The Afternoon of Friday 27th of March

After one of the longest grammar and then reading lessons of my life, I could finally rush off home to finish putting the last few things in my bag, get some lunch and get the two trolleybuses to the train station. On the train, the ride didn’t begin so smoothly- I had unknowingly put my coat on top of an old lady’s cake (it was most definitely not obviously a cake, as she claimed) and she was most unhappy about this. She carried on tutting and cursing when I said I didn’t know what she saying, as I later found out she hadn’t understood I wasn’t Russian. I suppose she thought I was just a bit simple. She was a mean little lady, and who puts a cake in a luggage rack anyway?

I was sat next to two Uzbek boys, about my age if I remember rightly, and we made attempts at chatting for quite a while. It was good practise, and one of them spoke semi-tangible English, which helped at points. Things quietened down however, when they showed me a video on their phones that seemed to be demonstrating how Islam is innately within every person- different symbols resembling different parts of the body and such. I think I complemented the background music, and tried to change the subject, but then they started asking me if I believed in God.

This isn’t an easy debate to have with people you don’t know in English; let alone in Russian when you have an active vocabulary of about 200 words. I was hating every single minute of it and kept glancing down at War and Peace, hoping they would take the hint. But they did not, and my attempts to explain that I chose not to continue going to church, that I didn’t feel a need to assign myself to a faith, and that I was happy and grateful for the world around me but I didn’t think that this was due to any ‘person’ in particular, only seemed to rile them further. I genuinely felt like their attitudes towards me changed from the moment I said that I didn’t believe in God. I can’t work out if it was just that, or maybe because I said ‘ne nada’, which may translate in some situations as ‘no need’, but I really couldn’t think of another way to put it. Despite the language barrier, I would hope that having previously had a pleasant conversation with them would have meant that they understood any abruptness or directness was due to a lack of words- not respect. And having said initially that although I don’t believe, this didn’t equal a lack of respect for those who do, it really infuriated me that they kept pushing their argument on me, as if I was suddenly going to say ‘oh actually- yes you’re right! I am here because of Allah.’ They can have that capital A on me.

Four hours is a long train journey as it is, and after that last half-hour I practically ran off the train. I knew that the logistics of meeting Joel weren’t going to be easy, especially as English to Russian mobile contact is pricey enough, not taking into account that it’s practically doubled when in Moscow.

However, things turned out surprisingly well. It wasn’t that I had doubted Joel’s ability to get out of the airport and on to the train, I just know all too well how downright unhelpful some Russians can be, especially in ticket-buying situations. But when I arrived at the metro stop, I crossed over to the train station, and only had to wait 10 minutes before he arrived. Even then he had to wait for me to find my way out of departures and come round to the arrivals section…

After asking the way to the hostel once, we found it quite easily. It was a modern, recently renovated building with a helpful owner and all the usual things you’d expect. Apart from curtain hooks…but our DIY skills soon fixed that. I remember it was almost just the same as the first night that Joel was in Jerez; in the days and weeks before I’d think of so many things to tell him, but when he was actually there it felt a little bit surreal and it almost takes a while to get used to having a real Joel and not just a Skype-Joel. Luckily it doesn’t take that long, and we unpacked, found the local supermarket, and made plans for the next day over a drink and a surprisingly not-bad-at-all sandwich.

Every day I tried to take notes of what we did, and it really is a good job I did that. Over the 8 days we did a lot, but all interspersed by sufficient cafe stops which kept us going. Obviously this equates to a lot of written material, and teamed with the 1004 photos that I took, it’s a pretty heavy-going diary. Because of this I’ve decided to simply copy-up the notes from my book, and maybe expand on some of the highlights. I’ve also asked Joel if he would like to contribute, so the following will probably be extended and improved, time permitting!

Saturday 28 March (Happy Birthday Joe)

  • In the morning, we set out to find a cafe not far away from us, called Bookafe- a trendy looking place full of fluorescent lighting and big books on photography and art. Had some blini (pancakes) and sirnichky (like potato cakes, but with sweet, soft cheese instead). Joel becomes wrapped up in a book about New York and I remind him that this week will be very, very different.

 

  • Went to Red Square- really sunny morning. Walked past the Kremlin, into Red Square and up to and around St Basils, to which Joel comments ‘a bit gaudy’. Took lots of pictures and then went into GUM and had coffee. I had wanted to see the building from the inside, not really for the shops. My favourite thing was the fake trees and the fake birds- stuck upside down on the branches. Spoke to Joe for his birthday.

 

  • Went to the State History Museum- really interesting to see prehistoric/stone age history from a Russian angle. It’s a beautiful building and it was really nice wandering around and taking it all in.

 

  • Eventually found a place for lunch, after realising we’d been quite close to it when we started out. Scandinavia was a bit more expensive than we thought, but as it was about 4.30/5.00 it ended up serving as dinner too, and was a real treat for me to be able to choose what I could have to eat!

 

  • Went to the Modern History Museum- this was my favourite. We stayed right up to closing time at 7pm. It really put into context all the different events in modern Russian history that I’d heard about separately, but was never quite sure where they fitted in, in relation to one another. Lots of interesting Bolshevik memorabilia, and again we were quite cultured in our actual reading of the given information and subsequent discussions. There were so many things that we didn’t really know about, some of which I didn’t know had even taken place (the Russo-Japanese War, for example), and from this we had an idea to get a book and write down all the things we weren’t sure about, and later look them up.

 

  • Walked down Tverskaya Bulvar, then got the metro back. One of my highlights of the day: Joel sings ‘Down down, deeper and down’ as we descend into the metro. Yes, I had even missed those jokes.
the huge escalators down into the metro

the huge escalators down into the metro

 

  • Got back to the hostel with a beer and had a look at some guidebooks again. Joel is far better at reading them than I am, and he selects a bar that sounds quite good. We never actually found that one, but came across another which was quite atmospheric and played some Exalt-esque music which was to a certain persons taste. They did excellent mojitos (which turned out to be the best of the holiday) so we stayed there, had a good catch-up and then got the last metro home just before 1am.

 

The fake trees inside state shopping center 'GUM'

The fake trees inside state shopping center 'GUM'

 

Sunday 29/03/09  (no idea why WordPress decides to change font here)

 

·         Went to the Arbat- walked down past all the grand yet now commercialised buildings.

 

The Arbat

The Arbat

 

·         Saw the Wall of Peace, but was disappointed that it had been covered in graffiti. Not sure what that says- probably more about the lack of opportunity for people to express themselves rather than their disregard for peace.

The Wall of Peace

The Wall of Peace

 

·         Saw the statue of Pushkin and Natalya outside their then-marital home. Was very amused when a very enthusiastic Japanese lady ran up onto the statue to join their pose.

