Saturday 21 July 2018

Learning magic in Vigo


 One thing I did during my time in Vigo that sometimes surprises people is taking a magic class. 

 I can understand how on the surface it might seem slightly random, and at odds with my other modules which were focused on languages and history. However, it came about quite naturally.

 I found a booklet in my residence about optional extra courses students could do for one or two credits. There were all kinds of things: photography, guitar, drums, cookery. I was interested in all of the above, but for timetable reasons the magic class looked the most promising.

 I signed up, and it was so easy and quick - the admin at Vigo was wonderful. I then went to my first weekly class, in Edificio Miralles: a long, thin building on stilts.

 It was located between my faculty and my residence, which was convenient - Magic was my last class on a Monday, so I could head straight home afterwards. 

 I was amazed at how big the building is inside compared to how it seems from the ground below. There are rows of seats outside the classrooms where you can wait, and the views of the mountain campus from the windows behind them - the ones in the photo - are stunning.

 The classes were relaxed and interesting. Our teacher was passionate about magic and performed his tricks with real charisma. He let us work at our own pace, sitting with us and helping us if we needed it. 

 I was the only student - to my knowledge - who wasn't a native speaker of Galician or Spanish, but there is something universal about magic tricks. I had done some when I was a kid, which helped. I remembered a trick I used to do centred around the Aces, and impressed the teacher with it.

The class mainly consisted of older men, with one other woman and three male students my age. This was a different demographic to what I encountered on a day-to-day basis at the university and in my residence, so it was a way of learning how older people live in Vigo, and how they talk. 

Their way of speaking struck me as very articulate, with a dignity that I admired. They asked me once about Brexit, but mainly we just discussed magic and helped each other to understand the tricks.

 One concern I had before starting the course was the cost of the equipment I might have to buy. However, the only essential equipment was a pack of cards, and we could buy them from the teacher. The only other things we really used were paper and pens, which I had anyway for my other classes.

 At the end of the course, we performed a show for friends and family. I did a trick, speaking in Spanish, which took courage, but it went well and I was happy and proud. We then received our certificates and a very quirky magic wand, which I appreciated. It was a nice afternoon.

 I am glad I chose to do this extra module, and I recommend doing something like it to anybody going to Vigo or abroad. You can learn or polish a skill, be completely immersed in the language you're learning, and meet people you might not otherwise. It definitely improved my confidence.

 Thanks for reading.

 Liz x

Sunday 27 May 2018

Galician language and culture classes


 I mentioned in my last post, about my modules at the University of Vigo, that I would dedicate a post to my Galician language culture class, because there is so much to say about it.

 This was more than a Uni module. It was a big part of my life, what with all the excursions we went on and the bonds that formed between us as students. I made some great friends from all over the world.

 We had five hours of lessons a week. We learnt Galician language - grammar, vocabulary - and did a lot of speaking practise in groups, which helped us to get to know each other.

 We would then study Galician culture - history, geography, art, food, festivals and traditions. We listened to a lot of music, of different genres, which I really liked. Galician classes came after our morning modules, and were a nice, relaxed way to spend an afternoon.

 Of course, I must talk about the trips and visits, as these ended up forming a kind of backbone to my time in Vigo. They meant I travelled on a regular basis - I probably would have anyway, but having organised tours certainly helped.

 They also allowed me to see amazing places that would have been hard to access through public transport but which a coach or minibus could get us to. Here is a recap of our adventures.

 The Monastery of Carboeiro - This abandoned Benedictine monastery was a remote, peaceful place, and the surrounding area was incredibly lush and green.

 The River Deza and the Toxa Waterfall - This hike was quite tough at times, especially as we were rained on, but the nature was very diverse and we encountered hallmarks of Galician culture such as the horreo (granary) and cruceiro (double-sided crucifix).

 The O Castro Mountain and Park - This was, at the time, the most beautiful place I had been; it seemed like heaven. The park above Vigo is full of public art, blossoms, water, bees, butterflies, lizards and frogs. It was gorgeous.

 Vigo city tour - I knew Vigo pretty well by this point, but I still learnt some new things, and enjoyed exquisite views from the higher parts of the city.

 The Monastery of Oseira - This Trappist monastery was large and elegant, and through our guided tour (led by a monk) we learnt a lot. The nearby village of San Cristovo de Cea was also nice, though we only had time for a quick visit.

 Ribadavia - This town, known for wine-making, was very colourful, with lots of leaves and flowers. We also encountered two dogs and a possibly-pregnant cat, and sampled local cheese.

