Seville Snapshots: Twilight at the Setas of Plaza de la Encarnacion

Planning a trip to Seville? Look no further than Sandra of Seville Traveller. Like me, a visit to Seville brought her back to live in the capital of Andalusia, and she uses her free time to write great tips about how to enjoy the city. You can sign up for her free newsletter, which comes with a PDF of tips, or check out her guest posts on Sunshine and Siestas!
People say that you tend to miss what you have next to you, while you are willing to explore further corners. And it’s true: I hadn’t had a chance to go up the observation deck at the Setas before last December. That day I woke up with one thing in mind: to capture the beautiful dusk light with my camera. The day was going to be clear, though I was hoping for a few clouds since the make the visual experience much more rewarding but I had to do with what I had: a perfect blue sky.
The idea was to explore the whole structure by walking around at a slow pace, looking for the best spots to place my tripod and be ahead of other visitors. Lucky for me, the premises were almost empty and most people spent only a few minutes at the main lookout. I had the Steas to myself, so the only thing left to do was wait. My iPod did the rest. I looked around…
In the background, the view over the Guadalquivir River and both bridges, the Alamillo and the Barqueta, was beautiful. On the right hand side, the sun was slowly going down, from yellow to orange and finally red, reflecting its light on the soon-to-be-completed skyscraper, the Pelli Tower. Right in front of me I had Seville’s main highlights, El Salvador Church, the Cathedral and the Giralda. Finally, on the left hand side of the city was a sea of scattered domes.

The picture illustrating this post shows the main view at a moment photographers call the blue hour. See how amazing the sky looks? Contrary to most European cities, Seville enjoys a light that is hard to find anywhere else. Don’t you want to see it with your own eyes?

Setas de Sevilla (former Metropol Parasol)
The Setas the Sevilla observation deck can be visited from Sunday to Thursday from 10.30am until midnight and on Friday and Saturday from 10.30am to 1am. It only costs 1.35 euros and it’s free for children up to 12 years old. The best part is that you can still as long as you want – there aren’t any time limitations.
The website is only in Spanish but you can still visit it to have a look and watch some very cool videos.
Want to add the Setas to your Seville itinerary? You have to check out the Seville in Two Days e-book, chock full of ideas, routes and logistics when visiting the Andalusian capital.

Sandra lives in Seville and spends all her free time exploring the world (30+ countries so far!). She is the editor of Seville Traveller, an online resource about the city. She has also published a Pocket Guide that will help you plan the trip of a lifetime. You can follow her on Twitter or keep posted through Facebook.

How to Dress for the Feria de Sevilla

Chhh, chh, chikiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!! Veeeeeh.

Why, WHY do store assistants have to cluck in this country, I sighed, my sinus infection suddenly growing worse as I waited for her to stride over to me.

Ehtá floooh, ¡qué noooo! Plucking the flower the size of a softball out of my hand, she replaced it with a bigger one. This one is right. I gawked at the mirror, laughing at my red, swollen eyes and the coral monstrosity perched atop my head.

I wished Cait was with me to witness yet another cultural mess up on my part. Just a few weeks earlier, I went to have my traje de gitana, or flamenco dress, taken out. My butt suddenly didn’t fit into it any longer, so the shop assistant clucked at me to come out of the dressing room, bare-assed, and stand with my it to the mirror while she adjusted it. This flower is for a ten-year old, much to small for your head.

It’s now sitting in my box of flamenco accessories, called complementos. I am no match for old ladies at the Corte Inglés.

Spring’s azahar and incense also bring along the liveliest festival in Andalucía, the Feria de Abril. During my first winter living in Spain, my friend Susana offered to take me to buy a cheap traje at the Molina factory outlet. Though simple, my dress made me fit in when I first showed up at the Real.

But I was CLUELESS about the complementos – I chose earrings and flowers fit for little girls. The rule of thumb is, literally, the bigger, the more gitana you are.

Case in point: The style every gitana’s wearing. The cani ruffle sleeves are big, as is lace, flouncier skirts (mermaid cut is soooo not gitana this year) and lunares as big as a melon.

