Flamenco

The Magic of Flamenco…

I miss watching live flamenco. Only this morning I was chatting with a couple of students, one of them is a real, true fan of flamenco, and he was telling me about all the best places to see authentic flamenco. “Not any of this guiri rubbish,” he said, laughing.

Now that I live out in the sticks, the only live flamenco I can see is on youtube. Here’s my favourite compilation of Spanish guitar, which has inspired my writing a lot.

I miss those nights when my wife and I used to go out for tapas in the centre, then go to watch a free show.

I miss the sweaty vibe, the cheeky glasses of sweet sherry, seeing familiar faces of the flamenco dancers and guitarists, and staying up late watching live shows.

I miss seeing the dancers faces express their emotions, scrunching their eyes as if in pain, twisting their bodies, making slamming sounds on the floor, and showing their passion to the crowd.

I miss the wailing, the stomping, and the plucking.

Flamenco has been a huge influence on my life here in Seville. Not only the inspiration for my first novel, which is festering away on my hard drive, waiting for me to read again soon, but also a great influence on my Spanish knowledge.

Being out in the suburbs, maybe my neighbours won’t complain if I picked up my guitar again, something I haven’t done for a few years since I realised I was just pants at playing. Maybe I’ll try again in the New Year, play a song or two for my kids, and watch them dance.

If you are thinking of coming to Seville to see flamenco, then check out this article I wrote a while ago about the best tablaos to see flamenco. These are more touristy places though, perhaps I’ll get more names from my student tomorrow and do some research into newer ones. But for now, have a look at this article on Simon Seeks, called Feel the Duende from flamenco shows in Seville…

Until next week…happy dancing…

Humour, learning spanish

PEPINO! Learning a foreign language will do nasty things to your brain

It will make you believe you are saying one thing, but are actually saying another. It will force you to realise just how little you know about your native language. It will drive your dream brain when you are asleep, and jolt you awake because you’ll be shouting out random vegetables using foreign words.

learning-spanish
A lovely pepino… Photo by Jim

PEPINO, CALABACIN, COLIFLOR.

It’s happened to me.

In short, it will mess your head up, but I’d still recommend the challenge.

There are many reasons to put yourself through this painful learning process. If you hadn’t guessed from my blog already, I speak Spanish. My abilities are a total mix though. My listening is probably C1, speaking B2, reading B2, and writing an A1, because all I do with regards to writing is scribble down shopping lists, and send the occasional sweet poem on What’sApp.

When I was doing a CELTA qualification, way back 13 years ago, I had a chat with a bloke who was going to live in Ecuador. It went like this.

“So why have you chosen Ecuador?” I asked.

“To learn Spanish.”

“Why don’t you just go to Spain?”

“I don’t know, I like turtles and I think I’ll have fun chatting with them on the Galapagos Islands.”

“I guess you will.”

“I’m going for five years, you know.”

“I do now. Why’s that?”

“Because that’s how long it will take to really master the language.”

“It will if all you’re going to be doing is chatting with turtles.”

I thought he was insane, but now I know he was right. Now and then I wonder if he’s still there, speaking to turtles, and if he’s got a C1 level now. Continue reading “PEPINO! Learning a foreign language will do nasty things to your brain”

Blogs about Spain, Spain

Best Blogs about Spain: Desert coming, Olive Oil, and tapas…

I’ve decided to bring back my monthly list of the best blogs and posts about Spain and Expat life. Here’s a list of the best ones I’ve read in the last month.

best-blogs-about-spain
Southern Spain could end up like this… Photo by Moyan Brenn

Southern Spain a Desert

This summer has been the hottest for me in the last 10 years, so it’s no surprise that people are saying Southern Spain will turn into a desert by the start of next century. I guess that means I don’t need to worry anymore about the local government wanting to build a park in front of my house.

Olive Oil

You can’t live in Spain for long without becoming a slight addict to this medicinal liquid. I used to think it was vile and expensive, but I now see the benefits of using it over traditional sunflower oil. Check out this blog on Lindsey O’Connor’s website, titled Can I get more olive oil please.

A-Z of Spanish Cuisine

Have a look at Josh’s latest post on Spain for Pleasure titled The Eatapas A-Z of Spanish Cuisine. It’s a great run down on useful and interesting facts about eating in Spain, which we all love to do!

