Spanish Culture

Travel Theme: Red

So this is a week of firsts for me; I took on the weekly photo challenge, I visited Cartagena and now I´m going to give Ailsa´s travel theme a go. This week, if you hadn´t guessed from the title, the theme is red! A perfect travel theme for Spain! So come with me as I show off Spain at its best, lets paint the country red!

Red theme one: Love.

One thing has to be said about Spanish people; they really do love their country, and who can blame them really? What´s not to love?

The only thing that they love as much as their country, if not more, is football. So you can only imagine what happens when you combine the two in lets say an event like, o I don´t know, something small like…the world cup for instance. Now that´s when you see their love for both at its finest, there is so much love it´s contagious! The following images were taken in “Las Tendillas” in Córdoba just after Spain’s world cup win! The atmosphere was just electric. I feel that these images capture their pride, their joy and their love for their country perfectly.

There was honestly no better place to be than Spain when they won the world cup, the Spanish really do know how to celebrate a victory!

Another image taken that glorious night!

Red Theme two: Passion.

Another thing the Spanish are famous for is their passion. Whether it´s the latin blood pumping through their veins that causes it or not I don´t know but to me, as long as it´s not over powering, passion is a great quality to have.

One of the best demonstrations of their passion is through the world of Flamenco. Flamenco is an emotionally intense style of Spanish guitar music which is always accompanied by either dancers or singers. They say that Flamenco means “to have the quality of fire”, in my eyes, there is not a better explanation of passion than this!

The following photos, taken at a show near Quesada, capture the emotional intensity and the passion of this dance.

Flamenco is a true art form filled with energy and passion; a good performance is priceless!

An emotionally intense preformance in Quesada

The next photo was taken in Córdoba in July 2011 at the launch of the guitar festival.

The launch of the guitar festival in Córdoba 2011.

Red theme: Powerful.

Imagery, religion and love for thyself and thy neighbour are all important parts of the Spanish culture, here is a festival that incorporates all these elements into one celebration:

Las Cruces, or Crosses, is a popular competition of crosses which is held every year in Córdoba. In this competition each barrio dedicates time and money in order to create these beautifully artistic floral crosses. Each cross is a representation of the pride and spirit in the barrio and are typically surrounded by potted plants and flowers in colours that complement the unique attributes of each zone. The crosses bring the community out in force in order to honour the work that has gone into making these elaborate and colourful crosses while also delighting in the possibility that their cross could earn them the much sought after title of Best Cross! To find out more about this years competition click here and here!

One of the elaborate crosses in this competition!

One of the many beautiful crosses on display in Córdoba this year!

Red Theme: Joy:

The last few images I have decided to share with you show the joyful, fun side of the Spanish culture, a side that is often forgotten about or ignored. Spanish people are an amazing group of people filled with love, passion, sensitivity, joy, vigor and romance. Some of the greatest most interesting people I have met are Spanish, so this last part is to share the joy.

One of the beautiful sweet stands at one of the many medieval markets held around the country!

An unusual party I attended in Alicante where the remains of one of the hogueras was hanging from the ceiling and live bands preformed around it!

The last image is to remind you to smile!

To see other bloggers interpretations of the theme check out Ailsa´s blog here.

Have you ever been to Spain? What did you think?

As always, thank you for reading,

Until the next time,

Giana

xoxo

My weekend according to Fhotoroom!

I must admit I was starting to feel a little left out of the instagram loop. Having a windows phone means that the application that is taking over the multimedia world was just out of my reach and this was heartbreaking to me. I´m a little on the obsessive side when it comes to taking photos, and photo technology in general, therefore you can imagine how disappointed I was when instagram was not available to me. Never one to let things get the better of me I decided to do some research and see what photo technology was available to me and my baby, my windows phone!

After sifting through the abundant information there is out there on this topic I settled on the humble application known to the world as Fhotoroom. According to my research Fotoroom is an application that is available to windows phone users, for free, for a limited period of time. According to researchers it is the next best thing to instagram containing many similar features. I have no idea what features are available on instagram, I´ve never used it, but I must say I´m quite impressed with my latest novelty download and decided to make the most of this feature this weekend! I´ll let you be the judge and let me know what you think, is the quality of the photos just as good?

