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Amandas Adventures in Spain

Having regretted selling my Spanish house I am determined to go back to Spain, and am going to Madrid, joining the Vaughn School for a week and then seeing where life leads me. Please join me on my journey!

Adios Estepona, Hola Malaga!
15 November 2013

Well I have loved Estepona, there is something about it l can't put my finger on, I suppose it is the atmosphere, a mixture of bouyant and laid back. I have been here nearly 4 weeks, the time has flown!  I have got used to the strange chiming from the bell tower, ie at 6 in the morning it chimes 12 times, and it plays a Trumpton-like collection of notes that make a wierd tune at midday. Then it strikes 1 at quarter-past-whatever, 2 at half-past and 3 at quarter-to. All very confusing but it adds to the charm.  And l have got used to my little room in the hostel and pulling up the shutters in the morning to see the orange trees in the square and the mountains in the distance . (That's when l try NOT to think about the house l had in Valencia, with its' wonderfull views of the citrus groves and the mountains and the huge blue expanse of is a kind of torture that l have to refrain from, though it is bloody hard at times, wishing l hadn't sold it is, of course pointless) . I have got used to strolling to the beach and watching the boats and ships far away out on the sea, and to the square at night with the young and old all chatting away, a constant hum. I hadn't realised what a great art collection lies behind the doors of the Tourist Office, religious old oils, then upstairs a lovely collection of impressionist work by various Spanish artists and then a further floor with a great modern collection including Picasso, Miro.and many new young artists l had never heard of. Totally free to enter, aparently it is all owned by a Spanish actor. I also went to watch Flamenco, different again from the previous, the woman in a white flounced dress and holding a fan, twirling and stomping and a guy in a black suit whose feet moved so fast it reminded me of 'The Red Shoes', he looked almost posessed. I am catching the bus tomorrow for Malaga, 'Malaga Express', it takes 1 hour 15 minutes and costs 10 euros.  I have arranged to stay with a guy called David (!) via a site called airbandb, which l have not used before. I thought it would be good to stay with someone who knows the city.There were several options, but in the end l went for him due to an inner hunch, and the fact that  he has many great reviews for his hospitality and location of his apartment, and he is meeting me at the bus station.  I am expecting Malaga to be manic after the chilled vibe here, but I am sure it will be interesting. I am booked to stay there till Friday, when l meet up with another woman going up to do the Diverbo week in Corzolla. Oh, and going to look at a reposessed  apartment on the beach tomorrow before l leave, purely out of interest of course! Lots of love to everyone x

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Thoughts on Estapona, and accepted for Diverbo volunteering...
01 November 2013


Hi, well here l am in Estepona and am feeling quite at home here.  Though its sprawls quite a long way along the coast I am in the old town, which is compact and  is easy to get to know.  I have been staying at a hostel on the Plaza de Flores, very pretty with a fountain and avacado tree, roses, angel trumpets, oranges and jasmine. At the hostel the second night the elderly guy suggests l leave my key at the desk (I never do this as a rule...). On returning after a few wines and tapas he disavows all knowledge of me. I try to explain that l am booked in for 6 nights, that l am in room 16, to no avail.  Eventually his son shows up and explains his father is not 'quite with it', and has forgotten me booking in the night before, so it's ok in the end but t was a bit upsetting at the time. Suffice to say have taken the key out with me ever since.  An accordian player strolls around playing 'Besame Mucho', the theme from the Godfather and some traditional Spanish song, its endearing the first time one hears it, familiar the second time, but after three days it wears a bit thin!  There are some nice bars on the beach but of course they are always more expensive and l am trying to keep to a budget. Those in the side streets further back are loads cheaper, so for example l have been going for eggs and toast and tea and a fresh orange juice most mornings for 3.60 euros. Today l was going to move out to a cheaper place but the Spanish mother at the hostel showed me a room at 25 euros instead of the 35 l have been paying. Why didn't she offer that room in the first place?  Two dutch guys who were staying in an identical room to mine were paying 40 in total, i.e 20 each. I do get annoyed at being stung for being a solo traveller.   I got an e mail from Diverbo to say they want me on the course in Coto Valle on November 22nd for a week.  Thats a week of talking for accomodation and food (although like the Vaughnschool thing it is a bit more involved than that), still it will be an experience.  I have to get up to Malaga and then to Cordoba, then onto the venue itself which seems pretty rural.  So it will be a case of buses and trains and more buses l think. So I wll travel on bit by bit, and will try to fit in the Alhambra, as l have always wanted to go there. Things l like here; the weather obviously, it has been warm and sunny most days, the chattering animated Spanish with all the generations out together all evening, the good tapas bars, sipping a beer by the sea, the friendly local police which make me feel safe walking around at night, and yes, even the accordian player is not too bad.  I still may move to the cheaper hostel as its 20 euros a night and it all adds up to a saving if l am here a little longer. Music wise l have looked and can't see any  'music en vivo' (live music), Karoeke is not my thing!  I skpyed for the first time yesterday and spoke with my lovely son Ben, it was great but l got a bit tearfull when it came to saying goodbye. Bye the way, l have been taking photos but am not sure how to upload them onto this blog, can anyone advise me? Adios for now! X

