Falling in Love…with Seville


Marking Time.

As in the unending compulsion to count/measure time. Most poignantly, of course, since I lost my husband Den. However, the generally accepted meaning is: as in doing nothing, idling time away waiting for something (or nothing as the case may be) to happen. This also works for me.

But it was the compulsion to mark time (six years to the day) that put me on a train, at 6.45 am on February 2nd, bound for Seville. The city of our dreams and an annual promise.

“Next Easter, we´ll make it to Seville next Easter.”

We ran out of Easters, but I made the trip to do something for the essence of us.

I found Seville to be a colourful and vibrant city with a church every 100 metres and a bar every 20. It seems to be hosted by smarter, more elegantly dressed men than in Malaga, trendier, funkier and more flamboyant women than back home. Before arriving at my Airbnb room “inside the wall” I had noted:

  • A prevalence of hats (men only) and a splendour of coloured, tailored jackets (not a grey or black in sight)
  • A sixty something woman in fishnets, mini skirt and fabulously high heels
  • A man with a totally blue patterned tattooed face, although I still think maybe it was face paint

The bus ride to the district of Macarena where I was to live, showed me a city with shops, offices and an occasional burst of architectural glory. I listened nervously to the indecipherable bus tannoy wondering if I would miss my stop. But then – wow – clearly, I would not miss Macarena. The Wall I had been casually told I was to enter rose in Game of Thrones like majesty. Clearly the next stop would be mine as was helpfully and charmingly confirmed by a lovely couple who also stepped off the bus and went as far as to be sure I knew where to go from there!

In reality the wall is one of the few remnants of the city´s Roman walled defence system and has nothing like the Game of Thrones height or landscape but it certainly does have its magic. Grinning like a loon as I entered I knew that I/We were going to love Seville.

I had left home at 6am, arrived at Santa Justa station in Seville at 10.28am with no particular plan and had been in my “digs” and hustled back out again (leaving case) all before the witching hour of 11.13am which did not occur to me until I entered the Basillica Macarena, a mere five-minute stroll along the edge of the wall, and stood and took in the beauty, peace, tranquillity and aura of love. My impulsive request for the day off work, devoid of planning, had been the right thing to do and if Seville offered me nothing more than that hour in the Basillica it justified the journey.

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            From the church I decided to explore the inner sanctum of the walled city where apparently you would not dare to tread some fifteen years ago. My reading up on things to do left a vague impression on my mind which came to life as I wandered. Tiny cobbled streets with barely room for the one car let alone the traveller! Bars, churches, independent boutiques, all quaint in their smallness. I veered to the right and found myself remembering Las Ramblas in Barcelona and Den sat at the crowded bar space jostling with the locals for attention!

The highlights of my unscheduled Macarena tour were a must have decorative plate, standing flat against the harsh stone walls as cars passed by, tiny beers being drunk by everyone at any time of the day (remember I discovered bottled beer in Tanzania where the Kilimanjaro brew comes in 500cl bottles!)  nearly getting locked in a church and of covering a lot of ground both physically and emotionally.

Once settled into my charming, basic and adequate room and having received the well-worn verbal tour guide information from my warm and welcoming hostess, I set off to see the sights. My first port of call was to be the parasols, or setas (mushrooms) and my map reading led me there without too much trauma albeit quite a few detours down interesting side streets. I arrived at the said architectural “must see” with my feet and throat screaming at me. The sun was warm although the day was chilly and I sat in the best full on sun spot I could muster and ordered a sangria and tapas. Let my Sevillian life begin!

After two sangrias, (what is a girl supposed to do? One simply ran out before halfway through the delicious tapas of seafood salad made as “his aunt taught him”). The setas just simply failed to impress, I didn´t get them. Fuelled by a strong sense of adventure I tucked the map away and followed my nose!

I managed to walk the city that first day, I stumbled upon the majestic cathedral, covered the shopping areas, the back streets, the innumerable squares and churches. I concluded that if you are a man and you want a hat, come to Seville, hat shops galore. I discovered an entire shop dedicated to knives which was not so good, a shop selling stamp albums and other ancient hobby requisites such as coin collections. I wandered down to the river and found the bull ring, flirted with the notion of a horse drawn cart ride and thoroughly wore myself out.

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Seville Cathedral

As sunset approached I faced a dilemma, go back to my “home” and come out again later (seemed pointless and possibly impossible once my boots were removed) or kill an hour or so before I could reasonably consider dinner. I settled upon sourcing a roof top bar to watch the sun go down and after consulting my handy guide knew the names of two such recommended spots. By close to 7pm I was getting fractious and angry at my inability to locate either hotel, when up pops a polite and charming street seller. You know how I love the silky patter of a street hustler – refer to King Yen and the Fish and Chips tale for more info. Five minutes later I am being led up away from the hustling city streets into a dark alleyway with an ever-darkening ambience, my thoughts spiralling and laughter bubbling hysterically, I none the less followed my chatty guide. I simply wanted the seat I was being promised!

