Before I go on about our past summer’s travels, I need to announce something. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been talking about it even more than usual. So, one would think I need to write about it to get it out of my system. In reality, I just want to keep talking about it. I’m referring to my favorite place in the world: Sevilla, Spain.
All things considered, I haven’t been around the world (YET) but SO FAR my favorite place, a city that gives me butterflies at the thought of it, makes my heart pound while glancing at a photo, and instantly brightens my day, is Sevilla. “Seville” as you may hear it in the states, but never from my mouth. The Spanish make everything sound sexier.
My only prior experience in Spain was in Barcelona in high school. And I absolutely loved it. There was a vibrancy in the air, a buzzing ambiance that I couldn’t get enough of. Suddenly I had an insatiable appetite for traveling, especially in Europe. So I studied abroad in France and Germany one summer in college. And then I studied abroad again for a semester.
But this time I was heading back to the vivacity of Espana. I lived the best six months of my life (again THUS far) in one of the most culturally distinct European cities I’ve ever encountered. All those Spanish stereotypes you think of like flamenco dancing, bullfighting, tapas plates, jamon y queso, womanizing dark haired Antonio Banderas lookalikes, all originated in Sevilla. The capital of Andalusia, it was the absolute ideal place to study the Spanish language. And no I didn’t pick up the lisp.
Butttt if you ever want to sound cool, pronounce it like the Sevillanas do: Seh-bee-jya
I traveled to the incredible city in January of 2012 with the program International Studies Abroad and my new partner in travel (we don’t do crime), Ray Gartlan. Look out for her own blog coming to webpages soon, Ray Steves (the new Rick Steve’s of travel).
I remember the days leading up to the flight over to Madrid quite vividly considering my deteriorating memory. I was flying on January 29th, and packed and repacked my suitcase from January 1 up to an hour before leaving. Before this trip I had no idea how to pack like a normal human. I am a woman and therefore I cannot leave for a trip without a minimum of 5 pairs of shoes. And then there’s the accessories, don’t get me started. I would be experiencing a change of seasons while abroad- aka utter havoc for narrowing down scarf and sweater choices. Thus I invented the hashtag, #FirstWorldProblems.
Anyway once I got through packing, I was off to JFK where I squealed and woo-ed the whole time, even through security.
“Mam, please step aside to be individually scanned.”
“WEEE OKAY! Ahhhh SO EXCITED!!”
“Mam, please hold still while we pat you down”
“SORRY OKAY!!!!!!!! I’M GOING TO SPAIN! FOR SIX MONTHS!”
“Ugh, you’re cleared- just go.”
“WOOOO!! NOW I’M HALFWAY THERE!”
The poster child of Woo Girls International, I woo for everything and anything exciting. Such as, but not limited to: freshly baked cookies, the sun appearing, puppies, trip planning, work emails about free food, regular cookies, anything related to thanksgiving, more cookies, definitely donuts, kitties, hot guys shirtless, more dogs, and the list-topper, Spain.
For the record, the act of “wooing” is defined (by me) as raising one’s arms above one’s head and waving them around manically like a wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man. Also a nickname of mine.
You could even say Flamenco dancers are woo girls. Thereby making myself a FLAMENCO WOO GIRL! The ultimate screenname if AIM was still relevant.
Right so where was I?
Sevilla. Ahhh heart eyes <3. Believe me, I'm not the only one who feels this away. The city's official motto is "Sevilla No Me Ha Dejado" meaning "Sevilla you have not left me". It stays a part of you once you visit. Extra heart eyes.
When Ray and I first landed at the airport, we found each other at the main point of group contact via ISA’s huge packet of instructions. It was labeled Super Detailed Instructions in Bold and Extra Large Font Because Americans Won’t Follow Them Anyway. Not really, pero se podria haber sido. Half the group was late or missing at the port of call (aka the exit gate at Madrid International Airport l.o.l.). We were then loaded onto a bus and herded off to a hotel in downtown Madrid. We would be exploring the capital of Espana for the next 3 days, before busing it down to our homestays in Sevilla. Literally just thinking of these memories my heart has skipped a beat every other sentence (such a loser).
