Small Curiosities of Everyday Life in Spain

Persianas in Spain

Persianas, the typical Spanish blinds. Source.

They aren’t necessarily good, and they aren’t necessarily bad. They’re just curious.

Persianas

What are these big metal things outside my window? Storm shutters? No, friends, those are persianas, the typical Spanish metal blinds that double as blackout shades. They’re in almost every home, apartment and building, including my school.

Want to protect your window from wind and weather? Lower the persianas. Want to block out all sunlight as you regret the previous night’s activities/eat chips in your bed? Persianas are your new best friend.

I’m personally not a huge fan of them — they make the room too dark for my taste. However, almost all my neighbors put them down at night. Either they’re afraid of people peeking in, or they really, really hate being woken up by the sun. I would sleep till 12 if I used my persianas, but hey, everyone’s different. And you really can’t beat them for blocking out that notorious Spanish sun and heat, which is going to be very important come June.

Side note: The rattle of persianas being raised in the morning is, oddly, a sound that will always remind me of Spain.

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“Vamos de Excursión!” or, How to Make the Auxiliar Lose Her Mind

La Mujer Gigante, Parque de Europa

La Mujer Gigante in all her 1970s animatronic glory.

A couple of weeks ago, our jefa de estudios asked me if I wanted to join the 1st and 2nd grade classes on their field trip. “Of course!” I beamed: all the other auxiliares had been on field trips before, and I’d been not-so-patiently waiting my turn for months. That Friday was my chance.

No one actually told me where we were going, so I sought out the word on the street. Or rather, word on the patio, the fenced-in and paved area that serves as their playground. The first graders successfully told me we’d be visiting La Mujer Gigante (The Giant Woman). “It’s an attractions park!” one of them gleefully shouted at me.

“Okay, so I’m going to an amusement park named after a giant woman,” I thought. After interrogating a few more children, I finally turned to a more reliable source. Paloma, one of the teachers, explained that La Mujer Gigante is actually a giant model of the human body. We’d be able to go inside of her (questionable) and learn about the internal processes that keep us all running. After our visit, we’d walk around the park that houses La Mujer Gigante, the Parque de Europa, famous for its scale replicas of famous European monuments.

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Planning a Trip to Cinque Terre

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Buongiorno, Vernazza.

When I planned my trip to Cinque Terre, I had a surprisingly difficult time finding information on where to stay, what to do, and how to get there. This might have to do with the fact that Cinque Terre is still a relatively up-and-coming destination, and there aren’t that many places to stay since the villages are so small. So, I wanted to use my experiences to create a cohesive guide to visiting Cinque Terre.

What is Cinque Terre?

The phrase Cinque Terre, or “Five Lands” in English, refers to the five villages that form part of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. The national park encompasses both the land surrounding the villages and a protected marine area. It’s also dotted with miles of hiking trails of varying difficulty. The villages — Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore — are relatively close together and connected by ferry, train, and trails, so you can easily customize your visit to your own travel preferences.

We stayed in Riomaggiore, one of the larger villages. We chose to stay there we’d read it has plenty to do and places to eat (ahem, gelato), but it’s also less touristy than the better-known villages of Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza.

We spent four days and three nights total in Riomaggiore, which I’d say is the minimum amount of time needed to really experience the Cinque Terre. I’d recommend five days and four nights to really enjoy everything the villages have to offer. We didn’t want to leave!

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Cinque Terre: Four Days in the Five Lands

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Vernazza, one of the five villages that form Cinque Terre.

March and April have both been a whirlwind. Between three separate family visits and two other trips with friends, I have a lot of catching up to do! (I keep saying I won’t do this to myself. I’m a masochistic blogger, apparently.)

In the middle of March, I realized I had a free weekend between the last day of school and the day my family arrived. My destination? The five quaint and colorful villages on the northwestern coast of Italy, known collectively as Cinque Terre. I’ve wanted to go ever since two of my friends made the trip during our semester abroad in Alicante. I asked Jo to come along, and, after a little research, we booked tickets to Milan on everyone’s favorite low-cost airline. I couldn’t wait to see the beautiful place I’d heard so much about.

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The Gorgeous Village of Vernazza

The Gorgeous Village of Vernazza

I know I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus lately — I’ve been on two trips in the past two weeks (to Amsterdam and Italy) and I’ve had three separate sets of family visit since the beginning of March. I’m hoping to get a few posts out next week, but until then here’s a photo to hold you over. This is Vernazza, my favorite village in Italy’s Cinque Terre. (By the way, if you have feet and some spending money, go to the Cinque Terre. Everything there is beautiful.)

Hasta ahora!

London, Part 2: Pho, Missed Trains & Winston Churchill

Big Ben and a double-decker bus.

Big Ben and a double-decker bus.

Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and Parliament

After the Apple Store, we visited the Apple Market and had a coffee break in Covent Garden. We walked to Trafalgar Square, where Lauren bought two disposable cameras to compensate for her broken iPhone. (We have yet to see those photos, but I have high hopes for them.) We enjoyed the blue skies while we strolled past Big Ben and Parliament, then we caught a bus to Picadilly Circus. We sat on the top deck, of course. It was kind of thrilling.

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London, Part 1: The Tower, Afternoon Tea & Late-Night Dinosaurs

Telephone Booth London, England

Sterotypical, but so fun.

Two weekends ago, Lauren and I jetted off to London. And we absolutely loved it. We ate (a lot), we drank (a responsible amount, of course), we saw the sights, and we visited museums.

Since we flew Ryanair, “jetted off” makes our flight sound a lot more glamorous than it really was. Unless you enjoy listening to your Spanish co-passengers block the aisles while negotiating with each other because they all must sit together or doom at the expense of an on-time departure. But hey, Ryanair got us to London and they got us there for 80 euros round-trip.

We caught the Express Airport Bus to Barajas because our flight left at 6:10, and neither the Metro nor the Cercanías could get us there on time. After having our passports stamped by Ryanair’s minions, we headed to the gate where we sat on the floor, vigilantly guarding our places in the boarding line.

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