Friday, 30 November 2012

'Zen Kyu Maestro' the eBook, the Front Cover.

Just received the first front cover 'concept' from the publishers for the forthcoming eBook, Zen Kyu Maestro: An English Teacher's Spanish Adventure

Feel free to comment as the publishers are keen to hear views before committing to this or trying out another style. The book is completely original material, not a rehash of the blog, in fact I wrote it before I started the blog. It's a year-in-the-life of an expat teacher (my first year here) and describes life inside and outside school. It's possibly a bit more 'light-hearted' than the blog. All opinions welcome...

Book'll be out as soon as we've got the cover sorted.

STOP PRESS! It's now available! Monday Books and/or Amazon. FREE sample chapter (or buy now) available HERE. ¡Disfruta!  

Friday, 16 November 2012

Long Weekend in Madrid (3): Giant lizard on the loose.

It's nearly 20 metres from nose to tail and can be seen on the wall of a hotel in the centre of Madrid, drawing stares from passers-by. For more photos, and the surprising secret of what it's made of (can you guess?), see the 'Spanish Photo Puzzles for Teachers' page, above.

If you like the blog why not read the eBook? Zen Kyu Maestro, An English Teacher's Spanish Adventure available from Amazon. 
For a free sample chapter, click HERE.


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Long Weekend in Madrid (2). How to get a ticket for the match...

The view from the chap seats, 55 euros.

I'm often asked about going to football in Spain. The truth is that although it's not always cheap, it's a real joy. My two nearest La Liga teams are Valencia and Villarreal, although the latter are temporarily(?) no longer in La Liga, after their relegation on the last day of last season.

Very few Spanish domestic games sell out. Even tickets for the Clásico can be obtained, if you know which Clásico to go for. See the post, 'You can't get a ticket for the Clásico'.
Some of the big 'derby' matches (Real Madrid v Athletico, Espanyol v Barca, Betis v Sevilla) might have only the most expensive tickets available, but you shouldn't be locked out.

In fact, there are two things which are much more likely to cause you difficulties in your hunt for tickets, finding out the time and date of your match, and the price you'll have to pay for your tickets. 

La Liga publishes the dates of matches at the start of the season. But all these dates are for the Sunday of the weekend and all are provisional. So be careful if you see the date of your match advertised on the team's website. It won't be until a week or two before the match that the date will be confirmed, after negotiations with the TV companies. Some matches will be slated for Saturday, some will be left on the Sunday, while at least one is usually moved to the Monday. You can sometimes make an educated guess, especially if your team is due to have a European match in the week before or after the Liga games. 

So, if your team has a Champions League match on the Tuesday after their La Liga game, it's unlikely that the Liga game will be set for the Sunday. Similarly, if your team has a Europa League match on a Thursday, it's unlikely they'll be playing a Liga game on the following Saturday. If your team isn't in a European competition, and isn't playing a team who is, then you have to wait until dates are confirmed.

Kick-off times are also spread out to allow the TV channels to cover as many matches as possible. So, for example, next weekend's fixtures (17/18/19 Nov) pan-out like this:
Osasuna v Malaga   16:00
Valencia v Espanyol 18:00
Barcelona v Real Zaragoza  20:00
Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao 22:00
Deportivo v Levante 12:00
Celta Vigo v Mallorca 16:00
Getafe v Valladolid 17:50
Granada v Athletico Madrid 19:45
Sevilla v Real Betis 21:30
Real Sociedad v Rayo 21:30

This chopping and changing of kick-off times and dates is hugely unpopular with fans. It's practically impossible to plan your weekends if you don't know this type of information until a week or so beforehand. A lot of the (bigger) teams have responded by allowing their season ticket holder to sell-back their seat for a match, if they can't attend. And this is often the ticket that you will end up buying.

So don't be deterred if you log-on to your chosen club's website in the days before a game and see only a few tickets available. Check again a few hours later and there may be hundreds more.

You might find it difficult to buy a ticket on a club's website if you don't have a Spanish credit card. You might have more luck on the phone, but you may need a bit of Spanish and you'll probably have to present your card at the ground in person to collect your tickets. Spain has yet to completely roll-out its Chip-and-Pin system.

Don't be deterred by any of this. Get to the ground as soon as you can, preferably not on match day, and buy your ticket there. Cash will be the best guarantee of a smooth transaction.