 Sobroso CastleThis small castle, sitting on a hill and surrounded by flowers, was very calm and serene. You could buy specially-made chocolate, which was divine, and colourful woven notebooks.

 The house of Rosalía de Castro - Visiting the house of this respected writer was a very special experience. We were given a fascinating tour, and enjoyed a garden full of flowers and fruit.

 Padrón - Dominating my memory of our trip to this town is the heat - it was a very sunny day, which added a surreal quality to the chickens, roses, fish, dog and ducklings we encountered. It was a strange, dreamlike, but enjoyable visit.

 Pontevedra - This became possibly my favourite town in Galicia. I loved the chilled out, happy atmosphere, and the diversity of the slim, winding streets and the big, open squares. I just had to return, which I later did with my mother and grandmother.

 The Liste Ethnographic Museum - I learnt a lot about the history of Galicia here. I liked the museum's layout; the way there were different rooms based around different themes. I was particularly moved by the room all about light.

 Castrelos Park - I had passed this park regularly on the bus, and was intrigued by its hedge maze. It was nice to visit it - we were there in the late afternoon and I remember that low, lazy sunlight on the maze, sculptures and pond.

 Carnota - This probably overtook - or at least equalised with - O Castro Park in terms of being the most beautiful place I had been, and my idea of paradise. It was all green countryside speckled with wildflowers, horses and foals and goats, sand dunes and a turquoise sea.

 Muros - I enjoyed exploring this quaint harbour town with its narrow, hilly streets, mosaics, cats, swallows and ice-cream.

 The coastal fort at Baroña - This was a magical place. The remains of an ancient settlement perched on a peninsula, surrounded by rushing waves, and with lizards creeping about. It was like reaching the edge of the world.

 The Sea Museum - I spent a fulfilling afternoon here, exploring marine animals and plants, boats, diving, and the role of the sea in toys and games. It was our last trip as a group, which was sad, but we knew we would keep in touch.

 Overall, as I've mentioned before on this blog, taking the Galician language and culture module was one of the best decisions I made during my semester in Vigo. I really, really recommend it.

 Thanks for reading.

 Liz x

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Studying at the University of Vigo


 After spending a semester studying at the University of Vigo in Galicia, Spain, I thought I would tell you about the modules I chose and what classes were like. I hope if you are going to study there you find it helpful, and if you aren't you might still find it interesting to learn about university in Galicia.

 I studied at the Faculty of Philology and Translation. I took five main modules, which had the most credits attached, and two smaller ones. The smaller modules - Galician language and culture, and magic and conjuring - will get their own blog posts. Here, I will tell you about the five larger ones.

Languages, Communication and Cultures

 I feel this module fitted into the fields of anthropology and linguistics. We debated what language is; whether only humans are capable of it, or whether animals can be (an example we discussed being chimps who are taught to communicate with humans using sign language). 

 We also talked about how world languages are categorised, the differences between languages, how we acquire language, and about gestures. The classes involved a lot of discussion, which was good for getting to know people. 

 We were set practical tasks, for example recording one another speaking our native language, which I enjoyed. Overall, this was one of my favourite modules, and I was delighted to receive the Matrícula de honor in it - the highest honour in the Spanish university system.

Information and Communication in Spanish

 This module was about the different forms in which we may encounter the Spanish language. We learnt about the Real Academia Española, which decides on the official version of Spanish and produces dictionaries, and then we explored variations of Spanish spoken around the world.

 We looked at how language is used in the press and online. For our assessment we each had to do a big written project around an element of how Spanish language can be used. I chose to focus on the language used to describe the Spanish Royal Family in different newspapers and magazines.

 I really enjoyed working on my project and found it one of the most rewarding things I did in Vigo. The module was interesting and I learnt a great deal.

The History of the European Union

 This module did what it said on the tin. We learnt about the history of the EU, moving through the decades and looking at documents, maps, posters and political cartoons. I feel like I learnt a huge amount, both from the classes and from revising for the two exams we were set.

 Of all my modules, this was the one whose classes were most similar to Uni lectures. I liked our teacher's style of gently, carefully explaining things, and the way images were used - cartoons especially can help facts and dates stick in your mind.

 Brexit was fairly new when I started this module, and as the only Brit in the class, I worried I would be singled out to talk about it, but that didn't happen. It was a nice, chilled module. 

