GUEST POST: REBEKAH THOMPSON
I have been blogging for Andalucia.com, usually about special events, since March. However, few readers will be aware that this is my final week working for Andalucia.com. As a third-year degree student at Nottingham University, reading Spanish and International Media Communications, I came to Spain as part of the Erasmus Programme, to advance my knowledge of Spain – the culture, the lifestyle and, most importantly, the language.
After arriving in Spain in June 2011, I spent my first three months as an au pair in Vigo, Galicia. I lived and worked with a gallego family, participating in day-to-day life, playing at the beach and swimming pool, going on bike rides and outings to the zoo, and teaching their three children English. I worked with them 9-2pm, and from 4.30-9pm we played games and did activities, naturally with a siesta sandwiched in between. It was fun, light-hearted “work” and I bonded with the family; I’m still in touch with them more than a year later.
In September last year I moved to Estepona, to start my 11-month placement here with Andalucia.com. It was a huge shock to my system - working 9am-6pm every day without my beloved siesta (I intend to start a campaign to implement compulsory siestas in the UK), in an office, without small children to chase after. When the nights started closing in, and autumn turned to winter, there was very little left to do in our primarily summer resort of Estepona.
It was around this time that I made my first work-related trip to Granada, to update pages in our Granada City section. I took photos, visited monuments, reviewed and documented restaurants, and of course sampled the nightlife. A colleague came with me on the trip and together we ended up making some long-term Spanish friends who, coincidentally, lived just down the road from us in Malaga city. We met up with them again when I travelled to Malaga to update our Malaga City pages in November, although unfortunately the weather didn´t smile on us and the entire weekend was spent traipsing around Malaga’s monuments with sodden feet and umbrellas.
Malaga was my last trip before heading home for Christmas. When I arrived back rather down in January missing my family after a lovely Christmas and a great New Year party, I was immediately picked up by some conveniently placed bank holidays, a hefty slice of Roscón de Reyes, and of course the Cabalgata de los Reyes procession, which I watched from another colleague’s balcony. What a cure for the January blues!
February bought Carnaval, in all its glory; I went to Cádiz and stayed with university friend – this was my first blog for Andalucia.com, you can read about my experience of Cadiz Carnaval here. In March I conducted my first, slightly disastrous interview with Spanish Golf Pro Laura Cabanillas, an experience which I learned a lot from. Since then, I have conducted a series of more successful interviews, including with TOWIE´s Ellie Redman - you can read about that first one here. In March I also visited the stunning white beaches of Tarifa, a trip I wish I had left until later in the year. The views were spectacular but the wind was cold, whipping the sand into a frenzy which left our tortilla and sandwiches especially crunchy. Note to readers - better to wait for summer to experience Tarifa!
At the end of March I went back to Malaga City for a gallery opening and an interview with artist Carlos Aires, which you can read about here. However, what I didn´t mention in that blog was that on our way home, photographer Michelle Chaplow and I stumbled upon the Tronos (the embellished floats carried in the processions) for Malaga´s Semana Santa processions and were permitted to have a sneak preview of these massive and intricate floats; I was even allowed to (try to) carry one. Another priceless and unique experience with Andalucia.com…
Sadly I missed Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Spain, as I went away to visit my family. However, I returned just in time for the Sevilla Feria, at the end of April, which I also blogged about, here. A weekend was not long enough to see all of the region’s capital city, and I hope to go back to explore it more in the future.
May was a month of culinary delights; I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at Calima in Marbella, and the following week I tasted tapas by a collection of the top chefs in Spain, of course I blogged about that too. I was also invited to attend my first Costa Press Club meeting at the Andalucia Labs (the centre for development of travel and tourism of Andalucia) in Marbella, where I learned about all the latest in touristic technology, followed, naturally, by a very enjoyable meal. I also attended the Volvo Golf World Matchplay Championships at Finca Cortesin, where I was able to speak to golfing legend Sergio Garcia; later I travelled to Ronda, where I collected information for pages of Andalucia.com.
June was a very busy month - I blogged three times for andalucia.com! The first was a trip to Malaga for a press conference involving Baroness Carmen Thyssen and San Miguel beer; the second an incredibly emotional night at the Niños de Mariposa Gala; and the third, a weekend of international football and art in Marbella.
July kicked off with a bang – literally – as the streets of Spain were filled with fireworks and excited fans when Spain won the European Football Championships for the second consecutive time. It also marked the start of my endless summer visitors! In a bid to entertain my many guests, I took them to various events including the Starlite Festival, Tweet Marbella and various beach parties.
Unfortunately, jellyfish invaded the Costa del Sol, putting the beach off-limits, so I took one friend to Mijas Aquapark for the day, ending with another disastrous bus journey (just another in an endless list of bus failures throughout the year, you may have read in my previous posts). July also marked the opening of a series of new nightclubs and bars along the coast, of which I attended the opening of Billionaire Club in Puerto Banus where I met Formula One business tycoon, Flavio Briatore. Later that evening I was excited to meet England and Arsenal football player, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
August didn´t let up, kicking off with a night at the Starlite Gala, where I played paparazzo, photographing Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith and Daryl Hannah. I documented the event for our charity pages on andalucia.com. August was popular month for galas; last weekend I attended the Dynamic Walk-A-Thon and Global Gift Gala, where I photographed and spoke briefly to Eva Longoria – who told me she was wearing an Alberta Ferretti dress, and how much she loved Marbella; one of the highlights of my year – and a host of other celebrities including Deepak Chopra, Pastora Soler and Terrence Howard. To round up the year I travelled to the Malaga Feria with my sister where we danced, drank and made the most of my last Spanish festival, and snapped my favourite picture of the year – that chihuahua.
I leave Spain next Tuesday and I start university again on 24 September. In the first class I have to summarise my year abroad in 500 words. Any ideas how to edit all these experiences down to less than half this post? Perhaps I will have to cut it to one word: unforgettable.