Huelva, the back streets

Monday, March 29, 2010

Las Fallas: Valencia, Weekend the Fifth

The night before: out, having a good time our usual spot (The Buddah Bar), being very tranquilo, saying farewell to yet another friend and all is going to be well tomorrow.

07:30 - We get up, shower, eat, still very mellow, catch a cab to the train station, get there, go to the platform and say farewell to our train, this time, rolling out the station.
Swearing and stomping our feet, missing the train by a mere 2 minutes, we set off to buy another ticket to get to Cordoba, high speed, and change to our actual ride.

17:00 - Arrive in Valencia. As we steam through the city, we already sight some of the colourful, strange Fallas. Quick pitstop at the flat we were staying at and we meet up with a local friend (Miguel) that graciously took it upon himself to act as our tourguide.

Definition of the annual fiesta: Grand, obscene wooden structures, designed by various artists, painted and decorated to perfection and set aligght by the Fallarita Mayor (basically the richest girl in town, dressed in rich fabrics and jewelry, that ascts as the face of the festival for the week) to burn down with loud crackles of fire and crackers, each in it's turn.

Theme of Fallas 2010: Satire of various celebrities and political figures.

Duration: One week. Starting on the 15th until the 19th of March.

What to expect: lots of parties, Agua de Valencia (mixture of Cava, Vodka and orange juice), screaming, fireworks, bunelos (little fried cookies made of pumpkin, served with icing sugar), labyrinths of people, Fallaritas Minoras in traditional festive clothing parading around and overall madness.

After all the excitement and radical sighthings, the rest of the weekend was spent leisurely exploring the great city. We made a visit to well-known buildings, the spectacular old part of the city and an awesome Science Museum. There Cesare Pavese taught us that "the richness in life, lies in the memories we have forgotten."


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

“Summer time, . . .”

(and the living is Spanish)

Another stroke of luck we forgot to mention: since we have arrived it has not deceased raining. Seville is situated south of Spain, near the equator and therefore usually has great rays of sun that bless the city around this time of the year. Friend Murphy decided to bless us with great showers of rain drops - for the first time in 60 years.

On the 15th of March we did, however, see some of that glorious sun. After school, we headed down to the river that crawls through the city dividing the centro of Sevilla from Triana (the neighbourhood where we live that can be compared to a uptown Kuilsriver), with all our international friends: Thomas (Brittish, 27), George (Brittish, 23), Linnea (Swedish, 18), Paparazzi Pablo (American, 69), Maripol (Dutch, 24), Jorinde (Dutch, 19), Karlijn (Dutch, 23), Karin (German, 19), Karina (German, 22). Like true locals, we soaked up the heat (or took del sol, directly translated), enjoying the most popular and widely sold brand of red and white wine sold in Spain. Did we mention, also the cheapest, at £1,10 for a litre (Don Simon).
Robertsons better pull up their socks.
Tinto de Verano, a standard summer drink in Spain - that consists of red wine and lemonade - was also eagerly consumed. The day did not pass without the casual visit if a hobo or two and as we were sitting around laughing, another charming toothless dronkie came by and toasted a swig with us of the same label of Verano we were drinking!

Those who do not snatch themselves a seat on the riverbank, opt for a jog or a bike ride to make use of the sun. And whatever these people do, no matter how much they exercise, drink or smoke (and boy, do they smoke a heck of a lot: in the morning, on the streets, in restaurants; while eating and drinking, when not eating and drinking; before siesta, after siesta; taking the dog for a walk, or accompanying a kiddie to the playground; grandmother and granddaughter having a puff together and you will even find an ashtray in some bathrooms), they always smell delicious. Their hair also never seems to frizz – this is honestly a frizz-free-hair nation. Maybe, that is because they spend all their hours concentrating on everything, besides working – typical Andalucian style.

Besides, with the orange tree in full blossom, their rich scent clouding the streets, who want to work anyway?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back on Home Ground. . .