 

 

·         Found an amazing Deli which we would later return to

 

·         Went to the Modern Art Museum- good ground and 1st floor, and some interesting bronze sculptures in the courtyard outside. Not sure about the top floor exhibitions though- the photography was a bit too contrived and there were a few too many suspicious-looking sponsors around- made the work seem more like adverts for the camera, rather than any sort of individual’s art.

 

·         Found Cafe Gogol by chance, which wasawesome. Had a cool atmosphere and obviously held bands at night. Joel had solyanka, my favourite spicy sausage soup and hachipuri, Georgian cheese-bread (or sometimes like a cheese-pasty) and I had some really good roast vegetable spaghetti. Not a pig’s trotter in sight.

 

·         Went to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour- unfortunately couldn’t get in, but the surrounding views were amazing. Took pictures of the imposing Peter the Great statue from the bridge over the river.

 

·         Went to find a cafe/bookshop/music shop combo called ‘Respublika’ Quite a cool place, a very pink cafe full of mac-book users. Had some Earl Grey and had to get used to ordering milk with tea again.

·         Returned to the Deli, and bought some nice cheese, meat and salad and took it back to the hostel for a picnic.

 

·         Didn’t go out again that night; was quite late when we got back and so enjoyed our picnic and a drink, and chilled out at the hostel.

 

Monday 30/03/09

  • Made sandwiches at the hostel that morning, with some of the things left over from our picnic. We were slightly intimidated by a large group of newly-arrived Norwegian girls.

 

  • Went to Danilevsky Food Market. I was annoyed that Joel could spot the market even though I’m the one with the Russian reading powers. Was an interesting place, and it made very clear the basic ingredients of Russian cuisine; Dill.

    One of the stalls at Danilevsky Food Market

    One of the stalls at Danilevsky Food Market

 

  • Had a coffee in Chocoladnitsa, checked our itinerary for the next part of the day.

 

  • Went to the Danilov monastery which was really close by. Impressive buildings as always, particularly the gate and archway, although we felt a bit too intimidated by the active participation and bowing of the people there to actually enter any of the churches.
Danilov Monastery

Danilov Monastery

  • Ismaylovo Market- bit disappointing this time, as it was a Monday, and not nearly as busy as when I’d been there on a Saturday. Was a shame as I really wanted Joel to see it. Had a walk round but got offered a fox scarf for only 200 roubles, so we left.

 

  • I got separated from Joel on the Metro! I was dithering as to which carriage I was going to get into, and in my usual getting-a-bit-faint-from-hunger state, sort of watched the doors close in front of me. I got the next one and luckily he was waiting at the next platform for me…

 

  • Found Bilingua- another cafe picked out by Joel for having a supposed bookshop/cafe combination. This one didn’t really have a bookshop, but it was another cool place hidden away from the masses of expensive chains in Moscow. I had a nice hot honey drink, and Joel doubts the authenticity of his expresso, which was to become a fairly regular feature. I think i’ve now discovered that in Russia, what we would call an Expresso is actually a Ristretto. But it’s a bit late now.
This is me at Bilingua- sadly not a word of Spanish spoken, however

This is me at Bilingua- sadly not a word of Spanish spoken, however

  • Went to the International Book House with ‘the biggest selection of international literature in Moscow’. We saw a grand total of 3 English books, which admittedly we did think was a little strange. Then we came outside and saw that the shop we wanted was actually next door. I saw lots of books I’d like to read, but I have a small matter of War and Peace to get through. Joel buys the Great Gatsby.

 

  • After this we get outside, and after spending a while in warm bookshops, we decide it is definitely time for a beer. Consult the guidebook, and walk to ‘Propaganda’ in Kitai Gorod. I don’t have any pictures of this place which is une dommage…but it was a really cool place, and just the sort of warm, almost pub-like atmosphere that we wanted. Had a drink there, and kept looking at the nice plates of food going out to other people. We had planned to go to the Georgian restaurant that night, but after another drink we decided it was too nice here, and too snowy outside, to leave. This was one of my favourite nights!

Tuesday 31/03/09

  • Up early (partly because of inconsiderate Norwegian girls, who, incidentally had also broken a chair, the hooligans) but also because today was check-out day. Ice cold shower was not so fun!

 

  • Headed out to the VDNKH center, via a nice coffee and croissant at Coffee House. When we arrived at VDNKH we thought that the park we were in was what we’d gone to see- the huge space obelisk and some statues.

The Space Obelisk

The Space Obelisk

 

 

  • Found that the Cosmonautics Museum underneath the Obelisk was closed, seemingly for renovations, but then discovered what the ‘Soviet Disneyland’ really was. Just past the first park was the real VDNKH centre- a series of pavilions all built by Stalin to commemorate Soviet Economic Achievement. Really was the weirdest place I’ve ever been in my life. It’s now all quite deserted, and the elaborate buildings are now all used as second-rate shopping centres, selling cheap clothes, souvenirs, anything.

 

  • Spent quite a while here, walking around as it’s pretty huge. On the way out found a material shop (with a leaking roof…) but didn’t find anything quite weird enough to represent the place. So had a blini and headed back to the Modern History Museum as we hadn’t had time to visit the shop when we’d been there on Saturday. It’s famous for it’s collection of memorabilia, posters and old books. Some of it quite expensive, but I bought a couple of books and postcards, and refrained from purchasing the 1000 rouble CCCP commemorative piece of material.

 

  • Went to the Novodichy Cemetery and Cathedral- was a bit of a treck, and we were both worn out, but I really wanted to see Chekhov & Bulgakov’s graves. We really needed a cup of tea after this, but it took a little while after the place we really wanted to go to was a) hidden and b) just closed as we found it. Not sure why, but it was annoying! Eventually found this little French bakery/cafe place that was very pretty, but for some reason playing White Christmas.

 

  • Then we headed for the Georgian Restaurant that we’d planned to go to the day before, and found this fairly easily. Had some really nice hearty food, and more hachipuri. Was a shame we then had to head back to the hostel fairly soon, to pick up our bags and then get to the train station.

 

  • Got the train at 10.20pm, and was basically straight to ‘bed’ as there was a young boy in the bunk underneath, and the lights on the train went out fairly quickly. We were both on a top bunk, and so looked out of the window for a little while, and played tetris. Got a few hours sleep, but it was very disrupted; primarily by a very loud screamo ringtone and the girl then preceding to laugh about this down the phone, and then secondly the by sound of someone seemingly dying of whooping cough in the toilet. This was really not pleasant. I wasn’t sure if Joel was asleep or not, but I was amused when he turned over and had exactly the same expression on his face as I imagined I had on mine.

 

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It’s been another smooth-running week over here, with the added bonus of a birthday celebration to act as another reason to go out and explore some more bars. I have to say though, the evening aspect of Dave’s birthday wasn’t my personal favourite; although a good time was had by all (especially Dave who slept in the stairwell of an apartment block which was not his own) we were a bit unlucky with places closing or being really quiet. However, after classes we all went for pizza, then down to the park by the Volga River for some sledging fun. We all reverted back to being 5 years old, when snow is some wondrous substance that only exists to be rolled about in. We didn’t have sledges, but we did have a ring-binder, and a few bits of plastic that we’d found. They were very fast, and at first I remained very cautiously behind my camera. But Harvey saw right through this, and so I had no choice but to throw myself down the hill like the rest of them. I couldn’t believe how good it was; people ought not to pay for therapy, they should go sledging. It actually cleansed my soul.

