Always Ma˝ana

How Fab

 

Saturday 19th May 2012

After only three hours of sleep we woke up real thirsty and emptied the room of all liquids. Thankfully there wasn't a mini bar or that would have been an expensive rehydrate. We gulped down three litres of carbonated Icelandic mineral water and a can of coconut water (with floating flakes of "real coconut" no less) - which just the thought of it was making Julie heave. We then left the room. It wasn't even 5am yet. 

With our hold luggage already deposited last night we waltzed straight through into the departures lounge, sat down for breakfast at Pret-a-Manger and relaxed. It was all rather civilised.

Breaking with tradition we didn't buy our customary "good luck" bottle of champagne. We imposed on ourselves a tight budget for this trip so it made no sense in spending £25 on a bottle of fizzy wine especially when the Cava in Spain would be infinitely cheaper. This was such a leap of faith for Julie. She always buys champagne and we've not crashed yet!

Waiting at gate 92 I dispensed another diazepam. Every little helps.

Actually Julie seemed reasonably calm and in control this morning. However when we boarded the plane she held on to a small corner of the comfort blanket of routine as we sat in our "usual" seats of row 18, just behind the wings.

Exactly on our 6:05am departure time we launched ourselves above the clouds and with the exception of some mild turbulence over the Bay of Biscay that had Julie grabbing the seat in front for dear life, it was a peaceful uneventful flight.

Two and a half hours later we were descending through the overcast Andalucian skies and landed smoothly at Seville's San Pablo airport. It had been raining quite heavily.

Half an hour waiting for our luggage to arrive was a little tedious but as it happened we weren't in any rush. We had booked an apartment with WaysToStay.com and knew from experience (being on the other side of the fence) there's nothing worse than an overly eager guest wanting to arrive early putting you under pressure to clean in double quick time.

So we were quite happy sitting on the floor waiting for our suitcase to trundle along the conveyor belt, which it did eventually.

Once out of arrivals we actioned another delaying tactic and headed to a cafe where we shared a baguette filled with Tortilla Espanola, the ubiquitos Spanish "potato" omlette.

Julie despises egg but adores potato so it's such a fine line between love and hate when it comes to the Spanish omelette for her. Fortunately this one seemed to be 95% potato 5% egg so perfect for her tastes.

We phoned the apartment owners to arrange a time to "check-in".

"I am still cleaning now but you can come any time" she said.

So with that green light we walked to the bus stop, buying our ticket for only €2.40 each and joining the end of a very long queue. When the bus arrived it amazed us how many got on board. When we reached the door it was technically full but we squeezed ourselves onboard.

We felt quite chuffed with ourselves but when the doors shut it pushed the rucksack on my back and subsequently myself headlong into this local woman with crossed-eyes and hairy chin. She wasn't impressed.

Neither was I! My body was in such an awkward position, leaning forwards with my legs a foot behind me and my back arched backwards to avoid a poke in the eye. I struggled to free myself of the rucksack, almost dislocating a shoulder in the process but eventually with the bag from off my back I could stand up straight and remove myself from her personal space.

We stopped near the Santa Justa train station. It was with some relief the doors opened and I fell out.

As it happened this was the most convenient point for us to disembark. Our apartment was in the Macarena district, the Northern half of the city centre.

The air was sweet from the pretty purple blossom of the Jacaranda tree as we wheeled our suitcase towards the general direction of where we needed to go.

It wasn't long before we crossed a wide road, which seemed to be the boundary between the old town and the new and we delved into its narrow streets.

 

After a few twist and turns we came to a square full of wedding guests spilling out from the church of San Roman. The bride and groom had just left but friends and family were still busy getting to know each other, chatting away with full-on latin passion creating such an expressive and exciting cacophony of noise and colour.

We did our best to blend in whilst walking across the plaza as slowly as possible, without appearing rude. We've gatecrashed a few wedding parties in the past but we thought best not to attempt this one. We would have stuck out like a sore thumb!

With trusty map we continued on our way wheeling our suitcase along the cobbled side street down the side Iglesias de San Roman. At another eccliestical landmark, the Convent of Santa Paula, we turned down an even narrower alleyway. From inside the convent we could hear an organ being played. Not very well as it happens yet still wonderfully atmospheric. Enough to make us briefly stop and listen.

At the next turn we had finally reached Pasaje Mallol the street on which our apartment was situated. We found no.9 and rang the doorbell for Apartmento 2A.

Elisia answered the intercom and Jorge came down to open the front door for us. They were both very pleasant and welcoming despite our early arrival. The apartment was up three floors of a white marble staircase which was all fine but I struggled carrying up the large suitcase.

For some reason it had suddenly weighed a tonne as if we had an entire family of illegal immigrants folded inside!

