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Murillo from another perspective: what would he have have painted today?

March 29, 2018 – 12:21 pm


Cristianos-y-Musulmanes-based-on-Murillos-Santa-Justa-and-Santa-RufinaCristianos y Musulmanes based on Murillos Santa Justa and Santa Rufina


This year Seville celebrates the 400th anniversary of the birth of the baroque painter, Esteban Murillo.

His emotive, endearing works feature subjects such as St Joseph with a chubby-cheeked toddler Jesus in a flowing frock, ethereal Virgin Marys in pretty blue dresses, and Seville’s patron saints, Santa Justa and Lucia, the martyred potter sisters from Triana, with the Giralda. Murillo’s intimate paintings of the Virgin with Jesus – more mother and child than saviour and highly-favoured lady – such as La Virgen de la Servilleta, are held in high affection in Seville. Several exhibitions have been organised for this year, including two at the Bellas Artes Museum, the first of which finishes this Sunday and recreates the artist’s group of paintings commissioned for the altar of the Convent of the Capuchins in Seville.

Murillo was highly influential and much copied, his soft and sweet treatments of children emulated by the likes of Gainsborough, while his self-portraits have inspired not one but two entire exhibitions this year – at the Frick in New York, and the National Portrait Gallery in London. His works are in permanent collections at the Wallace in London, and the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

While Murillo is best-known for his naturalistic depictions of the Virgin and child, and beautifully draped clothes in vibrant shades, he also painted more down-to-earth, realistic subjects, such as beggars, street urchins and flower girls. This was unusual for the time, when the church, as the most powerful artistic patron, preferred canvasses filled with angelic cherubs and suffering saints to inspire awe and win over its public.


Transexual-rights-activitists-portray-the-Women-in-the-WindowTransexual rights activitists portray Mujeres en la Ventana


So it is exciting to see an exhibition which offers a new take on Murillo’s art as social commentary. In Murillo Fotógrafo at Fundacion Cajasol, subtitled, ·Que hubiera retratado en el siglio XXI?” (Murillo the Photographer: What would he have painted in the 21th century?), contemporary topics are cleverly depicted in the style of some of the artist’s most famous works. The photos are by José Antonio de Lamadrid and Laura León, and feature detailed painted backdrops. All of the people featured in the photographs have experienced these situations in real life – they’re not just photographic models.

In El Desahuicio, a re-examination of Murillo’s El Regreso del Hijo Pródigo, a son whose home was repossessed and had to go and live with his grandmother, causing rifts in the family, asks to be reconciled with his father. With the financial crisis still affecting many in Spain, this is a reminder than life is not rosy for all Andalucians.

Two transexual rights activists look coquettishly out at the viewer in Mujeres en la Ventana, while a woman who became pregnant by the modern-day scientific miracle of IVF looks serene and regal with her swollen belly and characteristic sky-blue cloak in La Inmaculada del Escorial.

Two of the most striking photographs are the pair of large tableaus, featuring groups of people: Las Bodas de Caná is a commentary on consumerism, with a structure based on the Last Supper – a couple celebrating their wedding look unconscionably glum. In La Muerte de Santa Clara, young women regard themselves with their mobile phones as the demands for female beauty are considered.

Inter-religious harmony is the theme of the Santa Justa and Rufina work, Cristianos y Musulmanes – a Catholic woman and a Muslim woman stand next to the Giralda, to show how different religions can live side by side.

This exhibition is a clever and creative way of bringing Murillo closer to our times, of making his work more relevant and engaging for today’s society – personally, call me a baroque-philistine, I can only take so many of the Virgin and saint paintings held in such high esteem around these parts. A study of contemporary life as seen through Murillo’s 17th-century eyes offers some cheeky irreverence, as well as being realistic and bringing home the social problems faced by Andalucians.

The exhibitions is on at Sala Murillo, Fundacion Cajasol, calle Francisco Bruna 1, Seville, until 22 April 2018. For more information click here.


El-Desahuicio-the-Eviction-is-a-modern-take-on-El-Retorno-del-hijo-ProdigoEl Desahuicio (the Eviction) is a modern take on El Retorno del Hijo Prodigo


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Spain now no2 tourist destination in the world

January 12, 2018 – 4:25 pm


The portada (gateway) of the Feria
Playa de Bajondillo, Torremolinos. Photo by Sophie Careful


Today it was announced that Spain has taken the number 2 spot in most-visited countries in the world.