 

 

mejoejump1

 

Things in class have also been a little better- i’m still struggling with being completely rubbish at speaking Russian, but there have been a few linguistic breakthroughs. We’ve started going though the Genitive case, which I shall not even begin to explain, just know that it is bad. I attacked it head-on though this week, and it’s a love hate-relationship. It’s amazing that so much can by conveyed by simply changing the last three or so letters of a word, but it’s the most irregular of all the cases and you basically just have to learn it. This is all I hear from Russian teachers, and I’m beginning to wonder when it will all end, and also doubting my brain’s capacity for such an unnatural amount of verbs. There is a separate verb which means ‘to drink off the top of some beverage’- I mean my brain just doesn’t need that. Also, an amusing side note is that in Russian the verb ‘to crash’ is also the verb ‘to fall in love’, ho ho.

 

But it is the completely different system of Russian that has always attracted me to learning it, and even though I really had no idea what I was getting myself in for, I still love it. Stupid Russian!

These are some of Harvey’s pictures that he took during the weekend in Moscow (and a couple from around Yaroslavl’) I really like the photos he takes, and so thought they deserved a mention. Also he has the most photographic evidence of me being in Russia, given that I seem to be taking pictures of everyone else all the time!  (They’re quite big so sorry if they take a while to load…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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h1w

This weekend is so far a quiet one, especially compared to last weeks antics in Moscow. We all had such a good time, it was perfect non-stop adventures. I took total of 588 photos, so as you can imagine it has taken me a while to sort through them all and pick my favourites!

We arrived at 8.30 on the Friday night after a four hour journey in 3rd class. It was so cheap so I shouldn’t complain…but we did feel a bit like cattle. It was a bench basically, and you sit facing 3 other people who are uncomfortably close. Harvey was brave and after half an hour asked the 3 girls in front of Tasha, Victoria and I if he could swap places with them, so after that things were a little more relaxed.

At the station we managed to walk around the same building twice before finding the metro stop, but after that it was very straight forward and we found our hostel surprisingly quickly. It was a comfortable and cosy little space, and being a group of 9 we filled up one dormitory and had it all to ourselves. It was like an amazing brownie camp without scary Judith the Tawny Owl coming in to check that you’re asleep.

group2

L-R: Alice, Vic, Tori, Tasha, Joe, Georgie

 

It took Dave a while to make his bed...

It took Dave a while to make his bed...

That night we didn’t go out afterwards; we had a bit of a midnight feast and chatted, and then went to bed in preparation for the next day.

Alice had arranged to meet with a Russian contact of her Dads, and so at eleven o’clock we met Iorg at Sukarevskaya metro, and little did we know what a day it would turn out to be! He was prepared with a folder of maps and leaflets, and mimed almost every word he said. We headed to the Kremlin, and after Iorg had demanded to see the Administration for not accepting our student cards, we eventually got in. He is a history enthusiast and I was doing my best to follow his animated tales of battles and historical events. I think I understood at the time, but I have to say it’s a little hazy now.

Outside of the Kremlin walls

Outside of the Kremlin walls

Inside the walls is a selection of important, beautiful, and some both important and beautiful buildings. The Medvedev residency is here, although you are not permitted to take photos of this and I wasn’t prepared to take on the Militsia. There are several amazing cathedrals though, along with the largest cannon in the world, and the largest bell in the world too. I think I understood that the cannon never actually fired, and I have read that the bell never rung either. A huge 13-tonne piece of the bell broke away during the cooling process, which you can see in the photo below.

The biggest bell in the world

The biggest bell in the world

...and the biggest cannon in the world too

...and the biggest cannon in the world too

It was such a cold day, we never saw a temperature reading but it was definitely one of the coldest since I’d been here. We kept popping into these beautiful churches to warm up:

krem11

krem2

After the Kremlin we made our way out past The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier and around into Red Square. It was a really grey day and the photos aren’t particulary exciting. We returned during the evening the following day, and so I shall post those photos up instead, further down. Here is one of Lenin though, who was closed until the 15th of April. He’s making an appearance for Grandma Lightfoot’s birthday, clearly.

The Mausoleum

The Mausoleum

 From here we followed Iorg back to his son’s flat, which we hadn’t fully understood was a sculpture studio. It was amazing; a small room completely packed with bronze sculptures and drawings. It was warm and friendly, and quite a contrast to the bustling cold outside. We tried our best to chat and ask questions, and I think we did quite well. We had tea and cake, and pies and biscuits, and a full tour of his studio.

Just some of the hundreds of sculptures

Just some of the hundreds of sculptures

Tasha, Georgie, Vic, Me, Alice

Tasha, Georgie, Vic, Me, Alice

In the back room, there were so many amazing drawings. My favourites were the ones of the animals:

Leopard & Owl- top choices

Leopard & Owl- top choices

 

some more top notch animals

some more top notch animals

After they’d been so kind, we thought that from here we would just make our way back, especially seeing as it was late afternoon. But Iorg put on his coat, got out his harmonica, and we appeared to be beginning phase four of the day!

We attracted a fair bit of attention

We attracted a fair bit of attention

From here we went into one last cathedral. I need to look up the name of it, as I’m still not sure exactly where it was. But it was awesome in the true sense of the word, and when we went in there was a mass service being conducted. Lots of swinging insense and bowing and kissing has never been my vibe, but it did make quite an impression.

cathedral

 We were all so shattered by this point, but we mustered up just enough energy to make the coolest detour home, not in the least bit geeky you understand. We had a list of some of the most beautiful metro stops, and so we took a scenic tour back to the hostel. You’re not allowed to take pictures of the metro stops, and many of them are paraded by militsia just like almost every other square inch of this country. However I did manage to get a few cheeky shots…

mstop

mstop2

When we eventually got back to the hostel, we found the others and made plans for dinner. We asked at the reception for a recommendation, and while the place we found was nice, I literally have never been so disappointed with a meal in my life. I was so hungry and hoped that in Moscow I might get something a little different what I’d been having chez Tania back in Yaroslavl. But it was quite unexciting and I was faced with what was essentially a plate of mayonnaise garnished with a sprinkling of dill and crisps and a token piece of chicken. I tried to avoid anything that could be potentially risky- I didn’t want another Trotter Episode. But it backfired, and even the side order of chips was inedible. I must write to Medvedev and ask him to put the word around that a handfull of dill on top of a plate of chips is not only unecessary, but actually bordering on the offensive.