Whenever I hear the word Kontiekie Toer, my throat seems to refrain from breathing, my heart starts pounding faster and I see visions of middle aged people with snowy white skin walking around in sandals and socks in the streets of some obscure little town and frowning at possibly everything they see around them, utterly bored and fed up. When those two words popped up, however, on the weekly cultural program of our language school, proposing a very exotic trip to Morocco, we gave each other one sly smile and decided it was an offer that we can not miss out on.
Off we treaded the next day to the Moroccan embassy, because even though we are from the same continent as our end destination, our South African passports mean squat. After a session of broken Spanish on our side and poor English on the lovely woman from the embassy’s side, we walked out about a half an hour later with two visas to visit the land of mint tea and hookah pipes. (Not even Germany delivers such good service!)
Obscure, some of the towns indeed were (we visited Chef Chuan and Tetuan in the lush green countryside of north Morocco), but certainly beautiful. And there was no need to walk around with a constant air of despair, our faces becoming one giant constipated balloon. The atmosphere, needless to say is vastly different; outer appearances are deceptive (one giant lucky packet!), so if the hotel sports a for star plaque and illustrious lobby, the rooms are likely to be crappy. So much was packed into those three days: we also visited Tanger, rode on camels, saw dancers and acrobats from the mountains and nearing cities perform, ate delicious spicy tagine and couscous, drank too much gunpowder tea with sugar and spent maybe a few too many dirhams (the currency used there; they do however also accept euro’s at a slightly elevated price per piece bought) and even experienced a first class disco in Tanger. The American music stopped at a certain point and a little live band started playing native music (the local girls then pull out all the stops and move their bodies serpent-like to the rhythm, wearing – against all odds – basically, um, nothing).
To attempt to sum up the experience, would be like asking to try and get the Spaniards to dislike soccer. Never going to happen. Nunca. Hopefully, these posted images will offer a taste of our sightings. . .

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sweet, sweet Spain. . .

As fin de semana lends a peak at us, we decide to hop on bus and greet the city of Huelva. . . The ride started out a drag until serendipity blessed us with an encounter with John Mayer.
No, seriously.

Deciding, better judgement intact, we do not stalk him all the way to his humble abode, but to rather explore the city.

Our first sighting of Huelva (pronounced "Welba")scared us shitless. WOW! How different from Sevilla and it's whimsical frontiers!To put it in a nutshell: Huelva is landmarked by captivating contemporary graffiti that polute the backtreets, industrial monstrosities and guys that we now famously call the Wet Looks (definition: those of the masculine gender that most likely spend a precious amount of time grooming their mops, pouring half a container of hair gel to create this immaculate masterpiece).

Roaming the streets, we did discover the sweet inside. Cobblestone roads that guide you towards Plaza de Virgen where locals enjoy the afternoon sun during their siesta, white doves flocking at their feet with a view of a enchanting and ancient church. Typical Andalucian bars line the alleyways and this is of course were we got stuck. We tuck away at plump green olivas, meat stew, tortilla espanola and fresh pan con cafe. We must have either looked ravenous or the waiter took pity on us, for we enjoyed all this for a mere 10 euros (he probably thought since the South Africans are going to lose the World Cup he might as well give us free munchies).

In short, Marcella´s birthday rocked: after a drink and an exotic trip to The Buddha Bar, were the young and the not so young, come together to jam it out on a few American tunes (despite them singing along to every word of the songs, they still
can not speak a word of English), we ended up in typical Sevillian bar - Bar Torro - with some locals at seven o´clock in the morning and inbetween moutfulls of tostada and coffee, we were serenaded - flamenco style.

As we bring this delayed update of Sevilla and it´s oranges (don´t try to consume those that litter the streets, not a joyful experience for lack of actuall orange taste), we share a copa with the likes of George Clooney, Robert Downey Jnr., Andre Agassi and Giovanni Ribishi.

Interesting finding for the week: there are definitely more good-looking men around, than women. In fact, men seem to reach a peak after adolescence and, with the help of all their beauty products and ridiculous excercise routines, wallow in that peak for. . . ever. Women, on the other hand, are pretty, reach puberty, become very pretty and then go bald over the years and end up looking like their male companions (naturally, with a few exceptions)

Man, do we love Spain and it´s beautifully groomed beautiful men.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Pilgramage

Day Three. Still no luggage.

Friendly warning: never try and apply for a non-permanent (TEMPORAL, if you should ever need it) residence card in Spain. Spaniards have no clue whatsoever of direction or english. A sure recipe to get lost or confused. . . or both.

