A brief history of my travel pre-sabbatical Travels

 

blonde, beach, travel

 

 

As you may well know from my previous blog post, I never had great aspirations to travel throughout most of my life. That’s not to say that I didn’t love going on holiday and experiencing different cultures (From the safety of a package holiday…).

Spanish has always been a passion of mine, I feel so much more alive and animated when I speak Spanish. I must have gone on holiday to Spain about 14 times in my life and I love talking to local children and impressing my family by ordering our food and drink in Spanish!

It’s hard to remember every holiday to Spain, I must have been to just Benidorm at least 7 times. Package holidays may be nice but they no longer satiate my wanderlust.

So here is a brief history of my pre-sabbatical travel!

Aged 2= Lloret De Mar- Catalunia.

I was a jet setter when I was still in nappies! Although I can’t remember anything about my first trip my parent’s tell me that I used to charm the local ice cream man into giving me broken ice lollies and that I was absolutely terrified of the sea. I developed a pencent for pushing boys in to swimming pools and ate spaghetti on my third birthday.

Aged 3-8 Local holidays in the UK.

I had enough of the jet set lifestyle so we holidayed in the UK. I absolutely loved camping and roughing it and I had plenty of practice when we camped in North Wales (Betws y coed), the Isle of Skye in Scotland and other places in the UK. I was a very social side and loved Pontins and Butlins and was so lucky that I was able to get away so often.

Aged 8=Benidorm- Spain.

My second visit to Spain made me realise how much I love the sun. I loved swimming in the sea or pool and talking to other youngsters. I wore my hair in really cool tiny plaits that made every child around the pool jealous.

Aged 9=Calella- Catelonia

We travelled to Calella by coach and ferry. I remember it took 36 hours to get there but that figure may have been exaggerated over the years. It felt like we were travelling there and back for the same time that we were actually in Calella. It was a real test of my patience but I loved staring out of the coach window, admiring the changing landscape. Calella felt very ‘Spanish’ and I loved trying to communicate with local children and admiring the glamorous Spanish women at the Feria.

Aged 11-=Gran Canaria, Spain

We stayed in a hotel at the top of a hill with amazing views. The beach was rocky but I loved exploring with my sister. In hindsight the crowded bars decorated with neon bars remind me of Khao San road!

Aged 12=The Algarve, Portugal

I was astounded at Portuguese hospitality, so friendly and giving. We tried a lot of Portuguese food too which was delicious. I need to visit again sometime soon.

Aged 13= Benidorm, Spain

I went to Benidorm so many times I can’t remember how many times we went. This time was special because I gained a love of ssnorkelingbafter sailing to Peacock island and spending the day exploring the water with people from all around the world. I saw a massive moray ell which gave me a life long phobia!

Aged 14-=Lanzarote, Spain

Such a beautiful island. All of the hotels and complexes are low rise and most are painted white. I remember choosing what fish to have for dinner from a massive fish tank in the restaurant. I’ve never felt so cruel but the fish was delicious.

Aged 19=Ibiza, Spain

This was my first holiday with my ex boyfriend. I envisioned nights of dancing at the top clubs but couldn’t believe it when it was 50 euro just to get in a club! We went on a little cruise, sunbathed and explored. I had a wonderful time.

Aged 20=Salou, Spain

A short get away which included a day trip to Barcelona. I absolutely loved Las Ramblas and I’m embarrassed to say that we ate Burger King in Barcelona… Now I wouldn’t even dream of eating at Burger king when in Spain, land of delicious tapas!

Aged 21=Tenerife, Spain

We stayed in a private villa with my family and ex boyfriend. It was a lovely relaxed way of life and we ate in a delicious Italian restaurant most nights where they made us feel like family.  I went Tenerife the following year too, single .

Aged 23=Benidorm, Spain

I’m including Benidorm again because it was my first and only girly holiday with my sister. We spent the days partying in the clubs and bars and the days eating and sunbathing by the pool. Benidorm is famous for it’s strip shows and we were shocked when the stripper would just stride on to the dancefloor and start their act, sometimes trapping up so we couldn’t get away!

So there is the round up of my travel pre-sabbatical! Not mentioned was the many camping holidays and holidays to Benidorm interspersed between the others.

I’m so lucky I was given the opportunity to travel so much when I was younger, most friends of mine rarely went on holiday with their families, let alone multiple times a year like I did.

