Reminiscing on our trip to Porto


When I found out I was going to move to Santiago, I suggested my sister and I went on a last-minute trip somewhere in Europe. We don’t get to see each other that often, and it was certainly not going to improve with me moving to South America. We decided to go to Portugal as a tribute to a cherished memory of a family trip there several years before. After several months apart, on a sunny morning in June, we met up at the Bolhao metro station in Porto.

Instead of staying in a hostel or renting a flat, we got a room at Maus Hábitos (“Bad Habits”), a cultural centre/music venue/veggie café located on the third floor of an art deco car park. This alone made it special, but I truly fell for its tasteful decoration and its leafy terraces. The few nights we spent there were busy, as there was a gig every night. When we weren’t out for drinks around Porto, we just enjoyed a beers and music there. I should also add that the pizzas served at the café were ah-mazing.



Porto is undeniably one of the most charming cities I have been to – perhaps I am falling into the trap of a romantic vision of urban decay. Look up and you’ll see crumbling facades covered with azulejos, and abandoned buildings with outgrown vegetation. Most walls were covered by graffiti, from simple sentences scribbled by passers-by to full murals by internationally renowned graffiti artists. It is smaller than Lisbon, and quieter, but there is plenty to do, see, and of course, eat. We were there for five days, which gave us time to do the essentials, relax, and even hop on a train to Lisbon, where a friend of mine from Manchester was.



One of my favourite places in Porto was, as you would expect, the Mercado do Bolhão – a covered food market close to where we were staying. While the ground floor was full of tourists, the first floor was much less busy, and slightly cheaper. You would mainly find fruits and vegetables, but one section of the ground floor was dedicated to live poultry. At the back of the market, a couple of restaurants sell local dishes like the francesinha. The francesinha, (the little French girl haha) would deserve a whole paragraph for itself. This specialty from Porto is a sandwich that contains no less than 4 types of meat: beef tongue, sausage, ham, and more beef, between two slices of bread, topped with cheese, an egg, and a spicy sauce, with a side of chips. We had one francesinha between the two of us at the cafeteria Santiago, which is known for serving some of the best ones. We did not dare to go anywhere else for a second try, as although we enjoyed it, we were not ready for another francesinha-induced food coma.

Another Portuguese classic we very much enjoyed was the infamous pasteis de nata, or egg-custard tart, with a healthy rate of a three or four a day. You can find them at every corner, but we liked the one from Confeitaria do Bolhão, a bakery located just across the market. One evening, we wound up in the lovely Mercearia das Flores on Rua das Flores, a wonderful little deli offering cheese and meat boards, salads with fish, and delicious wine. You can also buy high-quality canned sardines, tuna and mackerel to take home.


Now, I must admit, part of this trip was successful thanks to Spotted by Locals, for which I worked when I still lived in Manchester. The Spotters’ network gave me the opportunity to meet fellow spotters Tiago and Marta, who took us to some of their favourite places. We spent an afternoon with Tiago and his friends at the Jardim das Virtudes, a hidden gem of a park with a view on the Douro River, and then having beers on the steps of cathedral . A couple of days later, we met up with Marta, who took us to what I think is the best restaurant I have been to in my life. Miss’ Opo is a stylish yet non-pretentious restaurant in the city centre, which also happens to be a guest house. I cannot begin to describe how good the food was. Everything was fresh, locally-sourced, a mix of traditional Portuguese ingredients with a modern take. We ordered dishes to share and although I cannot remember everything we had (it’s been two years!!), I do remember the alheira (a traditional Portuguese sausage), the sweet pear salad, and the banana and carob frozen pie. We went back on our last night in Porto, and I remember the interesting experience of making my own salad: you choose a can of fish out of a basket, which you accommodate with a fresh tomato, and season with herbs, olive oil and vinegar to your own taste. The menu changes almost daily and is seasonal.


Although we admittedly spent a good amount of time eating, we also explored Porto’s cultural attractions, and I fondly remember the Serralves Museum. It is a bit out of the way and we ended up having to take a taxi there, but it was well worth the trek. The museum is located in Foz de Douro. It is surrounded by a huge park, shared with the Casa de Serralves. This villa was designed in the mid-1920s and was finished in the 1940s, offering a setting that reminded us of vintage James Bond films. Apart from its interesting architecture, the museum boasts a large collection of contemporary art pieces across 14 galleries by Portuguese and other international artists.

Three days in Barranco (Lima)


What struck me as we went down the Costanera, Lima’s coastal highway, from the airport to Barranco, was the way the city hung to the cliffs that dominated the ocean. In Barranco, the ocean is ever-present: you can hear it, smell it, and almost touch it.

We made it to Lima after 6 days in Cusco, on an unexpectedly sunny Sunday afternoon in August. We arrived just in time to catch our lovely Airbnb host Claudia before she went to the beach to enjoy this unexpectedly warm day. She advised us to go just around the corner to El Muelle for lunch. We left behind our backpacks and hiking shoes and started our longed-for city-break with delicious fresh seafood. Starving, we ordered a piqueo – a huge sharing platter with causa, ceviche, arroz chaufan con mariscos and chicharrones – and a cold Peruvian beer.

img_5715We then walked down to see the ocean despite the cold wind brought by the evening and watched as surfers were packing up their gear and that first day in Barranco drew to a close. Before we headed back to our room, we went for a stroll around the neighbourhood, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Lima. Crossing on the Puente de los Suspiros, we figured it was also one of the most appreciated by tourists and locals alike, but during weekdays it revealed to be quieter.



While in Cusco, we were spoilt with a great breakfast served in a sunny patio every day, and were therefore not keen to go back to making our own just yet. Claudia told us of two of her favourites nearby: Las Vecinas and La Panetteria. We first went to Las Vecinas, a very cool café/health food store/art space. The breakfast options were interesting, and I had a quinoa honey porridge, and my sister had chestnut pancakes, all with local fruits. It was nearly empty on a Monday morning, and we appreciated the relaxing vibe.


