Nom de Plumage

April 15, 2013


Filed under: Travel Journal — nomdeplumage @ 11:32 am
Tags: , , , ,

The name alone, conjures up typical impressions associated solely with Spain – tapas, flamenco, bullfighting and sangria. Only, when I arrived after my short 40 minute train ride, those impressions are nowhere  seen and I felt disillusioned that the long-held ‘Spanish image’ is a myth.

Santa Justa is a large modern train station  at the very edge of the city. My first impression is not good. The city appears ordinary, and I walk aimlessly in search of what I know exists. What I did not have with me, is a map and I foolishly believed that I could walk straight into the old town without any problems. I wasted more than an hour. Luck guided me along a wide and busy main street. I noticed narrow streets that weaved a maze of intrigue and knew that I needed to explore. It almost became a death trap. The uneven dark streets are not only used by pedestrians, but also by cars. It became a gauntlet of trying not to get lost and get run-over at the same time and I can write now, with a sense of achievement, that I survived the close shaves of metal upon my soft flesh.

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And then…….the maze opens to reveal the historic centre of Seville.

The cathedral lies within the very heart of the town, dominating and drawing the crowds to this gothic stone structure. I, unfortunately chose the day that the cathedral closes early (for what, no idea?) and missed the opportunity to go in by minutes. I was kindly informed that I could go in for full price for a few minutes only, and although the temptation was there, I could not justify paying the expensive fee for mere minutes. So, I kept exploring and walked to the beautiful river that attracts tourists and locals. I needed to keep reminding myself that it is winter, but how could I when the sun is warm, the sky is blue and almost cloudless and people are happy and enjoying life. The atmosphere along the river’s foreshore is vibrant and it is here that I discover a somewhat controversial institution (if you are not Spanish) the bullfighting arena. Thankfully for me the season is over and the arena lays almost quiet with only tourists providing some life.

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Seville is a city of castles, orange trees, wide boulevards and lots of university students. I chanced upon students leaving campus for their lunch break and followed them a little. They became my guide and I discovered the trendy side of the city. Cafes and bars filled quickly with enthusiastic young students and although the atmosphere was alive, I kept walking to find more of what this city offers. What has really taken me by surprise, is the amount of ‘greenery’ i.e. parks, tree-lined boulevards and the foreshore. Lush and beautiful, it is not an image that I associate with Spain. The country is renowned for its dry arid land and here there are no traces of drought.

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I stumble my way through the city and discover this…..

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Casa Nostre. A massive stone structure (in a half-moon shape) that took me by surprise and had that ‘wow’ factor that I was not prepared for. The castle is a mix of French street lamps/posts, Italian bridges over the canal and the heavy use of Palladian arches, Moorish blue and white tiles that line the bridges and stone barricade and vibrant mosaics that depict the many county’s that unify Spain and yet it is unmistakably Spanish. Beautiful! I do not know the history behind this structure and do not know in what capacity it functions today, but the magnificent exterior is something to admire and behold.

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Lunch was a very late affair. I found a café/restaurant near the cathedral and tried unsuccessfully (my last day in Spain) for paella. I had to opt for a vegetable terrine instead. The service and food were both lovely, but it was the coffee at the end that I unfortunately remember most vividly. I am no coffee connoisseur, but I can certainly differentiate between a decent cup to a horrid cup. I ordered a cappuccino and what I got instead was a thick black bitter sludge, topped with whipped cream and dusted with cinnamon (what the hell!). It was undrinkable. I did not complain and left scarred and in fear of cappuccino’s.

The day was getting late and I thought it best to make my way back to Santa Justa station. Yeah right! Simple in theory, but a bloody nightmare . I got hopelessly lost and spent two hours wandering the streets of Seville. To get out of the historic centre was never going to be easy. I tried to find familiar bearings and failed, but somehow I found a main road and thought that I knew where I was. It turns out I was much farther than I initially thought and so, it became an unbelievable maze of despair, hopelessness and utter panic at the end. The worst thing is, that I did find the station (from a distance), but to get there was the hard part. In the end, I found it and travelled the short distance back to Cordoba and prepare for my departure tomorrow for the Netherlands.


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