Image thanks to google, click on it to take you to the original page!

Enough technical jargon, time to talk about my weekend! As I had mentioned in my previous post life has been a little on the busy side with work and I was starting to feel a little on the drained side. I was so excited for the weekend to roll around to catch up on my sleep and to spend some much-needed quality time with one of the most important people in my life: me!

Friday started off like a dream, not waking up until well after one o´clock was a welcome change to my now habitual six o´clock mornings. I awoke refreshed and relaxed and decided to make to most of my relaxed mood and stay in for the day and catch up with my reading, both of blogs I enjoy and a book I´ve been trying to read for a while now, perfect day I thought…O how wrong was I?!

I was gradually getting lost in my book and feeling myself unwind for the first time in ages, felt like the day was such a welcome break from my daily routine when disaster stuck! O how do I even break this to you…right time to be brave Giana, you can do this, deep breath…O.K I´m ready. Here I go…brace yourselves this is a biggy..I went into the bathroom, as you do after drinking several litters of water earlier that day, and sat myself down on the toilet, I looked up and there, hanging from the wire of my light fitting, all bold and proud was….wait for it…a mouse! I quickly pulled up my shorts, while screaming my lungs out, and ran from my apartment! Now I realise that mice are small, that mice are harmless, that mice are probably more afraid of humans than we are of them but…quite frankly… this means absolutely nothing to me. Ever since I was little mice and rats have been one of my biggest fears, snakes fine, lizards bring them on but mice: no, no keep them away from me!

I had been saying to my friends and family for ages that I was convinced that there were mice in the hollow space between my bathroom ceiling and the roof of the building as I had been hearing noises at night-time but after a while I convinced myself that I was just being paranoid because of my fear…o how I wish it had only been paranoia! Anyway, to cut a long story short, I rang one of my friends, for this post he shall be called my knight in shining armor, and he came to my rescue! He opened my apartment up checked it throughly and it appears as though my ever so feminine screaming did the trick and scared the mouse enough to send it back to where it came from, well, for now anyway! So after searching the place and then blocking the hole which exists where my light fitting is, to ensure that no more mice would be paying me a visit, my knight in shining armor and I met up with some of his family and had a much-needed beer to relax ourselves!

So much for a relaxing Friday! So as you can imagine, my fear of mice being as big as it is, sleeping with the light on was my only option on Friday night! Something I haven´t done in years, not since my last experience with a mouse in the house in university, I´d forgotten just how hard it is to sleep with the light on but thankfully, due to sheer exhaustion, I eventually drifted off! Touch wood since then there hasn´t been a peep from the ceiling, I think I terrified the nasty creature with the power of my vocal chords haha Nonetheless I´m ringing my landlady first chance I get tomorrow to get someone to come check it out!

Anyway enough about my new furry visitor and on to the good parts of my weekend! I woke up Saturday morning feeling a little more relaxing than the previous evening but flashbacks of the mouse incident prevented me from being able to stay indoors for the day so I ventured out for a spot of breakfast with a friend followed by a lovely trip to the pool with my lovely book! Perfect!

Pool Time

Pool Time

The evening was followed by a little nap, some take away, a quick tidy up of the apartment (I feel after the mouse’s visit the apartment can never be too clean now haha) and some cheesy dvds, such a drama free evening, just how I like them!

Today was equally as relaxing, I woke up late, caught up on some blogs and emails then went on a lazy walk through the streets of Córdoba via work, as I had to do some planning for tomorrow. On my walk home I decided to go through this little park that´s close to where I live, it´s a beautiful park filled with graffiti and lots of personality! So I paused for a moment to soak it in and take some photos to share with you all!

Park Time

Graffiti

Graffiti Time

Graffiti Time

So that´s pretty much it for my weekend. I had planned an uneventful relaxing weekend and, apart from the mouse episode, that´s exactly what I got! Now time to go get my dinner and get ready for work tomorrow! Hope you´ve had a fantastic weekend, wherever you are!

Through the streets

As always, thank you for reading, until the next time

Giana xoxo

 

There´s no place like home: Alicante!

