While I love the excitement of arriving at the airport, going through security (total sarcasm here) and boarding my flight to some exciting destination, I also love the fun of a simple day trip. There are so many places that we can explore within a 1-3 hour drive of us, wherever we are. I love taking day trips and where I live in Spain, there are so many!
Over Semana Santa, I traveled in Ireland and England for a little bit. On my way back home, I found cheaper airfare into Madrid. Since I’ve already been to Madrid several times, I decided to take a day trip to Toledo. Toledo is a perfect day trip from Madrid as it’s a one-hour away. And it’s also a city that you do not want to miss. It’s full of so much history and things to see. And the architecture is very unique.
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.
Why Andorra? Okay so you’re either asking me why or what as you start reading this. If you’re asking what, Andorra is a tiny country sandwiched between Spain and France in the Pyrenees Mountains. Nothing crazy ever happens there that would make national news and it is often left off of world maps. And I’ll admit, I really only learned about the country 4-5 years ago. And ever since, I’ve been fascinated.
So Nina, tell me more!
Oh I’m so glad you asked. Andorra is actually a principality and the only country where Catalan is the official language (Catalan is also spoken in parts of Spain, parts of France and one community in Italy. It is very similar to Spanish but is considered it’s own language. Think like Spanish and Italian … both different languages that share a lot of similarities). However Spanish and French are also widely spoken, as well as some English. I spoke Spanish my entire time there because I figured most people were more likely to be comfortable in Spanish over English (and because I hate being “that” American who asks for English everywhere).
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 was very fortunate to spend several days in Glasgow, Scotland a few weeks ago. While it was very cold, I managed to find a good amount of things to do that cost me nothing. When traveling, I do believe that you can save money. Luckily in Scotland, many of the historical sites are free to the public. I spent my three days there touring the city this way. So without further ado, here are 7 free things to see in Glasgow, Scotland.
7. The Glasgow Necropolis
The Glasgow Necropolis sits up on a hill just above the Glasgow Cathedral. From here, you get some of the best views of the entire city. What’s a Necropolis? It’s a Victorian-era garden cemetery. I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s always something neat and calming about wandering through a cemetery.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The room was nice. I was loving the balcony! We had a nice view.
The layout of the room was nice. It was generally clean and comfortable.
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.
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.
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
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-go
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.
On the upside
There is none. This was my worst morning in Granada thus far.
1. No clothing dryers
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.
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?