Just those 3 days in Madrid is another story. So I’ll hold off on that and continue on my Andalusia-obsession.
We were dropped off the bus on a random street in what we would come to know as the heart of Sevilla. Here our homestay Madres would pick us up (I could say families but if you want the real picture- they were all women: mothers whose children had grown up and moved away, widows, or just women who had never had children but fostered international students for the money, the company, or both). Thus the introduction of Maribel. Maribel had been recommended to me by a friend in a Spanish class the semester before. Katie had stayed with her during her time abroad and absolutely could not say enough good things. Some call it fate :)
Maribel is one of the kindest souls I’ve ever encountered. She was a widow with three grown children, and had been housing students for nine years. She fed us constantly, complemented us enthusiastically, and cared for us whole-heartedly. I know for a fact my view of Spain would not be encased in such admiration if not for Maribel as our initial cultural introduction. Te amo muchisimo, Maribel!
Even if you never did tell us the type of meat we were eating para cena... (everything was just "carne". "pero que tipo de carne?" "Chicas, es Carne!" like we were loca for asking)
Alas, in Spain everyone sticks to their routine. They eat the same foods on repeat, and they pride themselves in how little sleep they get. This is how Ray and I came to be called Pajaritos, or little birds, by Maribel.
We could no longer function for 5-6 hours of class off a bowl of the Spanish version of Cornflakes. Four months into living there, we realized the ENTIRE time our loving madre had been giving us DECAF coffee. I think we laughed until we cried when we found out (I brought up falling asleep in class to Rachel and she said she had done the exact same thing- even though that morning we both consumed 3-4 cups of “coffee”).
Nevertheless, we got back from a trip to Amsterdam where I, like a kid staring wide-eyed into a candy shop, discovered a “Gourmet” food store. Indeed it was gourmet because it had- gasp- OATMEAL. I had been searching high and low in the aisles of Spanish markets for anything similar to my carb-loading magic fuel I consumed so often back in the states. When I picked up the box of 5 packet instant Quaker oatmeal, I found out it was a whopping 14 euros. Yes that’s right- the normally $3 container of oats and sugar was practically $20. I couldn’t. Instead I opted for the ugly stepchild, a generic no-name brand of Muesli, the Netherlands go to cardboard-y and definitely bird food-y cereal. And thus, Pajaritos was (were?) born.
It’s funny how every tangent I go off on has to do with food.
Back in Andalusia, Ray and I could never stop talking about how grateful we were to be in such a beautiful city. Situated in what I considered to be the quaintest part of town, Triana, was the stunning iron gated bridge, Puente de Isabel II, or as we internationals called it, Triana Bridge. On this side of the Rio (the Guadalquivir- no you don’t swim in it) was also Calle Betis, the hip and young scene when the sunset. We would sometimes bring a 40oz of Cruz Campo- even the Spanish do 40s- and sit along the rio drinking with friends before heading out to baila the rest of the noche away. #espanglish
Instead of having hot dog carts all around street corners like in NYC, the tourists (and the drunks) have the pleasure of CHURRO STANDS at all hours of the night. Churros con chocolate are just one of the millions of reasons Sevilla is DAT NUMBA ONE CITAY. EL.NUMERO.UNO. Churros are baaaasically donuts + if you don't love melted chocolate you can gtfo + you've just been bailando-ing all night and worked up an appetite + maybe you also had some chupitos (shots) and cervezas (dont make me define that) = you suddenly found the key to happiness.
I.e. Churros con chocolate en Sevilla = PURE BLISS. CCC^SVA= :-))))))))
Take that Einstein. Ps that's either a super smiling face or a lot of double chins. Both appropriate.
The food in Spain is everything. Sevilla is everything. Omg i haven't even talked about the olives. Or the wine. Or bullfighting.
To be continued...