In 2007, when in Portugal, I had a nice little plan to head to Faro after Lisbon and then catch a train on to Sevilla. It was a nice little plan. But it failed for one reason – the train line from Faro to Spain stops dead at the border.
So on my meagre budget, I had to leave the idea of visiting Andalucia to January 2010. Here the temperature is a mild 19 degrees yet the people wear puffer jackets and ugg boots to shield them from ‘the cold. Yet all the people are still on the streets, doing whatever they need to do. It’s different from the people on the streets in Marrakech – there they seemed to just be killing time, here they’re on their way to having a good time.
Sevilla definitely didn’t disappoint. Apart from the drizzly weather, it really is just drop dead gorgeous. Spain is the pin-up poster country for tourism, really. It has its beaches for those whom are so inclined, and then its cities are full of people, restaurants and perfect surrounds.
And alcohol – after our sobriety in Marrakech, we perhaps have hit the cerveza a little too hard. It always helps when it’s in a tapas bar, too. We’ve loaded up on patatas bravas, jamon croquettes and other things I only remember in English such as chicken in nutty sauces and fish fried in all sorts of goodness. The only thing I recommend passing on in Andalucia is its paella – it’s not from this region for a reason. It tastes like three minute rice.
Sevilla’s premier attractions are its cathedral (biggest in the world, apparently bigger than others I’ve been which claim this title) and its Alcazar, the medieval Arabic castle. However, coming from a very Islamic country we completely discounted any other religion playing a role in our trip. January 6 is the feast day of the Three Kings, or the Three Wise Men. Catholic Spain decides to have a little holiday for the occasion, plus from siesta time the day before.
So that meant the cathedral and Alcazar were closed, leaving us to visit the Bullfighting Museum and Ring instead, where we had a jolly good time anyway. But before we got too cranky about missing out on Sevilla’s sights, between beers we noticed people of all ages gravitating towards the city’s squares and streets, turning their umbrellas upside down and taking out large shopping bags.
The Spanish know how to do festivals properly. In Valencia, I had planned to be in town for Las Fallas, but this time the Three Kings gave us the element of surprise. We were treated to the Spanish version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, complete with thirty different floats which had nothing to do with the Three Kings, Christmas or Christianity at all. They instead paid hommage to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Shrek and the like. And the kids on the floats, as well as the dozens of ‘kings’ threw lollies to the adoring crowd. The ‘kings’, obviously being from the ‘Orient’ all sported black painted faces. ‘Hey Hey it’s Saturday’ eat your heart out.
It’s a different world here – where black faces are applauded, food is meant to be shared and ‘dos cervezas’ is the major means of communication. And a place where you can be starving, burst into a crowded restaurant at eight o’clock only to be told that the kitchen doesn’t open until nine.