Simplified Speech #055 – Andrew goes to Spain

Episode description

Cathedrals, the Mediterranean Sea, beautiful architecture, spectacular food! Hear about Andrew’s amazing trip to Spain as he talks about it with Morag in this Simplified Speech episode.

Fun fact

Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous churches in the world. However, not everyone knows this, but it’s still unfinished! It’s set to be completed by 2026 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of its architect, Antoni Gaudi.

Expressions included in the study guide

  • To chuckle
  • Smooth sailing
  • People watching
  • To be zonked
  • Props
  • To bring it


Note: The words and expressions that appear in bold text within the transcript are discussed in more detail in the Detailed Explanations section that follows the transcript.

Andrew:           You’re listening to the Culips English Podcast. To download the study guide for this episode, which includes the transcript, detailed vocabulary explanations, real-world examples, and a quiz, visit our website,,

Hey, everybody, my name is Andrew.

Morag:              And my name is Morag.

Andrew:           And you’re listening to Culips.

Hey, Morag.

Morag:              Hey, Andrew. How’s it going?

Andrew:           I’m doing pretty well, Morag. And, actually, I’m kind of chuckling to myself right now because, just before we started recording, you asked me if I could just wait for a moment while you got some of your tech set up and you said dongle life. Dongle life—I thought that was really funny. Could you explain to our listeners what dongle life means?

Morag:              Dongle life is more of a situation that happens. So, I currently work on a current generation MacBook Pro, so 2018 because of the sort of tech work that I’m doing.

Andrew:           OK.

Morag:              And so it doesn’t have anything other than USB type C ports. No normal USB, no HDMI, none of this. So when you have to plug anything into the computer that is not USB type C compatible, which is a very new USB format, you need to own these dongles. And there are these little things that plug into the computer and turn one of those ports into a different or a series of different types of ports. The thing is, people often need a lot of different types of these. So you end up with a ridiculous amount of dongles, and it’s too much. And that is dongle life.

Andrew:           Yeah, and Apple is notorious for creating lots of dongles, because they can’t seem to make up their mind about what kinds of input format they want on their devices. I feel your pain, because I was actually travelling recently and I didn’t bring with me the dongle for my iPhone.

Morag:              Oh no.

Andrew:           When I was staying at an Airbnb, they had a great stereo and I wanted to listen to music, but because my phone doesn’t have a headphone jack and I didn’t bring my dongle, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it and listen to any music the whole trip.

Morag:              That’s a tragedy.

Andrew:           A tragedy. I agree.

And, Morag, today I’m going to talk more about this trip that I recently took in this Simplified Speech episode. And for all of our listeners that aren’t familiar with Simplified Speech, it’s our series where we have totally natural English conversations and we let everyone listen in. But we slow down our English just a little bit so that it’s, you know, it’s a stepping stone between kind of intermediate and advanced material.

Just before we get started, I wanna remind everyone that there is a study guide available for this episode. And it’s really awesome, it contains a lot of great material, such as a transcript, detailed vocabulary explanations, and examples, as well as a quiz and some prompts that you can use for speaking practice or writing practice. And if you’d like to download it, all you have to do is visit our website,, and you can do that there.

I told you I recently went on a trip, but can you guess where I went? There’s a lot of different countries in the world. I’ll give you one guess, OK?

Morag:              Well, I don’t think Korea’s particularly warm right now. I’m guessing you went somewhere much closer to the equator.

Andrew:           Yeah, I went to a warmer country. But not tropical, not hot.

Morag:              Not tropical, not hot? All right.

Andrew:           Not yet.

Morag:              Mediterranean?

Andrew:           Oh, getting close, getting close.

Morag:              OK, OK. Greece?

Andrew:           Oh, pretty close. Good guess. Spain. I just visited Spain.

Morag:             Oh, hey, cool.

Andrew:           Have you ever been there, Morag, to Spain?

Morag:              I have never been to Spain. How did you find it?

Andrew:           Man, it was amazing. It was one of the best trips of my life.

Morag:              That’s high praise.

