My farewell to the sundress in Ibiza

sundress in Ibiza

Ah Ibiza. A little over a month ago, I was wearing my sundress in Ibiza. The weather was absolutely perfect. Now I sit in my apartment in Granada and it is quite cold outside! Winter has arrived in Spain! And while winter here will be way more mild than what I am used to in the United States, winter is here nonetheless. I am for sure excited to wear lots of boots and tights with my dresses. However I will miss all my sundresses. They are comfortable and easy to wear. This one is one of my favorites.

When I was in Ibiza with my friend Shola, we thought this made for a lovely backdrop. I am a big fan of green, after all. If you wish to read more on my Ibiza adventures, you can check them out here and here.

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5 tips to avoid the English bubble overseas


In summer 2015, I spent about a month in Nicaragua. I was supposed to be there for a year, but had to return to the United States for some personal things with my family (a story for another time). However when I was there, I was in the mindset of living there. I made a nice group of about 3-4 friends … and they all spoke English. I remember about 3-4 weeks in stopping and thinking about it. What the heck? Why did I move to an entirely different country only to make friends who are either from my country or speak my language as their first language. I had three Americans and one Scottish girl in my group. And while I still consider all of these ladies friends to this day, I knew I didn’t want to end up in the same situation in Spain.

Upon moving to Granada, Spain, my biggest goal was to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible. Practicing my Spanish was a big one, although I came here with a pretty high intermediate level (which has honestly made immersion easier). Moreover, I’m in Spain to learn about Spain. I have plenty of English speaking friends in the United States and frankly, I didn’t need a big heaping group here.

The English bubble, as I like to call it, is so easy to fall into as an expat, especially if you live in a large city. In Granada, we have something like 80-100 or more auxiliaries (other English teachers in my program). Plus we have lots of English academies that employ British and Irish teachers, and we have a university that draws expats. Basically if I wanted to, I could fill my entire circle English speakers. And while I do not think people move to a foreign country specifically to do that, many end up in this trap. After all, it’s comfortable to stay with people from your culture. You can speak your language and they get you. And you see this all over the world in different expat communities. And if this is where you are and you like it, I’m not knocking it at all. I just knew that for me, I wanted to meet and befriend more Spaniards than Americans this year. If you too would like that from your overseas experience, here are my tips.

5. Make friends with Americans who don’t live in your town

So I might have slightly lied. I have American friends who live in Spain. In fact, we are all a part of a group chat together. I love technology. This summer, I joined several Facebook groups for my program. I met and befriended different people. One of my closest new friends is a girl named Shola who lives in a town an hour or two north of me. We’ve become travel buddies and chat all the time on WhatsApp. And if she lived in Granada, I’m sure we’d hang out all the time. Which sounds like fun, but we’d never practice Spanish together if we did this.

avoid English-speakers overseas

Here are some of the ladies in said group chat. This was from that olive oil tour we went on (wrote about it here). Everyone in this picture lives at least an hour from one another. And it’s great.

When they visited this weekend, we were those Americans all together and speaking loudly. It was fun and relaxing. And it was also something I knew I didn’t come to Spain to experience every single weekend.

4. Go to intercambios

If you live in a larger city, there are tons of intercambios. What is an intercambio? I’m glad you asked! An intercambio is a weekly event where you can practice languages. They are usually held at bars and are pretty relaxed. Spaniards come wanting to practice their English and English speakers come wanting to practice Spanish. Often times connections are formed and people decide to hang out outside of the intercambio for further practice. It’s a fantastic way to meet some nice locals.

I’m in a Facebook group called Granada language exchange and meeting events. I’m sure if you look on Facebook or Google it, you can find lots for wherever you are.

3. Make a few English speaking friends in your town … y ya esta.

So again, I do have a few. But literally like three. When in a foreign country, it is nice to have some people right there with you would you can complain about crap with. Your friends for home don’t get it and your Spanish friends don’t either. So it’s good to have a few.

And then you can invite them out with your Spanish friends and it’s not awkward because you don’t have like 20 people (flashbacks to freshman year of college and hanging out with your dorm floor all the time).

avoid English-speakers overseas

Here my American friend Cassie and I are with some new friends on Halloween. She’s the one in from in white. She later joked that this is the one and only time she’ll ever be a giant. I’m in the back looking a bit …

2. Live with Spaniards

It took me a week to find my piso and crying was involved. I came to Granada at a time when everyone was looking. It was like we were all vying for the same spots. And sure, I could have found a nice English-speaker or two to go find a place with. But I held out. I knew that my level of Spanish could only go up if I lived with Spaniards. And lo and behold, I found these lovely people to live with. This photo is them mixed in with my American friends when they came to visit. We made them American breakfast.

avoid English-speakers overseas

1. Find a Spanish novio

Kidding but not.

 

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An olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada

An olive oil tour in Granada, Spain is the perfect way to spend a girls weekend! This past weekend, I saw a new side of Granada with three of my fellow English teachers who live in different parts of Andalusia. For those of you who are first timers to A World of Dresses, I’m an American girl who now teaches English in Granada, Spain. Granada is a nice city in the South known for free tapas (with the order of a drink), the Alhambra and the beautiful architecture. That is the city that I live in. However Granada is also a province with many cute towns and lots of olive trees. My fellow English teacher friend Sharifa organised a little outing for us and I could not say no. I’ve always loved olive oil and olives.

