Patrick: Today was my last day at Ben Y Ben and I didn’t know how I felt about it. In one sense I feel that I would love to continue here and keep learning and improving my Spanish, but in another way then I feel that there are loads of opportunities just opened up to me because of my Erasmus experience. So I would like to try something new again. When I got to work I finished up a little earlier than usual because I wanted to say my goodbyes to everyone around the building and also we need to get to the ferry on time and make our way up to Malaga in time for our journey. After leaving work I made my way back along the beach for the last time and finished up packing my bags and cleaning the apartment and went down to the ferry where we met with Patsy and Emily again and bid farewell to Ceuta. The place has been really good to me and I hope to visit again sometime in the future and meet the people again. The ferry to Algeciras took about 1 hr and the bus from there to Malaga took a little under 3 hours. By the time we reached the hotel and got set up in the room I was starving so we headed out for a bite and had a quick drink afterwards in a small place down by the port. It was beautiful watching the sunset over the water for the last time. I got to bed reasonably early and set alarms for early the next morning to make the best out of the last day in Spain.
I got up super early Saturday morning and headed off for breakfast by myself and grabbed a map of Malaga at the front desk of out hotel. I planned out a little route of where I thought we could get the most done in the short day we had ahead of us. The flight was somewhere around the 9pm mark so I got to get the bus from the city around 6 or 6:30pm. I got some breakfast in a place near the local market and went in for a look while I waited for the others. It wasn’t a huge big market but the front of the building was a huge stained glass window that was amazing. I bought some grapes inside and they were unbelievable. I don’t know what exactly was different about them but they were good. Then I met with the others and went to Malaga Cathedral. Originally I only planned on being there for an hour at most but the place was so interesting that we ended up there for about over 2 hours and got a history lesson about when all the different parts of it were completed and where all the artwork came from. The tour included a visit to the roof which was one of the most beautiful and scariest experiences from the 3 weeks. I am terrified of heights and spiralling old stir cases. And to get to the roof you need to climb up these really old spiral staircases for a good 10 minutes. But once I got up there and steadied my legs I was in awe. I never knew Malaga was so beautiful. I had done absolutely no research into the place before arriving so everything was a bonus for me. You could see out over the whole city and up into the hills and mountains where there are old castles and settlements hidden away.
Once we finished our cathedral tour we went back to the hotel to check out of the rooms. We were able to leave our bags downstairs in a luggage store so we didn’t need to be lugging them around with us for the day. This was just as well because our next stop was up the mountain to Castillo del Gibralfaro. It was a really hot day in Malaga that Saturday and to access the castle was a 20 minutes walk up the hill. Usually this would be fine but the heat was intense. When we got to the top and got in it was even bigger than I thought. I walked around the old walls and went into the museum where they have old guns and uniform and swords on display. We got a drink in the small cafe they have set up at the side of the castle and headed back down towards town taking a small short cut through the botanical gardens. It all smelled so good and the flowers and colours changed every step you took.
Once we reached the bottom we went through the park and onto the big ferris wheel, the Mirador Princess, Again, I was shaking because of the height but the views of the city and the port was something that I really wanted to see before leaving the city. Unfortunately time had run out and we had to head back to grab our bags from the hotel and a taxi to the airport. The flight home wasn’t bad at all and by the time we reached Galway it was about 3am. A really fantastic way to finish such an enjoyable 3 weeks. I came home smiling and ready for a new adventure which is always a great way to come back from anywhere. If anybody is reading this and curious about Erasmus then I hope that you see all the ways that this trip has been nothing but a positive experience. In the 3 weeks, we were in 3 countries and 5 cities, ate some new foods and drinks that I had never seen before, worked through a different language and learned something about different cultures... but most importantly I met some great people and great friends.
Mariola: This morning I packed some stuff I got yesterday to say goodbye to my colleagues from work. Plenty of different emotions in my head as I just cannot believe this was the last day. I feel like we supposed to definitely stay longer because the beginning was the hardest at work as the language barrier was big but after a while, after like a week or more finally I felt much better and even I know my Spanish is very little but then it was much easier to speak single words so I was slowly getting better, feeling definitely better with every day passing through. Hard process but only time could help and now the time is gone…. But I know this is only the beginning of my Spanish adventure – that is for sure! As the way to say ‘Thank you’ at work I’ve got some cake for everyone and some drinks. It’s been lovely last few hours in Ceuta Actualidad, I will miss the people and everything we have done.
After work I had to pack all the bags very fast as I had no time to do it earlier and the time was running. We had a ferry at 3.45 to Algeciras, together with Patsy and his wife we came back first with ferry then the bus to Malaga where we say goodbye to them as they had an early Saturday flight.
It’s been so lovely to check-in at the hotel even for one night we spent in Malaga. The hotel Dan booked for us was great and the location was just perfect. We had a great evening walking around the Marina, which is just breathtaking. I never been in this city so I was really excited and I’ve enjoyed my time so much.
Saturday: Woke up very early in case to use our limited time in Malaga as much as possible. We had a delicious breakfast at ‘Casa Aranda’, I would highly recommend this restaurant; fantastic food, great service – perfect start of the day.
Then I, Patrick and Lariane went for a walk around so first we visited the marketplace where Patrick got probably the best grapes I’ve ever ate. Unfortunately my cherries were not that special ;( Area was huge and it looked so different compared to other food markets I’ve seen. Everything in order, huge amounts and selection..ohhh I wish to try everything they had, fruits looked so yummii.
Then we took a tour in the Malaga Cathedral. Beautiful history as originally, centuries ago there was a mosque. As a part of the tour there was a walk on the roof which gives you an amazing view all over the city, another great experience. Next point on our list was the Castillo de Gibralfaro, was not easy as there is hundreds of steps to climb and the weather was really beautiful so temperature was high. We got then some more and more amazing views all over the city from the top of the castle. I totally did not expect Malaga to be that beautiful.
We also took a ride on ‘Mirador Princess’ Malaga City Big Wheel. Another stop in the city I would highly recommend as I really enjoyed, the views of the city, hills, buildings, dock marina and the sea were just amazing. That would be everything what we were able to see as we really tried to visit as many tourist attractions as possible.
