The Charca: Coming to Grips with a Life Abroad

Lisa is perched on the white mortar bench, manipulating her camera to get the best shot of the Alhambra. Al-i-Al-i-haaaambra, the Gaga fan sings to herself before turning the camera around to ask me to snap the cobalt blue clouds that hang low over her head and the majestic sight behind her. I smile at the friend I sometimes liken to a bobblehead – always cheery and pleasant – and shake my head in disbelief that she’s sitting two feet in front of me and across the valley from the most-visited site in Spain.

She, my dear high school friend and college drinking buddy (more times than we’d like to admit), was my fifth visitor to Seville this year. Between Beth, Jason and Christine, and Jackie, I’ve seen Cádiz, Córdoba, Jeréz, Granada and my own Sevilla through the eyes of long-time friends. There’s something odd about sharing your life in one country with someone you’ve lived the better part of your life with in another, a pressing need to cling to something familiar while demonstrate just how foreign you’ve become.

It goes back and forth with me, though.

Driving to the airport Thursday morning, Lisa recounts her busy 10 days ahead – plans for Bears games, her fiancé’s 30th birthday, family events and back-to-back Thanksgiving dinners upon landing.

“Oh, right!” I say, “Happy Día de Acción de Gracias!” and pull into the ramp marked Salidas, silently giving thanks that she could make the trip in the end, what with her eminent wedding and lack of wanderlust.

I go to work exhausted from two full weeks without so much as a respiro. Kat and I meet at the door to cart in six pies she’d ordered, two of which were pumpkin. I give the box to María, not wanting to be tempted to make off with it and call my parents from my cellphone to ask how their annual Christmas Tree shopping is going. Luckily, my picky niños saved me enough breakfast for the following day: tarta de calabaza, save a few small nibbles taking out by curious but cautious students.

More than ever, as my Spanish raíces grow firmer and deeper, it’s harder for me to completely uproot from America. I almost feel like I have a foot in each country, spanning the vast Atlantic Charca. Love my tortilla and jamón, but won’t turn down a hamburger. Can dance flamenco (lite, desde luego) and line dance. Miss my mommy, though I can’t complain at all about my suegra, either.

Last night I met Lindsay and Kelly for one last beer and nachos at Flaherty’s, a Sevilla institution I often choose not to go to for its overpriced Guinness and abundance of drunk guiris. But, come on, this place was MADE for us, and it closes its doors indefinitely today. We reflected on the times we’d drank more than la cuenta there, or watched a World Cup game, or met friends. A little piece of Angloism is dying here in Seville, I thought.

Then I hopped in a cab and directed the driver to my house. He was listening to a conservative radio program that was discussing American consumerism and Black Friday. Knowing full well I was foreign, he guffawed upon hearing that President Obama’s website had a deal on products available from the online store. Under his breath, he said, “You Americans are crazy.” I smiled to myself, happy to know we’re still as important to the rest of the world in the wake of economic crises, elections and FC Barcelona’s record.

Today we’re celebrating Thanksgiving at Jenna’s house. She promises no turkey, apart from the ones we’ll make with our hands and hang on the wall. We did this two years ago in what will go down as the greatest Thanksgiving of all time – one full of non-Americans, spilling turkey gravy on made-from-scratch apple pies and more laughs than one should handle on all of that turkey. I remember writing the names of all of the special people in my life, with more Spanish Marías and Josés (and, clearly, José María) than American names. I feel thankful for the company of all of these amazing people who make handling the holidays a bit easier and are sure to bring Cruzcampo.

I can’t say I’m anything more than 100% American, despite having lived a good part of my life away from its borders and military bases. My native tongue, blue eyes and freckles define me as the opposite of mu’daquí , yet they don’t marginalize me. I even told the tribunal and examiner at the DELE speaking exam that famous story about Chicago de la Frontera.

