travel

Seville

If you’re a Facebook friend or instagram follower, you’ll be well aware that I spent last weekend in Seville. I can’t remember what motivated me to book the trip. I knew I wanted to travel around Spain while I was here (though money and time have since halted any further travelling) and so I chose a city I fancied visiting, even if I knew nothing at all about it or why I might want to go there. I booked the tickets a long time ago, with the intention of going some time in June, but then ended up choosing a later date since Danny entered onto the scene and told me he could come with me if I went in July instead. Tickets were also cheaper in mid-July, no doubt because there are many wise souls who know that it’s best to avoid Seville during the hottest months of the summer.

The earliest flight of the day was also cheaper, so Danny and I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4:30. Our seats weren’t next to each other, so Danny told a vicar who came onto the flight who was supposed to sit in the seat next to me that I was afraid of heights and would he therefore be so kind as to exchange seats, allowing Danny to sit next to me and comfort me, as terrified as I was. I felt bad for being so deceitful, particularly on the way back when we tried the same trick and elicited a great degree of sympathy that really wasn’t warranted.

The taxi driver who picked us up from the airport was reflective of the typical Andalusian. Like all the Andalusians I’ve ever come into contact with, he was very, very chatty. His friendliness was undercut by a slightly abrasive approach. Danny tried to make conversation with him about football and suggested that Seville hadn’t been doing so well recently. The taxi driver seemed shocked and asked Danny what he was talking about, since Seville had (apparently) in fact done quite well. But Danny knows very little about football and was just trying to find something to talk about, so perhaps the taxi driver was right to be somewhat indignant.

The amusing thing about Andalusians is their accent. It is very distinct and, owing to their lack of enunciation, far more difficult to understand. If there is an ‘s’ at the end of a word, for example, don’t expect them to say it. Amusingly, I feel the way they speak reflects the stereotypes surrounding them. It just seems that they don’t want to make too much effort, just as they supposedly don’t want to make much effort in other areas of life since they are,so the stereotype goes, pretty lazy. The overwhelming majority of people from Catalunya feel that they shouldn’t be part of Spain, in part because they feel that they are hard working, economically prosperous people who shouldn’t be supporting those (like the southerns) who aren’t. Having experienced the heat in Seville, I’m not surprised that they seem a bit lethargic. I’d choose a siesta over working as well.

Seville, I realised after my stay there, is a very underrated city. If I compare Seville to Paris, maybe even Barcelona, it wins by far in terms of what it has on offer, yet it does not receive anywhere near the same amount of tourists or worldwide recognition. Everywhere I looked, there were beautiful, beautiful buildings. (I use the adjective twice in the hope that doing so will amplify its strength).  The first day we were there, we visited the Alcazar, a royal palace originally built by Moorish kings, but which is now the official residence of the current Spanish royal family. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. I could try and describe how amazing it was, but it needs to be seen for itself. We wanted to go the cathedral and the Giralda that same day, but alas, respectable clothing is required and, having brought only shorts and short dresses, I knew I wouldn’t be allowed in, neither that day nor any other. The rest of the days were spent exploring the triana district, going up the Torre del Oro, eating tapas (Seville is so much cheaper than Barcelona, so eating out rarely broke the bank), visiting the Plaza de España, having a tour of the bullring and seeing the María Luisa Park whilst being whipped around on a horse drawn carriage. As regards bullring, it really brought to life the whole bullfighting thing and how truly horrifying it is. I was even more horrified when, after the tour, I went to lunch in a place where a bullfight was being shown on the television screen right in front of me. It showed matadors training to fight by killing young calves and showed an actual bullfight, which involved a man being lifted up by his trouser leg and thrashed up and down. Thankfully, he was unharmed. I wish I could say the same for the bull.

The ears of the bull are, apparently, the hardest to cut off. So if a matador manages to cut them off, he receives the kind of recognition such a feat supposedly deserves. What I dislike so much about the bullfighting spectacle is that those watching get pleasure from watching a living thing suffer. Not only is the bull in pain, it is frightened. Otherwise, it wouldn’t get agitated and try and attack. It’s also just a bunch of macho men with a lot of money wearing fancy clothes, trying to convince others that they are as amazing as they consider themselves to be.