Through an online search, she found Olive Oil Tour in Granada. The tour includes a bit of history and a bit of tasting. And for a little extra, you can sample some Spanish wines and eat tapas.

Part 1

The tour starts out in Granada. They will arrange to pick you up somewhere central in the city. There were four of us Americans on the tour and a family of three New Zealanders. The tour was led by a nice French woman and she gave it in English. According to the website, the tour can be given in English, Spanish and French.

From Granada, we drove outside of the city for about 30 minutes. Our destination was the lovely town of Niguelas, Spain. However we first stopped to take a look at the olives and the view.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Tasting a bitter olive

So has anyone attempted to taste an olive right off the tree? Apparently they taste horrible. What we eat is after it has been cleaned and prepped. However she opened it up for us to try. Sharifa stepped up to the plate. She said it was way more awful tasting than she had thought.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

So pro-tip if you find yourself in the countryside of Southern Spain: don’t just go grabbing olives off of olive trees.

The olives and the people

Many Spaniard families in this area have a group of olive trees that have been passed down through the generations. A plot of maybe 20-30 is sufficient. Here is an example. They are watered through and old but efficient irrigation system.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

The xv century oil mill

Next, we all piled back into the van and drove into the town of Niguelas. I just love little Spanish towns. They are so cute and so different from the bustling city life. Once in the town, we parked and walked over to the old mill where they use to make the olives and olive oil up until the 1920’s. It’s so neat being around things and spaces that were used long ago.

Here is where they separated the olives by family.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Then we walked inside where they’re created a small museum. We got to see how the oil was broken down and processed many years ago. They would use these huge stones and would work for many hours. They even had a few beds for when people wanted a quick siesta.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

It was neat to see what they used so long ago and just imagine life in the mill. I’m sure it was such hard work.

Time to eat and drink

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

This part may have been my favorite. I love any opportunity to eat and drink. I was especially excited for some olives and may have eaten a few too many black olives.

The tasting was guided. Each participant had a placemat and little cups of olive oil numbered 1-5.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

We each got a few gifts to take home. I’m excited to try my olive oil. They also had various wines, olive oils and other olive-based products available for purchase.

Overall, the wine tour was a fun experience. If you are in Granada for a bit, it’s a neat way to see a different part of the region. Oh and I snapped a few photos of the town on the way out.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Did you know about Spain’s history with olive oil? Did you know that olive oil in Spain was such a big deal? What do you normally eat olive oil with?

Oh and if you find yourself in Granada, Spain, here are the details of the tour:

Name: Olive Oil Tour in Granada, Spain

Duration: About three hours

Cost: 38 euros a person and an extra 15 euros if you want to taste the wines

Languages: available in English, Spanish and French

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My experience, Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Stylish Plus Size Dresses & Separates
Several weeks ago, I found myself basking in the sun of Ibiza poolside at Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza. It was a wonderful weekend. In fact, I wrote about my journey in 5 Reasons why you should see Ibiza in off season. I really did enjoy my weekend on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

My friend Shola and I came to Ibiza to attend a Kizomba dance conference. For those of you unfamiliar, Kizomba is a style of dance similar to salsa only in that it is a partner dance. Kizomba, however, actually originated in Angola and has had significant popularity in Africa. My friend Shola is a fan of dance in general and thus various dance conferences and events are always on her radar. When she saw that this one was happening in Ibiza, she jumped on the opportunity. After all, she was going to be living in Spain like me and teaching English. She needed a buddy and I said “why not?” It was my first time learning Kizomba and both of our first time in Ibiza.

The hotel

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Upon arrival, the hotel seemed decent. It is situated on the beach and is within walking distance of shops and restaurants. It has a pool, tennis courts, a restaurant and other such typical things of a hotel. Had I seen more elaborate hotels? Absolutely. But it seemed nice and was definitely worth the price we got through the conference.

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

The room

We noticed a stark difference going from the lobby to the second floor where our room was located. In fact, we both took a look around and were like “well, this hallway isn’t as nice.” Don’t get me wrong … the hallway was clean and all. It just was more basic and felt like we were back in the 1970’s. I suppose I’m used to hotel chains in the United States and their pristine hallways.

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

The room was nice. I was loving the balcony! We had a nice view.

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

The layout of the room was nice. It was generally clean and comfortable.

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Spain vs. the United States

As I’m adjusting to life here in Spain, I’m of course noticing all of the differences between the two cultures. In the United States, a majority of hotel rooms have carpeted floors. There is normally one bed that is either queen or king-sized. And in this hotel, you had to put your room key in this slot to activate the electricity.

My friend Shola and I initially burst out laughing when we saw the two beds pushed together. However it did allow for each of us to have our own space, which was nice.

Overall

Overall, Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza is a decent place to stay. Have you stayed on the island of Ibiza?

