Ah Seville

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Europe » Spain » Andalusia » Seville
May 31st 2008
Published: June 6th 2008
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Golden TowerGolden TowerGolden Tower

Moorish architecture I believe but I cold be wrong
The flight to Seville went very smoothly for the most part. We even had sleeves on the back of the airline seats. Must be a perk of flying to Spain. There was a woman nearby nursing a problem child. The infant spat the metaphorical dummy at regular intervals. Not pleasant to the ears but I have heard worse. The pilot may have been a frustrated stand up but he still knew how to land a plane. As we skimmed over a patchwork of pastures resembling a giant cubist painting the wheels touched down on the tarmac. It was a perfect landing and when we pulled to a stop the rear door opened meaning I was one of the first passengers out of the plane. More perfection followed by being greeted by mid 20’s sunny weather. Seville was already 200% better than dreary old London. Headed to the airport bus taking us the eight kilometers into Seville proper. Met a middle aged English couple holidaying. They had a map and a guide but it didn’t seem to help them navigate. I asked the bus driver for directions and he made it perfectly clear it wasn’t his job to help tourists.

So the bus of the damned headed into Seville. No one on it seemed to have a clue where we were going. The bus stopped at a hotel which the driver announced. Must have killed him giving out information. He stopped somewhere else and then at the terminus that meant nothing to any of us confused travellers. Who set up this Mickey Mouse bus connection? The English couple decided to grab a taxi. I asked if we could split the fare. They were okay with that. I didn’t want to be frigging around looking for the right local bus as the sun descended into darkness. We gave the taxi driver the names of our respective hotels. He seemed to know where to go. He’d never get a cabbie gig in my home town of Melbourne with such a refined level of road knowledge. He was very pleasant and dropped the Pommy couple off first. The meter was reading almost eight euros as they generously coiffed up a tenner towards the fare. I felt a bit guilty about that. Soon after I arrived at my place, after the taxi driver cracked a couple of gags about the narrow streets in Seville. At least I think that’s what he was saying.

I got out of the cab and collected my backpack. The meter was reading a little over twelve Euros so I gave the driver another four. Figured the Poms intended a tip so who was I to argue. Got off cheaply anyway. I walk up to the security grated doors and an elderly guy lets me in. For a moment I worry that he has no reference to my booking. Then I tell him my name and his eyes light up. My God! The surname Smith must carry some weight around here. Makes a mice change. I pay him twenty-four Euro and I grab the key. It’s always nice to confirm I have a bed for the night. The room is better than I expected. Smallish but has an ensuite of at least the same size. I didn’t expect that. As I unpack my things I’m thinking Seville is a vast improvement on staid old London town.

I go out for a stroll at 22:30 and find the place alive. People are walking the cobble stoned lanes and even a band is playing in the distance. I take a walk around the block and find a shopping mall still open selling a variety of food. Seville has a great atmosphere and I feel quite safe cruising the area at this hour. Wouldn’t feel as relaxed wandering the Melbourne CBD unless I had a crack swat team attacked. I hit the sack at 23:30 which is pretty early by local standards. The only thing that was nagging at the back of my mind was that I didn’t have a place to stay the following night. I vowed that would be sorted the following morning before I had to check out.

Woke up after eight which is pretty late for me. Felt good after having a shower in my own ensuite. What luxury. Checked out the Hostel Rio-Sol the one I’d seen the previous night in a main street. The Woman behind the counter spoke perfect English. As it turns out she’s Cuban and has lived quite a few years in Florida. She didn’t have a room for Sunday night which worried me a bit. I was wondering if this was a particularly busy day of the week. However she referred me to their sister hostel, Pension Bailen. I said I would pay for one night’s accommodation there now and make it a week if I approved of the room. She conveyed this information to the Spanish speaking lady via mobile. I asked her what time is the curfew. There is none, she replied, just push the buzzer when you return to the pension. Must be great for the manager having to get up at all hours for returning night owls.

Walk into Pension Bailen and attempt to hand the receptionist twenty Euros for one night’s stay. She wasn’t happy about that and needed me to do something else first. I should have twigged what it was then and there. In frustration she went to her purse and flashed her driver’s license. Eureka! A light flashed above my head and I pulled out my passport. Relief all round as she filled in a form on my behalf. All I had to do was sign it. I was to come back at around midday and pick up my key. Someone must have told me that or it was an act of faith. Either way I would be back there at 12:00 after web surfing at the first hostel. Of course nothing is as easy as it looks when travelling. Couldn’t log into my hotmail account because I couldn’t find the @ on the Spanish keyboard. You have to push alt and 2 together to get @. I should have known that. Yet another reason to web surf with your own laptop.