Views of Toledo

If you’re thinking of going to Toledo then have a look at this post on ISA Student Blog written by Clarissa Fischer titled Breathtaking Views of Toledo.

Seville Series and Mr Cake

Have you heard of a cake shop in Seville called Mr Cake? Well, me neither. Check out this post by Jordan, a university student, who is also writing about his adventures in Seville. The post is called Seville Series, Mr Cake.

That’s all for this month. Hope you enjoyed these posts.

Great things about Spain, Seville

Visit Seville, or else…

After last week’s blog titled Nutters in Seville, I want to make it clear that I do actually love the city I’ve chosen as my home, and that despite its downfalls there are plenty reasons to visit, and even live, in Seville.

I’d like to stay clear of the obvious reasons that anyone could find out with a quick search on google, such as the marvellous weather, the impressive cathedral, and the breath-taking festivals: Semana Santa and the Feria. I want to dig deeper, and let anyone interested in visiting Seville just what you can expect.

seville-sevilla
Beauty… Photo by Calvo Pastor

Azahar

If someone was to take off my nose and ask me what smell I’d missed most about Seville, then I’d definitely say azahar, the orange blossom that comes out at the start of spring, normally just in time for Semana Santa. For me it’s not just the lovely sweet smell that the orange blossom gives off around the city, but the memories that it sparks.

I started to fall in love with the smell of azahar around the time when I fell in love with my wife. I still remember our first Semana Santa, where she started to open up and show me the real her and what drove her passion in life.

I also remember the year my Dad visited and my father-in-law had the decency to pick off some orange blossom near plaza San Pedro, wrap it up in a box. He gave it to my Dad, so my mother could experience the richness and special smell of the city and festival too. As the azahar was packed in the box for eight hours, when my mum opened it up the smell exploded from the box. My Mum was speechless, which was probably a first.

My recent memories are of the week when our daughter was born, during Semana Santa. The first time we walked with her around the city, when she was all cute and snug in her pram, we were knackered from not sleeping, but content that she was in the world. I remember sniffing the air, and being filled with life as azahar shot up my nose and made me feel proud of the baby we’d made.

Romance

Having come from living and teaching English in Bangkok, my exposure to romance had been stolen from me. There it’s frowned upon to show affection in public places, and no, ping pong shows don’t count. It was a cold and sad way of living, the complete opposite to Seville, where you can see the love being felt on a daily basis.

Seville is a very coupley place. I don’t know many people who stick it out here for long if they don’t get snapped up by a local, or fall in love with a fellow English teacher. A lot of people I’ve met over the years have found it too coupley, and have commented that they find being single here a bit weird. They just didn’t fit in, and I can imagine that.

Everywhere you go here, couples in love are walking about, kissing, holding hands, and being proud of the person by their side. This makes it an upbeat, happy and romantic place to visit. So what are you waiting for? Maybe you could meet your future partner here as well.

Beauty

Sure, it’s cheesy, but the longer I stay here, the more I realise just how beautiful the city is. Now that I’ve moved out of the centre, I appreciate it more as I don’t have to put up with the annoying aspects too much.

Where I live now it’s pretty dull. You don’t get many tourists wandering about, although there is a great hotel in Cuidad Expo  if you want to get a feel for village life. There are less shops, less people, less traffic, and less everything. But it’s a family area, which is exactly what we were looking for.

When I go back in the city, normally at the weekend, I appreciate just how pretty the centre is. Not only am I talking about the buildings, parks, and colourful centre, but also the bright churches, the flowers, and the people.

Most Sevillanos make a real effort to go out, in fact, they wouldn’t dream of popping up the shops in their pyjamas or taking their dog out for a quick walk in their track suit bottoms. Of course, you have the slightly hippie and bohemian area such as the Alameda and Calle Feria (which I loved while I lived there) but in general people make an effort to look the bee’s knees, and show the rest of the world that their image is important.

Safety

I was done over a few times while travelling, but I’ve never had any problems while living in Seville. The only times I’ve felt unsafe were after my bikes got stolen. In general I’ve always felt secure, both in the day and at night, walking around on my own in the centre. There’s a happy atmosphere, people are generally kind to each other, and you’ll rarely get into trouble while on holiday here.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t take care. My sister swears she had her purse stolen while walking down Calle Sierpes, I’ve heard of travellers and expats being mugged in the early hours of the morning too. Also guys stealing handbags while driving about on scooters in the centre of the city, so by all means, be adventurous, but take it easy.

