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. . .