Through the Time Portal

Ecija Travel Blog

 › entry 28 of 47 › view all entries
Another week has flown by but with so much packed into the days I have plenty to talk about. The phone calls and emails have started to trickle in regarding potential jobs so my brain (and Babel Fish) is in overdrive creating meaningful and sensible responses in Spanish. Oh my, I can imagine what some of these people must think when speaking to me on the phone. At least I am trying. I have no fear of making a plonker of myself any more - it is the only way to learn fast and in fact often eases the tension on both sides.

Last week, I met with young Javi (my friend from the Camino last year) and we had a 2 hour ‘intercambio’ which is a language exchange. At one point in the conversation I had meant to say that I was afraid ‘tengo miedo’ and instead said ‘mierdo’ which translates to ‘shit’ - After I picked Javi up off the floor, he explained my mistake but couldn’t get the grin off his face. I should also add that many Spanish people do not swear very much so the fact that I just dropped ‘shit’ into a conversation really got him going.

And on Friday a week ago, many of the Museums were open until 3.00am (yes, that’s right) and free (yes, that’s right too). I had a vague plan to visit the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares (I’ll leave that up to you to work out - very self explanatory) and then make my way back to home ground for the Museo de Belles Artes, at the end of my street. Unfortunately a day of walking the streets in new espadrilles put paid to that idea. (For the boys out there, these are a Spanish style of shoe, rope plaited wedge heel, commonly cotton or silk fabric upper, crossover ribbon ties at the ankles - oh god I can see I have opened a whole discussion here as the boys will probably have trouble with the wedge bit, let alone what an ‘upper’ is!).

Anyway . . . . my compromise was a quick shoe change to my trusty old sandals and a three minute walk to Museo de Belles Artes at 11.00pm, the time scheduled for an open air Flamenco (guitar) concert in the patio of the museum. Around the entrance, there were chatty groups of friends and families, prams and beautifully dressed young children included. It was a lovely atmosphere in the warm darkness, dim lighting, orange trees framing the plaza and the sounds of the Flamenco squeezing out the door to herald my entrance. In Sevilla, I often feel as though I have been transported to another time, indistinct but definitely in the past. I almost float around; it feels like I have popped through a time portal and I am invisible. Maybe I have been alone for too long. Scary thought.

But the Museum (deftly changing the topic) was wonderful, more-so for the beautiful building than the rooms of religious art unfolding from one to another. Some special pieces held my gaze. One in particular was of a Torero (bullfighter) lying on his deathbed surrounded by his fellow Toreros and Picadores, priest administering last rites. It was a large painting, commanding that you stop and take notice. I took up a spot on the bench seat opposite and found myself back in the time portal, this time I was there with them all, waiting for the inevitable and smelling the dust and blood of the bullring. It is so much a part of the culture of Spain especially the South that I feel I have to ‘sit in it’ for a while and feel what it must be like to grow up in this colourful culture.

It is so different from my pristine upbringing in the wilds of New Zealand, holidays at Lake Taupo, waking up to the smell of sizzling rainbow trout caught hours before, family evenings at the Tokaanu thermal pools swimming in the natural sulphur baths, driving home through the mist erupting from the earth via semi-dormant volcanoes. I’m off . . . .lost in memories of steam and mud pools and at the same time smelling the dust and heat of the bullring. How different could these lives be?

As I left the Museo, I was half tempted to schlep across town to the Costume Museum but a forty minute walk at 12.30pm and another walk back was not appealing as I had to be up for the bus in the morning.

There is a bigger story bursting to be told. Bursting? Well it is one that is going straight to the ‘Golden Box’ of memories right after telling. In brief, the Golden Box is the place I keep my most treasured memories - normally one per category. The categories are a little vague and float about in my psyche as required. This particular one will be filed under ‘amazing day out alone in Spain’.

It all started last Saturday morning with me walking the seven minutes to the Plaza de Armas bus station for the 9.30am bus to Ecija, 80km from Sevilla. The reason for this solo journey? I had discovered on the internet that the Feria (fair) was to take place, spaced over a few days and Saturday seemed like the logical day to visit, in the hope that there would be the famous Andalusian horses in attendance. My lovely friend from the Information Office, Amparo, confirmed this for me with a call to the Ecija Information Office.
Bear i mid though that the famous April Feria in Sevilla is THE place to see the horses, the beautiful dresses and the best casetas.

Casetas are little houses set up by established families and clubs for use during the Feria as ‘bars, cafes, restaurants and dance arenas’. They often have an elaborate theme and I can imagine the Event Management companies at work for weeks in advance. It kind of reminds me of the corporate marquees at the Melbourne Cup. Of course, there are always large public casetas but it is better if you can get a personal invite to a Private one.

Off the track . . . .so, my little bus was making it’s way directly to Ecija. I had armed myself with a map and some information on the history of the small town in advance. What luck, the bus pulled in to the station, located on the edge of the town but right next to the Feria. At 10.30, it was deserted, bar for a few relaxed looking security guards. The fun-fair was packed away for a few more hours and the casetas were all clean and stocked ready for the afternoon and evening crowds.

I had a few hours to kill so I made my way to the tourist office located in the beautiful museum building and wandered around the interesting displays: prehistoric, stone age, romanic, arabic and finally the catholic conquistadors. I believe that this glorious museum building was constructed in the 15th Century. Unfortunately there was no-one to corroborate this for me.

The little town kept me occupied for another 2 hours, getting lost, found, directed, misdirected. Finally I rounded a corner to find a huge crowd in front of the bullring. I had been reading posters all morning advertising an event to do with bullfighting but only then did I connect the poster with the event. There were TV cameras and people seemed to be converging on a central figure holding a small child aloft on one shoulder, appropriately dressed in the cutest little flamenco dress, flower softly framing one side of her face.