Previously, the US was the second-most visited country, but as of 2017, Spain has knocked los Estados Unidos off the silver podium for international tourism.

France remains at number one in the top tourism countries chart. The rest of the top 10 for 2016 (the remaining entries in the list for 2017 are still to be confirmed) were: China (4),  Italy (5), UK (6), Germany (7), Mexico (8), Thailand (9) and Turkey (10).


The portada (gateway) of the Feria
Seville’s Alcazar is one of the most popular historic buildings in Spain. Photo © Michael Barbatulus


Last year, Spain had a record-breaking 82 million visitors. This is the fifth consecutive year when the number has reached a new high, increasing 8.9% on 2016, according to figures from the Ministry of Energy and Tourism.

Splashing the cash

Spending also rose, as would be expected, though more proportionately than the number of visitors. The total amount spent on visits to Spain was 87,000 million euros, up 12.4% on the previous year. Each tourist spends an average of 1,061 euros.

Brits on top

Figures by nationality of visitor are only available for January to November 2017 as of now, but these show that the British are still the largest sector of all visitors, with 18 million in total. This is 7% more than the same period in 2016.

Brits are not shy about enjoying their holidays, with 16,604 million euros going on Spanish hotels, food, drink, shopping and other expenditure during their visits – around 911 euros per person.

Germany is the second-biggest visitor nationality, with 11 million visitors, followed by France at 7 million. These figures are from the Egatur tourism spend survey, carried out by INE.

This exciting news for Spain comes hot on the heels on the announcement that Lonely Planet considered Seville the Best City to Visit in 2018.

See our post about top international tourism country destinations from 2016.



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Seville – Best City to Visit in 2018, and Año de Murillo

December 15, 2017 – 4:53 pm



Last month, the prestigious travel guide publisher Lonely Planet named Seville as the Best City in the world to visit next year, as part of its annual Best in Travel list.

A great honour for the city, this will bring even larger numbers of visitors to the city in 2018. With new hotels and restaurants opening all the time, Seville is ready for its next wave of tapas and flamenco-lovers. The area around the Cathedral and Alcazar already gets very crowded when groups arrive to visit our UNESCO World Heritage site, so this will only become more intense – arrive early in the day to avoid the queues!

Growth in visitors is obviously desirable for any city which is a major tourist destination, but we’re hoping the city council will keep a check on incongruous chain restaurants (Taco Bell) which do not remotely fit in to their historic surroundings (the Archive of the Indies, also UNESCO-recognised).


Murillo Year - 2018 - will have exhibitions and routes about the painter.

Murillo Year – 2018 – will have exhibitions and routes about the painter.


The year of being Best in Travel coincides happily with (and was probably helped by) a major year-long cultural event – Año Murillo (Year of Murillo), which celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Sevillano painter. Best known for his religious portraits – saints, the Virgin, Christ, bishops etc – Murillo broke the mould in that, as well as saints and the Virgin, he also depicted common people – street urchins and young girls, giving us a snapshot of life in 17th-century Seville.

Año Murillo officially started last month, in November, since the painter was born in 1617. The youngest of 14 children, he was commissioned to produce numerous paintings for convents and churches around Seville, such as San Francisco (no longer exists; was located in Plaza Nueva) and the Convento de los Capuchinos at Puerta de Cordoba (also no longer existing, but gives its name to the Ronda de Capuchinos, part of the ring-road around the city´s historic centre).

His work was held in great affection, partly for its air of informality – The Holy Family with a Little Bird depicts Mary, Joseph and Jesus as a surprisingly normal family: the mother gazies adoringly at her baby son as he plays with a dog, in an unusually earthly, even domestic, setting. Any family can relate to the feeling of humanity in this painting.

Inside the cathedral, you can see 15 of Murillo’s paintings, including his San Leandro and San Isidoro in the Sacristy, while in the Chapter House his Inmaculada, the Immaculate Virgin, has pride of place on the circular wall. Another location where his work can be seen is the Hospital de la Caridad, in the Arenal.

