Lagos, Portugal

This past weekend I went to Lagos, Portugal and had one of the best trips of my life!  I get the biggest rush from traveling and seeing such beautiful places I didn’t even know existed- it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt, yet also one of the hardest to describe.  It really does make you feel like you are on top of the world 🙂

First, the hotel.  We stayed at hotel Agua Luz… 4 stars and absolutely beautiful.  Check out the pool!

I was too busy beachin’ it up the entire trip so I never got to actually use the pool, but it looks nice right?!  The rooms were all suite-style and enormous– bedroom, bathroom, living room, and fully stocked kitchens…I think this hotel room was bigger than my last apartment…

I’d probably recommend this hotel for the breakfast buffet alone, but the rooms, location, and pool make it one of the best places I’ve ever stayed…seriously!  If you ever find yourself in Lagos, this hotel is top notch.

We spent the first day at Praia Dona Ana, the beach that graces the front of most of Lagos’s postcards.

It’s easy to see why- the water was crystal clear and the most beeeautiful shade of blue.  Let’s just say I did not have a hard time lying around all day with nothing to do but soak up the rays and enjoy the view.

Naturally, after such a long hard day of lounging on a beautiful beach in southern Portugal, we were starved by the time dinner rolled around.  No, I’m not going to tell you about the best traditional Portuguese restaurant in Lagos…I actually won’t be telling you about any traditional Portuguese restaurants because I didn’t go to any (I know, BAD!).

I will, however, be telling you about a little place called Nah Nah Bah.  The owner also owns Rising Cock Hostel which I heard is THE hostel to stay at in Lagos-assuming, of course, you are a fun loving, party going backpacker.  Anyway, I’m pretty sure I had the best burger of my entire life at Nah Nah Bah- not only was it bigger than my face, but it was the perfect mixture of spicy with a touch of sweet sweet pineapple.  I’m drooling just thinking about it…

The next day was my personal favorite.  We started the morning off with a 2 hour all-you-can-drink sangria sailboat cruise.

I had doubts about the sangria running out, but fear not my friends, it was flowing like water for the duration of the cruise :).

We spent the afternoon basking in the sun, sipping fruit filled wine, swimming off the boat and touring the grottos.  In other words, it was an afternoon of pure perfection.

Later that evening we ventured to Sagres- about 30 minutes west of Lagos.  Sagres is actually the southwestern-most point in Europe and was once thought to be the end of the earth!  We arrived to the top of a veryyy windy plateau just in time to see the sun set…ahhh, bliss.

Our last day in Lagos was spent at yet another beach (go figure).  This time, we drove to the west coast once again for a day of surfing.  Regrettably, I did not sign up for the surf lesson, but I got to watch a lot of people in our group and it was quite entertaining.  In lieu of a full body work out I opted for a lazy day on my beach towel doing only the bare minimum to survive.  This consisted of applying sunscreen, flipping over periodically, and drinking water.  Let me tell you, life is rough right now…

This weekend I make my move to my teaching destination, Malaga.  It’s hard to believe my time in Sevilla is over and I have to say goodbye to many of the friends I’ve made here who are teaching in other cities.  I’m officially on the hunt for a place to live in Malaga..stay tuned!

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Flamenco

I’ve been lucky enough to see quite a few (free!) flamenco shows these past few weeks in Sevilla.  When one thinks of Spain, typically the image of a flamenco dancer is one of the things that comes to mind- and rightfully so!

While the city of origin is still widely disputed (some say Sevilla, some say otherwise), one thing is for sure- flamenco is purely Andalucian.  Much like the history of Spain, the art of flamenco has been heavily influenced by many different cultures and peoples.  Those who had the greatest influence on flamenco were actually the gypsies, but there are traces of Arab, Jewish, and Castillian cultures as well- basically all the people who ever roamed the lands of southern Spain.

Right now Sevilla is hosting one of the most important flamenco festivals in the world- one that comes around only every 2 years, the Bienal de Flamenco.

