(Originally for Platform Magazine) My first printed piece in Nottingham Trent University’s Platform Magazine (March 2013).
(Now Finally I Feel Madrileña) Two weeks ago marked the seven month anniversary of my move to Madrid. Coincidentally, the very same day marked exactly two months since I’d posted anything on here and all of a sudden I felt … Continue reading
It’s been a little over one month since I landed back in Madrid for the second part of my year abroad and it’s already been hectic and eventful. To say that I threw myself straight into the deep end would … Continue reading
(Originally for Third Year Abroad) In previous posts I’ve been a little hard on my new home and I’d just like to point out that Spain really is not that bad. Sí, the Spanish are horrendous with money, but so … Continue reading
The school that I work in is pretty awesome and, when I hear about how horrendous other people’s are, I feel so lucky. It’s not rough, it’s not posh and it’s not too big; it’s the ‘baby bear’ of placements. … Continue reading
The year abroad is like a new relationship with an exotic foreign boy/girl/man/woman [delete as appropriate]. It’s exciting, romantic, mysterious and completely different to anything in your life that came before. I am not having a love affair with a … Continue reading
It’s so typical of my life that, at the same time as I’m planning and booking several trips to the Middle East, crap has gone back to hit the fan. In the coming two and half months I have trips … Continue reading
In Madrid there’s no such thing as ‘cardigan weather’, at least not for longer than a week. Spring, autumn? Forget it. All you get served up here is the kind of heat that makes you want to tear off your skin, and the kind of cold that is only acceptable at Christmas when you’re carolling round the fire (does anyone actually do that these days?). It’s just got cold here, and somehow it went from leather jacket weather to full-blown coat, scarf and gloves weather in literally 48 hours, and when I went out a couple of Saturdays ago I could barely feel my nose. This is SPAIN for goodness sake; I haven’t seen a single palm tree or golden beach in the eight weeks I’ve been here. Granted, I couldn’t be more slap bang in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula if I tried, but it’s disappointing nonetheless when stereotypes are not reinforced.
In Spain there has just been a long 4 day bank holiday weekend and, motivated by homesickness and ageing family members, I decided to take a trip back to the UK. For a couple of weeks leading up to the trip I’d felt completely miserable and isolated until one day I decided that enough was enough and blew over £200/200€ with easyJet. The sly gits, knowing that it was a bank holiday in some of Europe, put their prices up for this particular weekend so the flights cost me double what it did for the ones that I booked for Christmas! Thank god I booked the latter ones waaaaaaayyyy in advance.
Anyway, 4am on Halloween arrived and I was stumbling around my room in the dark attempting to look presentable and to remember my passport. 5am came and I was on a bus full of equally knackered-looking Spaniards, all of us headed for the airport , and by 6 I was already sat on the floor in departures watching House on my Mac – I mean what better way is there to kill time in an airport at el crac o’ dawn? If you’ve never been to Barajas airport then there’s really only one word to describe it: fuckingmassive (yeah yeah, I know). As the bus pulled into terminal one I practically fell out and straight through the revolving airport doors as I wrestled with my suitcase, hand luggage and sheer exhaustion much to the nuisance of the other disgruntled travellers who all seemed to be perfectly poised for the situation. Once I’d pulled myself together and made it inside with the last shred of my dignity I realised that I had absolutely no clue where the hell my check in desk was, and after walking what seemed like miles I was finally blinded by about the same length of the luminous orange roping I’d been seeking – hallelujah!