The following day, we gave La Panetteria a try. As it was a bank holiday commemorating Santa Rosa de Lima, it was much busier and we had to stand for a while before getting a table. However, the sight of the beautiful croissants, sweet pastries and cakes on the counter kept us from losing patience. When we were finally sat in a cosy corner, we’d already considered all our options and decided to keep it simple and ordered croissants, avocado, toasts, fruits and homemade granola, and homemade passion fruit juice. The croissants were absolutely amazing, as was the bread; and my sister is still gushing about the fruit salad. After investigating a bit, I found out that three friends, a Peruvian, an Italian, and an Argentine, owned La Panetteria, hence the mix of Latin American and European influences in their products and menu. My sister insisted we went back the following day, for another round of croissants and Peruvian fruit salad, to which we added apple/oat and chocolate chip cookies that were so good we got more for our flight back to Santiago the day after.

Walking around Barranco, we were struck by the colourful colonial-style houses, not unlike some we had seen in Santiago de Chile. Some of them house art galleries and local designer shops, as well as cafes like the ones previously mentioned. There are however newer buildings, some from the 1980s like the house we stayed at, and some probably even more recent, especially closer to the sea front. To a certain extent, they add to the eclectic charm of Barranco, despite hinting at a a certain degree of gentrification in this peripheral part of Lima. We took great pleasure out of exploring the streets of Barranco, sometimes catching a glimpse of the ocean, or hearing its soothing whisper.



Some parts of the neighbourhood also boast graffiti, some taking up whole façades, and I sometimes dream of going back, with the promise that although the colours will have changed, the free spirit of Barranco will remain.


Moving to Santiago de Chile – so far so good, but the best is yet to come


One of the reasons I haven’t posted anything for a good while is that I moved to a new country – or even to a new continent – in late July. My post-university plans had been uncertain for a long time, but I found an opportunity to study an extra semester at the University of Chile in Santiago. So here I am, thousands of miles away from Manchester and Geneva, both of which I’d called home for the past years. Time to add Santiago to the “home” category? Perhaps.

I arrived in Santiago de Chile in the morning of my 21st birthday, not really knowing what to expect. Luckily I already had one friend here, who, with all the hospitality and generosity of Chilean people (which I was to discover as the weeks passed), welcomed me to his home and country, and helped me through my first ten days in Santiago. Although I immediately felt comfortable, I must admit the first couple of weeks were tough. I had to adapt to a whole new transportation system in a totally unknown – huge – city, with no phone and no google maps. And I got by. Just about. I got lost more than once, but people on the streets are always more than happy to help, and it was never long before I found my way again.

Something else I had to get used to is the language. I can understand and speak Spanish almost fluently, but Chilean Spanish is different. It boasts an incredible range of slang, colloquialisms and insults, which people use indifferently of age and social class. The most common word is probably “weón”, which is used for pretty much everything: “bro”, “guy”, “dude”, “idiot”, and is sometimes used as a buffer word, and has derivatives; “wea”, which is “thing”, good or bad, “wevear/huevear”, which means to mess around or annoy, etc… It probably has other meanings, which I haven’t grasped yet. Another one is “po”, which does not mean anything, it is simply a buffer word, commonly used with “si”: “sipo” would mean “yes of course” or “yes, sure”; or at the end of a sentence to add a bit of emphasis. Finally, if you have a conversation with a Chileno, they will check you get what they say by asking “¿cachai?”. Cachar means to understand, to get, to see, to know, and I have heard it comes from the english verb “to catch”, although I am not sure it is the case. “¿Cachai?” then means “(you) get it?”. Moreover, in Chilean Spanish it is common to replace the “s” of the second singular by an i/y, and to lose the stem-change: quieres becomes queri, puedes becomes podei, eres is eri, estás is estay (or tay). If someone asks you “¿cachai?” simply reply, “si, cacho”, or if you feel sassy “sipo weón”. I haven’t got to this point yet, but it is only a matter of time before I do! As I pointed out, Chilean people are very kind and nice generally, and will not make fun of you for trying to use colloquialisms. In a another post, I will list and explain my favourite expressions, as there are many of them!

I was lucky enough to make Chilean friends quickly, and everyday I am astounded by their kindness and generosity. From showing me around Santiago and beyond, to helping me with university assignments, they have helped me feel comfortable and homely miles away from home.


I have also been incredibly lucky with finding a place to stay, and I now live in a big, quirky house which I share with a happy Chilean-American-French crowd, age ranging from 6 week-old to 30-something, and a cat. The neighbourhood, Providencia, is ideally situated near the city centre, and not too far away from my university campus, which is in Ñuñoa. It is also within a walking-distance of Recoleta/Bellavista, where all the fun happens at night.

Generally, in Santiago, the more to the North/East and closer to the Cordillera the neighbourhood, the wealthier its population, the most expensive areas being Vitacura, Las Condes, La Reina and La Dehesa. Providencia is an interesting neighbourhood, as it mixes historical mid-century family houses like the one where I live and skyscrapers like the Costanera Centre, which is the highest building in Latin America. This area of Providencia, which stretches towards Las Condes is nicknamed Sanhattan. West of Providencia is the Plaza Italia, where the city centre starts. From there it is easy to walk through the Parque Forestal to Barrio Lastarria and Calle Merced, my favourite places so far. Barrio Lastarria, just off Calle Merced is street full of restaurants, cafés, and shops. Most days there will also be people selling antiques, secondhand books, art and crafts on the street. South of Providencia, Ñuñoa, is mainly a residential borough, with big family homes and a welcoming atmosphere. It also houses the Campus Juan Gomez Millas, where I study at the Faculty of Social Science. Gomez Millas is a very interesting place, to which I will dedicate a whole post in the weeks to come. I have yet to visit the most popular/gentrified/artsy areas of Santiago, such as Barrio Brasil and Barrio Yungay, but I am planning on going asap. I will also introduce you to another of my favourite places soon: el Mercado de La Vega, the La Vega Market. I will not say more for now, but I guarantee you will love it as much as I do.