I chose something a little more classic, with a scooped neck and long sleeves (I’d only had sleeveless before), three volantes and enough arte to knock Calle de Gitanillo de Triana (olé la más bonita de la Feria!) on its feet.

As for complementos, I had to venture of solo, as my Feria +1, Kelly, won’t be going this year, and Cait was in class. Remembering the equation of guapaness, I chose to match the coral colored rickrack on the volantes with just a toque of turquoise. My first stop was in Mateos Complementos, C/Francos, 6, where much of the jewelry was handmade.

Showing the attendant the color of my dress, he helped me pick out a pair of lovely coral hoops that were painted with a beige flower, matching my color scheme perfectly. He tried to show me a mantilla shawl, but I had one and assured him that the color was the same as the earrings. He said the bright color would look lovely next to my eyes and pinkish skin (I sound like a mole, ew).

Mateo opened a glass case and took out two beautiful combs  in oro antiguo, carefully positioning them in my ponytail. Alá tú! he crooned as I looked in the mirror. Sold and sold. ¿Qué pasa, te gusta la Feria? he asked to my scoffs. Asking me if I like Feria is like asking me if I like ice cream.

I peeked in the other stores along the street and in the token Don Regalón. No cheap plastic necklaces this year, I promised myself.

As I browsed the shelves at the Corte Inglés, Clucky came up to me with the flower. I knew I had no choice but to buy it, along with the earrings I bought in oro antiguo with just a hint of blue to match the peineta. I’m discovering that my ganas for Feria is becoming proportionate to the days left until the main gate, fashioned after the Iglesia del Salvador, is lit up and Feria officially begins.

Are you planning on heading to la Feria de Abril, or have you been? If you need me, I’ll probably be on C/Gitanillo de Triana, y olé! And now, a bailar!

Valencia Nocturna

The most curious thing I ever noticed about Valencia was the bat that hovers over the city crest. I had to squint, as I was coming off a wild weekend in Ibiza during my study abroad month. Present since the medieval reigns of kings on several coats of arms, the bat nowadays crowns the alcantarilla street covers, as well as the serves as the symbol of the Valencia Club de Fútbol, one of the top teams in the division.

It’s fitting, of course, as Valencia seems to be the ciudad nocturna – a place where nightlife booms and people (and boundless study abroad students) never seem to rest.

I set out with Camarón to explore the city I barely got out in when visiting, save a trip to the famed Ciutat de les Arts i Ciencies and a near-death experience driving to the beach with a 16-year-old German. Turning up from my hostel towards the city center, home to the Borgia palace and the Holy Grail (reputedly), small side streets covered in graffiti jutted off to either side, inevitably leading through the web of streets to the cathedral. Like all medieval cities, the buck stops at the Holy House, so I steered past the Torres de Quart.

The gate, it turns out, is the one once used by travelers (and feudal lords) entering from the mountains. The church of Saint Ursula sat quietly in its wake, no doubt witness to all those entering the old city. Near-empty bars and cafés sat along the way as bartenders looked bored, glancing down the Calle des Quarts to discos further up the road. I looked back over my shoulders towards the gate, able to get a full-on view.

I kept my eyes open for interesting graffiti or a bar throbbing with people, but no one seemed to be around. I wondered if Valencia was the destination I’d always heard it was.

As I inched closer to the city center, camera poised, the slinky alleys began growing wider and the streetlights cried out. I was approached by a man wielding a plastic bag. ¿Cerveza? Beer? Like Madrid, I was hounded by foreigners hocking cold drinks. The lights grew harsher, as did the raucous music coming from the bars up and down the street.

Study abroad students, sleeveless in the chilly night air, stood contemplative in my wake. “Omygod I was totally out till 5am last night. Sooooo drunk!” one girl mused as a tall friend bought a beer off the street. Natives leaned casually against the stone walls of the Casa Borgia sipping gintoncitos. I felt like I was gasping for air, suddenly too overwhelmed at all of the people and afraid someone would take Camarón.

Arriving at Plaza de la Virgen, awash in yellow light and nearly empty, save some teenagers on skateboards and the municipal cleaning crew, the square was a welcome respite. I remember eating an incredible duck a l’orange at a small bar tucked away on a side street seven years ago. It seemed amazing that I was in a city that I really didn’t care for and soaking in a totally new place.

