Playing in Spain | Day 1

Myself and seven other people with me arrived in Valencia, Spain just yesterday. I was completely ready for my holiday even if the last minute packing wasn’t evidence of being so, and couldn’t wait to get there. Of course, I had to fly first. 

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I don’t like flying. As handy as it is I can’t help but think that it’s a metal box hurtling itself through the air and that in itself is quite unsettling. I don’t mind the actual flying, as I so loudly said to my mother- aged 11- as we were going to Florida, it’s the taking off and landing that is the worst, and so after my two hour nap on board the box I was awoken to the worst landing I had ever experienced. It was so turbulent and shaky, and extremely fast. In fact there was a huge drop at some point that even had the air stewards swearing under their breath (reassuring). I was sure the oxygen masks would be needed soon. But, alas, we made it safely, and although we flew with some cheap company no one had lost their bags. 

The first thing we did, because we had bags, was find the flat we had rented out for the 10 days we were here for. We stepped off the metro train that bought us most of the way and the sun was so lovely and the sky was so blue. There were these huge buildings that I thought were hotels but were actually flats. Apparently almost everyone in the city lives in an apartment. When we got to the one we rented the man wasn’t in and so we had to wait. There was a bakery next to the place, however, so we all grabbed paninis and sandwiches for lunch. The man then came, handed us the keys and set off on his little motorbike thing. 

We looked around the flat, which is very light and airy, as things should be on the Mediterranean coast, and Ed and I were allocated the study. 

“The futon in here is tiny!” I squealed when I saw it. Ed doesn’t fit on it properly. Half his legs hang off unless he bunches himself up. Though the futon may be small we get the balcony, while no one else does, and we get air conditioning while the others don’t. And we have the wifi right next to us, which is handy for all our needs (that is instagram and wordpress). We set down our bags, got changed and then headed out to take a gander. 

the view from the balcony, and Argonaut sitting in the sun.

the view from the balcony, and Argonaut sitting in the sun.

We walked about seven minutes past the harbour, which our flat is literally two roads away from, and then on to the beach. At first we just walked down the promenade, although Pookie and Mouse went down to the sea with Mouse’s dad, though we all sat down for a drink first. Luckily Jem has a degree in Spanish and can speak it extremely fluently so ordering is hardly a hassle (except for her) and so beers, colas and lemon drinks were consumed. I had a lemon drink. It was delicious, but extremely sour. 

the promenade

the promenade

The promenade is spectacular, it sort of reminded me of Venice Beach in L.A (not that I’ve been) because of all the palm trees along the side. It was so hot though, even at five o clock in the afternoon. In fact, I was so hot that Ed’s dad had to go to a shop and buy me a fan because he thought I looked a bit red. There were shops, restaurants and market stalls all along the promenade, and my objective was to get a bigger bag as the single one that I had bought was tiny, but nowhere really had any I liked. Still, it was beautiful. There were also a whole gang of stalls selling fresh corn on the cob, still in the leaves. It was spectacular. 

As far as Europe goes there’s still street vendors who look shady and illegitimate, but having been to Greece and Italy with the school I sort of learned to ignore those people, no matter hoe long they hung around. 

And then we walked on the beach. Coming here we were told that the sand was so hot even the native Spanish couldn’t walk on it without sandals (though there was a volleyball match going on and none of them had shoes on). Of course, I put it to the test. The sand was warm indeed, but not too hot, though I wouldn’t be on it for too long, just in case. The sand, however, was extremely soft. We went down the board walk towards the sea, and set up some towels on the sand and all hand a bit of a paddle about in the sea, though there was always someone on the shore looking after the bags. I tell you, it is refreshing to go into a sea that you an see all the way through to the bottom of. England just doesn’t have that luxury, even if you go to a nice beach. 

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And then we all got ice-creams. I got a marshmallow one which was extremely child-like of me, but it was pink and it was delicious. Ed had a white chocolate one which was gone in five seconds flat, Pookie had a brownie one, and then I don’t know. They also had a mango one I’d like to try next. We went back home. Chilled out, and then got ready to go out. I had a bun in my head all day so took it out and it was all wavy, like a fifties hollywood actress, so I kept it like that, slicked on my nicer sandals and went out for dinner around nine o clock. I went to Spain when I was six years old with my family, and when we were going for tea at this time then I was falling asleep at the table. Things have changed, however and I was wide awake (though Pookie and Mouse weren’t). 

