Tag Archives: fiesta

Feria and a blast from the past in El Puerto de Santa María

Once upon a time, before my Granada days, I lived in a much quieter, saltier and crispier part of Spain:

El Puerto de Santa María. Land of sherry wine, fishy tapas and bewildering-to-beginners Spanish.

I arrived feeling completely unschooled yet blithely naïve and willing to embrace a huge change in my life. However, the language barrier obstructed my social life during those first few months, so I often had to look to my environs to remind myself of what a great decision I had made to come to Spain.

The beaches, for instance, are just gorgeous. All of them– unlike Granada’s :( –are sandy, sunbathable virtually all year round and flanked by a thick-green, sweet-smelling pine forest. Then there are the countless freshly caught and fried fish tapas bars, stocked full of uh-mazing chocos fritos (larger calamari). It is a feast for the senses. However, it was the warmth of the people I met that really left its mark on me, despite the barely comprehensible Spanish which anyone I spoke to had to endure. Sadly, all but two have now moved on in search of work– la crisis has left them no other choice –but that doesn’t stop me from visiting when I am able to (only twice since moving to Granada!) I also have Meghann of Hola Matrimony to keep me adrift of what’s going on Puerto side.

el puerto de santa maria, playa muralla, puerto sherry, spain
Playa Muralla, El Puerto de Santa María

Last week I decided to make the trip for the annual Feria– a five-day long fiesta occurring each May, which sees the whole town show up at one stage or another, most dressed elegantly in traditional, frilly Sevillana dresses or chic shirt-and-tie combinations. It’s the busiest and noisiest period of the year for any Andalucían town, particularly those with their ferias just minutes away from the centre by bus, like El Puerto.

I took E along for the ride, eager to show her my Spanish ‘roots’. I’d been to Feria that first year and had spent most of it drunk off Negrito Ron y Cola (lethal stuff) and joyriding bumper cars in a sort of sad, older guy among children kind of way. I’d enjoyed las casetas (public tents with bars and music) as well, but had embarrassed myself horribly when attempting to dance Sevillanas, the traditional Feria dance. This year I was happy to let the Spanish boys do the dancing. I would watch.

el puerto de santa maria, feria, spain
Feria Lights

We’d arranged to stay with Pilar, a local lady advertised on Airbnb who’d apparently just turned 60, though you’d never have guessed; she was the prime example of how years of sunshine, a healthy Mediterranean diet and not smoking makes a life last years longer. She shared her apartment with her father, who was 88, but yet again, looked about fifteen years younger and was nimble enough on his feet.

Pilar would get on well with my mum, were either of them able to speak the other’s language. She never stopped to draw breath, and just sort of pottered about in that mother-like way, pouring us glasses of tradtional fino (sherry wine), mopping up after a leaky tap and drawing extremely detailed maps of how to find things that were literally five minutes away on foot. We decided that we liked her very much almost immediately, but could never have anticipated her most gracious gesture of the weekend: an authentic, bright orange Sevillanas dress that she had worn as a girl, laid out on the bed after we returned from our first night of Feria fun (presumably meant for E, not me– that would be a disturbing image, let alone catastrophic for the dress). It was wonderful and fit E like a glove, so was duly worn– with an enormous smile I might add –for our second night at Feria.

el puerto de santa maria, feria dress, spain, sevillanas
E all dressed up and Pilar
el puerto de santa maria, feria dress, spain, sevillanas
Practicing our moves for Feria part 2

Quite by chance we stumbled into a caseta (none are private like in Seville) for a great big, rehydrating jug of rebujito– a traditional Feria drink made up of fino sherry and either lemonade or soda water –and were followed by a surge of Sevillanas-dressed women before a live Sevillanas band started playing. Judging by the dancing, popularity and quality of the music we hardly saw any point in moving on, though we eventually did, in order to meet the only two friends who had stayed since we all met there in 2011.

