(or so I thought ...)
10.10.2008 - 11.10.2008 18 °C
Traveling very early in the morning, for example around 3am – is a very interesting experience. The short version of my story is that I met some strange people while making my way by bus and by train to the airport … people I probably wouldn’t have talked to if it had been a more decent hour of the day. Hopefully my travels will not require me to be out and about that early anymore, but at least now I know that it is indeed possible to use the bus system effectively when the tube is not yet running.
I boarded the flight for Sevilla and was very excited to get a window seat near the front of the plane. (I usually ended up on the wing, so being up front was a nice change.) While we were in the air I saw an absolutely gorgeous sunrise! I’ve never really seen one from such a high altitude before, so I’m sure you can imagine how happy I was that I had my camera handy.
Waiting for me right outside customs was the entire reason for my trip to Spain in the first place – Elizabeth!!! I was on the receiving end of a giant, running-toward-me bear hug and it’s one of the best I’ve ever gotten.
We walked around the city, just taking in the sights, and I got to see where Elizabeth goes to class, her route home, and of course where she lives! Unfortunately I was unable to stay with her because guests aren’t allowed in home stays, but my hostel was very cute and even though it was a long walk between the two we managed just fine.
I was introduced to my first lemon fanta in Spain. Apparently, the lemon flavor isn’t available in the U.S., so we stopped by a supermarket when we got thirsty and I discovered how amazing it is! It’s more like limeade than lemonade, but there’s some sort of special twist to it and now I’m on the lookout for it wherever I go!
We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant Elizabeth had been to once before, and we filled up on tapas and sangría. Tapas, rather than being a large plate of something, are like the mini versions. So your order comes on a small plate and only has one or two of whatever it is that you ordered, and you have to get a couple of them so that you have enough to fill up on! We had something with the name tortilla in it – but contrary to what you might expect, no bread-like items were involved. It was more like an egg pie with potatoes – sort of like a quiche but not really. We also had spinach empanadas which were delicious! And we were entertained by ordering sangría – wine mixed with juice – just because we could.
We sat outside which was so nice. The weather was perfect – warm and sunny but not hot, and it was so pleasant and calming to just be outdoors. I love how when you have a meal in Europe it’s expected that you’ll just be there for a while. There’s no rush to get the customers in and out so that more can come through. It’s much more slow-paced and therefore relaxing. And in Sevilla, all of the restaurants had their tables outside, just on the sidewalk or in the middle of the square – and I loved it! It was so much fun to just choose a table, sit down, and enjoy the nice weather, the people strolling by, and the little kids running around …
Back at Elizabeth’s apartment we rested for a bit, (siesta is a beautiful thing,) and I met her host sister and the host sister’s friend. Fortunately, Elizabeth warned me about “beso beso” beforehand, so I was prepared to kiss and be kissed on both cheeks rather than shaking hands. It was still funny though.
In Spain, the two big tourist items are bull fighter memorabilia and flamenco dresses. My favorites, as we walked by the shops, were the aprons that looked like Flamenco dresses because they had fun patterns and lots of ruffles along the bottom. I was tempted to get one, but I wouldn’t have wanted to use it for actual cooking for fear of getting it dirty, which I do realize is the whole purpose of the apron in the first place. And I don’t have a mannequin to display it on properly, and I just have a feeling that it would not look quite as cool squished in my closet between jackets and skirts.
One thing I noticed overall was a very different feel in Sevilla from that of London. Obviously there’s a language difference, but even ignoring that I distinctly felt like I was somewhere else, whereas in Cork I didn’t really feel like I’d left England – there were just more Irish accents around.
As I left my hostel in search of the spot where I was supposed to meet Elizabeth, I noticed the interesting color of the sky. There was a fairly solid cloud cover, but rather than being grey like in Seattle, it was almost brown! Very odd. As I continued walking, in my tank top and capris by the way, the rain began. It was a steady stream of large, fat, very wet rain drops, and although I don’t normally mind rain, I wanted it to be sunny while I was in Spain. I didn’t think it was too much to ask, especially since it hadn’t rained more than once since Elizabeth had been there. Apparently, however, the rain in Spain decided to stay mainly in Sevilla that day.
We ended up taking shelter in a churrería, where as soon as you sit down you get a little glass of water and a small cup of what I thought was hot chocolate. I was thinking, “Oh that’s nice – I didn’t even have to order it, did Elizabeth already say something?” Good thing I didn’t try to drink it though because it turns out it was for dipping the churros in. We got a whole plate of them, and they were pretty much long, thick sticks of fried dough (with some air inside, somewhat like a doughnut). They were absolutely delicious, surprisingly filling, and I was happy to enjoy more authentic food from Spain.
Then we made our way, via bus, to a national park (Parque de Doñana) about two hours away. During the ride Elizabeth was chatting with an older woman about what there is to do there and where we should go, and it was the coolest thing watching her have a conversation in Spanish because there’s no way I’d be able to do that. I’m excited when I can just say hola and gracias without sounding too American [“hola” with a ring like “hello!” and a quick “grathia”].
By the time we got to the park I was happy to see that it wasn’t raining anymore. There were a few trails to follow, but the interesting thing was that you actually walk around on plank walkways, so you know specifically where you are and are not allowed to go. Occasionally there were little thatch-roof observation huts, and inside we had to be quiet but we could look out through the narrow windows to see the wilderness and hopefully animals. We didn’t see anything more exciting that some far-away birds, but it was still really pretty and it was a very cool experience just because it was so quiet. I’m used to hearing all the sounds of the city all the time, but there was just the wind blowing through the grass and the occasional bird call at the park.
We had fun taking pictures there, both of nature and of ourselves. I caught Elizabeth in a truly heinous act of rebellion - STEPPING OFF THE PATH!!! I know – very scandalous. And we caught a number of glimpses of little lizard/gecko/salamander-type creatures and tried to get a good shot of them as they scurried off underneath the walkway. Elizabeth even went as far as taking a video of one of the little guys and naming him Marty. I’m not really sure where the name came from, but it suited him well.
At the very furthest hut, it was even quieter than the others because no other visitors had made it out that far. And yes, it was far. I was amazed by how calm and quiet the area was. It was okay to not have any animals to watch; just observing nature (the trees, grass, etc.) was enough. There was a sense of peace; you didn’t have any worries, and you could just be. Until you had to catch the bus back of course.
We ended up taking pictures back at the bus stop to entertain ourselves for the forty minutes or so that we had to wait, and we also made up new dances moves to discourage the record number of flies from landing on us. It didn’t work unfortunately, but we still gave it a good effort!
On the bus back I saw the coolest thing! We were driving by a marshy area, so there was lots of shallow water. There were a few horses grazing, and because of where they were standing you couldn’t see any solid ground, so it looked like they were standing on – not in – the water! It was beautiful. Really. I wish I was able to paint because it looked like something that could have been a masterpiece.
Overall it was a fun, if short, trip to Spain, and I’m so glad I got to see Elizabeth. Now she just has to come visit me in London! I can hardly wait!