Parted company with the first Pension and lobbed at the second place. The woman confronted me with another barrage of rapid fire Spanish. Why does she suppose I understand a single word she says? I deduce that the room isn’t ready yet. Been down that track many times before. No biggy. I sit myself down and wait hoping that the delay won’t be too long and that the lady won’t assault me with another of her Spanish tirades. She hadn’t thrown me out onto the street so I assume it wouldn’t be too long. Ten minutes later she walks past dangling a key in front of her. Finally she’s given up on verbal communication which is a blessing for both of us. I lug my gear up to the first level. I find it’s a little enclosed courtyard with a floor made up of sunken glass bricks letting in light below. Very attractive to the eye. Brighter than the first place. All the rooms have numbers except one with the open door. I can’t find the room with my key number so I assume this open one is mine. I test my theory by inserting the key. It works. Then again everyone’s key may work on this door. I hope not.

The room is basic but fine and the communal bathroom clean. I go back down to reception and pay the balance of the week’s rent. It’s good to know I don’t have to move for seven days. Now I can relax and really soak up the atmosphere of Seville. I go for an elongated walk across the river and to another part of the old town. A middle aged German couple ask for directions. All I can do is show them a map I got from the Cuban. (sounds like the plot to a B grade cold war film) It was great to look at the scenery and take a few pics but my legs grew progressively weary and my stomach screamed for sustenance. Not surprising since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast the previous day. I walked back toward the first pension and got lost for a nano second. Found my bearings and grabbed a coffee and a local potato and onion pie dish for a few Euros. The guy there spoke good English which was a relief. He lived in London for a year. It’s a nice little corner café that I will return to. An elderly guy stood next to me at the bar and then lit up a cigarette. There are drawbacks to being in Spain and being downwind of a smoker while you’re eating next to is one of them.

Retreated to my room and had a bit of a snooze after updating this travel diary. The prolonged walking must taken it out of me as I lay on the bed for over an hour. Did another sortie of the area and found a major shopping precinct just up the road. It can be hard to navigate in an old city where the alleys shoot off at all angles. On the plus side makes it fun to explore. Walked under a digital display that said it was twenty-seven degrees. Right! I decided on a unanimous vote it would be a crime not to have a beer in this weather. So I front up to a local bar that has generous outside seating. A punkish looking waitress with a safety pin through her lip pours me a beer. I order another half an hour later. I ask her about food and she says the kitchen doesn’t open until 21:00. I say how Spanish and she laughs.

I drop off my key at reception which is now manned by a guy with a partially amputated arm and half burnt cigarette hanging from his lips. I return to the same café to grab something to eat. Unfortunately the English speaking punk waitress has finished her shift. No one else there speaks English of course so I have to take pot luck with the menu. I can sort of make out a dish here or there. I play it safe and go with the polo curry which I know from my limited vocab is chicken. This fact is confirmed by the waiter after I order. I go out on a limb further and order vino tinto. I brace for a confused look from the waitress but no, she pours me a glass of red wine on cue. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this. The place fills up as the clock moves touches 23:00. I wonder when these people have to start work on a Monday morning. I get the impression that I’m the only person here who isn’t Spanish. Well I did crave authenticity now didn’t I? If only I spoke the language.

A small basket of bread is placed before me. There’s also a plastic pack of small cigar shaped crisp breads as part of the deal. This is the same stuff I got from the corner café earlier in the day. I wait another ten minutes or so for the food. The cute waitress behind the bar is working her arse off pouring beers and glasses of wine. The noise level inside rises as chit chat reaches its peak. Even though I wasn’t a participant it was interesting to watch. My food arrives in a rectangular white plate. There are four circular pieces of chicken covered in a light sauce accompanied by several pieces of pineapple. Must say it tasted quite good and the bread helped fill the gaps. I ordered one last beer for the road and headed off back to the pension at 23:30 less than a minute away. I can only imagine how long the patrons there kicked on.

When I push the buzzer the one and a half armed man opens the door. It appears he is still smoking the same cigarette which was glued to his lips an hour ago. Had a bit of a restless night’s sleep in spite of the fact that the pension was very quiet. Was sure I could hear my heart beating in the early hours it was peaceful. That freaked me out a bit. Woke up at 08:45; talk abut decadent!. There was a young guy on reception who spoke good English. I informed him in Spanish that the hot water was off. To my amazement he understood me and apoligised saying something about gas being changed. He told me about the location of a laundry and marked it on the map and an internet café.
I thanked him and found the Laundry straight away. However they don’t do laundry even though it says laundry on their sign. To say the least I was confused especially seeing that seemed to be bags of laundry behind their counter amongst the dry cleaning. Maybe they should consider opening a cheese shop as well in the tradition of Monty Python? She gave me the address of another laundry across town. Was this a Spanish practical joke I wondered.

I pass by Hostel Rio-Sol on my return to my pension. I see they have wi fi so I make a mental note. I ask Willy at Pension Bailen about the wi fi at the sister hostel. He tells me that it is five euros for unlimited use. He says he will call the reception guy there to set me up with it. T’s like a role reversal of the previous day with Willy being the English speaker at my place having to phone the non English speaker at Rio-Sol. Confusing but it seems to work. Willy is surprised to hear that the laundry he sent me to is only a front. He tells me about another Laundry in a shopping mall nearby that I’ve been to so I head off there.