All was not lost though, they got the vodka tonic just right, and we found another bar a little further on where we were placed in a separate room, as we’d asked for a non-paying table. This is what they said; I personally think it was the room they stick any unwanted foreigners in, but anyway. Harvey did some absinthe, and this wasn’t faux-absinthe like I have experienced in Cucamaras- this was some sort of death potion. I thought my lips were going to fall off. Quite deceptive, given it’s pretty colour:

credit to harvey for this picture

credit to harvey for this picture

We stayed for one drink, and then made our way back to the hostel once more, in the snow.

Sunday morning was not quite the early start we had planned, but we were all out of the hostel by around 11, so it wasn’t too bad. There was a lovely french bakery conveniently placed next door to the hostel, so this was a definite treat. We were going out in force that morning,;all nine of us heading towards a market that was recommended across several guidebooks. When we arrived there, it was like a cheap trashy hell. No, I do not want to buy your jeans covered in dimantes thank you very much. Nor do I want turquoise patent knee-high boots. We spent three quarters of an hour wandering around aisles and aisles of the same stuff, very disappointed and quite wary of the numerous faces looking at us as we passed by their stalls.

I have to admit I did think something wasn’t quite right, and when we emerged from the other side, ready for getting out of there, I saw an entrance to a much more attractive, cornered-off section of market. We payed 10 roubles to get in and felt relieved that our journey hadn’t been wasted! There were rows of wooden huts, all selling their homemade crafts, or old soviet souvenirs. It was exactly what we had wanted to find, and we got lost in there for at least another hour.

market

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We left, happy with our purchases (I have some amazing long woolly socks), and made our way over to the Novodevichy Convent, which is where Ivan Turgenev is buried. I need to return here, as I didn’t find his grave and I’d really like to see it. It was so beautiful, I’m really glad we saw it in the snow.

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I had also wanted to visit the cemetery that was next door, but we arrived to a big pair of green closed gates. It was too early to go back, as we had an evening stop at Red Square planned, and it wasn’t yet dark. So when I flicked through my guidebook for any nearby entertainment, and saw that Sparrows Hill, one of the best vantage points over all of Moscow, wasn’t too far away, everyone seemed up for the walk and we made our way over some frighteningly large roads.

It was a little further than we thought, and when we reached the park in which the hill is situated, it was already growing dark and I was a little sceptical about walking into a snowy russian wood at this time of day. But some people had already started to make the climb, and I decided it was no more dangerous than waiting on the outside of a wood by myself.

The Olympic Stadium

The Olympic Stadium

This was one of the views from the top, which we all agreed made the slippery climb worth it. We took lots of pictures, rejoiced at the discovery of a Teremok (pancakes!) stand and then had to face up to the fact that there was no metro stop at the top, and we had to make our way back down again. It was the bank holiday weekend, and the amount of drunked rowdy teenagers in the park didn’t make things any nicer, but we stuck together and made it out alive! The following photo sums up the energy levels at this point:

asleep

Dave & Joe

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once again, to be continued…

I have finally started to put together all the notes and pictures I have from my last month or two of my time in Jerez. I tried to keep a separate page for the happenings in Yaroslavl’, but i’m having trouble publishing to two separate pages at the minute. So for now I will put everything on the home page, and try to continue adding in the posts for Spain, but backdated. I hope it isn’t too confusing…

 It’s been another mostly satisfying day at uni. Or school, as I prefer to call it. We study and are enrolled under the Yaroslavl’ Demidov State University, but we don’t actually have to pick any modules and none of the work or marks here is counted towards my degree. So school lightens my mood, and relieves any unnecessary pressure. I did find out today, however, that we have to take exams at the end of term, which was not especially great news…but I am still fairly sure that these marks don’t count for anything more than a boost or knock of confidence at the end of 13 weeks of intensive Russian language learning.

Alice and a few others in the common room

Alice and a few others in the common room

I’m now sat in my room, a friendly space I feel, and I’ve opted out of this evening’s social meeting of a drink at Europa. Last night I did a lot of work, and it was definitely a push to put down the knitting, the book, put away the selection of dvds, and pretty much anything else I could find to distract myself with. But I did, and I got all of it done. By the time I’d finished, I was so tired I didn’t even want to do any of those things I had used as an end target; all I could do was sleep. So tonight I decided I was going to enjoy the free time I had earned (getting that bit of grammar out of the way first, I am so impressed with myself right now) and I like the idea of having several hours ahead of me where I do not have to think about stopping, tidying, packing, getting ready, anything. This kind of time drove me insane in Spain, I don’t quite understand myself. I always wanted to know what I was going to do with my next half hour. But then again I didn’t always have a busy day behind me either, so it wasn’t as if free time was a treat.

This is my room...

This is my room...

 

The half-closed blind over my window is always like that; it doesn’t close any further. I try not to think about that too much otherwise it would most definitely bother me, but so far I’ve slept well here. Having the upstairs  mostly to ourselves here definitely helps; when I was staying with Irena Petrovna in St Petersburg, my bedroom was adjacent to the kitchen and she’d come and wake me up in the morning which seriously put me on edge. But here it’s up to us, and as Joe perfectly put it, for him it’s like he has been adopted into a family and he is fed and patted and always in the middle of it all. But for Natasha and me we rent a room in a house, and we have a friendly landlady who chats to us when she is around. Having experienced Joe’s situation in St. Petersburg, I am most definitely happier with setup number two.

This is where we live, on the very top floor!

This is where we live, on the very top floor!

 

Big excitement for this weekend! I am making my first ever trip to Moscow, and I realised as I wrote that that it’s technically a lie. Of course we flew into Moscow, but I didn’t see anything especially exciting from the walk from the airport doors to the minibus. It started out as a group of 5 of us who planned on going, then this extended to 7 and we booked a dormitory in a hostel. Now other people are seemingly making plans to join us, so who knows how many we will be. I have nothing against this per se, I just do not want to have a weekend of dithering around deciding (or not deciding) what to do because people say they don’t mind, or because there are too many different opinions in the group. We’ve got two full days as it’s Women’s Day on Monday and therefore a national holiday, so I really want to make the most of it. I have to go and visit Patriarch’s Pond, which is where the devil appears in The Master and Margarita. Bulgakov’s flat is also very close by, and I would love to go and see that too, even though it would change the picture that I have in my mind from when I read the book a couple of years ago. I’m just so excited to be able to be encircled by all the beautifully ornate buildings and to be completely emerged in the slightly mysterious, enticing culture which is basically the reason for me wanting to come to Russia and learn the language in the first place.

Anna asked me if I was already living my Tolstoy-nian dream, and the answer is sometimes yes. It’s a shame that we have been repeatedly told not to wander around on our own, especially if obviously carrying cameras or mobile phones. Infact it’s more than a shame, I feel robbed. Wander around alone with a camera is precisely what I want to do in Russia, and sometimes not much else. But we went to the theatre on Sunday evening to see a play (performed by the Oxford students here) where I could snap away freely, and the costumes did take me away to my romanticised Russian dream-world. On the way home through the tower blocks and on the dirty, dusty trolleybus I was back in real-life Yaroslavl’. I’m hoping Moscow will provide a little more escape, and in a group I should be quite alright.