We left our luggage at the apartment and arranged to return in about half an hour once the cleaning had been finished. What could we do in half an hour? There was only one choice really, back to Plaza San Roman to gatecrash a wedding!

There was a small bar called El Uno on the square. It was a funky little place. The walls were covered with images of Chirst, The Virgin Mary, football, flamenco and bullfights. Could it get anymore Spanish?

We found a table free inside where we enjoyed a perfectly cold Cruzcampo beer and at only €1 each for a small glass it was really good value. So we had another one.

It was a great spot for people watching even if most were actually drinking outside. It seemed as if the more elegant crowd had moved on to somewhere more sophisticated with the less glamourous stragglers gravitating to the bar for swift half (a pint).

The half an hour was up in what felt like far shorter than 1800 seconds. So we finished our cerveza and made our way the short distance back to Passaje Mallol.

Jorge and Elisia were ready for us.

We went through the formalities of a "check-in" then they took us on a thorough tour of the apartment.

We began in the bedroom, with instructions on how to operate the air con. Elisia then pointed to the door at the end of the corridor and said "That is our room".

Despite what it sounded like, they weren't staying with us! They would often stay at their apartment when it wasn't booked and so this was the room where they locked away all their personal belongings.

Next, in the bathroom, she explained that the hot water was heated by the sun and was at its hottest in the afternoon, warning us to check the gague before we use it as it could be a scalding 80C!!

We were then given a detailed demonstration on how to use the washing machine, dishwasher, ceramic hob, microwave, digital satellite television and even how to open and close the patio doors!

It has to be the most thorough welcome to any accomodation we'd ever stayed in. It even included a page by page explanation of the entire contents of the information folder. There was nothing left that we didn't know about.

With the keys handed over we paid over our €375 in cash plus a further unexpected €150 deposit for damages. That was a bit of a pain as we wouldn't get that back until the day we leave on Thursday. Our tight budget suddenly got tighter!

Jorge and Elisia left us to settle in and wished us a good vacation.

Our first expedition into the unchartered territories was to stock up on some essential supplies for the apartment. At the end of Pasaje Mallol the road opened out into a small square where there was a veg shop called Fruteria Pepe.

The first thing on my menu was to make a gazpacho, so cucumber, tomatoes and garlic were bought, as well as a fabulous sweet red pepper, some green peppers and two apples, and all for only €3.80.

Certainly not on our menu were the caracoles (snails) being served at a nearby bar a called Bartolina. The tables outside were busy with customers tucking into bowlfuls of these tiny slugs in shells, picking out the ugly looking innards with a cocktail stick. They all seemed to be enjoying them.

Moving on we followed Elisia's directions to the nearest supermarket which was a good 10 minute walk away. Mercadona was just like any other supermarket except for a few tell tale signs that we were in a Spanish supermarket.

A leg of Iberico Ham was available to slice at a self-service counter and Cava was as cheap as €2.99 a bottle!

We completed our gazpacho ingredients with olive oil and sherry vinegar and also bought saffron and rice for a paella. Two bags full filled for only €22. What a bargain!

It was a long way back with two heavy bags. We had decided not to use an old fashioned shopping trolley in the apartment because it was the sort of thing my grandmother would have used but everyone, young and old had one here. They seemed almost en vogue.

As we slowly made our way back we noticed a couple of orange trees linning the road.

I recalled my father's stories of when he travelled around the south of Spain in a campervan with his golfing buddies and in particular when near Seville they pulled over and helped themselves to oranges growing on the side of the road. As a child those tales were so exotic and inspired me to travel.

I thought about re-enacting my father's fruit pilfering but all the oranges were beyond my reach. Anyway, they looked like they would taste rather bitter and suitable only for marmalade!

Our route back took us through another small square called Pelicano where we stopped at a small tapas bar of the same name, El Pelicano. We hadn't eaten in a few hours and were beginning to feel hungry again!

Inside I scanned the menu scribbled on a chalkboard and then pointed to dishes in the display cabinet. "Queso fritos?" I asked. He nodded. I also pointed to an aubergine dish "Berenjena?"

And of course "Dos Cervezas por favor" closed the order.

We sat outside in the square in the warm sunshine.

The deep fried parcels arrived. Julie bit into one and groaned with pleasure. As I was about to pick one up she said "Hang on, it is fish you know?"

Oh, the disappointment!

It continued as the aubergine dish arrived and turned out to be a mousakka, complete with minced meat. What a disaster!

But as the small tapas dishes were only 1.90 each they were cheap enough to make a mistake and order another one.

This time the croquettes arrived filled with cheese and mushroom and after a thorough inspection (in case of flecks of ham) I popped them in, one after each other. Gosh they were delicious!