 

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My new go-to dress

Stylish Plus Size Dresses & Separates
Hello friends! I am happy to inform you that I have my new go-to dress. When making the move from the United States to Spain, I had to leave behind many of my dresses. I opted to bring with me only a small roll-on bag, a duffle and my backpack. In fact, this Instagram photo here shows all that I took. In retrospect, I’m glad I packed light. And everything I brought, I have put to good use!

So minimalist moving ways have allowed me an excuse to shop (and I don’t really that’s how minimalism works … oh well)! Spain’s department store or their version of Macy’s is called El Corte Ingles. I luckily or unluckily live only a 2-minute walk away from one of their two locations in Granada. So I of course have made my way through their racks. I stumbled upon this and just had to.

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

A day in Andujar

These photos were shot in Andujar, the town that my friend Shola teaches English in. I decided to venture out of my big city of Granada and see what her town was all about. I had more of a fun time than I was expecting! We met great people, ate great food and stayed out a little too late.

The thing that always amazes me about Spain is that even small towns feel “urban,” as we Americans would define it. People still choose to live in apartments over houses with a front and back yard. People still choose to walk rather than drive. Life in the town centre is still lively. And you really cannot say that for most small towns in the United States. Here are a few shots of Andujar:

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

If you are planning a trip to Spain, Andujar is worth a bit of your time. Or if not Andujar, small town Spain is just such a neat experience. I feel like you get a sense of the real culture.

The last day

We shot some by this amazing graffiti wall.

go-to dress

go-to dress

Have you explored small-town Spain or small-town Europe? What were your thoughts? which do you prefer?

I’m linking up here today.

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5 US comforts you’ll miss in Spain

US comforts you'll miss in Spain

No two countries are alike (okay maybe the US and Canada come VERY close). So when moving from one to another, it’s normal to miss things about your home country and fall in love with other things that your country does not have. One of my goals as a blogger this year as I live in Spain is to paint an accurate picture of life as an expat. This means that sometimes it’s all sandy beaches, Instagram photos and red wine. Sure, it often is amazing like my weekend in Ibiza. However if I were to pretend that it’s always amazing, I’d be lying to you. And I hate lying to my readers or anyone, for that matter.

There have been some things that I’ve had to adjust to here in Spain. At the end of the day, I do want to stress that I’ve moved from one developed country to another. These are things that yes, I miss. But overall, life is still pretty comfortable here in Spain. So without further ado, here are the 5 US comforts you’ll miss in Spain.

5. Uber

Uber, the super easy ride-requesting service, does not exist here in Spain. I’m not sure all the details, but I heard that they tried it in some of the bigger cities and the taxi drivers got mad. Where I live in Granada, we have taxi stations. Sure, you could also flag one down but it’s often easier to just go to one of the stations. They usually have about three lined up at said stations. However there’s nothing like just touching a button on your phone to request a ride.

I really could have used an Uber the day I moved my suitcases from my airbnb that I stayed at while I searched for a piso to my new piso. The closest taxi stand was a good five or more blocks away and I had to lug it all through the streets. And sure, I could have called a taxi company and requested that they come to my door. But … I just miss Uber. Also being able to pay with your card is amazing. Luckily most taxis are under 5 euro and aside from my move, I rarely take one.

On the upside

All of Europe has something called BlaBla Car. It’s a ride sharing app that makes going from one city to another easy and cheap. I’ve started using it a lot. I wish we had this in the United States.

4. Different shop hours

US comforts you'll miss in Spain

Now I want to start by saying that I live in Andalusia, the Southern region of Spain that observes the siesta. This means that from the hours of 2-5 the entire town shuts down. People go home to be with their family or nap. Then at 5, you back to work until 9, which is when you eat dinner. Not all parts of Spain observe the siesta but they do all eat dinner at 9.

A scheduled in nap sounds great, right? Before I lived in Spain, the idea of the siesta sounded amazing. However now that I’m here and am programmed to think that business hours are 9-5 like back home, it can be a challenge. Want to go to the bank at 2:30? Nope. Want to by groceries on a Sunday? Nope. And on holidays, literally everything is shut down. The only businesses that don’t close are some of the Chinese-owned shops. It’s not their culture to take a siesta and they probably make a little business by staying open.

On the upside

I love naps.

3. No coffee to-goUS comforts you'll miss in Spain

I love coffee and have to have it every morning. In the United States if I’m running late and have no time to make some at home, I can just stop by any gas station or go through a Starbucks drive-through. Here in Spain, coffee to-go is not so much of a thing. Spaniards do love their coffee just in a cafe where they can enjoy it out of a mug and have a nice chat with their amigo. So either I make it at home or I try to quickly drink a coffee in a cafe. And trust me, I’ve become real good at sitting at the cafe bar, ordering a cafe con leche (coffee with milk), gulping it down and asking “cuanto es?” (how much) in about 10-15 minutes. I think I’ve even done it in 5.

While I love the culture of enjoying your coffee, I also miss my home culture where I think if we invented coffee IV tubes, they’d sell out.

On the upside

Maybe I don’t need huge cups of coffee in my life? Also less littering this way.