Andrew:           You have to go, you really do. It’s incredible. Unfortunately, I didn’t have too much time there, I was there for 8 or 9 days, I think. And that time was divided up between three different cities. So I was travelling with my girlfriend. The first city that we visited was Madrid and then we went to a small city about an hour outside of Madrid called Segovia and we spent just a day there, actually. And then we went to Barcelona for the remainder of the trip. So I think there’s a lot of other amazing and interesting cities in Spain, but we just didn’t have the time to check it all out, unfortunately. But next time.

Morag:              Which of those cities was your favourite?

Andrew:           Hands down, Barcelona.

Morag:              Cool.

Andrew:           Don’t get me wrong, the other two cities were really cool, I felt like Madrid was more of a capital city vibe. There is amazing architecture everywhere, but especially the Royal Palace that’s in Madrid is quite spectacular. It felt a little quieter than Barcelona, maybe a little more conservative, perhaps. But it was a really cool place.

Segovia is like kind of a medieval-style city. There’s a lot of stone work and brick work, there’s a castle and an old cathedral. And there’s even an aqueduct there that was constructed by the Romans like 2000 years ago which was absolutely incredible to see in real life.

But Barcelona was where it’s at. It had great architecture, a great vibe, friendly people, good food, and the ocean. The Mediterranean Sea is there as well, so there’s beaches. So it was really just a combination of a lot of different things that I like in one place.

Morag:              That sounds wonderful. But I do have to ask, because I feel like it happens on almost every vacation, did anything go hilariously wrong?

Andrew:           No.

Morag:              Really?

Andrew:           When something goes wrong, it makes for an interesting and engaging story, and I’ve recorded a couple of podcasts about some travel nightmares that I’ve had in the past. But this trip was smooth sailing, the whole way through, there was no glitches, no problems at all.

Morag:              Wow, that sounds like you probably had a really relaxing and, like, refreshing time, then.

Andrew:           Yes and no. It was definitely relaxing but, as I mentioned before, I travelled with my girlfriend for this trip, and I realized that we have two very different travel styles because I’m really a kind of a go with the flow guy. I don’t do too much advanced planning, I kind of just show up and then check out what I see as I walk around or travel around a city. And I’m also happy to just hang out at a cafe and drink a coffee and people watch, you know, I think that’s a good way to travel. I’m not too worried about doing sightseeing, you know? But my girlfriend, on the other hand, is completely the opposite, and she made quite the itinerary for us where we kind of had a morning activity, an afternoon activity, and an evening activity.

Morag:              Wow.

Andrew:           Which turned out to be great, because I saw so much more than I would have and I realized like, wow, doing some planning actually goes a long way. It’s kind of a good idea. But the downside of that is that I was pretty tired every night. We were like in bed by 9:30, 10:00 every night because we were just zonked at the end of the day.

Morag:              Well, that sounds like a good vacation growth time.

Andrew:           Yeah, totally. I felt it was like a mature vacation that people in their 30s take.

Morag:              I’d be interested to try one of those some day.

Andrew:           For sure. One of the things that impressed me the most about Spain in all of the cities that I visited was the architecture. I had been to Europe before, but I don’t remember the countries I visited as being as spectacular and as impressive as Spain was, especially the churches and cathedrals that we visited. The medieval cathedral that we visited in Segovia, which if I recall correctly is just called Segovia Cathedral, was absolutely breathtaking. It was the classic kind of cathedral that had been constructed over, you know, I think it was like over 250 years it took to build. And it just had amazing art inside and religious relics, and just seeing a massive cathedral from the inside and the outside just really blew me away. Like, I was not expecting a cathedral to be that impressive. And when I went to Barcelona, I went to the famous cathedral that was designed by Gaudi called the Sagrada Familia.

Morag:              Oh, I’m so jealous.

Andrew:           That actually left me breathless. Like, when I walked inside, I was like, wow, like, I had nothing to say. I was just totally overwhelmed with how impressive of a building and a structure it was. And I’ve never seen anything like that that was so overwhelming before, and I’ve seen a lot of cool buildings. So props to Spain for bringing it in the cathedral department.

Morag:              I’m not a religious person, but when I’m travelling, especially in Europe, I always go cathedral hunting because their buildings were constructed to give that feeling to people. To impress upon them the enormity of God, you know? So they’re usually the only places where I’ve had similar experiences. It’s really cool.