Back in the apartment we thought about sitting outside on our balcony relaxing in a cosy afternoon glow but within minutes of us settling down an almighty crash of Spanish punk music came blaring out of next door. It was so loud that we thought there could have been an actual band playing in there! As good as the music was, it just wasn't conducive to a siesta!

Fortunately we couldn't hear it as much from the bedroom so... we went to bed.

It was four hours later, at 8:30pm, when we woke up!

When we came around I half expected Julie to suggest eating-in tonight but to my surprise she was up for an evening out in the bars of Seville. In no time we were washed, dressed and out on the streets and as it happens, we couldn't have timed it any better.

Just around the corner from our apartment we heard quite a commotion, a brass band was playing and quite a crowd was gathering.

I quickened my pace to get a closer look. In my eagerness I left Julie behind.

"Go and get your photo" she said "I'll wait for you here."

The procession set off from the Convento de Santa Isabel where four burly men in dark suits carried the statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders. They were led down the narrow Calle Hiniesta by a pair of choirboys carrying over-sized candlesticks and followed by a group of church elders, all shuffling along in an orderly respectful march.

They in turn were followed by a small band of merry trumpeteers and drummers. The procession was then engulfed by a crowd of eager on-lookers. It was so exciting being right in the middle of it all.

I eventually found myself at the front where I got my photo of the venerated icon. Satisfied I left the parade and returned to Julie.

Reunited we stopped for a drink at the first bar we came across. It was called Taberna Leon de San Marcos and was just ripe orange's throw away from Santa Isabel and in the shadow of yet another church, Iglesia de San Marcos.

We were begining to realise how saturated with churches was this area of the city. Almost around every corner there was another place of worship.  Every corner turned also revealed another bar!

Our next stop was at one of the city's most renowned tapas bars, the historical El Rinconcillo. Established in 1670 it was the city's oldest bar.

Inside was crowded with people eating everywhere you looked. Everybody stood either at the bar or at upturned Tio Pepe Sherry casks to eat their small plates of food. There was a dining area through in another room but we much preferred the atmosphere of the busy little bar.

It had such character, with the sherry cask tables, shelves filled with dusty bottles of vinatge sherry, hanging hams suspended from dark wood panelled ceiling, colourful mosaic tiled walls and a cracking atmosphere filled with a lively crowd.

"This is so Fab" I said.

In fact I had said that a lot today. I couldn't seem to stop myself. Everything was just so fab!

We couldn't just stand watch people eat so we ordered ourselves Garbanzos con Espinacas, (a spinach & chickpea dish recommended by Elisia) and the Croquettas Maison, the bar's special recipe of breadcrumbed mashed potato.

We went through the ritual of dissecting the croquettas to establish the ingredients and agreed that the special Maison recipe had pieces of ham in it. Never mind, at least I found the spinach and chickpea dish to be incredibly tasty.

Whilst we groaned with gastronomic pleasure two men joined us at our cask. There was plenty of room. We watched with interest at their tapas choices.

The popular Garbanzos con Espinacas arrived alongside a large plate to share, filled with little whelks or cockles. The waiter who brought them over said "Coquinas! Son deliciosas!" pursed his lips and kissed his fingers. [coquinas = clams]

They offered to share their clams with us but we politely turned their kind offer down.

After we finished our snack we moved on, back to the small square Plaza los Treceros. The empty space where three streets met was shared by a number of small bars and restaurants. Remebering Elisia's many recommendations we sat down outside on the blue tables of La Huerta.

We shared a potato platter. They were fat wedges of potatoes with three different sauces to dip them in, pesto, blue cheese and spicy tomato. We quickly ran out of dip but that was fine, the patatas were super tasty on their own. Next came Pisto con huelva, a ratatouille with a fried egg on top for me and brochetas, chunks of skewered lamb for Julie. What impressed me the most with La Huerta was that their menu had a seperate section for vegetarian dishes. That was most refreshing!

We left La Huerta and made our way back to our apartment.

Along the way I checked the score of the Champions League final which was being played tonight. It was Chelsea 1 Bayern Munich 1 in extra time.

So we decided to pop into the bar Taberna Leon de San Marcos to watch the end of the match. They were closing up, the cash register was shut so we couldn't buy any drinks but they were fine with us just watching the TV

The game had finished 1-1 so it went to penalties.

It was quite exciting as the efficient Germans put their penalties emphatically into the back of the net as Chelsea fluffed one of theirs. Then suddenly the Chelsea keeper pulled of an incredible save. Chelsea scored their next. With enormous pressure on the next Bayern player he misplaced his shot hitting the post. Up stepped Chelsea's Didier Drogba to take the final penalty and scored! Chelsea had finally won the European Cup!

The bar was so near to our apartment we were back on our sofa watching the cup being lifted.

We sat outside on the balcony in the warm late evening air. In the distance fireworks were launched.

What a fab day.

Next day >>>


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