Tradition

The more I live here, the more I realise just how important it is to preserve tradition in a city. I am big fan of Semana Santa, and am proud to say I’m a member of a brotherhood here, so I can participate in the processions. I’ve learnt a lot about the tradition of Seville, about the past, and just how important this festival is for the locals. I understand why too. I know that the value of the Christs and Virgins, which are so well preserved in the churches, are icons, giving belief to locals. The longer I’m here the more I appreciate how much passion is involved in keeping this culture’s importance. Grandparents teach their grandchildren their values, share memories, and educate their family on the beauty of the festival. I think it’s great that these values are passed on and remain an importance in the society.

It’s a long time since I’ve been to a flamenco tablao, but that was another reason why I fell in love with Seville. Not to mention the fact that my first official date with my wife was in a flamenco tablao. To see the passion and spirits of Sevillanos performing their art and tradition through dancing, singing, or playing the guitar is a real treat, especially as you can normally find the best ones for free, like La Carboneria.

I miss those Saturday nights when I used to go out for tapas with my wife and we’d normally end up in a flamenco tablao, just sitting, watching the dancers show the world that their tradition is very much still alive.

Christmas is also a lovely time to visit. I normally prefer the lights here, which they put up down the main street Avenida Constitucíon, are prettier and more varied than the ones back in London. There are also great Christmas fares set up around and generally there’s a great, festive and happy vibe kicking about.

If you are visiting Seville, then I’d recommend coming in spring; when the weather is perfect, if it doesn’t rain, and you can get a real feel for why Seville is so special.

Are you planning on visit Seville soon? Have you been here recently? If you have any questions about life here then just leave me a comment below.

Great things about Spain, Semana Santa, Seville

6 phrases to survive Semana Santa

It’s that time again; Holy week is just round the corner. Semana Santa in Sevilla is about to kick off when hundreds of Nazarenos form in their processions while on a penitence, thousands of spectators absorb the atmosphere while throwing their pipas – seed shells, on the floor, and plenty of Sevillanos cry while their Christs or Virgens pass, or because their procession gets cancelled due to rain.

Whether you love or hate Semana Santa, you can’t live in Sevilla without being affected by the craziness that surrounds this immense festival. Personally, I’m a massive fan (I even participate in a procession, one of the benefits of being married to a Sevillana whose family are members of a brotherhood), at least until the Friday, by then I’ve usually had enough and can’t wait to back to normality, go to bed at a reasonable time, and be able to walk around the city without planning several hours in advance.

If you’re sticking around to watch the processions this year, or are coming over as a visitor, then here are a few expressions that might come in useful as you are out and about watching pasos or having a beer with some locals.

Semana santa virgin
Esta preciosa… Photo by albert besselse

‘Esta preciosa’ – ‘She’s beautiful’

You can use this one while, or just after, a Virgin passes, especially La Macarena, although to her you’d be better off shouting ‘Guapa, Guapa,’ like her followers do. I’m not a huge admirer of the Virgin processions. Even after all these years they seem pretty similar, I know they’re not, but once you’ve seen one hundred, you think you’ve seen them all, or just the same one a hundred times. I’m more eager to wait around an hour, or even two, to see a decent Christ procession though. That’s where the passion and excitement lies for me, especially as La Madrugada approaches. Continue reading “6 phrases to survive Semana Santa”

Blogs about Spain

More excellent blogs about Spain

After the success of a post on my other blog titled Best Expat blogs about Spain, I’ve started following a few more blogs about Spain and have compiled this new list. Hope you find them useful.

Spain square
Spain square – Photo by emildom75

Chica Andaluza is a great blog about a City Slicker turned Spanish Chica. Her funny and informative blogs are well worth a read if you’re interested in Spanish food and life in the mountains.

Mooching around Spain

This is an excellent blog about Annie Bennett’s travels around Spain. Annie has written for a bundle of quality press newspapers and has won awards as a travel writer. So definitely worth a look.

Spanish-English Word Connections

This is a useful blog if you’re interested in similarities between English and Spanish. It’s written by Steve who has a passion for words and their histories.

Spain for Pleasure

Check out this blog written by Josh, an English teacher and journalist based in Granada. His blog is full of tips, advice and useful posts.