I was lucky enough to be living only a few blocks away from the festivities last weekend where I was able to record this *amazing* video.  The singer is Maria Mezcle- apparently she is a newer artist but comes from a long line of flamenco performers.  Even if this is your first time viewing an authentic flamenco performance, you will surely pick up on the rhythm, passion, and emotion involved with this cultural phenomenon.  What I love most is how powerful the energy is.  Even if I can’t understand a lot of what is being said, I can certainly feel it.  Hope you find this video as inspiring as I did!  Enjoy!

Bridging the Gap

To say that learning a foreign language is a “process” is no joke.  But what is the process?  Are there certain steps every language learner must take before mastering said language?  Is the process the same for everyone?  In a nutshell….no.

With all the time I’ve spent traveling through Spain and Europe, there is one thing that seems to slap me in the face the hardest.  It’s not the cultural differences, not the people, not the food, customs, or way of life….it’s the languages.  And not the difference in languages, it’s the knowledge and understanding of languages.  Here I am, a 22 year old who has been studying Spanish off and on for almost 10 years.  10 YEARS! Sounds like a long time, right?  Tell me about it…

I have met so many people at through the language academy where I take my Spanish classes.  Mostly, they are from all over Europe, but many are from France, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland.  What we have in common is that we are all learning Spanish.  What we don’t have in common is that for us Americans, Spanish is the second language we are trying to learn, while for the rest of the Europeans it is the 3rd or 4th, or 5th!  Seriously I met a guy the other day who spoke at least 5 different languages, maybe more, and one of those languages was CHINESE.  His English was perfect so when I asked how he learned it, I naturally assumed that he had spent some time in either England or the States. Want to know his response?  Watching movies.  Want to know how old he is?  19.  Want to know how this made me feel?  Completely and utterly incompetent.

So what I am going to do about it, you ask?  Well, my friends, lots of things.  First of all, I’m not coming home until I’m fluent.  But, how am I going to get fluent when my “formal training” ends in 2 weeks and my JOB in Spain is to speak English?  Haha, wow, the longer I write this, the funnier it gets.  Anyway, here’s my list so far:

1. Intercambios

Intercambios are amazing things.  Literally, it is a language exchange where you meet up with someone who (in my case) speaks Spanish fluently but is trying to improve their English.  For 30 minutes you speak in Spanish, and for 30 minutes you speak in English.  Not only is it a great way to meet people, but also to practice your language skills in a judgment and stress free zone.  I have participated in 2 intercambios so far in Sevilla and plan to continue this trend in Malaga.

2. Movies/TV

Hey if they worked for the other kid, they can work for me!  This, of course, is assuming that my apartment in Malaga comes equipped with a TV…unlike my current residence.

3. Living with Spaniards

This is a big one, folks.  Lesson learned from living in Madrid:  If you live with an American, YOU WILL SPEAK ENGLISH, AND ONLY ENGLISH.  I’ve made up my mind and I’m definitely living with Spaniards in Malaga.  I’m still on the hunt for an apartment which is seemingly impossible to do from Sevilla-guess I’ll be living in a hostel for a few days when I get to Malaga!

4. 20 Minutos

Ohh how I love 20 Minutos.  It’s a free newspaper that I pick up every day on my way to school.  Without TV it’s my only way to stay connected to what’s going on in Sevilla, Spain, and occasionally, the world.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, I think I have my bases covered- speaking, reading, and listening skills-check, check and check!

Here’s some shots from our trip to the beach last weekend.  We went to Matalascañas in the province of Huelva- a little more than an hour away from Sevilla.  Next weekend I’m headed to Lagos, Portugal!

How many languages do you speak or which language(s) would you most like to learn? What’s the hardest part?

If I ever master Spanish, I’d love to learn French next- it’s so beautiful!  The hardest part of learning a language for me is forcing myself to practice on my own.  In reality there are so many things I could have been doing to help myself these last ten years!