Monday, January 7, 2013

Spain Part 3: Seville

Spain is a pretty huge country (i did not know this beforehand). When I first made plans I wanted to visit all my Spanish friends from my French study abroad, but I didn't realize just how far Barcelona, Seville, and Madrid were from each other.

Luckily, Spain has a crazy fast train system called AVE. The trip from Barcelona to Seville takes over 10 hours by car, but by high speed train it was around 5 hours. If you're thinking about taking the high speed train, you really have to book in advance (online is best) because Spanish train fares are like airplane fares in that they get more expensive the longer you wait. All the sale prices online get snapped up fast and once they sell all the seats, there are no more tickets (unlike German trains, who'll cram you in until you're sitting on strangers in between cars or on the floor. So if you wait til you're in the train station to buy, you might not get a ticket!

The AVE trains were pretty nice. They had comfy seats and they even show movies (with Spanish, Catalan, and English options!) and offer you headphones to watch them. Our trip went smoothly, minus an annoying overly friendly Spanish grandma who kept talking nonstop to me and Fionn even though we repeated "no habla espanol" about a million times.

My friend Andrea met us at the train station and took us into Seville. She was an amazing hostess and showed us around the city, giving us a history and culture lesson. Like Marina, Andrea and I speak French, so she would say a big long thing about something we were passing and I'd translate for Fionn. My French certainly got a workout this trip!

Andrea took us out for a traditional lunch from Seville called a serranito. It's a sandwich with grilled chicken or pork (we had chicken) and cured ham, a grilled green pepper, and tomato, served on a thick piece of bread. It comes with french fries and aioli or mayo. We had ours with a local beer and ate it outside in one of Seville's plazas. It was really tasty and such a cool Spanish experience. Andrea said she brought German Peter here when he came to visit and he loved it. I can see why!

After this Andrea had to go to work, so Fionn and I wandered around on our own into the heart of Seville. So many palm trees and orange trees! That was a cool sight. It reminded Fionn of California.

We walked down the main shopping street and headed toward the Cathedral. During Moorish rule it was a mosque, and the huge minaret still stands. When the Spanish took Seville back during the Reconquista they made it into a cathedral. It was very impressive from the outside, but it closed at 5, so we didn't get to see inside.

We turned down a side street that seemed like the place to be for all things flamenco! Flamenco is a big deal down here, and the stores were full of dresses, shawls, fans, combs, castanets, as well as whole stores full of dressmaking materials so you can make your own. Andrea explained earlier that during festivals and special events women in this region wear flamenco style dresses. Bavarians have their dirndl, Andalusians have their flamenco dress, man, why don't we get something awesome to wear??

Fionn pulled me away from lusting after flamenco dresses to point out a cafe that was crazy busy. When we got closer we saw they were serving hot chocolate and churros, though the chocolate was really thick and people were dunking their churros in it instead of drinking it. So we thought, we've got to try this!

And yes, it was pretty awesome :)

After churros we walked through the more modern part of the city to see their Christmas market, and then stumbled upon a more traditional Christmas market where you could pay to ride a camel like the 3 Wise Men. I wanted a picture but these goofy girls got in the way...

After that we met Andrea and her boyfriend for dinner. Spanish people eat pretty late (usually around 9 pm) and Andalusians eat even later, which took some getting used to. When Marina and I talked about dinner times in Barcelona and I mentioned Americans and Germans eat around 6 or 7 she was very surprised and asked completely seriously, "So, you have a second dinner then?" She was even more surprised when I said no, we only had one dinner! :)

Andrea and her boyfriend took us to this really cool restaurant for some typical tapas. It was all so good, I can't believe I forgot my camera! There was bread with some kind of spicy sauce and fried quail eggs, a shrimp omlette, croquettes, and crunchy potatoes. It was all amazing. After dinner we met some of their friends for beer and then walked around Seville as they showed us some cool hidden places. Finally we ended up at this bar with a flamenco show. According to Andrea, flamenco shows have become very expensive but this is one of the few places left in Seville where people can come, have a beer or sangria and enjoy music and dance like they traditionally did. We took a seat at one of the long benches and enjoyed the dancing, singing and guitar playing. They were really good and I was sad when it was over and time to go home.

Flamenco dancer with singer and guitar player

With that we went back to Andrea's apartment to go to sleep and get ready for our next day in Seville.

That is, until I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I wanted to die...

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