feliz cumpleaños

Today I received a notification telling me that today is the first anniversary of this blog. So although I have so far failed to write my follow-up post about Seville, I decided that my blog birthday would be a good reason to post.

When I first started this blog I was unemployed and had time on my hands. I wanted to channel my excess time and energy into something fun and creative. But no sooner had I decided to start my blog than I got a job offer! This means that something which I originally started as a way to pass the time has been something I have to fit in when I get a spare moment, which isn’t often! I’ve now been in my current role for nearly a year and I really love it. The experience I’ve gained and the opportunities I’ve been given since I joined have really helped me to develop and grow as a professional. Six months ago I went on a course for new employees, where we spent three days listening to people from different departments giving presentations on what they do. Today I attended the course again, but this time I was one of the speakers. Experiences like this make me feel as though I’m really moving forward with my career at the moment, and that the people I work with are supporting me in that. Another new thing I have started this year is a master’s degree. This is something I have always wanted to do, and earlier this year I started to think it would be possible to study at the same time as working. Luckily my boss has been really supportive, and I’m now working flexible hours to enable me to attend classes. Since my holiday to Spain I have also been really keen on improving my language skills, and my mum and I have decided to start having Spanish lessons together. I’ll keep you updated on how that goes!

When I think about all the different things I’m trying to achieve at the moment, it’s hardly surprising that sometimes I go for long periods of time without blogging. I don’t think this will ever be a serious blog, but it’s something I enjoy doing when I get the time, and when I feel like I have something to say. I like knowing that people are reading, and it’s always a good feeling when someone likes or comments on one of my posts.

I also find it really interesting to see where people are reading from. Here’s the world map of people who have stopped by over the past year:

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Obviously most people who read this are in English speaking countries, and I also get a lot of views from France, which isn’t that surprising as I post a lot about France. But sometimes I look at my stats and think, “Wow, someone in Nicaragua looked at this!” and it’s a little bit mind-blowing. (In a good way!)

So, whoever you are, and wherever you are, thank you for reading!

discovering seville

Olivier and I spent eight days in Seville. If I’m honest, they were quite lazy days. You could probably cover most of what we saw in a long weekend, but we preferred to take things at a slower pace. In the mornings we got up, had breakfast at the bar across the road, did some sightseeing and then went for lunch, before spending our afternoons soaking up the sun by the pool. And that was just fine with us. We hadn’t had a proper holiday for a while and we wanted it to be relaxing!

On the third day I forced Olivier to get out of bed so that we could go on a free walking tour. They’re run by a company called “Feel the City” and the idea is that afterwards you give a donation if you want to. The guides did a roundup of tourists from lots of different hotels and then we were divided into groups by language. We joined the francophone group and were led around the city by Angela, a lovely Spanish girl from Seville, who had studied French at university.

Here’s a little of what we saw…

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One of the main streets in Seville, with a mix of ancient and modern architecture.

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The world-famous cathedral. The Giralda (bell tower) in the left of this picture is the former minaret of a mosque which stood on the site when Andalusia was a Muslim region. The tower is the oldest part of the cathedral, and dates from the 12th century. The rest of the cathedral was built in the 15th century, as the city was conquered by the Castilians in the 13th century and had come under Catholic rule.

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This is a view of the Cathedral through the west door. This door, like the tower, was also part of the ancient mosque. If you look closely you might be able to see the distinctly non-European decoration on the inner arches. The door was left standing and incorporated into the Catholic cathedral, where it was renamed the “Door of Forgiveness”, symbolising its “conversion” from Islam to Christianity. (Ouch!)

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This Latin graffiti is hundreds of years old and was daubed on the walls by students in bulls’ blood to ensure that it couldn’t be washed off. More permanent than a permanent marker! (I wish I could remember what it says, but unfortunately I can’t!)

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This building is another extremely old corner of the city; it has been a bakery since 1385! (Although I believe it has been renovated since then!)

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The whole city is full of colourful winding streets which I absolutely loved.

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As we walked along the Guadalquivir river, the sky turned an ominous shade of grey, and seconds later the heavens opened. We took shelter under the trees, but within ten minutes we all looked as though we’d got in the shower fully-clothed! Luckily we found a shop selling cheap umbrellas, and persevered! The walking tour finished at Plaza de España, an incredibly beautiful place which I shall save for another post!

As the weather had taken a fairly dramatic turn, Olivier and I took shelter in a cafe and had thick hot chocolate with churros whilst waiting for it to pass. Luckily it brightened up again later and we had a sunny afternoon by the pool before going out for tapas in the evening.

To be continued…

pépère el gato

I’m writing this from our hotel room in sunny Seville. We’ve been here since Friday and I have fallen in love with Spain.

We only booked our trip a week before we left, but I made an effort to learn some Spanish. I’m glad I did, because a little goes a long way! I learnt French and German at school. I’m now fluent in French (mostly thanks to my time as an au pair and being with Olivier) and have forgotten almost all my German (use it or lose it). I never learned Spanish at school though.

Before I left I spent about a week learning a few words and phrases, mostly using Memrise and Duolingo. (More on these later, as I can feel a language-related post coming up.) I wasn’t sure how much use a few words of Spanish would be, but I’ve been genuinely surprised at how far it’s got us. I can’t say very much, but I understand most of what people say to me. On previous visits to Spain I’ve been surprised about how little English most people speak, even those who work in hotels and restaurants. That’s not meant to sound arrogant, it’s just that in most places I’ve travelled to, everyone seems to speak pretty good English and it’s difficult to get people to speak to you in their language. One thing I’ve noticed about Spanish people is that if you try to speak to them in Spanish, they don’t automatically try to speak back to you in English, but they generally speak a bit slower and they don’t seem to mind at all when you make mistakes. I feel a lot more comfortable having a go at speaking Spanish here than I do trying to speak the local language in many other places. (And don’t even get me started on the Parisians… You have to be pretty much fluent before they will stop replying to you in English!)

When I get back to London next week I’ll be a student again, as I’m about to start a part-time masters degree whilst working full-time. I don’t know whether I’ll have any hours left in the day, but if I do I think I might sign up to Spanish classes with the university. Watch this space…

In the mean time, I’ll leave you with some pictures of Seville and the promise of a proper post when I get home!

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