Finally, as university started a month after my arrival, I took the opportunity to travel to the north of the country, from La Serena to San Pedro de Atacama. I will write an extensive post about what I did and saw, keep an eye out!

¡Hasta luego!

Manuelita: love in revolutionary times – Manuelita by Tamsin Clarke at the Rosemary Branch Theatre

I love Manchester but I started to get a bit bored after finishing my exams, and was thinking about going away for a couple of days. As I wandered on the internet, I came across an article on Sounds and Colours that gave me the perfect excuse to go to London for the weekend.

The article was advertising Manuelita, a play about the woman who fought for the independence of the South American colonies with General Simón Bolívar. It was described as a funny and energetic feminist play, depicting the life of Manuela Sáenz, who was expunged from history books despite her key role in the life of Bolívar and the fight for independence. Anglo-Venezuelan actress Tamsin Clarke‘s creation and interpretation of this piece was accompanied by Colombian guitar player Camilo Menjura. The Rosemary Branch Pub in Islington was hosting the play in its tiny and charmingly shabby theatre, contributing to the confidential and intimate tone of the show.

After watching the play, I came up with the idea of writing several posts about prominent Latin American women, from historical figures to artists. This is thus the first of a series titled The Feminine Face of Latin America/America Latina con Cara de Mujer, which I will write both in English and Spanish, although this one will only be in EnglishNext post will be about La Malinche, who played a crucial role in the conquest of Mexico and whose character is still present in Mexican and Chicano symbolism.

Manuela Sáenz was a controversial character, the target of many gossips and slander. First, she was a bastarda, the illegitimate child of a Spanish nobleman and an Ecuadorian criolla. She was also a woman, and was expected to become a submissive wife, something she was certainly not. When she found out that her pathetic (in her own words!) English husband had been cheating on her, she left him, although divorce was very much frowned upon in early 19th century Ecuadorian society. She was accused of being rude, manipulative, subversive, a lesbian, and a prostitute. The most outrageous stories were told about her by the sly ladies of the high society of Quito. But as she cheerfully asks the audience: after all, who wants to hear about the madona when you can hear about the whore?

When Simón Bolívar visited her town in 1822, she made sure he noticed her. They then started a relationship which lasted until his death in 1830. As a half-criollan, Manuelita was very much in favour of the liberation of the colonies from Spanish rule despite her father being a Spanish hidalgo. In this again, she was subversive. Meeting Bolivar gave her the opportunity to actively participate in the revolution that was taking place at the time. However, being Bolívar’s lover, or rather having Bolívar as a lover, was not always easy. As a member of the revolutionary army, she was the only woman in a male battalion, and Bolívar was often away. Their relationship was turbulent yet passionate, punctuated by bouts of jealousy. It was love in revolutionary times, and Manuelita demonstrated her love for the libertador and his ideals when she saved him from being assassinated by enemies. They were life companions, lovers, and comrades in arms. Unfortunately, when he died, she was forgotten. She finished her life poor and alone, without getting any of the glory Bolívar received as the liberator of the Americas.

Tamsin Clarke, however, brings her back to life, in a brilliant act. As she jumps around the stage, dances, sings, and laughs, Manuelita comes alive. The play was not only a colourful one-woman show, it was also a dialogue with the music and the audience. She does not hesitate in taking a man to the stage to play her English husband, or sitting on a spectator’s lap. She plays Manuelita, but sometimes also embodies Bolívar, the gossiping ladies, or the assassins. She also closely interacts with Camilo Menjura, who brilliantly plays the guitar and sings along with her, and even comforts her when she finds out Bolívar has died. The only criticism I have was that the play was rather short – only an hour, and it left me begging for more. However, it has encouraged me to find more about Manuela Saenz, something Tamsin Clarke perhaps intended by keeping the play rather short.

Watch the trailer hereManuelita will be on tour in the UK in 2015/2016, don’t miss it!

Feriado, una película de Diego Araujo / Feriado, a film by Diego Araujo

This text was adapted from a piece I wrote for my Spanish class portfolio at university. It is quite lengthy but I tried to pick the most important parts. It was originally written in Spanish, but I have (freely) translated it into English. Scroll down for the English version. Trailer in Spanish with English subtitles 

Este texto es una versión corta de un ensayo que escribí para mi clase de español en la universidad. Es bastante largo, pero intenté presentar aquí solo las partes más importantes. Lo traduje al inglés, y la traducción está después de la versión en español. Trailer aquí 

Hace varias semana pasé un fin de semana entero viendo películas en el Cornerhouse. El motivo fue el Viva Festival, que cada año presenta varias películas del mundo hispano. En los años anteriores duraba casi dos semanas, pero como este año el Cornerhouse se mueve a otro sitio (HOME en Whitworth Street), solo duró cuatro días. A mi me encanta el Viva Festival, porque presenta una selección de películas españolas y latinoamericanas de muy alta calidad cinematográfica, que no se estrenan en cinemas convencionales. Este año mostraron 5 películas, de las cuales vi solo cuatro: Os Fenómenos (España, Alfonso Zarauza), Feriado (Ecuador, Diego Araujo), Ruido Rosa (Colombia, Roberto Flores), y María y el Araña (Argentina, María Victoria Menis ). De esta fantástica selección, que consta de unas de las mejores películas que se estrenaron recientemente, una en particular sobresale. Feriado, el primer largo metraje del director ecuatoriano Diego Araujo me llamó la atención por varios motivos. Voy a destacar varios temas y aspectos de la película que me interesaron. Revelo algunos elementos de la trama que no se encuentran en el trailer, pero no cuento el final de la historia, para los que no la han visto aún.

