Weekly Photo Challenge: Weather

vejer de la frontera, weather, a word a week, weekly photo challenge, cadiz, costa de la luz, sunrise, misty, mist, morning,

vejer de la frontera, weather, a word a week, weekly photo challenge, cadiz, costa de la luz, sunrise, mist, misty morningOn this blog, as followers and regular readers (you lovely people, you) will know, I write about a range of subjects – living in Spain, speaking Spanish, travelling around Andalucia and Portugal. Sometimes I also do these photo posts, which are part of a series of themed offerings from a wonderful blogger who goes by the name of Skinny Wench.

Her photo theme this week is Weather. I’ve done Round and Glitter so far, which were fun, but this one opens up a whole spread of meteorological possibilities.  Here in Seville, it’s mostly sun, with a bit of morning mist, some rain, and the occasional hail shower or thunderstorm – there was a humdinger last Saturday, which knocked down palm trees and left huge metal-framed ad hoardings bent double by the wind.

For unusual weather in a spectacular setting, we have to venture further afield. These photos were taken on the Dia de Andalucia puente (Andalucia Day bank holiday, 28 February) a couple of years ago, in Vejer de la Frontera – a town just inland from the the Costa de la Luz here in Andalucia. One morning I woke up before the children, who were out cold from all the fresh air and exercise the previous day, and looked out of the window.

The valley below Vejer, which is a beautiful Moorish pueblo blanco wrapped around a green hill, was filled with milky white mist. The sky was the most incredible pinky-orange artfully streaked with clouds. The street lights were still on, and the town was silent. I tiptoed past the kids, slipped out onto the balcony, and started taking photos.

As the sun came up, the scene – light, shapes, colours – was constantly changing and I kept snapping. At one point, the mist glowed orange, illuminated like some religious painting. But the best, most thrilling aspect of those precious minutes was being above the fluffy white stuff – it felt like being up in the clouds.

vejer de la frontera, weather, a word a week, weekly photo challenge, cadiz, costa de la luz, sunrise, misty, mist, morning,


vejer de la frontera, weather, a word a week, weekly photo challenge, cadiz, costa de la luz, sunrise, misty, mist, morning,

False friends and other fine messes

spain, spanish, language, learnOne of the things that always astonishes – and depresses – me about long-term expats here in Spain is how many of them have a grasp of Spanish somewhere between weak and non-existent. This might be because they haven’t been here long, or only stay for short periods, or because they’re studying but are finding it a struggle. But there are plenty who just never bother, aren’t interested, because they live in an expat ghetto and only ever interact with other English people – at the pub, restaurant, cafe, social occasions. What’s the point of living in a country if you can’t interact with its natives?

I guess it’s a matter of personal taste, but that was never the expat experience I was after. While I can’t boast a huge army of Spanish bosom buddies with whom (on whom?) to practise, and thereby improve and expand, my linguistic skills, my Spanish is decent; my accent, however, is not. When I first arrived, I already had a reasonable level; however, that didn’t stop me from getting in a pickle, and making an arse of myself on regular occasions.

Here are some of the stupid mistakes I made early on in my nine years here in Seville, which I hope will serve to a) entertain, and b) inform. Some are similar words which are easily confused, while others are so-called “false friends” – misleading words which resemble those of another language – in this case, English – while having a different meaning. They hold out the hand of friendship to you, and then cruelly snatch it away, laughing at your pain and confusion.

For many years, I was confused by the idea of a control on the motorway – how can they control my car? Using some scary super-high-tech remote sensor? But no – it’s a check, as in speed/alcohol motorway check.

As many women will have found out to their cost, embarazada does not mean doing something a bit silly which makes you blush; it means up the duff.

I also found it illogical (captain) and deeply muddling that subir means to go up, when sub is down – submarine, submerge, subnormal

One that I still haven’t got my head round is hemeroteca , which means archive – I cannot quite accept that it is not in any way connected to “homoerotic”. But maybe that says more about me.

It’s also muddling that esperar means hope, wait and expect – that’s a fairly broad net to be spreading. “I´m hoping to see you,”, “I’m waiting to see you”, and “I’m expecting to see you” – think of the room for misunderstanding.

I used to regularly order “un vaso de agua de grifa” – “a glass of spliff water”, while my now-husband died quietly of embarrassment. Grifa=jazz cigarette, grifo=tap.

As someone who writes about hotels, I’m incapable of walking (or driving, come to that) past an interesting-looking one without stopping, going inside for a nose around, and asking for a brochure. The look on the receptionist’s face (especially if it was a man) used to be a picture, as I merrily asked, “Me das un follete?” “Can I have a fuck?” Other half wasn’t too thrilled with that one, either. Follete=fuck, folleton = leaflet.

I have to admit that this isn’t mine, but it’s too good to pass up. A fellow Sevillana expat was visiting a family in Ecuador, and they were deciding which of their chickens to kill for dinner. As they chased the unfortunate bird to prepare it for the pot, my friend lamented “pobrecito polla”. She was confused as to why the family were helpless with mirth. Polla=male sex organ, pollo=chicken.

