Tarifa, the day-to-day, and Huelva/Punta Umbria=GOOD TIMES!

Well…starting off with today I guess. This is a 3-day week for us because we had Monday and Tuesday off for El Dia de Andalucia which was actually Tuesday. (Sevilla is the capital of the province of Andalucia).  http://www.carhireatmalagaairport.co.uk/images/andalucia.jpg Tengo un ensayo que necesito escribir por mañana y tengo solo un clase hoy. (I have an essay I need to write for tomorrow and I have only one class today!) So today so far, I woke up, got ready, made myself a pb sandwich for lunch because I am meeting with my intercambio for lunch, and walked down the street a little bit to try to find this tapas bar that my senora really recommends for when my parents come. (I know all these details are really interesting for you all).  Apparently it is just called “tapas”, but I think it either doesn’t exist or she just doesn’t know the real name because I have looked twice now and cannot find it. Oh well. There are tons of tapas bars around here-I’d say at least one of every corner. It’s slightly cloudy today, and therefore not as hot as it has been, which is slightly disappointing and somewhat odd, but no me importa mucho. (It doesn’t matter to me much). We didn’t have water this morning (9am-2pm) because they are doing work on the patio part of our apartment complex, so my senora sat out basins of water for I guess whatever we needed them for. Also because of this work on the patio, it has smelled like spray paint whenever I walk outside because they painted the entire thing in this shiny black paint. Tiene un olor muy fuerte! Phew. I’m currently trying to pick up more vocab here by writing down words that I don’t know/that I learn during the day and then writing them on flashcards to look at before I go to sleep. So far, I have: scissors, to remove the hair from, to sweat, braid, and piece-all things I have run across recently and wished I’d known. Last night we had tortilla Española and I just keep thinking about how I’d like to learn how to make it….. Yesterday, Laura and I went wandering after lunch basically for the point of wandering and exploring (I no longer have my 5pm class!!!) and ended up walking a longgg way. We sat by the river and chilled for a bit before continuing on this huge loop that put us next to Las Murralas Romanas and La Basilica y Museo de la Macarena. I run by there sometimes but have never stopped to really look at the area. I’ve started to make a list of stuff to do for when my family is here and going to the Macarena museum is definitely one of the things.

As for this past weekend, Melissa, Amanda and I traveled to Tarifa (as I previously wrote was our plan) and it was amazinggggggggg! http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150631910007080.415362.578047079&type=3&l=5b3eed7873 My dream is to work there this summer/live there for a while at some point. When I told mi Tia this, she kind of shot me down. “Where would you work? There’s not much there.” Oh well. Anywhere would be fine with me, I told her. The summer thing is highly unlikely but living there in the future is not out of the question. Tarifa is a small town with a very beachy feel. It had a lot of surf shops since it is famous for its windsurfing. It also has a ton of good little bars/restaurants that we sampled. I think Sunday-the day we arrived-we went to like 5 different places for drinks/tapas/desserts. It was awesome. The hostel was perfect! The people were all VERY nice, we got breakfast (toast, coffee, tea), and the place itself was just cute (complete with a little patio and a fat kitty who we were told was French). I think the thing I loved most about Tarifa, though, was the people. Sunday night we went to this vegetarian restaurant to hear a free little concert that I had spotted a flyer for. We got there early and ordered hummus (I have missed it here) and stuffed zucchini boats with sundried tomato and goat cheese. The restaurant had two parts-a normal inside part with tables and a patio-type area that was indoors and had a little garden around part of the perimeter. We sat on cushy benches and the guy next to me took off his shoes and sat cross-legged. It ended up that I had a very interesting conversation with the guy, who was Irish and apparently had been living in Tarifa for about 4 months, trying to learn Spanish although he made it sound like his attempt was pretty unsuccessful. I asked him about Ireland because I may be going there after my program and he told me about Celtic/Gaelic games and asked me a few things about Spanish and we sort of just chatted. He was a genuinely nice and interesting guy and his sort of chill/wayward lifestyle really inspired me. I also met a guy on our bus on the way there that was fairly young and had been traveling around the world for about a year and a half. He had been to Asia, India, and now Spain, among other places. I asked why he decided to do this and he said he had been to school for bioinformatics or biomedical engineering or something and just worked for a few years after graduating in order to save up money and travel before he’d actually have to have a real job. I got the hint that he just got burnt out from school and working, but he didn’t actually say that. Back to the veggie restaurant…the woman singing was named Claire and she had a shaved head and a deep voice but sang really well nonetheless and all here songs were in English. That night, we heard music from Michael Jackson, Sting, Billy Joel, the Beatles, and Bob Marley just to name a few. Everyone seemed to know each other there and were just drinking and singing and clapping and dancing and eating and having a good time. There was a really wide range of ages represented and I bet a lot of people there were surfers. Dreads and flowing clothes were everywhere. As were dogs. They are all so well-behaved here. If my dog had been there….nightmare. Our waitress was hopping-running-around, dodging people and delivering food and drinks, but managed to remain in a cheery mood. She came up to us once and half shouted (because of the noise): “Everything is good?” in a really cute accent. She also was kissing everyone on the cheeks and dancing and giving hugs while doing here job. Like I said, it was a little community. We watched some grandparents play with their grandchild and then this big surfer-type guy came up to them and started talking with them then sat down with them. Basically what I am trying to say is that the food was good, the music was good, and the people were awesome.

