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Hello there!

It is now my third week here in El Puerto and I have to say that time is flying by! So this weekend was a pretty hectic one… With a game of pub golf, a joint birthday and some serious shopping, how could it not be?!

On Friday night, Fiona (another Irish girl) and I decided to brave the nightlife of El Puerto on our own. Prior to this we had always gone with a group of people, so going it alone was an exciting, yet daunting prospect!

We started off with a few drinks in “Bar Granada” or as the regulars call it, “Bar G”. In this cosy pub, run by Micki, a Chilean man who is known to befriend newcomers to El Puerto, we managed to make friends with some local Portuenses. After one or two “chipitos” (shots) we moved on to “El Niño”, an active pub/club that played English pop music all night long – much to our delight! Here, we partied to the early hours and added some more friends to our group, with a variety of nationalities including; Dutch, German, Lithuanian, Spanish and British.

On Saturday morning, we took a well deserved rest before hitting “El Paseo” for some bargain hunting. Shops like Zara, Bershka, Pull and Bear, Massimo Dutti and Oshyo forced us to return home with our wallets considerably lighter!

On Saturday night, we attended a joint birthday party for 2 of our workmates. We decided to play pub golf, a traditionally British drinking game. The game involved visiting 9 different pubs, in 9 different locations, and drinking the specified alcoholic beverage within a certain amount of gulps. If you succeeded with one gulp to spare, your par then became -1 and +1 if you didn´t finish your drink within the set amount of gulps. With a drink in 9 bars, this game was a really great way to see the different types of night life El Puerto has on offer. For example, O´Donoghues offers charm and cosiness, while Bar Jamon had amazing tapas, Bar Granada gives low price drinks and a friendly service, as La Vue offers great music and room to dance while Bar Magdalena was a little off the beaten track but a great find nonetheless! My personal favourite was “El Reconquista” a bar with a Moroccan theme to it – they have great cocktails!We finally ended the game in “Loca”, where Fiona was crowned the winner. I must admit I was quite proud to come in second place!

On Sunday, we relaxed in the sun to prepare ourselves for the working week ahead. All in all, it was a great weekend, with the El Puerto nightlife offering a lot more than I had bargained for!

Until next time,

Audrey

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El Puerto is truly a wonderful place and there is no better way to realise that than through video, so in this blog post we attach you links to two videos on El Puerto that we liked.  The first shows you images of the the whole city as well as some images of the 15km apx of coastline El Puerto has.  The second is a bird’s eye view of our wonderful beaches, less professional than the first but in my mind a joy to watch.  I hope you enjoy them and if you wish to see some more El Puerto videos, please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or suggest a video to upload.  La vida bella existe en El Puerto.

VIDEO of EL PUERTO:

BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF EL PUERTO:

Hi, everyone!

Well, let’s start with an introduction, my name is Audrey and I work as the Spark Administration Responsible. I am originally from Ireland, but I´m currently living and working in El Puerto de Santa Maria. I plan to keep our Spark followers updated about everything and anything, both Spark and El Puerto de Santa Maria related, over the next couple of months. Here goes…

Beach Day

Today, the 9th of February, is my eight day as Spark secretary. I am slowly adjusting to my Spark responsibilities and the Spanish way of life in El Puerto. So far it has been an intense but very enjoyable time.  The first few days of my arrival here in El Puerto were hectic, to say the least. I really believe that getting lost three times in one hour on the way to a Mexican restaurant is a new record. I don´t know what we would have done had we not randomly met Inge on our third attempt at locating “Zapata” restaurant.

During my first week of work, I got to do many interesting things, including, a visit to the Sparkville Academy/Residence. As I had been told the Sparkville building was currently undergoing renovations, I have to admit I was expecting a very basic building with a few shovels and maybe some cement mix. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Firstly, the building, which used to be an old hostel, is in a prime location, with lots of shops, cafes and bars nearby. The interior of the building is very spacious and parts of the beautiful architectural structures, from the hostel remain intact. These include some authentic stonework archways and walls. Even though the building is still quite far from completion, the core framework and interior design is very evident.

I also really liked one of the exterior “chill out” zones, a massive roof with a nice view of the town. We visited the spark building on the 2nd of February, and even then, the sun was beaming down on us as we explored the roof. I can just imagine how lovely it would be on nice hot day for a bbq, a chat with some friends or even just to have a few drinks and cool down.
All in all, my first experience was really interesting and I´m looking forward to seeing the progress at the Sparkville residence next time!

Until the next blog!
Audrey

Restaurant Aponiente, in El Puerto de Santa Maria, appears on the list published by the New York Times with 10 restaurants around the world worth a visit! Other restaurants on the list include restaurants in London, New York and Singapore amongst others. The mentioning on the list is a second big success for Resaurant Aponiente that was also awarded a Michelin star at the end of 2010. For the full list and a description of the restaurants by the New York Times, click here.

Like many other European countries, Spain now also has its own version of the anti smoking law, which is generally said to be one of the strictest ones in Europe. With the new law, smoking is not only prohibited in public places such as bars, restaurants, hospitals and schools, but also in children’s play parks and other public areas in open air.