Walking around the sprawling church, the light was suddenly gone. No one was next to the Miguelete tower or around in the courtyard adjacent the Archbizopal palace. It was quiet and the city took on a medieval feeling.  Even the Pope came along.

At the edge of the cathedral lies a gargantuan square that gives way to the new city, dripping in Victorian boulevards and more street food than I had imagined (I cursed myself for eating the overpriced tapa in the airport). Ah, yes, what Spain specializes in: mixing old with new.

Walking around Valencia at night made me love nocturnal Seville more (despite being voted one of the most poorly lit cities in Spain) : the rings of the puente de Triana reflected on the Río Guadalquivir, the towers of Plaza de España.

As I walked back to my hostel down empty alleys, the beer men called out again. ¿Cerveza guapa? ¿Te gusta esto? Maybe he was referring to himself, but I’ll just keep thinking he was asking if I liked Valencia.

Have you been to Valencia? What was your favorite site, in or outside the city? Are there any cities you’ve only known nocturnally?

…eres mi rincón favorito de Madrid.

If I were Spain, what city would I be?

I’d need to be at least big enough for an airport since I love to pack my bags and go. Have an eclectic mix of old and new, as well as domestic and foreign. I’m deathly pale, so beaches won’t really be necessary (Bye, bye Valencia and Barcelona and Málaga). A city in which graffiti is practically patrimonio de la humanidad, but monuments are revered and protected.

I wouldn’t be stuffy Seville, my Spanish pueblo natal, so to speak. I think Madrid – its bustle, its nitty-gritty neighborhoods, its hidden gems – would be my city doppelgänger, although we haven’t always been fans of one another. In fact, I can’t even see myself living in Spain’s capital (and, let’s face it, I would die without 1€ beers).

Madrid lies just two hours southwest of Valladolid, the city I learned castellano and how to sleep a siesta in. During the five-week program, our quirky director Denise (más bien, Denissshhh with her ceceo) took us first to Segovia to take in the devil’s aqueduct, to Salamanca to betake the oldest university in Spain which still retains its college town vibe, to Donostia for snacking on pintxos. I had to wait four weekends before day-trippin’ to Madrid, capital city and hub of Spanish life. Like Shakira’s hit song that summer, una tortura.

Madrid lived humbly in its early days as a shepherd’s village in the geographic belly button of Spain. Since then, a power struggle between two royal families, the Bourbons and the Haspburgs (yes, like in Austria) built the city into a thriving metropolis, home to the Spanish parliament, the largest population in Iberia and plenty of foreigners.

My trip to Madrid was supposed to be full of art at the Prado and Reina Sofía, strolls in the Parque del Retiro and cochinillo. Instead, I got a hurried tour through two important art collections, creepy Teletubbies in the park and a fried squid sandwich. Madrid was not for me.

In the 15 or so subsequent trips I’ve taken to Madrid, the most recent being this last weekend, I’ve come to appreciate its beauty in uniform buildings, wide avenues and attention to every walk of life.

Certainly, I could sit for hours at the Estanque in Retiro and watch couples aimlessly row heavy boats back and forth in their alloted 45-minutes. Reina Sofía would be like window shopping for me, dando un capricho as I pay the steep admission to take in quirky and important pieces of artwork. Sol, the starting point to all major, national highways in Spain would become my ground zero for exploring the central neighborhoods full of immigrants. If I lived in Madrid, I would botellón at Templo del Debod and have churros at San Gines in the early morning hours. I light up when seeing Cibeles atop her lion-driven chariot and can trace the metro stops on the light blue and light green lines.

Mis rincones favoritos de Madrid…Cibeles, Retiro and the Metro

I love stumbling upon cupcake shops and Indian places along the funky Calle Huertas. Adore the wrought iron balconies facing centuries-old facades of governmental palaces. The strange mix of bus, taxi and pedestrian traffic. The noise. That Gran Via is as close as I’ve been to NYC. I love that boutiques abound around Fuencarral, and that the bartender at Kike’s childhood hangout in Malaseña gives me free anchovies with each beer, even if I don’t eat them. And nobody judges me when I dip into a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for coffee, nor when I stare at the “lady friends” on C/Montera.