First I get the wi fi up and running. It costs me five euros which is a pretty good deal as it gives me six days use. I try to find the wireless network on my laptop but I can’t connect. A guy with a cigarette pack in his top pocket (badge of honor around here) comes down the stairs and starts reconfiguring my laptop. Does this guy work here or is he some sort of a Latin computer geek lodging here. He mutters something derogatory about the operating system. He does something with the d.n.s. settings which freaks me out a bit and then opens the run box and types something in. The wi fi access code screen comes up and he punches in the code to access the secure wi fi system. I’m surprised this actually works as the web page appears before my eyes.

I walk across the road to the shopping mall and find the laundry located downstairs as advised by Willy. I confirm with the woman at the counter that they do do laundry Then I try to get a price per kilo of clothing. No chance of that. Every time I tried to get an idea of price she made a big rectangular shape in space. I think she was saying lets see how much you have first or maybe she was indulging in the national pass time of charades. There’s a phrase used in military parlance called ‘the fog of war’. Travellers should have their own version of the term to describe the all too frequent state of utter confusion. I call it ‘the fog of tourism’. Thankfully there was a supermarket next door. Surely I’d be safe from lack of information and/or mis information there. I cruised the aisles and picked up a bottle of mineral water for what I thought was .70 Euro and then a can of Guinness for a very reasonable .40 Euro. Lastly I grabbed a three pack of chocolate pastries for 1.25 Euros. I get the receipt and discover the stout was in fact 1.83 E and the mineral water 1.00 E. Only the Naro Choco was the right price and tasted extra yummy as well.

Did minimal amount of exploring today. My feet need the rest and I need to work out how to download pics from my new digital camera. I get all this mundane crap out of the way and check out one of the local streets I’d only partially explored/ Nothing special to see but it was great to be out in the sun living life as it were. The one thing that did strike me was how much of a mono culture Spain still is. Not a black or Asian person in site. The polar opposite of France and Britain. When I returned to my pension I caught up on a bit of screenplay writing until about 21:30. There was yet another guy on the desk who started speaking fluent Spanish to me. I think he wanted to know whether I was checking out. I think I made it clear I wasn’t. The fog of tourism rides high. I dropped in on the local tapas bar two doors down and it was pretty dead. Only two guys at the bar but I stayed as I figured it was my local and I had to check it out. There was some confusion about what was on offer food wise. Finally I made my choice, calamari rings with a tomato sauce. The menu was also in English which took a bit of heat off. The meal and beer were excellent and only cost me 3.50 Euros.

Seeing my local was just about to shut I headed off up the street a few meters toward the bar that had the outside seating. Surprisingly it was also closed. Guess they made a gigantic killing on Sunday night when the other places weren’t open. There appears to be an orderly rotation of opening and shutting between the local cafes. I made my way down the lane to the first café I visited. It was packed out with people and I was wondering if I could get a seat. There was an empty stool at the bar so I sat myself down. The young English speaking waiter was doing his shift so communication was a breeze. I ordered a red wine in my mangled Spanish and asked him to recommend a cheese to go with it. I chose a traditional bitey Spanish cheese that was excellent with the wine. Found out that the place was packed out with music students celebrating. I love the bar scene over here and could live in this country without much effort.

The following morning I discovered that the hot water was back on so I did some clandestine clothes washing under the cover of taking a shower. Some how I doubt whether management here would give a stuff about me washing in the hand basin but best not to press my luck. After a quick dip in the shower I proclaimed operation Seville suds a stunning success. Now all I had to do was wait for the air to dry out my shorts and tee shirt. I grabbed a coffee around the corner from the surly café proprietor and did some web surfing at Rio-Sol. Had to squeeze myself in a corner to avoid the reception guy passing through but it was worth it. Spoke to a friend back in Oz for fifteen minutes. Got a really clear connection. Don’t you love modern technology (when it works). Caught up on email and updated my travel blog. Discovered that this wireless connection is super fast giving me around two megs or more of though put, for you tech heads out there. Puts my wireless connection back home to shame.

Headed off toward the river. It was yet another picture perfect day in Seville. Bike tracks abound here and get plenty of use. Looks like the local town planners got it right. People were riding bikes which were publicly available on racks. You need an access card to unlock them and then get charged for the time you are out riding There are racks of bikes paced at 300 meter intervals throughout the city. The only catch is you need to put down 150 Euro deposit using your credit card. I couldn’t work out the machines at each bike depot even though there was a Union Jack symbol denoting an English option on screen. I only know this much because tourist information gave me a leaflet explaining the system. Not surprisingly few tourists use these bikes. I passed by the bull fighting arena on may way back. Only a quarter hour walk from where I’m staying but I don’t think I have the stomach to watch a bull being victimised for entertainment. My preferred form of blood sport is watching Madonna die on screen.