I learned to rough it, sometimes when we camped I would walk up a massive hill for our daily water. The bucket was our toilet and the river was our bath/beer cooler. My friends now can’t believe that I roughed it like that when I was a kid and when I was on my sabbatical because I look so polished and wear vintage clothes. I love not being what people expect me to be.

I learn’t life skills on holiday that I could never learn in school, language skills, communication skills, having the courage to try new food and develop a natural curiosity for the world. Without the life lessons I learn’t when I was younger I doubt I would have handled nursing myself through horrible Dengue fever in Thailand and coping with the crippling weakness afterwards.

The reason I didn’t travel from the ages of 23-25 was because I was single. My friends were not interested in travel and I didn’t realise that it was possible to go on holiday alone, let alone travel the world solo! I’m so glad I plucked up the courage to take a sabbatical, my quarter life crisis was the best thing that could have ever happened to me!

Travel has definitely changed and moulded me throughout the years, for the better!

Do my pre-sabbatical travels surprise you? Did you travel when you were young? Did you always want to travel or was forging a career your top priority like mine?

 

 

 

 

 

300 year old Feria in Linares, Litres of Beer and Botellion

feria, fiesta, Spain, Andalucia

I had the privilege of attending a Feria (Fiesta) in Linares, Andalucia. The Feria has been held every year for over 300 years. Even more of a privilege was to share this experience with my Spanish friends who actually lived in Linares where the feria was held!

There’s nothing better than travelling with locals!

I have never attended a Spanish feria but I knew that they have a reputation for being crazy!

The Spanish know how to party!

As we approached where the Feria was taking place I was astounded by the sheer size of the Feria! Scores of tents were at the very back of the Feria, each holding their own ‘party’ with different drinks being sold and different DJs playing a variety of different music. There was also a very busy fairground and massive crouds of people.

Mnay women were dressed in traditional Andalucian dress (commonly known as flemenco dresses!). They looked absolutely beautiful.

We made our way in to one of the ‘beer tents’ and our lovely Spanish companions treated us all to a strawberry mojito. The music was very loud and the tent was full of people. Such a party vibe. I think that myself and my American and Australian friends were the only non Spanish people in there. For that reason I felt a little uncomfortable because I look so different to Spanish girls, I am not small and petite and my red hair stood out. I felt like a giant compared to everyone else.

tent, feria, Spain

After a quick trip back to the hotel we met up later in our Spanish friends favourite tapas bar which sold massive 1 Litre jugs of beer/Sangria and 5 tapas for 6 Euros!

Yes you read that right! 6 Euros for all of that food and drink!

 

beer, sangria, Spain

Enjoying my LITRE of beer!

After lining our stomachs it was time to hit the feria for the second time! We made our way to the entrance of the feria but It was absolutely packed! It took ages to try and weave our way through the crowds so we decided to get a good vantage point from where to view the fireworks at midnight.

They did not dissapoint!

The fireworks started at midnight and Spanish, English and American music was played during the display. We managed to get some beautiful photos and it was a beautiful memory. It was especially poignant when ‘what a wonderful world’ by Louis Armstrong was playing. It highlighted how happy I was and how blessed I was to have experiences like these.

feria1

 

It truly is a wonderful world.

 

After the fireworks we headed to a friends house to get the alcohol for Botellion. Botellion is a Spanish tradition which is basically drinking on the street! People drink on the street in England but it is usually not as refined as the Spanish way. We got Rum, Coke, ice and glasses for the Botellion. I would never have thought that I would be drinking on the street from a glass with ice….

The Botellion was held in a local park which was absolutely full of people, all drinking. Surprisingly there was no trouble and quite a relaxed and chilled out vibe amongst the revellers.

bot1

 

botellion, Spain, Spanish

 

Again it was a privilege to participate in Botellion, something that I had heard a lot about from Candeleda. Unfortunately we could only stay for one drink because we had to leave early in the morning for Valencia. I would have loved to have stayed all night with the Spaniards though.

Maybe next time…

 

Have you ever attended a Spanish Feria/Fiesta? If so what was it like?

 

 

 

An unexpected road trip to Linares!

trip1

On the last night in Candeleda we had a disco. I looked around at all of the people in the room and thought about how close we had all became during that past week and how upset I would be if I never saw them again. Giselle then came up to me and asked how I felt about going to Linares with herself and Bev the next day to visit our Spanish friends and attend the 300 year old Feria!

I was definately up for that!