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Last days in Jerez and on to Estepona
22 October 2013

Still with me? Great, so now I have settled in the hotel Daniel found for me and I am wandering about and another lone female traveller comes and asks me directions as she has parked her hire car somewhere and can't find it. I explain l am as clueless as she is but l ask a Spanish guy and he is able to help. I had already decided to head south to Estapona as my good friend Joe, who is Spanish and who l met years ago in Valencia recommended it along with Mijas and Torremolinos.  Elania, who is from Lithuania is also going there, also on Sunday which is when I am due to check out of the hotel.  So I agree we should travel together and share the fuel costs as it all seems like fate working well.  That night we go to a proper Flamenco show, apparently the 'real' shows are free. It is in a room above a bar, with very few tourists, very crowded and atmospheric, with a little side room serving sherry at a euro a glass. The next day we go to a horse show which is brilliant, with various dressage, carriage driving and other displays of horesmanship.  The best bit though is when they let lots of yearlings into the arena, all galloping about and bucking, then they let the mares in and each mother and offspring unite, recognising each other immediately. After an inital show of obvious affection the year-olds try to suckle the mares, but the mares shove them away, some even roll on the ground, as if to say 'I've done my bit, now get on with your life!'.  It was amazing to see. The next day we set off at midday, Elania insisting on stopping at various places to take 100's of photos.  I explain to her that the road from Algiceras is a long long road. Anyway she won't have it, so we get to Estepona very late, she drops me near the hostel as her hotel is further away. Still, got here safely and the hostel is fine, and Estepona very pretty, and I am five minutes walk to the beach, so very happy, and am booked in till Saturday when I think I will go further along the coast.  I am also looking at various options, like signing up for Vaughschool training (that is in Madrid) or trying to find a bar where l can do my singing. But for now, happy to be by the sea again and in a lovely old town. Adios for now, lots of love to everyone x

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From Madrid to Seville, Seville to Jerez and Jerez to Estepona
22 October 2013

So I have been in Spain for three weeks now but it seems longer as have travelled quite a bit. After the Vaughnschool week the coach dropped us back in Madrid, Erin and I shared the room I had booked and the next day we got the fast train to Seville.  I always wondered what the AVE stood for, found out it's Alta Velocidad Espana (High Speed Spain!).  Anyway it was great, the Atocha Station which is the main one in Madrid is beautifull with a high vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees and a fountain. Once on the train it gathers speed till it's whizzing along through the countryside of Cordoba, which is by turns fields and olive trees. It took three and a half hours l think and was very pleasant.  We had booked online for rooms at a hotel in the old part of town, which turned out to be fine. Seville is a lovely city with plenty to see, fantastic architecture, lots of bars, restaurants and cool shops, lovely squares (Plazas) with fountains and horse carriages amongst the traffic.  It has a great atmosphere and the buildings are just awesome in their grandeur. Arrived on a Saturday and stayed untill Tuesday, and having watched a Flamenco show (the dancing quite different from the Madrid one) on the Monday night Erin and I said goodbye, it was nice having each others company but we did our own thing as well as spending some time together.  I decided to keep going south so I got the train to Jerez, having booked a room for three nights there.  Note to self; do not book online in a rush... got a taxi from the station to the hostel, it was like something out of the wild west, quite a way out of the centre on a busy road with a restaurant (that's being kind) attatched.  I knew as soon as l got there that l didn't want to stay.  Luckily the guy at reception let me use his laptop to get online and cancel (mine wouldn't connect).  I incurred a fee but didn't care, what price sanity? I did stay the one night as was tired and the room itself was fine. I had to eat in the 'restaurant' as there was nowhere else around.  Apart from some depressed looking Spanish guys who clearly thought I was peculiar I was alone, apart from the flies which ate more of my 'food' than I did. It was so awfull I didn't even finish my beer (friends in UK will be surpised at that one!).  Having booked another place online off I went next day....oh dear, another cock-up, The 'hostel' was a Youth Hostel, reminiscent of San Quentin (not that I  have been there), the rooms all had high windows you couldn't see out of (I imagine to stop the 'inmates' leaping out in despair). No bar, and again on its own on a busy road, a bus ride from the centre. Dumped my suuticase and caught a bus to  the centre (about a 15 minute ride through an industrail estate) and had a wander round.  Have to say its not as pretty as Seville, seemed a bit care-worn to me...anyway I sat and had a wine and soda and a salad and then moved on for another, not sure what to do.  Being a chatty sort of person has its' advantages and I went over to talk to a reasonable-looking Spanish guy, told him my woes and he very kindly went with me to a decent hotel, not expensive but just fine and when it turned out they were full he went with me to another, where he negotiated a fair price for me for three nights.  So I took a taxi and got my stuff from San Quentin and finally was able to relax (Thank you Daniel!). That night I met a Spanish woman, Carmen, who took me to a genuine Bodega in the back streets, full of chatter and life, where I had the Manzanilla, the Spainish dry sherry, which was really nice.  Had four days in Jerez, it turned out fine in the end. Am at the end of space available for this post so will do another in a few minutes!