Madrid isn’t a place I see myself living in anytime soon, but, like a moth to a flame, I love visiting. Case in point: Last Thursday, eager for some restaurant recommendations, I asked friends to suggest a good ethnic food place. Not only was the food amazing, but ten of my madriles came to enjoy it with me. Madrid, for as big and boisterous, gritty and glamorous as it is, always welcomes me with open arms, overpriced drinks and an endless agenda of things to do.

Have you visited Madrid? What impressed you – or didn’t – about the city? Any must sees (I’ve done most) or must-try restaurants? Do you feel this way about a place you’ve never lived in, but have traveled to frequently?

It happened one night at Anselma…

Two years ago, my dear friend Lindsay called me with a journalistic question: How do you write for a guidebook and not make it sound like a 23-year-old party girl wrote it?

You give the job to me, I replied.

Two years later, when the Rough Guides series asked her to update another addition, she did. I’m in the process of revising the flamenco, nightlife, shopping and practical information sections of their Andalucía version, a task I welcomed and looked forward to doing.

Until I went to Anselma.

I gathered my two other married/pareja de hecho friends (ok , I’ll be fair, Lauren is engaged and Mickey is thinking about doing pareja de hecho) and grabbed a tapa from Dr. X in Triana. At half past 11, we took our spots in line in front of one of Triana’s most famous flamenco joints, Casa Anselma. I’d always marvel at all of the people lined up around the block while having my punto-pinchi-chipi-champi at Las Golodrinas. The owner, a singer who never really hit the big time but is friends with Pantoja, Paquirri and the lot of them, overcharges for beer but the show is earthy, long and fun.  figuring the place must be good, we snagged three seats at a table in the second row.

The place filled up so quickly that even the waitress couldn’t move through the crowd. I gave her a 20€ bill for our three glasses of wine before the show began. An old trianero, hair ablaze, strummed his guitar while he and two others played a copla. Two other stood up and requested a sevillanas. So did a drunk American, claiming she could dance. As it turned out, she was just being obnoxious and tried to clap her way out of it. Everyone in the place but us three roared with laughter.

Anselma, feeling upstaged by the guiri, took her place front and center and began to sing a well-known copla, Piensa in Me. She wasn’t outrageously good, but the crowd drank in her attempts to squeeze more money out of the free show. When she sang the namesake, she raised her hand to her mouth as if drinking a mug a beer and pointed with her other to the bar.

While singing another shortly after, a loud crash echoed through the virgin-covered walls. We all turned around, and the waitress had tripped and spilled a gin and tonic on a patron. He had one of those “Me cago all over your favorite Virgin” looks on his face, and the queen of the tablao took it personally. “Hey, she’s mine!” she shouted at sour puss, “If you have a problem I, as the queen of this house, ask you to leave!” The man stepped further into the bar and his friend came to his rescue, “You don’t know how to behave properly in your own business. This is no way to treat clients, and you’re just after the money!” Other clients started jeering and shouted, “FUERA!” until the pair left. I turned around and asked Lauren, how do we get out of here? I expected to have the bar empty out.

No one left. Typical, Spain.

Afraid to get up and leave, for fear she might follow us to the street, we stayed on as she told jokes. No one was safe – catalanes, homosexuals and foreigners were all ripped on. I started to grow more and more uncomfortable, yet couldn’t help but be entertained. Next, it was reported that someone’s wallet had been stolen and the owner did nothing to help. We knew then it was time to go and literally crawled over people to get to the door.

I went and met Kike at a bar on Calle Betis. I offered to buy him a drink, but upon opening my wallet, realized I hadn´’t been returned my 11€ from the drinks. Anselma is out of the guide.