2. The hot water not always being on

In the United States anywhere I’ve lived, you just turn the faucet over to the hot side if you want hot water. In my piso here in Spain, it’s not that easy. We have this tank of gas called a bombera hooked up to the water system (and I apologize if this is not the correct lingo … I’m literally just describing it). I then have to turn the switch over to the gas side and hit this button to ignite a flame. Then I have to wait about 30 seconds (I usually just scroll through Instagram) with the gas button pushed in. If I let it out too soon, I have to ignite a new flame. Once it’s lit, I can go take a shower.

One morning the tank ran out of gas in the middle of my morning shower. Like I’m showering like normal and all of a sudden cold water. The funny thing was that I went back to ignite the flame and it stayed … then it would go out when I was in the shower. So after two times of re-lighting the flame with no success, I just washed my hair in the sink and made do. And I was late to my carpool that day.

US comforts you'll miss in Spain
that silly flame you have to ignite

US comforts you'll miss in Spain

On the upside

There is none. This was my worst morning in Granada thus far.

1. No clothing dryers

US comforts you'll miss in Spain

So if you want to buy a dryer, I’m sure you could. However the majority of the people here only have a washer. They then hang their clothing out to dry. In the US, I never realized how last-minute I would do laundry. You take it for granted that drying your clothes takes maybe an hour. Here if I need to do laundry, I have to plan ahead to ensure that the clothing I want to wear is dry for when I want to wear it. That has definitely taken a bit to get adjusted to.

US comforts you'll miss in Spain
Washers … in the kitchen

On the upside

Save energy? That freshly-dried smell? Who knows.

Have you made the move to a foreign country? What were some of the things you missed from your home country?

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5 Reasons why you should see Ibiza in off season

Ibiza in off season

About two weeks ago, I went to Ibiza in off season with my friend Shola. While we did stay out late both nights, we did not get the stereotypical Ibiza experience. And honestly, I am grateful for that. I’ve heard that during the summer months, it’s crowded, expensive and a never-ending party. And while I love a good party, my ideal vacation consists of a variety of things Our trip to Ibiza was just that. Reflecting back on my weekend in Ibiza, I would for sure recommend Ibiza in the off season. Here’s why:

5. Less people

On our first night, we ate pizza and drank sangria at this adorable cafe. We were also the only ones in the entire place. During the busy season, I have no idea how busy the place gets and how long you would need to wait.

Ibiza in off season

Ibiza in off season

Ibiza in off season

This lovely cafe is called Assaporami and I would highly recommend it for your next Ibiza trip. Here is their Facebook page.

4. The weather

It was very pleasant. Sure, it got a tad chilly at night. But I overall loved the weather. There were still people swimming during the day and I wore all my dresses (which you all and I know is important to me). If you want to go when it’s still warm but not crazy hot, the off season is perfect.

Ibiza in off season

Ibiza in off season

Ibiza in off season

3. You will save money

Ibiza is not cheap during the peak season. There are no real hostels on the island and things can get expensive. Then add in the 40-50 euro entrance fee it can cost to get into clubs plus drinks, and a few days over the summer can run your bank account dry.

I am happy to say that this was not our situation. We flew Ryanair, which saved us lots of $$. We bought our alcohol duty free at the airport on the way over, mean we spent less on drinks at bars. We ate at inexpensive restaurants and none of the clubs were charging an entrance fee at this time of year. We even got our hotel at a discounted rate as we were there as a part of a Kizomba dance conference. Overall, I was pleased with the amount of money spent. And I cannot always say that after returning home from a vacation.

2. You feel better each day

Okay so you absolutely do not have to party until all hours of the night or get hammered. I’m sure that some people go during the regular season without even having a drink. All I’m going to say is that while we went out and had a good time, each day I felt good and was able to enjoy Ibiza during the day time. During the regular season, partying is a big part of Ibiza life. And you’re also on a beautiful island. I like both partying and exploring islands, personally.

1. You have more time to enjoy the beauty

These next photos will absolutely blow you away. A friend we made knew of this lovely spot on the island to watch the sunset. The tiny island of Es Vedra is just off the coast of Ibiza. So we spent a few hours watching the sunset and enjoying the beauty of it all. In the off season, you have more time to explore such things that are just as much a part of the island as clubs and shots of alcohol.

Ibiza in off season

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Have you been to Ibiza? What were your impressions?

 

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Floral dress in Jaén and Linkup

reflection on 5 months

I thought that my lovely Jaén dress would be perfect for today’s post. Today I am teaming up with Ada over at Elegance and Mommyhood to co-host her weekly linkup called Thursday Moda. What is a link-up? I’m glad you asked! It’s basically a fabulous blogger party where bloggers are invited to share their latest and greatest! You can find all the details on how to participate below!

Ada is a blogger who I’ve been following for some time now. This is also the second time I’ve helped host her lovely link-up! Just like me, she loves dresses. However unlike me, she’s married and is the mother to an adorable little girl. Her daughter often makes appearances in her posts about mommy and me fashion. Make sure you go check out her blog Elegance and Mommyhood, and leave some comment love!

The Jaén dress

Jaén dress

Jaén is a beautiful small city just about an hour North of Granada, which is where I live. Last week, I had my orientation meeting for my teaching job in Jaén. I am employed to teach English in Spain through a program called Auxiliaries de Conversacion. Said program doesn’t give you 100% pick of the school you work in. Like it’s not like you apply to a bunch of different schools and see which one takes you. Instead everyone fills out the same online application and indicates their top three choices for the autonomous region they would like to live in. You getting your top choice depends on when you applied. So when I applied, I made sure my entire application was sent in the day it opened up.