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The journey so far.....
10 October 2013

Such a lot has happened since I arrived in Madrid, and the time has gone so fast, I have only just got my notebook out today, there is no mobile signal out here but there is intermitant wi fi so here goes.... My good friend Carol managed to take time out to come with me from the UK which was a lovely bonus, so we had four days together in the city.  I had booked us a twin room at a hostel near the Atocha station, it had good reviews on tripadvisor and was very cheap (10 euros each per night) but I was prepared for it to be pretty rough, but in fact it was fine, with clean sheets on decent single beds and a reasonable bathroom. We gratefully left our cases in the room and went off for a beer in one of the nearby bars, it was great to sit outside and people watch and relax after our journey from Shropshire.  The hostel wasin the centre of the city and right next to the Reina Sophia Museum, which we later visited and saw a great collection of Miros and Picassos plus many more (tip for anyone visiting Madrid, entrance is free after 8pm). Later we walked aound the city and had tapas. I have never been to Madrid before and  neither had Carol, we agreed it has a lovely vibrant atmosphere and yet it is very laid back and the people are very friendly. We fitted a lot into our four days, including watching the changing of the guards at the Royal Palace, which was a great spectacle, an evening watching fantastic flamenco, a walk in the fabulous Retiro Park which has a beautiful lake and a final day at a Spa Hotel where we enjoyed the jaccuzi and pool.  After Carol left I took at taxi to the Eurobuilding Hotel where I was to meet the other Vaughnschool participants.  So I had two days wombling round the Orense region, which is the business area of Madrid. The room there was fine, with a patio area and a nice bathroom, kitchen and living room, a little apartment really. Last Saturday all the 'Anglos' (English volunteers) met up for drinks and tapas at the hotel, English, Canadians, Australians and Americans, all very nice people. The journey up to Valdelavilla (where I am now) took four hours. I knew the place was remote from the info on the net, but none of us realised just how remote.  It is in the middle of nowhere....miles and miles from anything in the Soria region. It is an abandoned village and we are in shared houses set around cobbled streets.  I have been sharing a house with Scott and Norman, very nice Americans and Jose, a Spanish guy. Every day we have been having 'One to ones' with the Spanish.  It means you sit and talk for an hour at a time and includes using phrases pinned up on a board.  It can get a bit intense ( anyone who knows me will appreciate that I don't have a problem talking!), because you go from one session to another. My Spanish has not improved because we are not allowed to speak any Spanish, we are here to help the Spanish improve their English. We have all got along with each other very well and many friendships have been struck up.  The leaders, Carmen and Peter have been great and the food really good too,  with wine at lunch and dinner. Yesterday we had tapas and sidre (the Spanish cider) outside in the sun, the weather has been great, sunshine every day. In the evenings we have been entertaining each other so I got to sing some songs and play guitar, which I am happy to say went down well!   Tommorrow we go back to Madrid and then I will have one night at the same hotel then am going with my new friend Erin (she is from Seatle) to Seville. So I will post agian from there.  Lots of love to friends and family in the UK and to anyone else reading this.  I am so happy to back in Spain X

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Getting Ready To Go
22 September 2013

It's now just a week untill l am off to Madrid, and am moving between exitement and trepidation. I have about five lists of 'things to do' on the coffee table, most of which still require a tick. In a nice twist of fate, my very good friend Carol has managed to take four days out of her busy life to come to Madrid with me for four days. Obviously to have a companion at the start of my journey is a bonus for me.  I booked us in to a basic hostel for three nights and then we are moving to a hotel for the last night. I notice a lot of negative posts about the pickpockets in Madrid, I am guessing it won't be worse than other cities, but I will be sensible... So, a week tommorrow I will be off....actually the exitement is a little stronger than the trepidation!

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