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When we got to the restaurant there was a kerfuffle over tables (I don’t think they have ever had to deal with such a large group) but we got seated, placed orders of everything and it was all bought out within minutes at rapid fire. First there were olives, and then chips, ‘patatas bravas’, calamari squid rings, grilled cuttlefish, chorizo, anchovies, salad, Salerno ham, croquette potatoes with ham, spicy chicken, and this really delicious cheese that I liked so much I had half of one plate. It sounds like a lot of food, but all the dishes were shared out between seven people (Mouse had her own sandwich for dinner) so the portions were totally manageable. We all wolfed down the food, at a rate we were sure the waiters would find alarming, but it was absolutely delicious. The only thing I did not try was the anchovies, but I’ve had them before and was never keen. We were so full at the end we wouldn’t even contemplate dessert. I have not been so satisfyingly stuffed in weeks. 

Luckily the tapas was only a few streets away from the flat so we didn’t have to walk far back home. And then we all went to bed. 

Regarding the first nights sleep the study now seems unfortunate. There’s this thing outside that has been making noise throughout the night, on and off, so you can’t even get used to it and it is so hot that it’s ridiculous, even without a duvet at all I’m sweltering. Also, because this is a relatively new area, I don’t really know what the bugs are like here so have been paranoid I’d wake up with a huge spider on my face (I did, however, see my very first cockroach while were were walking back from tapas). I woke up at 7AM in Spanish time, so not too ridiculous, though I am awake before anyone else, which is really strange as a lot of the people here often wake up at six o clock. I can only assume that they all have jet lag and I don’t because I slept on the plane, and napped throughout. Perhaps we should participate in siesta? 

I also bought a video camera with me so hopefully I can film some things to show you because I think that would be fun. I’ll try.

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Driver’s Ed

Today has been a first. I’ve gotten in the same car as someone with only a provisional driver’s license. I admit: I was scared. But he had bribed me with ice cream and I couldn’t say no to that.
“Come on!” Jem said to Ed enthusiastically. “You can drive me to my jazzercise class!” Ed looked at me.
“I don’t want to.”

The thing with this was that I had never gotten into a car where the person had not been driving for a long time. There’s my mum, whose cars were the dangerous parts about being in them as one by one they failed and broke and made noises that no object in the world should. There’s Grandy, whose disregard for speed limits would sometimes lead to me clinging to my seat-belt for dear life. And there’s Jem, neither her car is lethal nor her driving bad. Yes, there have been moments where in some of these cars I thought Today I’m coming to terms with my tragic death but their driving has been licensed for over ten years and generally I can reassure myself that crashes have a slim chance. Ed only has a provisional, I don’t know how well his lessons have been going or what he has learned, who knew if he knew the clutch from the break or which thing next to the seat was the hand-break (we could have needed it if a near-fatal incident occurs) so I was scared. 

It, of course, helps that, having had very few friends in high school never mind friends who could drive, I had never experienced what driving with a beginner would be like. I have a hazy memory of a policeman telling us not to go in cars with beginners, and especially not friends (though I think stranger danger must be noted here too) since they want to show off what they can do. If there’s any words to follow it is that of a law-enforcing officer, so I wanted to back down until they had came back from this escapade unscathed and someone could hark to me praises of how brilliant Ed’s driving was. Oh, but I am fickle. So sold out on ice cream. 

