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Friday, December 08, 2017

James Went To Sevilla

Back in September, I decided that I'd like another holiday before the end of the year - I wanted to sit and drink beer in the sunshine one final time before winter arrived.  So I stopped drinking for a few weeks (minus one or two very minor aberrations).

I didn't know where to go, or who to go with.  I did suggest to a couple of friends about the idea of going away, but none seemed even remotely keen but I'd also been thinking about going away by myself.  I was going to do the Swiss Alps trip by myself - I didn't expect my sister to be keen when I semi-drunkenly mentioned it last year.

I am quite comfortable on my own - I've had to learn to be so and it hasn't been easy in the past.  So I had been seriously considering the idea of going away by myself for a year or so, and I didn't put much effort into finding a companion once I'd asked a couple of people.

Why Sevilla?

When my colleagues asked me, I simply said that I wanted to look at Spanish women.


Google had made promises to me and I had to go look myself.

The first realistic week that I could afford was the first full week of November and I didn't expect many places in Europe would be warm and sunny at that point.  South of Spain was the one likely spot, and my parents had visited Sevilla earlier this year and were rather enamoured by it.

Whilst I begrudged the idea that I was not visiting a new country, it ticked my boxes - cheap, good food, pretty women, and some culture.

It was a frosty morning and I was getting one of the first tubes of the day.  I was still quite zombiefied (and a touch hungover from my dinner and drinks the day before) when arrived into the glory of Luton airport.

Though Luton airport was less shit than I expected, and I even managed to find an affordable pint of craft lager.  Airport beers are obligatory, even early on a Monday morning by yourself.

My Easyjet flight was surprisingly relaxing - I could have been on any airline, and nobody tried to sell me something every 10 minutes.  At least that I noticed.

My apartment was small - a fairly cheap airbnb affair.  My host was very friendly and helpful - thankfully he spoke more English than I did Spanish though I tried my Spanish "skills" when writing.  It had everything I wanted in one small, cosy apartment.  Not sure I would want to live in such an apartment, but it would be a perfect starter home for someone wanting to get onto the property ladder in Spain.  Or around £400,000 in London.

The first priority was to put my shorts on, get a beer and start reading my £0.01 book from Amazon, Adventures on the Wheels of Steel: The Rise of the Superstar DJs by Haslam, a book about the history of music scenes and in particular DJs, with the obligatory fawning chapter over the wonderful Jimmy Savile, and all the charity work he did.  At least he was apparently wonderful when the book was written a good 15 years or so ago.

I made it to some long open boulevard that my host had recommended me.  It wasn't the most salubrious of areas but at least the relatively low-lying sunshine was shining on me due to the open expanse.  My abiding memory was of lots of flies, which kind of suited reading about how revolutionary Jimmy Savile was as a DJ.  Shudder.

For the rest of the day, I wandered around aimlessly, had a couple more beers, bought the obligatory ham, cheese and baguette for the apartamento in case I became hungry.  In the evening I went out for food, again I took my host's recommendation and went to a tiny little side street tapas place - I had two unimpressive dishes and a beer for a very impressive €4.40.  Just over half the amount I had paid for a plate of broccoli the day before.  Seville is cheap - even when I mistakenly sat down in a tourist trap cafe, I only paid €3.50 for a large cerveza.


My meal was culinary disappointing enough to dissuade me from spending any more money - and I was trying to do the trip on just €120 of spending money (I failed but not by much).

At the end of the day I wasn't impressed with Seville.  Neither charmed nor interested - I'd drank cheap beer with flies and had fairly uninteresting but cheap food.  Oh and why did pretty much every dish come with fries?  Oh, and I had only fallen in love once.  Where were all the hot Spanish flamenco dancers on every street corner that Google Images promised?

I don't like failure so I needed a plan, and decided to book a tour of Seville for the next day.  Two tours, in fact - both free tours (albeit with a tip being socially acceptable - and deserved).


The first tour was a tour through the historic part of the city to see the monuments.  There were two tours, one Spanish and one English.  The Spanish one, of course, was headed by a super-hot senorita.  I decided English would be more appropriate - he did once live in Manchester and was astounded by newspaper headlines of incoming heatwaves...with temperatures of 20'C.


Seville in the summer reached 46'C this year.  I would probably die.  I was perfectly happy in temperatures of 22'C to 25'C - though the mornings were notably chilly, and as soon as the sun disappeared by around 6pm, it quickly got chilly again.  Even I needed a jacket in the evening.  Yes, I did get one or two strange looks for wearing shorts - either that or Spanish women were finding me surprisingly attractive - I am going for the former.

So the tour.  We went past churchy stuff, though thankfully being on holiday without my sister meant I didn't have to then later go in them.  We went past the city hall, which amusingly one side was not decorated on the outside as they had run out of money in whatever century it was build - and could either afford to finish decorating the building, or throw a party for whoever it was being built for.  They chose the party.  I do love the Spanish.


