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Showing posts from November, 2013

On Saying “Bye!” to Say “Hi!” When Passing Friends in Spain

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When I first came to Spain in September of last year, culture shock really wasn’t that big of a problem for me, thanks in no small part to the plethora of resources available online—expat and auxiliar blogs, for example—and in print—books like Culture Shock: Spain, and even the back matter of Lonely Planet Spain. Reading about little (and big) cultural differences beforehand prepared me well for my initial few weeks in the country, from giving kisses when meeting women to eating dinner at nine in the evening instead of five- or six-o’-clock.

Moving to Úbeda, in the northwest corner of the southern Andalucía region, I expected the local accent to be rapid, consonant-dropping, and generally different from textbook or news reporter Spanish. I had studied what made the andaluz accent different from “standard” Castilian, and was ready to interpret what I heard as comotá to mean ¿Cómo estás?—“How are you?”

But already in that first week of getting settled in Úbeda I was hearing taló and tal…

Photo Post: Visiting Alicante, Spain, for the Friends, Not the Museums

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Some cities you go to for the sights, others for the fun, still others for the friends. When I went to Alicante on the Spanish Mediterranean coast back in March, it was for the friends, and I don’t regret it at all.

Also called Alacant in the local Valencian Catalan language, Alicante is one of the biggest cities in the country and a big home base for beach bums in the summer. For many years now, it has also been a popular study abroad destination for students at my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University. So when I learned that a handful of acquaintances and fellow Spanish majors would be in Alicante the same time I was in Spain, I decided to try and have our paths cross at least once! That chance came the first weekend in March when I was visiting Valencia, two hours to the north. On my way back home, I swung by Alicante for two nights and had a great time simply hanging out in town.

Visiting college friends in Alicante was a nice change from the usual monument-museum-eating pace I…

Is It Blasphemy to Dislike Granada, Spain?

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(Disclaimer: I’m fully aware I’m about to step on approximately 11,920 toes with this post…)


Granada is: one of the biggest cities in the southern Spanish region of Andalucía…home to the Alhambra, a beautiful Moorish palatial complex built in the Middle Ages during the last Muslim kingdom in Spain…a center for generously-big free tapas with your drink…the burial place for the monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella…a home base for going skiing in the snowy Sierra Nevada…a great place to study abroad in…the last city in Spain to be “re-conquered” from Muslim rule in the 1400s…full of interesting neighborhoods like the winding, hillside Albaicín…a popular place for the springtime Cruces de Mayo festival…and an essential stop for almost any trip to Spain.

Granada is nice and all, but… Don’t get me wrong, the first time I visited Granada back in November of last year I loved it. I had been very anxiously looking forward to wandering around the city’s Alhambra palace for years and it was merely tw…

Culture Shock at a Supermarket in Spain

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If you’re going to be spending any amount of time in Spain, chances are you’ll end up at a supermarket, whether for a late-afternoon snack or ingredients for dinner if you’re cooking for yourself. And when you do end up going to one, you’ll inevitably experience culture shock since some customs in Spanish supermarkets are a bit different from those you may be used to. You won’t be falling on the floor in shock over them, but if you’re aware of these small but significant differences in the way you go about doing things, your shopping trip will go much more smoothly.


1) Putting your bag in a locker before entering At the entrance to most supermarkets there are always a couple dozen cubbie-hole-sized lockers for you to stow your backpack/heavy belongings/shopping bag from another store in. This is nice because you don’t have to lug your crap around with you all over the store, but the lockers are probably there to prevent shoplifting, so make sure to lock up your large bags before shopp…

Photo Post: The Sierra de Segura Mountains in Eastern Andalucía

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There’s a lot to love about the province of Jaén, a cozy corner of eastern Andalucía in southern Spain. You’ve got the lovely villages of Úbeda and Baeza, graced with Renaissance architecture, as well as countless other sleepy towns scattered amongs the endless olive groves. There’s the capital city of Jaén, with its charming, Moorish-style old town and free tapas scene. Although there’s no doubt that people here talk with a thick Andalusian accent, it’s not nearly as difficult to understand as that of Cádiz, for example, on the coast. And who could forget that the best olive oil in the world is made in almazaras (factories) in every village’s industrial park?

But while I’ve expressed my love for the region in many posts on this blog, I haven’t written yet about the sierra, that unmoving wall of mountains that serves as the eastern limit of the province and the region. Countless sunsets seen from Úbeda’s eastern lookout point made me wonder what these hills were like up close and per…

Segovia, Spain: 3 Facets of a Castilian Gem

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Not even two days back in Spain in September, I had already hit the ground running after a summer home in Texas. The central city of Segovia was the only pitstop I made on my journey between Madrid and Galicia, where I’m now working for Year Two as a language assistant. Merely half an hour north of Madrid via the high-speed train that cuts through the Guadarrama mountains, Segovia is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to in the country so far.

Most people run up on that high-speed train from Madrid and make a daytrip out of the city, but I ended up staying two nights here and really enjoyed taking it all in at a relaxed pace. Although Segovia is well-known for its massive Roman aqueduct, its impressive Gothic cathedral, and fairy-tale castle, I think the city deserves more credit for its Romanesque churches and tasty food.

It’s the only major city I’ve traveled to in the vast north-central region of Castilla y León, but if Segovia is any indicator, I can’t wait to see more of …