10 Things I Learnt in Seville

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ONE – A good book makes a 3 hour plane journey go incredibly quickly. I (stupidly) only packed three books to go away, one of which had only one chapter left. I figured that I wouldn’t be reading much on a city break. I hadn’t really factored in the plane journey, which I had tried to block out my mind as I usually hate flying. Thankfully I had a gripping book, which made the whole ordeal whizz by. It was Adèle by Leïla Slimani. Not what I expected, but very readable and a real page-turner.

TWO – The rain in Spain does not stay mainly on the plain. Unless the plain is the entirety of the centre of Seville. Yep, on our first full day on our hols it rained relentlessly. Dad optimistically left the apartment in a T-shirt and sunglasses, only to have to duck into a souvenir shop and purchase a $4 umbrella approximately 10 minutes later. Never mind, we joined the huge queue of people (which was apparently the ‘skip the line’ queue) waiting to enter the Royal Alcázar of Seville and shuffled soggily towards the front, huddled under dripping umbrellas. It was kind of worth it, although our tour guide spoke so quickly that I think I only took in about 55% of what was said. We did see some pretty tiles though and apparently the gardens are beautiful in the sun, but I guess we wouldn’t know.

THREE – When the Spanish say something is ‘complete’, they don’t actually mean it is complete. This was learnt the hard way. On our second day, we smugly joined a considerably smaller queue, clutching at our printed email which stated that our booking for Seville’s Cathedral was complete. We had been well prepared and had booked our free tickets before we arrived in Spain, so felt pretty pleased with ourselves as the queue behind us began to build. The gates were due to open at 4.30 PM and at around 4.35, a man on the other side of the gate ambled slowly to the front of the queue and pointed vaguely in the direction of the other side of the cathedral. Apparently we were in the wrong place. As everyone ran round the third biggest church in the world, we remained very British and refused to run and push ahead. We had our tickets; we would get in when it was our turn. After another 10 minutes, someone at the front of the queue screamed and started running to yet another gate (the scream was probably unnecessary). My Dad was by now, as you can imagine, beside himself. He pushed his way to the front of the third queue, brandishing our precious ‘tickets’. The woman at the gate took one look at our printed email and said, “No, sorry, this says that the booking is complete.” “Yes,” my Mum said desperately, “Complete.” Cue definitive hand gesture from the woman, “Yes, complete. Full. The booking is full.” Brilliant. At least it wasn’t raining.

FOUR –  If you find a tapas bar that you like, it’s okay to go back three times and sample the entire vegetarian menu. Think hummus, aubergine, goat’s cheese, grilled veg, falafel and patatas bravas. Also think delicious red wine, salty olives and huge glasses of Sangria. We spent three lovely evenings at this tapas bar, soaking up the atmosphere (and the wine). The inside of the restaurant was adorned with ivy vines and dusty wine bottles and the waitresses were smiley and humoured our attempts to make conversation. On my Mum’s birthday, they all gathered round and sang to her, despite looking mildly mortified. These evenings definitely made up for the slightly damp start to the holiday.

FIVE – In Spain, it is never too early to have a drink. I thought the English were bad, but at whatever time of the day we were having our little cups of strong, milky coffee, someone was drinking a half pint of Cruzcampo. No one went as far as ordering a full pint (even in the evening), because that would of course be unacceptable.

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SIX – Watching a football match in a Spanish bar is actually quite fun. On principle, I dislike football, but my Dad managed to persuade me to come along post-tapas and watch the Man U vs Barcelona match. He’d sussed out a suitable bar several days before (of course he had) and so he knew there would be a big screen. Because the match had already started, there were no seats left, but we got the drinks in and took up our positions leaning against the wall. I was served a cider with ice and lemon (classy) and soon got quite into it. My Dad got very into it, and had to be comforted and offered salted nuts from a Spanish guy next to us who didn’t speak much English. Another guy kept on turning around and laughing at my Dad’s excessive reactions to the game, and when (who we assumed was) his father arrived, my Dad shook his hand as though they were long lost friends. My personal highlight was when three dogs entered the bar and made their way to the toilets.

SEVEN – You take your life into your own hands when you choose to cycle around Seville. We decided that we wanted something a little different to our 3-hour walking tour of Porto. Not too different though – we’re not crazy. The obvious answer was a 3-hour cycling tour, which we booked onto several weeks in advance, because if a holiday doesn’t have an official typed up itinerary, is it even a Clifford family holiday? Thankfully the planning paid off and the tour was one of the highlights of the trip, even if it was a little stressful trying to navigate our way through hoards of people, whilst wobbling precariously on an unfamiliar bike. Apparently Health & Safety isn’t really a thing in Seville, so Mum and I actually had to request helmets. We wanted to make sure we looked our best in the photos.

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EIGHT – People in Spain don’t actually drink Sangria. Turns out it’s only tourists who like to drink the ‘typically Spanish’ drink made from crappy red wine. I still stand by the fact that it’s delicious, but I did try some of the more traditional orange wine. We even got the waitress in the tapas bar (a different one this time) to write out ‘vino de naranja’ on a napkin so we could go away and buy some, but sadly by the time we got to Duty Free we were a little alcohol-ed out and couldn’t quite face it. I’m not sure it would taste quite the same on a Friday night at home compared to in the sun in Seville.

NINE – Trying to find somewhere to have a drink in the sun is actually quite difficult. You wouldn’t think it would be too hard, considering all the hundreds of bars lining the streets and people drinking beer at 9 AM. But when it came to it, we ended up traipsing down countless side streets, only to find that most places were shaded by the tall buildings. Plus it didn’t help that the sun only made a few appearances. I think the backs of my hands got a little bit sun burnt from the cycling, if that counts?

TEN – How to order three coffees with milk in Spanish. Unlike in Paris or Berlin, not everyone in Seville speaks English, so my linguistic skills were really put to the test when my Dad’s English in a Spanish (?) accent didn’t quite cut it. Having only studied French and Italian to any sort of level, I was quite surprised when I suddenly blurted out, “Tres cafés con leche por favor.” Anything to stop the awkwardness of my Dad trying to communicate through a language barrier.

 

harriet x

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