A different kind of January – Culture and Entertainment

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetNasrid Palaces, The Alhambra, Granada

Now that all that food is out of the way, we can move on to…more food! Food for the mind, food for the soul.
My normal January pattern tends to look like this; I mill through a few books, spend some time in the city (Dublin, usually at this time of year) and visit one of our cultural attractions. The latter is easy! The former, however, is easier said than done. ‘Read more‘ is something I can definitely get on board with as a new year begins. We can all benefit from reading more books. My problem has been that I do most of my reading in January and then it kind of falls by the wayside.
This is especially true if I’ve read a phenomenal, life-changing book and it (regretfully) comes to an end, and it’s time to move on to another title. If newbie isn’t up to scratch or doesn’t invoke the same feeling/curiosity/interest, I find it hard to pick up or feign interest and tend to abandon ship. When I’ve lost interest in a book, the whole reading resolution momentum loses its steam, and I feel guilt over my short-lived binge. Does anyone else do this? I’m sure it’s pretty common. Can I get a show of hands from my boring-book-flinging brothers and sisters?

So did I do it again this January? Hell no. As much as I love reading and should do more of it, I didn’t set a challenge like in previous years (40 books, Emma? Really?) I currently have a (realistic) list of books I’d like to read this year, but again; I’ll get to them in my own sweet time. This new approach to January is making me sassy, right?

GranadaTop left, clockwise:
1. The Sierra Nevada under a blanket of white snow. So good to see after a completely different world/experience in Madrid. 2. The Granada cathedral, my favourite walkway (and morning coffee route) through the city. The steps in front of the cathedral are incredibly smooth and polished from so many years of 
footfall. 3. Las Titas, a quiet spot along the river for coffee. 4. Paseo del Salón. 5. Granada has the most dramatic sunsets you’ll ever see, almost every night is a swirl of vibrant pink and amber. 6. One of the cities many, many orange trees, adding pops of colour to the streets and along the Genil river.

And so, without the confinement of resolutions, I simply went with the flow when it came to leisurely pursuits. I ended up watching quite a few late night movies to wind down after busy Dublin/Madrid/Granada days. I spent time in Retiro (about as cultural as I got in Madrid, but there’s plenty to do and plenty of history in that snazzy park) and discovered a few new spots down here in the sunny South. We also went to the amazing Alhambra right here in Granada, something I didn’t expect to do this early on in the year, so that was pleasant and unexpected.

So, on the January culture and entertainment side of things, here’s some stuff I definitely recommend.

Culture, excursion


1. Rent a car, and scale the heights.
Like Andalucía is more than just the Costa del Sol, the Sierra Nevada isn’t just for skiing. There are plenty of interesting little towns up there, all of which enjoy clean, fresh air and beautiful views. The journey is as fun as the destination as you go higher and higher, and the roads get narrower and have far more twists. The twists can be tough going…I’d recommend a travel sickness tablet!

We first stopped in Lanjarón, where the water comes from (it comes into the town via five springs from the Sierra Nevada) A lovely little town on the southern slopes with little shops, bars and pretty tiles throughout the city painted with poems by Federico Garcia Lorca.
The second town was in the Alpujarras region, way, way up in the mountains. It felt like we were on top of the world! We stopped to see the views and I made three new friends, two donkeys and their dog. The last town was Trevélez, the highest village in mainland Spain. It was freezing but I loved it, and the village is known for its excellent jamón.

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 21.07.08Alhambra views, Granada

2. Check out wind turbines up close to really get a scale of how huge they are (there are plenty up the mountain routes) or stop to observe the many cacti you’ll find along the route. We don’t get a whole lot of those in Ireland.

3. Go on a nighttime guided walking tour of The Alhambra.
The nighttime tour through the Nasrid Palaces was incredible, it’s such an impressive place. Beautifully opulent Moorish architecture, with amazing detail, all so well preserved. I’m glad we went at night, the palace looks beautiful all lit up and the panoramic views of the city’s twinkling lights were unforgettable. I’ll definitely do it by day too, hopefully when it’s a little warmer so I can see the famous gardens in all their glory. The best of both worlds.