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We found them in a pop/reggaeton-heavy caseta– not really my thing but I can usually pull through providing that there is enough alcohol to hand, and since I’d managed to find a bar selling litres of rebujito for €2.50 this was not a problem. At least not until the Sevillanas started playing. The rebujitos had given me the belief that I was actually able to dance Sevillanas, so, grabbing E with the élan and tenacity of the bloke standing next to me, I attempted to copy his steps and sync my spins and twirls. However, in exactly the same way as I had done that first year, I banged, bumped, trod on and at one point almost flung my dancing partner to the floor– in this case E (sorry E) –before making my exit, horribly embarrassed once more.


There was only one thing for it: bumper cars.

I drove, E watched, I drove again, E watched again. E started to walk home. I decided I better go too, but not before buying and devouring a sticky white chocolate gofre, which I deserved for driving so well.

Next day we spent a few hours lazing on Playa de Muralla–my favourite of  El Puerto’s beaches –to conclude a wonderful weekend before driving back to Granada (no bumping this time) high on nostalgia:

Pilar had reminded me of the goodness of El Puerto’s people, the beaches had reminded me of the long lazy days we spent there, the fino sherry of the bodegas we frequented in the summer and I had reminded myself of how terrible a Sevillanas dancer I truly am.

Next time I will stick to the bumper cars 😉

el puerto de santa maria, feria dress, spain, sevillanas

Have you ever been to a Feria in Spain? What was your experience like?

The Ten Spanish Drinking Commandments

There’s a knack to drinking in Spain; a certain manifesto that – given enough time – one generally becomes accustomed to. We Brits are used to a binge-drinking culture that for one reason or another didn’t go away after the Labour party brought in 24-hour licensing laws in 2005. The rationale was that it would instil more of a sophisticated, continental café-type drinking attitude. A legitimate proposal, you might argue, but doomed from the start really.

But this notion of a ‘café-drinking culture’ could only have sprung from countries like France, Belgium and indeed, Spain. Yet I often wonder how and why this is.

I can’t speak for France or Belgium but here in Spain, I’ve rarely felt sophisticated when knocking back the beers with amigos at the weekend. Not to say, of course, that civilised and responsible drinking doesn’t take place – this does happen, and is generally a daytime custom – but going out for a drink frequently means the same thing as it does in Britain: going out for a drink to get drunk. And when this happens, there are rules to follow. Thus, I doth bring you…



One: Thou shalt choose wisely

As is the case anywhere in the world, getting to know foreign beverages duly involves many instances of trial and error. There are inevitably good ones and bad ones, which can usually be set apart judging by their respective price tags. In Spain, however, each beer, glass of wine or copa is often as cheap or costly as the next, and unless you’ve a Spanish friend on hand to help, you’ll end up having to sift your way through them all until you find a winner. Everyone has their preferences, but as a rule of thumb, don’t go for:

Cruz Campo: A Sevillana cerveza that is essentially Spain’s equivalent to Fosters, unless of course you are in Seville, where it is considered to be almost on par with holy water.

Sangría: Not only will this probably not be available, but it is a proper tourist drink that is usually made with the cheapest, nastiest wine and liquor that is too embarrassing to leave on the back bar – unless you’re at a fancy beach bar on the Costa del Sol.

Ron Negrita: A good choice if one’s sole intention is to become inebriated as quickly as possible – it’s strong, and cheap when bought from a supermarket, but be warned: the resaca is devastating.

Two: Thou shalt speak with proper tongue

In the UK we say ‘Cheers’, often not even excitedly, before we take that first, yearned-for sip. In Spain, you could probably write a book on the things to say and how to say them before getting stuck in. ‘Salud!’ is the direct translation – fair enough – but occasionally one is required to join in with longer, often rather puzzling verses, the learning of which is effectively a rite of passage for us guiris. ‘Pa arriba’, pa’ bajo, pa’ al centro, pa’ dentro!’ – ‘Up, down, to the centre, inside’ – is the most commonly used expression. Andalucíans can be crude though, as is exhibited through the use of: ‘Quien no apoya no folla, quien no recorre no se corre’ – He who doesn’t support doesn’t get laid, he who doesn’t ‘run along the surface’ doesn’t well, er, ‘finish the job’, so to speak. How British of me.