Over in departures the boarding call came and I lost my final shred of dignity and composure as I bolted, arms and hand luggage flailing, to gate B26 batting Spanish men, women and children out of the way as I went. My love for Britain (not a nationalist P.S…) and excitement for going home had become too much and I simply HAD TO BE first on that beautiful orange plane. As fate would have it I was sixth in the queue which isn’t too shabby at all, and I got my seat just a few rows from the front to ensure as early a cuppa as possible. Hidden amongst the Spanish majority on the plane, I was all snuggled up in my snood, with my book, cup of tea and pot of porridge – an almost perfect stereotype. Upon departure I admired the snow-capped mountains which skim the capital of Spain and by the end of the flight I was gazing down at miles upon miles of green fields, trees and cows. I was home. Well not really because I still had a 4 hour train journey to make, but you know what I mea
The rest of the day was tiring and spent mostly travelling, save for the couple of hours I was afforded to spend with a good friend in London. I hopped (as elegantly as one can with massive suitcase and handbag in tow) onto a train from Gatwick to St. Pancras and admired the sights of our capital as I went. Even in the freezing cold and with a skyline clouded by cranes, London is beautiful. By the time I hit central I was dire need of more caffeine, so nowhere could have been better placed than the Starbucks I stumbled upon, and nothing could have prepared me for the problem that I was about to stumble into… I couldn’t understand the barista! I told her my order and she reeled off the usual questions which I assume were ‘drink in or take out?’ and ‘would you like cream on that?’, but I could not for the life of me understand what she was saying. In Spain that’s a daily occurrence which I’ve become accustomed to, but in my home country and my mother tongue this was quite confusing. So when I heard ‘dirbf wiry tjajeio titt?’ and ‘wiofyf cfhjeya?’ I managed to muster up a flustered ‘err drink in’ and ‘yes please’. (What is my life coming to?) By the time I’d got to the King’s Cross Prêt à Manger things were running a bit more smoothly. I’d caught up with the pace at which London moves and finally learnt to understand a native English accent, so after a quick bite and a chat I was ready and raring to get on with getting home.
The rest of my week in England was pretty relaxed and spent mostly catching up with old friends and close family, as well as pigging out on my fave Brit snacks! It was an endless 5 day feast of Walkers crisps, McVite’s biscuits, pub lunches, Nando’s and of course my mum threw in a good old Patak’s curry! The trains were on time, appointments were adhered to, it was completely freezing cold and wet, and I loved it. It was home :)
On the Saturday night I topped off my trip by heading to Nottingham to visit my old flatmates and friends from uni who aren’t doing a placement year. It felt so strange being a guest of people I’d lived with for two years, but after about an hour I was already helping myself to the contents of their cupboards and nail polish collection. It felt so right being back with them, like I belonged, and it felt like I should be there for the year! It was so hard to say goodbye to them, even more so than to my family, because I know that things will never again be how they were in first and second year and I think that’s been the hardest thing for me to adjust to this year. Nonetheless off we trotted, true Trenters, to Ocean for Climax and we had a totally awesome night. It was completely hilarious and care-free and of course no night in Ocean would be complete without crappy VK, the lone middle-aged pervert (how do they get into student nights?!) and the guy in the carrier-bag nappy gawping at wasted freshers making out in the middle of the dance floor. 4am kebabs, perving on freshers in Coco Tang, late night last minute essay writing, and making stupid X Factor videos (and screaming when we actually get on TV); I miss my uni life and the people I’ve shared it with <3
Somedays I step out of my flat and I may as well be wearing a Union Jack trench coat complete with matching bowler hat and Queen Elizabeth II mask, and throw in a Beatles tribute band to follow me around … Continue reading
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Last week I was feeling a bit down and not fully into the whole Spanish/year abroad thing. “You have been quiet this week” my flatmate said to me which, for anyone that knows me, is not a thing often said about me. … Continue reading
When I first got here I didn’t get to do a lot of touristy stuff as I had to go to training and had loads of other stuff to sort such as bank accounts, sim cards, travel cards and filling my fridge, but once that was all done it was time to enjoy the sunshine, and boy was there a lot of sunshine. Aside from week two which may as well have been monsoon season in some freezing rainforest, the first month here was hot hot, so after the chores I donned my summer clothes (much to the bemusement of the Spanish folk) and went to do touristy things! My favourite place in Madrid by far is Parque del Retiro. It’s so beautiful in the summer and is full of trees and ice cream stalls, and there’s even a lake where you row boats for the bargain price of around 4€ for 45 mins. The 4€ is per boat, not person, and you can fit up to four people in a boat (maybe five if one or two of said people are children). Here’s me trying out for Team GB…
If you’re a French tourist you may wish to follow suit of those who came before you and dress up for the occasion as sailors…
Another really awesome place is the El Rastro flea market which takes place every Sunday in La Latina. The place is full of kitschy jewellery and bags, band tshirts, incense stalls, art stalls, poster printers, fabrics and wall hangings, books, DVDs and the occasional antique. I’ve bought bracelets, rings, a little Spanish dish for my hair grips, a painting of some wandering camels and a beautiful string of coloured silk elephants which are now hanging from my curtain rail. I love this market and the busy Spanish atmosphere there but BEWARE. El Rastro is pickpocketter’s paradise. Only take with you what’s necessary, use a bag which is fiddly to open and keep a firm grasp on it at ALL times. The same goes for pockets… As long as you keep your wits about you and don’t advertise yourself as a tourist you should be A-OK!