You can visit the painter’s house in barrio Santa Cruz (calle Teresas), from where various routes will start, taking in buildings where his works are displayed.

One of the most exciting aspects of these exhibitions is that works which have been away from Seville for centuries are being brought “home” (temporarily) from museums all over the world such as the Prado, Louvre and National Gallery in London.


 Santas Justa and Rufina (with the Giralda) by Esteban Murillo.

Santas Justa and Rufina (with the Giralda) by Esteban Murillo.


Exhibitions are taking place in Espacio Santa Clara and the Museo Bellas Artes, among other locations. At the Bellas Artes you can see the series of paintings he did for the Capuchinos, reunited for the first time ever, including works brought from Hamburg, Vienna and New York. One of the most famous of these is Santas Justa y Rufina, which shows the Christian martyrs, who were potters from Triana, in their iconic pose with model of the Giralda.

You can also go to concerts, plays, and try period gastronomy, to get a taste of 17th century Seville ç the city as it was in Murillo’s time.

For more information on exhibitions and activities in the Year of Murillo, see here



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Chef del Mar wins Andalucia’s first-ever three Michelin stars

November 24, 2017 – 11:09 pm Aponiente's listing in the Michelin guide. Aponiente’s listing in the Michelin online guide, showing the pescatarian restaurant’s coveted three-star ranking.

When the Michelin stars for Spain and Portugal in 2018 were announced earlier this week, there was some exciting news for Andalucia: the region added to its tally in the most impressive and prestigious way possible.

We now have our first three-star establishment: Aponiente by Angel Leon, in El Puerto de Santa Maria (Cadiz). The ground-breaking “Chef del Mar” specialises in using high-tech, innovative techniques to create dishes from an astonishing variety of marine ingredients, including fish often overlooked by others, such as plankton sponge cake and seafood chorizo.

Leon now joins the hallowed ranks of just 11 chefs in Spain and Portugal who bear the triple crown; to put this into context, the UK only has five three-starred restaurants.

As the Michelin guide puts it:

Immerse yourself in the fantasy culinary world of Angel Leon, a gastronomic visionary.
He has taken his cooking into unchartered territory thanks to his prodigious technical ability,
boundless creativity and, above all, a constant love affair with the sea

In addition to this highest of honours, Leon’s Alevante restaurant at the nearby Melia Sancti Petri hotel, a five-star GL beach resort in Chiclana de la Frontera, earned its first estrella Michelin.

The other new Michelin star in Andalucia went to Benito Gomez’s Bardal in Ronda. This restaurant run by the Barcelonan chef resumes the Michelin tradition in the hilltop town started by two-starred Dani Garcia just over a decade ago – he earned his first star there at Tragabuches in 2000.

As a result, Malaga and Cadiz the two Andalucian provinces which boast most gastronomic gongs, with nine and four respectively. Almeria (province) and Cordoba (city) have two each, while Seville and Huelva regional capitals have one each.

For the 16 restaurants with Michelin stars in Andalucia, see this page.

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Multi-Charity Christmas Fair in Estepona

November 13, 2017 – 9:44 pm


A multi-charity Christmas fair, organised by the Anglican Church in the Costa del Sol, will be held in Estepona on 25 November.

Entrance is free, and visitors can enjoy live music and entertainment throughout the day, as well as Santa’s Grotto, face painting, magic shows, bouncy castle, classic cars from the Classic Car Club of Andalucia, and 30 stalls with great Christmas present ideas.

The five charities that the local church is supporting will be there (Collective Calling, Caritas, Aspandem, Little Sisters of the Poor and Emaus), as well as other charities aiming to raise much needed funds for their causes.

The fair, which will be at the Palacio de Congresos in Estepona, will be opened by Hannah Murray of TRE Radio.

There will also be food and drink on offer.

Visitors can enter a charity prize draw with big prizes (to be drawn at the fair).

Date: Saturday 25 November
Time: 11am – 3pm
Venue: Palacio de Congresos, Estepona

For more information:
email [email protected]
call 952 808 605

Read interview with Rev. Adrain Low

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Sherry Week is on now: 6-12 November!

November 7, 2017 – 3:54 pm Sherry Week is from 6 - 12 November. This is the fourth annual Sherry Week, taking place in 26 countries.