20th and 21st Century Spanish Literature

 In this module we read Spanish novels and plays, which took up a lot of time, but which I enjoyed. We were set regular little tasks, such as one on Lorca, whose imagery I find powerful and haunting, and one on Gloria Fuertes, who wrote many books for children, along with poetry. 

 We also worked on a play by Lauro Olmo called La camisa (The shirt), which really stuck with me, and a play by Francisco Nieva called Baile de los Ardientes (Dance of the Passionate), which was rather strange but very interesting.

 We had a visit from a poet, Ángeles Mora, who talked to us about her writing. It was really nice to hear her read her poems to us in person. This module was quite tiring due to the amount of reading required, but I'm very glad I chose it because I discovered some fascinating literature.

Latin American Literature: Poetry and Theatre

 In this module we learnt about poetry from across Latin America, from long, epic poems about gauchos (similar to cowboys) in Argentina to the beautiful little poems of the Nicaraguan Rubén Darío. We also looked at plays from different periods and in diverse styles.

 We had tasks to do for this module, too, with the most challenging but also the most fulfilling being a presentation on a Latin American poet. I was assigned the Uruguayan writer Idea Vilariño, and worked hard to learn about her life and work and present it as dynamically as I could.

 The rest of the class were native speakers of Spanish, so I was perhaps at a disadvantage, but I was happy with my presentation and the teacher was very pleased. I was marked 10 out of 10 on this module, and am very proud.

 I hope these summaries have been useful and interesting. I enjoyed all of my modules and definitely learnt a lot, both in terms of knowledge and in terms of working in different ways. I am more flexible and resourceful now as a writer and researcher.

 I got good marks in all of my modules, 10 out of 10 in one, and the Matrícula de honor in another. I was delighted with my results, and I look back on my hours spent in the Faculty - in class, working in the computer room, eating in the canteen, reading in the library - with real affection.

 Thanks for reading.

 Liz x

Saturday 19 May 2018

Food of Vigo and Galicia


 As I did in Salamanca, I decided to put together a blog post about the food and drink I enjoyed in Vigo and Galicia. Some dishes are linked to the region, while others are Galician twists on meals from other cultures, such as Italian or French.

 I wrestled with whether to feature seafood, as I am now a vegetarian. I decided to include a few dishes, as fish, shellfish and octopus are deeply embedded in Galician culture. I wouldn't eat them now, however, and I was never comfortable eating octopus as they are such intelligent creatures.

 Here are my foodie photos, with savoury first, then sweet, then finally drinks. I hope you enjoy them. Sorry if you end up hungry and desperate to hop on a plane to Vigo!




Creamy mushrooms - like a stroganoff

Ratatouille with eggs - one of my favourite meals

Potato omelette

Revuelto - scrambled eggs

Crêpe in Pontevedra

Paella-esque rice



More pasta - pasta popped up a lot in the Uni canteen

Pasta and prawns

Vegetables,, pasta and seafood

Fish with salad and a peeled, buttery potato which is a key element of some Galician dishes

"Carnival octopus" in Padrón

I asked for potato omelette and ended up with a potato omelette sandwich

Egg toastie - these were presented so prettily

The famous Galician empanada, or pasty



The famous Galician biscuit buffet!

Crêpe with caramel and flan in Pontevedra

Crêpe with chocolate and nuts

Fruit sorbet

Banana boat

"Pinocchio" sundae which for me was more of a duck


More ice-cream!

Sundae with grapes

Frozen yogurt

Creamy banana dessert

Custard and cinnamon

Rice pudding and cinnamon

Chocolate mousse

Crème caramel

Crema catalana

Peach, I think

Apple cake

Apple turnover

Creamy dessert

Tiramisu-esque cake

Orange layered cake

Chocolate cake

Sticky cake

Caramel flan

Flan-type cake with chocolate

Cake-y dessert. Not sure what its name is but it was nice

Cake with berries

Oreo cheesecake


Santiago cake

Easter ring


Eclair with custard

Pain au chocolat


Easter egg


As a non-caffeine-drinker I have a great appreciation for hot chocolate, and in Galicia it is gloriously creamy

Orange juice - often freshly-squeezed

A berry milkshake and a juice drink with oranges, carrots and more

Chocolate milkshake

Cookies and cream frappe

 As you can see, Galician cuisine is diverse and can be delicious. For me, one of the best parts of travelling is trying local dishes, and during my time in Vigo I did plenty of that. I hope to keep exploring new places and finding new sweet and savoury favourites.

 Thanks for reading.

 Liz x