Denis the Menace

Sevilla Travel Blog

 › entry 27 of 47 › view all entries
I was going to call this blog ‘Words for Wine’ but events occurring last night have meant a re-think. But back to the beginning.

I returned to Sevilla from Chipiona and got settled right back into looking for work. It’s just as exhausting as it is in Australia but much more fun wandering the streets to drop off my CV than being glued to my computer in the solitary confines of my home. The whole concept of anonymous requests for a job (via bland, soul-less time-wasting sites like SEEK) seems as ludicrous to me now as it always did then.

Well, with my list of agencies and schools I criss-crossed the centre of Sevilla and as long as it was outside siesta hours (2pm-6pm), I usually encountered a kind human who smiled, thanked me for dropping in and then promised to have someone call me if they had a position. Of course my phone never rang!

By Friday, I was feeling a little jaded and in need of a cheering drink! I took myself, along with the final 30 pages of my last English novel (!!) and headed for the little outdoor bar close to my home. As there were no spare tables on the patio, I continued up the road and tumbled into a cute hole-in-the-wall bar I had not noticed previously. It looked like something out of a Dickens novel but with decidedly Spanish flavor. There are old pieces of farm equipment dangling from the ceiling and the bar is small but cosily constructed with an overhanging dark beam, potentially supporting the entire building.

Although it was 9.00pm, the bar was empty except for an older gentleman next to me. The two friendly barmen smiled at me and made me feel perfectly comfortable perched on my worn wooden stool, squinting in the dim light at my precious pages. I asked for a vino tinto (de Andalusia) and the gentleman to my left interrupted to ask my nationality. On hearing me declare ‘Australian’ he started to speak in English with a heavy French accent. What followed was a wonderful explanation of the wine regions of Spain and what I should be asking for in each region - apparently you do not ask for red wine in the South. Only one specialist vineyard, near Malaga produces red wine. He explained why this region is known for it’s Manzanilla and Muscatel. Armed with my new knowledge, I asked for a Manzanilla (from San Lucar de Barrameda - a village near Chipiona). It was cool, tart and delicious, and suited my mood perfectly.

With the novel now permanently face down, I continued a wonderful conversation with my new French friend, Denis and the kindly barmen, Francis and Miguel. Miguel has about 50 words of English under his belt and we joked that I could swap words for wine. I think I would have the best part of the bargain though!

Denis has lived in Sevilla for nearly twenty years and is a great wealth of information. He is incredibly well read and interested in science, physics, politics and the ‘real politics’ of the world. It was a great way to finish off my week and after my second Manzanilla I took my leave and skipped home for an early night.

Saturday morning is one of my favourite times of the week. Even though I am not working at the moment, it feels as though it is the start of my ‘weekend’ and I can really relax (in other words, not feel guilty about not traipsing the streets looking for a job). I love to just wander and for hours I can get myself lost and found in the casco antigua (old town), chuckling at the tourists who ALL carry maps twisting this way and that. It is the only city I have been to where it is virtually mandatory to have a map with you at all times.

I had arranged to meet up with a couchsurfing buddy and her partner as we have been corresponding for some weeks. They have just arrived in Sevilla from Milan and are going through the exhausting process of looking for a temporary home. I was hoping to be of some assistance to them. We had a fun afternoon and ended up on my terrace drinking Tinto’s until it was time for me to head out to a dinner appointment.

I had been invited to the home of my friends form the Camino de Santiago and was a little apprehensive as the son, Javi (the only English speaker) was away for the evening. I found my way there by local bus and was pleased to find that two of the other guests spoke a little English. I really tried my hardest to contribute to the conversations in Spanish and the ladies assisted with translations when necessary. It was a lovely casual night, fortunately not the formal sit down dinner I had been expecting. As each day goes by, I improve a little more but realise that I also have to do some formal study of my own so i am scheduling study time to listen to my podcast and read my Spanish books.

I decided that I would greet Sunday with no plan so headed out of the house at about 9.30 and wandered around the Museo de Belles Artes plaza enjoying the diverse assortment of art on sale. It is a regular market a lovely way to start the day. I then checked out the movies at Avenida 5 nearby to see if any new ‘English version’ movies have been added - no luck. Have to wait another month!