Anyone who enjoys drinking Sherry, the versatile fortified wine from the town of Jerez de la Frontera (Moorish name: Xerez, pronounced Sheresh), will be delighted to hear that this week is Sherry Week!

The annual worldwide celebration of these wines, which range from bone-dry to smooth and sweet – fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso, palo cortao, cream and Pedro Ximenez – has grown every year since it started in 2014. This year more than 2000 events are being held in 26 countries around the world, from now until Sunday 12 November.

Sherry Week was founded by Spanish-Australian marketer Chelsea Anthon Penas – you can read our interview with this dynamic wine-loving entrepreneur here. The Week started off as World Sherry Day, and since has grown exponentially, with countries from Australia to the US, via Ecuador, Norway and Taiwan, hosting events.

Andalucia is hosting a number of events.

In Spain alone you can go to a staggering 900 events, of which the most popular type is gastronomy-related – in other words pairing Sherry with food. This will usually consist of a tasting menu of three or more tapas, each paired with a Sherry which complements its flavours. But the dishes don’t have to be typically Spanish – any type of world cuisine can be matched to a sherry. In some restaurants, a dish or tapa paired with a Sherry with be available as a special offering throughout the week. You can also go to a tasting, where an expert will guide you through a number of Sherries, called a “flight”, explaining the subtleties of each individual wine.

Leading the charge here in Andalucia in terms of Sherry Week events is Seville, with nearly 300 tastings and pairings, followed by the Sherry Triangle – the towns of Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda – the only area where Sherry can be made – also hosting around 300 events.

To find a Sherry Week event near you, use the search on the Sherry website, while the hottest hashtag on Social Media this week is #sherryweek


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Fortuny’s vision of Andalucia at CaixaForum Seville

October 3, 2017 – 2:01 pm La Maestranza de Sevilla by Mariano Fortuny La Maestranza de Sevilla by Mariano Fortuny


A new exhibition at CaixaForum in Seville, Andalucia in the Imagination of Fortuny, examines the Granada period of Catalonian painter Mariano Fortuny.

Fortuny (1836-1874)  is considered by many the greatest 19th-century painter after Goya, and one of Spain’s most important artists, despite his tragically short life and career.

The artist lived in Granada with his wife and their son from 1870-1972. At the time when the Fortuny family arrived, the city was an isolated spot, culturally as well as geographically, well off the map of established artistic hotspots like London, Paris and New York. The painter, flushed with recent critical and commercial success in the French capital, but also wanting to escape the associated pressures of his new status, found a sense of peace where he could rediscover his creative talent.

Fortuny’s production while living in the city of the Alhambra was prolific. He painted many of its streets and buildings in romantic style – he loved the atmospheric narrow alleys – as well as scenes of Seville, and of Morocco.

La Matanza de los Abencerrajes by Mariano Fortuny La Matanza de los Abencerrajes by Mariano Fortuny

One of his most famous works was painted in Granada, La Matanza de los Abencerrajes. The bloody scene is set in the Alhambra’s Sala de los Abencerrajes, off the Courtyard of the Lions.

Legend has it that the Banu Al-Sarrya (the original Arabic version of the name), an important political dynasty, were massacred here by the Zenete, a rival family. The Zenete claimed that one of their women was involved with a man from the Al-Sarrya, and so 36 of that family’s men were invited to dinner and slaughtered (perhaps inspiring a notorious episode of Game of Thrones).

Another notable painting, toward the end of the exhibition, is La Maestranza de Sevilla, showing the bullring with the cathedral behind. Also look out for Torre de las Damas, part of the Alhambra which so entranced Fortuny.

Marroquies by Mariano Fortuny Marroquies by Mariano Fortuny

Some paintings have a Moroccan theme, as Fortuny was sent there in 1859 to document the Spanish-Moroccan war (remember, this was before the era of photography). He painted Moroccans and also Islamic ceramic tiles with typically striking geometric designs.

Childrens area - as always as CaixaForum exhibitions, handicrafts activities related to the show are offered free. Childrens area – as always as CaixaForum exhibitions, handicrafts activities related to the show are offered free.