It was not a good start. First I did not step foot in the car until Ed had pulled out of the parking space from the small cramped designated area into the narrow private road. Jem didn’t get in either, I can not say what this showed for our belief in Ed or his skill. Perhaps Jem was just as scared as I was, but she had suggested it and couldn’t back out now. Much like Ed couldn’t back out of the space (sorry). Firstly the car didn’t even make it two inches without hitting into the gaudy red one that was flanking it’s left hand side. Just a bump but my mind was instantly telling me that if we were travelling at 30 miles per hour and so was that red car we would probably be dead. Then he tried to reverse back to pull out at a better angle, so that the owner of the red box wouldn’t have to get mad at us. In doing so he nearly drove straight into the gate of their garden. Oh. Dear. The final attempt was a narrow shave as mere millimetres was the difference between unscathed motor vehicles and dragging the red box with us or snapping off various wing mirrors. I laughed a nervous giggle. 

I got in the car and buckled my seatbelt. 

“How do you work the indicators?” Ed asked as he buckled up. I froze. If he didn’t know how to work indicators, something I’ve learned to do aged 8 just by asking mum, then we didn’t have a chance. I took a deep breath as we drove down the road and out into the traffic. 

The lucky thing is that the route we took didn’t require too many main roads, so we could casually go down the back streets where minimal traffic remained. Ed did however have trouble spotting a motorcyclist as he pulled out onto the first lane and if Jem hadn’t said anything then the biker would most probably have been like a bug on a wind shield (only the wind shield would have smashed and investigations would have been drawn up). I am, of course, slightly exaggerating here, Ed didn’t have the courage to go above 25 miles per hour. Having watched an advert on TV if he accidentally hit a little girl she would have had at least an 80% chance of survival. We pulled up to pick another up. Now there were three people in the car watching his every move. That must have been pressure. Not only that but in that exact moment Ed’s driving instructor drove past, mentoring another student. 

And then we had to go on to the main road. The thing is to get to it there was a traffic light that regulated the flow at a safe and efficient pace. This traffic light, in particular, changes very quickly. Then suddenly his best friends father came driving up behind us. Now four people were watching. The light turned green, Ed stalled, the light turned red. The driver behind waved. At least they didn’t honk the horn. Ed stalled again. 

“This is a particularly bad light.!” Jem reassured quickly as the light turned back to red. 

“I wouldn’t worry, I’ve been sat behind five light changes because I’ve stalled” Jem friend said. “It happens all the time.” And then at the third turn we managed to pull out. But it was a main road, there are traffic lights everywhere. This road is notorious for being a bit manic. At least it was not rush hour. At the second lot of traffic lights Ed stalled five, maybe six, times. Each time the metal contraption of doom was sending us inches closer to an impending fate. We were in the middle of a main road. We could not get out. Finally, finally Ed calmed down, having gotten frustrated at the car’s ill co-operation and pulled out at a small enough, but still too small to make me think I’m safe, especially when we were snail pacing through it at 20 miles per hour. We turned a corner. And we were back in the small streets where I could finally let a breath. Ed pulled up outside the jazzercise venue. 

“Right.” Jem said. “If you want to get out I’ll park the car.” Having witnessed the initial pulling out she probably didn’t want more wing mirrors to be threatened. Ed and I walked home, having bought the ice cream. I don’t think I will be stepping into that car again until his driving is officially deemed safe with a full driver’s license.

Feeling Fancy

Today I was in Windsor, with Ed, his sister and his mum. Originally the plan was to go to Oxford and do a bit of pre-holiday shopping just to get the final bits and pieces and look at the universities for Ed as he is thinking of applying, but they got stuck in traffic and decided that going to Windsor would give us more time to do things. 

Originally we started off near Windsor castle although we did not go in. There’s never really much appeal in standing in a long queue to hand over £18 of your own money (if I was being given £18 it might be a different story). But all is well, if we had gone in the castle we may have been sidetracked for a long time, as that’s what you get for being involved with a family of history enthusiasts) and we wouldn’t have done half the things that we did. Silver Linings. 

Instead we walked past the guild hall (or something like that) and found ourselves in a little museum. It was smaller, even, than the local museum back home which is saying something. But what was interesting to find was that around Windsor there had been finds of mammoth tusks, as DNA analysis has managed to identify and date to the pre-historic era, and also a tooth of an Indian Elephant a while later. Not only were there mammoths in England, which is astonishing in itself as all of what I studied in university made me think they were only on mainland Europe, but there were elephants too! That being said, it could have just been another Hannibal episode (he led elephants through Italy to try and attack Rome during the Carthage wars). Altogether we were done in about half an hour, us historians have a tendency to drag these things out for a long time as we discuss samian pottery. 