Acting like a child on one of the many beautiful beaches that Alicante has to offer!

As I prepare myself for my eight and a half hour bus journey back to Córdoba tonight, I can´t help but feel sad. I love Córdoba, don´t for a second think I don´t, and I´m looking forward to going back but; there is just something about Alicante that makes me want to stay here forever! It most likely is because I have family here, who I miss terribly while I´m in Córdoba, or perhaps it´s just because, to me, Alicante is home! It´s an incredible city with so much to offer, as is Córdoba, but they couldn´t be more different from each other even if they tried! Perhaps that is why it was so easy for me to fall in love with both of them!

While Córdoba is a traditional city where the people are proud of their culture and traditions and of course proud to be Spanish, Alicante is much more cosmopolitan. Alicante, while proud of its roots and traditions, is very much influenced by other cultures and nationalities. It is not as old-fashioned or as quaint as other cities in Spain but it definitely has character.

Even though thousands of tourists flock to the beaches of Alicante every summer it has failed, unlike other beach resorts in this area for example Benidorm, to let tourism ruin its beauty! It has something to offer everybody, whether you enjoy basking in the glorious sunshine, visiting museums, castles, the old quarter or if shopping or a glamorous nightlife is what you´re after then Alicante is the place for you! The only downside, well for me anyway, and probably the main reason as to why I chose to live in Córdoba is that it´s virtually impossible to speak Spanish here! Strange as it may sound, seeing as it´s a Spanish city in all, but everyone here speaks english! No matter how hard you try to speak Spanish here the people always respond in english!

Anyway, seeing as I have limited time and also because I don´t want to bore you to death with my love for everything Spanish, I´m going to leave you now with some snapshots from one of my favourite places in Spain; Alicante! Enjoy, I hope the photos bring you as much joy as the city brings me!

Have you ever been to Alicante? What did you think of it?

Hope you´ve had a fantastic Sunday and, as always, thank you for reading!

Giana xoxo

Las Hogueras- Lets set the world on fire!

Las Hogueras 2012

I´ve been blessed this week with the chance to visit some of my family here in Alicante. Not only have I got to spend some much-needed quality time with my loved ones before I start into working on a three-month long intensive course but I´ve also been lucky enough to be here, in one of my favourite cities in Spain, to celebrate the arrival of summer with the Bonfires of San Juan.

 Alicante is one part of Spain which will always have a special place in my heart. I´ve been coming to Alicante for the best part of thirteen years now and have always felt that it´s my home away from home and now, seeing as I have family here, it is my home! And honestly I couldn´t have picked a better time to come home than now!

The Bonfire on the Explanada

Every year Alicante celebrates the arrival of the summer with the Bonfires of San Juan. The Bonfires of San Juan is a truly spectacular event in which the people from Alicante and it´s surrounding areas take to the streets of Alicante in there droves in order to ring in the summer in the only way they know how – with a party. Las Hogueras are a celebration of music, colour, art, fireworks and extravagance in which, in my experience anyway, only Spanish people can pull off with such class! 

You have to hand it to Spanish people they really know what life is about! They enjoy life to the full and appreciate even the little things in life, such as the subtle move from spring to summer, and pay tribute to them in the most joyous of fashions.

a closer view of some of the figures which were part of the bonfire on the Explanada

The Bonfires of San Juan were traditionally celebrated in the countryside with a festive dinner and bonfires which people danced around in order to celebrate the start of summer. Now however, due to the influence of Las Fallas in Valencia, they are so much more than mere bonfires! Now Alicante celebrates this event in style with incredibly expensive and artistic figures replacing the once ugly-looking traditional wooden bonfires. You can easily spend hours walking from one figure to the next in awe of the artistic talent that has gone into each one and laughing at the wit and good humor that seems to surround each one! I don´t know about you but I know if I was involved in creating such masterpieces I´d cry at the thought of my work going up in flames! But in true Spanish style it´s all in the name of fun!