Then we took all our luggage from the hotel and took a taxi to the train station, from where we got easily to the nearby airport. Dinner at the airport’s Irish restaurant was so tasty, so I was well prepared for long journey. We had a flight at 9pm from Malaga, we were in Dublin after 11pm, so thankfully everything went fine and as we booked the latest bus at 00.30am we got back to Galway that night around 3am. I was glad that there was no delays or any surprises because I had to be at work at 8am for 12h shift that morning, was not easy but still doable, as I was extremely happy and full of energy after such an incredible 3 weeks.
Mariola: I had a really nice and interesting day at work today. The studio interview was rescheduled for 5pm so I was only witnessing the one outdoor. This time it was not in Ulises hotel but in the area we know very well. Today’s guest was one of more important person in the city, responsible for nightlife in Ceuta. We met him in Off Side club. Really nice guy, that was an interesting experience to do the interview in such different surroundings.
Around 4pm we have met Ketty, Dan’s mentor who’s been so lovely and offered to drive us, also with Patsy and his wife, all around the city. I’m so glad that she was so kind to do it as I would not be able to see all the areas she showed us. The knowledge about the city with some historical facts was really nice to hear from her. I could not be more happier, it was an amazing time, spent with fantastic people. Near Moroccan border we went to the restaurant and we were having some desserts with delicious Moroccan tea, that was also new experience.
Can’t believe the last evening already arrived. After 9pm we had the very last dinner in Ceuta. This time we had a big company, so the teachers from local school, also Patsy join us and his wife. Every day this city is surprising me so much as this time we have met in new place, just next to Foso De San Felipe which is amazing area I like so much. Dinner was great, fantastic food, fantastic people, could not ask for more. After dinner we went for the last time to beautiful pub ‘El Cielo’. We have also met some students there, the night was great, I had so much fun.
Patrick: Tonight is our last night in Ceuta so we asked the teachers from college if they would like to get a meal together before we all headed away. We met in the restaurant in the city walls and Patsy joined Javier, Nieves and Juan Manuel and ourselves for some beautiful food. When we finished everything we went to el Cielo for a drink before saying our goodbyes and thanks for everything. Without these people and everything they did for us it wouldn’t have been as good a time as it was. Our friends from the college, Javier’s students, met us in el Cielo and had a drink with us before we headed to another spot and tried some karaoke. I asked Mariola for a dance but she wouldn’t dance with me. Then I asked her for a song and she wouldn’t sing with me either. Shortly after this scathing rejection I went back to my bed. Tomorrow we have to catch a ferry and bus to Malaga so a relatively early night wasn’t the worst idea in the world
Dan: Today I went to meet Ketty at the Oficina de Tourismo. We were having technical difficulties as Kettys computer stopped working and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it as it was all in Spanish. Eventually Kettys co-worker nick named “The Best”, came to the rescue. We created some more manuals for the cabin retreat located in the mountains. Ketty then brought me to Hotel Ceuta. It is a stunning hotel with bright fancy decorations. Unfortunately the hotel was fully booked so I was unable to view any rooms until tomorrow. However, I was shown the conference/events rooms and their swimming pool/barbecue area which is located on the roof with a stunning view of the marina and the beaches. Then we went to Hotel Muralla. This is an old-school hotel as the decor clearly shows. It should be a 5 star hotel not a 4 star hotel. The rooms are very spacious all with incredible views of the marinas, beaches and Gibraltar in the distance. Ketty brought me to the top of the battlements walls in the heart of the city. One side of the canal is public, the other private.
There is an entrance to the private side of the tourism office, so I got a VIP tour. I soon found out it is where most of the seagulls live and they weren’t to keen on us being there. Forgetting about the angry tenants the views again were amazing. I headed home to prepare the final touches of the presentation that we would be making on our time here in Ceuta. We met Patsy and headed for the college where we met Juan Manuel and Havier. We were brought to a full classroom of Spanish students to do a presentation on our Erasmus experience in Ceuta. All of our training of recordings in Chris Finns classes paid off as I felt we all done brilliant as we didn’t lose their attention, and we had them smiling and laughing and there were a flurry of questions afterwards. The teachers and students alike were very pleased with this and it was sad to say that tomorrow would be our last day seeing them, when we go for dinner with the teachers and drinks with the students. I headed off to a café for a bite to eat while the rest made some home cooked food. Tomorrow Ketty has offered to bring myself, Mariola, Patsy and Emily on a tour of Ceuta as they are the only ones who have missed the viewpoints. I can’t thank Ketty enough for all she has done for me. Ketty and the college have made the trip.
Patrick: Today we had to do a presentation at the school for the students where we showed what we got up to for the last couple of weeks and we also discussed what we learned along the way. I never liked doing presentations and I get pretty nervous standing in front of people and talking, but during the GTI year we had to do several presentations so I got better at it. As soon as we started talking and I saw they were genuinely listening to us and interested on our thoughts about the Erasmus programme I changed my mind. This was actually a great idea and I hope that after we were finished a few of the students will start thinking seriously about signing up for Erasmus. I tried to tell them all how important it is for everybody to get themselves out of their comfort zone and hopefully a few of them will have understood. The presentation went well and we cracked some jokes, showed some photos from the past few weeks and I could see that we kept everyones attention. Everyone is happy.
Mariola: Today at work my mentor Isaac showed me what he is going to prepare for tomorrow's interviews and who is the guest, so I did some research on them. It is not only the knowledge about work that I’m getting, but also a knowledge about Ceuta’s political and social situation which is very valuable. Only a year ago I didn’t know about this Spanish city in the African continent and now I’m here learning so much about their beautiful culture.
Today after work was very important day as we have to do the presentation for students in Puertas Del Campo School. Yesterday we had prepared some slides and today I had done some notes to keep all information on track. Presentations are something which still stress me out but I know the idea is great, as that is very important part of our Erasmus journey. It was actually a great time in the school. This time we met many more students and our favourite teachers.
Afterwards, we went to ‘Feria del Libro’, which is a kind of book fair in the city centre. There was so many great, interesting books. I’ve got an amazing book; ‘El monstruo de colores’ which consists of amazing carved pictures which is actually a gift for my niece.
