Reflections on Our Spanish Adventure

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by Anna Parsec
Updated: September 19, 2023
9 minute read
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Very early planning

Since autumn 2022, we had been aware of our desire to attend the wedding of our friends, Elena and Manuel, scheduled for August 26th, 2023, in Spain. For months this had been a major point of uncertainty, not because we lacked the desire to go, but due to immigration-related concerns. I had submitted my citizenship application in December 2022, with the hope of receiving my British passport around mid-July 2023, but there were no guarantees. Consequently, our planning hinged on the progress of this application. Although I could have applied for a visa, recent circumstances made it an unattractive option, with visa centre slot unavailability, delays, refusals, and very short visa durations granted. Fortunately, all of these worries are now in the past, and I hope to never endure the horrible visa application process again. I’ve had my share. At the end of April, I was delighted to become the proud owner of a British passport, which has greatly improved my life.

Once my passport was in my possession, we began making arrangements. However, we were dissatisfied with the high cost of round-trip flights to Spain for this August trip (school holidays?), which amounted to approximately £300 each. We were determined to find more economical return routes, exploring options through Morocco, France, Denmark or even Sweden. Eventually, we settled on a London to Almeria flight for just £40 each, and closer to the travel date, we booked a flight from Granada via Madrid with Iberian Airlines. This choice also allowed us to take advantage of the opportunity to visit Alhambra (Here is the official website to book tickets if you ever get the chance to visit) and enjoy slightly cheaper flights at £126 each.

Dress to Impress

Something I was very serious about was the dress code, which stated “Dress to impress” something I was happy to embrace. It happens to be my favourite type of dress code. After months of searching, I finally found a dress that I believe made quite an impression. Interestingly, it was from the same brand as my wedding dress (Milla). In fact, I had purchased this dress for this wedding first, and having experienced its exceptional quality, I decided to order my wedding dress from the same brand as well.

Intense Holiday

While we had hoped to view this trip as an opportunity for a mini-break and some relaxation, it unfortunately coincided with one of the most intense periods of my group project at the university. I was managing a couple of space missions, and our supervision sessions were scheduled for Thursdays, the same day as our flight. With a 5am flight and as you can imagine a night of no sleep, I found myself at the hotel just in time for a 10am presentation, London time after I had been awake for most of the night due to travel, working on mission requirements and slides. 

James was holding my laptop during boarding so that I could carry on working on my slides
Working during taking off. Every minute counts!

Upon arriving at our lovely hotel, I had to go through an extremely demanding 7-hour presentation that stretched until 5pm local time. To say that I barely survived the experience would be an understatement. It wasn’t just about being physically present or online. It was about the extensive preparation, focused work, and coordination involved. All this while battling the guilt of being away.

James, fortunately, managed to explore Almeria during my presentation. So, by the time I was finally released (i.e. the presentation was over), we took a stroll around the town and even went for a refreshing swim before collapsing into bed for some much-needed rest.

The following day I attempted to rest and recover from the hectic days that had preceded, but it proved to be quite challenging. I found myself constantly on the phone, engaged in conversations with my team, organising and coordinating various tasks. On top of that, it was time to begin working on the first draft of the final report, a pivotal and significant moment as I neared the end of my 11-and-a-half-month Space Science & Engineering master’s program. So, you can understand why finding the time to rest was a struggle.

A Chance to Rest

Friday afternoon, after a brief visit to the beach, we decided to spend some quality time by the pool at our hotel, which reminded us of our beloved riads in Morocco.

There we had the pleasure of meeting a couple from Belgium named Ann and Geert. We engaged in lengthy conversations about travel, work, long-term relationships and various other topics. It was an engaging chat! When we decided that it was time to part ways and find some food, we accidentally bumped into Ann and Geert again. Ann appeared as particular about the ambiance of the restaurant as me, and I don’t think they minded my obsession with checking the restaurant’s review rating. Given that we had limited meals in Spain, I was determined to make them count.

In the end, we had a fantastic time, mainly because it was wonderful to chat with them while sharing a bottle of wine. I didn’t want to lose this lively connection, so when we didn’t see them the next day (and knowing about their early departure), I left a note with our contact details at their door at 6am. It was heart-warming to wake up and find a similar note in return. The connection was established (hello, Ann & Geert!)!

Almeria Festival

Our trip coincided with the Feria y Fiestas de Almería festival. I’m still not entirely sure about the details of the festival, but one thing was certain—lots of people were partying even before 5pm, and all the ladies were decorated with numerous roses in their hair.

 I felt incredibly happy when I spontaneously decided to get a flower for myself. Not only did it help me blend in with the crowd (which felt like a good idea during such an event), but that flower also perfectly complemented my wedding outfit the next day. I now wonder what I would have done without it – it was a wonderful addition!

The Spanish-Russian Wedding

Speaking of the wedding, it took place on September 26th, 2023, at 20:00. We were picked up and transported to Motril, where the ceremony unfolded on the beach, followed by further festivities at the local resort.