Las Hogueras

Other things that you can expect to find here, apart from the enormous figures, are barracas or large tents which are located beside each figure. In these tents you can expect to find hundreds of Spaniards dressed in traditional clothes dancing, singing, drinking and eating the night away! Typical food you will find are figs and pastries filled with tuna, onions and pine nuts! Yummy! 

Typical food that you´ll find in the barracas

As I mentioned in the barracas you will find hundreds of Spaniards dressed up in traditional costume, why you may ask? Well the answer is simple! Throughout the festival there are several parades such as the international folkloric dance parade in which hundreds of proud spanish people show off their extravagant costumes and walk for miles in the greatest of spirits showing the world how it should be done!

Traditional Costumes

Fireworks are another important part of this celebration. Not only are there firework displays every day, from the 20 to the 24 June, at two o clock but also they are key to the high point of the festival: the burning of the Bonfires. Before the bonfires all set alight, at midnight, you can witness the beautiful palm tree fireworks along the Explanada. While the bonfires blaze away the atmosphere is electric. Filled with merriment, singing and dancing while the fire-fighters try their hardest to get the right balance between putting out the fires and also showering the crowds with water which is traditionally known as the banyá. Such fun!

The firefighters at their best last year

After the banyás last year!

Obviously, seeing as this part of the festival is not until tomorrow, I won´t get to witness the burning of the bonfires this year, which is such a pity! I have been apart of it in previous years and I have to say you get so caught up in the atmosphere and the merriment that it makes you feel like a child again! I would really recommend it to anyone of any age! You´re never to old to be a child and, if you ask me, we all need a little bit of child-like fun in our lives every once in a while, it´s what life is all about!

I hope you´ve enjoyed reading about Las Hogueras. Sadly, as usual, my words do not do the festival the justice it deserves; thankfully I have some photos that I took on my phone to show just how amazing this event is! So sit back and enjoy!

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I hope you´re having a great weekend wherever you are and as always thank you for reading!

Giana xoxo

As promised…Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

So I promised in one of my posts, while on a high from my little adventure, that I would write an individual blog on the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos for you. And, seeing as I hate to disappoint, here it is! I only hope that my words manage to do it the justice that it deserves. However, if they fail, as I´m sure they will, then the slideshow at the end should do the trick! So sit back, relax and enjoy your trip! 🙂

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos from the roadside

 The Alcázar is one of the most important monuments in Córdoba. Why you might ask, well the answer is simple really! The Alcázar is one of the only buildings here in Córdoba that retains fragments from practically all cultures that have passed through here from the Roman period to present day. It is a great representation of each of the cultures and provides an interesting insight into how Córdoba has been moulded into the beautiful historic city it is today.

The view from one of the towers

Even before I entered the grounds I knew I was going to be blown away by what lay before me. The grounds outside the main entrance are beautiful, especially as they are set against the beautiful sandstone main walls and entrance. As you go through the main gates you are greeted not only by several european flags and friendly staff members but also by the prestigious sculpture of King Alfonso x el Sabio, wonderful! Located just behind him is the entrance to the main Gallery which is situated in the main building between the two towers; La torre del homenaje and la torre de los leones.

One of the towers

Located on the first floor of this building is the salón de los mosaicos. The salón de los mosaicos is home to the most beautiful mosaic artwork which was extracted from the Corridera and brought here to be put on display. During the period of Roman rule here in Córdoba the Corridera was home to the Roman circus and the mosaic artwork that can be found in this room dates back to this period. On the ground floor you can explore the once famous royal baths and take a wander through the Morisco patio which leads you to my favourite part of the Alcazar; the gardens.

Salón de los Mosaicos

It has to be said the gardens are magnificent. They manage to capture the true splendor of the Califal period and in my opinion put the botanical gardens to shame! We all know I enjoyed the botanical gardens but seriously they weren´t a patch on this perfectly manicured piece of heaven! I have no words to describe just how beautiful they are but all I will say is it´s the perfect place to go to relax and lose yourself in beauty!

The gardens

In summing up, the Alcazar is well worth a visit whether you´re interested in history, culture, architecture or gardens there is definitely something there for everyone and for all ages! It´s a historical gem which reflects the positive aspects of each culture that resided there! It has also been the home to many important events like in 1486 when Christopher Columbus had his first audience with the monarchs Elizabeth and Ferdinand before he was granted permission to set sail and discover America!