Dan: Today I had to go with Ketty to Ospina, the company in charge of maintaining the upkeep of the beaches, walkways etc. in Ceuta. We had to get their stamp on a document proving they had their annual inspection and also to see if they needed any extra plaques i.e. to change 2017 to 2018. On our way there Ketty brought be to the Moroccan border, the side you aren’t allowed to cross. This was incredible as literally a barrier separated two towns a stone’s throw away! She brought me the scenic route through the mountains to see the views of Ceuta and Morocco in one go. This was beautiful even though it was cloudy and foggy it was still incredible! Whilst we were up there the Spanish army were out practising their training drills. This was just something else as their camouflage blended perfectly with the surrounding wildlife. At one stage I saw one guy who turned out to be part of a 6 man squad that were all side by side. It is where they can practice there shooting away from the city. The views were amazing, a picture couldn’t capture its true beauty.
On our way down we passed a number of neo-medieval forts. They were used for strategic positions hundreds of years ago. We then went to the far side of Ceuta for a real treat. Ketty brought me to a historical military museum! It was amazing as one of my hobbies is history, especially warfare. Looking at the different weapons, artillery, cannons, the castle itself, the communication methods used etc. was overwhelming. Underneath the castle was a beach, which Ketty said had the cleanest water in all of Ceuta. The tranquillity and isolation was amazing. The clouds had cleared and the sun was leaving a beautiful shine of the water and cliffs. After I headed to the apartment to get some lunch, before heading to the beach as I realised my time in Ceuta is nearly over. I went home after the beach to rendezvous with everyone else as we were meeting Patsy and Emily to go for some dinner. We went to my favourite and Patsy’s favourite D’Armandos and had ice-cream after in the best ice-cream parlour in town! We headed home to make some headway on our presentation we would be giving in the college the next day.
Patrick : Today was a pretty good day again. I’m getting used to working on the computer through Spanish so I’m getting faster at everything and getting through more work. They have given me the job of gathering information from competitors on products they both sell so I spent the day checking prices and postage fees along with delivery times of competitors and compiling a report for the boss man. Not the hardest job in the world but it is time consuming. I had a quick bite to eat after work and headed to the beach for a few hours before heading back to work to meet with Ima and Pablo who took me for a drive up the mountains and around the countryside of Ceuta. This was probably one of the best things I have done so far as they showed me some places that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise as it is off the beaten track. We had some sweet Moroccan tea up on the Isabel lookout and then went back into town for a few drinks and some tapas. This whole trip has been a really great experience and it keeps getting better and better.
Mariola: That is my last Tuesday at work. I will miss this place. This week seems to be really quiet or maybe it is because Spanish people work differently. You will never feel a pressure, the way they perform at work is so great. People looks so relaxed and happy. Always smiling and happy to give you a hand. It will not be easy to say 'Goodbye'.
After work I went for a walk. As all of us needed some time alone I went on my own for a walk again toward West side of peninsula. Area is so different than East or the centre where we stay. I actually didn't feel comfortable as no one was with me so I did not get on foot to the place I wanted which was another huge beach. I only reached some far fart of it with huge 'concrete blocks - rocks' and with really great view over the Gibraltar.
The weather that day was beautiful so when I came back home, I've decided with Lariane visit first time the Parque Maritimo del Mediterraneo. The place is beautiful, as this is only beginning of the season and busy time for students and also Ramadan time there was not many people, only few. It's been very quiet there but good for a change to spend couple of hours in such a lovely aqua park.
Dan: I went to meet Ketty this morning at café Regina for breakfast before work. It was unusual to see so many people up, and in a café that early compared to back home in Ireland. Today we went around inspecting the plaques on various businesses to see if they are all up to date, or whether to revoke them etc. Afterwards, we had to prepare two manuals for McDonalds and Burbujas, the scuba diving centre. I had to find the file on the computers database, print it and bind it into a manual booklet. We then delivered it to both businesses. Ketty told me that she will bring me on a tour of Ceuta tomorrow and to a couple of museums. After this we have to go and take pictures of plaques as they need to be replaced, repaired or revoked. Ketty gave me 5 bags of gifts today; 2 for me and one each for Patrick, Mariola and Lariane.
We received a waterproof phone cover for water sports, sunglasses, mini bag, Ceuta t-shirt and little goodies. I also received 3 posters of Ceuta. After work I went for a bite to eat in McDonalds as I was craving some chips. After we had arranged to meet Patsy (our accompanying person from GTI) at his hotel, Muralla. We met Patsy and his wife Emily. I wore my St James Gaa jersey so they wouldn't miss me as I doubted anyone else in Ceuta would be wearing a Gaa Jersey! We had a nice long chat about Ceuta, GTI, our work placements etc. It was nice to find out that they knew my grandfather and know a few of my cousins as well. We arranged to meet up again tomorrow evening for a meal. We headed for the beach for a while and decided to pick up some food on the beach, as the restaurant there serves the best fish in Ceuta!
Mariola: It was a nice and quiet day at work. Everybody seems to be very happy after the weekend's football matches, as all my colleagues at work are Real Madrid fans. After work we went for a walk with Dan and Lariane to get some shopping before coming back to Ireland. Around 5.30pm we met Patsy, the teacher from GTI, who came over to make sure that we will all come back safely to Ireland. We also met his wife, she is such a lovely lady.
In the evening, we went to the beach, where the sunset was beautiful, quite windy but still amazing. We had really good fun at the beach, thank to the lads and their ideas on how to play and have good fun while sunbathing. We also stayed for dinner at the beach. I really like this place. Everywhere is white, glass walls, some trees growing around and that amazing sea view. I could live this life forever, here in Ceuta. As only Patrick and myself wanted to have a fish today, we ordered a huge one to share as they only sell a minimum of a 1kg piece. It was nice to get some really healthy food. After we went to a nearby ice cream shop to get our well deserved desserts.
Dan: I spent the morning relaxing, trying to get enough energy under my belt for the trip to Morocco tomorrow. At 4:45pm we headed to the soccer stadium where Ceuta were playing the second leg of a play off match against Majorca. If they won they got promoted to Division 2. It was a great game as they won 2-0 but 3-0 on aggregate. The atmosphere was electric as everyone rushed to the nearest screen to watch the Champions League final of Real Madrid vs Liverpool. We went to the Dublin Irish Bar for it to watch the match and met our friend Miguel. It was great as Real Madrid won 3-1. Every goal Real Madrid scored the pub was crazy with the bell being rung non stop. At the final whistle the speakers played the national anthem with the supporters on the tables singing and waving flags and scarves in the air. I have never seen such celebrations before! After all the celebrations we were so hungry, so headed to D’Armandos for some Pizza and Pasta.