What confusions and embarrassments have you suffered while learning another language? Especially, though not only, Spanish?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Round


Like many bloggers out there, I am thoroughly enjoying Skinny Wench’s A Word A Week - both reading others’ posts, and putting together my own – and I hope you’re liking them too! This is only my second AWAW, but I love these sorts of posts which are quick (my photos aren’t indexed, so it would be even quicker if I got my act together and could locate them using keywords – dream on), easy and fun. Many of my chosen images are Instagram snaps – I am mildly obsessed (@fififlores, if you want to follow me).

The idea of round, for me, denotes smooth, tactile, geometrically balanced; a baby’s soft bottom, a downy peach, a child’s ball. Circular and spherical shapes abound in nature – fruit, flowers, sun, moon… There is something profoundly satisfying about such a complete object, especially when it’s three-dimensional.

Here in Seville, the most ubiquitous incarnation of round are the spots on feria dresses – a key part of one of the city’s most important celebrations.

These round photos are a mix of natural and man (or woman)-made, and are as colourful as I could find:

water wheel at Sanlucar la Barrameda Feria

balloons in a friend’s garden (oval, so a slight cheat there)

supremely stylish football hat worn triumphantly at Euro 12

son with Olympic rings at Stratford this summer

home-baked (and decorated, don’t laugh) Hallowe’en cupcakes

trippy gold mushrooms

friend’s arroz (not paella, strictly speaking)

beer bottle tops

Christmas lights

mad flamenco-painted bread in a sadly now-closed shop

spotty farolillo (paper light) at the Feria de Sevilla

lemon from our tree

brandy barrels in Jerez de la Frontera

window of Seville cathedral, seen from roof

sunflower – a popular crop around these parts








round, a word a week, weekly photo challenge, lights, tree, Christmas

pan flamenco

round, spotty, feria

IMG_0742 los apostoles

round, window, cathedral, Seville, Sevilla


Grab yourself a piece of the action at Los Reyes Magos

Melchor, Three Kings, Reyes Magos, cabalgata, 2013,Seville, Sevilla

Melchor lobs a few hard candies at the crowd, provoking a mad scrabbling rush.

For the past few years, we’ve been to our village’s Reyes Magos procession. For the uninitiated, this is when the Three Kings ride into town on the afternoon of 5 January – Melchor, Baltazar and Gaspar might arrive by boat, helicopter or camel, depending on the geographical situation of the town or city where you’re watching them, and the economic health of its town hall and main sponsors.

Reyes is the most exciting night of the year for children, since the next day is when they get their presents. (Some do Father Christmas too, or even instead, but Reyes is the biggie.) As well as signalling the end of the Christmas period (sniff), it’s also the first big event of the year. A last chance for people to enjoy themselves before getting back to work, and the long slog ahead until the next holiday – in these parts, Andalucia Day on 28 February.

Ropman chariot, Three Kings, Reyes Magos, cabalgata, 2013,Seville, Sevilla

This sea-themed lady had colour-coordinated sweets.

The Reyes then process around the streets, on floats decorated in gold and silver, with blacked-up page boys and girls (and bedouin riding horses if you’re in a bigger locality). In addition to the Reyes, there are queens or princesses – Cinderella, La Estrella, and various other young (and not-so-young) ladies dressed up in fairytale costumes of dresses with billowing skirts and sparkly accoutrements. You also get the popular TV characters of the day; Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer; more traditional figures, such as pirates and Hansel and Gretl; and cultural or historical-themed floats, such as Romans, Egyptians, Mayans, or Japanese.

These carrozas are decked out with temples, chariots and palaces, as appropriate, with wonderful decorations and costumes, respledent with glittery, shiny surfaces and elaborate outfits and make-up – the whole spectacle is wonderful food for children’s imaginations, as they gaze spellbound. It took an hour for our cabalgata to go past – a perfect amount of time to be on your feet, watching your own children, snapping away with the camera, oohing and aahing at the sights passing before you.

Reyes Magos 2013, Three Kings, cabalgata, Seville, Sevilla, traditions

Hansel and Gretl was one of my favourites, with all those mad cupcakes and candy sticks.

Reyes Magos 2013, Three Kings, cabalgata, Seville, Sevilla

Mini-Roman centurions – Sevilla dates back this far, and was the birthplace was of three emperors, so this is highly appropriate.

Reyes Magos 2013, Three Kings, cabalgata, Seville, Sevilla

The pirate ship was fun, with its attendant mermaids. Those were some very happy little boys. My daughter is checking on sweet collection progress.

Reyes Magos, Three Kings, cabalgata, Seville, Sevilla

Reyes is all about the kids – those lucky enough to take part, their costumes, massive sugar overload, and presents the next morning.