Notes on a Spanish Valley

Want to find out what it’s like to live in rural Andalucia? Then check out this blog written by Sandra about her life in the campo.

Jenna de las Letras

Fancy reading about flamenco? This is a great blog written by Jenna about life in Madrid as a flamenco dancer and English teacher.

Toledo
Toledo – Always wanted to check this place out.
Photo by DBduo Photography

365Madrid

Interested in Madrid then check out this blog. It has loads of information about things to do in Madrid, places to go and cool stuff to see.

Country life in Spain

What’s it like living in the country in Spain? Check out this blog written by Margaret who lives in Almeria.

Spring in Seville

This blog, written by Amanda, is about her life studying abroad in Seville. It’s a great blog with useful articles about life over here in Seville and what it’s really like to be a student while living abroad.

Adventures in Sevilla

This blog, written by Tanya, is about her life studying abroad in Seville too. It also has some great posts about Spain and other places she has visited.

That’s all for now but I aim to keep this updated. If you write a blog about Spain then feel free to add it via a comment below. Cheers.

Culture Shock, Falling for Flamenco, Flamenco, Seville

The Power of Flamenco

It’s impossible to live in Andalucía and not be affected by the power of flamenco. Before I came here I knew that flamenco existed, but never realised its real beauty. Over time it has become an important part of my life here.

Flamenco - Carboneria
La Carboneria. Photo by von_boot

The first time I saw live flamenco was at La Carboneria with my wife (girlfriend at the time) on our first date. I guess it was a strange place to go for a first date, especially as it was Halloween and I was wearing a monster mask (she made me take it off before we entered). I felt the power of flamenco immediately though and soon became a fan.

“Are you ready to see flamenco?” she asked as we sat on the long white wooden benches near the front of the stage.

“I guess so,” I said, taking a sip of manzanilla, sweet sherry. Two men wearing all black entered, one carrying a guitar, and they sat on the red chairs on the wooden stage.

I looked up for the dancer, expecting a slender pretty lady to glide towards the stage, but a chunky aggressive woman barged through the crowd and clonked over instead. I turned to my wife, raised my eyebrows, and smirked. She put her finger to her lips and hushed.

“Respect,” she whispered, smiling. The guitarist began to strum. I was immediately mesmerized by the beauty of the sound that emerged. Drawn in by how quickly he moved his nimble fingers. He was fantastic to watch and made playing look so easy, so natural, and so perfect.

The dancer was equally as impressive. The speed she moved her feet and slammed on the floor was outstanding. The emotion in her face seemed so real. She actually looked as though she was suffering about something. If only I could have understood the lyrics, but it wasn’t essential to appreciate that flamenco was a powerful, emotional, and romantic art. I’d been touched by its beauty.

Over the years I’ve seen a few flamenco shows. A great place is Los Gallos. I only went because my parents treated me. The venue was a lot more upmarket than the free Carboneria. The carpets were cleaner, the spectators were dressed up, and the performers were better groomed (still no slender pretty dancers though). For €25 (now €35) I thought it was a tad expensive, but if you want to splash out then it’s worth it. My parents also went to Auditorio Alvarez Quintero recently and had a great time. I prefer La Carboneria though as it’s more underground and rugged, like real flamenco should be.

Flamenco guitarist sevilla
Flamenco Guitarist Plaza del Triunfo
Photo by HDR-newaddict

The flamenco guitarists around Plaza de Truinfo have also had a big impact on me. I love sitting on the benches and listening to them play while I write my novel, read, or just sit and people watch. It’s a romantic setting and the guitar music provides inspiration. There are a couple of guitarists who normally perform at about mid day and also in the evenings. It can get quite busy with tourists and guiris walking about, but it’s still one of my favourite things to do when I get a chance in Seville.

Flamenco nights out remind me of a lot of great moments: nights out with my wife as we were getting to know each other, fun times with mates and family, who always insist on seeing flamenco while they are here, and even our wedding because we hired a guitarist for the reception.

I miss seeing live flamenco dancing at times, especially now as we can’t go out that much. But living in Seville will always provide opportunities for seeing flamenco. Instead I listen to it a lot at home, when I’m walking about Seville, or writing. I’d still like to learn how to play the guitar, but that’s one for the future.

Are you a flamenco fan or maybe a musician? Where’s your favourite place to go and watch a live flamenco show?