On Sunday we went to Morocco. We went to the tour office 'Flandria' and met the other members of the tour. We got to the border and met our guide Mohammed. It took about 25 minutes to get through the border and we headed for Tetuan. The trip there was beautiful as the views were amazing! Tetuan was an unusual experience. We had two men join us here, one was a photographer and one was our “Security”. Walking through the Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Spanish quarters were much the same. Poverty was rampant all over, beggars on every corner, every animal malnourished which was sad to see. We were then lead to a carpet shop and we were told we were getting a history lesson about the different types of carpets that are hand made. It turned out to be a friend of the guide trying to sell us carpets at the price of €1500...maybe for a flying carpet! Then they dropped it to €100 when they saw we weren't interested. The Moroccan food we received was different, we got Moroccan soup, shish chicken skewers and couscous. It wasn’t my cup of tea! After Tetuan we headed for Tangier. The drive was stunning seeing the Moroccan countryside. Tangier itself was beautiful., but it can be a tourist trap. If you can’t say no or you can’t haggle you’ll be out of pocket in no time. I’ve never seen haggling at a such a scale before! We again met another man who lead us to certain shops as they were his friends. When we returned, we went to the beach for a bit and then for some food. I would like to return to Morocco to visit other cities and I might also visit Tangier again.
Mariola: Today it was not really easy to wake up. Thanks to Patrick I've got my energy back after he prepared a lovely nutritious breakfast. I was ready then for a lunch with my boss and his family and friends. I met him just when I left the apartment so we went together to the Ribera beach restaurant at the shore. The place is beautiful. I was there few times already so I knew it well. We were first, so it was very easy for me to introduce myself and chat with everyone. We had a really good time, and they all were so lovely and nice to me, I just felt like we know each other for years. It was a new experience to be surrounded by Spanish people and see what their weekend routine looks like.
Around 6pm we went to the biggest stadium in the city to see Ceuta vs Majorka football match. This was also something new for me in such conditions - beautiful sun and the sea view in the background. The game was good, Ceuta won 2:0, so we were really happy in the end. After the first game, we went then to the Irish bar for the Champions League final. It was not easy to watch the first half but thankfully for the second half we all could comfortably sit together. That was another great experience as everyone was happy after the match finished. On the way home you could hear the car horns blowing in celebration. After the two games, people were extremely excited and happy. It was a really good day.
On Sunday we had a trip scheduled to Morocco. We got the minibus around 10.30am but crossing the border took a while as it is difficult progress with all the passport control. As soon as we were on the other side of the 'frontera', everything seems to be totally different. Ramadan might be another reason why the streets were so empty. Going to Morocco was definitely a place I wanted to visit but the first city we went to, Tetuan was not the place like I was expecting. We walked around through tiny corridors of the markets and just because of Ramadan and as it was Sunday, there were not many people selling their goods. The problem is that it was very sad to see so many poor people.
Tangier is a really big city, about 1 million people in population. We also went to the market and this one was really huge. I could not really get what I wanted as we were running all around, and they only let us stay for longer at their recommended shops owned by their friends, such as argan olive products, some jewellery or handbag shops. I bought some bottles with argan oil, hopefully they will work as I've spent quite a lot on them. I also decided to get a beautiful moroccan gift for myself - a ring. As soon as the owner sees me he offered me a price of 75euro for one silver ring. I knew the rules about bargaining the price and I knew that the ring was not worth 75euro, so I wanted to leave the place then he would follow me and would say how dear that ring is. It is handcrafted pure silver. So I've decided to negotiate the price. Finally I've paid 30e and put my new lovely ring on straight after. Before we even get back to Ceuta, after couple of hours I found out that my skin under that ring has changed the colour, which means it was so fake ring. Not silver at all! No matter what happen I've learned my lesson and I'm happy that I could explore another part of Africa....a totally new experience.
Lariane: On Sunday, we woke up bright and early for out tour of Morocco. I was excited at the prospect of being able to experience a new culture and outlook but alas that wouldn't last too long. We had been recommended to go with Flandria. Of course this is based on one individual experience I've had with the company and cannot say they have been or will always be like this. Hopefully I just had a bad experience, that's a once off.
We met the tour guides at the port. The tour cost us €48 euros each. In my opinion Morocco is not worth the trip or the effort. It's been overly romanticised in my opinion. I thought it was going to be amazing but most of my experience were intense as the culture is to haggle and to make the most of selling to tourists at any opportunity.
The tour was supposedly going to include a camel ride, which didn't occur at all as well as local folklore during lunch which also didn't occur which was disappointing. Our tour group spent way too much time at that carpet shop. The soup was nice though, packed with spices and flavour. The chicken skewers were delicious and the couscous dish was overall satisfactory.
I had three things I wanted to get in Morocco, Argan oil, spices and scarfs. Yet, every time I approached any stand that sold any of these goods, I was just hurried along by one of the tourist guides. For me, Morocco is not really all that beautiful from the experience I had this time. I really had a hard time getting past the overwhelming poverty and selling at every corner.
Patrick Today (Saturday) is one of the biggest sporting days of the year in Ceuta. As well as the local team playing a play-off for promotion to the Spanish second division, it is also Champions League Final day with Real Madrid taking on the mighty Liverpool. We headed down to watch the Ceuta match in the stadium and saw the team win 2-0 on the day, and 3-0 over the two legs. The stadium was pretty full but people were starting to head off before the final whistle to get a place to watch the Liverpool-Madrid match. We went to the Irish pub for the big screen but by the time we got there it was already full. Madrid won 3-1 on the night and the place went crazy at the final whistle. The Madrid anthem was being boomed out over the speakers and people were dancing on tables and the bar counter celebrating. It was a great atmosphere. We met Miguel during the match and went off for a bite to eat before retiring to bed early to get ready for the morning when we head to Morocco.
Sunday: Morocco was just a one day trip and it wasn’t enough really. Our tour guide brought us to Tangier and Tetouan and through the local markets and stalls. Ideally I would have loved more time to spend out in the real countryside but this is what you get with a guided tour. It’s all about the bartering for prices which is great fun. Even if you don’t want the item, still have a go because you could get it for 1/10 of their original asking price. I bought a set of bongo drums for €5 after the opening price was €50! Great fun. We had some really nice food and bought some gifts and souvenirs, and I had a few chats with some locals who seemed interested and curious about us. I have a few words in French and had a nice conversation with a lady outside a mosque for a few minutes before running to catch up with the group again. Last thing I need is to be getting lost in a foreign country, again.