The plan was to have the key ceremony during sunset, bathed in a fairytale light. Despite the unexpected cloudy weather (probably the only cloudy day this year in Spain!), the ceremony turned out to be incredibly romantic and touching.

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Following the ceremony, we moved to another area for cocktails and starters, which were absolutely exquisite. I couldn’t resist indulging myself – the flavours were simply delightful.
Anna & James in Spain Walking into the Night

The wedding dinner was held in a location unlike any I had ever seen or experienced, not even in movies. It was truly magical, with enchanting lights, live music, stunning flower arrangements and even a spectacular fireworks display. The cuisine was quite sophisticated, featuring creative choices like melon and mint cold soup. I recall two Australian and English girls at our table asking me if it was some kind of traditional Russian soup, which it certainly wasn’t. The culinary creativity continued throughout the evening, and I particularly remember the sorbet course, not only because sorbet is my favourite dessert but also because it was the time designated for my toast.

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The unexpected fireworks display was both surprising and breathtakingly beautiful. I now regret not dancing more during dinner, even though I really wanted to. The music was fantastic and perfectly suited my taste (think Frank Sinatra), but for some reason, I had the misconception that the wedding dance had to be the first dance of the day, so I restrained myself in my seat – a big mistake! Nobody would have minded.

Once dinner concluded, we all moved to the dance floor area, where three key events unfolded.

Number one: the wedding dance, which was very lovely. 

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Number two: then there was the 360-degree video entertainment. The video I got from it continues to mesmerise me to this day. You should see it for yourself!

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During these festivities, we were dressed in traditional Russian head coverings, and I must say, the kokoshnik suits me quite well! I should consider getting one someday.

Event number three took me by surprise. While I was happily dancing, someone opened a bottle of cava on the dance floor and managed to spill it all over my dress. As you may recall, I was rather proud of my dress, so after the initial shock, I felt somewhat hurt. I explained the situation to James and asked him to defend my honour, especially since the person who spilled the cava didn’t offer an apology. James, known for his gentle nature, suggested that the individual might have regretted their actions on a deeper level and that it wasn’t worth pursuing further since the dress was already stained.
I felt restless so decided to speak to that cava guy. I didn’t believe the individual spoke English, so my attempts to communicate were probably in vain. That’s when I decided to resort to a language that didn’t require a translation. Luckily, it was an open bar (my apologies, Lena – I blame him!). I requested a bottle of cava, and once I had it in hand, I made my way across the dance floor toward the outdoor area, where I knew some guests were congregating.
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The next few minutes were rather amusing, as we collectively agreed that the individual deserved to have cava poured on them in revenge. However, there was a slight hiccup – I struggled to open the bottle (typically, I’m excellent at it, but that time was not in my favour). Another guest came to my rescue while the cava guy prepared to face the consequences. Funny enough, he seemed rather pleased with the idea of being sprinkled with cava. I definitely felt better afterward.
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The Day After

The following day, James and I spent our time at the beach and visited an Italian restaurant, which was an unexpected choice given our plans for the weekend (i.e. Spanish food). It was alright!

Granada (Not Really)

On Monday, August 28th, we checked out of our accommodation at 10:00 and headed to the bus station with plans to reach Granada. A couple of months prior, I had made reservations for tickets to visit Alhambra at 15:00, and it seemed like we had plenty of time to reach Granada, explore the town, and tour the famous palace. Unfortunately, to our great disappointment, the bus we had aimed for was fully booked, and the next one wouldn’t arrive until around 4pm. To make matters worse, we hadn’t realised that Alhambra was actually quite far from the town centre (about a 1-hour walk), making it challenging to fit in a visit before our flight at 9pm. We were extremely frustrated with the situation. Especially me!
We did manage to make a brief stop at the beach, spending about 1.5 hours there, during which I spent 1 hour on a call with my team leads for the space mission. I regret now that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to swim the entire time – the water was brilliant! However, work had to take precedence.

In the end, we travelled to Granada and, without much delay, headed straight to the airport without having seen anything of Granada itself. I still consider this the biggest disappointment of the trip. James was probably quite disappointed with how unavailable I was due to the university project, but I felt it was a necessary commitment. However, we could have planned our bus journey to Granada earlier and visited the Alhambra palace. 

Does it mean that spontaneity and going with the flow can’t be relied upon and we need to plan all the little details in advance to avoid disappointment? Seems like it. I decided that either we are not booking anything in advance or if we book something relatively important, all the associated little details should be planned as well.

Conclusion

Our overall experience in Spain, while it had its moments of challenges, left us with valuable insights and a determination to explore even more destinations. While some of the Spanish people we encountered may have initially appeared reserved, we also encountered warm and friendly individuals who made our trip memorable. The landscapes, though not what we expected, provided…hm…let’s say, unique opportunities for reflection and appreciation of the natural world. We did appreciate the water, though – it was incredibly warm, clean, and inviting for swimming. Almeria, with its lively festival atmosphere, offered a vibrant and enjoyable experience. The wedding we attended was a true highlight, brimming with joy and stunning moments that left a lasting impression.

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