Several weekends ago, I experienced the most “Spain” thing yet. It included large artistic creations, marching bands, food trucks and alcohol. It culminated with fire. Much like Burning Man, everything had to be burned. Hence, why Las Fallas are known as the festival of fire in Spain. The festival happens every March in Valencia, Spain, and this year I was lucky enough to go.
I spent a lovely 48 hours in Madrid with a good friend back in December. Of course Madrid being the capital city of Spain, I knew I would get there at some point this year. On my first trip to Spain (in June 2015. The one where I decided moving here sounded great), I barely spent any time in Madrid because I met my group a few days late. So I simply landed, went to my hostel and took a bus out to meet my friends in La Rioja the next morning. So I was excited to actually explore Madrid. I also read that Madrid had some awesome Christmas markets, so it seemed perfect!
Last weekend, I spent the day exploring old Granada. For those of you who do not know, I live in Granada, Spain. I’m an American and I moved there to teach English. And I must say, I absolutely love it in Granada. Some days I catch myself taking it for granted. Then I walk to meet a friend for a coffee and am stunned by my surroundings. I live in one of the prettiest cities in all of Spain. It is simply amazing.
Last weekend, I teamed up with a friend of mine in Granada who volunteered to do my hair, makeup and take my photos (thanks Kat!). Friends like that are the best! Kat lives in the historic area of Calle Elvira.
Several weeks ago, I found myself with just a night in Barcelona. The next day I was headed to Andorra, so I reserved myself a room in a hostel for the night. Little did I know that this hostel would be among one of my favorites. If you’re looking for a social Barcelona hostel (and Barcelona is a great place to make new traveler friends), then look no further.
I met Kate through the Internet, much like how I met most of my blogger friends. She, like me, is teaching English here in Spain through Auxiliaries de Conversacion. She, however, lives in the North of Spain in La Rioja. What is funny is that I actually know La Rioja. My former Spanish tutor Daniel over at Coffeeshop Spanish taught English in La Rioja as well. So when I first came to Spain on the immersion trip he organized, Logroño, La Rioja was a stop on the journey.
Kate has a lovely blog and so I thought I would ask her to give her perspective on the expat life.
There’s no doubt that many things are different between the US and Europe. In addition to different languages (except for a few countries of course), different food and different customs, the spaces are quite different. Things are just bigger in the US. In Europe the buildings are older and there’s just less space in general. Plus I’ve noticed that people in Spain like to live near each other more. You see that everyone not only lives right in the cities, but also they choose to live in the center of towns and villages too. That, however, is a topic for another blog post.
I recently came across a company called MakeSpace and it prompted me to think about about my dream closet. After all, I really do love my closet space that I lucked into here in Spain. Is it my dream space? No. But we will get into that later. Also for those who are not aware, MakeSpace is a self-storage service that moves your unwanted stuff and stores it for you. They have several self-storage locations throughout the United States.
One of the amazing things about living abroad are the day trips that you can take. Sure, I do love traveling to other countries and the further away spots in Spain. However there are some weekends where you don’t want to be away the entire weekend. Day trips are perfect for this. This was exactly how I saw Córdoba, Spain. We only had 8 hours in Córdoba.
8 hours in Córdoba
How to get there
If you find yourself in Spain and want to pop around to nearby towns, villages and cities, there are several ways you can travel. Here are a few:
Recently, I found myself exploring Jaén. Jaén is a city that is just about an hour North of me in Granada. These days, I do not have tons of money to travel to big, extravagant places. However that is okay as I live in Europe. There are so many neat places to see only a few hours from where I live. So exploring Jaén was one of those closeby but awesome trips.
As most of you all know, I’m the girl who is always wearing a dress. I love traveling in my dresses and wear them all year long. So when I was exploring Jaén with my friend Sharifa, I of course opted to wear a dress. I had found this grey dress at a shop in my neighbourhood in Granada called Humana. It looked perfect for a work setting or really just anything. I loved the buttons on the front too.
Friends, I’ve experienced culture shock in Spain. In fact, I’m experiencing it now. All of my close friends and family members already know that I’m an open book. I like to talk about my struggles and as a highly sensitive extrovert (God that’s the weirdest combo, by the way. You have overwhelming feelings and aren’t afraid to verbalise them … sometimes not in healthy ways either), I always feel the need to talk out my feelings with at least 10 people. You add in the fact that some of these people speak only your second language, and it can feel isolating.
So instead of posting one of my fun travel posts, I’ve decided to push that one back a few days and write about what is actually happening. I promised you all that I would paint an accurate picture of what life in a foreign country is like. And culture shock is a part of that experience. Everyone experiences culture shock, we just all experience it in different ways. And some don’t want to or need to talk about it. However that’s not that case for me. So I figured I would share my experience here for several reasons.
The lovely province of Jaén sits in the North of the region of Andalusia, Spain, where I live. While many tourists who find themselves in Spain opt to visit places like my home of Granada, Malaga, Sevilla or Cadiz, Jaén should not be overlooked. If you are a fan of history and castles, you will definitely want to add Jaén to your lists of stops throughout the wonderful region of Andalusia. El castillo de Santa Catalina sits just above the city of Jaén, the capital of the province. The city is a mid-sized city worth a visit for a weekend or a few days.
Last Saturday, my friend Sharifa and I had a nice little visit to the castle. The views were absolutely breathtaking and I’m now planning to see as many castles as I can in Europe. It’s my new mission.