Sunday, October 30, 2011

Welcome to Sevilla!

A pretty picture to start the blog.

Ah, Sevilla! We made it, bright and early on what day...oh yes, Saturday. On vacation all days tend to blur together. Spending the night on a bus doesn't really help with that.

As I said, we arrived in Sevilla at 5 a.m. at a bus station, so I can't say my first impressions were anything memorable. It was very dark. A little chilly. We were outside and the restroom was very sketchy. As we were trying to get ourselves situated and refreshed, Lea realized she had left her iPad on the bus, which had just recently pulled away. Well, crap. Fortunately, despite the somewhat deserted nature of the bus station, there was a security guard around who informed Lea that the bus would go to the next station in Sevilla. Lea, Amit, and Alan grabbed a taxi and off they went to rescue the missing iPad!

The rest of us hung out at the bus station for about an hour. What did we do? Gosh...I don't remember. Stared into the darkness? Wondered why approximately 15 teenagers were at the bus station at 5:30 a.m.? Considered opening some bottles of wine?

And...about an hour later...the iPad was rescued! Lea, Amit, and Alan informed us the Sevilla was beautiful in the dark. They walked along the river, saw lots of people heading home from the clubs, and spotted a churro stand a bit away which was to become our little spot for the next hour and a half or so.

Mmmm...napkin holder

We couldn't drop our stuff at the apartment until 8:30 a.m., so we needed something to do until then. That something was coffee and chocolate pastries. Yum! We ordered like this, "Dos cafe solo y dos...those things".

We all look a wee bit tired.

It was a little windy, a little cold, but we survived. There was a surprising number of people up at that time. It was hard for us to really tell how early it was because the sun doesn't come up until after 8 a.m. in Spain. The people could have been clubbers headed home, early risers, or maybe just normal risers. I didn't feel like checking my watch. It was dark. That was enough info for me.

 
It looks like the middle of the night, but it was really almost 8 a.m. at this point.

Finally, it was late enough that we could put on our packs and navigate the winding roads to our little apartments on the Alameda de Hercules. It's a nice little park, which were were later informed has been cleaned up quite a bit in the last 20 years. It used to be full of prostitutes and there was a market on Sundays where you could buy things, such as the car radio that was stolen from you on Wednesday. Now it is the "Soho of Sevilla".

 
Lookin' pretty good for someone who slept on a bus!

From what we could see, the apartment was beautiful (the foyer anyhow) and the little park was charming. But, we could not stay. We could not actually check in until 3 or 4, so off we went again.

Not too far though. Just across the part was a little cafe that was open...Las Columnas.We got croissants, toast and ham ( we would eat much ham in Spain), coffee. We actually visited this place several more times during our stay in Sevilla.It was just across the park and a nice afternoon respite.

Jamon Jamon!

Fortified with some coffee and food in our tummies, we were off to explore Sevilla!

 
First stop...fruit!

We headed to the main part of town, found the tourist office, got some maps. Oh, Sevilla! So charming! Beautiful buildings! Horse drawn carriages! A bike sharing system! Old guy playing accordion on the street. I fell in love with the city. So, so charming.

This is actually from later in the day, in the Barrio Santa Cruz, I think. Note the sun shades spread between the buildings over the street.

We headed over to the Catedral de Sevilla. This is the largest Gothic Cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. We snuck in. Yes! We did! There was a side door open and we just wandered in and had a look around. You are supposed to pay 8 euro to get in. Needless to say, it was awe-inspiring. I didn't get any decent photos, but it is huge and so full of fancy ornamentation. We were not able to see all of it...there was a service going on so we did get to hear the organ and see some of the clergy filing out. Christopher Columbus' tomb is in this cathedral. I really encourage you to go online and see some decent photos. Or just go there and visit.

This was one of the SMALLER altars at the Cathedral. 

After that, we sat and rested and planned where to go next, while some of us went to Starbucks because they have a restroom.  Starbucks in Spain is just like Starbucks here. We rarely went there, preferring the smaller cafes we saw. The coffee there was better too. I mean, the coffee at the little cafes was better...not Starbucks.
 

We wandered around through a park. Didn't really have much of a plan. The weather was beautiful and we weren't in a hurry.

Me and my best friend.

Eventually, we came upon the Plaza de Espana, which was amazing. Such detailed tile and brick work. I would have loved to have gotten back here later or spent more time, but I think at this point we were all a little hungry and looking for food, and also a little tired.

 What a beautiful day in Spain!

We did manage to avoid the gypsies. The guy in the photo below was not so lucky. I had read a blurb in one of the guidebooks about these gypsies that will approach you and give you a "free" sprig of rosemary for good luck. Then they grab your hand and tell your fortune and expect a tip. The guidebook advised, "Don't make eye contact, say "No Gracias", and keep walking". I don't know what happened to the guy below. I'm sure he was out 5 euro.

 Don't make eye contact with the gypsies!

We stared heading back towards the apartment and headed into the Barrio Santa Cruz. Narrow winding streets, little cafes, it was all very lovely.

 Oh, you could get lost in here and be perfectly happy.

We found a wonderful little place to stop and have lunch.

Happy to be sitting after a long day and still no sleep.

At first we only planned to have wine and snacks because the waiter told us they didn't have anything on the menu. About 15 minutes later, they had everything on the menu. Apparently, we crossed some threshold in time where the food appears.

 The English side of the menu.

Lunch was wonderful. I had a beet salad, ham and potatoes, and some dessert, I think.

 
 Beet salad and yummy gazpacho.

I might have just had coffee. This was our first experience with the "menu del dia", where you choose from two courses and then finish up with coffee or dessert. We did this a couple other times in Spain and it was usually pretty good.


There was a little hotel right across from the cafe and I told David I wanted to stay there the next time we came to Sevilla. This little area was just so cute and charming. How could I want anything else? Well, once we got to our apartment, I decided that was where I will always stay in Sevilla. Kelly did a wonderful job finding our home away from home. I can't imagine that is easy when you have nine people.

The apartment was amazing. Actually, we had three apartments. There were four total in the building, so it was pretty much our group. There was also a wonderful rooftop terrace from which we could watch all the evening activity and daytime activity in the park. Lots of dogs!

 Hi Lea! The lovely stairwell of our building.

Most of us napped for a bit. I chose to spend an afternoon in frustration trying to upload photos to Facebook. Eventually I succeeded, but missed my napping opportunity. In Sevilla, as in many of the cities we stayed in, the supermarket is in the lower level of the department store, El Corte Ingles. It's a pretty high end department store - Prada, Coach, etc. Imagine if Nordstrom had a Cub Foods in the basement. I headed over with Alan, Erin, Kym, and Kyle to get groceries for dinner. Since there was only one way in and out of the market, we had a bit of trouble, but once inside we were able to get everything we needed, including lots of wine.

Kym made a wonderful dinner, sort of a stir-fry veggies with noodles. We enjoyed our dinner on the rooftop while we listed to all the activity down below. A wonderful evening with wonderful friends. I couldn't ask for anything more perfect.

Our lovely chef, Kym.

When all was said and done, this is all that was left. Lots of empty wine bottles. Full tummies. And a restful night's sleep. It had been a long day, but it was everything I had hoped our trip would be.

A small representation of all the wine that was consumed on our trip.

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