Three: Thou shalt not forget the proper traditions

As is customary to learn the local limericks and sayings, boorish as they may be, one must also respect the non-verbal rituals when out drinking in Spain. Rubbing the bottom of your glass in a circular motion on the bar or table and then banging it back down is one such example. Even today I haven’t a clue as to why we do it. I suppose it’s one of those little mysteries I enjoy being confounded by. It takes place in between saying ‘Salud!’ and taking that first swig, which is where the next practice comes in: eye contact. If you fail to make eye contact at that precise moment the first sip is taken, you are, effectively, condemning yourself to seven years of bad sex. Yes I know! I gulped too.

Here’s to some great sex!

Four: Thou shalt exercise caution

I’ve alluded to the importance of drinking stamina in Spain before, but it really is beyond doubt the single most fundamental commandment of the 10 Spanish drinking commandments. We go all night in Spain, and if you don’t pace yourself then you could be in for a sudden case of las naúseas later on down the line. Be clever and go slow.

The Finish Line at 8am
The Finish Line at 8am

Five: Thou shalt drink at lunch time

Forget any pre-conceived idea of what society constitutes as ‘normal’ drinking hours. Any hour is a drinking hour in Spain. Some Spaniards even consider it unusual for somebody not to have a beer during a lunch break. ‘Why bother with coke?’ I was once asked. ‘It’s the same price as beer.’ Fair point really.

drinking, spain, lunch time beer

Six: Thou shalt not be vexed by la cuenta police

Most bars in Spain do not charge customers until they are ready to leave. This is fine, providing you are not part of a large group and have inadvertently become involved in a longwinded, tedious squabble over who’s had what and who owes who.

As was touched on by Jess of HolaYessica! (in a post that I can no longer find) a few months ago, this can get very annoying. Personally, I am of the ‘let’s just split it evenly to keep it simple and painless’ sect; there’s no mood killer quite like somebody taking out their smartphone to work out how much more that person who was on the mojitos owes. However, this is often the case here in Spain and if you’re like me then you just have to learn to deal with it.

Seven: Thou shalt eat whenever possible

If there’s a tapa there, take it. As commandment four stipulates, pacing oneself is imperative if you are to make it safely to the finish line. Food is fuel and – if you’re in my neck of the woods – served free with every drink. When tapas are finished for the night (generally around midnight in most places) there’s always that tasty, irresistible-when-drunk-and-hungry alternative: el Shawarma. Best to keep an emergency pack of chewing gum about for when this happens though – don’t want to scare off that pretty Spanish girl now do we? Or boy – girls like shawarma too.

tapas, granada, spain, om kalsum

Eight: Thou shalt take a nap beforehand

A Spanish politician recently suggested that Spain do away with the siesta so as to help boost the country’s failing economy by having longer working hours. There was uproar. Siestas are fundamentally important here, whether meant as strategic pre-drinking snoozes or not. In any case, they can potentially determine the outcome of a night out: still up at dawn singing loudly, or in bed by 2am, snoring loudly.

Nine: Thou shalt attend a ‘botellon’ at least once

The term ‘botellon’ is used loosely to refer to what we Brits simply call ‘pre-drinking’. It takes place either in somebody’s home before la hora de salir in order to attain a satisfactory and cost-effective level of drunkenness, or out on the streets among hundreds of other tipple-toting dipsomaniacs. The majority of these tend to be alarmingly young looking, often because they are in fact very, very young. The police let them get on with it, providing they all stay out of trouble, and here in Granada, there is even a large, designated area, known as el Botollodromo, where this shameless debauchery takes place. Ten years ago I would have loved it. These days, however, I’d rather go for option one in the comfort of a cozy home. You might like it though.

botellon, spain, drinking
Botellon (Source)

Ten: Thou shalt learn these words

Here and there I’ve inserted some useful Spanish words and phrases that you may very well need when drinking in Spain. Here are their translations, along with a few others:

‘la hora de salir’ – time to leave

‘copa’ – spirit and mixer

‘llename’ – fill me up

‘un chupito’ – a shot

‘ponme otro’ – another one please

‘cuanto cuesta?’ – how much?