This show consists in part of sketches and drawings, studies for oil paintings, some of which you can see in the exhibition. Many of these show fascinating details of local granadinos, their clothes, houses, patios and gardens.

One curiosity worth mentioning is that each of Fortuny’s works is stamped with a “Fortuny” mark. This is to certify its authenticity as one of the painter’s works, dating from when all his oeuvre was gathered together by the National Museum of Catalonian Art.

Sadly, Fortuny died of malaria shortly after his stay in Granada, in 1874, at the young age of 36. His son, also Mariano Fortuny, who was born in Granada, became a successful fashion designer.

Fortuny fans may be interested that the Prado in Madrid is hosting another exhibition of his work, Mariano Fortuny (1838-1874), from 21/11/2017 to 18/03/2018.


Andalucia en el Imaginario de Fortuny is at Caixa Forum, Seville until 7 January 2018

Camino de los Descubrimientos, esq calle Jeronimo de Aguilar, 41092 Sevilla

Open daily 10am-8pm (Closed 25 December 2017, 1 and 6 January 2018)


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Most unusual Andalucian festivals in September

September 1, 2017 – 6:47 pm

Guest post: Andrés Lopez Sheridan

Andalucía is well known for its authentic and traditional parties and celebrations. If you thought everything was over after the high summer season season, think again – Welcome to September!

Cascamorras Festival
Cascamorras Festival ©Michelle Chaplow

I have just discovered one of the coolest celebrations that takes place in Andalucía, yet it’s surprisingly unknown outside of Granada. Cascamorras has everything to become a mainstream festival; I can already imagine the towns of Baza and Guadix flooded with hundreds of tourists coming to get completely drenched in ecological paint.
The story says that Juan Pedernal, a workman from Guadix, found a holy image of a virgin while working the field in Baza. He tried to take it back to his hometown but Baza claimed it as their own. It was decided that the statue would stay in Baza but it would be taken to Guadix for just one day. When Juan Pedernal, also known as Cascamorras, attempted to take it back to Guadix he got literally whacked out of town. The poor man was also beaten up by his fellow countrymen again, when he came back empty handed. Today, if the Cascamorras (a person picked yearly from Guadix) remains clean and reaches the virgin that is kept in the church in Baza after being attacked by the whole town with black oil, he will be able to take the sacred statue back with him.

Sound impossible? That’s because it is. And the story doesn’t finish just there as the chosen Cascamorras still has to return to his hometown. Three days later the party relocates to Guadix where, when the Cascamorras arrives empty handed, the locals decide to punish him by covering him and themselves with coloured paint.
Feel like ruining your clothes and joining in on this splashy festival? The Cascamorras festival takes place between Guadix and Baza in the region of Granada during the 5th to the 9th of September.

For a personal account of experiencing this festival, see this article on last year’s event.

Fiesta de la Vendimia or The Harvest Festival
Grape Harvest Festival Jerez

Among the famous Vendimia Festivals in Spain, it’s impossible not to mention the Grape Harvest Festival of Jerez de la Frontera, which celebrates one of the most important harvest festivals in Spain. These are the very same grapes used to make its internationally recognized sherry. During the first two weeks of September Jerez pays tribute to its wine and the people that make it. The treading of the grapes, ‘Pisa de la Uva,’ is celebrated in front of the Cathedral.

It is the most important and iconic moment of the festivity. It’s an homage to those who work the land of Jerez to produce one of the most important wines of the world. At the end of the treading, they offer a glass of fino (dry sherry) to the attendees. The Vendimia Festival of Jerez includes plenty of other activities during the two weeks of festival, such as different wine tastings, wine pairings with Andalucian gastronomic delicatessen and concerts that take place all over the city.
Want to try one of Spain’s most famous exports? The Fiesta de la Vendimia in Jerez takes place during the first two weeks of September.

