It’s 8pm in the evening in Madrid, the temperature’s pushing 35 degrees Celsius, I’ve just done an hour of yoga during which I thought I was having a heart attack, and now I’ve turned the terraza / balcony into my very own CafÃ© del Mar. Lemon Jelly on the stereo, work finished, Mahou in hand, happy ‘as Larry’.
So, I’m trying to find flights from Barcelona straight to Gibraltar in the South of Spain, and I realise that there’s some kind of conspiracy preventing people doing this particular trip. It would probably be similar trying to get from Buenos Aires in Argentina to the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas).
As you can see from the image above, the cheapest flight (with Air France) is £1,350 (about US $2,200). It leaves Barcelona at 06.55, arrives in Paris at 08.50, leaves Paris at 10.00, arrives at London Heathrow at 10.15, you then have to transfer by train or bus to London Gatwick, then leave London Gatwick at 13.20 and finally you arrive in Gibraltar at 17.25.
The total trip takes about ten and a half hours (about the same as flying from London to Bangkok in Thailand) and costs about double the London-Bangkok price. You can even drive it in 11 hours according to Google.
Arriving in Madrid in July from the Argentinian Winter was like stepping into an oven. I wondered how I would survive the raging temperatures, permanently hovering somewhere around 38-40 degrees Celsius. Even the Spaniards all get out of Madrid in July and August, heading to various locations in the mountains and along the coast.
Then I found this pool:
Known as Centro Natacion M 86 the centre was especially built for Madrid’s World Swimming Championships in 1986. It offers some of the best facilities available in Europe, including seven swimming-pools in total (three indoor and four open-air).
I think the pool in the photo is probably the best swimming pool I have ever been to in terms of swimming lengths, and I end up there most mornings as a start to my working day… In fact, I’m heading there in about half an hour 🙂
Having studied Spanish grammar in Guatemala and Ecuador until I was blue in the face, my Spanish language learning leveled out for a while simply because I couldn’t face opening up another grammar book.
Then I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina and decided to try out the famous Intercambio concept. Put simply, an Intercambio is a language exchange between two people. You meet up, spend half the time talking in your native language and half the time in theirs. This usually takes the form of meeting for a coffee and chatting for an hour in English and an hour in Spanish, although some Intercambios I have done have lasted 5 hours or more…!
I have been using a website called Conversation Exchange to organise Intercambios in Buenos Aires, Madrid & Barcelona. You need to register and add a brief profile (no photos allowed incidentally), then you can either contact people or wait until people contact you.
Intercambios also have a bit of a reputation as a means of meeting potential partners. Out of 15 people that contacted me in Buenos Aires from the Conversation Exchange website 14 were women between the ages of 28 and 33. My Colombian friend suggested to me that they were all after European visas. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that more women are learning English?
Whatever the underlying motivations, intercambios are a great way to practice your Spanish, get out and meet local people, and make new friends.
One of the secret pleasures of my first month in Spain has involved travelling between Madrid and Barcelona on the AVE train. Does this mean I’m becoming a dreaded TRAINSPOTTER?
Standing for Alta Velocidad EspaÃ±ola the name is also a play on words with AVE meaning ‘bird’ in Spanish. Travelling at speeds of up to (and slightly over) 300 kmh/h, the AVE goes significantly faster than birds, and takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to travel from the centre of Madrid to the heart of Barcelona – Barcelona Sants. The other route that the AVE covers is Madrid – Seville, which also takes about 2.5 hours. RENFE – the Spanish rail company – are so confident of the AVE’s puntuality on this route that they offer a full refund should the train arrive more that 5 minutes outside the advertised time.
Ticket prices have come down considerably recently, and booking your AVE tickets online through the RENFE website gives you access to some web-only fares – which are as low as 40 Euros one way for Madrid – Barcelona.
Having experienced this rather special train, and having an increasingly deep aversion to airports and air travel, I can safely say that I’ll be travelling by the AVE in Spain whenever possible from now on….
After 281 days (about 9 months) travelling from Guatemala in Central America to Buenos Aires in Argentina, I ran out of steam!
Three weeks ago I flew from Buenos Aires to Madrid as an old friend had offered me the use of his apartment for two months whilst he and his young family escaped the searing Madrid heat in July and August. It was an offer too good to refuse, and it motivated me to leave the South American winter and enter the furnace.
(Photo: drummers in the Retiro Park, Madrid)
Having met up with an old London friend in Barcelona last week, we’ve decided to set up a series of websites together over the coming months to try and generate a new ‘location independent’ income. As a clue, we will be working with the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) market.
I will be posting regular updates on Earthoria about the trials and tribulations of setting up a business in Spain. Right now, we’re just finalising the names – probably the hardest part?!
This podcast is a bit of a departure from the usual in more senses than one. Firstly, it’s from Spain and secondly it’s not about enemas, or massages… it’s about ‘the beautiful game’ – football. It features the sounds of the Spanish celebrating their Euro 2008 win in Vejer de la Frontera, a small town in Andalucia in Southern Spain.