The play on Sunday night

The play on Sunday night

So two more days of school, then we shall be getting the train at 16.30 and arriving into Moscow around 4 hours later. We got 3rd class tickets, and it was around £11 return- which is amazing. Well, it sounds amazing. I know we’ll be sat on benches, but with a group of us who all speak Russian (at varying levels…) it will potentially be a fun experience. As long as I speak more Russian than Jonathan Dimbleby does on his train journeys, I shall be happy.

 

I am back. Back in Jerez, back in the mode of writing. I’ve had my first week here now, and it’s been a week of stupidly late nights, stupidly cold flats, and generally the complete opposite of the glorious time I spent in various locations over the Christmas holidays. Nevertheless, it has been jolly good fun and I am mostly completely fine about my return to the land of sherry.

The lack of writing before Christmas, or indeed any time after my main stream of visitors ended, I’m pleased to say is largely due to an increase of activity and consequently less time to sit and analyse every tiny detail of my life here. Which is good for me in one sense, but now I don’t really like the gap that is left, because a lot of those times that I never sat down to record were so much fun!

So while I can’t feasibly sit and write as much as I did previously, especially as now I have been set the task of writing a guide to Jerez for the students that will follow in years to come, I am going to make a concerted effort to note down in some form or other, the times that I missed.

Happy New Year to one and all, I hope your houses are warmer than mine!

Visitor part three has been a long time coming, this I know. It has been an awful lot harder to sit down and write this entry than I imagined, as I don’t suppose anyone really wants to read another of my one thousand words, except this time dreamily reflecting on a perfect week with Joely. Another thing is that I took a lot of pictures on a film picture that belonged to my Grandad Lightfoot, and I was half-waiting to get these developed so I could add them to my blog- but on returning to England and taking the film in to be developed, the most heartbreaking eventuality occurred: it came out blank. I tried to be as polite as possible at the Boots photo counter…

So, I shall try and keep this one a little bit shorter. I think the pictures that I have say more than enough about all the different of things we saw and did, which looking back was an impressive run of activities. This was a combination of me really wanting Joel to see all the places that I usually go to, and the effects of Joel reading the guide book properly on the first night and finding things that I hadn’t even heard of yet. He was good like that; it made me take an active interest in Jerez again, as I realised I’d probably become quite complacent about it, when there were (and still are) many things to explore, and it was so good to be able to do this with someone who was equally enthusiastic. The weather had made a complete turnaround after the grey and drizzly spells that had frequented Mum & Grandma’s stay, and although there was still the odd breeze now and again, we had sunshine everyday which made it even more like a holiday escape.

These are some pictures in order of the week’s events- I think if I do it this way it shall prevent me from rambling too much and repeating every detail… or so we can hope.

We had the first night and day in Jerez, I gave the tour of the standard sights, and we had some nice food and drink. We made plans for the weekend, which was spent in Seville…

Tapas on the street...we ate at this place twice as it was so so good! Apart from the 'pink sauce' on the fried camembert- we shall never understand that one.

Tapas on the street...we ate at this place twice as it was so so good! Apart from the 'pink sauce' on the fried camembert- we shall never understand that one.

Down by the river. It was so hot!

Down by the river. It was so hot!

This was inside the Alcazar- even though it was my 3rd time there, it was different again and we found even more things to look at.

This was inside the Alcazar- even though it was my 3rd time there, it was different again and we found even more things to look at.

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more to come

The Friday morning (infact Halloween, although there was no real obvious signs of this being the case in Jerez) started as normal; work between 11.45 and 13.45 in the morning, going back for some lunch, and then wondering how to fill the hours in the afternoon. Except I didn’t really have much time to dawdle on this particular day, as I was busying myself with tidying the flat and trying to find any updated ‘What’s On’ information for the forthcoming week. There was no ray of sunshine coming through the living room window, nor was there much light at all. This worried me slightly as I hadn’t noticed things being quite so grey thus far, and for it to suddenly turn on the day of Mum’s arrival would be unfortunate to say the least.

When the taxi pulled up outside the hotel, I stopped worrying about the weather- even though it was a bit drizzly I seem to recall. As with all the visits i’ve had, all the silly things that I’d been pondering over- what if we can’t do this, what if I have work, what if the weather is bad blah blah…, have all disappeared as soon as I actually see the people. Which is what I was told, but you know…

We got their keys, and made our way up to the room. And from there we made our way to another room, after I made another journey in the lift to enquire as to why the room smelt so horribly of smoke. All was well, and they settled into their five-night temporary home. Mum unpacked a series of goodies that she had brought from home- a new sweatshirt covered in all different pictures of animals, and halloween chocolate ghosts being amongst some of the highlights. It was fairly late by this point, and I hadn’t eaten (bad news for all concerned) so we went downstairs to investigate the hotel bar/restaurant. We had some food and some drink, and lots of chat. Had I not been so happy to see them both, I think I would have been much more taken aback by the announcement that Grandma is putting her house on the market- and of course, I am really sad about it because the chances of a house like that being within the family again, to me, seem very slim. It’s a special place, but at the same time I understand that it’s a very big and very cold place in the winter, and so I am happy that Grandma has been able to go for it and make the decision too.

After a good catch-up, we made arrangements for the following morning and I went home to bed.

I arrived at the hotel around 9am, of course wearing my new jumper. I didn’t join them for breakfast per se that morning; I simply stole a newspaper and enjoyed an article comparing Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama. When we eventually got going (we didn’t need to rush, and I certainly didn’t mind- I could enjoy the luxury of satellite tv whilst Grandma serached through her 5 handbags to find the room card) we set off into town. Unfortunately however, this was All Saints Day and therefore virtually everyone had taken the day off. So I gave a small tour of Jerez, for Grandma’s benefit mainly, as Mum had of course seen the main sights when we came here in August to find somewhere for me to live. We stopped for some lunch, and I managed to find a Chinese Bazaar that was open to purchase a lamp- when it gets darker in the evenings, it’s all about the mood lighting.

Grandma & I in Plaza Arenal

Grandma & I in Plaza Arenal

At this point it began to rain, so we retreated back to my flat. Mum had brought with her a DVD of some of Grandad’s Cine films that Uncle Andrew has had converted onto disc. Without wanting to sound too much like an old dear- isn’t that impressive? I really enjoyed looking at all those, particularly (as has always been the case) at the one of me being cooed over as the first wonderous grandchild. I think Grandad was quite generous dedicating all that film space when you think about it; I wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing of babies, with my big red birthmark on my forehead, and a constant ‘deep in thought’ expression on my chubby face.