Feriado se desarrolla en 1999 en Ecuador, con telón de fondo el dicho ‘feriado bancario’ durante cual se derrumbó el sistema bancario del país entero después de su (neo)liberalización por el gobierno de Sixto Durán Ballén y Alberto Dahik: se congelaron fondos de pensiones y de ahorros, y cuentas bancarias, y miles de personas se hallaron arruinadas. Es en este contexto de malestar generalizado que está ambientada la historia de Juan Pablo – “Juampi”, interpretado por Juan Manuel Arregui, un joven ecuatoriano de 16 años de clase media alta. Va a pasar el feriado, o las vacaciones, en la hacienda de su tío, quien es el director de uno de los bancos principales de Ecuador, con primos de su misma edad. A lo largo de la película se nota la intranquilidad de cada uno de los personajes. Se entiende que la familia está dividida por asuntos supuestamente relacionados con la practicas poco éticas del tío banquero. Juan Pablo se siente desconectado a este amenazante mundo de mentiras, fraude, y violencia moral y física. Con sus 16 años, todavía es un niño, enfrentado a un mundo que no le entiende y que choca con su inocencia. Durante la fiesta organizada por el tío pilla a dos hombres robando los tapacubos de los coches y es testigo del castigo corporal que infligen al que encuentran, y eso le traumatiza. Al huir de la escena, encuentra por coincidencia al otro ladrón y le ayuda a escapar. La amistad que nace entre los dos jóvenes después del encuentro va a cambiarle la vida a Juan Pablo. Al encontrarse con Juano (interpretado por Diego Andrés Paredes), un joven mecánico de origen modesto, Juan Pablo se enfrenta con un mundo muy diferente al que está acostumbrado, y ahí empieza para él un proceso de descubrimiento personal y de cuestionamiento identitario. A medidas de que se van conociendo los dos chicos, Juan Pablo descubre un universo diferente al suyo, pero también descubre su atracción hacia Juano.

Uno de los temas principales de Feriado, a mi parecer, es lo de “contraste”. Primero, hay un contraste tremendo entre el universo de Juan Pablo y el de Juano: uno es de clase media alta, de “origen” europeo, educado en una escuela privada, y el otro es de clase popular, de “origen” indígena, y trabaja de mecánico en un pueblo. Cuando Juan Pablo se enfrenta con esas diferencias, empieza a descubrirse a él mismo, a explorar lo que constituye su identidad propia, lo que percibe, y lo que empieza a ser capaz de entender y expresar. Juan Pablo se encuentra entre dos mundos contrarios y tiene que dar el salto y elegir de qué lado está. Emprende este proceso de descubrimiento y auto-definición también con respecto a su sexualidad, ya que siente cierta atracción sexual hacia Juano, algo que está aprendiendo a aceptar y expresar. Siente que es diferente a los demás pero aún no sabe si es algo que debe considerar como positivo o negativo. En una escena que me encantó, está  tumbado bocarriba en el techo de su casa, mirando la calle al revés, y dice: ‘Me encanta verle a la ciudad así…. bocarriba. A veces le veo, le veo… le veo tanto que ya no sé, si soy yo él que está al revés o es la ciudad.’ A medidas que se desarrolla la película, Juan Pablo evoluciona, crece, aprende a conocerse a si mismo, y a negociar las contradicciones de su propio entorno e identidad. Juan Pablo es consciente del carácter subversivo de su relación con Juano, que desafía los límites de la divisiones de clase social y de género, y las relaciones étnicas, y construye su identidad probando hasta qué punto puede cuestionar estos límites.

El feriado de Juan Pablo, tanto como el feriado bancario nacional es una etapa crucial cada uno en su manera, en la historia personal del protagonista y en la historia nacional ecuatoriana. Así se puede relacionar el entorno global con la historia personal del chico: en este momento crítico se revela la corrupción que plaga el país, y de eso resulta una tensión omnipresente y un cuestionamiento de los fundamentos de la sociedad ecuatoriana. Además, la razón por la cual Juano y su primo están robando tapacubos durante la fiesta es la responsabilidad del tío banquero de Juan Pablo en el colapso bancario, ya que la tía de Juano, Mama Rosa, perdió todo sus ahorros por la crisis. Sin este acontecimiento Juan Pablo y Juano nunca se hubieran encontrado.

El último tema que quisiera destacar es la representación y critica de la sociedad ecuatoriana en la película. Tras la historia de Juan Pablo, Araujo pone de manifiesto varios aspectos subyacentes en la sociedad ecuatoriana: divisiones étnicas y racismo, homofobia, desigualdad social y económica, el peso de la religión, y la intolerancia latente, además de la corrupción y del disfuncionamiento del sistema. Lo que separa Juan Pablo de Juano es una gran brecha social y étnica, en una sociedad todavía marcada por el eurocentrismo característico de las sociedades Latinoamericanas, idea que el sociólogo y humanista peruano Aníbal Quijano desarrolla en varios estudios y obras académicas. De la misma manera, se nota la separación social entre los de origen europeos y los mestizos ya que corresponde a las disparidades económicas. En la fiesta del tío banquero aparece un elite europea adinerada, y en las fiestas de Juano y sus amigos solo aparece gente mestiza de clase popular: los dos mundos no se mezclan. Cuando Juan Pablo ‘desaparece’ en varias ocasiones, los primos suponen que tiene un relación con su amiga “La Flaca”, ya que la posibilidad de que él tuviera otra relación, además con otro chico es impensable. Choca la realidad social y moral del país con el idealismo de Juan Pablo, quien lucha para afirmarse en un mundo ‘al revés’, donde la gente pobre lo pierde todo en una crisis provocada por la elite dominante, y donde un joven tan maravilloso como él llega a sentirse alienado.