After bidding our goodbyes to everyone we headed to El Corte Ingles to rent a car. Luckily one of our Spanish mates was on hand to help us with his local knowledge because finding the place to pick up the car was hard!

After going up and down many escalators and metro journeys we finally found the rental car. An Audi no less! We decided that Giselle would be the best person to drive because myself and Bev are used to driving on the left. (The correct way…)

 

After driving in circles for what felt like hours whilst we were trying to leave the complex roads of Madrid, we were finally on our way to Southern Spain!

Andalusia here we come!

As we were driving, the sun was setting. It produced the most beautiful colours and shapes that contrasted with the Spanish landscape. Although we were tired adrenaline kept us going and the excitement of travelling to a place so different than anything I had experienced before.

Real Spain!

skyred

 

 

On the way we stopped off at a cafe situated at the side of the motorway. I won’t lie, I felt a little intimidated when we walked in. We were the only non Spanish there. We ordered Tortilla de Patata and had a welcome rest. The cafe didn’t just sell food, no,  it also sold a delectable selection of knives and hunting paraphernalia! As if we wern’t intimidated enough!

Rested and refueled we then continued the long drive to Linares. We arrived at the beautiful hotel and promptly fell asleep.

We needed the rest to prepare for the excitement filled days ahead….

 

 

 

 

Losing my inhibitions by being provocative in a play

walkway1

Each night in Candeleda we attended an assembly where the master of ceremonies talked about the day, future plans and there was also some entertainment. The entertainment varied and we enjoyed talks, presentations and theatre. The role plays and theatre helped the Spaniards develop their English skills by applying them in a different setting. This really increased their confidence in spoken English! Everyone was pushed out of their comfort zone at Pueblo Ingles,

And I loved it!

On the last night I was asked to take part in the big end of the week play! I was even told that I was specially picked for the part! My character was the racy mistress of Carlos and I had to act out some provocative scenes, even one where passion takes control of us in the restaurant and we ‘look to Cuenca’…. ahem. (Special Candeleda inside joke!)

We all took the play very seriously, and I had the injuries to prove it!

Some scenes were so active/racy that I had to wear shorts under my dress!

Despite my reservations I thoroughly enjoyed starring in the play. It brought back latent yearnings to be an actress and reignited my passion for drama! I was surprised and eletated to have some positive reviews on my performance that night! Some people even said that I should become an actress. I wouldn’t go that far personally but it was nice to know how satisfying thing can be when you have passion for something. My confidence increased dramatically because of this and I realised that life is too short to be shy…

Just go for it!

Starring in a commercial on another day.

Visiting the sleepy town of Candeleda and a Bee museum

beehive1

The hotel that we stayed at was a few miles away from civilisation. All that surrounded us was beautiful mountains, lush greenery and a few nearby farms. One day I took a bike ride to the surrounding countryside and found many charming farms full of cute sheep and goats. I think we were based in such an isolated area so that we had no distractions, (Apart from the very attractive barman, Mario…).

One day instead of the usual heavy workload of  teaching English via group activities and one to ones we were treated to a mini day trip!

To a Bee museum….

Most of the group were not expecting much from the Bee museum even though the Anglos who went the previous week said that it was a fairly interesting experience!

olive groves

 

 

Olive groves surrounded the museum

After hiking upthe hill to the museum we made our way into the main room of the museum ad were suprised (and slightly scared!

to see gigantic bee hives in the centre of the room!

bee hive

Luckily they were behind glass… Thick glass!

 

Suprisingly, the bee-keeper who owned the museum did not speak English. This startled me because it was actually forbidden to speak English this week because It’s supposed to be an English immersion programme. I was also wondering how I was going to understand a complex talk about bees in Spanish. I know the basics but come on!

My fears were unfounded because the Spaniards on the course translated the bee-keepers talk from Spanish in to English. This was no mean feat because the talk was very complex and talked about the anatomy and physiology of the bees. The Spaniards did really well at translating (Especially a girl who was a biologist!) and I felt really proud!

Suprisingly the bees did not sting anyone, even when the Bee-keeper and a member of staff went inside the hive room! They seemed more interested in working had to create these massive bee hives, a wonder of nature!

oldhive

 

 

 

An old style bee hive

 

Candeleda town

After buying far too much honey related products in the gift shop we were whisked to the quaint town of Candeleda. The town semed very sleepy and did not have many tourists so a bus load of people of various ages from all around the world and all wearing fetching name tags caused quite a stir!