The region of Andalusia was my first choice and I got it! However I picked it because I wanted to live in Malaga or Sevilla. Malaga has the beach and Sevilla is just well … amazing. Another thing about this job is that the second years in the program get first and more specific pick of where they want. Like we can just put down the regions and they get to pick the community. So many of them are putting down those cities because well … duh. So if Andalusia is your first choice as a first year, you’ll probably get it and get placed in a town like Jaén or an even smaller pueblo.

My school is in a super tiny pueblo about a 35-minute drive from Jaén. So this summer, I initially connected with the English teacher at my school and made plans to ride with her each day. I knew nothing of Jaén but was optimistic that I’d have a great year. After all, an adventure is what you make of it.

Then around late August, this same teacher contacted me to tell me she had transferred schools in order to be closer to home. However one of the teachers for the next year was living in Granada and she asked me if I would rather live there instead. I barely had to think about it … yes please! Granada is beautiful and one of the only cities in Spain where you get free tapas when ordering a drink at the bar. There’s amazing history and culture. It’s less than two hours from Malaga (where the airport is). It was a no brainer. So Granada it was and is. I’m currently writing this in my apartment in Granada and am so happy I made the choice to live here!

Jaén dress

The orientation

So since I am employed by the state of Jaén (Granada is in the state of Granada), I had to attend orientation in Jaén. Afterwards, myself and some fellow English teachers decided to spend some time exploring the city. It was absolutely beautiful.

Jaén dress

Jaén dress

Jaén dress

Jaén dress

Jaén dress

Jaén dress

This dress made the cut when deciding what to pack for a year in Europe. I ended up packing more lightly and could only bring maybe 12-15 dresses. But this one I knew I’d wear a lot. It’s one of those dresses that transitions well into fall and winter. And I’ve been told that it gets cold in the winter.

Where I link up today.

The Linkup

floral-bohemian-dresses-full

floral-bohemian-dresses-closeup

thursday-moda


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My experience touring a BlueGreen timeshare

BlueGreen timeshare

Before heading off to Europe, I spent a lovely weekend with my best friend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Last February I was browsing the Bass Pro Shops and ended up chatting with a nice salesman. The deal he was offering was honestly a little too good to be true. Nothing is free, after all. What he was offering was two nights in a hotel in over seven cities in the United States for $100. I decided to buy it. I mean, I had a year to use it. Why not?

Well this year, time got away from me to say the least. Most weekends were spent working my second job in order to save money for Spain. Before I knew it, it was the end of August. So I thought the weekend before I left with my best friend would be ideal. Plus, Gatlinburg is halfway between Cincinnati and Charleston, South Carolina. It was perfect.

So this lovely lady and I went to Gatlinburg …

BlueGreen timeshare

Antes de mi viaje a Europa, fui a Gatlinburg para pasar un buen fin de semana con mi mejor amiga. Este Febrero, estaba echando un vistazo en Bass Pro Shops y hablé con un vendedor muy amable. La ganga que él ofrecía fue honestamente casi demasiada buena como para ser la verdad. Nada es gratis. Él ofrecía dos noches en un hotel por $100 en mas de siete ciudades en Los Estados Unidos. Decidí aceptar su oferta. Tuve un año para usarlo, entonces, ¿cómo no

Pues este año, no he tenido mucho tiempo. La mayoría de los fines de semanas estaba trabajando en mi segundo trabajo para ahorrar dinero para España. ¡Pero el final de agosto vino rápido! Entonces pensaba que el fin de semana antes de ir a España con mi mejor amiga sería ideal. También Gatlinburg esta a medio camino entre Cincinnati y Charleston, Carolina del Sur, donde vive mi amiga. ¡Era perfecto!

Entonces esta preciosa muchacha y yo fuimos a Gatlinburg …

The deal

The deal wasn’t just about the hotel. No, they wanted to sell you something too. In order to receive the discount, they ask that you spend your morning touring a timeshare. The rest of your time is yours. Looking back, I thought “hey what’s a few hours?” However it was longer than I thought.

Kayleigh and I arrived Friday night separately because were coming from opposite directions. We are both running a tad late, so I call the guy at BlueGreen. He says they are open until 9 and as long as I can make it there before then, great! Well while that was my aim, I got a tad lost. But no worries. They set our stuff out in this late arrival box and Kayleigh was able to pick up our stuff. It had her go to this office to check into our hotel and receive our keys. We both had the same experience with the same hotel lady and it was not good …

Kayleigh was the first to arrive and the woman working at the Creekstone Inn (where we were staying) was rude to Kayleigh. Thankfully she let her check in at least. When I arrived, I had the same exact experience with the same woman. Not friendly and not helpful at all. However I got my keys and made it to the hotel with only getting lost once (her directions sucked).

La ganga no solo se trataba del hotel. Lo que pasa es que ellos querían vendernos algo también. Entonces para recibir el descuento, ellos pidieron que miráramos una multipropiedad por una mañana durante las vacaciones. El resto del tiempo era para nosotras. Pensé “¿A qué nos importan una o dos horas?” Pero finalmente duró más tiempo que quería.

