Showing posts from August, 2013

4 Reasons You Should Know About Linares, Spain

Browse through the pages of any major travel guide for Spain and you’d be hard-pressed to find even a single reference to Linares, a city 61,000 strong in the southern province of Jaén. More people live in Linares than in the tourist hotspots of Segovia and Ávila, yet hardly anyone has heard about this place. This is a real shame, because Linares is a decent-sized, typical Spanish town but without the hordes of tourists that mob Granada or Sevilla. Although a fairly anonymous, workaday town, Linares makes up for its lack of cathedrals or castles with a significant cultural heritage and an accessible setting. Find out why Linares should have its name on your map after the photo!

1) Bullfighter Manolete died here
If you’re like me, you probably don’t know a thing (or care) about the history of Spanish bullfighting, but apparently The Most Famous Bullfighter of All Time was Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez, a.k.a. Manolete. He died from wounds sustained in his last bullfight here in Lin…

Capture the Colour: Photos Across the Spectrum in Morocco and Spain

Last week, I came across a lovely photo post by longtime Spain expat blogger Cassandra Gambill. But because she was entering the annual Capture the Colour photography contest (sponsored by the British website Travel Supermarket), her blog post showcased five pictures from her travels over the past few years in which the colors (spelled without a U, thank you very much!) yellow, red, green, white, and blue featured prominently. For whatever reason, I was hesitant to throw my hat in the ring until Cat Gaa of Sunshine and Siestas“tagged” me in her entry for the competition this morning. Guess I don’t have much of a choice now! Anyway, I hope y’all enjoy these photos.

Yellow: Petunias at the Patios de Córdoba festival
I first visited Córdoba back in dreary December and, while I did enjoy the city, every Spaniard I talked to about it insisted it was “worth the pain” (vale la pena) to go back in May for the Patios de Córdoba festival, a decades-old competition to see who can decorate their t…

Answering Your Questions About Walking Spain’s Camino de Santiago

Between June 5th and 9th of this year, I completed a major life goal by walking the Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage route that runs across northern Spain and ends at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the remains of St. James, son of Zebedee (a.k.a., Santiago), are reportedly buried.

Although ostensibly a religious route, the Camino is as much adventure and traveling as spiritual exercise. I only hiked 115km of it, but trekking 25km or more each day was a pleasant challenge and introduced me to the beautiful countryside of Galicia, the northwest region of Spain.

I’m sure most of you have a lot of questions about this pilgrimage, so in this post I’ve tried to answer most of the basic questions you may be asking. I’m sure to have missed some, so ask anything not in here in the comments below!

So, what is this Camino?
The legend goes that in the 1st century CE, the apostle James “the Greater” came to Roman Hispania (i.e., the Iberian peninsula) to preach the gospel …

Sevilla, Spain: The Heartbeat of Andalucía

I finally had the chance to visit Sevilla, the capital of Spain’s southern Andalucía region, in April of this year, and I don’t think I could have arrived at a better time: the springtime weather had made the city warm but not a frying pan, the long winter rain had finally let up, and a fragrant, floral air had invaded the streets and plazas.

Sevilla (pronounced “say-VEE-yah” [seˈβi.ʝa]) began as the Roman city of Hispalis, which served as a judicial capital within the province of Baetica. Over the centuries it continued to grow, and was an important city during Moorish times. When Columbus “discovered” the Americas, Sevilla discovered a monopoly on trade between Spain and the New World and subsequently became one of the richest cities in the world. The silting of the Guadalquivir River, however, effectively closed off its ports and pushed the center of trade south to Cádiz on the coast, and Sevilla foundered.

Its long decline began to reverse in the 20th century with two great fairs,…

Villanueva del Arzobispo: The Town Where I Worked in Spain

Well, it’s been almost a year since I moved to Spain and worked for eight months as a language assistant, yet I still have not written (almost) anything about the town where I worked, the town responsible for me being abroad in the first place! So in this post, I would like to share a little bit about Villanueva del Arzobispo, a village of a little under 9,000 people in the middle of Spanish olive oil country.

The surrounding region
Like I said above, Villanueva del Arzobispo (that nine-syllable mouthful referred to hereafter as simply “Villanueva”) is located in the heart of Spain’s olive oil country. Pronounced “bee-yah-NWAY-vah dayl ahr-thoe-VEES-poe” [ˌbi.ʝaˈnwe.βa ðel ˌaɾ.θoˈβis.po], the city belongs to the province of Jaén, which alone produces a third of Spain’s annual olive oil total. Because of this, virtually all non-urban, non-mountainous land is devoted to endless olive groves that carpet the landscape in a muted, warm green.

The city is found on a plain to the west of som…

3 Spanish Words for “Castle” That Come from Arabic

If you spend any amount of time in the south of Spain, you’re bound to come across some castles that aren’t actually called castillos in Spanish. Instead, they’ve got some confusing name that begins with al-, like “alcalá,” “alcazaba,” and “alcázar. Why not just stick with the native word for castle—castillo—and leave it at that? Well, during the Middle Ages, Arabic-speaking Muslims from North Africa ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula and countless Arabic words entered the Spanish language, words like algodón (“cotton”), albañil (“construction worker”), and aceituna (“olive”).

In addition to leaving a healthy amount of words in modern-day Spanish, the Arabic language also left lots of place-names across the country. Because of this, many castles you’ll run into around Spain will be called by their Arabic-derived term, usually because they are Moorish in origin or were built on an original Muslim fortification.

Below I have tried to demystify these very similar-sounding words, shown …

5 Ways to Speak Spanish Like a Spaniard

If you’re like me, you’ve probably learned Spanish as it’s spoken throughout Latin America. Now, I know there is no one single standard Latin American accent, but there are a few things I’ve noticed when listening to Spaniards speak that distinguish them from Spanish speakers in, for example, Nicaragua or Argentina. Since living here for the greater part of a year, I’ve both consciously resisted and unconsciously picked up on many features of the typical Spanish accent. After thinking about it for a while, I’ve decided there are around five characteristics that most distinguish the Spanish of Spain from the Spanish of the Americas. These five sounds, when spoken in the Castilian way, will bring you much closer to sounding native.

1) Pronounce C before E & I and Z like TH In the Americas you’ll hear the words ciudad (“city”), cereza (“cherry”), and zorro (“fox”) pronounced as “see-oo-DAHD” [sjuˈðað], “say-RAY-sah” [seˈɾ], and “SOE-rroe” [ˈ]. However, in Spain, you’ll pick …