Seville, Spain

Andalusian charm drips from Seville like honeyed marmalade from a pot of preserves on an English breakfast tray. Strolling through the city is an odd mix of tranquility and deferential chaos. What I mean is that, at times, and particularly during the afternoon between 1400 and 1700 when most shops are closed, the narrow alleys empty and the hoards of people retire to their homes, offices or larger spaces. However, at other times, especially after 2200, streets teem with life, which was both thrilling and surprisingly to someone imbued with a Protestant work ethic (what are all these people doing out eating and drinking on a work night?!?).

In the historic center, the city is crammed with shops selling all manner of painted fans, flamenco skirts and other kitsch. However, for every window crammed with dolls, fans and skirts, there are two more with ham hocks dangling and a well worn bar, crowded with patrons and topped with icy beer, tangy sangria and an absolute panoply of tapas.

From the time I arrived, I knew I’d enjoy Seville. Although I look forward to visting other cities in the region, I would also been quite content to wind down the European portion of my trip in here. In the city, I stayed in two great hostels: first in Friends Backpackers, second in Sevilla Inn Backpackers. Both buildings were similarly designed, had superb roof-top terraces, were easy to find and surrounded by many, many, many bars, restaurants and important sights.

While in Seville, I met a lot of French people on holiday. Given the shared frontier, it makes sense that so many French visit – it’s close, interesting and less expensive than many places in France. One evening, as I sat on the terrance to enjoy the cool evening air, I met a group Parisiennes who had just finished high school. We chatted about travel plans and US politics, while they tried to ply me for tips on how to sound more American (for the love of God, why?). Earlier, I wrote about a 2 Euro haircut I obtained in Marrakesh. It could be that the tufts of hair leftover by the barber were sufficiently amusing to one of the young ladies that she took a bit of a shine to me (or perhaps it was just my own wry brand of magnetism). Nonetheless, we spent part of the evening engaging in subtle flirtation and conversation about her autumnal plans – at least when she wasn’t chastizing me for being an English speaker. The night was fun, but made me feel pretty, ummm…mature…in comparison to the others sharing the table.

The following night was more subdued, but no less exciting. I met a woman named Maya who is a maths PhD student from Melbourne and together we joined Sophie and Sabastian (a French couple – more French!) from Burgundy for a tapas, beer and wine crawl around Real Alcazar. The four of us ate and drank our way through a surprising variety of wines, beers and tapas before finally making our way back to Friends Backpackers, where I tried (and failed) to upload some photos to Picasaweb using the hostels extremely flakey wireless network. Note to hostel: add a second access point and eliminate your headaches and those of your guests.

Several weeks of wistful desire produced little improvement to the jellyfish sting, so I finally opted to visit the pharmacy. After a short conversation with the pharmacist, and thankful I wasn’t subject to Olympic drug prohibitions, I left with a tube of white goo, which is either hydrocortisone or toothpaste. I’ll know which it is in a few weeks when either:

  1. I loose my arm to gangrene or fluoride poisioning; or,
  2. The sting heals, my voice drops an octave, I start balding and my testicles begin to shrivel.

Don’t worry, I’ll keep you all apprised.

In other exciting news, while in Seville, I discovered that an adapted version of my paper titled Break Free has appeared on both the Deloitte Web site and as a two-part feature in Mobile Enterprise Magazine. Neat!

After several nights in Seville, fed, watered, lotioned and published in the press, it was time to head on to Granada. When I get there, I’ll dine on more tapas, visit the Alhambra and finalize my plans for South Africa.