Gillingham Travel Blog

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Walking to reception at Pueblo Ingles

The kettle is on and I can hear soft rain pelting against the glass. I have returned to England. In truth, I have been here for neaqrly 2 weeks, well aware that my blog needs to be finished; or at least this chapter. At the moment I am not too motivated to write and cannot express all the things that I have seen and the waves of emotions I have experienced in my words. When I last left you I was in Barcelona and I apologise for letting the blog dwindle a little. After the two days in Barcelona I met my brother and we went to Valencia which was lovely though I have been before but this time I got to see L'Oceanographic which I HIGHLY recommend. Then we went and met our parents in Barcelona for a few days and it was great to have company and spend time with my family.

The view from my hotel; my bonus day in Spain
I have seen the Gaudi works before as discussed but this time I discovered that they have a swimming pool on Montjuic which gives you a fantastic view of the city and also a place to cool down.

Then came Madrid and my time at Pueblo Ingles. I had heard some rather negative things about the city but I have to say that I was very impressed and found the buildings very beautiful and would actually like to go back and stay longer and take a trip to Segovia. I did not have long before the programme started and tried to save money so only saw the El Prado and wandered around the city. The museum is good and I loved seeing the Goya works but my tip is to go after 6 when its free - I wouldnt have fancied paying 8 euro for it but I am a massive stinge after all.

Pueblo Ingles.

Aste Nagusia kicks off
I had no idea what to expect and honestly signed up primarily for the free accommodation and food. It is basically a programme for Spanish people wanting to learn English intensively. They look for native English speakers to volunteer and you are taken to a compound and kept there for a week; Anglos, Spaniards and two programme directors. At the introduction lunch we were told it would be an experience we would never forget and, me being cynical, I didn't take it seriously for a second. Turns out they were right. I never expected such a satisfying, interesting and above all fun experience. As Anglos, our main duty was to speak English all day everyday and mealtimes were split to 2 Anglos 2 Spaniards at a table so you were encouraged to have English coversations.
The streets of Bilbao
The days were very full-on but whatever was difficult for us was obviously 100 times more difficult for the poor Spaniards. It was like my time in Cadiz but much more intensive! The days were tightly scheduled from 9 in the morning until dinner at 9PM with only an hour and a half or so of free time. The main activities were one-to-one sessions where you had 50 minutes with your Spaniard to discuss whatever you wanted, walk around the compound, get a coffee or shoot some pool etc. I was a little apprehensive about this. I wouldn't describe myself as outgoing or sociable and I was wondering how the hell I would maintain a conversation with a stranger for nearly an hour. Well I can honestly say that there wasn't a single awkward or dull conversation. All the Spaniards had to be at an intermediate level but that is a very broad spectrum.
Some locals
Some were really quite basic whereas some were teaching me English idioms. I love the Spanish people and their attitude and this week gave me an opportunity to really talk and get to know them better. No matter what their level of English, a Spanish person will always attempt to tell a joke. Normally a rude one. Again, it is difficult to put everything down on this page. All the conversations and funny quotes...I found that after the programme finished I was running quotes through my mind and kept thinking I was seeing the people I met in the Madrid metro (that was just a phenomena after being cooped up with the same people for a week, apparently other Anglos had the same experience!) Every conversation had some little gem in it; something interesting to learn or some story.
I answer the eternal question of how to pose in front of a building
My job was to help with their grammar by giving feedback and praise, but primarily my role was to help them with their confidence. On the last night a very pretty, elegant young woman who was a little timid to begin with talked to me and told me a story of how one of her sisters, who used to go running everyday, suddenly collapsed one day whilst running and a few days later they had to turn off her life supported machine. I didn't know what to say apart from sorry but she put her hand on me and shook her head and just said it taught her to enjoy life and to hold on to it. She said that the course had given her so much confidence. 

It was a fantastic experience and I would volunteer again though I think I need a break and I'm almost a little anxious that the next time coudn't possible be as good as the programme I had.

The very sexy Anish Kapoor exhibition
Or fun! The thing that surprised me most was what a blast the whole thing was. The party on Monday night where I ended up dancing the Sevillanas (cluelessly) or how I discovered Pacharan and didn't go to bed before 3:30 on any night. Myself, a Canadian girl and 2 Madrid guys were always the last to go to bed and after dinner everyone would head to the outdoor bar area to drink, play card games, talk, sing and dance. On saying good-bye to everyone, Vicente, a big bad Basque who resembled a friendly mafia boss (big build, loadsa money and infectious hearty laugh) said to me, 'you have impressed me, you are a brave girl...enjoy the life.' I had been speaking to him the night before about my travels in Spain. 'Enjoy the life.' That has really stuck with me.
The winery

Well I'm sorry that this entry is so long but I've still got more to write I'm afraid...