It’s 15:00 and I’m in the mood for a feed so I front up to the local and order Paella and a beer. The beer is cold and the tapas serve of seafood and rice is delicious. As usual it comes with bread but doesn’t everything over here. Have to test that theory with deserts. I also order a plate of spinach and another beer. Hey I’ve been walking a few Ks it’s hot outside! The spinach has nutty looking things interspersed throughout. I have no idea what I’m swallowing but it tastes fine. I hand the waiter a twenty Euro not and I only get 9.5 Euros back. Seems a bit steep but maybe the paella is an expensive dish. One of the drawbacks of eating at a place where individual serves don’t have a price attached.

I head back to Rio-Sol to upload updates from my travel diary. It’s a drawn out process and I’m there for at least and hour and a half. I hope I’m not wearing out my welcome. Certainly getting my money’s worth out of the deal. I’m about to finish up and the receptionist guy grabs hold of what looks like a mini butane gas cylinder. He lights the nozzle on top and a blue flame appear. Then he proceeds to melt some plastic electrical light switch or something. I assume he’s doing some sort of repair job but the whole thing looks Thai dodgy to me. A little girl rushes around while he’s doing this. He seems oblivious to her safety and keeps melting away plastic. Soon the reception area is filled with a burnt plastic smell. My favorite! I look at the progress of my bulk photo upload and pray it’s completed before I inhale too many cosigns or pass out from the fumes. I make my escape and hope that some form of industrial accident doesn’t take place here.

I get down to some serious screenplay writing at about 07:00. The open area outside my room is a great spot to work on my writing. I put in a solid two hour session and reward myself with a visit to the café where the English speaking waiter works. It’s much quieter than the previous night and I have a chance to chat to him a bit more. I order goat cheese on his recommendation and a glass of red. He tells me that he’s a second year med student from Portugal and works there to help pay his tuition. His mother is a retired English teacher explaining his fluency in my language. He said he attempted to learn Japanese but gave it up. He’s a really nice guy who I was able to have an interesting conversation with. The only in depth chat I’ve had while being here. He also loves the lifestyle here and found in England people were too goal orientated at the expense of enjoying life. I hear him on that front.

Woke up at about 08:20 which is very early over here. Did clandestine laundry during my morning shower. I plan to publish a how to book on the subject soon. Bought a coffee at the local tapas bar. Strong and cheap so I won’t be seeing Mr Surly pants down the road anymore. Did the net surfing pilgrimage to Rio-Sol. Laundry ruled the roost so there wasn’t a chair for me to sit on. I was sent to the linen closet to get my internet fix. Where will they send me tomorrow, the service lift? I popped into the supermarket to pick up some mineral water and sugary treats. I found out that the Guinness cans were correctly labelled at 1.83 Euro. It’s just that they weren’t shelved in the right spot. Generally beer is dirt cheap over here although getting it refrigerated is the big trick. Went to the check out and the guy in front of me told me to go first as he had a few more items than me. Very rare you’ll ever see that happen in Melbourne. Seville has a nice vibe about it. People put a high priority on simply enjoying life. They’ll learn.

Got back to my room and found that the sugary pastries I bought were in fact the Spanish version of the pastie. Flatter and mainly comprising of mashed carrot but tasted pretty well the same as the Anglo variety. It filled the spot anyway. I’m sure I’ll find sufficient sugary additives to my diet tomorrow. Met a family group from Colorado, Nebraska or somewhere in that vicinity staying here one night. They raved about Portugal, said the people were friendly and that it’s even cheaper than here. Haven’t heard a bad report about the place. Do you think I should check it out? Wandered off to the bus station. Say a sign saying Madrid direct for 18.50 Euro. Hope it’s as good a value in the opposite direction. The guy behind the counter at Eurobus looked totally disinterested in serving customers. He was sitting at a 90 degree angle to the window. I’ve never seen a slacker customer service employee in my life, that is if I’m not including myself. Decided to check the buses the following morning when the staff may be more motivated.

I walked across the bridge to see if there was anything interesting in that part of the river. I was surprised to find that after a block or two the city petered out into a rural expanse. One minute you’re in a high density historic urban setting, the next it’s rolling hills. Maybe Seville isn’t as big as I gave it credit to be? I headed back home and ordered a cold beer at the corner tapas bar. It was cheaper than I expected meaning that the paella must have cost even more than I guessed. That’s seafood for you. When I returned to the pension two doors down the one and a half armed man opened the metal gate. Yet again he had a lit cigarette in his mouth. He’s got to be the poster child for chain smoking.