Andrew:           It is really cool, and I totally agree with you that I think the purpose of designing the buildings to be like this is to sort of reflect the grandeur of God in real life, right? And I’ve never had an interest, sorry to our Catholic and Italian friends, of visiting the Vatican before. It was never on my radar, but now I’m, like, I really wanna go to the Vatican and check it out, because I think I will get that feeling again if I visit the Vatican.

Morag:              I believe so. Yeah, that would be interesting. I hope you get to go someday.

Andrew:           Yeah, me too. But, anyway, Morag, that was my trip to Spain. It was a really good time and, Spanish listeners of Culips, I’m jealous. I was sad when I had to return to Korea. Not that I don’t love Korea, but I just felt like, especially Barcelona, would be such a rad place to live. And who knows, maybe I’ll get the opportunity to visit again some day.

Well, Morag, thanks for listening to me ramble on here today.

Morag:              It was a pleasure.

Andrew:           And thank you to everyone for listening, as well. One more time, our website is, and that’s the place where you can download the study guide for this episode.

If you’d like to get in touch with us, please send us an email. Our email address is and, finally, we are all over the place on social media, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, you name it, we’re there. So just search for the Culips English Podcast on your favourite social media site and you will be sure to find us.

That’s it for us. We’ll talk to you next time. Bye.

Morag:              Bye.


Detailed Explanations

To chuckle (Verb)

To chuckle is to laugh quietly, often to yourself. You might be trying to hide your laughter from others. In this episode, it is Andrew who chuckles to himself because of something Morag said. Chuckle can also be a noun.

Here are a couple more examples with to chuckle:

Grant:               Oh, what a lovely day. But it’s a little bright outside, isn’t it?

Quentin:           I know. (laughs to himself)

Grant:               What are you chuckling about?

Quentin:           Nothing.

Grant:               Tell me! What’s so funny?

Quentin:           Your sunglasses are missing a lens and you haven’t noticed yet!

Grant:               Ah! Why didn’t you tell me earlier?


Tanya:              You look a little upset. Is there anything wrong?

William:            Yeah. It’s Patrick. Whenever I’m speaking during one of our meetings, I can always see him chuckling to himself. It’s very distracting.

Tanya:              I see. I think I should have a talk with him to find out why.

William:            Thank you, Tanya. I would appreciate that.


Smooth sailing (Idiom)

Smooth sailing means that there are no difficulties occurring. Think of being on a sailboat when there are no waves. Everything is calm and there are no heavy winds or large waves hindering you. That is smooth sailing. This expression applies to situations in regular life, as well as to actual sailing.

Here are a couple more examples with smooth sailing:

Diana:              Oh, it’s so nice to see you. How was your flight?

Gia:                   It started off a bit rough.

Diana:              How so?

Gia:                   We had a lot of turbulence taking off. But once we got over the ocean, it was smooth sailing.

Diana:              I’m glad to hear that.


Tristan:             Are you OK? You look a little frustrated.

Wesley:            I am. I feel like this semester is never going to end. We have two projects due next week and then we have midterms.

Tristan:             Yes, but think about it, it’ll be smooth sailing after midterms. No projects or tests until the finals. Don’t worry.

Wesley:            You’re right. We just need to get through this rough patch.


People watching (Noun)

People watching is the activity of watching strangers in a public area going about their business. We often do this unconsciously. If you are sitting at a coffee shop, drinking coffee, and looking around at other people interact, you are people watching. Like Andrew, some people like to go to a public park or market to do some people watching. This noun can also be a verb, as in to people watch.

Here are a couple more examples with people watching:

Clara:               I’m bored. Let’s do something interesting.

Sandy:              I know! Let’s go people watching at the train station.

Clara:               People watching? Isn’t that boring, too?

Sandy:              Not at all. I love finding a comfortable spot and looking at all the people going by. You end up seeing a lot of interesting things when you look closely enough.


Stan:                 Do you have any hobbies?

Jill:                    Not really. I do like people watching. Do you consider that a hobby?

Stan:                 Of course. What do you like about it?