The Morocco countryside was beautiful, just not enough time to go exploring. It just means I’ll have to come back and visit again. Life is good.
Dan: Today was my last day with Cayetano. I met him and Ketty. We went inside and inspected a Café first. We were seeing how clean it was, whether or not the products were in date etc. We then headed in to the office with the managers to review their paperwork and documents. There incidents/reports folder was unusually low so we went on trip advisor and google and found numerous 3 star and lower reviews. These should have been noted in the corresponding folder so future complaints and possible remedies can be dealt with. After inspecting the paperwork we headed upstairs to inspect the rooms. The standard rooms were priced at €75 per night but if I return to Ceuta they’ll do €20! We were checking for cleanliness of the rooms, mini bars stock in date, Tv in working order, appliances working, bathroom clean and stocked, and doors serviceable along with the bed and sheets were fresh. We were then taken to the deluxe penthouse room, the best room in the hotel! It is priced at €250 per night but if I return to Ceuta they’ll do €200! It was amazing! It had 4 rooms, with a living room, a mini gym, a huge bathroom including a shower big enough to fit 4 people & a jacuzzi, and finally a master bedroom with a queen-size bed and a clear balcony view of bay & port of Ceuta. You can see the rock of Gibraltar and Spain in the distance.
After here we went to inspect McDonalds. This was one of the cleanest places I have checked and one of the fastest! The owner was waiting with all the necessary paperwork and as we were there before they opened, we could move through without halting the businesses flow. When we had finished here we went to a pastry cafeteria for a treat, before Cayetano headed for the ferry. I had 'death by chocolate' while discussing who would win the world cup, we agreed Germany or Brazil. On the way to the ferry Ketty and Cayetano dropped me off to go on a boat tour of Ceuta. I was with a class of children but I didn’t mind as I was getting a different outlook on the city. I was tired after all of this so when I returned home I spent the afternoon in bed to relax. We headed out for an evening meal to my personal favourite, D’Armando Pizzeria. We got back to the apartment, to get things in order as we had invited the Spanish student’s back and Miguel, one of the guys we met at the viewpoint.
Mariola: At work I had to finish what I've started yesterday. Laura journalist explained me today the way she is gathering information for her articles and how later she is writing them. Antonio was making good jokes today, it was not easy as I was trying to speak a little spanish which is still hard. We also talk about 'Partidos sábado' - football match on Saturday which seems to be very important for Ceuta especially if they win, they might get a chance to get promotion to higher division.This evening I've decided to spend totally on my own walking around the city. I made some calls to my family and friends. It's been a beautiful walk, I stayed on the phone for couple of hours surrounded by Marina which looked amazing with all the boats all around and all the beautiful landscapes.
Couple of our spanish friends came over that night so we played cards and we went out then. Tonight was really busy night in the city as I presume - 'the secondary school' had the graduation so especially in one place we have seen many students with their teachers all dressed up and partying together, which is quite rare compared to Poland or Ireland tradition of graduation. It was a really long night for us as we were on a good track to follow spanish tradition so starting party after midnight and finishing around 6 or 7. We had a good fun ! :-)
Patrick: Today at work was the boss, Ana, birthday. So at 2pm when I was ready to leave they started running around the place getting snacks and drinks and a cake! Everyone from all the offices jumped in for a photo and had drinks and food. A different way of celebrating than I know from being back home. The birthday girl never cuts her own cake or pours her own drink. This is because if they do they are supposed to have a year full of eating cake and drinking! So someone else cut the first slice and gave it her and gave her a drink. This went on for about 30 minutes before everybody slowly tipped away back to their office and I slipped out the door.
I went for a slow walk home along the beach and around town for a while to get some time to myself. There is a book fair in the square close to our apartment so I spent some time up there and got some nice things to bring home as gifts and souvenirs, even though they are all in Spanish. When I made it back home, they were just heading out for some pizza so I joined them for food and went back for a snooze before the Spanish students joined us again for a few drinks. A few drinks turned into a pretty heavy night out again but I had a lot of fun. Saturday is a big day for sports in Ceuta so I headed back reasonably early, but not really reasonable at all.
Dan: Today was quite a treat. I met Ketty and Cayetano at the Officina de Tourismo and we headed for a travel agency. It was quite a quick inspection but I could gather that the usual observations were being made i.e. opening hours, recommendations/complaints sheets, fire extinguishers serviced etc. After his we headed to Ben Y Ben which is Patrick’s work place. They were applying for an award that certifies them as a tourist location on Ceuta.si web page and App. This boosts business advertisements and sales as a lot of the Spanish tourists only go to locations in Ceuta with this award. From what I could gather I believe they will be awarded the award. After here we went to a craft beer brewery named Ceuta Star.
It was incredible as they manufacture it here and sell it to wholesalers and as a bar. I tasted a beer made from flour, a wheat beer, a lager and a strong lager. They were all tasty but they still don’t beat a pint of Guinness! When I finished work I headed to the apartment and met the others and we decided to head to Lidl and pick up some more milk as the stocks were running low. On our way we headed into a Café called Charlottes for lunch. We said we would go kayaking but when we got down it was closed. This was because the waters were to choppy, which are my favourite conditions for kayaking. We headed home and said we’d eat in so Lariane volunteered to cook. She cooked a great chicken dish. We said we would head to el Cielo for a quiet few as the views are amazing, the staff friendly and the atmosphere enjoyable. We popped into the casino afterwards as we had a voucher for free champagne. This did not go to plan as everyone was down €10. I have to say it is one of the nicest casinos I’ve ever been to!
Side note: Any future student who hopes to come to Ceuta should take up the evening Spanish classes in GTI as the teacher is very good. If you are picked for Ceuta your work placements and living becomes a lot easier. Even if you are unlucky and not selected for Ceuta you will still have a grasp of the basics of Spanish which can open doors in life. One of my regrets was not availing of this course when I heard about the possibility of going to Ceuta.