El genio de Araujo radica en el hecho de que logre abordar temas muy serios con una película muy suave, poética y sensata. De hecho, Feriado es la película más sensible y bella que he visto en muchísimo tiempo: me emocionaron mucho el personaje y la historia de Juan Pablo. El final de la película, tan emocionante y doloroso, es la culminación de esta obra maestra que sin duda no deja a nadie indiferente.

English Version 

A few weeks ago I spent a whole weekend at the Cornerhouse, for the Viva Festival. For those who haven’t heard of it, this yearly festival presents Spanish and Latin American films. It usually lasts a couple of weeks, but as the Cornerhouse was being moved to the new HOME buildings (just off Whitworth Street), it only lasted four days this time. I love the Viva Festival because it shows films of very high cinematographic quality, that you wouldn’t otherwise hear of. This year they showed five films, but I only saw four of them: Os Fenómenos (Spain, Alfonso Zarauza – I could not find a trailer with English subtitles), Feriado (Ecuador, Diego Araujo), Ruido Rosa (Colombia, Roberto Flores), and María y el Araña (Argentina, María Victoria Menis ). From this fantastic selection of some of the very best films in Spanish that recently came out, one of them really called my attention: Diego Araujo’s Feriado, the director’s first full-length feature film. As in the Spanish version of this post, I am going to highlight a few aspects of the film that I found particularly interesting. I reveal part of the plot that isn’t obvious in the trailer, but I don’t tell the end of the story, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.

Feriado is set in March 1999 in Ecuador, with the “feriado bancario”, the “bank holiday” as a background. What is called the “bank holiday” in Ecuador is the time when the country’s banking system completely collapsed, following its (neo)liberalisation by Sixto Durán Ballén and Alberto Dahik’s government. Pension funds, savings, and current accounts were frozen, and thousands of people went bankrupt. It is in this atmosphere of general malaise that Juan Pablo’s (Juan Manuel Arregui) story is set. Juan Pablo, or “Juampi” is a 16 year old teenager from an upper-middle class family, who visits his cousins in their countryside house for the holidays. His uncle happens to manage one of Ecuador’s biggest banks. Along the film, the nervousness of all the characters is noticeable, and it is implied that the family is divided because of the uncle’s unethical banking practices. Juan Pablo seems to feel disconnected from this threating world of lies, manipulation, and physical and moral violence. As a 16-year-old, he is still very young to face this world that does not understand him and clashes with his candidness. During a party organised by his uncle, he catches two men stealing wheel covers from the guests’ cars, and witnesses the violent punishment inflicted to one of the thieves, a sight that traumatizes him. As he flees the scene, he runs into the other thief and helps him escape. The friendship that develops between the two boys after this event changes Juan Pablo’s life. Upon meeting Juano (Diego Andrés Paredes), a young mechanic of modest background, Juan Pablo discovers a very different world from his, and there starts for him a process of self-discovery and questioning of his own identity. As the two of them start to get to know each other, Juan Pablo starts to be attracted to Juano.

One of Feriado’s main themes, in my opinion, is that of contrast. First, there is a huge contrast between Juan Pablo’s universe and Juano’s: on is middle class, of European descent, and goes to private school, while the other is of working class and mestizo background, and works as a mechanic in a rural area. As Juan Pablo faces these differences, he starts discovering himself, exploring what constitutes his own identity, what he perceives and starts to be able to understand and express. Juan Pablo finds himself in between two contrary worlds: he has to take the plunge and choose a side. This whole process of self-discovery and self-definition also has to do with his sexual orientation, as he feels attracted to Juano. This is something he is learning to accept and express. He feels different, but cannot tell whether it is a positive thing. In a scene I particularly liked, he lies on the roof of his house, looking at the street upside down, and says: ‘I love seeing the city like this… lying on my back. Sometimes I watch it, I watch it… I watch it for so long that I don’t know anymore, whether I am the one who’s upside down, or the city.’ As the plot unfolds, Juan Pablo evolves, grows up, learns to know himself and deal with his own contradictions and those of his environment. Juan Pablo is conscious of the subversive nature of this relationship with Juano, which challenges the social, gender, and ethnic cleavages. He seems to be building his identity upon teasing these limits.

Juan Pablo’s “feriado”, or holiday, as well as the national “feriado bancario”, are in their own way crucial steps in the main character’s individual story and Ecuador’s national history. In this way the boy’s story can be linked to the larger context: it is at this very moment that the corruption that plagued the country is revealed, and the consequence of this is an omnipresent tension and deep questioning of the founding principles of Ecuadorian society. Moreover, the reason why Juano and his cousin are stealing wheel covers during the party is because of the involvement of Juan Pablo’s uncle in the collapse of the banking system, which made Juano’s aunt lose her savings. Without this particular event Juan Pablo and Juano would have never met.

The last theme I want to bring up is the representation and critique of the Ecuadorian society that is made in the film. Through Juan Pablo’s story, Araujo highlights several underlying aspects of society: ethnic cleavages and racism, homophobia, social and economic inequalities, the influence of religion, and latent intolerance, as well as corruption in a dysfunctional system. What separates Juan Pablo and Juano is a big social and ethnic gap, in a society still influenced by eurocentrism (for more on this read post-colonial scholar Aníbal Quijano). In the same way, we can notice the social and economic cleavage between those of European descent and the mestizos. In the uncle’s party, the guests are from the wealthy elite of European descent, while in Juano’s parties everyone is mestizo and less wealthy: the two worlds do not seem to mingle. When Juan Pablo disappear several times, his cousins assume that he is secretly seeing his girl friend “La Flaca”, since it is inconceivable that he might have a relationship with another guy. The social and moral reality of the country clashes with Juan Pablo’s idealism. He fights to assert himself in a world that is “upside down”, where poor people lose everything in crisis provoked by the elite, and where such a wonderful young man ends up feeling alienated.

