ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy


El Laberinto, Córdoba (the best way to spend your daylight savings).

El Laberinto

This weekend I travelled south to visit some friends – teachers who worked in the same village as me during my first year in Spain. The expedition involved spending most of Friday in transit, crashing two nights on a couch, and not making it back to Segovia until late Sunday night…  quite the journey for just a casual Saturday lunch. But of course, (and in keeping with the predictably upbeat, possibly saccharine, tone of this blog), it was totally worth it.

The reunion was exactly as I’d hoped and expected*. As for the rest of the weekend, I hadn’t had a chance to give it any thought, so of course it all came as an unlooked for bonus.

The first factor that I hadn’t contemplated was that it would be hot. This stands to reason, Córdoba being a lot further south than Segovia, but didn’t enter my head as I rushedly shoved extra jumpers into my bag before leaving. But better to be too hot than too cold, and my top half (saved by a last minute singlet) spent the weekend bathing in sunny glory…whilst my legs silently roasted in black jeans and long boots.

Secondly, I’d forgotten all about typical Andalusian breakfasts. So good!! Toasted fresh rolls, with (incredible) olive oil and grated tomato, milk coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice…at a relaxed pace, in the aforementioned sun, for only 1.50€. What a way to start the day.

Then of course there were the free tapas, chosen from the menu and not from the bar top (as they are in Segovia, not that I’m complaining). But getting free food a la carte is really something special. Hooray for Andalucía.

basking bargainsBut the true highlight was having a whole unexpected Sunday morning in which to indulge. Thanks to daylight saving (and the surprising absence of hangover), I had time to wander the streets, photosynthesise, and finally peruse El Laberinto, a beautiful second hand bookshop that I’ve been wanting to visit for months.

El Labrinto is special for a number of reasons, the first of these being that in the world of antiquarian bookshops, it’s just a baby. Despite the fact that in today’s technology driven, crisis bound economy, longstanding bookstores are struggling to survive, El Laberinto boldly opened in mid 2012 and appears to be thriving. Surprising? Not really, it’s a wonderful store with a prime location (on the riverside), that’s been well thought-out and is clearly well run. The service is knowledgeable, personalised, and considerate (I was even talked in to buying a cheaper book than what I had originally selected, but one that I will hopefully enjoy reading more***). And as well as a range of foreign language books, Spanish classics, and vintage children’s books (of which a colourful abridged version of Don Quijote definitely tempted me), there were many other curious trinkets for sale or on display. A large collection of amusing/beautiful retro postcards (1€), re-printed Civil War facsimiles in zine form (3€), records, scientific specimens, pot plants, and comics.

Unlike many second hand bookstores (and despite the tonnes of books lining the walls and and floor), El Labrinto is well lit, clean and spacious. There’s none one of the hayfever inducing dustiness or back breaking pokiness that normally needs to be endured in this kind of shop. There are plenty of chairs, and customers are invited to sit down and take their time sorting through the contents of the large wooden dining tables. The background music was cool and reason enough to linger, as were the literary quotes that decorated the concrete walls.

So if you’re in Córdoba, and have time (time is important), treat yourself to a leisurely breakfast in the sun (ideally at El Pimentón on the riverside) and then mosey on next door to El Laberinto to pleasantly wile away some hours. But if slow ain’t your style, I’m sure you could still scoot by and pick up a bargain from one of the outdoor 1 – 3€ baskets, without having to think too hard or take off your headphones.

So I’ve checked the forecast and it’ll be warm in the south for the next quite a while. Weird, but it may as well be enjoyed. As for Segovia, bordered by mountains and currently mizzling… well here’s a good place to have plenty of reading material.

*We met up at 2pm and didn’t part ways til after midnight. “Lunch” included plenty of traditional Cordovan food (salmorejo, aceitunas, flamenquín, and garlic garlic garlic), bar hopping (the highlight being The Jazz Bar, if you’re in Córdoba, go there), watching a clásico (Madrid vs Barcelona football match), and seeing a live rock band (long hair and denim, just so you knew they were legit). The only downlight (?) was the post pub grub…if you know the franchise 100 montaditos (100 little bread rolls), and are curious to try the new Spanish fast food sensation**, 100 pizzitas, don’t!

**100 pizzitas, the only fast food in the world that causes you to lose weight …the fuss of the ordering process (and stress of waiting for the hockey puck to buzz), isn’t worth the actual pizzas (which are wafer thin, and all 100 flavours come out looking the same).

*** Instead of El Dorado (a slim paperback with a beautiful cover), I walked away with Ramon J. Sender’s Aventura Equinocial, a novelised version of the same history (in a less glamorous jacket).

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tea and tattered pages

is an English language bookshop/café in Paris that’s definitely worth a visit, but has nothing to do with this post – except that I love the name and decided to steal it for my musings.

This Sunday afternoon I sat down with a cup of tea and Good Weekend, the Saturday magazine from The Age, a Melbourne newspaper. Reading the weekend papers, especially the magazine faux-news lift outs, is one of my favourite rituals.