Kayleigh y yo llegamos aparte la noche de viernes puesto que vivimos en ciudades distintas. Las dos llegamos tarde, pero el empleado me dijo que si llegara antes de las 9, todo estaría bien. Había tratado de llegar a tiempo pero me perdí en el camino. Pero no pasó nada y dejaron nuestras cosas en una caja al lado de la oficina. ¡Qué bien! Entonces Kayleigh fue a la oficina para recogerlas, ¡pero la recepcionista del hotel no estaba amable! Y peor, ¡también tuve yo la misma experiencia con esta mujer!

Kayleigh llegó primero y la mujer que estaba trabajando en ese Creekstone Inn estaba bastante maleducada. Por suerte la dejó hacer el check in. Cuando llegué, tuve la misma experiencia! ¡No estaba amable ni me ayudó nada! Pero de cualquier forma, obtuve mis llaves y llegué al hotel. Solo me perdí una vez (¡sus direcciones eran muy malas!).

The hotel and tour

The hotel was nice but basic. At least it was clean! The next morning, our tour of the timeshare started at 8 a.m. If we skipped it, we would have to pay full price. So of course we went. And they had free coffee, which was always a plus.

Also you must know that we both had no interest in buying a timeshare. While we both walked away without buying one, we did learn a few things. So we arrive and they tell us to have a seat. They then lead us back to a presentation room where we watch a slideshow about BlueGreen. It seemed as though every BlueGreen salesman was a middle-aged white gentleman in a bow tie. I saw a few women and honestly cannot remember if there were any people of color. That lack of diversity honestly does not sit well for me and could hurt their business.

The presentation is interesting for sure. The woman next to us thought differently, however. Halfway through it, you could hear her snoring! The showed us pictures and explained their point system. The great thing is that BlueGreen does not lock you into one place and one week a year. You definitely have lots of options.

Then it’s time to talk with a salesperson and take a tour. We were with a nice gentleman that seemed to have a knowledge of timeshares and some things in the travel world. However he had no real idea what a hostel was. That came up when were started talking about travel in Europe. It always amazes me when people work in travel and yet don’t have knowledge of things within that realm. However I digress.

The space was nice, and the model yurts and cabins seemed very cozy.

BlueGreen timeshare
The presentation building/el edificio de la presentacion

BlueGreen timeshare

BlueGreen timeshare

BlueGreen timeshare

BlueGreen timeshare

El hotel era bueno pero básico. ¡Por lo menos estaba limpia! A la mañana siguiente, nuestro tour de la multipropiedad empezó a las 8. Si lo hubieramos saltado, tendríamos que haber pagado el precio sin descuento. Entonces desde luego, fuimos. !Y había cafe gratis!

También hay que saber que no teníamos interés en comprar una multipropiedad. Pero aunque las dos salimos sin comprarnos una, aprendimos algunas cosas nuevas. Entonces llegamos y ellos nos dijeron que nos sentáramos. A continuación vino una presentación. Miramos una presentación de diapositivas sobre sus propiedades. Parecía que todos los empleados eran hombres blancos de mediana edad vestidos en corbatines. Vi a pocas mujeres y honestamente no puedo recordar si había algunas personas de color. Les faltaba la diversidad y esa falta no me gusta. No es buena para su empresa.

La presentación fue interesante, pero la mujer al lado de nosotras pensaba diferente. ¡Estaba durmiendo y se podía oírla! Ellos nos enseñaron imágenes y explicaron su sistema de puntos. Lo bueno es que BlueGreen te deja elegir tu semana y lugar cada año. ¡Tienes un montón de opciones!

Luego era tiempo para hablar con un vendedor y dar un paseo. Estábamos con un hombre muy amable y parecía tener conocimiento sobre multipropiedades pero nada mas. El no sabía nada sobre los albergues, por ejemplo. Hablamos de eso cuando estábamos hablando sobre viajar por Europa. Siempre me fascina cuando la gente que trabaja en viajar no tenga conocimiento de cosas así.

De todos modos, el espacio era buena y las yurtas y las cabinas parecían muy cómodas.  

Our thoughts

The idea of a timeshare is interesting but not for either of us at this time. The freedom of choices seems nice but I don’t need fancy resorts to travel. The whole thing lasted until about 11 a.m. and then we were free to enjoy Gatlinburg as we pleased. Honestly this sort of deal isn’t too bad if your vacation allows for that time. Would I do it again? Probably. Would I purchase a timeshare? Probably not.

La idea de tener una multipropiedad es interesante pero no es para Kayleigh ni yo de momento. La libertad nos parece bien pero no es necesario tener centros turísticos muy adornados para viajar. La presentación terminó a las 11 y después estábamos libres para disfrutar de Gatlinburg! Honestamente este descuento no es malo si tienes tiempo en tus vacaciones. ¿A hacerlo otra vez? Probablemente. Comprare una multipropiedad? Probablemente no.