Patrick: Today at work I moved from the usual office to a bigger office because the usual person at my desk was back from holidays. I am now in an office with 1 guy and 4 other women. Although I will miss the people in the smaller office, they are only in the room 10 metres away, and call in every time they are bored and we can have a chat or go for a coffee. The women here are all talkative and easy to get along with, they understand that although my Spanish isn't very strong I am trying as best I can. The guy is from Morocco and he has really good English as he's studied for years in Finland and Spain. This makes things easier when I get stuck for a word or the women want to explain something important to me. They talk very fast here and I can kind of understand what they are saying most of the time. But listening and speaking ae two different things, so even though I'm getting better, there are still moments where I feel like I am just a nuisance. But they all try their best with me, which I really appreciate.
Dan, Mariola and Lariane went to go kayaking this evening but I needed to get some sleep so I went for a nap while they headed out. I needed the sleep as I haven't been getting a solid sleep since I arrived because of the birds and cats overhead. When they returned they decided it would be a great idea to return to the scene of the crime. The casino! I wholeheartedly agreed that this is a superb idea so off we headed. I don't know why it keeps happening, but I didn't make any money again for some reason. We had a really great night though and Lariane had come across a voucher for a free bottle of Cava Champagne somewhere so all was good. Got back that night and headed straight to bed. Meeting up with the Spanish students again tomorrow night and Miguel from the lookout. Hopefully steer clear of the casino. Although at this point, I think I'm due a good win. Positivity
Lariane: I had a tough day today at work which led to trip to the pharmacy. I suffer from sunlight asthma and usually don't need an inhaler, and I'm not prescribed an inhaler. I thought soon as it is an outdoor smoking only country… I’d be fine. Sadly I was not. Luckily I knew my inhaler and quantity and I could get very easily and cheaply over the counter. I'd really did put a damper on my work that day and also enlightened me as to why I was going home feeling “heavy”. Not quite weary but not great.
We had planned to go kayaking that day and we were all set to do so but alas it was not meant to be. I'd messaged him in relation to going kayaking but me and I had gotten back to me confirming that it was open so we decided to head down to the ribera ourselves to check it out. It turns out that it will not open that day and probably wouldn't be opened the next few days due to the bad weather conditions at sea. It was a little disappointing as I've been looking forward to this but such as life.
After that Mariola, Dan and I went to grab some ice cream which was delicious. I got white chocolate with coconut and turron. I loved it.
We decided to go buy some milk in Lidl and because I had not yet been there, I chose to go with the lads. I grabbed some food on the way and I came across the voucher for a free bottle of Cava at all casino so I thought that was brilliant as we had nothing else planned for tonight yet. Before we headed to the casino, we went to el cielo again. I had my first mojito and might just had found my drink of the year. Afterwards we headed to Luckia, which is the casino. It was pretty empty for that time of night. The Cava itself was brilliant, the losing cash was not but you win some you lose some. We got home pretty late by our standards and passed out in bed.
Mariola: Today I've started work half an hour earlier at 9.30am as we had scheduled 2 interviews same as every Thursday. The first one, more like discussion was taken in the studio, we had one guest and three people in the panel Laura, Isaac and Antonio. My task was to make some notes, again based mostly on non behavioural communication. I do enjoy that part very much as this is something I am very into so my psychological skills are very useful as the language barrier wouldn't let me to write any proper article in Spanish. I knew the topic as it was about technical side of 112 emergency service and what has to be put in place to improve the system but was not able to understand most of it. I've done my notes and then summarise in Word document after all.
After recorded interview-discussion in the studio I went with Antonio for a coffee to nearby cafeteria. He is a journalist for over 30 years, has an amazing experience. We were talking a bit english and Spanish as well so when I couldn't understand something I wrote that down in my notebook and translated in google translator which is so useful. As we spent quite long time chatting I went straight to Ulises hotel for another interview.
Cameraman David was there already. After a while Isaac showed up with our guest Fatima Mohamed Dos Santos. She is a politician, well known in Spain. Very nice lady, born in Barcelona but also a pride of Ceuta.
After I had to write my notes from both interviews. Tonight we decided to go to the Casino De Ceuta. They have a stunning outdoor bar there so we had a pint first then we went downstairs so we played Russian Roulette and Blackjack. I am actually not a big fan of casinos but this time I really enjoyed playing Blackjack with guys. We had so much fun.
Patrick:Tuesday night was a rough night of sleep. The birds must have been having an argument because they were arguing all through the night. This woke the cats, so they also chipped in with some beautiful songs of their own!
Wednesday was a bit of a quieter day at work after the hectic Tuesday. Still had enough to do to keep us busy but we all got stuck in and did our fair share. The people here have a different way of interacting with each other at work than I am used to in Ireland. Most jobs I have had in Ireland have been in the Hospitality sector and I was used to behaving one way in front of guests and customers, and then another way with the workmates. Here they just act the same way in front of customers and workmates alike. Maybe it's because working in hotels I was dealing with residents and hotel guests. This is my first time having a job not in a hotel/restaurant or back of a truck so perhaps it's similar in Ireland. Who knows? I'll figure it out when I get back to the motherland.
Mariola and I went to go to the other lookout on the other side of the city this afternoon. Supposed to be a 10-12km walk taking up to 3-4 hours. But we only made it about 30 mins from the house and Mariola's new shoes started cutting her feet so we turned back and found a place playing Bingo. We went in for a quick game but the numbers were being called out in Spanish at a really fast rate so we didn't really know what the hell was going on. Stayed for two games then ran out the door. Juan had recommended a place with good fish during the week so we popped in there and got some food. It was really delicious and the sun was going down so the intense heat was gone from us. A nice quiet evening topped off with a beer in a place close by the apartment. Bed early for hopefully a good's night sleep free from noisy birds and cats. We live in hope…
Mariola: Another beautiful day in an amazing city of Ceuta. Woke up as always and went to work as usually. In the office I could feel the atmosphere after manifestation which took place yesterday evening. That was a very important for the city as it was about situation around the border which is getting really serious. My today task was to create revision article based on 4 random news of this week, certainly in english.
On my way home, after work I've done really good shopping but not grocery for a change. They have so many good brands here, so many shops, so today I found few great clothes for myself and I am even more delightful because all were made in Spain what is quite rare nowadays.