The next day, we went to the tourist center to get some info and ended up getting a free tour with two of the nicest guides! We saw the history of the city, including its old walls and where the cannons used to sit. Afterwards we were starving so we went to a restaurant to get some lunch and sit in the sun. We sat down, ordered three plates of pescado frito (fried fish, which is a specialty along the coast of Spain) and waited. Little did we know that the plates were huge-definitely not tapas-and were a bit more expensive than we had expected. Two were 9 euros each and the other was 16 euros! We aren’t even quite sure what it was that we had-calamari, shrimp, and something….the last seemed like sea urchin to me, but our waiter said it was a plant. I need to look that up. Anyway, expensive but good lunch and then we went to the beach to chill until we had to go get our bags from the hostel and leave. It was windy but beautiful. On the way to the bus, we got un postre “a dessert” and I chose some sort of apple cake thing which was amazing. The ride home was relaxing and I read some of my book in Spanish.

Tuesday I went to the river to “tomar el sol” tan/get sun, and it was warm enough for a bathing suit! I wasn’t the only one though, so don’t worry. I try not to be too blatantly American. That was nice and the past couple of days have been pretty chill, just going to my one class (Wed and Thur) and writing a paper I had due today (Friday). Now, I am on a bus on my way to-well we may actually be here now-Huelva. My friend Sierra from UNCW has a friend she met at UNCW (he was studying abroad there at the time) who lives here and whose family has a beach house in Punta Umbria (w/in Huelva). I am soo excited! My senora first asked why I was going to Huelva the city because there is nothing there, but then I figured out where I was going was just in the area of Huelva, not the city proper. That made more sense and she said she used to spend time there every summer when she was young and it’s a great place. Oooh can’t wait! Oh, by the way: there are strong associations with Christopher Columbus there and there is a monument to him there as well as replicas of the three ships from his first voyage.  How neat!

