Costa Cálida beaches

Calblanque
Not far from Cartagena nor La Manga in Murcia you will find the Parque Regional de Calblanque. There are a couple of beaches in this area but we took the path to the left which led us to a sandy calm beach that would be great for kids but also nice for bathing. There are short hikes you can do around the rocky parts but avoid the dunes as they are protected. The water was fairly warm, tranquil and beautiful aquamarine in some areas.  Whichever path you take you probably won’t be disappointed.
bolnuevo bolnuevo fish and chipsBolnuevo
Once you arrive in this former fishing village, now British invasion of fish and chip shops and dime stores that carry shortbread bikkies, canned herring, Vienna sausages, and marmite, (not complaining) go past the main beach and continue up the hill. To your left you will see a drop to a nice somewhat secluded cove; the lack of parking makes this spot all the more enjoyable. Walk down the super steep hill toward the ocean. You will find yourself in paradise; this cove is calm, warm and wonderful with few people mostly whom arrived by boat. After a good swim we headed back into town for some damn good fish and chips (for the parents) and a good vegetarian pasta for ourselves at a wonderful restaurant called Elenas. If I am in the area again I will definitely stop in for the good food and great service.

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Cartagena

cathedral cartegena   We didn’t have much planned for the city of Cartagena but we knew we wanted to check out the Roman Theatre. While looking for the entrance we took a detour up a side stairwell. There was an opened door to the left that looked like it was part of a church; we walked in and were inside the ruins of a church that overlooked the theater. A man appeared from the ruins and told us that no one was allowed in this part; he had just been changing a light bulb for the theater. He ended up being super friendly and told us a little history about the place. It turns out we were exploring the ruins of the Cathedral de Santa Maria Vieja which had been bombed during the Spanish Civil War and has since been abandoned. The cathedral is actually built over the top of the theatre even built with the same material, we were lucky to chance upon that open door. Never hesitate to explore the unknown.
After, we climbed the stairs we came upon a lovely park with incredible views of the theater and the whole city, we explored the walls around the Amphitheater, we purchased entrance into the Castillo de la Concepcion and the museum associated with this entrance for 3 euros per adult. The museum is really interesting and the entrance takes you to the top of a great lookout and at the end you can take the sky elevator down to where you parked. You can purchase a bulk entrance fee to more museums and monuments but we just didn’t have the time.
sunken treasureInstead we headed to the ARQUA the Museo Nacional de Arquelogia Subacuatica to see the controversial gold recovered from a Spanish shipwreck. The museum was amazing and if I was a teacher in Cartagena I would definitely bring my students here. They had a large collection of artifacts from shipwrecks and a detailed history of trade that was quite fascinating; the exhibits are interactive, really interesting and the atmosphere is ethereal. Definitely worth the few pennies it cost to get in. tour boat

We ended our trip to Cartagena with a tour boat ride! Yes you read it correctly, a tour boat that stops at the Christmas Fort and explains the history and details of how the city was protected. I’m a sucker for a good tour but this was a great addition to our plans and I’d recommend it to anyone who has the extra time during their visit.

 

 

Semana Santa Almeria 2014

semana santaalmeriaI am super upset because I forgot to bring my camera charger on this semana santa trip. Things have been crazy between planning this trip, tying ends up at work, helping the visiting parents, applying and interviewing for grad school; it has been a few crazy weeks. But I’ll never regret more not capturing the most epic Easter procession in Almeria on the night of Palm Sunday or Holy Monday. I was left dumbstruck, hypnotized by the power of the music. I couldn’t reach for any form of technology I was motionless. It wasn’t until my suegra hit me that I realized oh my god I haven’t been recording this beautiful moment, and maybe it is better that way but deep down I wish all the world could have experienced this incredibly moving night. Here is a clip after the most emotional cornet solo ended, the solo that left me weak in the knees and the soloist who disappeared in the wink of an eye. If anyone knows the name of this group or can link to an updated clip of this night and the solo, it would make my night.

Granada Revisited

alhambra gardens Last year we went to Granada twice but it is such a wonderful city we went back this April and will probably go again during the summer months. This time we had a chance to see the Alhambra gardens.
You can purchase general entrance to the Alhambra and the Generalife gardens for only 8.40 euros per adult. This ticket covers in and out entrance into the fortress plus the tower, gardens, garden palace, but minus the Palacios Nazaries. This is a great purchase if you are just showing friends around but make sure your friends have entrance tickets to the Palacios Nazaries (if they’ve never been) because they are incredible. Last year we were at the Alhambra in December and didn’t have extra time so we skipped the gardens. But this year we took our time and it was beautiful. If you have never visited the Alhambra and are trying to cram a visit in during the spring or summer months then I would definitely recommend booking 2 separate days to view the place, especially if you are older. There is just so much to take in and you could and should spend hours here, it is like a whole other world.
This year we visited during the height of Semana Santa. We had a bit of drama booking a hostel but in the end Hostal Costa Azul hooked it up. Mirador bell tower

san nicolas miradorWhenever I’m in Granada I try to find a great spot to watch the sunset. The Mirador de San Nicolas is one of the most touristy spots for a view of the Alhambra as the sun sets, but not really the best spot (head to Sacramonte). But this year we went up the San Nicolas bell tower for 2 euros for some great views. And below us was the Asociación Artesanos de San Nicolás selling all kinds of wonderful jewelry and crafts. After the sun went down we headed back down through the Albaicín and flamenco dancing into the darkness and came out upon the lights of a triumphant Easter procession. A great end to our wonderful day in Granada.

