And just like that, I arrive in Seville, my last stop before the end of my eurotrip. I get a good feel about this city. It’s relatively big, but far from being as touristy as Barcelona or Madrid. Most of the tourists are Spanish, so it’s definitely more authentic. And everything is so badly indicated it’s great! The same streets can have several names (some up to 5), which means maps are useless. And all the must-see monuments are tucked away in small paved corridors. They don’t stick out like a sore thumb like in other major cities. So going to find these spots was similar to a scavenger hunt; you have to search for clues on the streets, get hints from locals, and use orienteering skills on a map that looks more like a 1 year old’s drawings.
On my way to Seville, I approached both bartenders in the train’s cafeteria in the hopes of getting some recommendations about things to do and eat. I get a map drawn on a paper tissue and seven names of foods, with a very brief description consisting of the sentence “this is very typical food you must try” repeated several times and a few English words like “chicken”, “seafood”, and “fried”. But I had no clue which was which, the only way I would find out was by ordering it. And that’s precisely what I did. In the next two days, I scouted for typical tapas bars and ordered all seven plates not knowing what to expect. I ended up eating deep fried ground chicken, gambas, deep fried fish and calamari, lamb cooked with whisky, jamón Iberico (special Spanish ham), and the most unexpected, a bowl of small snails. I was pretty hungry prior to ordering Caracoles, but I quickly lost my appetite once the waiter placed the bowl in front of me, shouting its name proudly, as if surprised I had ordered it! But I wasn’t going to back away. There were maybe 200 small snails in that bowl, and I could have described them as cute if I weren’t going to eat them. Having antennas, two small eyes and a mouth, and anti-sliding high-tech material on their sole definitely didn’t not make them appetizing (although it did make them look “cute”). One by one, I would pinch them, extract them from their shell, then chew on them. It didn’t taste like much – at first. It did have a weird light aftertaste though.
All throughout the trip, I got a good number of warnings regarding the weather. My train registered an outside temperature of 42 deg C in the shade late in the afternoon, and the expression I heard the most – by far – during my stay was “mucho calor”! (very hot) I would keep on sweating even through the night! By day two, I was so exhausted from the heat that I would end up visiting air-conditioned coffee shops more often than memorable monuments! Nevertheless, I really enjoyed my time here. An old man I quickly ran into one night, said it best. He was Maltese but had moved to Seville 27 years ago and managed to speak Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and German in the span of 3 minutes. He said he loved Seville’s charm, its laid-back culture, and the friendly atmosphere that ran here.
Two words are enough to describe Seville’s laid back culture. They are almost sacred around here. Sieta & Mañana (Nap & Tomorrow). The first, because the city falls asleep between 2pm and 6pm. It’s too hot to do anything anyway. The second, because that is the best answer to anything. A problem needs to be solved? Mañana. Work needs to be completed? Mañana. No wonder they were one of the last cities to break free from the Muslim’s rule, they must have procrastinated their way out of it.
I managed to visit several impressive monuments during the two days, such as the Réal Alcázar, the cathedral and Giralda, Torre del Oro, and the Plaza España. But what I enjoyed the most was Palacio Lebrija, countess Lebrija’s personal palace. You wouldn’t even notice it if you walked in front of it but it’s interiors are beautiful. This relatively small palace, tucked away in Seville’s winding streets, houses architecture and art from so many places and times it’s enchanting. You’ll find Roman 3rd Century, Portuguese and African 17th Century, Philippines and Mexican 18th Century, and Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese 19th century works as well as many others. Casa Pilatos’ multi-color Muslim mosaics were also a beautiful feast for the eyes.
On my last night here, I opted for a last minute concert. This one took place outside in the gardens of the Réal Alcázar fortress. It was a mix of Spanish and classical music. Before the concert, as I ate a snack on my own, I was approached by three young locals asking me if I wanted to sit with them (they would turn out to be Italians and brazilians studying in Seville). I’m not sure which part of an exhausted, unshaven, and sweaty man motivated them to invite me over, but I found it to be very generous of them. Unsurprisingly, they turned out to be great people and I had lots of fun spending the night with them in a local bar. I am certainly going to miss all these random encounters.
Here’s a small interlude on the details of my flight out of Seville, towards London to catch a flight back to Lebanon:
“RyanAir, Fly Cheaper!”
The airline I chose to fly with. They’re definitely missing the asterisk (Fly Cheaper!*) that should say: “only at first glance” or “please be advised, this is an optical illusion”. You can certainly find cheap flights, but by the time you board the plane you will have been charged for all sorts of extra fees, taxes, and surpluses, most of which are mandatory but not included in the initial price, precisely for that unique optical illusion effect they strive for. e.g. Fee for check-in, for checked baggages, for payment, for more than one bag (“Is that a wallet in your pocket? I’m sorry sir, that is an extra piece of luggage, we’ll have to charge you!”)*, etc. They might as well charge a fee for showing up, since they’re so keen on making you feel unwanted!
Enough ranting! It must be that I’m sad about ending my eurotrip. I would cry, but I’m so dehydrated from my stay in Seville that I’ve got no more liquids to dispense**. Somehow, it feels like I have been vagabonding in Europe for ever, but, at the same time, not for long enough. As I write this, I am sitting on the terrace of my Lebanese home, overlooking the horizon and a beautiful sunset. All these cities I’ve blogged about already seem so far away. One month was definitely too short. Next time I do this (because there will be a next time), it will certainly be for several months – at least. This will give me the time to chill longer in each city as well as visit more places. In the meantime, I’ll have to take care of a few minor things such as starting my first job, moving to another city, etc.
** Dramatization. Again. As you can see, I’m trying to set a dramatic tone to my last post.
See you all sometime soon(-ish)…
[This post is part of a series on my 2011 eurotrip, check out the whole series here]