I was led to a backstreet … not actually sure but it may have been a hostel? But it was home to a small room laid out as a mini theatre with a backdrop of a projector screen, a few basic coloured lights centred on said screen and two chairs to complete the makeshift stage. I was here for an hour´s performance of undoubtedly raw local flamenco talent. A woman and a man dancing, a singer cum shouter and clapper and a male guitarist who made the guitar do things that I thought only other instruments could do. I sat with nine other adventurous souls and rested my feet.

Did I enjoy the performance? Well I was intrigued by the passion, the strange clutching of their clothes (the male dancer kept screwing his jacket into a ball in his fist) the incessant washing action of the hands and the capacity to clap in a such a variety of ways in between the finger snapping. Am I glad I went? Hell yes, life´s an adventure! I emerged at 8.30pm and ready to find sustenance, a g and t and possibly a good rioja.

By the time I returned to re enter the wall I am in love with the magic of Seville.

Day two was to be more structured and follow the map, see the sights, be the tourist and it worked… nearly. My planned bus ride to set me me close to the Plaza de España was foiled by a procession, demonstration, millions of marching people just outside the wall and clearly causing the closure of the road. Hmmm. I walked to the Bohemian, graffiti bedecked wonderful Alameda de Hercules from where I opted for a taxi as time was marching on. Well yes, I had diverted into many little alleys and shops along the way but…

Plaza de España totally captured my heart. Disappointly new in its construction -1929,  (I didn´t know that)  the half circular structure with its continuing line of buildings all accessible by bridges over the surrounding moat and representing the four regions of Spain was magical. I was entertained on arrival, as were several onlookers, by four lovely young girls in a rowboat, each showcasing her youth and beauty for an indeterminate number of selfies whilst managing to turn the boat in never ending circles, first one way then the other. The collective cheer when they finally managed to steer in a straight line was heartwarming. The surrounding park was beautifully laid out and a peaceful haven for me to sit and scribble in my notebook.

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Well, peaceful until the demonstrators arrived! I later established the demonstration was something to do the police wanting more money. It was a delight with singing, trumpets, flag waving and happy jolly people. Only in Spain, surely!

I lingered in the park and the plaza for longer than expected and my well thought out plan was forgotten as the call of a river boat trip beckoned me. I am similar to the crew of Jason´s Argonaut who could not resist the call of the sirens. I can smell a boat trip miles away!

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View from my boat trip

The river trip started and finished at the Golden Tower which is insignificant in its simplicity but somehow commanding of your attention, the tales of the gold stored there by the “Americans” capture the imagination. Leaving the tower and the river behind I wandered back in towards the city centre and was immediately greeted by the Plaza sorry Puerta de Jerez. Well it seemed like a plaza to me. Here a growing crowd were gathering for a six man team of street theatre artists. Young, athletic, entertaining and charming as they were my thoughts and opinions were somewhat unfair in their comparison to the street kids of the Amani Centre who would have knocked these boys into a cocked hat with their own gymnastics and dancing displays!

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The Amani Troupe

It was fast coming to the that dilemma time of day once more! Too early to eat, too much effort to return home and come out again, an hour to kill and the need to get off my feet.

Den and I saw some spectacular sunsets together, I can immediately think of a fair few that I have since managed without him in Tanzania but never was he more sorely missed than Seville at sunset in a horse drawn cart, truly magical.

A wonderful dinner, me, my notebook and my thoughts and of course a fine rioja!

Day two concluded and the end of the trip, sadly, in sight.

Sunday morning found me in a delightful cafe scribbling this post whilst spending an extortionate €3.40 on two glasses of coffee and a wonderfully fresh, small baguette with tomatoe, olive oil and serrano ham.

To conclude my trip I chose to re walk my favourite bits and find myself a tapas and sangria spot for lunch. The rain had arrived as promised but it failed to dampen my spirits. I had noted a great looking tapas venue close to the cathedral and eventually ended up there and miraculously bagged a window seat sat atop a high bar stool and concluded my Seville adventure with people watching of the highest calibre.

Did I mention the colourful, flamboyant dress code?

Ask me one day about men in red trousers, dyed grey hair on a young señorita in a tiny micro mini skirt and women in the most bizarre, bow bedecked shoes!

Falling in love – with Seville.

 

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