Returned to my local tapas bar and grabbed a beer with the tapas sized spinach plate and chick peas I ordered yesterday. I felt a little uncomfortable sitting at the bar as the woman next to me began pouring out her soul to the bar tender. She almost burst into tears as she waved some document at the barman. He examined said papers and made reassuring comments. I felt like I was in the centre of a family crisis and hastily called for the bill. I now realised that spinach was the big ticket item on the menu. Is there a world spinach shortage because I don’t see how Paella can be cheaper than a green vegetable. Guess what I’ll be eating next time? I do a solid session of writing at the pension before heading back to the other café that serves a variety of queso or cheese to you English speakers. Yeah I know it’s a tough life. My English speaking waiter pours me a large glass of red. Guess he appreciated the tip yesterday. I try a mild smoked cheese that doesn’t have the oomph of the other varieties I’ve tried. Still the red went down well.

Pension had some noisy guests staying over so I didn’t sleep too well. Woke after 09:00 which made me feel guilty. Willy from the Dominican Republic was on the desk so communication wasn’t a problem. Paid for one more night here as he yelled expletives at a motorist beeping their horn outside. His exact words were ‘You mother f….r’. I think you can fill in the blanks. Went off to do the internet thing and as expected was shoved off to a new locale on the first floor. Couldn’t get a good signal up there so returned to the linen closet downstairs. My home away from home. Checked out Morocco online and looks good. Walked to the bus station a block away and found I’m up for 122 Euro return to Tangier. Bit steep but the bonus is I get to catch the bus at 04:30. Joy oh joy. Thought about my travel options while stuffing my face with heavenly pastries acquired from the supermarket.

Did a bit of walking in the afternoon. Yet another perfect, sunny day. Grabbed a beer from the local. They already know what I want at that time of day. That’s me, creature of habit. I work on my screenplay from 18:30 onwards. Funny at home I’m more a morning person re creative work. The ideas flow well but my rear is getting sorer by the minute from sitting in a wrought iron chair. ( possibly an abandoned torture device left over from the Spanish Inquisition) I knock out a few pages and then head back to see Alex (med student come barman) at my other regular haunt. There’s quite a few people there and I strike up a conversation (of sorts) with Manuel sitting next to me. He wasn’t from Barcelona but his mum lives in ‘Adelaided’. He seemed a little peeved that I only spoke one language which is fair enough from a European perspective. The place was still kicking on at 22:30 when I left so I might stay there a little later tomorrow night. After all, the beers are cheap at 1.1 Euro (A$1.75) per ten ounce glass. Love student bars.

Next day Friday and the usual drop in at the corner tapas bar for a coffee. I don’t even have to order it. The assistant barman has already filled the glass for me. Spent well in excess of an hour researching my upcoming travel options on the net. France is looking an expensive option for late July so may just fly directly back to Rome from Madrid to catch my Malaysian airlines flight. Good news is that there’s dirt cheap Easy Jet flights from Tangiers to Madrid so I won’t have to bus and ferry it back. May give myself three weeks in Morocco. Think it could be worth it. Walked back along the river in search of Seville’s second bus station. Couldn’t locate it but saw some spectacular buildings along the way. Seville continues to delight with its parks and impressive buildings. I regard this place as a real find and am so happy it hasn’t been over run by the usual suspects of European mass tourism.

Return to my local corner tapas bar. See a pattern forming here? It’s packed out with family groups including kids in strollers. I can’t get over how convivial the atmosphere is in this local haunts. The barman spots my sweaty brow and knows exactly what I need A cold glass of beer lands on the bar right in front of me. I’m within spitting distance of nirvana. At around 21:30 I head to the other bar. You know the one. Alex is there working his arse off as more family groups pack out the café. Is Friday family night in Seville? Alex has a smile on his face, tomorrow is his day off and he finally gets to catch up on sleep. He tells me that the other med students don’t do any paid work as their parents are rich. He didn’t say this with any detectable bitterness, just stating facts. I had several drinks plus a cod dish covered in a type of tomato sauce. It was very tasty. Love popping in there for a night cap. Back in Melbourne the pissed hoons would be looking for someone to beat up about this time on Friday. The cultural contrast couldn’t be starker Alex spoke to his Moroccan flat mates who advised where I should catch a ferry to Tangier. Good to have some inside information.

Next day checked out an produce market Alex told me about. It wasn’t exactly big, like a micro mini Victoria market. The veggies on display didn’t look as appetizing either. The other thing that struck me was that many items such as beans and apples didn’t have prices displayed which is really good for a foreigner who doesn’t speak the lingo. The one thing this mini market did have was a bar down the back presumably serving cheap beer. May test out that theory before I depart for Morocco. Returned to my local tapas bar for a couple of beers. Easy to build up a sweat walking half way across town in this heat. I snoozed in the afternoon and returned to my local at around 18:00 only to discover they’d shut up shop. I walked over to another bar and fond that their kitchen didn’t open until 21:00. The student bar down the road was also shut so I was screwed for an early feed on a Saturday night.