‘venga otro más’ – sod it give us one more

‘buenas noches’ – good night

‘resaca’ – hangover

‘las naúseas’ – the act of being repeatedly sick

cidra, perucci martini, pamplona
Cidra y Perucci Martinis

Got any more to add to the list? Let’s hear them in the comments section below…


Hippies are sundry

They come in many molds

Some black, some white, some fat, some thin

Some drunk, some young, some old


In any case one value is shared:

A love for all things we are bestowed

Whether sons, daughters or mongrels

Cheap rum or veggie curry by the load


By day they work to keep afloat

At night they rave in droves

Some go on until the next morning

Others retreat, beaten, to their coves


Shabby, bearded and bedraggled

An exterior is of little concern

It’s the beauty on the inside that counts:

A lesson we all ought to learn


Hippies take each day as it comes

With a constant and catching smile

Deadlines and spreadsheets are meaningless

Goji beans are far more worthwhile


Yet on we go, living our lives

All loud, headlong and zippy

Wouldn’t it be swell, if just for a short spell

We all lived more like a hippie?


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All these pictures were taken at San Miguel Alto, the highest point of Granada, during one of the numerous, free daytime fiestas that take place between the spring and autumn. For me, it is exactly this sort of thing that epitomises Granada, and how I will always remember it.


An Insider’s Guide to Granada Nightlife

If you’re new in town, planning a visit or just passing through, you’ll probably want to make the most of your time in Granada, Spain’s Moorish jewel of the south. This will of course include seeing the sights, eating the eats and – one would assume – sampling a taste of the city’s buoyant night life, with a little of what the locals like to call ‘Grana’ino tyle’.

Like it or not, Granada is very much a student city; there are approximately 85,000 of them currently attending the University (Source: Wikipedia) and around 2-3,000 of these are enrolled in the Erasmus ‘study abroad’ programme (‘study’ used in its loosest sense here), so finding somewhere to party isn’t exactly difficult.

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However, if – like me – your University years are behind you, then shuffling your way in and out of student-saturated bars all evening might not be your idea of fun. But there’s no need for concern; in Granada, there’s something for everyone, though finding exactly what and where that something is can be rather galling at times – both for tourists and locals.

After two years as a proud ‘guiri’ in Granada, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I’ve just about seen it all, even though I will, inevitably, at some point stumble upon somewhere brilliant that neither I nor my fellow guiri countrymen have ever heard of.

mapa de granada distritos

Before we begin, a disclaimer: as can be seen from the very elaborate map above, Granada is divided up into eight barrios: La Chana; Norte; Beiro; Albaicín; Centro; Genil; Zaidín and Ronda, but in the interest of keeping this article brief, we’ll focus on where the bulk of Granada’s best pubs and clubs can be found: El Centro, El Albaicín and El Realejo (a smaller barrio east of the centre), with a few honourable mentions at the end. Also, as is the case throughout the rest of Spain, Granada’s nightlife doesn’t really get going until about midnight, and tends not to wind down until about 6am, so it would be wise to pace yourself no matter where you’re going. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since coming here, it’s that the Spanish are kings when it comes to partying.

El Centro

Calle Elvira (Source)
Calle Elvira (Source)

The beaten track, as it were, more or less makes up the centre of Granada. The long, cobbled and Moorish themed Calle Elvira, for instance, is continuously swamped with punters lurching from one buzzing tapa bar to the next, and when the kitchens call it quits for the night, there is a profusion of late night bars lying in wait for the half drunken overspill. One such enterprise is El Son (C/ Juaquin Costa 13). This joint, functioning as a bar upstairs and disco on its ground floor, fills up around 3am and stays open until the early hours. It is a fantastic example of how people in Granada will dance to just about anything; frankly, music has never been so random. Being blind drunk before entering isn’t an essential requirement, but it helps.

Things tend to be a little quieter down the other end of Elvira, but tucked down an otherwise derelict side road you’ll find Miniclub and Pata Palo catering to regularly teeming crowds, the latter especially. On a Friday night, you will doubtless spend a good twenty minutes shoving your way through the scrum before you are served, but the vibe inside both bars is as about as Spanish as it gets: we’re talking mass, screaming sing-alongs to wild, never-heard-of-before Spanish songs, some rather risky-looking table dancing and an unfathomable amount of chupitos.

el son granada spain nightlife
El Son, Granada

Over the other side of Gran Vía de Colón – Granada’s main intersection – there’s plenty more fun to be had. Entresuelo (Plaza San Augustin 2) blares out hours of reggae and dancehall at the weekend and boasts one of the best atmospheres in town. Then there’s Plantabaja (C/ Horno de Abad 11), a very cool bar whose basement – la planta baja – regularly plays host to some of Spain’s best, underground musical talents and tribute acts who are often almost as good as the real thing.