As a uni student I worked most weekends in hospitality, and was always incredibly jealous of the creatures of habit who I’d serve breakfast to on Sunday mornings, as they read the paper, cover to cover, over the course of several ($4 a pop) cups of tea. I remember thinking that If I could one day be rich enough to regularly eat out for breakfast, and not have to work or study on weekends, then I truly would have made it in life. As it was, I’d hold on to the newspapers, guarding the weekend lift outs in a neat, colourful pile next to my bed, and if I was lucky I’d find the time to read them before the next weekend rolled around and the pile grew again. It wasn’t so much about the quality of the publications (which seemed to fluctuate), but the decadence of the pause.

It’s been two years since I’ve got my hands on a real, paper copy of The Age. Not because I have an aversion to newsprint, or paying for my reading material, it’s just that I live on the other side of the world now. And sadly, I no longer read newspapers at all. I’ve picked up the habit of watching the TV news during the siesta, partly to improve my Spanish, and partly cos it seems such an indulgence to watch TV in the middle of the work day. To keep up with Australian news, I occasionally scan The Age online, but in general I’ve found this to be an un-gratifying, fluff-ridden, pop-up plagued waste of time. When I do occasionally stumble upon a good, meaty article, the truth is that my online reading time threshold is much lower than its paper equivalent, and I rarely make it to the end of the story. I’ve heard of the existence of other, more balanced and less revenue-driven alternative online news sources, but have yet to take the time to investigate and form a bond with any of them. So I maintain a tenuous (very tenuous) handle on Aussie current affairs by word of mouth, and the hope that if anything truly newsworthy happens in Australia, they will mention it in the Spanish press (ha!).

So how did this rare and exciting copy of Good Weekend find its way into my Segovian attic ‘living room’, and get itself to be so endearingly tea-stained?

It was the feature (at least I took it to be the feature) of a delightful ‘for-no-reason-in-particular’ surprise parcel, sent to me by my parents. Possibly the most beautiful and unexpected present I’ve ever received. (perhaps even more wonderful due to the fact that I picked it up from the Post Office during a serendipitous class cancellation, and it was one of those sunny Autumn days that warms right through the skin, so I guess I was primed to be rapt with just about anything that lead me on such a lovely afternoon stroll)

So what else was in the parcel? Well it was kinda like a Mary Poppin’s bag of treats, and each item was tagged with a post-it note on which Mum had written a little anecdote about where she’d come across it or why she’d included it. I’ve no idea how so many treasures fit into the cooler picnic bag they put everything in (possibly Dad’s tetris-like boot packing skills?)…but amongst them there was Vegemite and Tim Tams, good quality linen tea towels with Australian flora and fauna, hipster writing paper, some (real! printed!) photos, a puzzle book, a short Penguin Classic (‘the perfect length for an overnight bus trip’), artsy postcards, and an ideal recipe for my limited cooking facilities (already tested, big success). By the time I finally finished unpacking it all, I was so excited that I forgot the time difference and called home at 4am to say thank you, oops! (But better to be woken for a happy thank you call, than anything more serious, right?).

Anyway, the parcel had the curious dual effect of making me want to go home and/or giving me the strength ‘to go on’ (ok, this isn’t exactly the kokoda trail, but I’m sure you get my drift). Perhaps with better communication and the occasional copy of Melbourne papers, I could stay abroad for a number of years…(I shouldn’t say that, there’ll be no more parcels!). But sometimes I really do just want more than anything to sit around at home in Melbourne on a Sunday arvo, in my dressing gown, with a proper brunch, the Good Weekend quiz, and people who know what ‘arvo’ means and who Shaun Tan is.

It comes and it goes.

But what did I learn from this weekend’s light reading?

  • An extended trip home is definitely overdue.
  • My favourite illustrator has released a new book.
  • 45 million photos are uploaded to Instagram daily.
  • Some random Australian mining magnate’s family is squabbling over an inheritance, boo hoo
  • The winner of The Voice (which I’ve never heard of, but can guess) was a kid called Harrison Craig, who dreams of becoming a ‘global recording artist’ (good luck to him). He says that “if you have a Plan B then you’re not really serious” (which did make me stop and think for a bit)
  • There is such a profession as a ‘Crime Scene cleaner’, and it really stinks, but it’s okay if your workmate is also your spouse and together you can do anything
  • Australian comedian Tim Ferguson has MS, never picked it, wow
  • Some coins from ancient East Africa were discovered on an island off the North West coast of Australia, which has got archaeologists thinking…hmmm
  • Chronic pain is an ever increasing issue amongst war veterans, due to increased survival rates but poor pain management in the early stages of injury recovery. However, the combination of new medications (which target different sites in pain pathways), meditation, and cognitive behavioural therapy (which adapts the brain to manage pain), is proving to be very effective. (This gave me a bit of flashback to my uni days, as neuropathic pain management was actually the topic of my final year pharm essay, ah yes, it’s all coming back to me…but it wasn’t until after uni that I read The Brain That Changes Itself, now I remember… NEUROPLASTICITY IS THE ANSWER (to almost all your woes)).
  • The dating game is particularly complicated for Jewish Australian girls (but apparantly not for Jewish Australian boys)
  • By the time I get back to Melbourne, the nightlife will have changed completely, no basement or loft space will be left un-converted, and a glass of wine will probably cost a week’s wages
  • Able and Game (a friend of a friend’s quirky stationery company) seems to be doing well, now sells through, and now makes funny hand printed linen tea towels. Linen tea towels are the best.
  • Samurai sudokus are still beyond me
  • It’s time to reinstate the Sunday pause… perhaps with a local publication


The Red Tree, by Shaun Tan