 

I the centre of the square was a fountain. The man above sat beside the fountain and wet his hat in the water to keep his head cool in the summer sun! A Spanish friend of mine told me that this was quite common and proceded to do this herself!

We didn’t have much time in the town but we sauntered around the narrow streets, soaking up traditional Spanish culture! I loved the colours of the town. Everything was really delicate and pretty. I imagined that the people who lived in this town had always lived there and knew everyone, and everyones business!

fountain, Candeleda, Spain

 

Spot the Old Spanish guy behind me!

 

My Spanish friend Ana informed me that many Spanish streets are narrow to ensure that the street is always covered in shadow to keep the houses cool! What a good idea and something that I never though of!

narrow streets

 

townhall

Town hall

casade

 

An absolutely beautiful building covered in flowers! That’s my type of building!

flores

 

 

group

old

I marvelled at how old the buildings were, this bough above was bowing! (That’s a good tongue twister/complicated sentence for the Spaniards!)

 

Before long we then had to make our way back to the hotel to teach English to amazing friends in the sun.

 

Have you ever travelled to a small Spanish town? If so what did you notice?

 

 

Enjoying a BBQ at Sunset and Spanish dancing skills!

sunset, Spain

The Anglos and Spaniards were no longer strangers, they were friends. I’ve never had such a close bond with such an eclectic group of people before. We were all excited to let our hair down and enjoy a few drinks together at our first party night in Candeleda!

Everyone dressed up in their finest clothes and it was a welcome restbite from the hectic scedule. Tables were set outside and we enjoyed Spainish food such as ‘blood sausage’ and the wine flowed freely!

The sunset was beautiful and the sky was a vivid shade of crimson

sunset, Spain, Candeleda

 

The crimson sunset

S

Sitting at a table with my sickeningly beautiful Spanish friends!

After the BBQ there was a disco in the bar area. At first they placed some typical English/American songs and no one was really dancing. Suddenly a Spanish/Latin song came on and the Spaniards (Especially the men!) came to life!

They were amazing dancers and danced with such passion, drama and finess! The group from Seville were dancing ‘Sevillianas’ and I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They couldn’t be more different to English guys! I learn’t later that many Spaniards learn traditional dance at School. Lucky things!

I was lucky enough to dance with a few Spanish men and I tried to shake off my British reserve and shake my hips to the music!

I made a mental note never to arkwardly shuffle on the dancefloor when I could shake my hips and really feel the music!

 

bev

Myself and Bev (The amazing Aussie!)

dancing

I was having the time of my life!

It was at this moment that I decided that I wanted to be Spanish….


Experiencing traditional Spanish Queimada

Queimada_Conjuro1

Fire blazed in the darkness, our faces illuminated in the cool night air. I felt a breeze across my neck and heard faint cackling coming from behind me. I turned aroud at lightening speed to see Witches surrounding us, uttering a Galician spell as the strong smell of alcohol burnt my nostril.

No I was not in a horror movie, I was about to experience traditional Spanish Queimada!

The masters of ceremonies at Pueblo Ingles kept maiing hints towards ‘Queimada’. Most of the Anglos had no idea what he was going on about but a few of the Spaniards had an inkling; they kept it quiet so not to spoil the suprise.

Queimada is a Galician tradition. Galicia is an autonomous community in NorthWest Spain and it even has its own language, Galician!

Queimada is a very alcoholic punch made from Galician augardente and flavoured with fruits, herbs, lemon peel, sugar and even coffee!

File:Queimada.jpg

Many ingredients can be used for Queimada

When the master of ceremonies was preparing the punch in a large bowl, a member of staff and some fellow Anglos and Spaniards suprised us by coming out from no where dressed as witches! They recited a traditional spell whilst looking as creepy as possible! The spell ensures that those drinking the queimada get ‘special powers’ from it and that any bad spirits are scared away! Oooooh!

File:Queimada fuego.jpg

Queimada has an unusual blue flame whilst it’s being prepared

It was all very alian for me but I relished taking part in a Spanish tradition.

The punch itself was Very alcoholic! Even sniffing it brought tears to my eyes! I persevered and drank a glass or two. I am English after all! An American friend called Max drank 6 cups of the stuff; suprisingly he could still walk after!

What a fun experience!

The Spell that is read out during the preparation of Queimada!

In Galician language In English

Mouchos, curuxas, sapos e bruxas.