Sometimes Hayley and I talk about how boring our lives have gotten, now that we’ve settled into our Spanish lives with a sprinkle of American holidays and outings. Over beers in la Encarnación last week, she confessed that she no longer feels interesting.

But we’ve chosen this life, I suppose, to not be entirely in one country or another, but rather straddling two cultures. I don’t know, it could be worse. I kind of like it.

The Smartest Way to See Seville: Part II

It’s an enormous pleasure to welcome back my first guest blogger, Sandra Vallaure. As a Spaniard who’s lived in and traveled to an extensive list of countries, Sandra’s love for Seville started with a simple weekend getaway, and she’s called La Hispalense home for eight years now and is the author of the e-book Seville in Two Days. Read on for the second in a short series of tips for first-time travellers to Seville.

Day 2. Discover a flamboyant city

If you liked the experience, have breakfast at Horno San Buenaventura. This time you could go to the one located in the Plaza de la Alfalfa, 9. 

Your day must start at the Casa de Pilatos, the finest palace in Seville, which is just up the road from the square. The mixture of styles (Gothic, Mudéjar and Renaissance) result in a very special place., and the two gardens are peaceful despite the noisy streets surrounding the Casa.

It’s a highlight you shouldn’t miss but here’s a tip: don’t pay to visit the upper floor; the real treasures are at the ground floor.

Just in front of the Museo, a weekly art market can be found on Sundays. Photo by the author.

From there, walk through the center to the Palacio de Lebrija  – a must-see if you liked Casa de Pilatos, as you’ll be touring a beautiful residence nearly on your own – or the Museo de Bellas Artes. The fine arts museum is the second largest in Spain after the Prado in Madrid.

A 10-minute walk gets you to Eslava (c/ Eslava, 5) a hidden gem outside the well-traversed tapas bar areas. It’s next to the Plaza de San Lorenzo, my favorite square in Seville. Another option is the Bodega Dos de Mayo (Plaza de la Gavidia, 6), a traditional bar with excellent food and prices.

Plaza San Lorenzo, a lively square just off the tourist map. Photo by the author.

After lunch, double-back on your track until you reach the Iglesia de la Magdalena. The exterior is beautifully decorated, especially its dome and roofs. The interior is also very rich and it’s one of the main examples of the Sevillian baroque architecture. Unfortunately, it needs urgent restoration in some parts. 

La Maestranza is Seville’s stunning bullring and the oldest in Spain. Though not the oldest or largest , its traditional architecture and Andalusian touches make it a unique place. If you want to know more about bullfighting, the guided tour provides a good summary. 

The gorgeous bullring at the foot of the Guadalquivir. Photo by the author.

Then, cross the Puente de Triana, the oldest bridge above the Guadalquivir. Walk along the Calle Betis and enjoy the views of the Guadalquivir and the Torre del Oro. 

I seriously recommend Las Golondrinas for dinner. You can either go to the classic one in Antillano Campos, 26 ,or the modern one in Pagés del Corro, 76. They are 2 minutes walking one from the other and the food is awesome.

Alternatively, you can try Paco España at c/ Alfarería, 18. It’s a very welcoming bar. 

The salmon-pink facade of the Iglesia del Salvador is a popular meeting point for sevillanos. Photo by the author.

As you can see, Seville is one of the most vibrant cities in Spain. In my opinion, it’s also the most beautiful. Actually, if you ask around locals will tell you that “there’s no need to go anywhere else”. And they’re right!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sandra lives in Seville and spends all her free time exploring the world. She is the editor of Seville Traveller, an online resource about the city. She has also published an e-book that will help you plan the trip of a lifetime. You can follow her on Twitter or keep posted through Facebook.

The Smartest Way to See Seville: Part 1

It’s an enormous pleasure to welcome my first guest blogger, Sandra Vallaure. As a Spaniard who’s lived in and traveled to an extensive list of countries, Sandra’s love for Seville started with a simple weekend getaway, and she’s called La Hispalense home for eight years now and is the author of the e-book Seville in Two Days. Read on for the first in a short series of tips for first-time travellers to Seville. All photos were taken by the author.