 

 

 

 

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My epic week of apartment hunting in Spain

apartment hunting in spain

Apartment hunting in Spain was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in a while. This past week has been full of ups, downs and surprises. I cried and was grumpy at times. And I laughed because well, you have to. But yesterday night I found my piso (apartment) and all is well. The epic saga lasted about a week and I thought I’d re-account it here.

It all began one week ago last Thursday. First of all, let me just say that that seems like over a week ago. Perhaps the stress of not knowing where I’d live made the week seem to drag on forever. However it was one week ago that I was on a bus from Malaga to Granada. Malaga is the big Spanish city on the coast with an International airport. Hence, that was where I flew into. Granada is less than two hours North by bus. So I arrived and checked into my airbnb. Ah, I have arrived!

So in Spain a majority of people live in apartments. Most have 3-5 and maybe even 6 or 7 bedrooms. Yes, you can get your own place to yourself and pay usually at least 100 euro more a month, or you can share and pay as little as 140 euro per month. This option means you have your own room but share a kitchen and bathroom space. Not only did I want to share, but I wanted to share with Spaniards. As most of you know, I speak Spanish as a second language. However I didn’t really, really start speaking it till about two years ago. Furthermore I figure that if I’m in Spain, I want to immerse myself as much as I can. I can surround myself with English speakers in the US, after all.

I reserved an airbnb because everyone STRONGLY recommends that you don’t agree to a piso before seeing it in person. You never know because photos can be deceiving. So thus, I booked an airbnb for 5 days.

Now most of you who know me know that I like to plan ahead. Also, my biggest personality strength and flaw is that I choose not listen to negativity. I had heard from past language assistants and read on blogs that the piso hunt was tough. Everyone is looking at the same time and you have to do it in … Spanish. Whenever I hear that something is challenging, I always think “well there just must be another way.” In this case, I thought exactly that. I was like “well if I come to Spain with plans to view like five pisos, one will work out and I’ll just move in!” Oh how I wish it would have been that easy. It was not.

So I start in maybe May or June looking at apartment listing websites. Sure, it was way too early. But I love looking at the pictures and I was just imagining my life overseas. As the beginning of September approached, I started reaching out to people. I made a little ad on one website in Spanish saying that I was looking to live with Spaniards near my age. I got a lot of responses. I felt good and I felt prepared. Then I decided to circle around with those people a few days before leaving to see if they still needed roommates. Two of the four had already rented the rooms. Oh well. It’s not like I ever said “save it for me!” I just simply told all of them I would come see it when I arrived. So that left me with two that were still available. I still felt great about it and truly felt that one of the two would work out.

So that Thursday I viewed the first one and like everything except the fact that it was a tad farther from the city center. I viewed the second one Friday and liked everything about it. It literally checked off all of my boxes for what I wanted in a piso. I would have had three Spaniard girl roommates ages 26, 27 and 32. It was centrally located. It was just a nice, cozy place. The girls seemed very nice. I told them right then that I wanted it. It seemed as though they were like “well we need to talk to the girl who is moving out and let you know when you can move in.” But perhaps I misunderstood … I am communicating daily in my second language after all.

So because I thought I had a piso, I spent Saturday and Sunday relaxing. I walked around Granada and ate tapas. I simply relaxed. I thought I would check back in with the girls Sunday afternoon. When I did, they told me they had more people to come see it and that they would make a decision after that. I was crushed. But I knew I couldn’t just wait around. So I went back to my airbnb and cried. Then I dried my tears and got on the computer. I must have sent out like 20 whatsapp messages to people looking for roommates. I got a lot of people telling me that the room was already rented. However little by little I got responses. At the end of my night, I had four viewings planned. It seemed promising.

The sh*t show

That next day was ridiculous to say the least. The first viewing was an apartment super far North. The interesting thing was that the listing was for a piso in the center of the city. However she told me the rooms she had available were in that neighborhood up North. When I arrive, I send her a whatsapp message. She’s 30 minutes away in a pueblo (small town) and will be 30 minutes late. I had a seat and started looking around. I was just like “lets be real … I’m not going to live here.” I didn’t want to waste her time, so I cancelled.

Piso two was AMAZING! It was in a neighborhood slightly south of the city but super accessible with lots of shops, restaurants and other things. I would have had one roommate age 25 and a dog. Her dog was adorable too! Oh and it had a beautiful terrace. It just seemed like a very chill situation. I liked it but had two more viewings that day. The second viewing was in that same neighborhood. I show up and there’s a 9-year-old child. The woman never put that she had kids in her ad! Like not at all. It turns out she’s a sweet Honduran house cleaner with two kids ages 9 and 15. Her brother sometimes stays in the apartment too. But the fourth room they have they rent out. While she seemed nice, I just was not interested in living with a family. However I left it open as you just have to in the piso hunt. You just don’t want to be completely out of options. Also she said she would pass my number along to people wanting English lessons … win! The fourth one of the day was cancelled. I guess they had someone they liked enough that they didn’t even feel the need to meet me. Disheartening? Yes. But life goes on.

That evening I return to my airbnb to continue looking at listings. As I’m sitting in the kitchen, I get a text from a girl who is looking for a fourth roommate. She seems super cute and fun. She tells me that she is not interested in ANY Spanish roommates because she loves living with foreigners. She loves practicing English and learning about different cultures. I think “wow, this could be really good. This could be it.” So I agree to go see it.

