Time to be a Tourist – adventures in Madrid continue…

So, the girls have now finished their first week at the summer school, and I have had a full week of life in Tres Cantos, Madrid. Still loving it? HELL YES. Highlights include decorating the entire terrace with paper mache (oops), visiting Madrid for the first time and going to an international intercambio, eating calamari, learning to play bridge, and cooking pancakes. Now for a quick sum up of the week… followed by a lot of tourist sightseeing photos as I explore Madrid for the first time.

Tuesday was paper mache day, my ingenious idea to keep the girls entertained for the afternoon. I even covered the table with paper to keep mess to a minimun. Unfortunately, I had SEVERELY underestimated how messy paper mache was – the flour and water paste refused to stay in its bowl and allotted table space. Two hours later there was paper mache in my hair, in my shoes, and halfway up the curtains. We did however manage to salvage a few bowls and “balloon animals” out of the whole affair – maybe we will paint them next week, if I am feeling brave enough.

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The Adventures of an Au Pair begin…

Wow! What a week it has been. But, before I jump right into the middle of things, I can´t move straight onto Madrid without first quickly mentioning my last two days in Granada. They were both fairly relaxed, and with Elvira busy studying her younger brother Paco showed me around. The first day we took a walk through one of the more Arabic parts of the city, to a typical “tetoria”, a traditional teahouse, that reminded me very much of Morocco. We drank milkshakes, ate traditional arabic sweets and smoked shisha, in a gorgeous setting draped with middle eastern fabrics and candles.

The next day we spend visiting Granada´s huge and famous science park. This involved visiting the tropical butterfly centre, watching a falconry show (think: sitting in the scorching sun at 40 degrees, sweat pouring down your neck, while the falconer shouts in Spanish that you MUST NOT MOVE or the falcon will launch itself at your head) and visiting some of the indoor exhibitions. That evening (or maybe the previous evening, my memory fails me) we went out with Elvira´s older brother and Sonia for Tinto de Verano and of course, the free tapas.

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Granada – la Alhambra y mucho mas

My journey to Granada went without a hitch (not that I would have noticed, since I spent the whole journey asleep and trying not to drool on my neighbour´s shoulder) and I met Elvira at the bus station. We immediately got on well which was great, and caught the bus back to her flat where her family were waiting to meet me. After some introductions we settled down to watch some television, relax and eat her Mum´s delicious cooking… I have a feeling I may have piled on the pounds here! The food has been incredible! It was an early night as the next day was to be very busy with an 8:30am start… yikes. As Elvira had class, her parents were taking me out to show me the sights of Granada. We had to leave early as the heat of the day creeps up on you so quickly, and we were going to be doing lots of walking.

We began our sightseeing the next day by catching a bus up to one of the most beautiful and traditional “barrios” (neighbourhoods) in Granada, Albayzin. This neighbourhood is one of the old Muslim quarters, with cobblestone streets, gorgeous “carmenes” – mansions with walled gardens – and terraces and balconies full of flowers. We visited several plazas that had beautiful views over the city and the Alhambra, before making our way back down through the narrow winding streets, to the historical centre of Granada.

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¡Hola, Sevilla!

My adventure in Spain begins! On Monday the 18th June it was a 5am start to drive to Edinburgh airport and fly to Malaga. The journey went smoothly, and when I arrived in Malaga to a toasty 24 degrees it was easy to ask about a bus to the city centre, where I could then catch a bus to Sevilla. My Spanish was even understood – win!! After lugging my battered pink suitcase off the very crowded bus, I was able to buy a ticket to Sevilla almost immediately. I didn’t realise I’d managed to board the luxury bus, with “goodie bags” (water, peanuts and headphones), black leather seats and an HD TV. The journey passed quickly and I soon arrived in the bus station at Sevilla, where I met Kirstie. We had a hurried walk to the metro (she had a class to teach) made difficult by my suitcase which was refusing to co-operate. We finally reached the metro and after a short journey went our separate ways. Kirstie had helpfully drawn a “map” back to the house. I was naively confident the map would be easy to follow. It was not. Not long after setting off, the pulley of my suitcase broke off and scraped all down my leg. Now dragging it was nearly impossible, and the temperature was over 35 degrees (also, my leg hurt). I was on the point of sitting down, crying and waiting for Kirstie to return, when I miraculously stumbled across the right street. I was so exhausted I had to sit on the steps for five minutes before I could face climbing them.

When I made it inside the house was beautiful and I collapsed on the sofa and waited for Kirstie to return, changing into my bikini as it was too hot to wear anything else. When she got back we went outside to laze by the swimming pool (next door! next door!) and then headed to the poolside bar to watch Spain play Croatia in the Euros. They won, and the bar went mental. Crazy Spaniards love their football. We were joined by Rachel, who lives with Kirstie, and ordered some yummy tapas (including my fave, bread with spanish ham, brie and jam) and Tinto de Verano – red wine mixed with lemon fanta.