It got to evening time, and so the tea and cake was followed by a nice glass of Rioja. We then went back to the hotel, where thankfully it was so much warmer. We changed for dinner, and then set out on a mission to find somewhere that was actually open on these god-forsaken festival days. Of course, the trusty Cruz Blanca was there, with doors open and the nice orange glow coming from inside. We had a delicious meal, and I was glad that they got to sample one of my ‘must see’ places so early on in the game. I expect that this evening was concluded by a glass of something or other in the hotel bar.

The Sunday began marvellously. I arrived at the hotel at a reasonable hour, and then proceeded to have an absolute whale of a time at the breakfast buffet. So many options, it would have been rude not to take advantage of them all. When I had eventually eaten all that I possibly could, and read even more pre-election hype, we set off in search of the flea market in Jerez.

I was really impressed by this flea market and couldn’t believe that it’s yet another thing that has managed to escape me during my first months here. It’s situated in the Alameda Vieja which is right next to the Alcazar complex, and as such makes it all look rather grand, despite it being little more than a sqaure full of people trying to flog their old junk. I was made the happy owner of an old clock, which had a genius mechanism that means than when the second hand ticks round, this makes a little chicken peck at the ground. Bravo to whoever thought of this!

At midday there was a brass band concert in the Alcazar gardens, which coincided nicely. It was enjoyable, although it could have been more so if we had been sat in the sunshine! We noticed how it is ironic that the Spanish talk so much, and have an amazing ability to fill any conversational silence, but when it comes to other people talking when they want quiet, they aren’t half quick at shushing people up. It’s almost frightening, that hissing noise that fires out of their mouth! Kim and I noticed the exact same thing when we went to the theatre this Saturday, but that is another day and hence another blog post.

Mum & Grandma inside the Alcazar

Mum & Grandma inside the Alcazar

After the concert we went into the Alcazar complex, and due to bad weather the Camera Obscura was out of action, but we went in to see the old olive oil mill, the gardens (which I have later learned have actually been researched so that they are planted as closely as possible to how they would have been planted back in the days when they were constructed by the Almohads) and the Arabic Baths.

 

The pressing room, in the olive oil mill

The pressing room, in the olive oil millMum & I in the gardens

 

The sun didn’t last long and we had to hurry back to the shelter of my flat once again. I had some minutes from a meeting to write up, and that was about all the time that we could really stand because of the cold. I was really bothered by how cold my flat was; it had never dawned on me before that this place didn’t actually have central heating. It was also hard to get my head round it- ever since I’d been here the sun had been a constant consolation whenever I hadn’t felt so cheery, and now that was no longer there, Jerez didn’t make sense!

 

Evidence of a very gloomy skyline...

Evidence of a very gloomy skyline...

We went back to the hotel to warm up, and I enjoyed being able to watch some tv in my mother tongue for the first time in months. Mum and Grandma read their books, about people working in factories in the twenties and the like, and then we got ready for dinner. Given that it was a Sunday, and raining, we decided that it would be nice to eat at the hotel that night and we had a really nice meal.

 

Later when we were having coffee, we got chatting to a couple who had been part of a large wedding party that we’d seen around the hotel. Grandma invited them to join us, and from there lengthy conversation spanning various topics was to unfold. Most interesting to me, was the fact that when I mentioned how I was studying at Nottingham, the husband straight away said, “Oh do you know the band Lords?”, and I couldn’t quite believe what he’d just asked me. He told me that his daughter is going out with the drummer, Elvis. We started chatting about lots of music that I hadn’t had an opportunity to talk about for literally months (well, in a non-virtual sense at least) and he knew quite a lot! To go from enthusing about Oldham Athletic to suddenly enthusing about The Jesus and Mary Chain meant that he went right up in my estimations. I excused myself to text Joel about this and then returned to the conversation which had moved on by this point to the tracing of family trees. This is of course something that Mum and Grandma are quite knowledgeable about, as they’ve been doing a fair bit of work between the two of them over the past year or so. I left them to it, with their Baileys, and I headed off home.

 

Monday had a slightly brighter outlook, although for me this was overshadowed by a looming business task that had been on my mind for weeks! The day had finally come where I had to phone, with Jess doing half as well, around all the members of Vida Plena who pay a certain amount of money every year to be an associate. As part of a new plan to move things forward, and to support the greater amount of activity within the charity, Mayte and the rest of the board had decided that the best way to facilitate this at first would be to ask people to increase their annual quota. And there was my task; to ring those people. I had convinced myself that I could not possibly do this, even if I had had to do it in English, that no-one would understand me, that no-one would pay…

 

…At half past one I went back to meet Grandma & Mum, beaming and with an immense sense of satisfaction. Every single person agreed to double their quota, and as with most things I panic about, I felt rather silly about it afterwards. I had an amazing sandwich for lunch, and with the good mood continuing, we caught a train to Cadiz and spent a lovely afternoon there. We didn’t do any major activity; had a nice walk along the sea front, saw the cathedral and had a nice coffee in the square. Just spent a few hours there, so that Mum and Grandma could see what it was like. We came back in the evening on the train, and had a place in mind for dinner, as I had enquired there the night before.

Mum & Grandma looking cool in Cádiz

Mum & Grandma looking cool in Cádiz

 

Grandma & I by the sea wall, Cádiz

Grandma & I by the sea wall, Cádiz

This place, Bar Juanito, is in my Rough Guide as “one of the best tapas bars in town”, and undoubtedly, it certainly looks like it could be. And to be fair, we didn’t have tapas, so I can’t dispute this. But there were several things that night that amused us all so much, that I couldn’t not mention them. It’s a very pretty building, set back behind what is known as la pescaderia vieja (the old fish market), and when we were sat down inside I suddenly felt quite under-dressed. But soon after that I realised that I needn’t have worried, for the waiters lacked a certain etiquette that their dress and surroundings suggested they may have. Things like no wine list, and them surprising us with a bottle of sparkling wine instead, and above all, the hilarious menu. Good grief- this is something that is becoming a serious pet hate of mine. If a restaurant is going to pay for their menu to be printed in two languages, why would they not get someone to proof read it first? Preferably someone who speaks English. Among the best ones were ‘Ridneys’ and a ‘Hunk of Hake’. When I explained what connotations a ‘hunk’ carries, the waiter then remarked with good humour, that this was therefore a good price, and so for that I forgave them slightly. I just don’t understand it though, it’s almost everywhere you go, and it just looks so sloppy. I’m going to start offering my translation services- I won’t ask for much, maybe even just a free meal or two.

 

The three of us in Bar Juanito

The three of us in Bar Juanito

Despite all this, we did actually enjoy our food, it just all felt rather unnecessary. And one waiter kept speaking back to me in English when I was speaking to him in Spanish, which is another thing that REALLY annoys me. Ho hum. We had lots of laughs and went back to the hotel…probably for a Baileys.

