Let me start by saying that I am having fun! Lots of fun, actually. I realize that my previous posts were all business and no fun details. So I am thoroughly enjoying my trip, despite the routine ups and downs. I’ve found myself subtly adjusting my pace and expectations, which seems like a normal process for someone who usually has her 2 week vacation 90% researched and scheduled for maximum efficiency.
I also quickly reached my saturation point for touring museums, cathedrals and the like. So for the most part, I’ve spent my days walking (and walking and walking), eating, drinking, resting, window shopping and generally soaking up the scene.
On the advice of someone I met in the Madrid hostel, I took an overnight bus Saturday from Madrid to Sevilla. I will try to avoid this in the future, as I didn’t get good sleep and also missed the scenery. It is a good way to economize time though. So I arrived at 7am on Sunday and there was nothing open except a few places selling bread and coffee. The local bus (to my hostel) didn’t run until ?? hours later (welcome to Spain, everyone told me, we don’t know exactly when they’ll start!) so an old woman sized me up and recommended I walk. I decided to wait until it got light so I had more ham and bread for breakfast at the bus station – I am now officially done with ham and bread for at least a week. An interesting tidbit is that, for either geographic or technical reasons, it’s dark in Spain until 8am. As in pitch-black dark. When the bus pulled in, there were still people on their way home! So arriving in Sevilla was challenging, although the bus was on time, clean and cheap. Thankfully things went up hill from there.
Seville is still quite warm – possibly the hottest place in Spain – and they definitely take things easy here. Pretty much everywhere but El Corte Ingles (the Wal-Mart of Spain) and the asian-run kiosks still take siesta. Today I was hustled out of the grocery while buying my lunch fixings because it was 2pm – time to close. Stores re-open at 5pm.
I bought some bread, cheese, salami (does not count as ham!) and – check this out in the picture- a juice box of red wine for my lunch, which I took in a park behind the Alcazar (palace built in moorish style). That wine came 3 to a pack and costs .97 euro…yeah baby!
It has been fairly cheap to eat and drink. The house wine is always tasty and I’m totally hooked on the way they make Tinto de Verano here. Generally, it’s red wine mixed with soda water, which is refreshing during the day. But most places in Sevilla mix it with a type of citrus soda so it’s sweet, like a wine cooler. It’s different than sangria, which is also tasty and inexpensive.
The tapas are also good, although I have not been particularly adventurous. I learned that the bull tail is actually a delicacy and can be a bull that was killed in a bullfight (a topic I wont go into but suffice to say that the 2 groups I talked to who went last night both left after about 15 minutes). Anyway, the wildest thing to me is the big leg-o-pig sitting on the bar that the server slices thin slices of ham from, right in front of you. Many places have their extra legs just hanging around off the ceiling.
In both Sevilla and Madrid I’ve enjoyed the excellent paseos – the evening tradition where everyone in town strolls on certain streets, window shops, grabs a bit to eat or drink or an ice cream. After walking all day, I’ll doubt my ability to walk any more, but somehow find myself returning after a 3 hour stroll.
The hostels have both been very nice. I’m on the older end of the age spectrum but everyone is quite social and nice. Last night they hosted a paella party on the rooftop and tonight there was a tapas tour. Tomorrow we see a flamenco show. It’s pretty easy to meet people to chat with and grab a bit to eat, but most of my touring I’ve done alone, which has been alright. It would be nice to share my thoughts with someone occasionally, of course. There were bars in both hostels, although the one in Madrid was definitely more of a party-pickup scene. Here in Sevilla, it’s primarily people sharing experiences. Believe it or not, I haven’t been truly intoxicated since I got here! I just end my day happily relaxed, full of wine and tapas. This morning I slept until 9am without stirring, as did my entire room (8 people total).
My spanish is definitely coming back, at least the vocabulary and the cadence. I plan to buy a primer because my verb conjugation is the next thing I want to tackle. Tonight I befriended a bartender at one of the tapas bar (he loves Texans) and he spoke so slowly to me that I actually understood 95% of what he said. I do recall when I was in Costa Rica years ago that my Spanish improved after my second drink, ha!
At any rate, I decided to buy a rather fancy electronic dictionary because a) it’s smaller than all the dictionaries I found, plus it has 12 languages, covering all the countrieds I expect to visit. So I’ve walked around typing words I see into it. Of course, many are idiomatic, especially the food and shops, but I still find it helpful. However, it doesn’t conjugate verbs.
So I have one more day in Seville and then I plan to hire a car to visit some small towns and hit the beach for a day or two. The bartender I met told me about his favorite beach (Bolognia?), which is deserted and near some Roman ruins. It has no rooms, so you stay in Tarifa, which was high on my list anyway. I need to get out of the city. I feel a bit apprehensive about driving, but at least they drive on the right side! My guide book (which has been spot on – Rick Steves) says the rural areas are supposed to be managable, even pleasant. There are 2 national parks in the area also, and I look forward to doing some hiking.