First of all, it was a hike. Like it was not central at all, but had the same price as pisos in the center of the city. I arrive and all looks good. There’s a Spaniard, a girl from Portugal and an Italian. Oh and it had a BEAUTIFUL view of Granada. Honestly, if it was closer to the city center, I would have taken it right then and there. But it was far and expensive. So I said thanks and as always, kept it open. After all if I couldn’t find anything and that was an option, life could be much worse. I’d rather live with them than the Honduran family anyway.

As I’m walking back from that viewing, I get a message from a girl named Pilar. Except I’m still getting used to Spanish names and I assumed Pilar was a guy. Now I know Pilar is a girl’s name. She was like “I saw your ad. I’m 28 and live with my dad. We have a room free.” My dad is super low-key and chill, so I thought it was worth checking out. So I agree to meet them on my way back.

As I enter the apartment, there’s cat stuff everywhere. I forgot to ask about cats! I myself am super allergic and it’s usually one of my questions as I’m acquiring information about an apartment. But I figure since I’m already there, I might as well have a chat. I’m invited to sit on the couch and chat with her and her dad. Her dad was nothing like mine (apart from the whole my dad being an American thing). Her dad is 71 and seems to be one of those older people who just says whatever they want. One of those people who knows that the outlandish things they say and do are part of their charm. I’m convinced that certain types of people exist in every culture. This is a perfect example. He mumbles on about the financial crisis in Europe and has a weird fascination with my hands. Apparently they are big and nice looking. He keeps saying things that make her go “papi!!” out of obvious embarrassment. I’m thinking this one is a no. Apparently they have found an apartment and just need a third. I’d have my own bathroom. I’m still not convinced. I figure I already have a dad and didn’t move to Spain to get another. However like the Honduran woman and the far away apartment, I left it open. Like “oh I’m looking at other places but I’ll let you know.”

The next day I view a few more and start/stop writing a message to the girl with the dog and terrace. I wanted her piso but for some reason was hesitant. I then get a message from Pilar that her dad is going to an old persons home and she wants to live in the center of the city. She wants to be my roommate. While that was an odd switch up, I was open. I still viewed like maybe one or two more that day, and chatted back and forth with Pilar. It was nerve wracking and I often felt a tad sick. What if I found nowhere?

I just had to keep on keeping on

Yesterday was crazy. The first place was just like rooms to rent and it felt like a convent. I will say though that one of the rooms was huge and tempting to just take. The landlady made you sign a contract (not super common in Spain). I honestly felt like it was just a boarding house.

The second place I didn’t even end up seeing. I arrive and send the landlord a whatsapp message. I hear nothing back and have a seat on the bench in front. At least I have a bench! I’ve gotten real good at silver linings in all of this. She comes out about 10 minutes later with the girl and is like “se alquilada! Lo siento!” The chick took it right out from under me! What in the heck? It probably sucked anyway. So I just said thanks and continued on my way.

I was super hungry, so I stopped at a cafe and sat in the corner. I start to cry … all by myself in the corner of a cafe. Folks, this is also a part of the expat life. It’s not all sunshine, rainbows and Instagram updates like you might think. Sometimes you just feel so helpless and alone.

The piso

A girl had started messaging me on whatsapp that morning and I just had a different feeling about it. Like perhaps that was the one. I also more or less straight up told her that I had been searching with minimal luck since last week. I said if I liked it, I would want it. She seemed okay with this and it made me happy. Also she was 29 like me!

That evening I decided to be happy no matter what happened. I changed clothes, touched up my makeup and started smiling. I sat in a courtyard and people watched. I browsed shops. Even though it sucked to still be homeless in Spain, I was in Spain! I also told all my friends to pray/send out good vibes for me.

Eventually it was time to view the piso. Upon walking in, it just felt like home. The place just felt clean and well taken care of. My room would be small, yes, but with lots of closet space. I would also have direct access to the balcony and a trundle bed! All there of the roommates were from Spain just like I wanted. I just had a good feeling and said yes. And like that, it was mine! The hunt was over.

Things I realized

  • People won’t always be direct with you. If you tell someone you want it and their response is “we still have other people coming to view it,” it could mean just that. Or more often it means they want to keep roommate searching. If they were enthralled with you, they would have just let you have it then and there.
  • Next year, I may just put more money down up front for my own 3-4 bedroom and then do my own roommate searching. Then I control the conversation instead of the other way around.
  • Panning ahead in Spain is just not a thing. My plans were more or less for nothing.
  • If you have a bad gut feeling, just don’t do it. One guy wanted to offer me a free room in exchange for “english lessons.” Oh and and he would give me massages. Yeah, I turned that one down.

Other odds and ends

  • The girl with the crazy dad’s new piso wouldn’t have been ready until November. But she said I could live with her dad until then. Yeah, no. That was my last last last resort. Who knows if November would have turned into December and so forth.
  • I may hang out with some of the people who’s pisos I viewed. Thats a plus. And lord knows I need friends in a new place.
  • I finally got a response from the girls in the second piso I liked so much. They chose another girl. Go figure.

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