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Further westward are Booga Club (C/ Santa Barbara 8), a blues, dub and reggae stronghold also renowned for its excellent provision of live music, and Afrodisia (C/ de Almona del Boquerón 10), a swinging sixties sort of place and Booga’s unofficial warm-up bar. At €3 a cerveza, Booga is pricey compared with its rivals, but that’s ok because there’s a Chino across the road so people just get hammered on the steps outside instead.

plantabaja granada spain
Live Music at Plantabaja, Granada (Source)
booga club granada spain
Live Music at BoogaClub, Granada (Source)

For the busiest, cheapest and wildest time in town, head to the ever-frenetic Pedro Antonio de Alarcon, a long, straight, one-way street, which at its far end becomes inundated with busy bars, crowded kebab houses and chockfull chupiterías. Ergo, this is definitely the place to come if you do like student-saturated bars. Take La Marisma for example. Here, large beers, or jarras are sold for €1.60, hence the unyielding glut of bodies in the room. Each beer – conveniently – is served with a small plastic cup of salty pipas, the shells of which are promptly bitten off and tossed to the ground, creating a swathe of crunchy carpet that has to be seen to be believed. But that isn’t actually possible until closing time when everybody leaves.

Double back and you’ll encounter a much louder side of Granada nightlife: the grunge bars. Soma, El Transistor and El Peaton blast out the rock, indie and heavy metal – some of it refreshingly nostalgic, some of it deafeningly uncompromising – all night, every night after 10pm.

soma bar granada spain nightlife
Soma, Pedro Antonio de Alarcon

Pedro’s adjoining side streets have also become smeared with the same tawdry brush – Calle Socrates, home of student-favourite shot bar Chupitería 69, being a fine example. Here, a menu focused solely on inebriating its indulgers draws sizeable hordes most nights. All shots, whether ‘suave’, ‘medio’ or ‘fuerte’ (el agua bendita is particularly objectionable) cost €1, and are accompanied by vouchers that can be accumulated in order to win one of the bar’s esteemed rewards for loyalty. Lighter anyone? Maybe a T-shirt that proclaims you as Chupitería 69’s number one fan? Or just go the distance and trade all those hard earned vouchers in for the legendary thong? Even with the rewards, there are no winners here, just a lot of very, very wobbly people with incredibly sticky fingers.

chupitería 69 granada spain shot bar
El Ménu, Chupitería 69, Cale Socrates


El Albaícin

El Albaicín seen from The Alhambra
El Albaicín seen from The Alhambra

El Albaicín, Granada’s oldest, largest and most iconic barrio, rises high above the rest of the city to face the grand Alhambra Palace. Properties battle for every last inch of room here, and anybody who has successfully completed the grueling climb up to El Mirador de San Nicolas – the city’s most famous viewpoint – deserves a pat on the back. By day, the narrow alleyways are swarming with tourists, but at night most descend into the city in favour of some less physically exerting tapa hopping.

However, there are several bars well worth visiting. Café Bar Higuera (C/ Horno de Hoyo 17), for instance, is full of beans on a Friday night, especially when things warm up in late spring. The intimate and festooned beer garden out back makes for an excellent spot to chow down a tapa and clap along to bands of hippies strumming/blowing wood-fashioned instruments with no clear purpose. Other draws include Rincon de Pepe (Puerta Nueva), where delicious wine and home-cooked tapas can be enjoyed for a fair price and Casa Torquato (C/ Pagés 31) for something quintessentially Andaluz.

cafe bar higuera granada albaicin albaycin
Cafe Bar Higuera, El Albaicín, Granada

Ten minutes’ walking distance from El Albaicín – or Paseo de los Tristes if arriving from Plaza Nueva – is perhaps Granada’s most popular club of all: El Camborio. The venue has established itself as a firm student favourite, and often reaches maximum capacity on any given night of the week. If pop and Spanish chart music is your thing, you can’t go wrong here.

