Today is my fourth day back in Spain; I arrived Wednesday night and have been lucky not to have suffered from jet lag despite the very long trip. It was straight back to work Thursday morning so it’s nice to have this weekend to chill out. I spent yesterday checking out the rebajas – yep, I learnt a new word in Spanish – it means discounts but is the equivalent of our sales since that’s what’s plastered all over shop windows. I also visited the supermarket plus fruit and veg stalls.
My fridge is stocked with loads of eggplant, red and green peppers, gorgeous tomatoes, beautiful mushrooms and crunchy green beans. That said, it’s so flipping cold, I don’t really need a fridge at the moment. When I step into the kitchen each morning to make my morning coffee I could swear it must be about 2 degrees!
However, once you go outside it is gorgeous winter sunshine, so it’s very pleasant walking through the streets, as I did yesterday, to get to the post office and send off a letter to Mum who is not on Facebook or any other means of electronic communications. The walk to the post office offers some lovely vista’s including the beautiful façade of the Palacio de Penaflor, which I believe, is quite something inside, but at the moment is not open to the public (I’m not sure if it ever was) and there seems to be some debate as to what to do with it. I’m really keen to get a look inside this intriguing building.
On the way back from the post office I meandered past the very picturesque, Iglesia San Juan, a place I’ve visited prior but definitely worth a second visit. However, it was closed so I had to content myself with just soaking up the exterior atmosphere.
There’s very little in terms of literature in English which explains what all the fascinating buildings in Ecija are so I’m making it my mission to find out a little bit more about the ones that intrigue me the most. It’s most definitely not a touristy town although we do see the odd day tripper, and whilst it’s nowhere near as spectacular as Cordoba or Seville, the place does have a certain unique charm. I would sum it up as being natural, no touristy shops of tacky souvenirs on every corner and people go about living their daily lives without pandering to tourists which in turn translates into cheaper prices in restaurants and, of course, less English speakers.
After enjoying a lovely Saturday morning browsing round the local market, which was freezing cold I might add, I managed to develop a rotten cold that has seen me laid up for the long weekend with a thick head, runny nose and tickly throat. The planned trip to visit the Mezquita in Cordoba was off and instead I stayed at home feeling very sad and sorry for myself all layered up in three jumpers, thick socks, slippers, a pile of tissues, cough lollies and Echinacea plus a steaming mug of chamomile, honey and vanilla tea.
I’ve spent most of the long weekend sleeping on and off, watching the odd movie on TV and reading while swaddled in a thick blanket. The temperatures plummeted and Monday morning was 1 degree – no wonder I need two heaters going in the sitting room! It’s hard to believe that the weather can get so cold here and so quickly. Although the locals did tell me that it was summer one moment and winter the next – too right!
I had to venture outside to work for a couple of hours Tuesday afternoon but thankfully the temperate had risen a bit by then, the Academy has a good heater and my classes were not so intensive so it didn’t matter that my brain was somewhat foggy. I’ve managed get through the rest of the week thus far although my croaky voice is a source of amusement to several of my students.
I’ve been sniffling my way back home each evening after class and gratefully stepping into my apartment where I’ve been leaving the heating on while I’m gone. My landlady has told me to watch the power bills as I think she was surprised my bill for power and water for the last two months was E56 but to me that was so cheap compared to Darwin prices. I like to be nice and warm inside instead of wrapped up like an Eskimo in my own place so I’m more than happy to pay what it takes to keep me comfortable.
Dinners have been steaming bowls of home-made soups – thank goodness for the freezer where I’ve stashed pile of meals as cooking for one means I always make more – and settling down to watch some weird stuff on TV, as I haven’t been able to concentrate properly on reading, before dosing myself up again and snuggling down for the night. Last night was impossible to keep warm last night and I ended up crawling into bed with a silk scarf wrapped round my head plus long tights and T-shirt under my flannelette nightie!
This morning I woke up feeling lot more like my old self – still got slight sniffles but thank goodness my head is clear and I can think properly again – so my silk scarf act must have worked. All I can say is thank goodness I didn’t get the job in Mongolia that I applied for! I was definitely being watched over when I missed out on that one!
I’ve been here two months already, the time has flown past and two weeks today I’ll be boarding a plane in Madrid to head back to Darwin for Christmas where I’ll no doubt swelter and instead of the heaters will be lazing about in the pool to try and keep cool.
I’m very pleased to be able to say that this week I finally managed to become registered on the Spanish health care system. Only two trips to the Health Centre and one to Social Security and my task was accomplished. I’m definitely getting the hang of this local run around system that involves several visits and many photocopies of all paperwork.
I’ve also got a few thousand more words down on paper, enjoyed two social nights of informal conversation groups which was a mix of Spanish and English speakers, met new people and discovered a little cultural centre I had no idea existed before. The chap who runs it, Juan Manuel Luna Fuentes, presented me with copy of his book “Viaje A Nueva Icaria” all in Spanish I might add so on winter nights I guess it’ll be me and my dictionary trying to wade through it. I also learnt all sorts of fascinating stuff about flamenco which will be the subject of another post.
Temperatures have suddenly dropped to between 4 and 6 degrees each morning and late at night but I still love walking home in the dark as the city takes on another dimension in the glow of the lamp light. Don’t get me wrong, I am always offered a lift but it’s so much better to walk and after a night of chatter I enjoy the solitude. The streets are quieter and it’s as though I’ve stepped back in time as I walk the cobbled streets towards my apartment. It’s perfectly safe to walk at night and it burns the calories too!
The cooler weather means bundling up in more clothes, and I’ve taken to wearing several layers (which gives a Michelin Man appearance at times) although when the sun comes out it is lovely to bask in its warming rays and then I feel hot so need to peel off a layer! In my apartment I have two heaters going in the sitting room so I don’t turn into a popsicle overnight and, as I write this, I recall the days of typing in London wearing fingerless gloves – if it gets much colder I might just have to invest in a pair once again!
This week an ice-rink has appeared in the main square which is officially called Plaza Espana but the locals refer to it as the Salon and the Christmas decorations have been hung across the streets. I’m heading out now to explore the town and see what delights I can find at the market that I saw springing up in the Salon yesterday.