The next morning was a lazy start and when Kirstie returned from school we headed into Sevilla to check out some of the sights. Our first stop was Kirstie´s favourite tourist restaurant for patatas bravas- potatoes with a spicy ketchup and garlic mayo sauce. So good!! We visited the cathedral, which was beautiful and very interesting – Christopher Columbus is buried there. It was then time to climb the Giralda, the cathedral tower. The whole walking uphill thing was more tiring, but the views from the top were worth it. We then headed for something a big more modern – a giant viewpoint (I forget the name) that you can walk over giving a very different experience of the city.

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The Diamond Jubilee / Grandma’s 85th

This weekend I was home with the family, celebrating both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and, more importantly, Grandma’s 85th birthday.

With a house full of visitors, including small excitable cousins, it was impossible to stay fixed to the TV. Instead the celebrations were watched periodically throughout the weekend, and we watched the highlights later. The fact that it was Grandma’s birthday made it even more special – at 85 and 91 years old, she and Grandma have grown up alongside Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Obviously I wasn’t lucky enough to be down in London, so these photos are nicked from TwinCities.com Pioneer Press. I think they capture the atmosphere pretty well!

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Turning 22… Whiskey, Wellies and Whips!

So this Friday was my 22nd birthday. Yikes. Kind of terrifying not to be 21 anymore, which people always seem to quote as the “time of their lives” (Oh, to be 21 again…). Hopefully it’s not all downhill from here…

Well, if this weekend is anything to go by – 22 is going to be a great year.

I didn’t have to bother organising my own party as the lovely Thomas was celebrating his 21st in style on Friday. This meant I could relax and just enjoy the day. It was absolutely gorgeous outside, but as I was still ridiculously sunburnt I spent the morning hiding out in my room, before heading to Dukes for a late lunch with the girls. The garden was absolutely PACKED, my pizza arrived 20 minutes before everyone elses, and the last orders not arriving until 40 minutes later. When Hannah arrived straight out of surgery, her burger and chips took over an hour to get here. Still… it was worth it!

It was then a stroll up to the post office to collect a fantastic birthday package from my parents! They sent a Clinique tinted moisturiser, fancy cake doilies (to nuture my new love of baking), a biscuit tin and delicious oaty cookies, fancy chocolates and some pretty floral toiletries, all wrapped up beautifully – almost certainly by Mum!

I also opened presents from my flatmates, who had as always done a great job! There was the H&M playsuit I had been (heavily) hinting about for ages, bright nail varnishes, a big teacup and saucer (swiftly broken by Petro…!) and soap and glory goodies. In other words,  a very happy Alice!

Then it was time to get ready for Thomas’ Discovery do. What. An. Amazing. Night. We started at 6:30 with a champagne reception on the boat which was absolutely beautiful, and we all felt like we were on Made in Chelsea or something equally glamorous, dahling. The weather was incredible with the late sun shining down on us. The staff was constantly coming round and topping up our glasses, and there was much more than the promised two glasses! I wore my recent charity shop dress to cover up my burnt legs, and everyone looked beautiful. Some of the boys had even scrubbed up into kilts!

A few of Hannah’s photos, as I didn’t bring my camera:

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The Sun Comes Out in Scotland!

It seems like summer has finally reached us here in Scotland!  The last two days in Dundee have been absolutely beautiful… a welcome change from all the cold, wind, cold and rain we’ve been enjoying in May so far. The last time I can remember having good weather was back in March, right before my exams when I was spending all my time cramming in the library.

But not this time! With a week of private study, I happily ignored the essay I have to write, and headed out to enjoy the sun! It was absolutely beautiful… and I have the sunburn to prove it. Ouch.

Tuesday was a trip to Lunan Bay, one of Scotland’s most gorgeous beaches. It’s funny, when I first moved up here 8 years ago, if someone had mentioned a beach I would have looked at them like they were crazy. And it’s true, 364 days of the year you’d be trying to make a sand-cave just to keep warm, while sipping a flask of tea through chattering teeth. But just sometimes… you get a day like this. And what else can you do but throw on a bikini, get a BBQ going and spend an incredible day sunbathing in the unspoiled, golden sand. Bliss!

 

Today was forecast to be another beautiful day, so me and Petro decided to finally visit Dundee’s Botanical Gardens – something that we had been promising to do for a long time! We managed to find them no problem thanks to a very helpful bus driver, but I quickly made an unfortunate discovery – I had left my memory stick at home in my laptop – nooooooo! So I only managed to grab a few photos on my cameras internal memory. It was an absolutely stunning day, and we spent a while just wandering amongst the flowers.

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