Travel Tips Part 16: Sevilla, Spain

Sevilla is one of those small towns you’d had never heard of if your lovely cousin hadn’t so heartily recommended it. You arrive on the Spanish Christmas day – a day where all the shops are closed, and the streets are littered with candy and roaming Spaniards. As soon as you arrive you feel instantly relaxed being away from a capital city and those pesky tourists. You check in, buy some smokes (4 Euros!!!) and go for a walk around the winding streets. Hungry from a day of trains, you stop at a restaurant and sit down to traditional Spanish tapas: potatoes with aioli, a salad of peppers, cooked spinach and chickpeas, and a flamenco roll for Mik – ham wrapped in chicken. After drinking your red wine with lemonade, you dive into the delicious food at hand, pausing only to savour the tastes in your mouth. Despite this feast, you can’t help but buy homemade gelato from the tiny shop next door. You have a traditional Sevillian gelato made out of sweet bread and olive oil, and a scoop of fig cheesecake ice-cream. Salivating yet?

You take your treats and walk through the narrow streets until a large garden opens up holding fountains, tiled benches, and tall trees. The garden sits next to colourful buildings which you nosily inspect: each cobbled path holds old homes dripping with history and tales you’re yet to find out. You walk around a corner and smell the familiar scent of oil paint – a tiny shop holds a woman painting intricate designs onto fans, and portraits of flamenco dancers. You take yet more pictures until Mik stops suddenly and grabs your arm: above your heads stands two peacocks, just casually peaking their heads over the gardens below. You stroll back through the gardens until you reach a park holding a fairground with ice-skating, a spinning ferris wheel, and Christmas markets. You pay 1 Euro to go on the ferris wheel, which takes you high enough to see a panoramic view of Seville with its old castles and buildings. As you walk through the fairground, you notice that people are staring at you – you’re the only person wearing a summer dress and flip-flops, confusing the sunny sky with a warm day. You’re also soon to find out that your platinum hair causes a stir in these Mediterranean parts.

You walk back to the hostel in search for a jumper, and are greeted with your dorm buddies for the night: Josh and Lowanna from Sydney. After taking a shower, you spend the next hour or so chatting to these friendly creeps, and stalking your friends at home on Facebook. As is the go with traveling, you end up going out to tapas and drinks with Josh and Lowanna, plus 15 other people who were picked up along the way. You meet Shelly – an American student from Texas who’s on exchange learning Spanish in Seville for the semester. She organises the rest of the group who are all American exchange students, who are soon to grate on you with their piercing accents, and lack of motivation for trying European food or enjoying the relaxed atmosphere for the night – but that comes later. You stop at a restaurant and order a plethora of tapas, ordering for yourself a crunchy roll with creamy blue cheese. The evening is spent sampling each other’s food, getting to know everyone while hiding in the corner among the only two other smokers. After dinner, you walk around the streets in search for a bar big enough to hold the crowd, but you’re soon to realise that a large crowd of secluded Americans don’t particularly fancy the experience of the Spanish night-life, so you separate from the group with a handful of others to search for your own fun.

Finding it impossible to leave the others to their own accord, you eventually settle for a group of tables outside a quiet restaurant. You sip sangria and chat with the others, until a full-blown political discussion breaks out – inevitable, really. To the shock of the others sitting around the table, Shelly points out that as a young, black woman living in the states, she “fucking hates America” hence turning the discussion onto race, economics and social issues. You realise that the majority of the students sitting around the table are uncomfortably shifting in their seats – as if they prefer to not acknowledge the shit-storm of a country America has turned into. Mikayla tells you later on that she overheard one of the dudes saying, “I don’t like gay people – they always…stare at me.” Wow. At 1 o-clock you decide to call it an early night, and walk back to your hostel with Josh, Lowanna and Shelly in tow. Mik heads off to bed, but not wanting the night to finish so early, you head back out with Josh and Shelly in search for a late-night bar. You get about 500 metres down the street when you decide that it’s too cold to bother, so you head back and spend the remaining few hours sharing dry Frosties with Josh, talking rubbish until you go to bed.

The next morning you wake up surprisingly early to organise accommodation for Milano – the next destination on your list. In the afternoon, you meet Shelly at the hostel, say goodbye to your new Aussie friends (off to Portugal) and walk around the town. Naturally, you stop for ice cream before walking through the beautiful garden until you reach the Spanish Plaza: a plaza decorated in intricate mosaic art, with an opening to a large area holding a small lake and a beautiful fountain. You’re stopped by a gypsy woman who hands you a sprig of rosemary and demands to read your palm: she tells you that you will win the lottery, have one love in your life, be married for 5 years (in which case you’ll be the dominant one) and you will have 1 child. Of course, she demands change, and you hand her all of the 3 cents in your pockets – she’s none too happy. After requesting 5 Euros from each of you, you all scoff and walk away through the plaza. After the plaza, you stop for paella at yet another restaurant, and are bothered by the snippy manager who gets your order wrong and somehow blames this on you three. After lunch you walk back to the hostel and wait to be picked up for the free walking tour of Sevilla. A friendly Spanish guy picks you up and takes you to the rest of the large group in town, where you meet an incredibly irritating girl from Canada, and a much cooler girl from New York. The 2.5 hour tour takes you around the historical streets of Sevilla, and the history turns out to be one of the most interesting tales you’ve heard thus far. The tour guide tells you that this is her last tour ever, and somehow manages to turn the tour into 3.5 hours, which becomes exhausting and slightly boring by the end. You walk back to your hostel after stopping at the deli next door to buy pasta and pasta sauce – the standard meal for any backpacker. You meet the other girls in the kitchen and Skype Greg while Mik makes dinner. After dinner you have a quick shower before heading out to a flamenco show organised by the hostel.

The flamenco show is held in a tiny bar in town, where you order sangria and relax while beautiful Spanish guitar is played while a singer belts out a passionate song of love and heartache. You’re overwhelmed by the skill of the guitar player, and the uninhibited passion of the singer, as he screams out lyrical music with scarred emotion plastered on his face. The dancer finally comes out: a skinny, handsome Spaniard who dances with loud claps and passion to the emotional accompaniment. At the break, you go outside for a quiet cigarette, but are soon followed by the Canadian girl from before. You politely nod to her stories before chatting to a bearded dude standing by himself – after telling you he adores your haircut, he mentions that he once toured with Mewithoutyou, and that they’re really lovely guys! So. Freaking. Cool.

After the flamenco show, you walk back with a smaller group, pack your things and go to sleep, waking early the next day for yet more trains and hostels.

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