La Pedriza

Spain 004La Pedriza is an incredible place. I was lucky enough to go their twice with my school on a class trip. It is located on the Guadarrama mountains in Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares and is one of the coolest granitic ranges I’ve seen so close to Madrid. There are a bunch of hiking trails and rock climbing routes within the park and if you get hot on the trail there are some wading pools to cool off in. Spain 025
It was a wonderful trip for the first group, the weather was gorgeous and we hiked more trails than we should have because by the end the kids were exhausted but we had a great time. I even enjoyed my Spanish lesson listening to all the stories that go along with different rocks or areas in the park, like La Cueva de La Mora, a Romeo and Juliet-like ghost story of love and loss. The second group didn’t have as much luck with the weather and it was a downpour but the foggy mist surrounding the huge rock formations was other worldly and we hung tough and survived the rain and mud.
La PedrizaSpain 047

To get to La Pedriza from Madrid is    only a 45 min drive. We took a charter bus but I think there are ways to get close enough with public transportation.

3rd Year Renewal Process

I decided to renew my place in the program for a 3rd year as a back-up plan. Since this is my second year in Madrid that means I can’t renew in the same autonomous community. So this year I applied to be placed in the Balearic Islands.

Documents you need:

-Letter of Motivation. This is your letter of intent explaining why you think you’re school/ the program should renew your position in the Auxiliares de Conversacion Program.
-Informe Del Centro. This is a form you need to print out. The director of your school needs to fill this form out, it serves as your letter of recommendation.
After you have these documents you can start the renewal process on Profex. This year they didn’t ask us to fill out a Solicitude De Prorroga so don’t kill yourself trying to find this form.
After you finish, print out the final page or Solicitud de la aplicacion Profex o del British Council with all your info data (make copies for yourself) and hand all these documents in to your director if you are applying to the same school . Make sure you have signed everything. Then your director will send it to the appropriate address.

But if you are renewing for a 3rd year and switching to a new autonomous community then you must send the paperwork yourself.

Here is the Address I used for 2014:
– A la atención de Itziar Alberdi (for Auxiliares from Australia, Belgium, Canada, USA, Finland, New Zealand, and Netherlands)
– A la atención de Victoria Hernández (Auxiliares from France or Ireland)
Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte
Subdirección General de Programas Exterior Educativa
Paseo del Prado, 28, 5ª Planta
28014 Madrid

 
If you are applying to be placed with your partner (who is also in the program) then write a letter asking to be placed near each other and send this with your application. It worked the first year for my partner and I but this time they placed us on two separate islands, so it is worth a try but sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned.

If you need more help or information you can find it all here.

Vegan Fast-Food

universo veganoI never thought I’d be in Rome and stumble across a Vegan fast-food joint, but I did. If you are vegan/vegetarian or need a break from a meat centric diet then check out Universo Vegano @ Via Verdi, 4 – 21013.
The burgers are gigantic and should definitely be shared. Universo veganoThe fajita-like wraps look awesome, I really wanted to try the Veghani Lupino but it was sold out. They offer more like soup, vegan hotdogs, a bunch of sandwiches and potato and soy croquetas. If I was them I’d offer fries instead of their croquetas, they are just too heavy and more than enough bread after eating a burger or sandwich. If you eat here you will be fine ordering less than more because the portions are bigger than you’d expect.

Rome Metro

subway no jokeBe careful catching the metro in Rome.  Heed the “doors closing” warnings, don’t take them lightly.  It happened to me.  I was running to catch up with my partner who had made it onto the train.  Unfortunatly, I was a bit too slow and this picture is what happened to me.

Luckily Tom is strong and was able to pry the doors apart but for a second there I thought I was toast.

When in Rome

 

There is just too much to see when in Rome. We saw an incredible amount in 4 days.  The main tip I can give you is START EARLY!!!
VATICANVATICAN ZONE
If you head to the Vatican (early!) first get in line for St. Peter’s Basilica because by noon the line is impossible. We spent maybe 3-4 hours at the Basilica. We paid the extra euros (7,00) to take the elevator halfway up the cupola and it was well worth it because after that we climbed a million more stairs to the top. If you are claustrophobic then do not venture to the top, the spiral staircase continues up, the walls narrowing along the way.
Next, get in the long line for the Vatican Museums (Sistine Chapel). The line can be long but it goes fairly fast. I think we waited in line for at most maybe 1 hour (we got in line at about 12:30/1pm). The tickets are 16 euros if you don’t buy them through the internet. You can reserve them online, the wait is shorter but you will still have to wait in a different line.

Roman ForumROMAN FORUM/COLOSSEUM
Don’t miss out. This is the best part of the trip.
Set aside almost a whole day for this visit. Buy your tickets for the Colosseum and the Forum at any entrance for the Forum because the Colosseum line is always way too long. The tickets are good for 2 days but only one entrance (meaning you can go to the Forum one day and the Colosseum the 2nd or vice versa) If you pay for a Forum Tour, then visit the Palatine Hill beforehand because it is not included in the tour but it is one of the best parts of the Forum. colesseumAnd if you want to get in on the Colosseum underground and upper tier tour then book in advance because the tour tickets sell out fast! Also, if you don’t book the tour then you don’t have access to the underground or upper tier of the Coliseum. I wish I could tell you if it is worth it but it was sold out, yet I’m sure it is worth it because even the regular entry experience is quite impressive.
And there is so much more to see! Definitely don’t skip the Pantheon.

Valentine’s Day in Getafe

I spent Valentine’s day not with my boyfriend but with a wonderful girlfriend and colleague at the Auditorio del Conservatorio de Getafe.  We experienced a wonderful free symphony concert, the director was Francisco Aguado Marti and the program was awesome.  We heard Navarro, Respighi, Kimura, Soutullo y Vert and ended with Bizet a wonderful end to the night.Banda de Musica de Getafe

I can’t wait for the next concert.  You can follow them on bandamusicagetafe.es or even on Facebook.