After that at home we decided with Patrick to explore West side of the city, just before the border with Morocco and you can easily notice how different this part is. Most of the time I spend here as the area where we live and the work I'm doing is I would say in the most posh part of the city. Unfortunately I couldn't make this trip this evening as I was suffering from some blisters I got on my feet. On the way back we visited some Bingo place and because I have never play before, Patrick explained me the game. We didn't stay there for long but that was very interesting experience. I think in some way might be even beneficial because you can easily learn the numbers in Spanish haha!!
Then we walked around the city which is really beautiful so I was enjoying the architecture once again and even more as we walked through some new routes at least new for me. Then we found a really lovely restaurant El Mentidero one of the recommended by Juan which was just great. We have got 2 plates of different types of fish to share certainly as tradition states. It's been a good day! Another beautiful day in Ceuta!
Lariane: Today I stayed home for a while and relaxed after work. Work was interesting and challenging. I am constantly improving my skills and my Spanish so I am delighted to be doing what I'm doing. When I got home, we discussed what our plans would be for the weekend and the coming week. We discussed what we were doing Morocco and how it would get there. We made plans to find out more information in relation to the tour as well as what we would be bringing with us to Morocco in relation to money and food.
I went for a short walk which was supposed to be for me to find Wi-Fi and read the blog, but I ended up getting distracted by purchases and presents for friends and family home. I also miss two lovely guys who told me a lot about Ceuta and their experiences travelling around the world which was lovely. The locals are always so keen to talk and share their knowledge of where to go and what to do. So that 5 minutes stop to grab something in the store turned into a half an hour chat. Which meant I just came home after it instead of writing the blog at that time.
Once I was home, we talked about what we would be doing that evening and what everybody wanted to do it do it right. Mariola and Patrick were going to go to one of the viewing points and I was going on a mission to find Churros con Chocolate by night. After that, maybe get a smoothie or bite to eat in El Puente.
I am happy to report that I did find Churros con chocolate and it was better than I could ever imagine. It was such a thick creamy texture in the chocolate sauce and the churros themselves complimented it so well. I may not be a morning person, but I would get up for these. It was an amazing experience and everybody was so lovely about it. I can't explain what I was about the whole experience of eating churros by night was so lovely but it certainly something out to again. You certainly don't need more than 4/5 for a meal. Afterwards I got a smoothie and start working on and uses blog and updating her to make sure it was perfect for it. I was there till about 9. Catch up on social media everything is happening at home and the referendum. In some ways I feel like I am so lucky to be away from all of it right now, I don't know if I would be in a good place if I'd stayed home while all this was happening. I hate that I'm not voting but at the same time it's so horrible some of the things that are happening on both sides of it.
After that I came home, had a quick shower and got ready for the night ahead. I had agreed with the Spanish students, David and Jose, to meet up with them to go see Deadpool 2 in the cinema at 10:30. I wanted to be early because I don't have Wi-Fi and their primary mode of communication is WhatsApp. I took a short walk around where I'm staying and took some photos of the location, some of the statues that they have around the place and the whole city is just amazing by night.
I can't even describe what it was like to see movie in Spanish for the first time. I have seen are the movies in other languages before but usually with subtitles. This time I have no help at all and was awesome specially as it was a movie I was looking forward to seeing. I was surprised by the fact that I could understand about 80% of it and could understand most of the references that Deadpool was making two different movies and songs. It seems like there's only so much of the Spanish language you need to know in order to understand most things and after that it's only about improving it, developing better language skills and continuously increasing your knowledge of it. I am nowhere near where I want to be with Spanish but it was such an amazing experience to be able to come out of it and go did you like that I like that and explain why I liked the movie and the references and everything else about it. I could actually have a conversation about a movie I saw in a foreign language. I highly recommend anything for students to the same. Find a movie that you love and go watch it in Spanish and fall in love with the language.
Marian’s mom came to pick up everyone after the cinema, because she's awesome and I got to meet her little doggie. I adore dogs and am missing mine so it was lovely. We parted ways, making plans to meet up again soon. I got home at 1am and went straight to bed trying to be as quiet as a mouse as everyone else seemed to be sound asleep. It was intense.
Dan: Today was a great day! I met my Mentor Ketty. She was with Cayetano, the tourism quality inspector from Cartagena. We went and thoroughly inspected different businesses throughout the city. He showed me the report formats they use and checklists of the criteria standards needed to receive an award that will make them more well known. Small things like, opening hours, complaint sheets, fire extinguishers are examined, along with cleanliness, quality of products, stock being in date etc. It is difficult for me to understand exactly what is being said, as they are speaking very fast and the pronunciation is different to that of English words. After work I went home where Mariola had made a lovely lunch for us. I devoured it! I watched a movie and chilled out for a while. At 5:30pm we had to go to the college as we were being interviewed for the college's magazine. The two students interviewing us are muslims and are currently going through Ramadan, so it was interesting to find out a little about their culture. We spoke with them for a bit and answered all of their questions.
We spoke with Juan Manuel about the Morocco prices for a possible visit, and he said they were the best offers we were going to get and we would be the first ever Erasmus group to the stay for a night in Morocco. He also informed us that Ceuta's soccer team have a home game this Saturday and if they win they get promoted to division 2, which is huge. The division above this is where some of the best teams in world play, such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid etc. After this Real Madrid play Liverpool in the champions league final. Saturday is sounding like it will be a good day. When we got back, Patrick, Mariola and myself decided to go and walk one of the hills to watch the sunset and to see the night time views. This was incredible. I have never seen a more beautiful sunset going down on the landscape or over a city. We met a guy on the hill who is doing the same course we are doing in GTI, except they are doing it in Ceuta University. He said he hopes to visit Ireland one day and to improve his English. We spoke for about half an hour in Spanish and English and exchanged numbers to hopefully meet up before we leave, possibly this Saturday. It sad in a sense as we were half way through our trip in Ceuta, we are enjoying the experience so much.
Mariola: Another busy day in the office. Many things happening around so the crew has much to write about, unfortunately I am not able to write on my own (language barrier is huge in such workplace) so I can now look at others work all way through. I'm getting also great knowledge about this part of Spain.
After work same as always I got some lunch but this time at home, so then I could have a rest and chill before busy evening.