 

On Tuesday I was once again treated to the delights of the breakfast buffet, and the free papers. I was saddened to read that Obama’s Grandma didn’t live to see the election results though; I was really hoping that she could hold on. So sad!

 

This morning I think was fairly bright, but Grandma was quite tired from all our walking around, and so chose to relax and read her book that morning, whilst Mum and I went into town. It was nice to chat, and I really miss our shopping trips. As much as I hate Meadowhall (huge, usually over-populated shopping center in Sheffield for those who are not familiar) on the one hand, I still associate it with childish excitement about going to the Disney shop and so always look forward to the odd excursion here and there, and I’m hoping we get chance when I am back at Christmas time!

 

We had some tapas for lunch in the Plaza de San Marcos, and then headed back to my flat. Timetabling my washing had suddenly become a conscious effort now that the sun had ceased to be a reliable source, and so we had to go back to make the most of this sunny break. Maria brought us grapes and took some oranges down from the tree whilst we were sat out in the garden, but before long I had to leave for my weekly meeting. Mum and Grandma kindly stayed behind until my washing was dry, and we re-convened a few hours later.

 

Grandma in Maria´s garden!

Grandma in Maria´s garden!

For dinner that evening we went to a place called la Casa del Arroz (The Rice House) as it is one of the few places in Jerez that does proper paella. I’d never been before, but had read good things about it and I was really pleasantly surprised. The man, who I think was the owner, was really friendly and was telling me about all the different wines that he had. The most expensive bottle he had cost €400! We didn’t go for that one, but the one we did choose was very nice indeed. I think this was possibly my favourite meal, it was so warm and cosy inside, and the food was good, and we had a really nice last dinner together.

 

Mum and I on the last night

Mum and I on the last night

Wednesday was here already. I wasn’t quite sure how, but at least by having Tors and then Dad & Co. to stay, it meant that I was prepared for the very quick passage of time. That morning I had work, but I got to the hotel early and I had a hot bath whilst Mum and Grandma had breakfast. I was able to get ready in luxury, and also hand over to Mum lots of summery clothes and other things that I no longer needed so that they could be taken back and save me precious baggage space.

 

I went to work, took the attendance register for the Shiatsu session that was going on that morning, and chatted to a few people there. Had a bit of a nightmare trying to track down some exercise mats that I had been told were there, but they infact weren’t and never had been- such is the nature of this job!

 

Meanwhile Mum and Grandma had gone to one of the Bodegas, to sample what is the main tourist attraction of Jerez. I briefly went to the internet cafe, but wasn’t really capable of doing anything vaguely productive at this point. I went to meet them down by the Cathedral, but unfortunately we just missed the craft market by the irritating 2.30pm cut-off point. So we went for some lunch, and I was getting a little bit fidgety. Received news from Joel that he was safely at Stansted, so then the next big question of the day was what on earth I was going to wear to the airport.

 

Grandma & Mum in the Gonzalez-Byass Bodega

Grandma & Mum in the Gonzalez-Byass Bodega

We went back to my flat for one last time, and Grandma and Mum waited very patiently while I faffed around with clothes, tidying and whatever else I could find to faff about with. In the end I put my jeans and my leopard t-shirt back on, and Grandma went back to the hotel, and Mum and headed back out into town one more time to see if we could get to the Handcraft Market. We never did; we were distracted by other shops, and decided it was just too much effort at that hour in the day, and so instead a bought a new jumper for Joel (with the added insurance that if he didn’t like it, it would probably work for me too…) and then we went back to get in a taxi to the airport.

 

After a fairly long wait in the check-in queue, we wrote a very last minute postcard, and said our goodbyes. This was a weird time as it all had gone so quickly, and I didn’t feel like I was ready for them to leave, but the anticipation of arrival number four meant that I was prevented from weeping like a big girl, like I had done on previous occasions.

 

And so they left! It was so strange knowing that they were still in the same building, just on the ‘other side’. It was one of the longest 45 minute waits of my life, and from here visitor phase four begins…

 

The days inbetween Tors’ visit and the day on which Dad, Rosie, Joe & Kathy arrived are a bit of a blur. Not even that actually; I just don’t remember them! The day Tors left was rainy and cold and horrible, but in the evening I met up for a drink with Jess, Kim & Anna and we then went to investigate the Mexican restaurant that we’d seen several times before. It’s nice, and it’s one of the few places you can go to eat which is smoke-free, but it’s not really anything you wouldn’t find in Britain. But it was full of chat and catching up, and that’s about all I can remember.

 

Their flight was due into Jerez at 8.30, and I had whiled away the last few hours talking to Maria, and she brought out a box of old photos to show me. I couldn’t quite do the same, but I brought my laptop down and tried to explain various things to her as best I could. She seemed quite interested in the pictures of Quiet Night Outs with High Soc; I suppose that the photos I have could make it look purely like a craft evening, and in her eyes that just seemed like a great idea. Oh that makes me sad! It’s Sunday and there will be no QNO to go to ce soir.

 

Anyhow, after receiving the phone call from Dad saying that they were just getting in a taxi, I made my way to the hotel to meet them there. It was really surreal to finally see them after so much time talking about it on the phone and via email, but it was so good. As with Tors’ arrival and leaving, I got all emotional, then we went inside to get the keys to their rooms.

 

Not much is open at all on a Sunday evening in Jerez, but there was one nice tapas bar in Plaza Arenal that I took them too, and we got straight in there with the local appetizers; chocos, some ensaladilla rusa & tortilla, accompanied by tinto verano/cerveza (or always a Coke in Joe’s case…) and of course picos. After enjoying our food we made plans to meet up for breakfast in the morning, and Dad, Rosie & Kathy went back to their hotel, and Joe came with me.

 

The Monday morning was bright and sunny, and stayed like that the whole day. We were so lucky as it really hadn’t hit 30 degrees for a good few weeks since then! After having the only breakfast option available in cafes in Jerez, a tostada (which is a large piece of toasted bread which comes with either cheese or Iberian ham) with coffee or juice, I think we then went to the supermarket to stock up on a few things. After this I showed everyone back to my flat, gave the tour, and then we set out to explore Jerez in the sun.

 

We went to the Handcraft Market, the Zoco Artesano, which I was really pleased about as I had never actually made it there before. It’s much more than a market, as it’s a huge modern building within which local artists and craftspeople have their own partitioned space. It’s an impressive space too, with views of the Cathedral through the large glass panels. We had a good wander round there, I enjoyed a very minor interpretative role within the honey shop between the shopkeeper and a Scottish lady wanting to know what to do with the jars of pollen that were on sale. Interestingly enough, it is sold for its nutritional value, and is meant to be dissolved in juices or teas for extra mineral content- so there you go.

 

We then went up to the Cathedral and walked up towards the Alcazar by passing the Gonzalez-Byass Bodegas. After this it was time for lunch, and I introduced the four of them to the wonders of La Cruz Blanca. I hadn’t actually eaten a proper lunch there before so it was something new for me too. I know that Dad has particularly fond memories of the wild mushroom risotto that he had there!

