Gráinne O’Driscoll is a yoga teacher. Originally from Waterford, she then lived in Dublin. The self-described “owner of a pair of itchy feet” has been working from the Costa de La Luz in the south of Spain for a month
After working in the advertising industry for 16 years, I left in 2016 and set up Grá For Fitness. I teach yoga and Pilates and am a personal trainer. It was a big life change at the time, but I love my job and have never regretted it. In March 2020 all my classes moved from in person to online and thankfully my clients came with me.
Another life change I’ve wanted to make is to spend winters in a warm climate - “wouldn’t we all”, I hear you say - with this in mind I decided to join the ranks of the online decampers and work from Spain for the past month.
I had never been there, but for a long time I have had romantic notions about the city of Cadiz and the surrounding area. After a bit of research I chose El Puerto de Santa Maria as my base, a seaside town 10km north east of Cadiz.
El Puerto has a population of around 88,000, it is steeped in history, with sherry, flamenco and bullfighting all part of its fabric. The town plays host mainly to Spanish tourists during the summer months, but is mostly restored to the locals from September onwards.
I found an apartment in a beautiful eighteenth-century palacio in the Centro Histórico: Cadiz’s old town. My main concerns prior to arrival were the noise levels, the space to do my classes and wifi. The space was perfect, the wifi held up for the most part and my apartment was tucked away on the first floor of the palacio. The balconies overlooked an enclosed courtyard full of orange and lemon trees surrounded by red and coral -coloured hibiscus, blissfully quiet.
For me, regardless of how smoothly a journey goes there is always some element of stress involved and arriving in unfamiliar surroundings requires a period of adjustment. This is where my yoga practice comes in. Once I’ve unpacked, I will usually roll out my mat and stretch, breathe a little deeper, and feel the tension start to ease out of my muscles. I find a few rounds of a simple sun salutation one of the most useful things I can do to offset hours of travel, finishing in child’s pose to ease the lower back and feel that connection with the earth.
I have enjoyed all my holidays in Spain over the years, but there is just a different pace and agenda when you’re on holidays as opposed to living in a place, albeit just for a month.
The mornings in El Puerto are busy, but nobody seems to be in a hurry. Yes people are going to work, but also grocery shopping and having coffee, enjoying breakfast together. Around lunchtime the pace quickens a little as everyone prepares for siesta time. By 2pm the shutters on the shops are going down and then boom, the streets are debustled and pretty much stay that way until 6pm when life pipes up again.
My own yoga and Pilates classes continued online last month. I tried not to mention the fact that the temperature was 25 - 28 degrees every day, well not too much… and they did ask.
I took a little stroll most evenings and the same three ladies in their 70s or 80s sitting in the town hall plaza always made me smile, putting the world to rights under the orange trees, not a smartphone in sight.
El Puerto is actually a great place to learn Spanish as not many people speak English. In spite of the many minutes I had spent on duo lingo, my Spanish was pretty appalling, so I signed up for lessons. As it happened I wasn’t the only Irlandesa. My classmates Jade and Charlotte were from Roscommon. Rafa our teacher had an unending supply of energy and patience as we mangled his mother tongue once a week.
My own yoga and Pilates classes continued online last month, my Ireland-based clients a mix of one to one, public and corporate classes. I tried not to mention the fact that the temperature was 25 - 28 degrees every day, well not too much… and they did ask.
The highlights of this stay of which there were many, included an electrifying traditional music concert in the grounds of Castillo San Marco which I came upon by chance, café con leché for € 1.10, a walking tour around the elegant, narrow streets of Cadiz, electric scooting to Puerto Sherry, a large marina and the more chi-chi part of El Puerto, where I fell in love with Playa La Muralla, an immaculate little beach, one of many along the Costa de la Luz. I’ll miss my favourite cherry gelato and sunrise runs by the river.
My month in El Puerto flew and there were tears on departure day, pero se que volveré (I know I’ll be back).
[ Grá For Fitness ]
My favourite post-travel poses
Downward dog to stretch out the back of the body
Anjenayasana (low lunge) to stretch out the hip flexors
Locust pose with a chest stretch to wake up those back muscles and open the heart to all the wonderful experiences that are in store
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