The fact that Araujo manages to introduce such heavy themes in such a gentle, poetic and sensible film is a mark of his genius. In fact, Feriado is the most sensitive and beautiful film I have seen in a very long time; the main character and his story really moved me. The very touching and almost painful end to this film is the culmination of this true masterpiece, which will undoubtedly leave no one indifferent.

Sunday out: Altrincham Market and Blackjack brewtap


One of the most frustrating things about the weather in Manchester is that the few sunny days are never when you want them to be. Almost every day that I had to spend in the library, the weather was gorgeous. But as soon as my dissertation was finished, hello rain. This time, however, I was happily surprised. As I was on the verge of having a panic attack a week before my dissertation was due, I made plans to go to the Altrincham Market House on the following Sunday, to have something to look forward to. To my dismay, the weather, which had been glorious, was supposed to be at its worse. However, to my delight, the weather forecast was wrong, and that Sunday was as sunny as it could possibly be. I grabbed my sunglasses and headed to Altrincham, which is a 30-minute drive away from Manchester (also accessible from Piccadilly Gardens by bus (X41) and tram). Altrincham is a snazzy suburban town in Southwest Manchester, with big, pretty houses, leafy gardens, and nice little shops.

We first had a look at the covered market, which welcomes a wide range of traders every Sunday; you can find artisan bread, vegan cosmetics, handmade cards, and all kinds of gourmet bits and bobs. I could not resist buying a pistachio and chilli dark chocolate bar from Cocoa Nut Grove, and handmade orange and poppy seeds biscuits from Carlos’ Biscuits, all delicious! Upon my recommendation, my friend bought cheese from a cheese maker I recognised from Levenshulme Market, whose name I cannot remember unfortunately. I spotted Madame Françoise’s stall, from whom you can buy French crêpes made on the spot. However they were out of savoury galettes, and by the time I had eaten my lunch I was too full for a sweet one. Next time!

After roaming the covered market for quite a while, we decided to have a look at the food hall, located in a recently revamped market house next to the Sunday market. The result is quite impressive: a dozen of long wooden tables, surrounded by tastefully decorated stalls, from which you can order food and drinks. After having a look around, we settled for a fennel pepperoni pizza from Honest Crust, a Cesar Salad from Little Window and a glass of house white wine. The pizza was heavenly: a very thin crust and deliciously seasoned toppings. The Cesar Salad was made with anchovies, which is not common I believe, but nonetheless delicious, with homemade croutons and lots of Parmesan. All the ingredients were very fresh and wholesome, and the wine was good as well. It all came out pretty cheap, about 25£ altogether.



We had no room for dessert, but I spotted some pretty good-looking cake, and chocolate truffles from Sam Joseph. Every stall was very tempting, each offering something different from traditional English pies to Middle Eastern inspired dishes. The crowd was made out of families, elderly couples as well as groups of friends in their twenties. There is a children area with colourful wooden toys, for those of you who wish to go there for a family day out; it is very child-friendly.



After lunch, as it was still early in the afternoon and the weather was too good to be wasted by spending any time inside, we drove back to Manchester and went to Blackjack Brewery’s monthly brewtap. Blackjack is a local brewery located North of the city centre, somewhere between the Northern Quarter, Ancoats and Victoria station, which throws a three-day party every month from March. We had a little bit of trouble finding it, as it was quite far off, and almost gave up. However, when we finally made it there, we were happy to have persevered.


It was all very simple: a few tables and benches, a couple of deck chairs and a DJ playing good music, all under a railway arch. Although we had got there at the very end of the week end, the atmosphere was still good, everyone was soaking in the last rays of sun and drinking the last pints of beer of the week end. Mac Daddies’ truck was there, providing gourmet mac and cheese, which we did not have the pleasure to try, as we were still full from the pizza we’d had. We had a pint of lager and stayed for quite a while, enjoying every moment of that surprisingly sunny day, ready to face another week at the library.


Altrincham Market: Greenwood Street, Altrincham WA14 1SA

Blacjack Brewery and Brewtap: 36 Gould Street, Green Quarter M4 4RN

Reclaim the Night: marching for safer streets and the end of violence towards women

The first time I experienced sexism was when my female teacher told me I should not wear a tank top because that would get me into trouble. I was only 10 at the time, and while I knew something wasn’t quite right, I didn’t understand until much later that this was a blatant demonstration of victim blaming. We all have experienced something similar. Be it someone telling you not to wear a miniskirt, or travel alone, because you’re ‘asking for it’ or be it physical or verbal assault, being followed on the street, or even enduring an abusive relationship. Or, perhaps like too many of my fellow Manchester students, you were dragged into a back alley in Fallowfield and sexually abused against your will.

Unfortunately, such things happen everywhere, as I am writing this and as you are reading it. In 2012, the world lost its voice in disbelief after hearing what had happened to a young woman in India who was attacked, gang-raped and killed. A couple of weeks ago, I lost my voice again, and so did many like me, in the wake of the murder of Özgecan Aslan, a Turkish woman who tried to resist the man who was trying to rape her. The men of Turkey ensured that their voices were heard, however, organising national demonstrations and donning skirts, and telling the world that what she wore did not dictate her fate.

On Thursday night, I also lost my voice, not from shock, but from marching the cold streets of Manchester, screaming in an expression of discontent at the current situation. I and those with me were there to make it very clear that ‘wherever we go, whatever we wear, yes means yes and no means no’. We reclaimed the night, asking for safe streets for all, for the end of patriarchy, and claiming the right to being respected. Violence against women, against anyone in fact, is unacceptable, and we should not even have to go out on the street to make such an obvious statement. Unfortunately, it is not obvious for everyone, and until things change for real, we will have to keep fighting.