Demos, trasgos e diaños,

espíritos das neboadas veigas.

Corvos, píntegas e meigas:

feitizos das menciñeiras.

Podres cañotas furadas,

fogar dos vermes e alimañas.

Lume das Santas Compañas,

mal de ollo, negros meigallos,

cheiro dos mortos, tronos e raios.

Ouveo do can, pregón da morte;

fuciño do sátiro e pé do coello.

Pecadora lingua da mala muller

casada cun home vello.

Averno de Satán e Belcebú,

lume dos cadáveres ardentes,

corpos mutilados dos indecentes,

peidos dos infernais cus,

muxido da mar embravecida.

Barriga inútil da muller solteira,

falar dos gatos que andan á xaneira,

guedella porca da cabra mal parida.

Con este fol levantarei

as chamas deste lume

que asemella ao do Inferno,

e fuxirán as bruxas

a cabalo das súas vasoiras,

índose bañar na praia

das areas gordas.

¡Oíde, oíde! os ruxidos

que dan as que non poden

deixar de queimarse no augardente

quedando así purificadas.

E cando este beberaxe

baixe polas nosas gorxas,

quedaremos libres dos males

da nosa alma e de todo embruxamento.

Forzas do ar, terra, mar e lume,

a vós fago esta chamada:

se é verdade que tendes máis poder

que a humana xente,

eiquí e agora, facede que os espíritos

dos amigos que están fóra,

participen con nós desta Queimada.

Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.

Demons, goblins and devils,

spirits of the misty vales.

Crows, salamanders and midges,

charms of the folk healer(ess).

Rotten pierced canes,

home of worms and vermin.

Wisps of the Holy Company,

evil eye, black witchcraft,

scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.

Howl of the dog, omen of death,

maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.

Sinful tongue of the bad woman

married to an old man.

Satan and Beelzebub’s Inferno,

fire of the burning corpses,

mutilated bodies of the indecent ones,

farts of the asses of doom,

bellow of the enraged sea.

Useless belly of the unmarried woman,

speech of the cats in heat,

dirty turf of the wicked born goat.

With this bellows I will pump

the flames of this fire

which looks like that from Hell,

and witches will flee,

straddling their brooms,

going to bathe in the beach

of the thick sands.

Hear! Hear the roars

of those that cannot

stop burning in the firewater,

becoming so purified.

And when this beverage

goes down our throats,

we will get free of the evil

of our soul and of any charm.

Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,

to you I make this call:

if it’s true that you have more power

than people,

here and now, make the spirits

of the friends who are outside,

take part with us in this Queimada.

 

My first solo Adventure….to Spain!

I have never really had wanderlust until recently. I have always been fairly independant and I loved going abroad but I preferred to go on holiday with other people.  I felt that it was unsafe to travel alone, I was also scared that I would end up making misakes, missing buses ect and that I would be bored and lonely.
How wrong was I!

It was  late June  when I read a blog post (www.baconismagic.com) about a place in Spain where you can help Spaniards learn English through a language immersion programme. It sounded like the perfect holiday for a solo traveller and an interesting way to help get experience for any TEFL jobs that I wish to apply for in the future!

So I applied and was nearly immediately accepted (They must have thought that I have had quite an interesting life beasuse I listed all of my 1043 hobbies…) Initially I was over the moon but after taking some time to digest the thought I felt very nervous. I thought ‘what if I don’t like the place’, ‘what if I don’t like the people’. I then booked my flights to Madrid and decided to spend some days exploring Madrid after the weeks course. Even if I was alone Madrid seemed like the perfect place to explore with its amazing bars, museums, art galleries and parks!

A few days before the trip I decided to take just hand luggage. People who know me will know that I do not tend to travel light so it took quite a lot of work deciding on my capsule wardrobe for 2 weeks in Spain! I was unable to take any of my beloved vintage clothes too in case my shampoo exploded in my case son the day there.

But here I was, at Liverpool airport ready to board the plane. I had booked and arranged everything myself and I felt terribly proud. I had booked a hostel for the first night in Madrid and even decided to navigate the metro rather than take the easy option of a taxi from the airport! I felt so independant and free as I stepped on the plane.
I was doing it! I was going on holiday alone!

Goodbye Liverpool!

Madrid here I come!!

Seats with the most legroom on the flight! Nearly missing your flight does have it’s advantages!
When was your first solo travel experience? Were you scared or did you relish the feeling of the unknown?