The statue of Columbus and Elizabeth and Ferdinand

As I expected, my words fail to capture just how great the Alcázar is. So I leave you now with a photo slideshow in the hope that my photos will capture what my feeble words failed to express!

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As always Thank you for Reading and I hope you´ve had a fantastic Sunday!

Giana xoxo

In the footsteps of a stranger…

This Saturday was a first for me, I was all alone in the city.  With my friends gone to the beach I found myself at a lost as to what to do with myself! After a brief moment of humming and hawing I decided to embark on a new adventure, take on a new role for the day and that was: Irish tourist. Ever so challenging I know, I can´t help it, my imagination just runs wild sometimes! Anyway, while I´m quiet used to being mistaken for a tourist here, not being Spanish and all, actually being a tourist for the day was something totally new for me and, I must say, I rather enjoyed it!

Having lived in Córdoba for almost a year you´d imagine that I´d know the place pretty well by now. Well at least that´s what I thought anyway but, as it turns out, I don´t! Obviously I know enough about the place to have fallen in love with it and to have a life here. However, I´ve come to discover, since today really, that I´m quiet ignorant when it comes to the history of this beautiful city and also what it has to offer tourists! I´d never taken the time to explore those areas, odd considering as I live in the most touristic area in the city!

In any case I got up this morning and reached for my map, selecting places I had heard my friends talking about during the course of the academic year and also places that were located near me. I made a route and a schedule, I do make quiet a professional tourist if I do say so myself, got myself ready and excitedly left the apartment layered in sun-cream and accessorized with flip-flops and my camera ready to take on my role for the day!

First stop: Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. I´m not going to go into too much detail about it in this post as I´m going to write individual posts on each place I liked throughout the course of the week. I´ve way too much to say about each and I don´t want you falling asleep while reading and missing out on anything!

The beautiful Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

Anyway back to the Alcázar. The Alcázar is a former Roman fortress and residence of Christian Kings. It is said to be in this very compound that Spain discussed and planned its vogage to discover America, there is even a monument dedicated to this very event right in the middle of the grounds; a statue of Columbus and the King and Queen! Amazing! Not only can you see the former residence but also the royal baths, the Moorish inspired gardens and the spectacular view of the city from its towers! I´m delighted I decided to start here, I had been a bit uncertain about going as one of my friends had mentioned that there wasn´t much to see there. Maybe it´s because I had low expectations starting out that made the visit so good, who knows! All I know is I really loved every minute I was there!

Monument of Columbus and the King and Queen

One of the towers

Next  stop; Caballerizas Reales or Royal Stables, as thery´re known in English! These stables were built in the year 1570 as an order from King Felipe II. It was in these stables that the pure breed Andalusian horses were first bread. Nowadays these stables are known for their equestrian shows which depict “the passion and spirit of the Andalusian horse”. However, during the day you may wander through the stables and look at the horses, the arenas and the antique buggies that are on display! A nice way to pass the time it you ask me, the Irish tourist!

One of the antique buggies

One of the beautiful Andalusian Horses

From Buggies to Baths, the next stop brought me to the Baños del Alcázar Califal or The Royal Baths Museum. This museum reflects the order in which the Roman Baths followed; cold rooms, warm rooms and hot rooms. It´s a surprising insight into the role of baths in the Roman times, it´s well preserved and very informative. However, as I´m not big into history, it was slightly on the dry side for me! I did learn from it and enjoyed the experience but it was probably my least favourite stop of the day and I´m pretty sure, unlike the others places I visited today, I won´t be going back! 

Baños del Alcázar Califal

After the Baths it was time for a quick spot of lunch and a siesta to prepare myself for the evening ahead! Once refueled, washed and re-layered with sun-cream I set off for my next destination: Museo Arquelógico or The Archaeological museum. This museum is famed as being one of the most complete museums in Spain and I know I wouldn´t feel the need to question that! The museum guides you through the different lifestyles that have existed in Córdoba from pre-history to the middle ages. There is everything you could imagine there from jewellery to pots and pans to headstones. You can even see part of the area that these artifacts were retrieved from and what´s more; it´s free! It´s defienately worth a stop into if you ever find yourself in my role: a tourist in the area!