Seville is a place that you need to discover walking. Otherwise, you’ll miss the point. Seville is not only a bunch of magnificent buildings and palaces. It’s also its people and their passion.

You may ask yourself, how to explore the best of the city in two days? Piece of cake. The following walks will guide you across the city and
you won’t miss anything important. 
So, get a map from the Internet and let’s wander its dazzling streets.

Day 1. The Essentials

Why not have breakfast at Horno San Buenaventura (Avenida de la Constitución, 16)? Sevillians love to have breakfast outside. 

Once you’re done, buy a snack and take it with you. Meals tend to start
late in Spain and you won’t find any tapas bar open before 1.30pm.

From there, walk to the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes where your walk begins. You will recognize it because it’s usually full of horse-drawn carriages. The central fountain is surrounded by three buildings: The largest one is the Cathedral, with the magnificent Giralda tower dominating the city. The red baroque façade belongs to the Archbishop’s Palace (Palacio Arzobispal). Finally, the white building is the Convento de la Encarnación.

Walk along the Cathedral to reach the Plaza del Triunfo. Look for the Lion’s Gate – the Alcázar’s entrance.

The Alcázar is one of the most impressive monuments of Seville and a favorite of mine. This royal palace was built in the 14th century, and as time went on, more buildings were added to the complex, resulting in a mix of Arabic styles and Christian influences.

Both the palace and its gardens are worth it, so take your time and enjoy this romantic place.

Once you exit the Alcázar, you enter the Patio de Banderas. Keep walking to reach the Plaza del Triunfo again. Next, head to the Cathedral. Did you know that Seville is home to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world? Built on the site of an old 12th Century mosque after the Christian reconquest of 1248, it took more than century (1401 – 1506) to build it.

Once you are there, it’s easier to visit following a counterclockwise circuit so you don’t miss any of its chapels. Then, go to the main altar where the altarpiece is magnificent. Don’t forget the Royal Chapel and Columbus’ tomb.

The must-see is the Giralda, originally the mosque’s minaret that was transformed into a bell tower. I recommend you climb to the top. The views from there are spectacular and you’ll get to see the whole city. Moreover, there are ramps instead of steps so you won’t find it difficult at all.

Finally, go back down and exit to the Patio de los Naranjos. This patio is full of orange trees and was the place where Muslims used to wash themselves before entering the mosque to pray. This is where your visit to the Cathedral ends.

Walk along Calle Mateos Gago to have lunch at Las Columnas (C/Rodrigo Caro, 1). They offer very good, traditional tapas (small dishes) and montaditos (small filled buns). Alternately, you could try Bodeguita Antonio Romero (C/Antonio Diaz, 19).

From either two places, the Hospital de la Caridad is a few minutes’ walk. This charity hospital was founded in 1674 and it still serves its initial purpose: taking care for the elderly and handicapped. But the real treasure is inside its walls. The church is one of the most impressive of the entire city, and it contains masterpieces from painter Murillo and sculptor Valdés Leal.

The visit won’t take you long so can now head to Puerta de Jeréz and walk along the Calle San Fernando, where the Real Fábrica de Tabacos is. Nowadays it’s Seville University´s main building and worth a quick visit.

If not, cross the Plaza de San Juan de Austria and head South to the Parque de María Luisa (don’t get confused with the Jardines de San Sebastián, which are next to it).

The Parque de María Luisa is the largest park of Seville. Inside you can find some of the most important buildings of the 1929’s Ibero-American Exposition. The impressive Plaza de España is one of them. as it was the Spanish pavilion.

The Plaza de España is one of the most remarkable constructions of the 20th century, and of the city in itself. Its size is spectacular, and it’s even been used as the backdrop for several films. Along the half-moon building, there are detailed tiles and ceramic handicraft, symbolizing Spain and its relationship with Latin and South American countries.