Working for the weekend

Summertime has descended upon Spain. I happen to be here during one of the warmest winters, falls, etc., and with Semana Santa and Feria de Abril already coming, it seems it’s going to be a really cruel summer. That said, I’m starting to get as itchy as my students for summertime and beaches and MORE sun. And while working 12 hours (plus private lessons and planning and commuting) isn’t much, I’m always ready for the weekend so I can sleep past 6:50 a.m. and take advantage of the weather, traveling, and this interesting and varied country. I work for the weekend. By the time Thursday afternoon at 12:55 arrives, I am more than ready for a break from my students. I usually start the weekend off with a looooooong nap, even before having lunch. Then it’s facebook/youtube/general laziness time. I typically eat dinner with Kike and go out for a bit before resting up for the weekend. But lately, I’ve been trying to do all of my work so I can do whatever me apetece (whatever appeals to me) during the weekend. That means cleaning, lesson planning, errands, etc. I’ve found that the need to pack as much into this experience has prevailed over what I really should be doing (you know, sleeping, putting a lot of effort into my lessons, etc.).

This last weekend, I didn’t even check my email for two days. On Thursday, I did take some time to rest, but I was so hopped up on caffeine, I couldn’t do anything but watch TV. At night, we celebrated my roommate Melissa’s birthday. Her two best friends, Carolina and Alicia, invited us over for dinner at their piso. They made all kinds of tapas, potatoes and a red meat cooked with beer and onions and mushrooms. Sobre todo, I was able to speak several hours in Spanish and have people understand me. I can express myself fine on paper and understand things well, but I seem to get really closed off when I have to speak. Of my Sevilla friends, I think I speak the worst Spanish, even though I’ve been assured many times that I speak well. I considered it a huge compliment that Caro and I could understand each other. From there, we headed to Buddha, where I fended off study abroad students trying to speak to me in Spanish (geez, I’m a brat) while getting free shots for my grupito because a friend’s ex-boyfriend works there. By the time I finally dragged myself home at 530 a.m., I was already cursing myself for how I’d feel the next morning – not hungover, but realllllly tired.

In order to reapply for my job next year, I have to get a medical checkup. After making about 6 phone calls to ask the insurance company what exactly I had to do, I got an appointment and instructions to go to the other side of town to get a sheet of paper for the doctor to fill out. Figures. Armed with enough crap to do for about 2 hours, I went to the Colegio Oficial de Medicos and waited a mere 30 seconds. Turns out all I needed to do was pay 3,48E and ask the woman for the sheet. I spent the afternoon drinking beer outside on a hot, clear day. I have to admit I love standing at a table on a sidewalk watching cars and people go by. And it helps being accompanied by a good-looking man. After downing about 3 kilos of salmonetes (red herring), I slept for a loooong time. Instead of finishing my things, I went for dinner at my friend Christine’s and went out. She lives with her Spanish boyfriend, Alfonso, so I did a lot more Spanish practicing. This was good for arguing with the cabbie who didn’t reset the meter and then took me to the wrong street. No me jodas, chaval. That means don’t screw with me, man.

Again, I woke up really upset with myself for staying out so long. Saturday, I went with 12 of my coworkers to the nearby town of Jerez de la Frontera, the foremost producer of sherry in Spain. It’s about an hour away by train, and sitting next to my bilingual director, Nieves, solidified my decision to teach again in Olivares next year. She was talking and talking about how much she enjoys having Martin and me there, and how the kids have really shown an improvement. Phew. I, too, have noticed the kids taking a lot more interest in what I’m teaching and making more of an effort. The turning point was really quitting my other job, but also stooping to their level and ensuring them that I’m also learning. During the day in Jerez, we all spoke in Spanish, and many noted the improvement in my language skills. When we arrived to the newer part of town, we walked into the historic center with Irene as our tour guide, high along the mountain the city rests on, to Bodegas Gonzalez Byass. If you’ve seen a bottle of wine dressed in a little suit with a hat and guitar, you’re familiar with the brand Tio Pepe. GB is one of the oldest and most well-known (along with the most successful) wineries in Spain. A little train took us past its extensive gardens to the corner where their brandy brand is made. Here, they don’t produce as much, but it’s really high quality, and the machines look ancient. We walked along whitewashed buildings that would soon be covered in vines to keep the stock cool inside to where the sherry is made – cask after cask after cask. I’ve read a lot about Spanish wine and even wrote a paper about it, but seeing the cobwebs growing between cask and having the sour smell of the wine mixed with the wood was kind of exciting. The bodega, the Spanish word for cellar or winery, has been visited by famous people form around the world, and there’s quite a bit of symbolism to a lot the casks and how the wine is made. In one of the rooms, there is a tiny glass of wine and a little bit of cheese in the middle of the floor. I missed the first half of the explanation, but the little tapas and glass is set out for the mice. The mice are supposed to be attracted to the cheese and drink the wine and get too drunk to climb onto the casks. It was quite curious watching them all run between the cheese and glass.