One other must is the Teleférico, a cable car which provides amazing views over the city, across the countryside and towards the mountains. You can take a one way trip which costs around 3€ and lasts 11 minutes, or you can do a return trip for around 5€ where they make you get off and walk through the gift shop before getting back on for the return journey. So sly, so sly.
Last Thursday I came to the end of my first week working as an English Language Assistant in a Madrid primary school, and I LOVED it. The first thing that struck me was how much we’re getting paid for the … Continue reading
In the UK and US vegetarians are spoiled rotten. Vegetarianism is, for the most part, a non-issue, but there are of course the few carnivores out there who seem to be offended by their friends’ herbivorous diets – no one’s … Continue reading
Last weekend my flatmate and I went on a trip to Segovia (Castilla y León) for the bargain price of 20€! The trip was run by the Erasmus Madrid Agency who organise trips to other cities in Spain for Erasmus students staying in Madrid. (You can check out their Facebook page here.)
The coach was supposed to leave from the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (the home of Real Madrid) at 10am on Saturday morning, but of course we left late – the Spanish have no concept of time! When we eventually arrived in Segovia (the coach journey only took about 1hr30mins) it was a beautiful sunny day! The first hour was spent visiting the incredible Roman Aqueduct and taking a gazillion group photos. After a mini tour of the area we had about 3 hours of free time, so naturally Lena and I sat out in the sun and drank sangria to our hearts’ content (and tried not to share it with the local wasp population!)
Once we’d ll supped up it was time for more visits. First we took a wander around the beautiful cathedral of Segovia where we heard endless tales from one of our Spanish guides about how his English girlfriend broke his heart. (Why did we have to mention which uni we went to!?) The cathedral was very lovely and even had an inner courtyard, but if you’ve seen one then you’ve seen most of them – with a few exceptions of course! We tried to tag along with a Spanish tour but skulked away with our tales between our legs after only managing to understand a few words in each sentence! I really need to join a tandem session…
Next up was the castle! The alcázar de Segovia, which wouldn’t look out of place in Bavaria. It looks like something out of a Disney film and supposedly provided inspiration for the one in Snow White. We paid an extra 2€ on our tickets to be able to go to the top of tower, however after a day of walking, walking and more walking, we decided to give the stairs of death a miss. Besides, the views from the walls around the castle had amazing views anyway! The rest of the castle was lovely though and provided a few costume ideas for when return to uni next year. (Ahem, Ocean, ahem, knights in armour).