Jill:                    I like making up stories about the people. If I see a couple out on a date, I try reading their body language to figure out how well things are going. I could be wrong, but it’s fun!

Stan:                 I understand. I sometimes do the same.


To be zonked (Verb, informal)

To be zonked is to be completely exhausted. In this episode, Andrew says he was zonked every night during his trip because he did so many things every day. This means that he ended every day very, very tired.

Here are a couple more examples with to be zonked:

Richard:           How was your day at Disneyland with your family?

Yannick:           Amazing! We all had so much fun. And I went on so many rides with my youngest son.

Richard:           Sounds like a good time.

Yannick:           For sure. But around 5 p.m., he was totally zonked. Too much excitement!


Manny:             Where should we stay our first night in Thailand?

Rita:                  We arrive late that first night. We’re probably going to be zonked from the long flight.

Manny:             So maybe we should get a room near the airport.

Rita:                  I think that’s a good idea.


Props (Noun, informal)

Props is a shortened form of proper respect. In this episode, when Andrew says, “Props to Spain for bringing it in the cathedral department,” he is showing respect to the country for its nice cathedrals. Props is most often used in the phrase to give props.

Here are a couple more examples with props:

Marshall:          Have you seen the new Wes Anderson movie?

Pierre:              I have. It was really good.

Marshall:          I agree. All of his movies have a similar style, but they still feel original.

Pierre:              You have to give him props for that. He keeps creating these interesting worlds.


Ellie:                 Oh my god! I’m so excited!

Faye:                How come? What about?

Ellie:                 I just met my childhood idol. After my show, she came to my dressing room to meet me. She shook my hand and said only, “Props.”

Faye:                That’s incredible! Did you get a picture?

Ellie:                 I was so shocked, I didn’t even think to get a picture!


To bring it (Phrasal verb, informal)

To bring it is to do well at something. It is similar to the expression to bring your A game, which means to bring the best version of yourself or that you did your best. The meaning of “it” depends on the context. When Andrew says Spain is bringing it in the cathedral department, “it” means excellence in cathedrals.

Here are a couple more examples with to bring it:

Coach:             It’s a very important game tonight.

John:                I know, Coach.

Coach:             Don’t forget to bring it.

John:                I will, Coach. One hundred percent!


Kylie:                How was the sales meeting this morning?

Shelley:            It went well. Sarah did a great job.

Kylie:                I’m not surprised. Sarah always brings it.

Shelley:            For sure. I’m so glad we hired her. She’s really turning things around.



1. Which of the following is the best example of to bring it?

a) you did fairly well

b) you beat the other team by a lot of points

c) you’re going to do well tomorrow

d) you’re bringing snacks for everyone


2. True or false? The expression smooth sailing can be about actual sailing.

a) true

b) false


3. Which of the following could you happen if you are zonked?

a) you get an electrical shock

b) you are tired of hearing loud music

c) you fall asleep on the couch after a long day

d) you walk 3 kilometres to the subway station


4. True or false? It is possible for someone to people watch you.

a) true

b) false


5. If you are giving props to someone, you are _______ them.

a) proposing to

b) embellishing

c) complimenting

d) dishonouring

Writing and Discussion Questions

  1. How much do you prepare for a trip beforehand? Do you like to plan every single minute or do you prefer to go with the flow?
  2. How do you feel visiting buildings that are holy to religions other than your own?
  3. Most people enjoy people watching to some degree. Where is your favourite area to people watch?
  4. What kind of challenge do you have in your life where you really like to bring it?
  5. In your bed, on a couch, on the floor: what is your favourite place to go when you are completely zonked?


Quiz Answers

1.b      2.a      3.c       4.a      5.c


                                                                 Episode credits

Hosts:     Andrew Bates and Morag St. Clair

Music:     Something Elated by Broke For Free, Let It Go by Scott Dugdale

Episode preparation/research:     Andrew Bates

Audio editor:     Andrew Bates

Transcriptionist:     Heather Bates

Study guide writer:     Matty Warnock

English editor:     Stephanie MacLean

Business manager:     Tsuyoshi Kaneshima

Project manager:     Jessica Cox