I participated in the Reclaim the Night march two years ago, and this year’s was even bigger and even louder. More people showed up, thanks to Women’s Officer Jess Lishak, her team, and everyone who helped out: they did an excellent job of organising and advertising the event. I was also very happy to see that the crowd was almost equally made up of men and women. This outlines the inclusive character of such event, as well as showing that the issue is everyone’s. The march stretched from Owens Park, not too far from where a string of students were recently raped, to the Student’s Union, where an after party took place. Speakers, singers and poets took part in a fantastic show, taking the stage one after the other to share their experiences. This was a great night, and I hope even more people will unite and fight for safer streets in the years to come.


And a final word to…

– the guy who grabbed my butt in Sankeys during Fresher’s and cowardly disappeared into the crowd,

– the guy who crudely said what he’d do to me, as I was wearing a short skirt,

– the guy who thought it was appropriate to stroke my hand and hair the first time we met, although I had made it clear I was not interested,

– all those who think lad culture is fun and perpetuate it,

– those who won’t take no for an answer,

– and to everyone who practices victim blaming in a way or another,

… I know you are all better than that, so please show it and start acting responsibly.

Ziferblat – The next big thing? + exciting news!

After the surprising success of my article on study cafés – thanks to everyone who shared it – I have been looking for more places other than the library to work on my dissertation/assignments and to share with you guys. But before I tell you about my latest discovery, let me tell you the exciting news, because I am sure you cannot wait to find out what it is (please curb your enthusiasm). Well, here it is, I am now a contributor for Spotted by Locals, a travel website based on the contributions of the locals of cities around the world. After more than two years in Manchester, I felt like it was time to start sharing what I know of the city, and I will be posting regular contributions about my favourite spots on there. Of course I will also still write on my own blog, but the posts for Spotted by Locals will be shorter, and of a different style. You can buy PDF city-guides from the website for 2,99€ (about 2£), which can be handy when you go travelling this summer, or simply read the Spotters’ tips online, or download the app for 3,59€. Spotted by Locals was founded by Dutch couple Bart and Sanne van Poll, who wanted to create a network of local Spotters sharing tips about their city, to make travelling and visiting easier and more authentic. I think that Spotted by Locals is an excellent initiative, because I believe that a big part of travelling is experiencing local and community life, apart from visiting museums and touristy places. So there you go, have a look at it, and I will let you know when my articles are published in the Manchester section.

Anyway, on to today’s topic, Manchester’s NQ newest spot, Ziferblat. I have to give all the credits to my friend Marianne for this discovery, as she is the one who dragged me there last Sunday, having been to a similar place when in Paris for her semester abroad. Ziferblat is a Russian chain where all you pay for is the time you spend. You give your name upon arrival, and pay 5p per minute you spend there, or 3£ per hour. This gives you access to the kitchen, where you can make tea, coffee, and toasts, as well as the cupboards where you can find biscuits and cakes. You can then sit down in one of the couches or armchairs for a chat with your friends or to read a good book; or at a table to do some work or play board games. Cookie jars are spread around the room, and you can go refill your mug whenever pleases you without paying anything extra. And of course, free wifi. Seems like a pretty good idea, right?

Well, I think it is if you are a professional snacker. When I went I wasn’t particularly hungry, so I basically ended up paying 6£ for a cup of tea and two toasts. However, there is more to Ziferblat than just basically an all-you-can-eat buffet. In France, if you spend more than the time you need to drink your coffee at your table, you will get dirty looks, and will be pressured to reorder, or leave. Although the situation isn’t that bad in Manchester, it is difficult to legitimately stay in a café for 6 hours having only ordered a coffee. In Ziferblat, you can stay for as long as you want (or as long as you are willing to pay) without getting kicked out. It is indeed more expensive than going to the library, but it is a good alternative to it, and you won’t have to worry about getting hungry (or use it as an excuse to go home early). Moreover, it is a group-friendly place, as the main room is spacious, with big tables, as well as cosy couches and coffee tables. You won’t get anything served to your table though, and it is common, and expected, that you clean up after yourself and wash your dishes. This might be unsettling at first, as you don’t expect to have to do that in a café, but think of it as a space that you rent, and that you have to return in its original condition. It is also a place where you interact with other people, something that is rare in our increasingly individualistic society.

I did not really know what to think of Ziferblat after my first time there, however, after I suggest you go see for yourself and decide whether it is worth it or not. The concept seems to be spreading across Europe and beyond, and we might see more of them soon. You can find Ziferblat in London, Moscow, Ljubljana, Kiev, and New York. In Paris, L’Anti-Café is based on a similar concept.

Ziferblat – 23 Edge Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, open 10am-10pm

Banana Hill presents Quantic at Soup Kitchen

A lot of the music I like come from the soundtrack of films I like, which has led me to discovering all sorts of songs, and my Spotify playlist to being very random. From Shantel, whom I first heard of in Fatih Akin’s Soul Kitchen, to Lila Downs, first heard in Frida, my fondness for eclectic films is reflected through my taste in music. When I went to see Jon Favreau’s Chef back in June, the only thing that distracted me from the amazing food in this feel-good film was the music, and after some research on Spotify I came across Quantic, aka Will Holland, a British musician established in Colombia. Not only did I love Mi Swing es Tropical, featured in the film, but also pretty much every song that came up in the playlist. With a mix of Latino sounds, Klezmer themes, soul, and funk, Quantic’s music is literally everything I like, all in one. He also did some excellent collabs with artists like the beautiful Alice Russell, and Colombian singer Nidia Gongora.