We went past the palace, Alcazar, though not an awful lot to see on the outside, we were regaled by stories from our guide.  And then onto the university - which used to be a tobacco factory.

Then finally onto a set of buildings that were built by other countries as gifts to Spain, in some form of Expo.  As you can see, I haven't remembered much of the historic details - but there was some stunning architecture, especially in the beautiful park to finish.

The tour was excellent - I really do not know why I don't do guided tours when I go abroad.  This will change.  Especially if they are free.

Time for a couple of beers in the sunshine, and back to my book.

By late afternoon I went on another tour, this time of the old gypsy district, which used to be a no-go area historically.  And also where Flamenco dancing was reputedly from.

This tour guide was also excellent - though he only had two of us to show around.  Some of it was a bit churchy and stuff, but some of it was fascinating about the history of Seville, and this particular district - especially in regards to the history of the Moors.  I won't attempt to reproduce it in print as it would only be #fakehistory.

In the evening I also had my best meal of the holiday.  I spent ages trying to research tapas places - nowhere convinced me until I found a place called Bodega Dos De Mayo.  When I arrived, fairly late, it was busy and there was nowhere to sit.  I did think about going elsewhere, but I ignored my stabs of impatience and solo social awkwardness and hung on the street corner (I didn't see any prostitutes in Seville, by the way) until a table came free.


I was thankful that I did - the pork loin (with fries, of course) was beautiful.  I then tried two new dishes.  Firstly I tried bull - it was very earthy and almost had a touch of liver about it.  Very nicely cooked though I will happily ignore it on future menu lists.  And then patatas sevillanos, which was a gorgeous dish of potatoes, spring onions, chives, some kind of sauce - and then a chunk of tuna oddly placed on top - as you do...the Spanish are bloody weird at times.




For the final day, I wanted to do something cultural, have some chorizo, some churros and some flamenco.  I didn't have much money left so that was a factor in my decision making - for when is it not?!

I started with a small plate of chorizo and fried eggs.  Quite why it was so hard to find chorizo in Seville, I never found out.  And I wasn't that impressed with my decision making - I could have made this back home in England.  What was I doing?


I tried to make up for this by finding some churros - my Spanish amiga raves about them - I think I have had them in England once, thought there were rubbish but assumed that was because I had bought them from Nando's or whatever chain hole it was.

All day I looked for them, but nada.  Then I remembered that the oldest bar in Seville was supposed to be the best place.  I went in and asked in my best Spanish.  He didn't understand me.  I typed "churros" on my phone and he barked back at me, "no".  OK...

But on the street corner near my house, there was a little takeaway stand.  The not so attractive Spanish lady serving me was very efficient.  Alas, the dreadful churros I had in England were far superior and I ended up throwing them away.  The chocolate they came with was particularly naff.  I blamed my decision making process again.


Churros are shit.  Do not be fooled by Spanish people telling you otherwise.

Thankfully, my decision making process was spot on for which cultural visit to undertake, for Alcazar was rather wondrous.


A sprawling palace with very large grounds, I found myself getting completely lost on a few occasions - once in a maze which I decided to enter, believing that it wasn't really a maze and then getting stuck.  The peacocks found their way out quite easily by going through the small gaps at the bottom.



It was a truly beautiful place and where the King & Queen of Spain stay now when they visit Sevilla. I could have spent hours in there but I fancied a beer so off I went to sit, read my book again, and watch the world go by.  Or watch Spanish women cycle by.

I ended up a little tipsy that night and decided to have a steak.  Not exactly especially Spanish but hey.  It was good but nothing I'd not had before - and by this point I was relying on my card to pay and of course it wouldn't.  I feared a stint of washing up but managed to find a working cash point at the third attempt.


That will have to do you.  I started writing this when I got back which was a month ago.  And have only just finished it now.

By the end of the visit I was properly enchanted by Seville.  I loved all the cute little roads and how close everything was - rarely did I walk down a road twice.  I liked the laid back atmosphere, yet there was still a vibrancy.  It did almost have a cool Californian feel to it in places, with lots of people cycling, skating and rowing - yes on the river there were loads of people in canoes and kayaks, every single time I went past.  Yet I only saw one gym.  I did see a few fat Spanish women.


It even has a music scene.


Alas, I didn't make it to a flamenco show.  I considered buying a flamenco dress apron for a giraffe, but as I live on my own and use water and soap to clean my hands instead of aprons, it would have been fairly pointless.  It was enough to amuse myself at the thought.

I know a flamenco dancer in the UK anyway - albeit she never invites me to her shows.  I may have popped the myth about Spanish women being exceptionally beautiful too - or maybe I just expected too much from all the beautiful women in Ibiza.

The food was good but not brilliant - it was gloriously cheap over there though.

Seville is definitely up there with my favourite cities that I have ever visited.  Not quite in the must-visit category with Berlin and Barcelona - but in the secondary category.

I did really, really like Seville.  And there were even a few people with mullets there.  Modern mullets - like mine.

Adios.  Next up for me on my travels is Madrid, in April, for my father's retirement.