Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sevilla, Part 1: The Long Journey

When we first moved to Europe, we made a prioritized list of places we wanted to see.  Most of them were shared, like Paris, London, know, the big ones.  But there were a couple surprises.  Paul really wanted to go to Norway, which had not been on my radar at all.  And me?  I wanted to go to Andalucia in Spain.

It just sounded so romantic.  Andaluuuuuusia.  Or, AndaluSEEEEaaaah.  However you wanted to go with that.  Plus, I'd dreamt about seeing the Alhambra since 9th grade when I first really got into Moorish history and culture.  I wanted the orange trees, the fountains in the inner courtyard gardens, the intricate arches and arabic calligraphy.  The spices, the seafood, the heat, the olives.  Spain!   Right?

So Spain was where we spent our 6th anniversary and our last adventure together before Hadrian arrived.  And I should add, was a big reason why we named him Hadrian in the first place.  Andalucia was the historical Hadrian's homeland, so to speak, and learning about the Roman influence in the area was a fascinating surprise for me.  

Anyway!  I'm sure you're here to learn about Sevilla/Seville and not to hear me wax rhapsodic about my dreams of southern Spain.  On we go then!

My first impression of Spain was Madrid, actually.  It was much cheaper to fly from Copenhagen to Madrid and then take the bullet train down to Seville.  I remember seeing the dry, high-desert surrounding the city from the plane, worrying a little bit about catching our train since we had to take a bus through rush hour traffic.  I remember people on the bus acting very alarmed when I got on, seven months pregnant with a stuffed bright orange backpack and waving aside people's concerned pleas for me to just take their seat!  

Side note: it wasn't that I didn't want their seat or didn't appreciate it.  Honestly, I kept turning them down because I was having trouble processing why so many people were suddenly acting so extremely deferential.  I felt shy and embarrassed to be singled out, I guess?  (I'm healthy and young and strong!  I don't need your seat, Mr. 65 Year Old Man!)  I think this was because, surprisingly, in Denmark no one treated my massive pregnant self with much deference - as I commuted by bike, bus, and train almost every day to Copenhagen.  So I wasn't used to it?  Plus, I think the Danish attitude had made me think that I must not have looked very pregnant.  ha ha.  I looked at the Spain pictures when we got home and was like, "HOLY moly I was big!"  So...yep. Denial.  Anyway, the point is that people in Spain were waaaaay more conscientious about pregnant women than I'd ever seen in my life.  Kudos to Spain.)

I remember us running (well, Paul running.  Me kind of sad-waddling after him) around the massive train station trying to find our track...or just the place where there were any tracks!  What was a bit disconcerting was seeing so many fully armed - we're talking armored vests and AK-47 - police just walking around (there was an echo of that when we went to Paris a few months before with my parents and sister.  Fully armed police all over the train stations...).  Plus the fact that we had to go through security and a metal detector to even get to our track!  Only in Spain did we come up against that.  It was actually the reason we were so lost in the train station - kept thinking, "Oh, well we don't want to go through that massive line to wherever!  We just want to find the tracks!"  

Let me just say here that the bullet train to southern Spain is posh.  Maybe the nicest train we've ever been on.  And a surreal experience to watch "Jack the Giant Killer" dubbed in Spanish.  Like...all the characters were named "Julio" and "Esparanza" or along those lines...but it was clearly set in England?  

Then we made it to Seville!

Aaaaaaaand had to take a taxi to get to the historic city center.  It's always strange for me when the train stations aren't just smack dab in the middle of the action, but that's the way it was in Seville.  Be prepared. You're going to pass a lot of mid-century apartment buildings before you see medieval streets.

Finally, we were dropped off next to the Cathedral and began our wander through some of the most interesting and get-lost-able streets and alleys we ever encountered in Europe.  I think Venice and maybe the Alfama in Lisbon could match or beat it.  Every now and then, the space would suddenly open up into lovely little squares with statues, fountains, and shaded by orange trees.

I was SO HUGE.  I am a travel ROCK STAR!
This was our "local square" just a couple turns away from our vacation apartment.  Our first night in Seville, we ate our first real paella at the seafood restaurant in the back there, with the white awning.  I remember a man sitting near the fountain, playing classical guitar and noticing the grey and white pebble patterns on the walkways as we ate.  I was so tired - it had been a long day with a lot of walking, but I was also jazzed to realize that I'd made it.  After dreaming about seeing this region of the world since I was 13 years old - here I was!  Eating legit chorizo in a gorgeous saffron paella, sitting across from a handsome man who actually married me, and seven months pregnant with my son.  Smelling roses and hearing that Spanish guitar, first night in Seville under the stars.
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