This man, I believe was either ‘Antonio Perez, banderillero Ecijano’ or a descendent, the human form on which the shiny new statue was based on. An unveiling . . . . something you don’t see every day. Maybe a famous local Torero or Matador. By now the crowds were starting to look lie they might be heading to the Feria. Many of the ladies and girls were wearing traditional dress.

It was now approaching 2.00pm and I was hot and parched. Time for a tapa and drink. The walk back to the Feria grounds was only 20 minutes but I had earned my bocarones (fish) and coffee by the time I arrived.

I placed myself strategically at a table close to the footpath so I could snap candid shots of the happy groups making their way dressed in Spanish finery. Many of the ladies and most of the children were dressed in typical Andalusian clothes, flamenco style dress, shawl, big earrings and a lovely flower in their hair. Colour co-ordination is rife and spots are de rigueur - I have to get in on the action!

The children were so cute; little boys in breeches with braces, teeny riding boots and cropped jackets, miniature versions of the caballistas (horsemen).
In the midst of my snapping, ooh-ing and aaah-ing I caught a magnificent sight out the corner of my camera. Prancing towards me were five gorgeous horses and their stunning male riders - the caballistas. They were dressed impeccably in traditional dress, horses groomed and adorned with leather headpieces, embroidered blankets and plaited manes. After snapping my jaw back into place, I hastily gathered my things and followed, attempting to keep up, tripping over myself trying not to look like a stunned ‘guiri’ (foreigner).

They were quick - I was quicker. Finally, they headed for the casetas and deftly maneuvered their beautiful steeds head-on to the curb, outside one of the elaborate casetas. It was designed like a Moroccan style palace in warm copper and caramel hues, azul blue and turquoise decorations. It was now bustling with groups taking up their places for the afternoon, starting off with tinto de veranos, cerveza sin alcool (no alcohol) or cooling rebujitos (manzanilla and soda). The Spanish love to spend time in bars but is is very rare for them to get drunk. There is always food on hand and most of the drinks are low or no alcohol. There may be a lesson here for other cultures . . . .

I must have looked like a fish out of water, the only non-Spanish person around! I gaped, no actually, I gawped (!) at the scene in front of me and felt like I had been transported back to a slower, softer and much more sensual time. It’s that blooming portal again!

How could I make this feeling last? The universe is being very generous to me of late, and I really only have to have a ‘tingle of a thought’ and I seem to create it in space. No sooner had I requested an extension of this perfect moment, and the men started up a conversation (in Spanish). In no time they knew where I was from, how long I had been in Spain, what I do . . . . And in return I found out that they are from Cordoba (not Ecija) and although they all have other jobs, their hobby is to bring their horses and sometimes mule carts, to the nearby Ferias and enjoy the day walking paseo (around the blocks between casetas) and stopping regularly for food and drink. I was offered a seat on one of the horses and after a long decision-making process (about a nano second), I agreed and was lifted up side-saddle, safely perched behind Javi. No sooner was I settled than a wine was thrust in my hand and forks of delicious food passed around. Oh godd (yes, I meant to spell it like that!).

It was only about 2.30pm but I already had an inkling that my day was about to take off! And it did. I ended up staying with Javi, Javi, Antonio, Antonio and Manolo (yes, you heard me correctly) for the rest of the day. I was passed around from Javi (senior) to Antonio’s (senior) horse and my feet did not touch the ground until 8.30pm. Unfortunately Cinderella had to return to the bus station!

During the magic afternoon, we six made many circuits (paseos) of the Feria and partook of the lovely food in about seven or eight of the casetas. I did not have to lift a finger and tried in earnest to include myself in the conversations, all the while improving my ‘Feria’ Spanish. I really hit it off with my new friends and promised to send them photos. These handsome Spanish men may be the dream of many of us ladies; now I can say I have lived it. This wonderful day was further proof (ladies!) that travelling alone is the only way to go! Adventures happen in spades when you are alone and open to them.

My bus trip home was so serene as I had the feria glow and memories of my Caballistas. I am so blessed.

But, as usual in Sevilla, no week is like the last. On Monday, I started work teaching English to a lovely student, Sonia and she will be returning twice a week to have lessons. The way things happen here is a lot different to ‘big city Melbourne’ and I have realised that getting students is going to be much easier via word of mouth. To this end, I am making lots of new friends and this is also why I frequent the bar of Francis and Miguel so often (are you still with me?). As they say here, jajaja (hahaha)!

Anyway, on Tuesday night I was giving Miguel an impromptu English lesson on the bar in chalk and some of his clientele overheard and joined in. They happened to be architects and I have since met up with one who may become my second client. Now it all makes sense!

Another business idea I had was to put together a flyer and take it to small businesses offering my services for English classes to small groups. I asked my new American friend, Leah to join with me so this week we have been wandering the local area dropping of our cute flyer. Stay tuned, you never know!

Nearly there - sorry this is so long but the weeks are crammed here.

Last night I thought I would pop into Miguels for a Manzanilla and a read of my book before bed but as I approached I was side-tracked by music. It led me to the lovely treed plaza outside the Museo. Apparently Thursday nights offer open-air Tango classes! Who would have thought - so close to my house. I watched jealously for a while and then returned to Miguels to be warmly welcomed by Denis the Menace. I have to say that last night he truly lived up to his name and proceeded to buy me three Manzanillas. Although they are not very strong, I am lucky the walk home is only 100m.

I slept well and maybe sneaked back through the time portal to dream of Caballistas and Toreros of another era.
geokid says:
Nice blog, Thanks for posting it!!!!
Posted on: Sep 25, 2009
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photo by: slimbolima