One of our good friends here in Villarrobledo, Julio, lives with his parents, which is very very typical of single Spaniards in their twenties (it’s even more common today with the crisis). After a night of going out his parents often ask him the next day when he got home, to which he always replies “a quarter to four” – with this time you are admitting to staying out somewhat late, but for Spanish standards that’s actually an early time, and makes it sound like you had a relatively tame night… so for the intents and purposes of this blog post, in Alicante we stayed out only until… yes, you guessed it, “a quarter to four.”
me and Julio during Saturday “cañas” (Saturday afternoon beers) in the mercado area of Alicante
Although I say Julio is a good friend, the truth is in January he was really only an acquaintance. We had met at the weekly Thursday “intercambio,” held at a hotel in town. It’s a meeting where Spanish people get together to practice their English, and we go to help them, then later they help us practice Spanish or buy us drinks, or both. So I had talked to Julio only a few times there, and didn’t know him very well. Then the first week back from Christmas break we were out at a bar after the Thursday night meeting. He said he was going to Alicante the following day to visit some friends and asked my friends Lauren and Matt if they wanted to go because he knew them a bit better. They said they were interested, then he was asking whoever else was around, which happened to include me. Initially, I wasn’t very interested. I was tired from traveling so much during winter break and was looking forward to a calm weekend at home doing nothing. But my friend Kayla convinced me to take advantage of the opportunity of someone willing to drive me to another city and offering me a place to stay at their friends’ house. So I went. And I feel pretty confident saying that deciding to go this weekend changed the course of my spring term here in Villarrobledo, in various ways…
The first thing we did when we arrived Friday night was drop our stuff off at Julio’s friend’s house and head right to a concert. It was a small very intimate concert in an art gallery with a Spanish singer-songwriter LuisMi Azogil. It was amazing, and one of the coolest things I’d been to in a long time (I have really, really cutback on my live music viewing since moving to Europe, it’s a shame, but that’s how it’s been). Besides really enjoying the music, I was really enjoying the fact that I could understand the bulk of it! Toma!
Jusi, Julio and Chiqui taking a break from playing
After the show, we went to have a late (even by Spanish standards) dinner around midnight, then to a karaoke bar where Julio’s friends go sometimes to play their guitars and sing. Here is the part where it becomes important to mention that Julio and his friends are very musical and belong to a traditional Spanish university singing group called a tuna. Although they aren’t in college anymore (and have been out for longer than I have) they continue to play with the group, which is becoming a common trend as fewer and fewer young university students join the groups. It’s a method of preservation, you could say. Later in March, I will end up going to a tuna competition with them, and you will see more pictures and hear more details about the tunas, but if you can’t wait, here is a video on youtube of Julio’s tuna performing one of their songs, Don Quijote. (And don’t ask me what’s up with the dancing tambourine players, I was just told that is typical.)
So back to Friday night, Julio and his friends (Jusi and Chiqui, real names Víctor and Antonio) played on and off in the karaoke bar, occasionally stopping for the very few patrons in there who were actually singing karaoke. And we stayed out at the karaoke bar until approximately a quarter to four…Saturday we were woken up around noon (calculating from 3:45 that’s about 8 hours of sleep HAHA) to get ready to go for a Saturday tradition (or really any day of the week tradition) called cañas. A caña is a small beer, like 6 ounces usually. I have heard that this small size of beer became typical in Spain because of the hot weather. If you have a larger beer, it will have time to get warm before you can drink it all. To go for cañas is usually around midday, before eating lunch (so between 1 and 3 pm, roughly). Or some people here in Alicante just bring their lunch to cañas:
Yes, that is a complete leg of jamón on the table!! Before we left, the guy in the sunglasses saw one of us taking a picture of the jamón so he offered us some slices, mmmmmm.
Matt, me, Kayla and Julio in the city center of Alicante
After cañas we walked around downtown Alicante for a while to the port area, which was really nice. Even though it was the middle of January the weather was awesome and I was very comfortable in a T-shirt and light cardigan… until the sun set. Then it got chilly and we were all inadequately dressed, and our coats were at Chiqui’s apartment, which was not within walking distance. But luckily, Jusi came to our rescue and brought us some jackets and sweaters from his house when he came to meet us just before it got dark. He then took us up to the castle in Alicante, which was really neat, but since it was dark I didn’t take many pictures (and the ones I took came out pretty poorly).
We ate a delicious dinner with lots of seafood (if I remember correctly) and had a lot of laughs at the dinner table (we were “those people” at the restaurant). Afterwards we went to a bar in Alicante where Julio’s friends often go to hang out and play their guitars… there was a lot of singing and dancing going on and Chiqui’s mom was trying to teach me how to dance sevillanas (just think of stereotypical Spanish flamenco-type dancing and that’s pretty much what it was, basically she just kept yelling at me to move my hips more). And, naturally, we stayed out again until a quarter to four, more or less. Sunday we decided to hit up the beach for lunch before heading back home to Villarrobledo… definitely a fun and memorable weekend with fantastic (and incredible hospitable!) company – very glad I was talked out of staying home for the weekend!
San Juan beach in Alicante