Lifestyle

August in pictures

It’s been a while since I last posted on here but I’ve been a bit caught up in the routine of working and writing my university essays. Whilst on my year abroad I was given two projects which I’ve had the past 14 months to write, however I have typically left them to the last minute and most of my free time in August was spent at my laptop hastily hashing together coherent sentences whilst regretting not working on them sooner. Anyway both are finished now which means guilt-free free time!

To update you all, just two weeks remain of my work placement and I’m beyond happy about this. I feel like I have now mastered the fine art of selling expensive cotton shirts and I rarely make mistakes at the cash desk, so things are definitely less tense, some days I even enjoy myself. Having said this, I’m more than ready to stop folding cashmere v-necks and measuring body parts. Also, it’s been eerily quiet in the store recently as most of the French population are off on their summer holidays. This usually means I am left alone to supervise la boutique whilst my boss gets some work done in the office. If there are no deliveries to deal with or customers to (attempt to) help then I mostly just polish the displays obsessively and rearrange the ties in colour order. I find myself messing things up just to give myself something to tidy and I don’t know if these habits are healthy if repeated for 35 hours a week.

Luckily I have enjoyed some time in central Paris over the past month or so and the weather has generally been perfect (I’m tempted to say ‘insufferably hot’ but I’m about to experience a winter in Durham so I will not complain about warmth). Below are some of the sites of Paris that I have enjoyed recently…

The beautiful funfair at Les Tuileries and views from the terrace of Galleries Lafayette

Jardin de Luxembourg

Montmatre, including Le mur des je t’aime – a wall of ‘I love you’ in multiple languages ❤

Exploring the Île de St Louis, one of my favourite parts of Paris

I haven’t been able to watch the Great British Bakeoff but a visit to Ladurée is sort of the same thing…

And finally, the Eiffel Tower. Just dreamy.

effel touew

Happy September!

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Two months

befunky_artwork.jpgSeeing as I did a one month update, I thought I should write a little piece to mark the milestone of two months in Spain.

While the first month was busy, exciting and a bit overwhelming, this second month has been much, much calmer. Aside from my trip to Cordoba (which you can read about here, here and here), I’ve stayed in Zafra most weekends. Basically, us language assistants only received our first month’s salary last week, so until now we hadn’t really been in a position to splash the cash on multiple weekend excursions. Having said that, we’ve had fun exploring the countryside around here, visited some local restaurants and, due to the change in temperatures, spent many cosy evenings in the apartment.

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On Halloween we had a mexican night, because, well why not? Due to budget-airline luggage restrictions we all travelled with minimal clothes and, as a result, costume options were quite limited. Fortunately for me this apartment came with a sombrero hidden in one of the cupboards, so I threw on my aztek scarf (which doubles up as a blanket) and voilà, a costume! We had fajitas and mojitos – it was great.

Apartment-wise, we had an technical issue last week; waking up in complete darkness without electricity of any kind. It doesn’t get light here until about 8.30 am, so we had to get ready by torchlight – goodness knows what I went to school looking like that day. After mild panic I called up the electrician and he came pretty quickly. All was sorted by the afternoon, thank goodness.

School has been going well. In one of my classes the students are putting on an English play. Due to my English speaking ability I’ve been lumbered with the job of director. It seems that the teacher has decided to play an observatory role and leave me to it. It’s quite fun though, I pretend to know what I’m doing ; I mainly correct pronunciation and shout ‘project your voice!’ every few minutes.

I’ve also picked up a lot of private lessons. I now do eight a week, which is great for the bank account. I’m also getting to visit a variety of houses in Zafra! My favourite lesson is a conversation class with the natural sciences teacher Juan. He’s about sixty and does Iron man competitions, hand-gliding and yoga in his spare time. He’s a complete hippy and I aspire to be just like him when I’m old. We have similar food tastes and this week he baked me a loaf of rye bread which was delicious. People here really are the friendliest.

The month of December sees a weekend away to Barcelona and a trip home for CHRISTMAS. I am beyond excited for both. Happy Sunday!

The photos above: 1. A visit to Córdoba 2. Charity walk for Breast Cancer 3. Autumn leaves in Zafra 4. Beautiful sunsets on an evening run 5. Halloween fun with my flatmate Emmy

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Hello Autumn

The cold weather has come to Zafra. When I say cold I mean that the temperature is no longer 30 degrees; it’s dropped to about 14, but this change occurred in the space of two days and no one was prepared.

You’d think a polar vortex had hit Spain. In the streets the (woollen) gloves are out, I’ve seen multiple bobble hats and last season’s Zara scarves are making all kinds of appearances. At school the playground is deserted, the students are occupying the corridors and the teachers are despairing. You can just about hear the exclamations of ‘que frio!‘ beneath the layers of snoods and baklavas.