You can have dinner at LaBulla (c/ Dos de Mayo, 26), the best original cuisine you’ll ever taste. And if you aren’t too tired after that, go for a drink to the top roof terrace at Eme Hotel or Hotel Doña María and enjoy the gorgeous views of the Plaza del Triunfo, where your walk began.

Why not include the Barrio de Santa Cruz?

Despite guide books and city tours including Barrio Santa Cruz as a highlight, I am not a fan. Traditionally the old Jewish quarter, it was restored during the early 19th century.

It’s true that it may have some charm but the hordes of visitors crowding the narrow lanes and the touristic tapas bars offering bad quality and expensive meals spoil the neighborhood. If you want to experience a small Andalusian town, go to Carmona or Arcos de la Frontera, to name a few.

If you do go, wander around its narrow lanes and visit the Hospital de los Venerables.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sandra lives in Seville and spends all her free time exploring the world. She is the editor of Seville Traveller, an online resource about the city. You can follow her on Twitter or keep posted through Facebook.

from the Chi to the SVQ

My life is dominated by Spanish culture: I have a Spanish partner and speak to him exclusively in Spanish, work in a Spanish school with Spanish children, and don’t know a soul in my surroundings who speaks my language and understands my customs. People joke that I’m heavily influenced by the sevillana way of life, and I once survived 20 months without stepping foot in America (or eating a Portillo’s hotdog).

Last night, I grabbed my bike and headed to the center last night to meet two of my fellow Chicago folk, Kelly and Siebs, for Mexican food. As I parked in Plaza San Francisco, listening to Coldplay’s “Beautiful World” and marveled at the light from the Giralda flooding the cobblestone. I snapped a picture on my phone, and upon putting it back in my bag, whirled around to see someone in a Packers jersey. I had to laugh to myself.

Kelly had just been shoe shopping, so we walked down Calle Sierpes towards the square where we’d meet Mickey. Plaza Salvador was half empty on the warm Autumn night, and as we chatted about her upcoming trip to Paris, I stopped dead in my tracks. A bespectacled study abroad student with an accent matching my mother’s was talking about the Cubs and Sox.

I may be far from Cheesehead territory and the Northside, but it takes very little to get me back to that same old place, Sweet Home Chicago.

What do you get homesick for while abroad? How do you deal with homesickness? Do you stick to expat enclaves in your city abroad?

Do’s and Don’ts: Preparing for the DELE

Hatched as a plan to find something to do during the cold winter months when the Novio was away in Somalia, I decided to begin studying for the DELE. I didn’t need it for a job, nor a university program. Nay, this overachiever wanted to prove she knew enough Spanish to have a piece of paper proclaiming it.

Famous. Last. Words.

The Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera is an internationally recognized exam that probes the level of a non-native speaker who can operate using the language in the various skills of foreign language learning: writing, speaking, reading, listening. It’s comparable, depending on one of six levels of the Marco Común Europeo de Referencia, to the Cambridge and Trinity Exams of English. The exams are supervised by The Instituto Cervantes, a renowned study center from which you can request a free brochure.

Little Miss Smarty Pants thought she could do the C2 Superior Level. After doing some research on the exam’s sponsor, Instituto Cervantes, I marched down to FNAC to buy the prep books, El Cronómetro and the Edelsa C2. I ended up getting only the first, mesmerized by the stopwatch (hence the title) and nervous when I cracked open the book to see just black, white and maroon and no pictures, just tiny little stopwatches next to the words “pon el reloj.”

The May examination date rolled around, and between Holy Week, Feria, and visits from not one but four friends…well, I forgot to sign up. No pasa nada, I thought, I’ll just study during those rainy afternoons at camp and then that month I’m home doing nothing. I toted the book to La Coruña and then to Wheaton, but only cracked it on a long car ride to Kentucky to write out the slang words on cards to study.

