UNCATCHY TITLE- January and half of February in Spain

February 18, 2016

Talking to my beautiful scouser of a flat mate last night, it suddenly hit us how much has changed over the past six months, and how much it will change again. Right now, we're equidistant to the points when we packed our bags and jetted off to Spain and to the day when we repack and trudge home to Britain. Naturally, now would seem a great time to do an analysis of my time so far, however I feel January and half of February offered me too many exciting moments for me to bore you with a round up of how much my Spanish has improved and how many more friends I have than you.

I'm going to throw the stinky blogger cliché out there right now and please, forgive me in advance- January flew by. Normally people argue that January grasps on forcefully and drags by, however for me, it was the month bursting with excitement. After arriving back in Spain, my friends and I had a whole host of events to look forward to. The first for me, was the bargain €40 return flights to Valencia that allowed me to visit my gorgeous best friend, Jen.
This fountain isn't important, it's just pretty
Torres de Serranos Castle, Valencia
Those who follow my blog religiously (because there's so many of you) will remember I spoke previously - and not-so fondly- of Bergerac airport and its barn like appearance and qualities. The airport of Santiago de Compostela offers the exact same facilities, however has better lighting and one doesn't feel they'd find a stray farmyard animal behind the luggage carousel . When things usually seem to good to be true, it's because they are- something I unfortunately discovered the hard way, when I had to wait eight hours for my delayed flight in a heavily unequipped airport. Maybe this is a great time to point out that if your flight is delayed by over 4 hours and it's the airline's fault, they have to cough up some generous compensation. So in the end, one could say this wasn't too much of a bad thing because I made a nice amount of dolla from sitting in said barn, watching Gossip Girl and Narcos.

I'd like to say that my trip to Valencia was full of culture, whereupon I played the tourist and educated myself with art, architecture and local cuisine. The only things I truly did experience was the nightlife (hey, I partied next to the Centre of Arts, that counts as a cultural experience, right?), the beach (25 degrees in January, who's going to pass on that?!), and also the taste of Domino's pizza after six months. I didn't even eat Paella. Needless to say, I think I'll be needing to make a second visit in order properly ingest what the city has to offer- not just the cheap wine and beautiful weather. I'm reading this back to myself and cringing as I feel as though this last paragraph has just insulted a whole host of Valencians and travel bloggers alike.

The beautiful railway station in Valencia

The three days I spent in Valencia really opened my eyes to the different experiences Jen and I are having. Valencia, is the capital of the autonomy of Valencia- so you have a city and a region- and is the third biggest city in Spain, behind Madrid and Barcelona. Where Valencia is officially home to over 800,000 inhabitants - there must be a good amount of unregistered citizens, also - my city of Ourense has a meagre population of 120,000 (half of Derby!) For me, I feel that this definitely impacted heavily on our experiences; I hope Jen won't mind me saying that I feel life in Ourense is perhaps more friendly and people are more enthusiastic to talk to you because of your mother tongue. Perhaps the hoards of non-native Spanish get a bit tiring for the people of Valencia,  and us language students are unfairly cast into that same ship. In no way am I saying that I'm having a better time than my friend, it was just astounding to see how two people can have such a different experience in the same country.

Jacob (Jessica) and I for ladies night
I feel like you don't need me to tell you what my costume is...
Upon my return from Valencia, the much anticipated Carnival awaited. When I first arrived in Ourense, I remember my (then) new Ourensian friends telling me how wonderful it is, how it's celebrated hardcore in Galicia, and February seeming so far ahead in the horizon. (Don't make me tell you again how quickly time has passed). Carnival - the word on every Spaniard's lips after Rayes Magos - is a religious festival that occurs before lent. The idea of Carnival, similar to the idea of Pancake Day but on a much larger scale, is to abuse every thing that will be proscribed during the period of Lent, such as alcohol and meat. (I understand that we traditionally eat pancakes to clear our cupboards for the fasting period and it's not really that similar, forgive me.) If we can trust my college Latin teacher, the word Carnival derives from the Latin; with "carne" meaning "meat" and "vale" meaning "farewell" - so literally 'a farewell to meat'. Obviously, not being religious, I'm not about to don a bee costume and proclaim myself vegetarian until Easter, however the celebrations were incredibly fun and I was so pleased to be a part of it.

Men must dress as women on Ladies' Night- Jacob isn't a crossdresser

The leopard and the bee
During Carnival, people wear masks and costumes of whatever they desire and take to the streets to hit it hard - it's basically a massive binge fest that everybody can get in on. This probably explains a lot to my Facebook friends who have perhaps seen photos of me adorning different costumes with my friends and were oblivious to why.  People take their costumes extremely seriously- to point where in a nearby village, Laza, bags of ants and vinegar are thrown at those who aren't dressed to boot. I'll post a few photos of my costumes instead of boring you with a description on this already too - long thread. It's fair to say that we celebrated Carnival with our best efforts - even staying out until 7.30 in the morning in temperatures of -8. Entroido - the Galician word for Carnival- is perhaps the best celebration I've ever had to the fortune to participate in and next year, I will definitely be swapping the pancakes for my fairy wings.

There's a really famous programme in Spain called Maya the bee- which is why I'm a bee
Whilst I could've written two individual posts about Valencia and Entroido, I feel I've kept this post on a  strictly need-to-know basis, for fear of boring my already dwindling fan base. 2016 has gotten off to such a wonderfully hectic start, and I'm not looking for it to slow down any time soon. With my family coming over this week and a whistle stop visit home at the beginning of March, I've plenty to occupy myself with over the next month once again.
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