Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Visiting Almansa and Alicante

On Thursday I went to visit my friend Amy from university, who is also an English Language Assistant. She lives in a small town called Almansa in Castile-La Mancha, which has a population of about 25,000. To get to Almansa I flew from Melilla at 8:15am and arrived in Madrid at 10am. I then flew from Madrid at 12pm and arrived in Alicante at 1pm. Then I got a bus from the airport to the bus station, which leaves every 20 minutes and costs 2,90 euros. Finally I caught a coach at 2:45pm and arrived in Almansa at 4:30pm. It was quite a long and complicated journey, but definitely worth it. It felt a bit annoying because you can only fly to Madrid, Granada, Málaga and Almería from Melilla. Although the other three destinations are located on the south coast, it would have either been expensive or taken too much time to travel from them to Almansa (which doesn't have frequent bus services). Therefore, I flew over the south coast to Madrid to catch a plane back to Alicante on the south east coast. It is possible get cheap flights from Nador airport, which is just over the the border in Morocco. However, it really depends when are where you're flying and chances are you'll be the only European on the plane.

When I arrived Amy showed me around the city and some shops. In the evening we went to Casa de la Cultura restaurant with a group of Spanish people who wanted to improve their English, which was fun and we had a lot of interesting conversations about language learning and different accents. I find it easy to understand people native to Melilla, but I struggle to understand people who have come to Melilla from the Andalusia region in southern Spain. I think I'm picking up a slight Andalusian accent, because sometimes people in Melilla don't understand unless I pronounce 'z', 'c' and 's' differently to how I was taught at university. On Friday we had another look around town and we went to a cafe where I met one of her friends. I noticed that Amy was practicing her Spanish a lot more than me, probably because she is the only English in the village! I admire her for that, because I don't think I would cope if I were in that situation. She had some private classes in the evening so I chilled at her flat and we had a film night in the evening. 

On Saturday we went to more shops and Tentaciones cafe and after the siesta we went to the castle, which seems to be the main attraction in Almansa. It didn't seem particularly safe because there were parts of the wall that were low or missing. I'm not scared of heights but I was slightly scared to climb about on this castle! To get to the very top of the castle we had to climb some spiral stairs, which was difficult because it didn't have a handrail! We felt  a bit nervous about coming back down and to our shame we bum shuffled. In the evening we went to the cinema with one of Amy's colleagues and her children to see Al Encuentro de Mr Banks (Saving Mr Banks), a film about the story behind Mary Poppins. I wasn't sure what to expect but I actually really enjoyed the film and recommend it.

I love the clear blue Spanish sky

A creepy display of old methods of torture

On Sunday we got up at 6:30am because my bus left at 7:35am. In the morning it was a shocking 2 degrees (colder than the temperature in the UK at the time) because Almansa has a different climate to Melilla and cities located on the coast are warmer. I arrived in Alicante at 8:45am and my flight wasn't until 1:45pm, so I put my suitcase in a locker at the bus station and explored the city whilst waiting. It was 16 degrees but felt hotter because it was very sunny, so I went for a walk along the promenade. I headed towards the castle, which was on the top of a massive hill. It took a while before I found the entrance, but decided against trying to climb the hill in case I got lost. Instead I walked through the town, where I eventually found the tourist office and got a map. For the last hour I retraced my steps to find all the landmarks I had missed (mostly in the old town) before heading back to the bus station to collect my suitcase and get the shuttle to the airport. To my surprise, I saw someone from my university who is living in Murcia! How strange that we were in the same place at the same time!

Castle of Santa Barbara

The central market

Plaza de los Luceros

The council

The Co-cathedral of Saint
Nicholas of Bari

The Town Hall

It took about 30 minutes to get to the airport and I even managed to grab a Subway (making the effort to speak Spanish got me loads of extra gherkins just how I like it) before boarding the flight. I arrived at Madrid at 3pm, by which point I was feeling pretty cranky because I was tired, slightly sunburnt and dehydrated. I enjoyed a frozen yoghurt (I made the most of the opportunity to eat food that I can't get in Melilla) and at 4:30pm I boarded what felt like an uncomfortable and long flight back to Melilla. When I fly outside of Europe I think sitting down for all that time will drive me a bit mad. I arrived at 6pm and got a taxi back home, where I had a catch up with my flatmate. I spent most of Sunday in the sun and several people have commented about how I've got a tan, which makes me happy.

I bought a portable phone
charger for 11 euros in a
Chinese shop,
which is so useful!

Some attempts at Spanish to English
  translation never fail to amuse me

I am surprised about how confident I feel about travelling alone these days. I remember feeling really nervous about my first train ride alone when I was 16, my first flight alone when I was 18 and my first trip to Finland alone when I was 19 (because I can only say a few useless sentences in Finnish). Now I don't really feel nervous at all. I think Maria has encouraged and inspired me, because she never seems to worry about travelling anywhere, including to Melilla even though she can't speak any Spanish.

Back at the flat everything seems to be falling apart. For all this time we haven't had a shower head bracket and have had to hold it whilst showering, however when Maria was here she found a new bracket that fitted. The door handle for the terrace fell off, but Maria managed to glue it back on. The sink became blocked, but we decided to use our initiative, so I took the pipes to bits, my flatmate cleaned them and I put them back together again. So far the kitchen hasn't flooded. When the landlord was here he didn't seem to do much about repairing the flat, except paint over the rust on the bath (which has now peeled off again). There's also been roadworks going on in the area pretty much since I arrived and now they have moved down my road for a good few weeks, which is really annoying because I can't have a lie in on my days off without being woken up.


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