Sevilla Travel Blog

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I am clearly in some sort of routine now - and that includes faffing around on Fridays when I had every intention of making Friday my writing day. It seems to get to the 2-week mark and ‘the guilts’ set in. So, here I am sitting in Bar Monsalves, devouring a wonderfully toasty tostada con pollo y aceite (toasted roll with lashings of virgin olive oil and a chunky slice of roasted chicken, sprinkled with salt). Breakfast of champions.

So - what has life dished up in the past two weeks - or should I say, what adventures have I brought into my life, tiny hair-like filaments to cement my life here even more?

I have had a very busy time with a full compliment of students - I now have seven Sevillanos visiting me for one or two lessons a week. They are all adults and range from students to businessmen. They all bring so much joy to my life as I glean snippets of local life and customs from them. I have a rule that once in the ‘classroom’ we only speak English but as soon as the lesson is over, we revert to Spanish and it is my chance to practice a few new words or ‘refrains’ (colloquialisms).

It has been a week of bedding down the change in seasons. Autumn came late here, and finally the days are consistently cooler but still with crystalline blue skies. Occasionally I make it up to my terrace early enough to watch the crumbly sunrise break open the night time clouds. I have a view cross the rooftops of my neighbourhood. During the daytime they are a fluttering display of drying washing - the Spanish version of Tibetan prayer flags. At night the stalky silhouettes of TV aerials remind me of a life once lived.

I no longer watch any TV, not merely because it is all in Spanish but because now I would rather wander the streets of my neighbourhood or chat with strangers. The concept of ‘paseo’ has taken a stronghold over me (although I still can’t get the hang of siesta time and doubt I ever will). No matter what the weather, I adore my time just getting lost and found.

I have a new excuse now and a new companion justifying talking out loud without the embarrassment of being seen talking to myself. I have become the official companion for Nano, my friend’s cute wee Jack Russell. He trots along beside me on his stumpy little legs, half-running half-trotting. With my long strides, it must look like we are in a tussle to see who can take control. At times, Nano pulls me along and then I get the upper hand for a moment and steer him where my will takes us.

Occasionally I do get out of my comfort zone (El Centro). Last week I was invited to visit a small local pueblo (Umbrette) with my friend Amparo. It is the village of her birth and youth - only fifteen minutes away by bus. We arrived late in the afternoon and wandered the narrow main street to visit her elderly aunt. Tia Cristina at 81 lives alone in a glorious double story home, perched on the footpath’s edge and within spitting distance of the imposing town church. As I entered I was immediately welcomed by the soft energy of the home. It was centuries old and I could sense the love and tenderness with which it has been cared for over the years.

Although the decor is museum-like, each article has a lifetime of memories clinging invisibly like a soul. The absence of even a speck of dust confirmed my initial hunch that this house is indeed a home. Tia Cristina (aunt Cristina) was frail but so alive. She lives mostly downstairs now but the home has three or four (I forget now) internal courtyards - each one filled with the typically Spanish ceramic pots laden with geraniums, roses or jasmine. I can imagine warm evenings in summer, following the shadows to various patios to make the most of the cool air.

We were treated to a delicious home made cinnamon-y rice pudding accompanied by a teeny crystal sherry glass filled with local Muscatel dessert wine. I wanted to stay forever!
Noticing my delight at the home cooked food, Tia Cristina shuffled off to the kitchen and returned with a foil parcel containing six of her famous chicken croquettes (croquetas) for me to cook at home.

But the ‘red cross parcel’ did not end there. One of her neighbours, also a good friend of Amparo’s popped in for a visit then rushed off to his house, returning to present me with a bottle of Mosto champagne made in Umbrette!

Now, if you have been following the last few blogs, you will know that I have become an aficionado of this amazing local drink. It is a ‘new wine’ and only available at this time of year. Umbrette is home to many ancient grape vines, firmly rooted, at home in the hot southern summers. Consequently, there is a festival of Mosto in February so you know where I will be visiting! The ‘champagne’ is deliciously fresh and light with a feathery effervescence . I am now waiting to invite a guest over for dinner so I can open my special Umbrette champagne. Stay tuned!

It is unfortunate that my ‘local’ does not serve mosto but I have found one that does! It is a little hole-in-the-wall and I often stop off when walking Nano. He sits next to me at the entrance, I perch at the bar and together we watch Sevilla pass by. I have 1 or 2 glasses of mosto for 60c each and then we are off.

I have an on-going joke with myself that I do not have a ‘Manolo’ in my collection of Spanish friends. Manolo is one of those names like ‘Trevor’ or ‘Duncan’. It is sooooo typically Spanish that everyone knows a Manolo. I have been waiting to meet my first Manolo and now I have. The owner of my ‘mosto bar’ is called Manolo and I take great delight in bounding in with a ‘Hola Manolo!’
Now I have my own Manolo!

Monmartre in the 40’s and 50’s must have been so much fun. All those artists, singers, poets . . .
Well, Sevilla in 2009 is pretty fun too. In the past 2 weeks I have spent some animated evenings chatting with locals at Monsalves. Last week it was Denis the Menace, Maria the student, Pilar the engineer, Juan the welder and recently I have be-friended Filipe the poet, his brother, cousin and friend Carolina, who is a driving instructor. Phew!

Earlier this week, Filipe surprised the clientele with a poem about freedom and dreams, scripted in chalk on the long wooden bar. Although I did not understand it in entirety, I got the gist. It was one of those moments when splinters of your life come together and you feel perfectly calm in your existence. I understood his sentiment echoing Victor Hugo - There is nothing like a dream to create the future.

There is nothing like uprooting yourself from an existence that serves your purpose perfectly but starves your soul of love. To take the risk, to take hold of the dream and transplant yourself half a planet away is brave and the perfect way to express your freedom to be alive. I can slowly feel my roots take hold of my new life, fueled by the lifeforce of my dream, watered by the kindness of strangers and the love of a culture that places comradeship above commercialism.

Your experiences are proportional to the quality of your relationships. I have amazing friends . . . . .these friends root me to my home here. I am going to thrive here. right now I’m growing beautifully. One day there will be a marvelous bloom.
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photo by: JP-NED