I had been keeping an eye out for the possibility of him coming on tour to the UK/Europe for quite some time, but as I was starting to lose hope, ta-dah!, he was coming to Soup Kitchen for a gig in February. Now, the tricky part was convincing my friends to come along, as they were all busy/had never heard of him (they all missed out big time, too bad!). I ended up going with my usual partner in crime Mike, and his friend. And so the three of us found ourselves in the nearly empty basement of SK at half 11. Blame it on me, I was so keen that we went a bit too early, but at least we didn’t queue! Quantic wasn’t on until 12, but by that time the place was rammed with a very hipster crowd, and the atmosphere became a bit merrier. After three hours of frantic dancing (sums up pretty well my dance moves, which are… errm… interesting), I felt like I had run a marathon but could have easily gone on for another few hours, it was just too good. Needless to say I was really pleased when some of my favourite tracks came up: Cumbia Sobre el Mar, Somebodys Gonna Love You, Transatlantic, Sol Clap, among others.

It was an excellent night, and if I could I’d go back tomorrow. Although the basement of SK was really full and got horrendously warm, which was not helped by the fact that the cloakroom was closed, I truly enjoyed it. The atmosphere was excellent, the music was outstanding, and we had an awful lot of fun. Check out Quantic’s Soundcloud and let me know what you think!

A Sunday afternoon in Chorlton – Electrik Bar and Epicerie Ludo

This new semester began with the January edition of the Pangaea student festival, which, for the second time this year, I missed. Although last time was unintentional, I was ill for the whole of freshers’, this time I was punished for my carelessness, as I could not be bothered getting a ticket early and they sold out. Although I could have bought one last minute, I wasn’t too happy to pay 50£ for something that’s normally worth 25£. So I missed out on Pangaea, again.

However, the good thing was that I wasn’t too hungover to get out of bed and decided to go to Chorlton for a Sunday roast with my flatmate Tilly who is also a food enthusiast (read her blog full of amazing recipes here!). Although we got on the wrong bus and ended up walking almost all the way there, it wasn’t too bad considering the amount of food we were going to have! I had heard of Electrik Bar through Twitter and thought it’d be a good idea to go try their Sunday roast, which looked amazing, and we weren’t disappointed.

I rang them a little too late to book a table, but we decided to go anyway, thinking that we would be able to find somewhere to sit, as it was only two of us. It worked this time but I strongly recommend you call to book in advance, especially if it is going to be a lot of you, as it is very busy. What is interesting about this place is that you can see a rather different crowd than that of central Manchester, which is usually full of students. Electrik seems to be a favourite for families with children, as there were a lot of them, all well behaved. Anyway, let’s get serious and talk about the food. You can choose between a chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian roast, but we opted for an Electrik board: a bit of each, just because we thought it’d be a good way to get to taste everything. Our table neighbours looked quite jealous as we were served this massive wooden board full of different meats, buttery veggies, roasted and mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and stuffing, as well as the extra cheese cauliflower we had ordered.

The meat was succulent, especially the pulled pork, which was terrific. The beef was nicely cooked and very tasty. The chicken, however, was a little bit dry, not quite as outstanding as the rest, but still good. The cheese cauliflower is worth mentioning again, and even though you have to throw in a couple of extra quid to get it, I strongly recommend you do because it is truly amazing. The vegetables could have been a bit more exciting, and there could have been a bit more of them, but the rest was so good it made up for it. We could not finish the whole board and left some of the mash and a couple of roasted potatoes as there was a lot of them. I wouldn’t lie if I told you that by the end of it we were so full we could hardly move. But it was just too good. Drink-wise we had a beer each, chosen among a very large selection of English and foreign beers.

Overall, Electrik is a very good place to get a Sunday roast from. If you call early enough you can book a large table and bring all your friends for a nice Sunday party. You can get sharing boards for 2 or 4 people, respectively 24£ and 46£, or an individual main for 11.50£. You can also add some extras for a few pounds, such as the cheese cauliflower I mentioned earlier. We paid 17.50£ each for a big portion of roast with three different types of meat and a beer, which I would say is a reasonable price. Also, for the locavores out there, the vegetables are locally grown in Manchester.

These cakes looked delicious, but unfortunately there was no way we could have any more food... Maybe next time!

These cakes looked delicious, but unfortunately there was no way we could have any more food… Maybe next time!

After the meal we walked around Chorlton, where you can find plenty of nice pubs and shops, and we went to Epicerie Ludo on Beech Road, another one of my Twitter finds. Nostalgia pushed me through the doors of this French fine-food shop, and I soon found myself eyeing the rillettes and the Camembert. However my New Years diet resolutions came back to my mind and I managed not to buy rillettes (which are, if you don’t already know, essentially duck meat cooked in duck fat). However me and Tilly decided to buy a few things for dinner and so we left the shop with artisan pizza bases, tomato sauce and mozzarella to make homemade pizzas (not French but oh well!) on the same night, as well as wine from Alsace, comté, Cornish yarg, baguette and a special box of chocolate for wine, to throw a little wine and cheese party the following night. Tilly also bought a box of Williamson Tea earl grey, which is very fragrant (I will definitely be stealing some from her, sorry Tilly!).

Chorlton is a bit out of the way from the places we usually go to as students, but it is worth spending an afternoon there for a change, and there are plenty of shops we haven’t had time to explore but are certainly very interesting. With all its cafés, restaurants and shops, Chorlton is definitely an up and coming area of Manchester, and reminded me and Tilly of North East London. So next Sunday get out of Fallowfield/Rusholme and go to Chorlton! To get to Electrik, take bus 85 from RNCM to Chorlton/Wilbraham Road Post Office, or walk down Alexandra road and then down Wilbraham Road, but it will take about 45 minutes from Oxford Road. From Wilbraham Road to Beech Road, simply go down Whitelow Road and then left on Beech Road.