Upon exciting into the brightness, I was overcome by the huge cathedral. Irene took us past where she used to live and through the center of town. Compared to Sevilla, Jerez is small and relaxed and quiet. The thirteen of us took over a restaurant called El Juanito, where we shared alcachofas (artichokes), sopa de gambas (tomato soup with shrimp and noodles), pisto (vegetables), albóndigas con tomate (meatballs in a red sauce), ensaladilla (tuna, noodles, mayo and peas) and some other stuff I have no idea what it is. My coworkers are really fun, and a bit guareros, or dirty minded. When they noted my improvement, I replied, “Bueno, tener un novio español me ha ensenado mucha de la lengua.” I know that lengua means both language and tongue, but they all thought I meant he had taught me a lot about dirty things. Baha. We spent about three hours at the place, ordering more beers or coffees or sweets before heading back. I rode back a bit earlier with Felisabel from the art department. She’s taking class from a friend of mine, Jenny, who is also from Chicago. Jenny picked up on her north american accent and Felisabell said, “A girl from Chicago named Cat taught it to me!” If my students aren’t getting it, at least someone is!

That night, my dear friend Kelly celebrated her birthday. She had a big party at her house and made delicious and SPICY Mexican food. I ignored my drink and sat in front of the table stuffing my face. Kelly was the first friend I made here, so I knew most of the people there, and I found out a lot of the other auxiliaries had chosen to stay next year, too. We headed to C/Betis at about 3am, and all I did was laugh at how silly everyone is. I am so fortunate to have good friends here. What’s more, I have a really great boyfriend. Really, I’m kind of in love with him. He’s been involved with plenty of Americans, but I found out he has gotten bored with all the rest of them really easily. He wants me to go back to the states this summer to be with my family this summer, but he says he’s been looking for flights and trying to ask for some more time off to come visit me and see Chicago. I talk it up a lot.

After arriving back home about 530 am, we got up at 830 to go to Kike’s base in Moron de la Frontera, about 45 km away. He’s a pilot for the Spanish army and flies planes! I really wanted to see what he does everyday, since I talk about my little capullos allllll the time. And planes really excite him. So he chose to do his servicio, where he’s on duty for 24 hours, on a Sunday so that I could go with him. He gets to stay in a little room with two beds and a TV and a bathroom and wait for the phone to ring. We went early and had breakfast, then slept most of the day. He looks kind of adorable in his flight suit, but the hat is too silly. He showed my around his squadron and taught me the different kinds of airplanes and introduced me to the few people who were there. Nothing was open (sadly, I could not eat subway like I had the ganas to!), so we scrounged around in the cafeteria for something to eat. We had little choice – only Kraft dinner versions of Spanish food like paella de mariscos, fabes asturianos and instant soup. Luckily, Montero is a great cook and there was plenty of pepper. He spent a few hours playing guitar hero while I worked on lessons and my reapplication things. We tried once more for Subway, but ended up eating Digiorno pizza and drinking Dr. Pepper at the American bar on the base. A lot of Americans get stationed there, so I could talk to my compatriots about American things for once! I have to admit I know very little about the military, but going to the base was really, really cool. Seeing how things work made me realize just how intelligent Kike is. He studied physics and math and whatever the hell you need to know for flying a big plane and dropping bombs – and a lot in English, since his plane is American. And I know he loves me because he let me take his car back to Sevilla. A Mercedes. And I’m still alive and the car is still intact. It was freaaaaaking scary!!!

I’m off to The Basque Country with Kelly later this week, then I’ll be back in Sevilla for a day and I’ll head to the Algarve in Southern Portugal with Kike and some other people for the later part of the holy week.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...