Movies, TV and Apps



1. VSCO:
I know everyone and their dog has this app, but I’ve been using VSCO a lot lately. I’m more of a Snapseed girl, but I’ve enjoyed using both interchangeably during January. I like the new VSCO layout, it’s so useful for a free app. While it used to overwhelm me, I love it now! I find editing photos relaxing. I tend to edit when I’m in a queue, or sitting on a terrace with a coffee sometimes. My Instagram doesn’t have a particular style and certainly isn’t uniform. I’d be bored that way. So it’s always good to experiment with different effects.

2. Power Clean:
A handy little (free) app that works great at freeing up space, deleting junk and duplicate photos that generally tries to make space where it can without removing anything valuable. I’m ok for space but it’s always handy to have, and I run it about once a week. It cleared 2GB of crap the first time I used it!

3. 5 Minute Journal (€4.99):
5 Minute Journal is a physical journal where each day you write 3 things you’re grateful for, your daily affirmations, what you will do to make the day great and what you would do to make it better. I was always interested in the 5 Minute Journal but waited for the app, and now it’s here! I do not need more physical diaries or stationery. The guilt is just too much. Anyway, the app offers the same stuff, and you also get a daily quote and have the option to add a daily image. I’ll admit, I haven’t filled in every single day in January, but looking back on some of the entries, it’s amazing what you forget. I had already forgotten some of the things I did already! A lovely app for collecting photos, goals and progress. And all it takes is a couple of lines a day. It reminds you that every day really is different.


Movies, TV

All Netflix, all worth a watch:

Magic in the Moonlight:
A Woody Allen movie (I’m a big fan of his films!) starring Emma Stone and Colin Firth and the possibility of a phoney spiritualist. I loved it. The music, the clothes, the time period.  It was far better than 2016’s Café Society which I found to be a total let down.

The Siege of Jadotville:
Based on a true story of the 1961 siege in the mining town of Jadotville, Katanga, where 155 Irishmen fought an army of 3,000 Katangese attackers during a peacekeeping mission. Really entertaining, lots of action and of course, Irish banter.

The Best Offer:
I put this on randomly, knowing nothing about it, but thought the Netflix listing image looked nice! It ended up being really entertaining. Lots of twists and turns and a story that keeps you hooked. I loved Geoffrey Rush’s part in this.

Lucky Number Slevin:
An oldie (2006, I think) and one I never got around to watching until now. Sometimes Netflix’s mixed bag really works out. Another movie with lots of twists and turns that keep you on your toes. It’s weird, and I like that. Lots of famous faces in the cast too.

The OA:
I watched most of this before Christmas, leaving two episodes for the new year. These were the worst two episodes! It flatlined. I don’t know how I feel about it, I liked it for its originality but it did remind me of Stranger Things in parts. The jury is out on whether I liked it or not, I’m still debating theories over the ending. What I did love, however, was the music.

Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring:
I don’t think it’s on Netflix, but watching the LOTR trilogy is a must for me, every. single. year. They are FLAWLESS. I watched the first one with my brother and sister before I left Dublin, we all know them so well we chime in with impressions etc., so that time together during January was a nice way to say goodbye. I’ll rewatch the first one and the other two before the year is out. Essential.

La La Land: 
Beautiful! Charming! Passionate! Dreamy! I loved it! Such a nice movie, with a modern day meets Old Hollywood slant. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone work together harmoniously once again. I saw La La Land just this past Friday night. I walked all the way to the Kinepolis here in Granada, an hour from my apartment on the outskirts of the city just to see it. I didn’t want to see it dubbed as I don’t think it would work as well, so the long walk was for the original version with subtitles in Spanish. And it was so worth it. It definitely makes you feel all sorts of emotions, and while I didn’t find all of the songs particularly memorable, I did enjoy Mia & Sebastian’s theme and City of Stars, of course.

The Diary of Frida Kahlo:
Ah, January, you didn’t think you’d get away from me without at least one book, did you? Ok, so technically El Diario de Frida Kahlo isn’t in the style of a standard book, as it’s filled with illustrated journal entries (documenting 10 years of her life – emotionally, spiritually and politically.) Along with her collection of illustrations are stories about her life, and the translations are provided of her handwriting. It’s a beautiful book and I’m enjoying every page and taking my time finishing it. Mine is in the original Spanish version, but the diary is available in English too.

A January well spent brings a year of content. Welcome February, you have big shoes to fill.

♥ ♥ ♥