Seville

Talk about a long day of travel. There was a train ride from Porto to Faro, down in the beachy Algarve region, followed by a bus to Seville. All total, about 10 hours. There is no quick way about it. Most Spanish travel is channelled through Madrid, and we didn’t want to go there yet, so long route it had to be. It made for some pretty scenery. All that really matters about the trip is that the nondescript Spanish border control officers sitting on the side of the freeway in their pickup truck were wearing jeans and sleeveless tees [even a Duke basketball jersey!]. Fancy! I wish all immigration checkpoints were like that.

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If I could sum up Seville in a word, I’d probably use hot. There is more to it this culture rich city than the temperature, clearly, but my pasty Oregon body was totally not prepared for 90 degree weather. Then again, I never am. We met Christian’s mom to get setup in the apartment. It was the most lived in apartment by far, clearly not just a place to rent for money fun. He rents it out when he’s in Brazil. It was a charming little apartment near the main part of town and is a short walk from the bus station. The lack of a fan I thought might be the death of me, but I survived.

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We unintentionally timed this trip with the Seville Fair [they know it as Feria]. It’s a cultural fair that starts two weeks after Easter Holy Week. Everyone dresses up in bright, colorful costumes and have decorated tents that cover the fairground. There are parades to the bullring. People party until the wee hours of the morning. We didn’t really participate in any of the festivities other than seeing a bullfight. I wasn’t sure what to expect or think, but I knew it was something I had to see in order to form my own opinion. It is a dying part of Spanish culture, yet the ring was nearly sold out. It’s expensive too! Who knew sitting down towards the front would cost over 120 euros each? That’s not where we sat. My fair complexion would never survive. I’m not up to date on the rules, but it was easy to catch onto the format. A bull would be let loose in the ring. The younger, inexperienced matadors taunt and tease it so the matador can learn the bull’s ways. Eventually a man on an armored horse comes out to rile it up some more, and ultimately stab it in the back with a spear. Finally the matador comes out to do his thing. He’ll stick a few more barbed spears into its back, and tire it out. It concludes with a final sword thrust. In total we saw six different bulls killed over the course of a couple hours. It was really intense. People heckled the matador and waved their white handkerchiefs. They mob the matadors after the fight to get photos and autographs. It’s just like any other sport, except they consider it a fine art.

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Because the weather was so hot, we took advantage of the siesta most days since it was the hottest part of the day. The sun is relentless if you’re not careful. I was already sporting a sweet sunburn from Lisbon. One can only put on so much sunblock. The other alternative is getting up early to beat the heat. The streets are practically empty because of the late nights people have, and the weather is perfect. A walk through the more touristy parts of town, the cathedral, squares, and parks, are really great at that part of the day. We toured the Cathedral De Sevilla on one morning. It was really pretty and well-maintained, not showing its age at all. Paying an entrance fee helps make that happen. There is a bell tower you can climb to get some of the best views of the city. It was worth the whole trip to the cathedral to see these views. The only downside was the group of apathetic school kids on a field trip. I was immediately envious of all the rooftop pools at the hotels. +1 to the hotels. Afterward, we sought out some ice cream. I was pretty disappointed with the quality of roadside ice cream shops. I feel like you couldn’t find bad gelato in Italy. The ice cream in Spain was easily mediocre if you just picked a random place. I don’t think we gave it another chance the entire trip.

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My favorite meal of the trip was eaten on the first night in Seville. La Azotea. We waited an hour at 10pm. Late meals aren’t a joke. The restaurant isn’t very big, and it’s only open until midnight. I was already hungry well before we stood in line, but it just felt worth it. The menu is super fresh and innovative without being ridiculous. The portions are worthwhile, not just wisps of food on a plate, and while it definitely wasn’t the cheapest tapas in town, you’re paying for the quality. The servers were awesome. We hadn’t experienced service like that at all during the trip. They were friendly and attentive, which is not the norm. We asked one of our servers to pour us whatever his favorite wine was, a particularly dangerous thing to do if they really just go for the $$$ bottles. I’ll admit I was nervous when he cracked open a magnum bottle, but it was liquid gold and actually reasonable. I have never tasted such a great Spanish wine. It was a bottle of Predicador by Benjamin Romeo, a red wine that’s heavy on the bramble fruit. It’s a mix of tempranillo, garancha, and viura. We closed the restaurant down after a ridiculously good meal of tender grilled tuna belly marinated in soy sauce, and pile slow roasted pork cheeks, roasted potatoes and goat cheese. We were invited back the next day for lunch where we met the owner and ate grilled bull. He lived in San Diego for awhile. You know he and Andrew became fast friends.

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I got my first brush with really good Iberico ham. I think I love prosciutto more, but some soft greasy acorn-fed cured meat is not a bummer. After a particularly bad breakfast experience [the service, not the food, sine we never got all the food], we ended up at this Flores Gourmet, a charcuterie spot. Andrew just told them that we wanted ham, cheese, and wine. Breakfast of champions. Spaniards love their ham. Many breakfasts involved just ham on toast. No condiments. It’s not all created equal though. I feel like this is an instance where price is definitely indicative of quality. Restaurant quality Iberico just wasn’t the same as some of these places that specialized in it.

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Did I have a juicy burger and fries with a half pint of Guiness at an Irish pub late one night? Yes, yes I did. I’m telling you, a burger in every city.

There was so much of Seville that we didn’t get to see in our short time there. I’d love to go back if the weather were a little cooler. After a long walk to the train station early one morning and we would be on our way to Madrid.

[Recap: Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona]

One comment

  1. Sara Kuhlman

    That is so amazing that you met the owner of the restaurant and got invited back the next day. That’s the kind of story that I love about traveling! I hate going to museums because I want to go out and experience the culture and have exactly this kind of experience!

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