Yeah, Guiri Puss, aprende español!

My exam is in ten days. At some moments, I feel confident and like test ain’t got nothing on my Spanish-wielding tongue, until I remember that I also have to know how to write well and interpret well in a language.

After finally hitting my stride (and saying adiós to my social life), here are some Do’s and Don’ts of studying for the DELE.

DO buy the right materials

After starting your initial search to find out more about the DELE on the Instituto Cervantes website, it should come as no surprise that there are books made especially for the exam, much like the standard GRE or LSAT books. To help get you started, you can ask for an informational guide from the Instituto Cervantes.

The book recommended by the FEDELE in Seville was the Cronómetro. I prefer this book because it not only has tons of practice session, but it also helps you find the testing method most suited for you. When doing the reading comprehension, is it easier for you to read first, then tackle the three questions, or is it better to read the questions first to know what you’re looking for? It also has a better description of what to expect from each section in the exam. I bought it at FNAC for around 24€, and the newest edition, all green and white and super bético, was the same price of of Amazon in Spain. Since the format of the C2 has changed this convocotoría, this book is better suited to help you prepare for the new exam.

Now, like Kelly from Shoes: This book rules!

I also used the Edesla C2, which was really like a series of mini-exams within a different theme (science and technology, arts and ethics, man and his surroundings). What’s more, the Libro de Claves was actually sold separately, so I had to make yet another trip to FNAC and spend an extra 3€. And I peeked because the questions were so incredibly vague. “En el texto se dice”: UM A LOT OF THINGS?!

This book sucks!

This book sucks!

My pick is definitely the Crom. So go ahead and Pon that Reloj.

DON’T assume you know your level: do the online exam

In Europe, there is a standardized model of foreign language comprehension, known as the Marco Común Europeo de Referencia (MCER) here in Spain. This is an umbrella term, as it refers to the basic competencies a language learning should have in his desired language. the DELE, for the most part, follow the MCER, so the six levels are standard, and you can see them here.

Before going out and buying your prep books, take the shortened version of the exam, available on the Instituto Cervantes Spanish page (click here). I took it once before studying hardcore and scored a C1.4, the highest level of C1, and again just last week and scored a C2.1, the lowest for that level. Additionally, the FEDELE offered to have me come in and take a few practice oral exams, though the woman told me I was a C2 and should consider taking the C2 written, as well.

Looks like I made a good choice in the C1.

DO find a good place to study

My Cronómetro book looks like a tattered old journal – all marked up, the binding half-ripped. Sadly, I have carted the 300-paged monstrosity around to too many places – Kike’s base, America, Madrid – and barely even given it a second thought. Every time I think I can study somewhere, I find it’s impossible because of background noise or distractions.

Case in point:

The Mezquita de Córdoba, while beautiful, is not an ideal place to study.

Sure, it was nice sitting outside on a balmy May morning, but the quarterly chimes on the nearby Mezquita made me nervous and more time-conscious than usual. And trying to study on the AVE high-speed train? Please.

I would study as close to the conditions as possible – sitting upright, having a pencil and sharpener handy, plenty of light, and no distractions (even turn your móvil down if you have to! Mine beeps constantly, so I put it in a different room!). I often waited to do the listening portions until The Novio was out of the house and therefore didn’t have the TV blaring.

DON’T try and study outdoors, during holidays or when friends are in town.

See above. And, for real, live a little! Did I care cramming one weekend when I had nothing better to do? Of course, but I don’t regret not taking the exam before when I had friends visiting and I wanted to travel to Romania and when the rebujito and Monica’s arte took over at the Real. Be realistic – if you can’t put in the time needed to adequately prepare, don’t pay to do the exam.

