Posted in: Home / Archives for March 2008

Warm sunny days in Antibes!

This year I had a chance to spend my Easter holidays in France. I just have to say how lucky I was to go to the school that I did in Antibes. The whole experience has been amazing! I’ve never had such an incredible Easter break! First of all, after the cold grey winter weather in Russia, I just couldn’t believe the warm climate of the French Riviera!

It was so great not to have to put on my long hot coat that I had been wearing just a day before in Moscow, but instead only a light top, or T-shirt. Then, of course, I simply loved all the vibrant colours of Spring in the South of France: green palm trees, gently swaying in the warm breeze, fabulous blue skies without any clouds, and the deep blue of the sea, sparkling in the sunshine.. From the moment I arrived I loved the bright, happy, colours of Antibes, and couldn’t believe how it could be so warm and sunny here when it was so grey and cold in Russia!

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Spanish and snorkelling in Trinidad, Cuba!

Thank god that I travelled to Trinidad!!! Most visitors to Cuba simply visit Havana or Varadero and do not include small cities like Trinidad… I decided not to do this, and I can confidently say that they don’t know what they are missing!!

Trinidad is absolutely charming. It is a colonial city, 4.5 hrs from Havana by bus. The school helped me with the arrangements and I travelled with 2 friends in a private car we rented.

In general, trips to Trinidad include a stop in Cienfuegos –another fantastic town by the way- but I chose to stop in Ciénaga de Zapata for a my first diving experience. The whole area is amazing. There are a lot of animals, birds and even a crocodile farm!

Our diving instructor Felix and his family were waiting for us and we had a short but excellent training session. Then we took all the equipment and drove to Playa Larga, just 5 minutes away.

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Spanish and Football in Buenos Aires!

I arrived to Buenos Aires 6 weeks ago, after a long journey from Japan, and when I got off the plane the only thing I could think was: I don’t know a word of Spanish!!

Luckily, I started my Spanish lessons that same Monday! At the beginning, I took group lessons, but I liked it so much that I decided to take additional individual lessons, plus volunteer work (arranged for me by the school). It was simply amazing how quickly I learnt the language!

At first, of course, I wasn’t able to understand a single word in Spanish but then bit by bit I started to understand more and more! It quickly became real fun to communicate with the locals, even with people who I’d never seen or talked to before! Argentinean people are really friendly, easygoing and always willing to give you a hand.

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On Top of the World in Malaga!

My experience in Malaga was breathtaking from day one! I’ve just returned from Malaga and I already miss its amazing beaches, the bustling and intimate city center, and the incredible location of the mini-campus where I took classes during the day and also had my accommodation in the comfortable on-site student residence.

Upon arrival, I left the airport terminal and uttered enough Spanish to catch a taxi, where we then drove up a curvy, windy road up a mountain. I was really excited because I knew, within a few moments, I would have a spectacular view of the city and the ocean! The sun shone bright on the cliffs to the left and finally I glimpsed the beautiful vista del mar (view of the ocean)! Far below the cliffs leading into Malaga, you see a long row of exotic palmeras, the palm trees that have come to characterize many Spanish cities that boast a wonderful tropical climate.

And finally, just before the taxi begins to descend into the city, I see a boulevard stretching for miles, filled with people running, walking, cycling, and taking in the last minutes of a sensationally sunny day. I couldn’t help but feel like Leonardo DiCaprio soaring over the bow of the Titanic! I didn’t think I would see another great view like this until I was heading back to the airport on my way home.

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Milano is shopping HEAVEN!

I LOVE Milan!! Like most girls, I really like shopping – Milano is the capital of fashion and really one of the best places in the WORLD for shopping!! You should really come during the sales, if you can, you will be truly amazed at the bargains you can get!

Actually, any time of the year is good for shopping, in Milan. Right now, the Winter sales are still on, they started after New Year’s, on the first days of January. I missed the opening days as I wasn’t in Milan, but as soon as I got back I immediately went searching for the best bargains…

I NEEDED a new bag, a pair of jeans, possibly a pair of shoes and a coat. During a lunch break I went to a very good shop near the school called Renna Sport. They sell all the best brands and they were all 50% off. Well, I couldn’t find what I was looking for, but I came out with two Armani jumpers and a belt … not bad for the first attempt! The next day I tried La Rinascente to look for the bag and the jeans.

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Buonasera a tutti!