Tickets usually go on sale to non-members about a week before the match, VIP seats go on sale earlier, but are very expensive. Don't use agents, unless you are very rich, the cheapest way to buy tickets is directly from the stadium.

That's not to say that Spanish tickets are cheap. For our top (third) tier seats behind the goal, Real Madrid v Zaragoza, we paid 55 euros each. There were some cheaper seats (behind us) and loads of more expensive ones (pretty much everywhere else lower than us or at the side of the ground). Match prices can change depending on the opposition and the competition. Champions League is expensive, Europa League is often cheaper. Other teams will probably have cheaper ticket structures than Real Madrid. Check websites.

It would be a good idea to have a look at a plan of the club's ground before arrival, so you have an idea of the section that you'd want to sit in, the price you might have to pay and a smattering of the appropriate Spanish words. Even better to have this written down, reading Spanish words using the English phonic system is a sure-fire way of ending up with a blank look rather than a ticket. Imagine Manuel (from Fawlty Towers) trying to buy a ticket at Old Trafford, and then picture youself shouting into a small ticket window in the middle of a crowd at the Nou Camp. See below for some help with football ticket words.  

One final note. On match day especially, you'll find the usual touts hanging around with wads of tickets, but you also might bump in to Grandad Pedro, who simply wants to sell his season ticket for the day. He'll be hanging around the box-office with his ticket (usually a swipe-card), and a scrap of paper, on which he'll have written his seat, row and section number. If you're able to negotiate the lingo and agree a deal, he'll swipe you in and give you the directions to your seat. 

Some match-day vocab.
Entrada: Ticket
¿Cuanto cuesta?: How much?: 
Tribuna/Lateral: Grandstand (at the side of the pitch, more expensive) 
Gol/Fondo: behind the goal (usually cheaper).
Alta: High.
Baja: (say bah-ha): Low.
Sides and goal are often labelled north, south, east, west:
Norte, sur, este, oeste.  
Tarjeta de crédito (say 'tar-het-a deh cred-ee-toe'): credit card.
Efectivo (say ef-ec-tee-voh): Cash. 

So, enjoy the game. And, by the way, Madrid beat Zaragoza, 4-0.

If you like the blog why not read the eBook? Zen Kyu Maestro, An English Teacher's Spanish Adventure available from Amazon. 
For a free sample chapter, click HERE. 



Monday, 5 November 2012

Long weekend in Madrid. Attention Sound of Music fans.

Now I know there are armies of Sound of Music fans out there, who dress up as nuns or goatherds and attend sing-along concerts, or travel to Salzberg for Sound of Music tours. I'm not knocking this, I've done the Salzberg tour myself, albeit mainly to accompany my wife Linda, who is a bit of a 'fan'. (And no, I wasn't dressed as a goatherd. Or a nun.)

So I offer this posting for those Sound of Music fans who are truly addicted and need to experience every Sound of Music opportunity, even if it's in Spanish!

Sonrisas y Lágrimas (Smiles and Tears) is the Spanish title for the (Spanish language) Sound of Music musical which is currently playing to packed houses at the Coliseum Teatro on Gran Vía in Madrid. As I've already said, Linda's a bit of a fan, but you don't have to trust her (biased) view that it was excellent, I have to admit it myself, it was.

Neither of us speaks white-hot Spanish, so, while we could follow the spoken parts of the play pretty well, we did tend to get a little lost during the songs, as the translations of the lyrics had been tweaked somewhat to get them to scan comfortably with the music. 'Climb every mountain,' for example, was sung as 'Sube montañas,' (climb mountains), but none of this really mattered as the music was note-perfect to the original and played live by an excellent 8-piece orchestra. 

The cast were also superb. Silvia Luchetti as Maria simply was Julie Andrews circa 1965, until she opened her mouth and started speaking and singing in Spanish. The children also were very professional, all rosy-cheeks and breathless enthusiasm.

We're not great attenders of musicals, so this might be par-for-the-course now in the UK, but I was surprised to hear an announcement at the start to the effect that it was OK to take photos and video during the encore. So, if you're a real 'fan', here's something a little odd, just for you, 'Doe, a deer,' in Spanish.

Doe, a Deer encore, Madrid 2012

And if you listen carefully, you'll hear Linda singing along in English.

(I was too busy working the camera to join in, sorry.)

If you like the blog why not read the eBook? Zen Kyu Maestro, An English Teacher's Spanish Adventure available from Amazon. 
For a free sample chapter, click HERE.