered row after row in olive trees spotted with distant white towns, dry dusty deserts with mystery green fruit, then onwards to Cartagena through the mountains with one eye on the Mediterranean.

What is this? Is it an unripe pomegranate?

We left early on Saturday morning to begin the 456km journey to Mazarrón where the family have a house by the beach.

As soon as we arrived, we headed straight to the beach where Miriam and I chilled and worked on our tans. The Kindle once again came in to it's own as I read Tom Sawyer on the beach.

Mazarrón is a port, hence the full name of the area is called Puerto de Mazzarón. The boats in the harbour set with a background of blue skies, turquoise sea and rugged mountain was just as picturesque as Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief. Obviously, I'm Grace Kelly.

When we got bored of turning brown, we went up to the viewing deck, where, on the railings were attached "love padlocks". I had never seen them before, but apparently they're quite the fad now across the world. It symbolises eternal love by locking two padlocks together, each with a name engraved on it.
It's not that different to the "ball and chain" metaphor really, but in this instance, the padlock holding the ball around your ankle is called love.

I've been to white sandy beaches, I've been to black sandy beaches, but I've never seen sand that glitters gold. It's most obvious when the sand is wet and it sparkles at you as you're walking along. I don't know what it was but it was beautiful.

The drive from Mazarrón to Cartegena was about an hour long. We went through some beautiful scenery that strongly reminded me of the Colorado leg of my Great American Road Trip. Green on one side, desert on the other. I never realised before how beautiful the landscape in Spain was.

We helped Miriam unpack and settle in her room. As we made our way back to Mazarrón, the sun was setting, casting the twilight glow on the world that makes it my favourite time of day.

The family also have an apartment on the 15th floor which allowed us a privileged view of the whole area. Sitting out on the balcony looking out at the view, I felt lucky to be included with this family's life and as the sunset behind the mountains in the distance, I didn't have a care in the world.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The First Spanish Lesson

This is my new Spanish book. Now I'm the student!

Learning a new skill is always rewarding and in my opinion, there are few things more rewarding than learning to speak a new language.
It's not just the new found ability to converse and communicate in a different dialect, but it's the insight it gives in to a new culture. It highlights the differences in how people see things and have seen things for hundreds of years.

An example of this happened only last night, when I was telling my mum to meet me at the end of the platform at the train station. In English, a platform has two ends, in Chinese, the platform has a beginning and end (or 'head' and 'tail'). So really, I should have told her to go to the beginning of the platform.
Ah, the comedy of confusion.

Yesterday's lesson: a lot of words and professions.

So, being in Spain, the natural step is to learn Spanish. The school I work for is so generous, they offer free language lessons to the teachers. Of course, I'm going to take full advantage of that! I have two hours a week of Spanish and one hour of French. Yes, I'm going to learn French too!

I had my first class yesterday and it was really tough. There was another girl who already knew all the vocabulary and all the sentence structures so I felt very stupid. The teacher asked me questions and I could tell she was asking "How old are you?" But I had no idea how to respond. Bah. First class is always tough though. It's helped me sympathise a lot with my beginner class. It just means that I'll have to push myself harder in my own time to catch up. Which really, is fine by me. Hopefully before the end of the year, I'll be able to write a whole post in Spanish! Even if it's "I like Spain, it is beautiful, I play football."

I'm very excited to learn more Spanish and French too!

This Friday is a public holiday, so no lesson, but next week, French: part one!