And then we did a spot of shopping, there was an expensive shop and I really liked one of the shirts in the window. 

“If I tell them my last name is the same as the shop name, will they give me the shirt for free?” I asked. It’s a joke that is old and I say it every time I pass one, but psychologically I think I say it in the hope that one day it will come true. We can’t get answers if we don’t ask the questions. Windsor altogether mainly consisted of these expensive shops and, as a student, I was not emotionally ready to part with much cash. Never the less there is never any harm in pretending you’re a millionaire and looking at the clothes, even if it then depresses you that you aren’t a millionaire. 

Because the shops were too expensive (for me) too old (for the sister) and too much for women (for Ed) we decided that we would take a walk and either go to the castle after-all, go to the gardens or take a walk a down the river and we ended up by the river. Jem was originally looking for row boats to take out on the river, but she couldn’t find them. I’m sort of glad that she couldn’t find them. The last time I stepped foot in a row boat the oar snapped and myself and Vie were stranded in the middle of the lake. We did however end up on a 40 minute river cruise tour thing which told you about the area. I am therefore even more glad we didn’t get the row boats. I probably would have crashed the thing and subsequently drowned. 

On the boat we could see Eton college, the castle, lots of fields and very nice houses that I wished I could own (maybe my estate agent mum could help me out, pleeeeeeeaaaaassse) and some little ducklings. There was also a lot of swans. We reached a bridge and the man on the boat told us the roof needed to be lowered to fit underneath it. We thought it was going to be much like a convertible where the roof splits and folds and gets tucked away, but what actually happened is that the roof literally got lowered, to the point where we were panicking that we would get squashed underneath the roof. Luckily it stopped just as it grazed the top of my head, like it would in some James Bond or Indiana Jones film, and was raised again. I don’t know what the tour man said, his voice was extremely muffled over the speaker.

On board the boat I also decided to test out a new instant polaroid camera thing that I had treated myself to after nearly a year of lusting after one. It was a nice picture of Ed his sister and his mum, and we all found it really exciting to watch it develop in front of our eyes. It quickly became the topic of conversation.

“are you even as old as that thing?” a man in the row behind us asked and jokes were shared among us about technology and whatnot.

We got off the boat after being told that some tall chimneys in the distance were the chimneys from an industrial state (that was all I heard of the tour) and we headed off to get some dinner, however on the way we passed a traditional fudge shop called the Fudge Kitchen and we had a look inside. The person in the shop was extremely friendly and kind and offered us all sorts of tasters and even brought out a fresh batch (close to closing) so that we could try it. It turns out that the man in the shop also comes from Norfolk but moved to Windsor as a kid, and we were in there for a very long time trying all of the fudges and talking about stuff (it turns out that some work on Windsor castle means that the man’s house was flooded with 8 feet of water a while back) and eventually I decided that I would get some fudge for us all. I decided on a strawberries and cream slice and the specially brought out one called “Loretta”, it was chocolate and orange. Ed decided on an Eton mess one (the sweetest fudge they sold, and very befitting for where we were) and a toffee one while Jem chose a canadian maple and walnut and Pookie (the sister) chose vanilla, and we walked away feeling very happy with ourselves. 

Afterwards we ended up at Nando’s for dinner where most of the time was spent eating in silent appreciation of the food, since most of us had not eaten since breakfast but we had good conversation. The only problem was that Ed started to worry about some exams he had coming up and the only person that could seemingly calm him down was me. 

“maybe you should come back with us for a couple of days, he’s been like this the entire time” Ed’s mum said, worried. So I checked my timetables to find that I had no exams, lectures or events for almost a week and so I agreed that I probably should, if it was going to be a help to everyone. Which is how I suddenly found myself packing a suitcase with a few pieces of clothing and my laptop and have managed to somehow make my way back to Norfolk for three or four days. Don’t worry. I bought all of my necessary books and revision with me, and once I return it is going to be a very intense search for a place to live in second year.