Festival de la Luna Mora
Luna Mora Festival in Guaro. Pic courtesy of Guaro Town Hall

The village of Guaro represents that classical image that comes to your head when you think of an Andalucian white village. This small town is located very close to the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park. During this festival, this village takes you back in time five centuries. Merchants sell their handcrafted products in the towns market, Arab-Andalucian-Sephardic melodies echo through the small streets all the way to the main square, and all under the sole light of 20.000 candles that transforms this beautiful village into a magical experience. Snap some photos at this beautiful feria and you can easily boost your Instagram followers. #candles #andalucia #lunamora #comeonbabylightmyfire
The atmosphere at Guaro’s Luna Mora Festival is completed with other activities for adults, romantic couples or youngsters such as concerts, workshops, street performances, parades or storytellers. This spectacular festival takes place during the first week of September in Guaro, Málaga.
As you can see staying home in September is not an option! Get out there and let me know what your favourite September festival is!

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Jon Rahm will make his first professional appearance in Spain at Valderrama

September 1, 2017 – 4:58 pm

“I look forward to playing in front of the Spanish fans.”

Rahm will make his first professional appearance in Spain at Valderrama. ©Getty Images Jon Rahm will make his first professional appearance in Spain at Valderrama. ©Getty Images

Rising Spanish golf star Jon Rahm will make his first professional appearance in Spain at Valderrama, during the third edition of the Andalucía Masters on 19-22 October. The event is hosted by the Sergio García Foundation and sponsored by the Junta de Andalucia.

Rahm currently ranks 5th in the OWGR and the FedEx Cup, and 3rd in the Race to Dubai in his impressive rookie season. He won the Farmers Insurance Open, his maiden PGA Tour title, in January. In July he earned his first European Tour victory by winning the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open by six strokes.

The Spanish rising talent (born in Barrika, Vizcaya, on 10 November 1994) is relishing his home debut. “I really look forward to playing in front of the Spanish fans. Right after the Irish Open I went to Valderrama to practice for October. I felt a big sense of anticipation as I teed up on the first hole. I wish to encourage everyone to come and support us and watch some great golf. If the public enjoys it, we will enjoy it.

“My first round at Valderrama was five years ago when I played the Sotogrande Cup with the Spanish national team. It was a different experience because my game has changed a lot since then. I remember playing in a gale.

“Valderrama is one of the best layouts I have ever played. It is visually attractive and wonderfully maintained. Golf courses don’t need to measure 10,000 yards to be challenging. I find Valderrama very exciting and a good test. You really have to think your way through and play all kinds of shots. Mistakes can be costly, so it keeps you on your toes.”

Jon was two years old when Valderrama staged the Ryder Cup; his father Edorta recalls how the 1997 showdown introduced golf to his family: “We are a group of friends from Bilbao who enjoy a lot of sports together, particularly skiing. Two of our gang were invited to the ’97 Ryder Cup. They had no idea of golf, but they returned home full of enthusiasm. Two years later, Eduardo Celles opened his golf academy in Bilbao and we all started taking lessons. My wife Ángela, and our sons Jon and Eriz took up golf in 2003.”

The family became so addicted to golf that they took a week’s vacation every year to go to Valderrama for the Volvo Masters. Jon has vivid childhood memories of those tournaments where the trophies he collected on the course were the autographs of his idols.

“I remember my first visit with my father during the 2007 Volvo Masters. The first player we saw was Thomas Björn on the 7th. Then we went to the first to watch Poulter and Sergio tee off. We followed Poulter who played a great shot on the first. I went ahead of my dad and was lucky enough to see Justin Rose ace the 3rd, but my dad didn’t see it. We followed Poulter along the 4th and we waited for Colin Montgomerie on the 5th. The next thing I remember is the 17th, a great hole. You need a perfect drive to a tight fairway and then you are facing a daunting second – it reminds me slightly of the 15th at Augusta.

“On the 18th green I got my shirt signed by Nick Dougherty, Paul Casey and Miguel Ángel, but I don’t think he remembers. Harrington had won the Open Championship that year and I asked him for his cap but he couldn’t give it to me. I didn’t bring home any balls, hats nor gloves, only my shirt with six signatures on it. We went from there to the putting green and to the driving range to see some more golf.”

Ten years after collecting those autographs, Jon returns to Valderrama as one of the world’s top players. “In October I will be proud to play my first professional event in Spain. I look forward to playing the Andalucía Valderrama Masters in front of my home crowd and will do my best to give a good show.

“The boy that went to Valderrama in 2007 is still there, with the same dreams and the same ambition. I am extremely fortunate that my dreams are coming true, but this year feels more like a Steven Spielberg film – winning at Torrey Pines and again in Ireland the way I did doesn’t even happen in the wildest dreams.”

