Spain has been listed on my travel bucket list for as long as I’ve had one. Although I can only speak extremely basic Spanish (even after studying it for all four years of high school – thanks Barno Brothers) it was the culture of the country that I found so alluring. I found that the more I learned about the people and their music, dance, food, ethnic and religious traditions, architecture and history the more my desire to travel there intensified. So when I saw that España was on the itinerary for this voyage I was absolutely ecstatic.
When we finally arrived in Seville, Spain after our six hour bus ride from Lisbon, Portugal, we made the decision to walk to our hostel so that we could stretch our legs after sitting for so long. Shortly after beginning our journey by foot, we started to hear the thunderous sound of pounding drums coming from the streets ahead of us. Curious as to what the noise could be for, we did not stray from the direction in which we were headed but were quickly stopped short when we hit a massive crowd of people parading in the street. At first we were worried there was some kind of protest but when we got closer we saw what was leading the procession: a beautifully ornate statue of Mother Mary. When we tried to make our way through the slowly moving crowd, we noticed that there was a full marching band, altar boys with incense and policemen who were keeping people out of the way of the float with the statue on it. It was truly remarkable that we happened to stumble upon such an awesome event within our first moments in Seville.
When we finally made it to our hostel, we were pleasantly surprised to see that some fellow SASers were staying there but were even happier to see how awesome the hostel was. Since there were five of us, we were given a full room to ourselves which was complete with three sets of bunk beds and a bathroom. I immediately called one of the top bunks, which was a total throwback for me to all the times that I used to sleep over my cousins house as a child since I would always plead with her to sleep on her top bunk. As happy as that made me, the public areas of the hostel were also something to smile about, since it was complete with brightly painted walls, fun decorations, and even a sign on the wall that announced that hugs from the staff were free! There was also a pretty rooftop area and a few computers to use in the lobby. However we were delighted even further when we were making our way out for dinner and were stopped by a staff member who told us about a pub crawl they were having that night. Excited to join the group later that evening, we took a map marked with the pub crawl locations on it and told him that we would meet up with them at their first stop.
Our phrase for that evening was “tapas on top of tapas” because that’s exactly what we ate. We could claim that we ate so much because we were hungry from traveling all day, but that wouldn’t be the complete truth because it also had a lot to do with how absolutely fantastic all the food was. We were quickly falling in love with Sevilla even though we had only been there for a few hours. However, our Spanish experience in this tapas bar was even further enhanced by the loud screams of all of the locals as they cheered for Real Madrid, whose match was broadcasted on every television in the place.
Once we finally decided it was about time to leave the tapas bar, we made our way to the first location for the pub crawl. We were warmly welcomed by the staff running it, bought our tickets, took our free shots and mingled then with all the awesome people who were there. We certainly met some characters throughout the evening including one hilarious guy who recently moved to Sevilla from China, an Italian woman and the group of Spaniards who were with her, as well as a group of English guys with whom we had some hysterical conversations. At each of the bars we went to we were offered a free drink or shot, so the price of the ticket basically had us covered for the whole night. The last stop for the pub crawl was a discoteca (dance club) where we learned just how true the song Loca People by Sak Noel is because Spaniards undoubtedly do party “all day, all night.” In fact, we got to the club at 2am and left at 4am only to see that there was still a long line of people outside waiting to be allowed to enter.
The next day we wandered around the city and tried to go into the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede but it was closed for Sunday mass, so we were only able to go into one of the beautiful side chapels. Our main goal for rest of the day was to try to buy tickets for the bull fight that was that evening, but it just so happened to be the last one of the season so the only tickets that were left were over 100 euros. I left the ticket stand feeling defeated as I shared the news with my friends, but as we left I made a promise to myself that one day I would return to see one. Not being able to go was probably for the best anyway, since we didn’t realize how formal the dress code was for the bull fight. We would have totally stood out next to all the men in suits and women doused in perfume.
Not wanting to miss out on a Spanish culture experience for the evening, we decided to go to a Flamenco show. As sad as we were to be missing out on the bull fight, we were completely content with the change in plans, especially because the show ended up being absolutely amazing. The performers exerted such astounding passion as they stomped around the stage, posed with fierce facial expressions, tossed around the skirts of their beautiful dresses, strummed their flamenco guitars, snapped their castanets, and shouted to one another in encouragement. I sat in the audience in awe thinking about how much younger I was than the dancers on stage and how I would never be able to stomp my feet as violently and quickly as they could and make it look as graceful and dance-like as they had. Unfortunately, the audience was forbidden from recording any of the performance (but I did take a picture of one of the male dancers!). After the performance, we decided to go back to the first bar from the pub crawl the night before, but found it to be completely overtaken by SASers with unfortunately no locals in sight, so we settled for dessert at a nearby café and then went back to our hostel.
Our third and final day in Sevilla we began by meeting up with our friend John from Pace, who was studying abroad in this amazing city for the semester. He showed us around his university campus and took us to the gorgeous Plaza de España all while we caught up and learned about each other’s study abroad programs. He also introduced us to his Spanish friend, who told us a lot about the education system in Spain. However, he impressed us the most when he shared with us that he can fluently speak FIVE different languages! When they had to leave for class, we said our goodbyes and walked to Alcázar Castle. I could not get over how absolutely breathtaking the whole property was and even though we spent hours there, I could have easily spent many more exploring all of the rooms, garden mazes, and tiled courtyards.
When we finally left the castle, we stopped in a Dunkin (which they actually call Dunkin Coffee) and saw that even though they did sell both coffee and donuts just as we’re used to, they did have quite a few different flavors on their menu. In our then limited time left in Sevilla, we decided to go to the top of the Metropol Parasol, or the large mushroom-like structure, where we relished in the sight of the beautiful city below. We then stopped to eat lunch, where we unexpectedly witnessed quite a spectacle. There were these two little girls who were running around and giggling with one another as what seemed to be their grandmother watched them from a nearby bench. Then all of the sudden they started running up to us. They tried to be sneaky and would run up behind us, touch one of our bags, and then run away. The weirdest part was that when they would run away from us after successfully touching our bags their grandmother would give them a cookie as though she were rewarding them! After seeing this happen three different times the only conclusion we could come to was that they were trying to mimic or were being encouraged to learn how to pick people’s pockets. Of course we don’t know if this is true but we were warned that in many countries children are most likely to pick pockets because they have tiny hands, move quickly, and they’re innocent so most people would never expect them to commit such a crime. We quickly left the area before the little girls had the chance to actually steal something from us, picked up our bags from the hostel, and hailed a cab to take us to the train station.
Boarding our train to Cadiz was bittersweet because we didn’t want to leave Sevilla, but we were also happy that we would at least have one more day in Spain before we had to leave the country entirely. That next morning we attended a market tour and tapas tasting event, which was quite enjoyable. During the market tour we saw countless types of raw fish, fruits, meats and cheeses and learned all about the way in which these foods are prepared and even were able to try some of the foods for sale. We tried Spanish churros (which are much lighter and are salty instead of sugary as they are in the US), a few cheeses, olives, juicy plums, and various slices of jamon from the pig legs that hung from the ceiling of some of the stands. We then made our way to a tapas bar where we had a glass of wine with our tastings of grilled vegetables, gazpacho, scorpion fish pate with crackers and even shark! We left the tapas bar as soon as the event was over so that we would have enough time to shop in the local Carrefour super market for necessities before we left Europe for Africa.
When it was time to board the ship, the longing to stay in this remarkable country was inevitable but of course I knew that there were much more adventures on this voyage to be had and that they would be ones that I would not want to miss out on. However, what really made me feel better is that I had resolved to return to España sometime in the very near future.