On the last day of the programme, a few of us went to one of the Spaniards homes in Madrid to hang out. Very cute. Then we met a few more in the evening for some montaditos (see a previous entry!) and drinking. Now, Botellón is something I had heard a lot about during my time in Spain. Wikipedia definition: 'Botellon is a social activity among Spain’s youth, who gather in public areas to consume alcohol as an alternative to going to a bar or club.' Well I was invited to one on my last night in Madrid. Turns out I am way ahead of my time as this was something I was doing at 16! Literally a group of Anglos (myself, 3 Canadians and an American) and the Spaniard and two of his friends were sat in a childrens playground drinking rum. I felt like I'd digressed by about 5 years. Eventually at 3AM we went to the club and at 5:30 I got back to my hostel and passed out for a few hours. It didn't actually turn out to be my last night in Madrid as my flight was cancelled the following day so I got myself a nice hotel on Gran Via and a flight to Luton late the next day. A little traumatic at first but I had a great extra day of a lazy breakfast, wondering around a giant market (my heaven) and watching Toy Story 3 - though admittedly in English, not Spanish. Stepping off the plane back in England, it was the cold sweeping up my trouser leg that first hit me and since my return, every day has been grey and I look at the clothes in my wardrobe and wonder how to dress myself. Covering my beautiful brown feet in tights has been depressing. For the first time in my life I have obvious tan lines, though I'm no way near as tanned as most people would be after 12 weeks in Spain. Well the adventure isn't quite over as only 12 days later I was back in Spain. This time in Bilbao with friends who I used to work with. They're all architects so primarily we went to see the Guggenheim but the visit co-insided with a festival called Aste Nagusia (Big Week in Basque) of whose puropse/origins I'm still not sure of. Every Spanish festival is either based on religion or something to do with the city but always ends up as one big drinking and dancing bash. This was no exception. I had a great time and was genuinely impressed by Bilbao. Arriving at the airport previously (flight from La Coruna and then a quick change to San Sebastian) gave me a pretty negative perspective of the city; I thought it was a bit of a dump. But actually it turned out to be attractive and very cool. You can tell it has been well renovated and a lot of money has been put into it but I would definitely recommend a visit. Particularly at fiesta time! We enjoyed pinxos, which I think I prefer to tapas, drinking games and chatting to the locals though a few were a little unfriendly to my friends. The Basques are very proud and the seperatist attitude is very strong but I personally had no problems and even met a pair of friends, one who was telling me 'this is Pais Vasco!' and the other shaking his head and telling me he supports Real Madrid and that 'this is Spain!' I even had two seperate people telling me what 'thank you' in Basque is (though I have now forgotten - that language is impossible) and another who taught me 'you are a beautiful girl' in Basque though that could have been a lie - I could have been saying anything!

We went to the beach and tried out body surfing in the incredibly choppy water. I think I slightly got the hang of it after getting battered around and shoved under the water about 50,000 times. We saw the Guggenheim which personally I really enjoyed though the architects were a little underwhelmed. Theres no pleasing architects, and it didn't help that we had a pretentious audio guide of Frank Gehry waffling on about his experience of swimming with carp in the bathtub as a child (the museum is based on a shoal of fish - if you've heard the guide you will know what I'm talking about) and the apparent 'obvious sexual overtones' of Anish Kapoor's 'Shooting into the Corner'. Err, what?? On the last day we hired cars and drove to Laguardia to visit a Calatrava designed Winery. It was lovely and I am no where near a wine expert (this is the girl who enjoyed 85 cent white wine cartons of Don Simon) but it was definietly a good wine I had swirling in my glass looking over the grape fields. I had an amazing time though the festival night really sticks in my mind. To me, Spain is dancing at 5AM outside; still warm and still full of people.

Yesterday I drove back to Medway from my friend's in Brighton as we didn't get back from Bilbao until very late. I experienced that feeling again. Its something that I felt a lot during Spain, starting from that time of wondering through Sevilla on my own at night and meeting the little girl in the Church. It is the feeling of being on a high; of feeling inspired and contented. It is so fleeting and I wish I could cling on to it and bottle it to open on days when I feel lazy and unmotivated. I was stuck in traffic at Gatwick but it didn't matter. I was listening to music and smiling and running the memories through my mind. A few hours later I entered an empty house to two job rejection notices and as I walked to the bank, thick grey clouds were above me, stuck in front of a white/grey background of sky. I began to well up. I hate myself in moments like this. Moping around the house, feeling sorry for myself and unmotivated to do anything. But God was it worth it. It was an insignificant drop in the ocean of an adventure but it was the best decision of my life. For those moments of satisfaction and inspiration. I have loved everything about it; from jumping in the waves with friends at 1AM to being stuck at Dos Hermanos train station for 2 hours. It is hard to express it and hard for me to truely believe it when I am back in reality and looking for jobs and worried about money; but I know that often I will drift off and remember all the things I did and experienced and it will be worth it all over again. Que Viva España; enjoy the life.


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Walking to reception at Pueblo Ing…
Walking to reception at Pueblo In…
The view from my hotel; my bonus d…
The view from my hotel; my bonus …
Aste Nagusia kicks off
Aste Nagusia kicks off
The streets of Bilbao
The streets of Bilbao
Some locals
Some locals
I answer the eternal question of h…
I answer the eternal question of …
The very sexy Anish Kapoor exhibit…
The very sexy Anish Kapoor exhibi…
The winery
The winery
photo by: Gemma_B