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Alicante at night –
the city glowing hot coals

In August 2010, I had the opportunity to escape to southern Spain for some sun, sea, sand and sangria, but this wasn’t just a holiday – it was a linguistic holiday. I set off for six weeks in Alicante, spending five hours every weekday at Enforex – a Spanish language school – and spending the rest of the time enjoying the language and culture of my surroundings.

Just two months after I had left my life in Toulouse, I was back at Cardiff Airport ready for part two of my Year Abroad. It was a beautiful summer Sunday evening and the skies remained clear throughout the flight, which made for a beautiful sunset as we flew further into the darkness.

Once we touched down at Alicante Airport, I watched most people on my flight make their way to various coaches to take them in all directions to their holiday destinations, but as for me, I was on my own, no tour guide or rep. Ten o’clock at night and the heat was still incredible. I took a taxi into town – the first opportunity to practise my two years of Spanish with the taxi driver, but I elected to just enjoy the journey into the eerily quiet city.

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Calle San Vicente –
my home for six weeks

Eventually, I did have to speak, but to the gentleman at a hotel who was retaining the keys to the flat I was staying at, and of course he spoke quickly with a thick accent as he gave me directions to my building – not great for my first encounter of Spanish in a native situation. Dragging 20 kg of suitcase behind me, I strolled the dark, humid and breezy streets in the direction that the man had pointed, arriving shortly afterwards at the four-storey building on what was a long deserted street of shop fronts with the shutters down under bright orange street lights.

After two flights of stairs, I entered the spacious but minimalist faux-marble flat to find no signs of life, but two bedrooms (with the doors closed) as well as my own. Like the rest of the flat, my room was simply furnished and naturally the bed was as hard as a rock, but it was only for six weeks. The sheer humidity at what was now around midnight meant I had one of the worst night’s sleep ever.

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Alicante by day –
with the bull ring in the foreground

Waking up the next morning, I looked outside from the balcony to find Alicante transformed into a bright, bustling, palm tree-lined street and was surprised to see the city’s main bullring stadium just a few hundred metres down the street.

I was then greeted by my flatmates, a German girl and an Italian guy, both just a few years older than me and as eager to kick off our ventures in Spain as I was…

Part 2