Friday I left Sevilla with Sierra at 2:30 on a bus headed for Punta Umbria. The ride was only about an hour long and we actually had to get a different bus in Huelva that would take us to Punta Umbria, which is only about 20 minutes away. Once in Punta Umbria, we walked around a bit and went to a café (it was fairly cloudy) to wait a while until her friend Juan would be able to pick us up. We also went to a little sports bar that had Wi-Fi and chatted with the guy working there who was very nice but didn’t know any English. I originally went in to ask if they could show the UNC-Duke game Sat night/Sunday morning (at 1am), but turned out they only had ESPN classic, not just normal ESPN. Oh well. I now know the result and am extremely happy with it. Go Tar Heels! Juan lives in Huelva but his family’s beach house is in Punta Umbria so he was coming from Huelva and had to pick up his other friend who was arriving from Madrid. We didn’t have to wait long before Juan and his friend Jorge showed up. We then went to the house (which was very close to the station-Punta Umbria is very small) and hung out and got settled. Later, we went to the grocery store (el mercado) to buy food for dinner. We were in for a treat. Jorge could cook! He had worked as a chef for a while in London and currently works for a catering company. Juan had also worked in a restaurant, so we ate well all weekend. The first night, we had a sort of paella dish with rice, chicken, and some veggies in a tomato type sauce with a salad and wine. The next day for lunch we ate pasta carbonara with eggplant, bread, and a marinated pepper salad. Dessert was strawberries which I have found to be amazing here! Juan told us that strawberries are grown in Huelva or Punta Umbria or around that area, so that would explain why they are so good. Meals=Delicioso! While I’m on the topic, we went out to eat tapas for dinner on Saturday-maybe around 10:30ish (normal here)-at this cool little restaurant in Huelva. I’d love to take my family there if we go to Huelva! We were meeting with some of Juan and Jorge’s friends that they don’t get to see that often. The Spaniards ordered tapas for everyone and we all just shared. They chose some goooood stuff, although I doubt you could really order anything that wasn’t good there. We ate marinated fried swordfish, choco (I believe it was this-it’s a sort of seafood that is similar to calamari), croquetas de jamón (the best I have had…a sort of tapas staple here. I had originally thought that croquetas were fried bits of a potato and in this case ham mix. Howeverrrr upon asking our chef friends, I learned that they are actually a mix of béchamel sauce (gasp) and whatever meat or other filling you prefer (I’ve had bangin’ spinach ones too). Fried. Son muy, muy ricos! What else…? Oh yeah we had an egg-cod scramble sort of thing and some pork bocadillos tambien. The house red wine accompanied. Rewind back to Friday please. After dinner we just hung out and I tried to play Texas Hold ‘Em, but didn’t do so well and ended up falling asleep instead. Saturday Juan and Jorge had to go into Huelva to do some work and Sierra and I woke up late and went to the beach! It wasn’t super-hot out, so we just walked down the beach and looked for shells. A bit later, we returned to the house and assisted with what we could in the kitchen and then sat down to eat our amazing lunch. We had set a table up outside on the little patio area, complete with flowers and everything.After lunch (around 4ish??) we all took a stroll around Punta Umbria and on the beach and Sierra and I did a little shopping while the guys waited and just talked together. I forgot to mention this, but both guys help teach English so they spoke it well obviously but we would all speak in Spanish fairly often and we would all help each other out with random translations. We then all went to Jorge’s flat that is on the tenth floor in order to see what was left of the sunset. The view was beautiful! He lives in Madrid but has a flat here where he lived last summer (or something similar). Later than night (Saturday in case you are confused) we went to dinner with their friends and went out after. One of the places we went after dinner was a kind of country/western bar which I found very funny. It was dark and wooded inside and had animal statues and played a mix of music, but an American country song definitely came on at one point. That made me realize I haven’t missed it too much and a few Ricky Martin songs played also. It was a really good time. A crazy thing happened there, though. I met a girl who works in Huelva as an English teacher who was from Charlotte, NC! What are the odds! She graduated in 2006 or something, but it was just really odd that that happened and she also was one of Juan’s students at one point! The world’s a small place.

Today, Juan took Jorge to the bus station in Huelva fairly early and then later Sierra and I woke up and she made breakfast while I went for a great run on the beach. Luckily, Jorge and Sierra were nice enough to save me some scrambled eggs, toast, homemade lemonade, and strawberries. We cleaned the house then went to the beach for a few hours before packing up and heading to Huelva to get our bus for Sevilla. It was hot today (sooo nice!) and my poor nose got a little burnt but it was a good day anyway. Before getting our bus, we had time, so Juan took Sierra and I to this little pastry shop where we got café con leche and fancy desserts. It was sad to say bye to Juan, but there is a possibility we will see him again because Huelva isn’t too far from Sevilla. It was a great weekend filled with great food and great people and now I’m headed back to Sevilla which is a little sad, but not very, because Sevilla is lovely as well. Tomorrow is Laura’s 21st birthday so that’ll be fun to celebrate! The countdown until my parents come is…….10 days! 😀

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