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El Realejo

campo del principe granada
Campo del Principe, Granada (Source)

Dubbed ‘la zona de los guiris’ by some of the locals, the nightlife in El Realejo – the old Jewish quarter of Granada – is geared slightly more toward an international crowd. There are enough Spanish owned tapas bars around to ensure a traditional quality is preserved – Campo Principe, for example, is loaded with classic Spanish style bars – but an assortment of English and Irish run pubs and eateries give the barrio a distinctly foreign or – as is the case for us guiris – pleasantly familiar feel. The cozy Casa Lopez Correa (C/ Molinos 5) does excellent food, wine and beer and often hosts intercambios in the evenings, and down the road, Paddy’s Pub (C/ Santa Escolastica 15) is the perfect place to reconvene after the night before for a proper pint, some friendly banter and a dose of live sport with English commentary! Everyone needs their home comforts from time to time, and Paddy goes that extra mile to make sure all of his customers are being looked after. The TV sets have even been positioned so that one can view four games at once, and if the game you want to watch isn’t showing, no problem; Paddy will stream it illegally from one of the laptops propped on the bar. Now that’s service.

casa lopez correa granada el realejo
Casa Lopez Correa, Granada

After hours, El Realejo doesn’t have much to offer, but for those hellbent on going all night long, gratification in the form of pounding, pounding gabba or techno can be sought out from Quilombo (Carril de San Cecilo 21) – if you’re willing to stumble uphill to get there.

Honourable Mentions

sala el tren granada musica
Live Music at La Sala El Tren (Source)

I couldn’t pen a guide on Granada’s nightlife without mentioning my favourite Granadino club of all now could I? La Sala El Tren (Carretera de Málaga 136) boasts an imposing sound system, unmatched elsewhere in Granada. Getting there is a bit problematic – either €8 by taxi from the centre or a very long walk) – but the quality of its live gigs and international DJ sets makes the journey well worth the effort. The entrance fee typically sets you back around €10 with either a copa (spirit and mixer) or a couple of beers thrown in, but the general custom is to drink copiously in the street beforehand. Events label Substation regularly feature major UK reggae, jungle and DnB names on their rosta – The Skatalites, Congo Natty, Serial Killaz, and Shy FX the latest among them.

aphrodite granada sala el tren spain
Aphrodite @ La Sala El Tren (poor phone pic quality :S)

The only other Granadino club to attract the big names in the field of electronica is Industrial Copera (C/ Paz 7), a huge, double-floored discotheque with some seriously impressive pyrotechnics. For me, it’s not quite up to Tren’s standards in terms of character and atmosphere, but it’s still considerably better than the likes of Granada 10 and Mae West – two glorified and unbelievably pretentious student haunts, far more concerned with glitz and glamour than actually playing some decent music. That’s just me though – if anybody begs to differ then please do say so in the comments section below!

industrial copera granada
Live Music at Industrial Copera

Have you experienced Granada’s nightlife? Where did you go and where would you recommend?

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Expat habits at home

As an expat, the business of settling back into ‘normal life’ back home  – whether on a temporary or permanent basis – can be rather problematic. Naturally, the longer you’ve been away the harder this process will be, and personally, I’ve never been out of Britain for longer than seven months (a Christmas elsewhere is unthinkable).

Even so, I feel as though after 3-4 years’ experience living abroad, despite the periodic homecomings in between, I’ve learned a thing or two about this business of ‘re-adapting’ yourself to life as it was.

In my last post, I discussed (with myself) the difficulties in accepting change at home, and trying to keep a hold of things so as to prevent total alienation. Today I’m going to keep it cheerful, by relaying you all with some of the unexpected and quietly amusing oddities I’ve encountered back home since I moved to Spain in 2010. Perhaps a few of you can relate!