After visiting the castle we had 4 and half more hours of free time! How did we spend it? Stupid question…
Several hours and glasses of sangria later we met up with the rest of the Erasmus group to go to “the biggest club in town!” Granted, it probably was the biggest club in town, but bigger isn’t necessarily better. For a Saturday night it was DESERTED, but we made the best we could out of a pretty rubbish situation. The problem over here for many Erasmus students is that the Spanish body clock seems to tick in a completely different way. Their day starts just as early as the next nationality’s, but it ends way later with meals taking place at absurd times. Over here a night out starts around midnight-1am and doesn’t end until 6-7am and this had clearly taken its toll. Along one side of the main dance floor was a line of huge leather sofas, and all along these huge leather sofas snoozed two dozen exhausted Erasmus students who had given up on the night.
All in all it was a pretty good trip, but I would seriously suggest going to bed early the night before any of these, wearing comfy shoes and packing plenty of water! If you decide to make the journey of your own accord, regular trains run between Madrid and Segovia and only take half an hour.
For more on Segovia check out Patterns of Segovia.
I have been in Madrid for almost a week now and, I have to say, it’s an incredible place. I haven’t had much opportunity to explore as I’ve been crazy busy, but I like what I’ve seen. The Spanish are … Continue reading
I have been very fortunate in that I know another student from my uni who has already been working in Madrid during the summer, and I was offered a room to rent in the flat she’s in – but not … Continue reading
This time next week I’ll be on a flight to Madrid! The time has flown by so quickly since the beginning of the application process last November and now I’m actually leaving! I arrive on Monday and fortunately I have … Continue reading
I am currently sat on the floor in a corner of Lyon Saint Exupéry Airport at the end of the first chapter of my year abroad. I spent the weekend visiting my friend in Paris who is doing a 6 month work placement with HSBC on the Champs-Elysées. I visited Paris last summer with some friends from uni so this wasn’t really a sightseeing tour; however this time I did visit the Sacré-Cœur which was a new sight for me. We also spent some time sunbathing on the grass banks of the fountain below Place du Trocadéro and staring up at the Eiffel tower (which has almost certainly been repainted since last summer).
Today I decided that, as I probably won’t be in Paris at any point within the next two years, it would be a good idea to carry out some active research for my dissertation by visiting places pertaining to the Holocaust in France, and particularly to La Rafle du Vel d’Hiv. Firstly I visited the Monument du Vel d’Hiv. It has recently been the 70th anniversary of this horrendous act of collaboration at the hands of the French state and there were flowers at the monument including some from Le Président de la République.
Later I visited Memorial de la Shoah which is a museum documenting the Holocaust in France and Europe. The museum is protected by iron fencing, x-ray machines and full-body scanners. At first I was alarmed by the intense security. Who would target a tiny museum in a quiet quarter of Paris? But it’s not simply a museum; it’s a Jewish museum. It’s really sad that, at this day in age, such precautions are still necessary and that people, regardless of race or religion, feel so threatened.
Today is the last day of my time as an au-pair and it’s been an interesting experience. My time here has prepared me for the move to Spain in so many ways. I’ve overcome homesickness, language barriers and culture shock, … Continue reading
For the year abroad I had the option of undertaking either a study placement, a self-sourced work placement or a language assistantship. I opted to do the language assistantship and began the application process back in November. The application is … Continue reading
Two activities which are favourites of the kids are baking cakes and watching Katy Perry videos. Sometimes we have to listen to Katy Perry while we bake. I’ve tried to introduce them to new music (I’ve tried the Spice Girls, S Club 7), but it always comes back Katy. T has even taken to referring to the two of us as big Katy and little Katy, like in the Wide Awake video.
Every week they want a new create a new culinary delight and, I have to be honest, they’re pretty good! They do all the measuring, mixing and decorating; I just pop it in and out of the oven. Mostly they make Victoria sponges, but at they weekend they also made fairy cakes. I swear they’re trying to fatten me up before my holiday!
Here is one of their mini masterpieces…
Every morning there’s a different battle between T and I; sometimes it’s to do with bathing, sometimes breakfast, sometimes clothes, but I don’t think she’s simply being difficult. For these children it’s difficult to understand that although their mummy is … Continue reading