Though Seville wasn’t as uncomfortably hot as I thought it was going to be, even with the incredible amount of walking around that we did, I was glad to get back to the warm yet far milder climes of Barcelona. Back in Barcelona, we collected our things from my house and then went to Castelldefels to stay with Danny’s family, telling them about our travels and how much we had loved Seville. Two days following our return, Danny’s mum very kindly took me to a specialist at a private health clinic, very sneakily using her card, which, of course isn’t allowed. I was so grateful because numerous trips to the (thankfully not busy) emergency room near to my apartment has not always proven hugely helpful. As we waited for our appointment, we grabbed some coffees and shared a few churros between us.

Later that day, we headed to wait seemed like a very secluded spot in the mountains, where (to my surprise) a large mall is located. I was wondering why anyone would build a mall in such an inconvenient place to get to, where no passerby might happen to chance up on it. But the mall was highly popular, by the looks of it, and was by no means dilapidated and forgotten, but an upmarket place, designed to look like a quintessential Spanish town, replete with colourful buildings adorned with flowers. The shops there were, for the most part, out of my price range, particularly because now I’m so poor that even a top from H&M seems like an incredible indulgence. But the good thing about the mall is that you don’t have to pay taxes there, so things can seem like a ridiculously good deal. So, of course, I had to buy something and got a top from Ralph Lauren, which had been significantly reduced. Danny also very, very kindly treated me to a Michael Kors purse and handbag, which I love. It beats the disgusting, falling apart thing I bought to replace the handbag I had which was stolen.

Speaking of getting stolen from, Danny was recently robbed ‘in his own country’ (as he angrily protested). It was one of the interns’ last day at work, so we all went out for a drink, finding a bar on La Rambla, a popular street frequented by many, including lots of tourists and, apparently, thieves. Danny brought a huge bag with him because he planned to stay in Barcelona for a few days and had also put a fair degree of basketball gear inside. A five minute trip to the toilet was enough for someone to take the bag, without any of the ten people that were there, including myself who was sitting right next to the bag, noticing a thing. A nice evening was completely ruined.

The trouble with robberies is not only the material things lost, but the hassle afterwards. Danny didn’t know his phone’s serial number off the top off his head (who would?) and without it, the police would never be able to return his phone to him if they found it. So we had to go to back to his house in Castelldefels (an expensive taxi drive away since the trains were no longer running), find out what his serial number was, and then make a police report. My keys were also in his bag, meaning I couldn’t get back into my apartment that evening. I remember when I had my bag stolen, I was less upset about the money lost than the stress of trying to sort everything, particularly because it was the day before I was supposed to fly out to Granada, and particularly because not having my phone meant that, after coming back from Granada, I was stranded in a dangerous part of Barcelona, wondering what might become of me and whether I should sleep in a bush for protection…

The other problem we had was that Danny’s mum was supposed to leave the country the day after the whole fiasco happened. He didn’t have keys to the house (they were lost with the bag) so asked her to leave him the ones she had behind so we’d be able to get back into the house. We went back to Barcelona, sorted some things out there, then decided (with all the stuff Danny was trying to carry) that getting a taxi would be wise in order to get back to Castelldefels. Unusually for Barcelona, it was raining very heavily. A storm had brewed and darkness had quickly descended. We looked for the key for a good half an hour, trying our best despite the lack of light and the rain, looking in the place Danny’s mum said she would leave it, as well in every other corner of Danny’s garden. Alas, we never found the key. We couldn’t get in contact with Danny’s mum because she was already on the plane, but when we finally did, we discovered she’d completely forgot to leave us the key. Without a key, we had to return all the way back to Barcelona, making our total taxi trips near 80 euros. I was very grateful that Danny paid. It all could have been avoided if the poor guy hadn’t been robbed.

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