Spain and the cigarette
Spain has, even more so than other countries, a somewhat amibiguous relationship with the cigarette. Its culture is generally very much based around food and a lot of a Spaniard’s social life takes place in bars and restaurants where most Spanish people tend to socialize with a cigarette or two. On the other hand, Spain is also an extremely child friendly country where you will never see a sign on a restaurant’s door saying that children are not welcome. Spanish families tend to take their children with them everywhere, including to a family dinner in a restaurant that doesn’t finish till 1.00 o’clock in the morning. (It takes a long time getting used to the sight of 6 year olds running around the restaurants’ gardens till well past bedtime…). This naturally means that children were, until  recently with the new law, still very much exposed to polluted air in bars and restaurants.

2006 law
Spain has always been a country with one of the highest relative number of smokers, especially amongst women and the cigarette plays an essential role in a Spaniard’s social life. A law introduced in 2006 gave bars and restaurants the option to decide for themselves whether they wanted to be a smoking or non-smoking establishment. Several bars declared themselves to be non-smoking, but quickly changed back to allowing smoking again after they noticed their numbers had gone down.

succes or failure?
It is to be seen how much bars in Spain will be affected by the new law and how much of the resistance felt by some bar owners will result in public demonstrations and other manifestations such as ignoring the law and allowing people to smoke again. Whereas in most countries the change-over from smoking to non-smoking bars has been relatively smoothly, Spain might see a bumpier change-over since the cigarette is so much part of people’s private and social life. It might even end up getting out of hand like it has in the Netherlands, where in as many as 51% of the bars and discos, people have started to smoke again. The question is whether or not Spain will finally accept that their cigarette friendly culture doesn’t go well with their family orientated and child friendly culture.

In the category ‘interesting facts about Spanish culture’, today about the celebartion of Kings day, the 6th of January. In Spanish usually abbreviated to ‘Reyes’ (Kings), this is traditionally the big holiday celebrated in Spain with a big family dinner and presents. The tradition is based on the religious story of the three kings visiting baby Jesus and bringing him presents, the way that most western European and the USA celebrate Christmas. Most Spanish families celebrate Christmas, like other cultures, with a big family dinner and maybe one or two small presents for the children, though most will just have a family dinner. The big celebration doesn’t take place til the 6th of January with another big dinner and and overload of presents.

This is why in Spain the Christmas holidays usually don’t start til the 23rd or 24th of December and continues all the way til the 7th of January, to give the  children at least a day to play with their presents before returning to school. A bit different to other cultures where children have the entire 2 weeks to play with their presents…

Feliz año nuevo and happy New Year! We at Spark wish you all a happy, healthy and rewarding 2011!

A new year usually involves many people coming up with good intentions and ideas for the new year. I personally don’t normally believe in New Year’s resolutions as I tend to be the type of person who seems to suddenly wakes up with new ideas or improvements for their own life midway through the year. This usually means that at the end of the year I simply seem to have ‘forgotten’ all the resolutions I came up with during the year (worth noting that these new resolutions tend to only last for 2 weeks..). This more often than not leaves me with nothing to say when it comes to my turn to make my new year’s resolutions public. (I used to get annoyed when people asked me about my new year’s resolutions , but I realise now that many people pretend to be interested only to see whether they can ‘borrow’ some of  my ideas because they struggle with the same problem as I do..). Anyway, not having any new year’s resolutions and my complete failure at sticking to mid year’s resolutions, I realised it was time to do something and become a little bit more organised. (Rest assured that I tend to be very organised in my professional life..).

For some reason I felt very motivated about this idea, bought myself a book on how to live a more organised life and even ended up with 3 agenda’s for the new year! I’m sure you can all imagine that I felt that at least the preparations were going well (and according to a famous Dutch saying, good preparations are half the job). So when I got back home from my Christmas holiday and realised that many of my shelves were covered in dust and cats’ hairs due to my absence and lack of cleaning, I decided to put my new plan into practice immediately and get rid of all that dust right there and then instead of putting it off again and again. I started by emptying all the shelves, taking down books, CDs, paraphernalia and flowers and then I proceeded with stage 2: cleaning the shelves. Unfortunately when that stage was completed that also meant the start of the tricky part: the shelves now had to dry, which was obviously a good excuse to take a break and have some tea.

I am sure it is easy to imagine that a couple of hours later, all the books, CDs, paraphernalia and flowers were still spread across the room, partly on the table, partly on the floor, preventing myself from getting to the other side of the room without any dangerous acrobatic balancing and I am pretty sure that they will probably stay there a couple more days before they will finally be put back in their correct place, by which time the shelves will almost be dusty again…

This is just to illustrate the New Year’s resolutions are just not my thing and I think I will just give up on them altogether, but I hope that you are personally better at coming up with New Year’s resolutions and also better at sticking to them. Maybe one of your resolutions is even to finally do that Spanish course that you have been wanting to do for such a long time but never really found the time or energy for. 2011 Might well be the right year to start, together with Spark, who will be opening their doors soon to students of Spanish in Spain.

And if you do, I can assure you there will be no dust on the shelves at Spark, because fortunately there somebody else who is responsible for this at Spark.

Happy new year and hopefully see you some time at Spark!

Today, the 21st of December 2010 has been the official founding day of Spark Languages. Spark Languages is the official name of the company of which Spark Spanish is a department and the overall aim of Spark Languages is to provide high quality language education and services.