One: Talking

‘Pleases’, ‘thank-yous’ and ‘sorrys’ are, needless to say, rather commonplace here in jolly old England. The other day at Victoria Station somebody rolled their suitcase over my toes as he crossed my path. I said ‘perdona’. Two things obviously wrong there: the first, that I shouldn’t have been the one apologising – but we Brits simply can’t help ourselves – secondly, I said it in Spanish, and this happens a lot. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve accidentally let slip a ‘gracias’ in a newsagent or a ‘por favor’ in a bar or restaurant.

Depending on how good your second language is, in my case Spanish, these language gaffes can also extend further into your English language repertoire. For instance, there have been occasions on which I’ve caught myself saying things like ‘It didn’t give me notice that…’ or ‘it costs me (to do something)’, arising from the grammatically dissimilar Spanish translations ‘no me di cuenta de que…’ and ‘me cuesta (hacer algo), meaning ‘I didn’t realise’ and ‘I find it difficult to…’ respectively. I have to say it’s a bit embarrassing when it happens; friends often cock an eyebrow and I suddenly realise my error. But it’s actually quite funny, and a sign that you’re at a good level.

Two: Eavesdropping

If your return home involves living or staying in a place where there are bound to be lots of foreigners who speak your second language, like London for example, you’ll quickly find that you rather helplessly begin to eavesdrop on their conversations. On the tube, train, bus or just when out and about, it’s impossible not to listen in the moment you hear that familiar tongue­ – especially when it is in an unfamiliar context. I keep thinking I’ll catch out a Spanish person slagging me off for no particular reason, but it hasn’t happened yet. Nor will it, of course.

On the downside you sometimes have to put up with inane chatter in English that you don’t want to listen to and, unlike when in Spanish, this cannot be blocked out quite so easily.

eavesdropping earwigging listening

Three: Eating

Meal times are notoriously late in Spain, and if you’re an English teacher who works until 21.45 every weeknight then they tend to be even later. So when it comes to re-adjusting to regular, early evening (or late afternoon as it’s considered in Spain) meal times back home, you may find that you’re just not hungry enough to feast on your Mum’s signature shepherd’s pie, or the enormous portion of greasy fish ‘n’ chips that your Dad brought home as a special ‘welcome home son’ sort of gesture. Obviously you do eat it – you wouldn’t want to go upsetting dear old mum and dad now – but I’ve found this is harder to re-adjust to than the other way round.

shepherd's pie british food
For all those who’ve never heard of Shepherd’s Pie, this is it. Mmmmmmm…… (Source) (mmmmmm…sauce)

Portion sizes are all back to front in Spain too. Breakfast, for most, tends to amount to nothing more than a slice of toast dripping with oil or mushed tomatoes, a piece of fruit, a glass of orange juice, a coffee or nothing at all. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day; some people can spend up to two hours preparing it and businesses regularly close for anywhere between 2-3 hours for lunch during the week. Dinner, in Granada at least, typically consists of either two or three tapas, an omelette, leftover lunch or just a quick something before bed – not our idea of teatime at all.

typical spanish breakfast
Average Spanish Breakfast…

Four: Going out

Three years in Spain hardens your threshold for alcohol intake and your staying out power. The routine for a standard night out is more or less the same as anywhere else: pre-drinking at home, then maybe a bar or two before continuing on to a club. The timetable for these stages is, however, drastically different. I find that pre-drinking tends not to get underway until around 11-12 o’ clock and clubs don’t fill up before 2-3am. Thus, most nights out – if you’re hardcore enough to go the distance – last all night. And I mean all night. In fact, going home before 6am is generally considered bad form.

So when it comes to going out back home, wherever that may be, there is inevitably some difficulty in trying to slot back into the old routine. However, providing that you didn’t go overboard on the earlier-than-usual pre-drinking, your friends will be mightily impressed with your newly developed partying stamina. Just remember one thing though – there’s no churros con chocolate waiting for you at the end of the night back home… (sad face)

late night out
Late night o’ clock!

The best EVER water fight in Lanjarón

water fight lanjarón spain fiesta de aguaHigh up in the sloping hills of the Alpujarra just south of Granada, there are a cluster of small, beguiling pueblos, each surrounded by acres of verdant countryside and each with something to brag about – from ancient, Moorish ruins to an artisan chocolate factory and even a copper coloured waterfall.