:Museo Arqueológico

Next stop: Museo de Bellas Artes or Museum of beautiful art, ´don´t let the slightly cliché title put you off, it really is beautiful with beautiful art! The art work, consisting of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints, that´s on display in this museum is spread out over several rooms. The works themselves date from the 14th to the 21st century. While the works were amazing what really grabbed my attention was the entrance. To get to the museum you have to walk through this beautifully manicured garden with a fountain in the centre, I´ve no other words for it other than…breath-taking! Again, this museum was free, so even if art isn´t your thing, I´d definately recommend going in to see the courtyard and the building – Beautiful!

Museo de Bellas Artes

Final stop of the day, you must be getting tired by now, I know I am: Posada del Potro. This Inn dates from the 14th century and is the only example of an Inn which remains in the City. It is said that Cervantes stayed here and used this Inn to draw inspiration for Don Quixote, how true this is I don´t know! Today, however, it´s no longer an Inn but instead a cultural centre and exhibition place. I must say, I´m not sure if it was because it was my last stop and I was tired, this was my favourite stop of the day! It was refreshing to see modern crafts and culture in such a quaint settling. Fantastic!

Posada del Potro

Posada del Potro

Well I hope you´ve managed to stay awake through my fun-filled adventure as a tourist! I think it´s time for me to take a nap now! Hope you´ve had a good Saturday!

As always, thank you for reading!

Giana xoxo

La feria: A splendid way to end any month!

From the moment I arrived in Córdoba, in July of last year, all I heard about was La Fería or The Fair.  People kept telling me: “You haven´t experienced Córdoba until you´ve been to the Fair”; so obviously, after hearing this over and over again, I had huge expectations and, I´m glad to say, I wasn´t one bit disappointed! 

The entrance to the The May fair 2012.

Too me, La Feria celebrates everything Córdoba has to be proud of: music, tradition, fashion, folklore and gastronomy. La Feria takes place in a huge arena located beside the river Guadalquivir. For one week every year this arena transforms into what one can only described as olden day Spain.

Olden-day Spain

La Feria is filled with hundreds of casetas, or huts in which you can soak up the traditional fun-loving party atmosphere. In each caseta you can dance and sing along to the typical Andalucian music and also try some of the gastronomy that is typical to the fair. Indulge in the typical dishes Córdoba has to offer, dishes such as ham, fried eggs, omelette, stuffed potatoes and churros. While you´re at it, why not try the wine that this region is known for – Montilla – Moriles, or even a traditional Córdoban cocktail; Reboijto.

Montilla- Moriles

As you wander through the artificially created streets it´s easy to feel like you´ve been transported back in time with the lack of cars, tarmac and concrete buildings. It really feels like something out of the wild west. The men are dressed in traditional suits accessorised with elegant hats which are typical to Córdoba while the women are decked out in bright coloured gypsy or flamenca style dresses usually covered in patterns or polka dots accompanied by a beautiful flower in their hair.

Traditional gypsy style dresses

Beautiful gypsy style dress in one of the most popular colours: red!

Beautiful gypsy dress in red and white!

Out of the wild west!

Modern day meets feria!

Other typical things you can except to find are the horses and buggies which are so important to the culture here and also a fun fair. For me, Feria is a way of retaining the values and traditions that the people of Córdoba are so proud of while also modernising them in order to make the festival appeal to every generation! In order to truly enjoy this festival make sure you stay out until the early hours of the morning, that way you get the best of both worlds, the traditional and the contemporary!

The fastest ferris wheel I´ve ever seen!

A horse and Buggy

The entrance at night time from the ferris wheel!

As I feel that words fail to do La Feria justice I´m going to leave you with a slideshow which hopefully can give you some bit of insight into the music, tradition, folklore, fashion and gastronomy that is so integral to Córdoba.

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Thank you for reading, I hope you´ve enjoyed it, as they say “you haven´t eperienced Córdoba until you´ve been to the fair!”

Giana xoxo