It’s been 18 months since I last left the country, when I visited Reykjavik, Iceland. It had long been one of my bucket-list destinations and I loved every minute but I haven’t been on a sunny holiday for 22 months and even that was visiting Córdoba, Spain, where I used to live anyway. So, technically, I haven’t been on a proper holiday since August 2018- a 3 day trip to Lake Como and Milan. That was 35 months ago.
It’s safe to say that I, like everyone else, am dying for an escape from the same scene of my home country to experience again the joys of a holiday abroad. Britain has some very beautiful places and the Covid-19 pandemic and not being able to travel internationally has had the pleasant advantage of spending more time visiting places here and discovering new corners of the country which had long been overlooked.
I have been learning Italian for approximately 8-10 months now since I met my partner who is from Italy, with varying rates of study. Sometimes I’m able to study intensively, sometimes I learn casually/passively and when work gets busy I can go weeks without much learning at all. He speaks fluent English but I firmly believe that learning his native language too is only fair! Learning a language is also interwoven with learning about a culture and vice versa so that’s another important reason for me.
I’ve been off work for the last 2 weeks for the Easter break so have had much more time to focus on learning Italian. In the UK we have been in a third national lockdown for the last four months due to the Covid-19 pandemic which means there hasn’t been much else to do during this time off! I feel I’ve made a noticeable amount of progress over the last fortnight so thought I would write a blog entry tracking where I am after 8-10 months and what I have done so far. The idea is that I will write another entry in around 3-4 months so I can look back and track how I’ve progressed as it is often hard to gauge. My hope is that international travel will resume this summer and that we will be able to get over to Italy in August (4 months from now) and that I will be able to converse on a basic level with locals in Italian.
One thing I knew from previous language learning was that whatever your learning style, it needs to be multi-sensory, frequent and as immersive as you can make it even when not in a country where your target language is commonly spoken.
“The sand is so black and smooth which contrasts with the white foam of the sea and the greyish sky overhead. The tide was out but the waves were quite angry as they came roaring and crashing on to the shore.”
I watched a documentary on Iceland in 2008 and my sister went there in 2009. Ever since then, I had waited and waited for the chance to visit the land of fire and ice for myself.
The opportunity didn’t present itself for a while with so many other things over the years, so many other countries. When my cousins told me they would be visiting Reykjavik before flying on to New York, I booked on to the first part of their trip in a heartbeat! While I would have loved to have gone to New York, I’m in the middle of buying my first house alone so this time it was not to be…
There was SO much preparation to do for those 3 days in Reykjavik and the internet was a goldmine for research. I had to buy so much cold weather gear that will probably sit in my wardrobe unused for a long time but at least it’s there for any future trips.
In this blog post, I’m going to pass on what I did, what you need for a trip there and key information for getting the most out of three days.
In Spanish they would call these curiosidades, that is, curious facts about something.
Like any place in the world, what is totally normal to one nation could seem peculiar to another. As an Englishwoman in Spain, it provided endless fascination to discover more and more curiosidades along the way. When I moved to Córdoba, I knew I was going to have to quickly adapt, battle with the language and learn how to cope in the heat. What I didn’t anticipate though was that I was going to have to learn all the little ways that actually make a big difference to day-to-day things such as going shopping or eating out.
Here, I’ll tell you about 12 of these along with some explanation as to how they came about! If you know of any more or want to find out more about the following, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
1. The tooth fairy does not bring a coin in exchange for a fallen tooth, in Spain it is a mouse
El Ratoncito Pérez (Pérez the little mouse) is the figure who takes away children’s fallen teeth and leaves behind a coin in exchange, all over Spain and Latin America. He originated in Madrid in 1894 by a Royal Counsellor named Friar Luis Coloma.
He was commissioned by the royal family to write a story for the 8 year old Alfonso XIII when he lost a tooth, so Coloma conjured up a story about a little mouse who collects teeth and takes them back to the little biscuit box where he lived with his family.
In Madrid, there is actually a small museum dedicated to this fairy tale called ‘Casita Museo de Ratón Pérez’ which is obviously, a child-friendly thing to do whilst there.
France also has its own version of the tooth collecting mouse, called La Bonne Petite Souris.