We had an interview at 5.30 in the school. Local teachers from our favourite Ceuta's school arranged this meeting so we were interviewed by 2 young students. It's been interesting time we spent there. We had a pleasure to meet the teachers who are helping us and giving great advices during our stay. Boys were very nice when asking the questions, I really enjoyed answering them. Because 4 of us had to answer the same questions, means we learned more about ourselves after all. That was their first interview they have done in English...same as for me ;-) so it was very nice, new experience. After school we went for a little walk with Juan the teacher. He wanted to show us how to get to the stadium, as this weekend Ceuta football team is going to play and this event is very important for the city because they are just so close to get to the higher division.
After we got back home Patrick, I and Dan decided to go for a walk to the very East part of Ceuta before sun goes down. Only 3 of us went there as Lariane was not able to make it this time. This was definitely one of the best time I had in Ceuta, beautiful walk up the hills first just by the coast road with an amazing sunset on the side. When we arrived to the very last point of East the sunset become even more spectacular and because we met a very nice Spanish guy, had a great chat with him so the sky changed even quicker. You will not get that when looking at the pictures, just being there, looking at the nature around and have a chance to listen the birds and breath that beautifully fresh air while looking at the Gibraltar at the very far opposite side of the sea, it's all going to be an amazing memories for life.
Also the way back all around the hills was even more fascinating and thanks to Dan when walking down towards city in the dark the view of the Ceuta, the lights at night were just breathtaking. It reminds me a bit of Monaco as it is also situated by the sea and on hills same as I would say a mini Las Vegas because of the beautiful lights. Came back home late but it doesn't matter as the memories will last forever.
Patrick: Today at work was crazy busy. Usually the Mondays are busy because they deal with the orders accumulated over the weekend. But with yesterday being closed, it meant we were dealing with 4 days of orders! However we all got stuck in and once I figured out what I could do to help everybody in the best way it all started flowing together like clockwork. We actually got everything finished relatively early which my workmates were amazed by. They were delighted and high fives were going for everyone.
We had an interview with two students in the school later that evening for the school newspaper. They questions were pretty basic but the two lads doing the interview were shy at the beginning and maybe a little worried about their level of English. Once we started they came out of their shell a lot and then we got on great. Juan brought us to the football stadium afterwards where Ceuta are playing a promotion match this Saturday. Could be a great chance to get a taste of the local culture again so hopefully we can all agree on what we are going to do over the weekend regarding Morocco and everything else. This is almost here halfway point of the Erasmus and still no major arguments. Not yet anyway. Still time haha
We went to the San Antonio lookout about 6/7 Kms walk from the apartment that evening to watch the sunset over the water. It was really special up there and we met a guy studying Business Management in Ceuta. A really good guy, we swapped numbers and might try meet up before we leave Ceuta in 11 days. Time is going so fast. Gotta make the most of it while we can.
Lariane: Today I feel like I had a lot more interaction with my colleagues, at work it's usually quiet enough most people keep to themselves. That must have been something in the water because today we have loads of chats and banter and fun together. It was a very laid-back chill day and I had my first middle of the day lunch which was a hot chocolate.
Work was otherwise uneventful today and the weather got a lot of work done it was just simply more but keep a more in putting off figures into accounts and making sure everything balanced and if it didn't figuring out why. Everything that I love but nothing very new to report in that sense.
After work and Rocio and I decided to go for a short stroll along the beach, this was mostly because her car was blocked in by two bikes and we couldn't leave. It was a beautiful day and I can't say that it hurts to go for a walk if nothing else it just give us more time to get to know each other and discuss everything we wanted to and anything else that would come up. Once we left it was her only a short drive from where we were located to the shopping center, this is the biggest shopping center around ceuta and has a lot of stores inside is much like a home. Though the variety here varies greatly from store to store so it really pays to shop around in case you like something in a different store better but you end up making a purchase. Here though, you are entitled to return anything and get your money back simply for not liking it. You can buy an outfit, take it home and get a second opinion. Decide you don't like and return it. I am not sure for this is the law or it's just common practice in the stores but it's damn awesome. It means that that outfit that you thought looked fabulous in the store but looks horrible at home can be returned and you don't have to pay for it.
So once we stopped shopping around and daydreaming with clothes, it was almost time for me to go to the college for my 5:30pm appointment with the students that were going to interview us for their newspaper within the school. So that meant that we had to run to make sure that we got there on time. In the end I was half an hour early and I got to experience first-hand what Spanish people go through if you're early something. It was a very interesting experience, I went to the college at about 5 and told them I would be there for the interview at 5:30 and that I was happy to wait around but it seems that they took it as though something was wrong, why was I early and wondering if something had happened so for future notice don't be early.
The interview itself was lovely, the two Lads we're doing it for the first time and had great experience from what I gathered. It is a very daunting challenge to speak in another language, the nevermind to speak in a foreign language for five teachers in the room too. They were very clear in the pronunciation, and I tried to speak as slowly as I could when answering their questions and keep the English very simple. There's no point in saying something very beautiful and elaborate if they cannot understand you so it was important to talk to them in plain English and just explain anything they couldn't understand. I can completely understand how nervous they're feeling because it's how I feel when I'm trying to speak Spanish in front of her Spanish speakers who are going on a million miles an hour. So they should feel very proud of what they did and how about the achieved today because it was no small feat.
Afterwards Juan took us on a stroll to the local football stadium which will be hosting a very big match on Saturday. Everything was fine until I dislocated my knee and I was in some horrific pain for a bit. It wasn't the end of world I suppose, it's something that happens regularly but it does not make it easier when it happens. It certainly put a damper on the rest of my evening and once we got home, Patrick, Dan and Mariola wanted to go off and see the sunset which was about 7 and 1/2 kilometre walk from our location but I knew that if I went or I just left behind. None of the options were very good so I stayed behind.
I stayed at home for about 20 minutes before I realise the money was already going to get better and I was just getting more pain because I was doing nothing and it was all I can think about. So I decided to take a small walk to the beach, which is about 5 minutes away from where we live. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was playing with the colours that night so it was totally worth it. I may not have gotten to see the sunset from above but I got to see it on the beach which was mesmerising. At the beach I'm at the Mira, who is a playful dog and was something that I was really really missing. I have a bichon a home called Bella, and honest to God she's one of the things I miss the most of all being here on. Every morning she would come into my room and make a ruckus and right now I don't have that at all and I can only imagine how much is missing me from all the photos or videos my family keeps sending me. We played on the beach for about an hour running back and forth and by the time I got home the last we're almost home. We worked on the blog for a bit until I went to sleep.