I have a habit of keeping daily diaries in the Notes app on my phone whenever I go away. I don’t want to forget a second, you see. Being in a new place can feel like a distant dream once you’re back home. And my memory is pretty shocking as it is.
As I type this into the keypad on my iPhone, I’m sitting on a coach, somewhere outside Antequera, on my way from Seville to Granada. It’s 35 degrees outside. Inside, it’s a little cooler. I can hear someone loudly crunching some crisps up in front and it’s reminding me and my empty belly that I should’ve brought more snacks than just a croissant, which I ate two hours ago.
Anyway, I didn’t write those daily notes while I was in Seville; I figure Instagram acts as my visual diary these days – not to mention the 340+ photos I snapped but didn’t share during the 2.5 days I was in town. I can’t read on coaches. Something about the bumpy roads and the motion and the word-skimming makes me queasy. So, since I can’t bury myself in my book before I touch down in Granada and meet Ani, my second AirBnB host of the week, I’ll do my documenting and give you the lowdown on my stay in Seville.
Solo travelling is partly THE BEST THING, and partly not at all. It’s not the best thing when you see a Spanish house so pretty or eat a croquette so tasty that you want to share the experience out loud with the person next to you, except you’re all on your own and you don’t speak enough Spanish to gush to a total stranger who might look at you funny anyway (and they’re already looking at you kinda funny just for being foreign, and female, and alone). It’s also not the best thing when your phone overheats on your first morning in Seville, taking its dying splutters just as you’re about to tour the oldest (and widely regarded as the best) bullring in Spain, where they still stage fights to this day. You’ll wander around in a slight panic, half listening to the bilingual tour guide as she tells you how successful matadors are presented with the ears and tails of the bulls they slay, and half freaking out at your inability to take pictures of this place that, yes, is culturally quite amazing, but that also has you surprised that such a practice still exists.
I did ask a Belgian lady on the tour, whose English was mighty good, to take my photo with her phone and email it to me. Hopefully it’ll land in my inbox soon. I feel like it was a decent pic.
I tried to be all chill about my phone being dead, but really it was both my camera and my only connection to the world I best understand, and I was sad that pressing the power button over and over wasn’t achieving a damn thing. So I drank a glass of sangria on an empty stomach and went to tipsily ask tourist info where a phone shop was. (Yes, I’m a tad ashamed that I didn’t just embrace being disconnected. But, pictures!!)
What is great about being a solo traveller is that you’re pretty much forced to speak to strangers, waiters and locals – bueno para practicar tu español! There were two waiters in particular who took it upon themselves to speak to me exclusively in Spanish when I told them I was trying to practise. The first was Alejandro at La Cucaña. He fetched a “special table” so I could sit outside when all the other al fresco tables were taken. He taught me to say ‘olives,’ ‘nice to meet you’ and ‘can I have the bill, please?’ He asked me my name and called to me when I passed by the following night. The second waiter was at Las Tablas and I don’t know his name. But I do know that he served me some good patatas bravas, paid his sympathies to me and my dead phone, and told me that my Spanish accent was very good. I don’t know whether he was being sincere or just wanted a tip. Clearly my ego prefers the former.
I stayed at Rafa and Sandra’s flat in Triana, a neighbourhood in Seville that’s lauded as the birthplace of flamenco. It has the world’s smallest theatre inside its market, where I saw an hour-long flamenco show that knocked my socks right off. Also, I happened to land in Triana just as they were kicking off Velá de Santiago y Santa Ana, a festival for the patron saint which sees Rafa and Sandra’s street become party central for a week. It meant I had the sound of people having a great time keeping me company until I fell asleep for three nights running, which was actually lovely.
The centre of Seville is magical. The architecture and the tiles (the tiles!!) are A+. Plaza de Español had me swooning for hours and Real Alcázar de Sevilla was like no other place I’ve been before. Honestly, there aren’t words for how stunning these spots are. Metropol Parasol is worth a go, too. It’s the world’s biggest wooden structure in a historic area, and it was amazing for the three euros I paid to go up and see the view (PLUS you get a free tinto de verano (or non-alcoholic beverage) once you’re up there – bargain!).
What else? I had delicious tapas at a top Trip Advisor-rated restaurant (another solo-travelling bonus is that you can snag a lone seat in the window or at the bar while bigger parties have to wait for a table). I ate photo-worthy ice-cream, despite not being able to take a photo of it. And I met a wonderful waitress at Corral del Agua. She took her restaurant job so she could meet new people and practise all the languages she speaks (two of which she taught herself while she was a housewife – real stay-at-home-mum #goals right there). It was while working in the restaurant that she met the guy with whom she’s now in the first flushes of a relationship. He’s English. She’s over the moon. It all sounded muy romántico.
Seville, you were a dream. I wish I could’ve got to know you even better. Maybe one day I’ll be back and I’ll stay a while longer. I’ll sip my café sin leche with the locals over desayuno (no one gets takeaway coffee – it’s for the savouring). I’ll take even more pictures of sus casas and las calles (like 340 weren’t enough). And I’ll be more fluent by then, so we can have proper chats about the day and the world and whatever else your locals like to talk so animatedly about as they lounge outside your cafeterías. Sorted. Hasta luego.