I walked back to the student bar at 21:00 which was thankfully open. I had a couple of beers there and a tapas sized meal which consisted of a tomato based soupy brew with bacon strips floating in it. Wasn’t what I expected but it filled the spot with the addition of the ubiquitous small basket of bread. I headed back to the other tapas bar near my pension and got a glass of red with what I’d figured was a stir fry with chicken. The word wok is the same in both languages so it was a good clue. The waitress who served me last time smiled as she walked by. Nice of her to remember me. Don’t think they are swamped with Aussies in this joint. The meal was exactly what I expected. Looks Like I’m getting the hang of reading their menus. I considered ordering another beer but thought better of it. This seems quite a popular spot with a higher ratio of female customers. Several of the outside tables had reserved signs on them. If I could speak the language I might have hung around and tried charming one of the local ladies. Never felt so inadequate not knowing a second language.

Walked the streets Sunday and discovered that everything is closed. Nowhere to buy a coffee. Call out the national guard. Not even surly pants was open. I popped into Rio-Sol was told by the Cuban lady that there was a café several doors down. As usual she was spot on and I get my morning fix of caffeine. I returned to Rio-Sol a little later to upload some more pics of Seville to the travel blog. I used my downloaded dictionary to tell the Cuban lady that it was forecast to rain in Seville the next day. Of course she didn’t understand a word I was saying. However she was very nurturing and pointed out that my pronunciation is awful! I think I would have given up trying to learn Spanish without such encouragement. She also informed me that Spanish words have very specific meanings. She quoted the example of glasses in English meaning drinking glasses as well as say reading glasses. In Spanish it’s different with each word having its own unique meaning.. Makes it tough when I use an English to Spanish translator that returns multiple words. How am I to know which Spanish version of glasses pertains to say reading glasses? Knew this Espanola stuff was looking deceptively too easy.

Headed off on my own discovery tour. No I wasn’t trying to find myself but the holy grail of Seville transport, The Saint Sebastian bus depot. One wonders why it is named after a town in the far North East of Spain. To create maximum confusion maybe. I walked along a familiar road then veered off to the right. The map was using was useless so I went with my nose, which is rather large and has a state of the art GPS system surgically inserted. I wended my way through charming narrow alleyways until I emerged in a touristy area. I see the tram tracks and followed them down the yellow brick road. Actually the yellow bricks have faded to grey but you get the idea. I was back on familiar ground and saw a number of buses heading in the one direction. This either means I was close to my goal or every single bus driver had lost his way. (a plausible scenario if they were Melbourne taxis)

I looked around. I see bus stops to the left of me, bus stops to the right of me but no sign of Saint Sebastian Bus station, the El Dorado of Seville mass transit. I asked some chick trying to look super cool in sun glasses where the bus depot was. Nada. I then asked a bus driver after referring to my Spanish phrase book. He pointed in a diagonal direction. I looked over to what appeared to be a villa in renovation mode. ‘Over there?’, I exclaimed. ‘Ci, the yellow building.’ With ebbing confidence I approached a building that has zero resemblance to what I perceived as a bus station. I navigated a tiny footpath through a giant archway. And there it stood before me, a bus station in all its glory, replete with chocking fumes and dodgy looking characters. The stories were true after all, Saint Sebastian wasn’t just a legend it really did exist. I walked into a large booking hall and saw a timetable listing Algeciras as a destination. I was overcome with emotion.

There even had prices listed for the bus trip. 17.?? Euro. Slightly better than the 70 Euro quoted by Euro bus. What’s more there were a number of buses leaving at regular intervals during the day. None at the ungodly hour of 04:30. Nice to find a bus service that isn’t run by vampires. It all seemed too good to be true. Maybe it was too good to be true. What if this was some sort of sick practical joke to lull me into a false sense of security? I walked up to the booking clerk and asked him to confirm the details on the board. He couldn’t give a rats about my enquiry. Relief swept over me. This guy has to be legit. No one but a bus company employee could be this slack. I walked out of the bus station a happy camper as the booking clerk resumed reading the Sunday paper. I only noticed then that this was the main entrance to the station. Of course it’s located in a side street away from prying eyes. How Spanish is that.

Got back to the pension after walking in excess of an hour. Just wanted a cold beer but do you spose any of my local haunts were open? Ended up grabbing a bottle of beer from a café in the main drag. Sundays are pretty dead around here. Checked out the student bar at around 20:30. It still had the shutters up even though there was someone inside there earlier at quarter to four. Forget the notion of predictable opening hours. Grabbed a beer at the local bar with outside seating. The barman was very friendly and gave me a small bowl of olives to go with my beer. I wonder if that had anything to do with me tipping the previous night? Anyway it’s a lovely place to sink a cold one. Warm air with ample opportunity for people watching. Also gave me an opportunity to learn a bit more Spanish from my phrase book. Next time I’ll bring a full blown dictionary with me. I need all the help I can get.