If you think that’s extreme youScreen Shot 2014-11-05 at 21.54.30‘ll be impressed to hear that my flatmate Whitney’s school have resorted to serious cold-prevention techniques. Their staffroom now features a round table with a heated blanket as a table cloth; the teachers sit huddled around it with their legs underneath in a cave of warmth.

For me, a Durham student, it’s not that cold. However, before coming to Spain I was lucky enough to spend Summer in the south of France. I returned to England for a few weeks but before my tan had the chance to fade I’d packed my bags again – I’ve therefore had five consecutive months of sunshine! As a result, my trusty tartan coat hasn’t seen daylight since April and I’m enjoying wearing it after all this time. The colder weather is quite a novelty in general; it makes home seem closer, cups of tea taste sweeter and I can finally wear more layers. Naturally my bed is also cosier, which isn’t such a positive when my alarm goes off… and we might have to start paying heating bills soon, but for now I’ll enjoy the change. Not having to worry about sweat patches whilst teaching teenagers is definitely a bonus.

I’m off to put my slippers on and listen to some Michael Bublé, it’s not too early for Christmas songs is it?!Untitled

Córdoba #3: The fairytale Palace

After exploring the alleyways and courtyards of Córdoba I thought my floral-fix had been well and truly satisfied. That was until I entered the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.

The Alcázar, which forms part of the historic centre of Cordoba – a Unesco world heritage site, was the residence of various Catholic monarchs. The palace is surrounded by gardens which were truly breathtaking; it was every flower lover’s dream. I will let the pictures below speak for themselves. IMG_8118 IMG_8175 palace1.jpg IMG_8103 palace2.jpg IMG_8092 palace3.jpg IMG_8173Excuse the cheesy poses but I was in a pretty skirt in a pretty location and I had to capture the moment. I refused to let my lone-ranger status hold me back and I went ahead and asked tourists to take photos of me. It’s definitely worth asking people because the momentary embarrassment can easily be forgotten whereas the photos last forever. Also, if you pick an incompetent photographer you get beauties like this! IMG_8052Untitled

Córdoba #2: A City of Flowers

My father’s lifelong dream is to see Japanese Cherry blossom, my Mother talks to her sweet-pea plants and I’ve grown up with two sets of green-fingered Grandparents. It is therefore unsurprising that I love all things floral.

Visiting Córdoba last weekend was perfect for me in many ways. Córdoba is famous for ‘Los Patios‘ – an annual contest in which the city’s residents showcase floral displays in their alleyways and courtyards. Traditionally, the walls of the city are lined with blue flowerpots filled with flowers and each May thousands of people flock to witness the colourful spectacle.Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 20.57.52Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 20.57.02 Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 21.02.55 flowers.jpg flowers3.jpg

Despite visiting off-season, the city was still really busy. Obviously the best time to see Los Patios would be in Spring, but given that prime flower time equals prime tourist time, it’s probably best, crowd-wise, that I visited I went when I did. There was still a lot to see and I feel like I got a good taste of just how spectacular the displays must be in May. flowers2.jpgAs beautiful as Los Patios were, they weren’t the horticultural highlight of my trip. Stay tuned for Cordoba part three…Untitled

Spanish schedules

The mealtimes here in Spain are drastically different to what I’m used to. I’ve mentioned this before but I’m about to delve into more detail (sorry…).

So this week the twelve year-olds were learning to discuss their daily routine. If I hear “At seven o’clock I wake up” one more time I may self-combust, however, it has been quite interesting to discover just how different the Spanish schedule really is. Here in Zafra the students finish school at 2.30 and go home for lunch at around 3pm. They don’t eat dinner until at least 10pm, having had various sports or music lessons throughout the evening. Back in Britain shops may close at 5.30 and things begin to wind down, whereas here 5pm is considered mid-afternoon; everything re-opens after siesta and the evening is the busiest time.

This routine has definitely been a culture shock. It also makes you feel quite middle-aged when you’re returning home after an evening drink and you pass eight-year old Marta heading to her flute lesson. It’s particularly bizarre for me given that I eat earlier than the average British human anyway.

My first taste of this lifestyle actually came during my French exchange back in 2008 when my host family ate at 9pm. I can distinctly remember sitting in my strange French bedroom picking at the ancient remains of a Go-Ahead bar found in the depths of my suitcase (the yogurt coating had not aged well). It was a desperate moment.

A month has passed I’m slowly adapting. The key to holding out until 10pm is a late lunch and the school timetable already ensures this. Generally, a seriously hefty breakfast keeps me going until school finishes when I sprint home in hunger-induced excitement.

All I can say is thank goodness for muesli. So. Much. Muesli. Untitled