I’m writing you this from my host family house here in SORRENTO! I have been going out far too much recently so I’ve decided to stay at home and study a bit of Italian grammar, il presente semplice! (The present tense)….The host family are great… a mum, a dad and two teenage kids. The house is so clean and the parents cook like a dream!

I have never felt like that they host students for a job, it feels more like they do it because they really like people and want to meet as many different cultures as possible. Italians are really good at making people feel at home and their natural hospitality means that even if you are far away from home, you never feel lonely and if you feel homesick they often take you under their wing. They always ask me what I’m studying and of course, staying with a host family is an excellent way to back up what you have learnt in the classroom.

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Having an ‘Aix-ellent’ time in Aix-en-Provence!

Okay, it is an irresistible play on words, but it is also the truth… I had an Aix-ellent time in Aix-en-Provence! It was SUCH a beautiful place! It was a Roman Spa town once upon a time, so everywhere you go the buildings are of gorgeous golden stonework, the streets are cobbled and every few blocks there is little square to rest in and adorned with the relaxing trickle of one of Aix’s many fountains. It means that it feels like you are in a peaceful haven even in the middle of a bustling university city!

My French school was right next to the old town, literally 10 minutes walk from the famous Cours Mirabeau and the Café Deux Garcons where Albert Camus used to hang out. It was awesome! Plus, the weather in Aix is amazing, clear blue skies most of the year round – they actually get 300 days of sunshine annually! Even in early spring (which is when I went) I could comfortably sit outside on a café terrace, lap up the sunshine and relax, watching the French world go by.

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Learning the Lingo in Egypt!

The best bits of the courses that I took were for me the very thorough drilling of sounds/letters, controlled oral practice ‘chains’ around the class, the slightly freer oral/aural pair work information gap activities we had from time to time, the use of visual aids to reinforce meaning, the use of very targeted task-based simple listening on audio CD, the very targeted letter recognition and copying exercises, and the relaxed concentration of trying to copy exactly the flowing pen strokes of my calligraphy teacher, Ahmed, who was a really neat and exact scribe.

There was a very useful PowerPoint introduction to living in Egypt delivered by the friendly school manager at the start of the course for new students. The social programme at the school was lively and included – while I was there – a Valentine’s Day dinner at the school, as well as the usual weekend sightseeing visits. (The weekend was of 3 days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – which was good in order to be able to see a bit of Cairo.) There was a good-sized computer room with a number of PCs available and free wi-fi access at the school too, so it was very easy to stay in touch with family and friends (and work too when necessary) via email.

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Great times in Granada!

Serene yet full of life, ancient and truly awe-inspiring … how I loved Granada! I had the best time there! When I visited Granada, I soon realized that I had landed in one of the most beautiful cities in the world with perfect weather, fantastic friends and a unique atmosphere like no other – it was my dream city.

Granada is definitely a city of two sides, which, as a lover of history and Spanish traditions, but also as a young student who adores the feel of a big busy city, was perfect for me! There was the rustic historic side of the town, up around the Albacin and the Plaza Nueva you could find cutesy souvenir shops, tea houses and – my favorite of all – the Arab baths. Then I could head 20 minutes down the road and find myself in Granada’s bustling commercial centre, with excellent shopping and restaurants next to shiny, clean, marbled plazas, and the refreshing splashing of public fountains.

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Laid back in Nerja!

I just couldn’t have chosen better… Nerja was the perfect place to lie back and enjoy the very finest of the traditional Costa del Sol! There were lovely golden coves, beachfront tavernas, whitewashed buildings, fantastic sunshine and a backdrop of the dusty hills of southern Andalucía – it was a picture postcard of everything I could’ve hoped a coastal town in the south of Spain to be!

I truly loved every second of my time in Nerja. After visiting so many of the larger, bustling cities of Andalucía, coming to Nerja was a wonderful, peaceful, relaxing breath of fresh air. Everywhere you go you can see Nerja’s heritage as a sleepy fishing village, with low-rise, white washed villas, cute mosaic patios, palm trees, and a lovely traditionally Spanish high street, where every store name ends in ‘–eria’ J … the panaderia, ferreteria, dulcerias, zapaterias, pescaderia… you won’t find ugly, neon clad chain stores in Nerja. It was charming and wonderful! Yet you still have absolutely everything you need, and if you were really and truly desperate for a big city ‘fix’, Malaga (which I spent a day in and really liked!) was only 40 minutes away!

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