I turned towards the Plaza de Toro (bullring) and found myself investigating the narrow lanes and intriguing architecture. In the process I stumbled upon a beautiful corral (like an interior courtyard with the building constructed in a circle around it). Inside there was a weekly coin and stamp market. Ha! It looked like it would also look like in Melbourne: serious faces of elderly men with magnifying glasses studying the yellowed pages of ancient stamp collections; ragged little boxes filled with dirty old coins from all over the globe and my favourite, a jolly man with an interesting collection of old postcards. I sifted through the ‘1 euro pile’ and discovered two lovely cards with hand embroidery detailing the Spanish lady on each. I straight away thought of my mum and bought them for her. There were two tiny children’s books in my hands also and they now reside in my bag for those moments when I need to practice my reading but do not wish to be overwhelmed!

And speaking of books, remember that I had finished my last novel? Well, after putting out an SOS to everyone living close enough or travelling to visit me I decided that I had to take matters into my own hands. On Monday, I made my way to the public library and single-handedly joined up - a feat I am so proud of as I managed the entire process in Spanish! It was a coup but the result was not really so exciting. The pitiful collection of English language books will last me no more than about a year I think! They are mostly old English classics (never seen the entire Jane Austin collection in one place before).
Any donations will be gratefully received . . . .

I also visited the beautiful main campus of Sevilla University, housed in the building that was once a famous cigar factory. In fact, the story of Carmen was based on this building. Well, now it houses screaming women of another kind - excited and exuberant in their first days at university.

I was visiting to pin up my little ads for private English classes, or 'clases particulares' as they are known here. There are dozens of notice boards and each one is a collage of sticky tape, hand drawn signs and elaborate notices offering language lessons, rooms to rent or activities for orientation week! My fluorescent yellow posters became part of the collage and now I await calls.

Last night I decided to call Denis the Menace (as he affectionately calls himself). He had given me the number of a girl who is also teaching English and thought she may be able to assist me. I rang him to explain that I wanted him to speak with her first so that she had some background.
He answered his phone with surprise - “I was thinking of you this evening and walked to the bar to see if you were there but it was closed” - synchronicity - “and now, an hour later you are calling me - come and join me for a drink”

I love it when the universe gives me a pat on the back! I followed Denis’ instructions and met him on a nearby corner. He took me to visit a young friend and then we went to a gorgeous bar - equally as quaint as the one we met at. Apparently the two owners used to work together but had a falling out and now run separate bars - almost carbon copies of each other!

Another evening learning about wine (this time Champagne as Denis is from Champagne and spent many years working in vineyards as well as at his profession, chef. The lovely barmaid brought us out a tapa to try and asked Denis’ opinion - he seems very respected for both his friendship and cooking skills in the neighbourhood. The morsel was a small round of toasted bread topped with sweet caramelised onion, a tiny piece of olive and a drop of caramel. Simple but delicious although Denis suggested a ‘puntito’ of balsamic.

He explained the star signs to me in a much more metaphysical way than I have ever heard and we discussed politics and the media - what is the truth and what is manufactured for the masses!. It was after two glasses of lovely red wine from Rioja (Lan) that we decided to call it a night and Denis walked me halfway home so I would not get lost. Such a gentleman and, I suspect, never a menace to anyone.

I am trying to get to bed a little earlier than 1.00am as waking up at 8.00am is playing havoc with my time clock.
As I am in Spain, life is a little more colourful than Aus- last night was band practice at home and although it finished at 10.30, I was serenaded with Flamenco until midnight. Oh well, when in Rome oops I mean Sevilla.

At least I have my books now so I can tuck myself up in bed and get lost - in India of all places.
c_angel says:

Looks like you are really enjoying yourself in the process...I look forward to each installment.
I hope your new book is Shantaram by David Gregory
Roberts.... what a writer. If it is Shantaram (movie rights bought by none other that Johnny Dep) do look up on his website to check how much of the book is in fact based on his life !! If it isn't your book, look for it !! Mas tarde c
Posted on: Sep 16, 2009
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photo by: JP-NED