Hello all, from Madrid. I was finally – again after another week – able to pull myself away from Sevilla. Something about Sevilla – be it the tapa bars, the warm weather, my wonderful tour guide and translator, Cat, or the comfort of one the the nicest hostels I’ve stayed in yet – wouldn’t let go of me. But, after seven nights, I was finally off to see my third, and probably last Spanish town – at least for a couple months.
Sevilla is a beautiful and comfortably sized city – approximately 600,000 people inhabit Sevilla. The main portion of the city is comprised of skinny, cobblestone, streets and alleyways and only after seven nights did I begin to have a vague idea of how to get around the city. Brian and I figured out the most entertaining way to see the city of Sevilla – on the seats of our very own Sevici Bicycles.
Speaking of these bicycles, and the ease of alternative transportation they provide, I’ve decided to do a quick – positives and negatives list of Sevilla …
So, the optimist that I am, I’ll begin with the:
- Sevici Bicycles (positive) – The concept behind them is brilliant. All throughout Sevilla, you find computerized bike stands which have bicycles you can rent – some 150,000 of them. You can rent them for 10 minutes, for 30 minutes, for two hours, etc. You pick them up at any stand … and then drop them off when you’ve reached your destination (or somewhere within a two or three block radius). They’re dirt cheap. For a tourist like myself, I paid €5 for a 7 day pass (residents can get a year long pass for €10) – after this, you could ride a bike for 30 minutes each time for free, an hour was something like €1 … and it went up from there. What an ideal way to commute to work, class, or the bar and save money – not to mention, mother earth.
- Tapas Bars (positive) – Genius, as is the eating and going out lifestyle that they promote. You go to a bar (late, 9:30 at the earliest), have a couple beers, and order a couple plates of tapas – small plates of appetizers – hot or cold … vegetabley or meaty … seafood or fried food – this type of eating and drinking, in my opinion, makes for a far more conversation friendly evening. After one bar and a couple plates of food, you move on to the next.
I mentioned ‘having a couple beers’ while you’re out enjoying tapas. To be fair, this brings me to one of Sevilla’s negatives …
- Cruzcampo (negative) – Southern Spain’s beer = boring, tasteless, and is served far too cold and carbonated. To be fair, I’m coming off of a four month period of consuming the world’s greatest beer – Guinness – but, Cruzcampo didn’t do a very good job of winning me over. To put this in perspective … Back in Iowa, I would say my least favorite beer would be Miller Light (Sorry, Rob). But, if you put a Miller Light and a Cruzcampo in front of me at the bar tonight, I would gleefully reach for Miller’s Light and boring brew.
- But, a positive came from growing tired of drinking Cruzcampo – I switched to ordering orange juices. Only kidding. But, I did develop a taste for tinto de verano … a popular Spanish drink. Tinto de verano is a refreshing mixture of one part wine, one part Refresco Lemon (essentially sparkling lemonade), and garnished with a lemon. Mom, try one, I reckon you’d love it.
- Cigarette smoke = a major negative for Spain. For the last four and a half months, I enjoyed the joys of going to a pub / club / or restaurant and not coming home smelling like an ashtray. Ireland, smoke free (though sometimes in small villages near pub close, the ashtrays would come out … but, this was kind of cool in a rebellious, teenager hiding smoking from their parents (the Irish police) sort of way). Norway, smoke free. Portugal, smoke free as of January 1st, 2008. Not in Spain – there is no shortage of cigarette smoke in Spain. I knew things were getting out of hand when Brian and I walked into Dunkin Donuts this morning (we were tired and desperate, and it sounded really good – plus, for €1.85 you got a donut and a cup of coffee), and there was a haze of smoke throughout the store.
- The old, jolly, bartenders who work behind the bar in small, Spanish watering holes definitely need to be noted as a positive. They all always seem so happy and are quick to make jokes and poke fun at the customers. But, to be true, my inability to understand these bartenders surely needs to be noted as a negative.
- I’ve never really regretted not learning Spanish until this past week. I watch my friend Cat in awe as she converses with the previously mentioned jolly bartenders or any of her other Spanish speaking friends – or, for that mater, as she translated the menu each night for Brian and I. I’m to the point where I miss hearing English … not so much that I miss the English, but I merely miss being able to converse with the bartender, or hearing a neighboring tables conversation, or reading a menu, advertisement, street sign, etc – you get the picture.
All of the negatives aside, I’ve very much enjoyed my time here in Spain. I’ve seen very little of the massive country and hope to travel here again in the future.
Brian and I arrived here in Madrid early this morning at about 7:30am. We had the genius idea to save some money by not booking a place to stay yesterday evening – instead, we caught the 1am bus from Sevilla to Madrid – from here, we’ll be able to book a flight straight into Edinburgh. The bus ride was … well, for lack of a better word, miserable. I expected a 1am bus to be nearly empty – but, the bloody coach was nearly full. Sleep was next to impossible thanks to two, very loud men who decided to talk each others ear off for the greater portion of the bus ride.
Checked in at another hostel tonight … will tour the city tomorrow … and hopefully head back ‘home’ to Edinburgh by Wednesday. mk