We started off in good spirits, singing in the rain and all that jazz, just going to the bank to register for an account. Only to be sent to some dodgy little police station to acquirre the oh-so famous tarjeta de residencia. . . temporal. Finding a cute man in uniform, more than willing to help us, was no problem. Understanding the bloke, was Mission Impossible numero 4. So, the sweetie sent us packing to Plaza de Espana (another police station), with very little comprehendible directions.

We ended up following in the footsteps of our ancestors, copying the good 'ol Groot Trek, walking about seven kilometres and seriously contemplating the meaning of life. . .an empty stomach.

The cards were NOT received. Work in progress. As well as emotional preparation to follow the same procedure again tomorrow. . .

Awesome finding for the day: a place that serves tapas for less than two euros and there is no need to only stare at your plate to fill up. . . you can - wait for this - eat! Heaped plates galore! Lovely, crispy fried aubergine, floating in a lush bath of tamatoe gazpacho and fresh hake, eveloped in a jacket of authentic spanish beer batter and a killer garlic mayo to go with it (seriously, it might just kill you dead - the garlic that is).

Thus we formulated our own meaning of life. For heaven hath ascended after that meal.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shit comes in pairs of three. . Or not?

So The Amazing Race commenced. . . There we are tossing back our last South African rooibos teetjie for the next seven months. . . Connection flights smoothly caught and movies galore later, something had to go wrong, right? Right. You bet your afrikaanse gat, ja. Madrid airport: we are shuffling around in glamorous plastic socks (boots are obviously hazourdous to the country and need to be removed asap at customs - more lickely the appetizing stinky sock wiffs) and the lovely male securtiy guard and Lindi having an intimate conversation about her sanitary towels, more or less sets the tone for what is about to come.

And so, Lindi's luggage got lost somewhere in Europe. The next step was to get a taxi to our apartment in Seville. You would think a TAXI DRIVER would know something about GPS, right? Right. However, the idioto did not actually know the street we were meant to spend the next two months resting our heads and had to ask SEVERAL Spaniards for directions (men!), on our tab. . . Eventually dropped off at Arcangel San Gabriel instead of Rafael. . .we had to walk. . .

Dripping with perspiration and heavenly downpour we greet our flatmate. . . A middle-aged granny that speaks not a word of Virginia's tongue.

Next day: we step into. . . the Wildernis. And no, there was no Candy Mountain. . . Instead we got classmates that are all fluent in this foreign language of Spanish, as opposed to other newbies that are only starting to comprehend it. . . like us. A torturous hour and a half later we at least sorted that problem out and decided to skip conversation class for a little tapas (an understatement. . . it was minute). Spent R85 on three saucers worth of food (not even heaped), a bottle of water and a shot of coffee.

That schocker over, we decided to do some grocery shopping. We selected a supermercado we passed on our way to school. Walking out with 6 litres of olive oil (gonna be here for two months, so what a bargain!), 6 litres of water, 6 litres of milk and two very heavy bags of other stuff - did we mention we had to drag this shit for 1,5 km's to our granny flat, no pun intended. Not only did our hands chafe, our keys did not fit into the blinkin lock. Luckily, someone from the same building strolled by and let us in. So up four flights of stairs (the elevator from the previous night seemed to dissappear) we arrive at number 15. Only to find a doggy barking from behind the door. Yip, you guessed it! Wrong apartment, wrong building, wrong street.

No, we are not making this up.

Yet again, drenched in sweat and downpour, we arrive at the final desination.

We attempted to relieve all the negative energy from the past hours, and took to exploring. There must have been TOURIST written on our foreheads, for some gypsies attacked us with promises of true love, a frivolous marriage, two bambinos, everlasting friendships, intelligence, beauty (although they spin that crap to everyone) and a twig of holy leaves. They then demanded a helping of our precious euros for those obvious truths!
Yes, we are that fabuloso.

We then headed home for a home cooked meal a la Marcelle and a good glass of shitty wine (headlines for broke Stellenbosch students: come to Spain. You can get drunk here for the unbelievable price of only R9,99 per bottle of vinegar!)

And as we sit here, writing you this post, Eskom even failed us in grand Europe. Did not know they had contacts with far, far away. . .