None, however, for all their riches, are able to attract the throngs quite like Lanjarón – especially on the eve of San Juan, June 23rd, when sheer, waterlogged madness dramatically unfolds. Travellers from near and far arrive by the coachload and spend the penultimate hours of the day reeling in eager anticipation of Spain’s – or perhaps even the world’s – BIGGEST water fight. At the stroke of midnight, deluges of water are sprayed from fireman’s hoses and comparatively pathetic water pistols (more on that later), poured from buckets on balconies and thrown within bulging water balloons. This then relentlessly continues for one, extremely soggy hour.

lanjarón, spain. map
Lanjarón, Las Alpujarras, Spain

The water themed frolicking pertains to when San Juan baptized Christ with a mere handful of water all those years ago. Somehow, I don’t imagine he’d ever have envisaged thousands of scantily clad youths mercilessly squirting each other in the face with pump action, air pressurised super soakers in his honour 2000 years down the line. Still, I’m sure he’d get involved if he were around.

water fight lanjarón spain fiesta de agua

The contiguous mountains provide Lanjarón with a constant stream of natural mineral water, and the town is thus a major provider of natural spring water to the rest of Spain. Bottles of it can be bought from just about anywhere and the industry accounts for a large proportion of jobs in the tiny hillside pueblo.

There are numerous springs dotted around the town centre which – according to myth – each bring certain powers to those who drink from them. One is for health, another for fertility and another for a guaranteed, perfect paella. God only knows which spring I eventually stumbled upon having run out of balloons and in desperate need of more ammunition. The only power I seemingly gained from it was the ability to attract an abnormally large amount of attention. There’s no sympathy for the unarmed at the great water fight of Lanjarón.

water fight lanjarón spain fiesta de agua spring well

Beforehand, I had been rather pleased with my chino-bought water pistol, reassuringly named the ‘super wallop’. Sure, it was tacky and pitiable in comparison to friend’s said pump action super soaker but the thing had a good range on it at least. Not even a minute had passed after 12 before I comprehended how terrible my choice of weaponry had been; people didn’t even realise I was wetting them.

Fortunately, a friend had taken pity and already bestowed me with some of his balloons, which I had filled up at one of the springs in the streets. These didn’t last long, as the majority were hastily hurled at all those merrily tipping buckets or sniping defenseless victims from their bone-dry balconies.

water fight lanjarón spain fiesta de agua water fight lanjarón spain fiesta de agua

Incidentally, it isn’t just water that Lanjaroneses make use of to commemorate old Saint John the Baptist; the event is actually called la fiesta del agua y jamón – the party of water and ham. Apparently, ham is served and eaten abundantly throughout the ensuing days, which is of course preferable to using it as artillery instead of – or indeed as well as – water on the night of the festival. That would be an incredibly slippery and revolting affair, much like La Tomatina in Buñol, Valencia I’m guessing.

The drag back to the bus lasted the entire hour. There were no hiding places, and if you were seen trying to escape then hose bearers would unite and ruthlessly remind you why you were there.

Once dried and clothed we were suddenly being whisked away by bus to Salobreña, where there were allegedly lines of humungous hogueras (bonfires) around which people danced and partied the rest of the night away in honour of Pagan ritual. Unfortunately by the time we arrived the celebrations were winding down and said bonfires had shrunk significantly. There was still music though, and who doesn’t like partying on the beach until the early hours?

hoguera bonfire san juan salobreña
What las hogueras ordinarily look like (Source)

Getting to Lanjarón is fairly easy if you’re coming from Granada. Just hop on one of the various buses leaving from Calle Neptuno, though you will need to buy a ticket for most services beforehand. We paid €10 each for the bus there, the bus to Salobreña and the bus back to Granada. Although we found the tickets thanks to word of mouth, they are also available online.

Perhaps next year I’ll upgrade from the super wallop to a pump action super soaker. Then I’ll at least cause partial irritation to other partygoers. And a sturdy pair of wellies wouldn’t be such a bad idea either; flip-flops were a baaaad choice.

Have you ever been to this epic water fight? Or something similar like La Tomatina? What did you think?