Edorta Rahm shares the same feeling. “I never imagined that Jon would get so far so fast. You dream that your son will make it, but being realistic, we insisted that he should complete his studies. I only started to believe that the dream could come true in 2015, when he finished 5th at the Phoenix Open playing under an invite as the leading world amateur. “All our family and friends will go to the Andalucía Valderrama Masters – we are looking forward to a great week.”

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5 Things I’ve Noticed as a Repatriated Spanish Expat

August 22, 2017 – 6:09 pm

Guest post: Andrés Lopez Sheridan
My name is Andrés and I have just returned to Málaga after living abroad for nine years. I grew up in a bilingual home in a small town 80 km away from Málaga. When I turned 18 I moved to the capital to study journalism at Málaga University. During my student years I had the chance of living in Portugal and Colombia thanks to the mobility programmes offered by the university. Since then I have been combining studies and work in different countries around the world including Scotland, Holland, Chile and the U.S. among others. In all these places I’ve met fascinating people, I’ve discovered incredible places and learned about different customs that changed the way I understood life. Despite all this I have always felt really Spanish at heart. However now that I’m back in Andalucía, there are certain things I don’t completely relate to anymore. Here are my five biggest culture shocks after returning “home”.

“Silence please, this is not Spain” “Silence please, this is not Spain”

“Silence please, this is not Spain”
Growing up in Andalucía I was a loud boy, a loud teenager and, looking back, weirdly proud of my high volume setting. For me, and I think for most Spanish people, being loud correlates with having a good time. I guess this opinion has changed while I’ve been living abroad. In Portugal I laughed at a sign on the bus that said: “Silence please, this is not Spain, and I’ve often felt self-conscious in Scotland or Amsterdam when Spanish friends couldn’t control the volume of their voices. Now that I’m back in Spain, my Spanish friends who ask me why I speak so quietly.

“Sorry, I lived in northern Europe for too long”
Greeting people is undoubtedly the most confusing of social practices to learn while living in a different country. Each nation has its own system: shaking hands, a hug, one kiss, two kisses, three… Scotland was the first English-speaking country where I lived, which meant I found its etiquette the hardest to understand. It was tricky to know whether I should shake hands, hug or just say hello. I felt constantly confused, particularly after coming from a place where the norm is two kisses for men and women, and shaking hands between men. But now, years later, I’m incredibly confused to realize that I can’t approach a Spanish person in the usual local way. “Sorry, I´ve lived in northern Europe for too long”.

Winter is not coming
For the last four years I’ve been based in Amsterdam. It’s my favourite city: the perfect size, with a great cultural offering, beautiful architecture and lovely people. The only real problem living there was the horrible, never-ending cold. I would actually feel afraid leaving the house in winter. The Amsterdam chill felt like a bunch of angry kickboxers slapping your face. Now that I’m back in Málaga, all I can complain about is the fierce heat that increases every year, and how overrated coats are!

“Mum, send me some jamón!” “Mum, send me some jamón!”

“Mum, send some jamón!”
If you ask any Spaniard living abroad what they miss most about their home country, 95% will say the food. Spain is incredibly proud of its gastronomy and probably the most difficult change when you live abroad is adapting to new food. That’s why I found it so strange when some North Americans asked me if we only eat Spanish food in Spain. I had never really thought about it; the UK has a big tradition in Indian food, it’s easier to find a Indonesian restaurant in Holland than an actual Dutch one, but Spain’s long gastronomic tradition – plus the isolation during the dictatorship years – means most menus still feature traditional dishes my abuela would have cooked.

“Bye again, Spain”
In the months before I came back to Málaga, I was really excited about returning to start a new life in my home city. Once I got here, all it took was one visit to an administrative office to swear I was leaving Spain and never coming back. Eventually I calmed down after remembering how painful bureaucratic visits had been anywhere I had lived. Maybe being in a foreign country, or not speaking the language, made me less demanding and more patient.

After all this I still can’t decide If I would rather complain about the cold or the heat, or if on a Tuesday night I should go for tapas or look for an Ethiopian restaurant. Anyone else have the same problem?


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