I returned to the same bar an hour later at about 21:30. I grab a table in the patio area causing a couple to immediately descend on me. Then I heard the word diners dread most. Reserved. Waitress evicts me from that table. I sit on a park bench nearby as legitimate diners go about the serious business of being hedonistic. A couple leaves a table. Another couple swoops on it immediately much to my chagrin. The waitress however comes to my defence and tells them to rack off as I had first dibs. (I’m paraphrasing by the way) I felt a little guilty having a table all to myself but the hell with it. I check out the menu which I now believe I have mastered. I decide to order what is described as beef with taco and cheese. Sounds fairly straightforward but of course you know I’m about to come a cropper don’t you?

I order my vino tinto. No great drama there and the taco. I expect the waitress to take my order and leave but no. Further interrogation is required. She begins babbling in Spanish and I look back blankly at her. (a posture I’ve perfected on my visit here) She then draws a minus sign a dot underneath and a plus sign below that. I have to choose which one. I protest that I don’t know this game. In desperation she consults several diners at the next table. It transpires that I need to indicate how I want my beef cooked, rare, medium or well done. I’m thinking they sure take their tacos seriously in these parts. I go with well done having no idea what form of meal awaits me. When the waitress returns I show her the Spanish for well done in my phrase book. Then I make the fatal mistake of attempting to crack a gag about ordering my beer well done. Goes right over her head of course. Does help to have a command of the language when attempting humour plus a good joke. In this instance I failed on both counts.

Minutes pass and couples seeking an outside table are knocked back at regular intervals. This is a bit of a dining hot spot. Eventually the waitress returns with my meal. It is nothing like what I expected. My supposed command of this establishment’s men is illusionary. My meal comprised of a small steak with a cube of queso (cheese) and some shriveled up clump of unidentifiable foodstuff. No sign of a taco shell anywhere. I was a little disappointed but hoed into my meal. It was okay without being spectacular. The Argentineans would have laughed off the morsel of steak that barely made its mark on my plate. Of course there was a generous serving of bread (both fresh and the crunchy cigar shaped plastic pack variety) to fill my stomach. On completion of the meal I asked for the tab in Spanish. Glad I’ve mastered that phrase. I left a tip for the waitress who’d worked hard taking my order and skulked off back to the pension. I have a lot to learn about Spanish menus.

So this is D day for me or should I say M day for Morocco. As much as I’ve loved staying in Seville it’s time to move on. I checked the internet and saw that the hotel in Tangiers still had plenty of rooms available. This in spite of the fact that they say that you need to book ahead. Yeah, right. I just commit to one night and will wing it from there. Worked here in Seville. I go another wander, this time in a westerly direction. The map which I dissed a day or two ago faithfully leads me to my goal. Alameda de Hercules is a wide open space with many big bars along the way. I heard a couple of American accents along the way and guess this is a big tourist hot spot. Glad I’m not staying here to be frank. I like staying off Alfonzo X11. (the main street at the end of my alleyway)

One thing that strikes me on my walks around the city is how few people here are obese. Maybe they all eat tapas style food? i.e. small protons frequently. The other question I have is why are the eating utensils here so crappy? I bent my fork several times cutting my steak the previous night. Maybe people would steal them if they were better quality?I sink a couple of beers on return from my latest walk and try ordering the set menu at the local. Out of food is the answer I get from Antonio, the owner. In broken English he tells me I have to order before 14:00 for that meal. I go with one of the tapas selections which I incorrectly surmise is a fish dish. This was down to my poor eyesight rather than my inept Spanish skills. It was a bowl of tiny pastas with bacon pieces interspersed. Tasty but not worth the six and a half Euro price tag in my opinion.

Fronted up to the student bar at about quarter to ten after knocking out a few more pages of my screenplay. Looks like I’ll actually finish writing the sucker. I could hear a the murmour of a crowd as I approached the entrance. As I walked in I saw that the place was almost full. Alex was behind the bar doing three things at once. He’ll be a natural at interning. Luckily there’s a spare stool at the bar so I sit myself down. A Euro cup football match is being shown on the plasma screen at the far end of the room. This could partially explain the bumper crowd. It was hard to chat with Alex as he was so busy. I amused myself by perving at all the young women socialising there. This bar has the best atmosphere I’ve come across here and it’s cheap to boot.

Eventually I get a word in with Alex. I make it short as he’s constantly racing up and down the bar serving drinks and food to a ravenous clientele. He told me that he got my email and had a cursory glance at this blog. I told him I’d committed to going to Morocco on Wednesday. Waxed lyrical about the bar scene over here and lamented that it wasn’t like this in Melbourne. Alex advised me to order small bottles of beer rather than glasses. Same price but colder as they are stored on ice. Now that’s what an Ausiie booze hound likes to hear. I was a bit sus with the first bottle that didn’t have a label. Alex assured me it was okay and wouldn’t kill me, well not instantly anyway. So far he’s been right on that count. Holland was playing Italy on the big screen. The Dutch scored a goal and there was deathly silence. Seems as if the locals were barracking for their Latin cousins. I sank five beers this session, a record for me in Seville. I outlasted Alex who said goodbye at 12:00. It was a good night and my second last in Seville.

