The title of this entry is half-serious. My first observation: There were SO many Brits in Córdoba. My second observation: Good God, everything is at least twice the price of anything in Galicia. A friend that I made on this leg of the journey, Luis, explained to me that there is a correlation between the two. Wealthy British folks have made Córdoba their home and as a result, the city is like a modern-day Babel AND a can of Kas is 2 euros.
You call THIS a tortilla?! Womp womp.
3) I ate the Famous Ray’s Original “The Real Deal” version of tortilla espanola. And it was not pretty. I’ll have to Yelp it.
4) There’s apparently a hipster bar in Córdoba, where one can drink cheap beer (if the beer in Spain isn’t cheap enough already!) and listen to indie dance tunes. Cool!
5) It was 45 degrees centigrade. In the shade. I’ll let the Yanks do the temperature conversion on that one.
6) That Andalucian accent “drop the d” thing is catchy. I wish I could speak like that.
After two action-packed days in Córdoba, it was time to move along to my next destination: Cádiz. At the risk of sounding like a nerd, I’m on the edge of my seat awaiting the results from my exam!
Even though the water in Galicia is about 10 degrees centigrade, the beaches are much better maintained than they are in Málaga. Although the beaches are very picturesque in Málaga, a lot of people litter (unfortunately) and the sand is pretty rocky. With that said, I am now somewhere between amber and crimson in color…
After a lot of San Juan revelry, my first Spanish exam, and an “eventful” night, I was running awake for 48 hours with 2 hours of sleep. As I like to say, there’s nothing a little caffeine can’t fix. At 5:45am, I was off to the airport for the first stop on my Andalucian adventure:Málaga. An even better treat: my dad made a stop in Spain to hang out with me on Saturday.
After catching up over a caña with my dad, we headed over to a tapas bar (El Tapeo de Cervantes) for dinner. My dad and I caught up on life and strategized my move to Chicago. (I honestly have no idea how I am going to pull this off.) It only took two days for me to be known as a “regular” here and to have the bartender sneaking single malts my way.
So first and foremost, I have been having problems connecting to the internet this past weekend. It’s been extra-frustrating because I wanted to share my San Juan experience with you all! (I also need to post updates of my weekend in Malaga.)
The fiesta de San Juan is celebrated in many Spanish-speaking areas and countries, but in Galicia the traditions are especially important. The holiday is linked to the summer solstice. Bonfires symbolize a “cleansing” for the people who see them – meaning they are starting the year off anew. And it’s not just branches that you’ll see burning; you’ll find students eager to burn their textbooks in the bonfire. I’m sure that after passing their exams, they’d also like to start off new!
In Galicia, at midnight on the 24th day of June, massive bonfires are lit on the beach. Additionally, it is very traditional to eat sardines for dinner and to drink queimada (a mixture of orujo, fruit, and sugar that is burned – but as you burn it you have to recite some wiccan chant).
Melinda and I headed to Playa America to celebrate San Juan. There were so many people! The evening was definitely geared towards the younger crowd, with lots of boardwalk games and prizes to keep everyone entertained before heading to the actual beach. Although I didn’t see any queimada prepared on the beach, there were lots of mojitos and caiprhinas to be had.
The bonfires themselves were quite a sight to behold. The flames were at least 10 feet tall and throwing off A LOT of heat. (Which was good – the beach gets quite chilly at sundown.) Kids on the beach were making mini-bonfires of their own. Apparently, jumping over the bonfire means that you will have good luck in the coming year. I didn’t do any jumping, so I hope this does not put a damper on any luck I may or may not have…
I was unable to camp out on the beach overnight (many people just sleep in tents), due to an exam the next morning. Bummer, I know. But at least I finally experienced one of Galicia’s most important festivals.
What a busy week it has been! I’ve just completed my first week of classes; it’s mentally exhausting to sit in class for 4+ hours every day, trying to absorb as much information as possible. Most of the time, I need an afternoon nap to feel refreshed enough to tackle the assignments and review my notes. It’s really important that I do not fall behind though – on August 19, the Cervantes Institute administers an exam for a certificate in Spanish (DELE) that is globally recognized. If I want to study at IE in Madrid for a semester, I need to pass this exam!
In the midst of all of the studying, I’ve been able to go on a few small excursions in Vigo and Gondomar. The pictures below were taken at the Count of Gondomar’s mansion. The mansion was constructed in the 16th century; the park and surroundings have the feel of an old horror movie (especially since we visited at dusk). It’s a shame that the buildings have not been maintained over the years; I believe that the property could make for a great museum.
Oriana knows of the best places to find churros in Vigo.
Speaking of hiking through parks, I’m convinced that walking around Galicia is better for you than a P90X workout. All I do is walk up hills with a minimum of a 30 degree grade (or so it seems). At least I can be one of those parents that will tell their kids, “When I was your age, I walked uphill to class, 6 kilometers under the beating hot sun…”
Ah yes, and I’ve been eating very well. Jose, the father of the host family, is an outstanding cook. We’ve made a deal that he will teach me a few of his specialties (apparently top-secret) if I do the cooking one day. No pressure or anything!
The past few days have been really hectic, but I’m getting settled in. After struggling with a major bout of jetlag, I decided to be adventurous and try my hand at the public transportation system here in Gondomar.
New York it is not, but there are buses that run each hour and take passengers to nearby destinations such as Nigrán, Vigo, and Baiona. My host family thought it would be a good idea to familiarize myself with Nigrán and A Ramallosa.
I am much more relaxed now that I have arrived. After months of spreading myself very thin from MBA applications, work, alumni council things, and a whole laundry list of other activities (which I do enjoy!), it was mentally refreshing (and a bit odd, to be honest) to focus on a single task completely (e.g., reading a story in the newspaper and understanding it) and give it 100%. Let’s hope this illusion of relaxation is not fleeting because tomorrow I head to the university in order to understand the bus routes and locations of various buildings along campus. I have no problem sleeping because I am barraged with so much information!
I am at the airport; ready to board my flight. I’ve been a bundle of nerves the past few days, but I feel much calmer now that I’m here and on my way.
I’m really looking forward to this summer. In addition to taking courses in Vigo, I plan to take trips to the south of Spain and possibly Madrid to do a bit of networking.
Although Spain was “neutral” during World War II (and I put neutral in quotes), it should be interesting to be in Europe for D-Day. As a history buff, I’m always curious to see how other cultures honor important dates in history.
Alright, it is time to shut the laptop down and be on my way. I’ll be posting next from Vigo and sharing my stories with you all summer long!