Romania > studying for the DELE

DO consider taking a course or having private instruction

Doing simple google search for “cursos DELE” nets hundreds of places to get exam prep, both online and in person. Most are costly (around 300€), but come with the practice book and pautas and tips to doing the exam. I knew I could study for the majority of the test on my own, but considered hiring a Spanish teacher to help me with the writing and speaking part of the exam. In the end, our schedules weren’t compatible, but Eva seemed like a great resource.

The first place to look is the Instituto Cervantes itself in your city, and finally at the various language centers in your city, like CLIC or even universities with international programs. Keep in mind cost, whether or not it’s intensive or not, the success rate of students and if you think it will help you in the long run or not.

I personally thought the people at CLIC in Seville and Cádiz were more than happy to help me prepare by offering free consultations, following up with emails and in turn being an examination center. In addition, the Instituto Cervantes also offers online consultations, practice exams and prep courses.

DON’T freak out about knowing all of those stupid refranes.

Guess what! They’re no longer on the exam! Collective sigh of relief, verdad? Before, the there were up to 12 points to be earned simply by reading a statement with a refrán, or a type of common saying, and choosing one of three options.

For example: Me han dejado asistir de oyente, pero no puedo meter baza en ningún momento.

Well, you say, meter means plenty of things, and Baza is a small town in Granada, and the sentence says you were able to go to a lecture and listen, but surely it had nothing to do with that little village. So, you look at the three choices. A intervenir, B interrumpir, C cooperar. Hmm, no help. I chose B, but it’s actually A. There were eight of those in a 60 minute test that also included text completion and error detection.

Instead, I would focus more on knowing prepositions, por v. para, ser v. estar and the subjunctive tenses more to help you on the writing and speaking sections of the exam. No los estudies, ni a tiros!! Had to.

DO practice writing prompts like crazy – even the ones you’d never choose on the actual exam.

I tried to skip them, but I couldn’t. The writing section is a large part of the DELE, consisting of two parts: in the first, you’ll be asked to pick one of two options regarding a formal letter or email. This may be a complaint, a letter to the mayor, an email requesting information, a reclamation of a service…and the list goes on. It’s important to know formal salutions, advanced vocabulary and to include all of the parts asked for in the prompt.

The second part is more personal, and you’ll have to choose between three different prompts. These could be about personal opinions, experiences or anecdotes. The language employed here is much more narrative and you’ll often be asked to describe how you felt when X took place. And it doesn’t hurt to make it related to Latin culture, either.

Keep in mind you’ll have to beat the clock: you have 60 minutes for brainstorming, drafting and re-writing your two pieces of 150-200 words in pen. Practice with your clock ALWAYS, on all of the parts of the exam, but be much more wary during this section. Your pieces should also be clear and use the language you know – it’s advised to make the letter more simple if and always when it’s clearer.

DON’T cram. Make a doable schedule, and stick to it.

My biggest mistake. I would come home so wiped from school, that I often put off studying. Then I had work to do. Then it was someone’s birthday. And, in the spirit of Dude, Where’s My Car, and then and then and then and then…! En fin, I wasted a lot of days where I could have been working through problems and writing prompts and instead had to cram last weekend and barely consume any beer. These last few weeks, I’m doing my best to do one or two practice sessions a night to be able to stay on top of my game but still not stress out.

T-10 days. And thursday I am seeing amovie in español, so there.

I learned time management skills when I was like in third grade…what happened to them?

DO practice outside of the book – listening to political debates, brushing up on medical vocabulary, reading hilarious books like El Tesís de Nancy

I realize I live in Spain and have ample opportunities to speak and listen to Spanish, but I have been utilizing all kinds of tools to amplify my vocabulary – even my smart phone! I downloaded an app called Prensa de España, which has newspapers from around Spain in mobile format, found a great English-Spanish dictionary and have been listening to podcasts. The world is my oyster when it comes to finding even MORE ways to sneak a little castellano into my life (as if a Spanish novio and Spanish workplace and, um, living there weren’t enough!).