Caught the bus to San Sebastian bus station on my last day in Seville. It was a bit of a slow journey with a number of stops along the way. I got off where I thought the bus station was. Wrong! I was one stop too soon. Was fooled by the tourists with back packs waiting at the stop. Would this bus station be like a Brigadoon to me and disappear for 100 years? Not on this occasion. It was only a block away so why have two bus stops so close to one another. Entered the booking hall and discovered that there weren’t that many buses to Algeciras. One at 09:30 and another at 13:00. The trip takes three and a half hours. I thought it was only 120 Ks or so. Maybe they don’t get out of second gear? I thought about confirming the times with the booking clerk but I didn’t want to disturb his sleep.

Walked toward Plaza de Espana for a possible photo op and jarred my ankle. The same ankle I sprained while playing park soccer just before I left. Great timing before heading into the wilds of Morocco. A gamy ankle plus shoes with holes in them and sandals with loose stitching. After a few paces the ankle improved a bit so I took some shots of this amazing semi circular building. The concert that had blocked my view had been bumped out and now I could actually wander around the huge courtyard dominated by an imposing fountain. Glad I got to document this building before I left. Alex told me that the plan was for it to be a complete circle but as often happens they ran out of gold. Still looks damn impressive to me.

Wasn’t going to risk the ankle so took the bus back to the pension. Got on board and sat down in a seat that appeared to be designed for one and a half people or one obese American. I felt a little intimidated taking up so much room so I moved to a conventional sized seat at the rear of the bus. I put my back pack on the other seat and try to restore sound to my camera. I hear a gruff Spanish word starting with S. Some surly young guy wants the seat next to me in spite of the fact that there are other seats available on the bus. Public transport attracts arseholes and loons the world over. This guy then starts fidgeting and moving in on my personal space before pulling back again. Warning bells ring. The bus continues its torturously slow journey through the busy Servile streets. A couple sitting in front of me get off and the young loon switches to the seat right in front of me. I wonder if he’s a junkie on a downer or just crazy. He eventually gets off and I over shoot my stop. Would have been as fast, less stressful and cheaper to walk.

Played it safe and ordered the tapas size chicken stir fry I’d had earlier. While I was waiting for my order a woman comes over who’s dining with her guy and starts speaking in Spanish. I have no idea what she’s saying so it’s absolutely futile. She gave up and I have no idea what her request/problem was. The stir fry was delicious. The chef used different vegetables this time that were equally as tasty. Said my goodbyes to the nice waitress with the rare, medium, well done code She was very proud of her Seville and wished me bon voyage. I completed the night by catching up with Alex. The place was packed out so there wasn’t much scope to talk. Not the best of farewells but he’s got make a living.

Final thoughts on Seville - A real surprise package. Never expected this city to be such a gem architecturally and culturally. The food and the people were both superb. If ever there was an incentive to learn Spanish this is the big one. Even the traffic signals have a friendly chirping bird like sound. Mind you it’s not totally paradise. There’s a problem with thieving according to Alex, hence the heavy duty iron bars on all doors and windows. My hostel was great in all respects but one, it was noisy into the wee hours. Okay if you can catch a siesta I suppose. The staff were friendly and the even supplied daily clean towels and soap which is pretty darn good for a budget abode. And I got unlimited wi fi internet for the duration of my stay for only five Euro. My room would have get hot in summer as well but there was a fan and it’s not the time to be here anyway. One other thing, on two occasions people gave up their places in the supermarket line for me because I had 1-3 items. Sums up the place for me, home away from home. I’ll be back. Of that you can be sure.

Additional photos below
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6th June 2008

Sunny weather
Amazing but true. Sunny weather certainly helps to raise the spirits. Good blogging, Mr Smith. Enjoyed every word. Sounds like Seville is a great place to add to my 'Must Visit' list. Keep on blogging!
9th June 2008

Bull Fighting
Will you visit the bull fight while in Spain? I would image that it would be very confronting!
10th June 2008

Still Saville?
For the last five days there has not been a new blog entry? 'Ah Saville' is the last which you posted on May 31. Is all OK? If so, then no need to blog. Just kick back, have few beers, enjoy the sunshine. Do a few touristy things. Have a few beers, then go out to a nice restuarant and see what happens.
10th June 2008

Great Photos
Lots and lots of great photos. Thanks for uploading!
13th June 2008

My new car in Seville!
I bought a new car two weeks ago. It's exactly the same make, model and colour as the one (1151 CFN) in your photograph "18th century street meets 21st century traffic". How the hell did you manage that?

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