 

It was so hot by this point that there really was only one thing for it: ice cream. We sat in Plaza Arenal and soaked up the sun. I one day will brave the bubblegum flavour ice cream- I know that it will be pretty disgusting, but it’s just got such enticing colours. I definitely made the right choice with Turron; a traditional Spanish confection that is roasted almonds, ground, and then mixted with honey and packed into one big block. It has many variations, but the most basic form is just like Topic bars. And I LOVE Topic bars.

Ice Cream time in the square

Ice Cream time in the square

 

To make the most of the sun we went back to Maria’s garden and spent a nice hour or two there. I helped Joe with some of his GCSE Spanish coursework, which gave me an enormous amount of geeky satisfaction. After this we headed back into town as I had a small business task to complete, and thankfully this was very quick due to a kind man saying that he would cut up all 400 of my business cards for free. No having to find or buy a mini guillotine for me!

 

That evening we sampled some more of the finest Jerez tapas, in Gallo Azul. As you can see from the picture below, everyone really enjoyed their food once again! This restaurant is so perfectly situated, from the first time I went here I thought that Dad & Rosie would like it because it’s just prime people-watching territory. It’s so easy to lose an hour or two just sat there with a coffee, being fascinated by all the different types of people that pass by from all different directions. After a leisurely meal we went for a nice glass of wine, and then off to bed.

Tapas in Gallo Azul

Tapas in Gallo Azul

 

On the Tuesday morning, everyone came over to my flat for breakfast. Dad made eggy bread, and everyone was excellent at adapting to my lack of cereal bowls (amongst various other kitchen items).

We had had such a good breakfast because we were going to the horse show at the Andalucian School of Equestrian Art at midday. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take pictures of the horses during the show, but here is one of us before it started…

 

Joe, Dad, Liv before the show started

Joe, Dad, Liv before the show started

Kathy, Dad, Rosie & Joe

Kathy, Dad, Rosie & Joe

 

…and one of Kathy, Dad, Rosie and Joe in the grounds of the school, stood outside the museum.

 

I was really impressed by the show- it’s one of those things that people immediately mention when I talk of being in Jerez, but i’d never really thought about going myself. Partly because I am a little bit scared of horses, and also because the only person I know here who would want to go, Kim, had already been! But these horses actually dance. And they’re at a fair distance, so I was completely fine.

 

this is a google image example of the type of horses that are in the show- they can actually jump like this, on their hind legs...

this is a google image example of the type of horses that are in the show- they can actually jump like this, on their hind legs...

After the show we stopped for a coffee in one of my favourite cosy places which is just tucked away behind the Calle Porvera. We were talking about various things, but one thing that I clearly remember due to sheer fear factor was the mention of student loans, and how that the smallprint has changed. I really need to look at this more closely, but my fears were confirmed when I received a statement from the Student Loan company (which I have never had before), showing the amount of interest that has been added since such-and-such a date. This makes me so unbelieveably angry, but more than anything I need to take an hour out to investigate what it all actually means.

 

Anyhow…that evening I had my usual meeting with Mayte and Jess, although this time it was so nice to know that I would be coming back to my flat with everyone there. And not just people, but a delicious meal all ready and prepared too!

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

 
 

On the Wednesday, I unfortunately had work, but it wasn’t a problem. It was a fairly positive morning at the rehab centre, and when I’d finished I met up with Dad, Rosie, Kathy & Joe who had prepared some textbook sandwiches, and headed for the train station, as that afternoon we were off to Seville. Apart from a really annoying, pedantic man at the ticket office, we went smoothly on our way and were in Seville for around 3.30. We knew that we wouldn’t have enough time to see anywhere near all of it, but as the Cathedral was closed due to a special service that day, we spent the remainder of the open hours in the Alcazar Palace and Gardens, as Tors and I had done the week before.

 

This time it was different though; being there in the evening, especially after the clocks had just changed, it meant that there was a really different atmosphere to the place. I saw parts of the palace that Tors and I had not found the first time, and the bits I had seen were just as breath-taking the second time round.

Part of the Alcazar Palace

Part of the Alcazar PalaceShadows

Joey in the Alcazar Gardens

Joey in the Alcazar Gardens

Me, Joe & Dad in the Alcazar

Me, Joe & Dad in the Alcazar

After the Alcazar we went for a walk around Barrio Santa Cruz, and stopped for an early evening refreshment. We then walked further into the center of Seville, and saw what is the more commercial area. Many places didn’t have their kitchens open at that point, but we did find a nice little place that did some excellent fried fish, and so we had a bit of tapas and that was enough to keep us going. We then wandered further, and I got to finally purchase what had become known as ‘my Russian dress’ from the first time I saw it in the shop window when I was with Tors. We then had a wander round a little market that was there in one of the squares, and the others eventually got to try churros y chocolate, which we all thoroughly enjoyed, especially as it was starting to get a little bit chilly! Unfortunately as we had to get the last train back to Jerez which at 9.35pm is really that late) we had to start making our way back to the bus stop to get to the train station. When we were waiting for the train, I was entertained by some impromptu singing by Joe, and also this advert:

amazing advert...

amazing advert...

 

I would do anything to be able to high-five a panda.

 

Thursday was here already, and I couldn’t really believe that the time had passed so quickly. We had breakfast chez moi, and had a leisurely start to the day. It was bright and sunny again, and so we went to make the most of it by enjoying a few coffees in our favourite spots. Rosie bought some nice boots in one of Jerez’s many shoe shops, and we wandered around a few shops, leaving Joe and Dad to talk about importantly manly things. We then went to the fish market and picked out what we needed for the afternoon’s impending paella feast. It really was so good; I just left Dad and Joe with my recipe book, Rosie had infinite patience with preparing the prawns, and Kathy tried to repair her poor battered suitcase for the return journey!

 

As you can see from the picture, it was a highly successful operation!

(darn, i didn´t put this picture on my portable hard drive…will update asap!)

 

By the time we had finished eating, there was only a couple of hours to go before they sadly had to get in a taxi back to the airport. So we stayed put, read some books, I tried to translate a programme about monkeys in India, and all in all just enjoyed each other’s company. I really was sad when they all had to go. It had been so nice to spend so much time with them, and to be looked after, and to be taken out for so much nice food, that the thought of things going back to how they had been wasn’t that nice. I can’t say that I’m unhappy here because I’m not; it’s just that I realise that when I have people here, I remember that I actually could be even happier. Even though I knew that I had Mum and Grandma arriving the next day, there is something about the coming and going of people that I have just never been very good at dealing with.

 

However, I had the good old three girls on hand to go out for a drink with and take my mind off it all. I had work to go to the next morning, then the afternoon to quickly sort things out before the arrival of Mum & Grandma that night! That day was a bit of a blur too, but all will be recorded when I get chance to write about my next instalment of visitors!

November 2017
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