On the writing and speaking sections, and general knowledge of Hispanic culture is 100% important, as is being able to listen to different accents. The exam may call for you to read a quote and take a stance on it, talk about the economic crisis, or write about that time you schlepped through the Prado Museum. Knowing some basic vocabulary will actually make you sound like you know what you’re talking about, and so will using the “he” form of haber.

And read El Tesís de Nancy, even is in English. It’s about an American girl who lives in Seville during the 70s and dates a gypsy. It’s hilarious, and her errors in the letters she writes to her cousin Nancy have helped me to be a more critical reader of my own writing in Spanish.

¿De qué estás hablando, Willis?

Now that you’ve decided to prepare the exam and you’re willing to shell out 175€ for the upper level exams, how does one go about signing up? Since it’s too late for the convocotoria for November, that’s another story for another blog post (but click here for 2013 dates).

Have you ever tried speaking Spanish? What types and tricks have you got to share? If you have more questions about the DELE, be sure to contact COMO Consulting Spain, a relocation consulting company with insider knowledge about the exams.

 

I like cemeteries.

I felt very unfestive this year at Halloween.

In years past, we’ve celebrated pumpkin decorating parties,

had enormous Halloween fetes,

and thrown big celebrations at school.

The Novio usually has a training course during this week, so I was excited to finally show him why my love of cemeteries and ghost stories is normal.

This was as festive as we got:

During my sophomore year of college, Lisa, Beth and I were studying for our Age of the Dinosaurs (if you don’t believe this is actually a class at the University of Iowa, you can find the course description here) on a blustery Halloween Eve night. Bored of cladograms and sauropods, we hatched a plan to visit the Iowa-famous Black Angel, a reputedly haunted statue in the Oakland Cemetery of Iowa City. equipped with flashlights and warm clothing, we took a water bottle full of liquid courage (Hawkeye Vodka, clearly) and set off.

Legend has it that the monstrously large statue was erected by a woman who had once lived in Iowa City to preside over the remains of her dead son and husband, but over a few years’ time, the statue turned black and the wing bent inward. Locals claim the statue has always been connected to the paranormal, and like Scout Finch and the Radley house, we dared one another to touch it to test its claim that virgins were safe. In the windy, damp night, the statue seemed twice as large and even more sinister. In the daylight, however, the whole place just seemed idyllic.

Cemeteries have always fascinated me, whether or not it’s the Halloween season. During my travels, I make it a point to see the way people are laid to rest, how their living relatives honor them. Maybe it’s just because of the Spanish celebration of Día de Todos los Santos, a more pious version of Day of the Dead, which was celebrated just yesterday.

Reputedly, 30% of flowers are sold in the days leading up to the one reserved for families to honor their deceased by offering flower ofrendas and cleaning up the gravesite. I was dying (whoa, wrote that without thinking and am going to leave it) to go and see if the Manchego All Saint’s Day from the movie Volver was spot-on.

In the end, that stupid DELE exam won out, so I’ll just leave you with some shots from hauntingly gorgeous cemeteries from around Europe.

Prayer candles in Bukovina, Romania

A forlorn cemetery in Maramures, Romania

The Merry Cemetery of Sapanta, right on the border. I love the jovial depictions of life and death of over 800 people.

In Spain, the 75% who choose not to be cremated are usually given lockers at the local cemetery. This one is in Olvera, Cadiz

The creepy, even in broad daylight, cemetery in Comillas, Santander, is reputed to be haunted.

Like Iowa City, Comillas has its own Angel. Summer 2010.

Along the road to redemption in Cashel, Ireland.

A peaceful Christmas morning with unbelievable light in Limerick, Ireland. I may or may not have looked for Frank McCourt’s dead brothers.

Do you like cemeteries? Seville’s San Fernando Cemetery is home to celebrated bullfighters and flamenco dancers, and it’s a peaceful garden. Free to enter, though photos are not allowed.

 

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