23.09.2012 - 23.09.2012
And so it begins, the final week in Spain.
Have we already been here for eight days? How is that possible? Sixteen days is not a long enough vacation. Yeah, white whine, I know.
Seville has been good to us, and it's a bummer to be leaving in two days. I feel as if I'm finally getting comfortable in the city and have some bearings for the surrounding area. A lot of this is the result of trial and error, mind you, but the city grid seems to make sense and we even ventured out this evening without our map!
Despite the hustle of the city, Seville feels fairly laid back, and thus it only seemed appropriate to sleep in this morning. There was no 12 p.m. rising like yesterday, but we did make it to 10:30 a.m. with no problem. The morning was cooler than previous days, and a passing cloud cover provided some much needed relief from the sun. It was the perfect weather for a run, so I laced up my super shiny cross trainers (seriously, if the sun were out the glare on my shoes would temporarily blind passerbys) and hit the trail.
I had to first walk through the Plaza de Duque and past the wondering stares as people sipped their coffee and eyed me strangely. I guess I did look pretty ridiculous when taken out of context. However once on the walkway down by the river along the Paseo Marques de Contadero I found that I was in good company. Bikers and joggers alike were out in stride, weaving through the slow strolling foot traffic and dodging teenage boys practicing Parkour.
Zac trailed behind me again, carrying my water and sunglasses for when I may need either. I plugged in my headphones and hit the pavement, taking in the beauty of the city as I ran. We have yet to cross the river to see the other side of Seville, but the plan for tomorrow is to do so in the evening and to take in another Flamenco show. We have been told that Triana is a good neighborhood for that, so we'll cross the bridge and stroll along Calle Betis and find something there. We also hope to find Agua de Seville, an interesting concoction of four different kinds of liquor, champagne, pineapple juice, and cream. The drink sounds like something I'd find dumped together in a garbage pail at a fraternity, but I'll give it a go anyway.
After the run we returned back to the hotel so I could get ready for the day. It already felt to be late, but we're on vacation and early morning activities are rarely on our to-do list. Since it was Sunday a lot of shops and stops are closed, but there is a Sunday market next to the Museo de Bellas Artes that I'd read about and decided I wanted to see. We wandered over to take a gander and admired the paintings that lined the streets as local artists showcased their talents and answered questions about their work. Zac and I had no real interest in buying anything, seeing as how we already have too many paintings that remain unframed and unhung in our house. It was a quick walk through the small plaza of painters and we were off to find lunch.
We settled on an unsavory little dump of a place for our meal, though two of our tapas were well enjoyed by each of us. One unknown order proved to be a pile of potatoes smothered in mayonnais with shredded carrots thrown in for good measure. It was left virtually untouched. Lunch started off with Zac getting pissed or shit on by a bird (we still don't know which) that happened to be sitting in the tree above him as we sat down at the table. I think that maybe should have been a sign to keep on looking for a lunch spot. I was just too damn hungry. The bird tried to warn us, and we just wouldn't listen.
One thing I've come to notice about Spain is that the bathrooms here are pretty gross. Often times toilet paper is missing or soap empty. Toilets with seats are pretty fancy, I think. Otherwise it's pop a squat or sit on a thin toilet bowl. I'm not sure which I'm supposed to do in that case. Hot water is surprisingly hard to come by in public bathrooms (and many restaurant ones as well). I feel like I need to carry my hand sanitizer with me. It's not that any of these things really gross me out (though they probably should)--it's just that I expected higher standards. I'm in a well developed European country, and if the Spanish can conquer South and Central America, surely they can conquer good hygiene.
The most off putting of it all is knowing that if I'm not getting toilet paper and soap in 7 out of 10 bathrooms, neither is the wait staff serving me or the chefs cooking my food.
That only compliments the savory notion of dirty hands when one also takes into account that most wait staff seem to smoke in Spain. Perhaps it's a case of the availability heuristic, but truly we see most wait staff standing in restaurant doorways, cigarette in hand, waiting for customers to come in, or if already in, waiting for them to order. We see people smoking in other situations, but not nearly as often as catching waiters smoking. Why is this? Are we just looking to confirm our bias by taking note of it when we see it, but not when we don't? Oh well.
After lunch we headed toward the Plaza de la Encarnacion. It was here I wanted to see the Metropol Parasol, the world's largest wooden structure. It looked like a mushroom and honey comb had a giant baby. Because that's possible and makes sense.
The Metropol Parasol has a large market inside, but it was closed today due to it being God's Day and all. A day of rest, or whatever people do on Sundays. That rest includes not going to the market, apparently. We made note to go tomorrow instead.
After the plaza we walked through the Macarena neighborhood, north of the city center. We passed by the Basilica Macarena and Arco de la Macarena, as well as the parlament building and the murallas.
The walk back to our hotel that afternoon found us passing through the Alameda de Hercules, a square with several fountains and restaurants that stretch several blocks. This was a place that was clearly where the locals hang out, and we strolled through and made note to return that evening for dinner. We then cut through some side streets in the neighborhood to get a better feel for life in Seville. It's easy to love a city when you spend time in the main center with its well kept streets, charming store fronts, and historic buildings. It's another to love a city when you are in the thick of reality, dog shit on the sidewalks, and buildings with graffiti.
Still, I found myself liking the neighborhoods outside of the city center. Most shops were closed, but fruit stands and supermercados were plentiful. Tapas bars and cafeterias were on every corner. People walked the streets with their children on bikes, and apartments were lined with Juliett balconies housing plants and tangled vines. It felt real, and it felt lovely.
We stopped at one of the markets and picked up some more snacks for tapas. Cheese, crackers, tuna, olives, pickles, asparagus, peppers, and baby eels for Zac (blech). Everything was brought back to be enjoyed on our terrace, accompanied by a good book. It was a lazy afternoon that matched well to our lazy morning, and the expected and subsequent lazy evening.
When the sun set and the weather cooled it was time to eat again. We kept good on our word to return to the Alameda de Hercules, and I am so glad we did. The plaza was more alive than it was on our first pass earlier in the day, and there were so many restaurants to choose from that it almost felt overwhelming to choose. In the end we picked a place that was close and had seating, seeing as how many of the restaurants had packed tables. We'd left for dinner earlier this evening (at 8:30 pm) because tables begin to fill to capacity around 9/9:30 pm.
Fortunately we chose right, and our restaurant had great food AND clean bathrooms. The wait staff were attentive and friendly, and looking around at all the food being brought out it seemed that quality and quantity were both high marks for this establishment. If you find yourself in the Alameda de Hercules and want affordable and good food, I recommend Parilla de Badulaque.
Instead of desert at the restaurant we stopped at a small store and bought plenty of candy to enjoy. I think I have a cavity. I swear, between the daily glasses of wine, all the cafe con leches, sweets for breakfast, cheese, bread, desert, candy, cookies, and tapas I've been eating I am coming back from this trip a good five pounds heavier. My pants are already tighter, and I wish I was just being over dramatic about that, but it's the sad truth. Short jogs won't negate the daily intake of indulgences.
And you know what? It's so totally worth it. The wine here is great, even the house wine, and the food in Seville is really, really good.
We have one more week to squeeze in as much indulging and fun as we can. I'm confident we'll make this happen.