As they pass the crowds, these be-costumed ones on high toss down to the hopeful handfuls of boiled sweets. I don’t know if you ever been hit by said confectionery item travelling through the air at speed, but I can tell you: it hurts. Hands are held outstretched, entreating, as if to seek the blessing of a saint or virgin statue, accompanied by the pleading, singsong call of “Melchor/Cenicienta/Princesa, danos carame-los“. Small toys are also lobbed into the waiting masses. My daughter adores sweets, but thankfully she was safely out of reach, on her dad’s shoulders to get a better view (although also in direct path of flying caramelos).

Thus far – since moving out to the suburban countryside - our family has stuck with the little local cabalgata (procession) because it’s easy to park, we know people, and you have no problem getting a good view of the carrozas (floats), or bagging table in a cafe for a warming Cola Cao. This year, we decided to move up a gear, and braved the main cabalgata of Seville, which is bigger in every way – more floats (33, as opposed to seven or so in the village parade), fancier decor, more people, more sweets.

Reyes Magos 2013, Three Kings, cabalgata, Seville, Sevilla

Love this colourful enchanted forest, with its flowers, mushrooms, gnomes and fairies.

Those sweets not caught never last long on the ground – they are grabbed by nimble-fingered children and supple-jointed grannies alike. But in Seville, they were even quicker off the mark – if you’re weren’t bending down in a split-second, forget it – they were all gone. Women who were a good 20 years older than me (and much more smartly dressed), thought nothing of crouching or kneeling to comb the pavement for stray caramelos. The pavement is normally off-limits – “Caca!” is the cry when kids touch anything on the ground. The good news for the clean-up afterwards is that very few sticky messes are left, thanks to the efficiency of Spanish families.

As well as being rubbish at the seasonal Spanish sport of “sweet grab” – sweeping little plastic-wrapped goodies off the floor – when competing with young and old pretenders alike, I am also hopeless at trying to catch the airborne missiles – I instinctively shy away from hard objects flying towards my face, thanks to painful experiences playing lacrosse at school, and a tennis ball smashing my glasses after a volley went badly wrong. No, I wasn’t a leading sports star at school.

My son collected an enormous amount of sticky teeth-rotters – all for his sister, since he doesn’t eat them himself (says delighted, chocolate-loving mother-with-a-mouthful-of-fillings, breathing a sigh of relief). The bag, which must weigh a good few kilos, is shut away safely in a cupboard, and has – thus far – been mercifully forgotten by my sweet-toothed daughter. There it shall stay, out of sight, until needed for bribery purposes (in extreme circumstances only, rest assured).

Reyes Magos, cabalgata, Three Kings, holidays, traditions, Seville, Sevilla

This trippy one was called The Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl would approve.

Postscript: this year, a six-year-old boy (the same age as my son) was killed in the Malaga Reyes procession, when he dived under a carroza to retrieve a sweet. A horrible, tragic event which hopefully will never be repeated; security measures are being examined and will, hopefully, be strengthened to avoid a repeat of such a senseless loss.

Word a Week Photo Challenge: Glitter

Glittery skies in Seville for Christmas.

Glittery skies in Seville for Christmas.

Virgin, Mary, romeria, Andalucia, Spain, glitter

The Virgin Mary glints in the autumn sun, on our local romeria (pilgrimage).

fireworks, jubilee, UK, royal, glitter

This firework is from the UK’s Jubilee celebrations in June 2012.

glitter, pool, Algarve, Portugal, Fazenda Nova

Light refracted off the pool at Fazenda Nova in Portugal is glittery.


Every week, Sue over at A Word in Your Ear posts a photo theme – colour, texture, or whatever. They always look like fun, and I often think of photos I’ve taken which would be ideal for a post, but guess what – I never get around to doing it.

This morning I saw the glitter-themed post by the wonderful Fieldnotes from Fatherhood, which inspired me to get off my Reyes Magos-knackered arse (today is the second Spanish Christmas, celebrating the arrival of the Three Kings, with more presents, processions and general over-indulgence) and dig out some suitable snaps. After all, what woman can say no to shiny, sparkly stuff? (Not me!)

A couple are a half-inched from a recent post on Seville’s Christmas lights, since these beautiful illuminations are still making the city look so magical, with others from adventures last year in Portugal and the UK, as well as closer to home. The last two are from our Reyes procession which took place yesterday afternoon.

If you’re Spanish, or you live here in Spain, Felices Reyes! And to everyone, Happy New Year. I’ll be doing one of those year-in-review posts everyone’s been popping off soon – I promise to keep it short, though perhaps not quite as short as this one.

Yes, we do get frost here in southern Spain.

Yes, we do get frost here in southern Spain.

Sparkly Ayuntamiento building.

Sparkly Ayuntamiento (town hall) building in Seville, like diamonds.

Cinderella, Reyes Magos 2013, cabalgata 2013, Seville, Sevilla, glitter

Cinderella in her gleaming carriage in the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings’ procession).

Reyes Magos 2013, Seville, Sevilla, glitter

The first carroza (float) in the Cabalgata for Reyes 2013; La Estrella (the Star).