Join Notes from Vivace in this final of the four part write-up of his journey through Sevilla, Spain as he explores it’s historical streets without a smartphone and attempts to find it’s local music scene. For Part I (Getting to Sevilla) click here . For Part II (Sightseeing in Sevilla) click here. For Part III (Music in Sevilla) click here.
Food in Spain
As mentioned in previous vacation blogs, I am a vegetarian. I’m told Spain has great food and I would agree, but my choices were limited to the non-meat section of the menus.
Here’s my ranking of the restaurants I ate at (I’ll leave Dominoes off the list and the café at the bus station – though if you’re looking to eat for cheap the Estacion Autobuses at Plaza de Armas Café has food at a reasonable price.)
Best restaurant was at Cordoba, Restaurante Almaltea. The focus was on Italian. I was the first customer of the day. I was in heaven. It isn’t fully vegetarian, but it had a nice selection of vegetarian options.
Almanara (Alameda de Hercules) in Sevilla ranks second. I ate there once and really wanted to go back (referenced in part 3 of this Sevilla column). It is fully vegetarian.
Centro Ecologico Gaia was the closest to my hotel. I’d also rank it highly. The first time I went to the restaurant I was told they were closing for their siesta.
Habanita is a question mark for me. It isn’t purely vegetarian so it may rank higher for those who eat meat. It was nearly impossible to find. It is near Plaza Alfalfa and I spent more than a few moments walking through the streets near the plaza (map in hand, of course), trying to find it – seriously, walking down every possible street near the plaza. I did eventually come across it via this small side street. The food was basic (see menu below). And when I went into the bathroom to use the facilities, I noticed that the soap dispenser was empty. Empty!?! Agh . . . I hope the folks preparing the food have their own private restroom.
Unlike my Prague vacation (check out my blog series from 2010) where I ate well for less than $10 and sometimes for less than $5, a decent meal for me in Spain was between $15 and $18. I was always served bread and olives, which carried an approximate $2 service fee. I assumed this was their way of a tip. I read before hand that no one tips in Spain so I never left a tip. Perhaps the waiters were cursing me as I left, but that is the info I pulled from the Internet.
Success 3. My final full day in Sevilla was spent checking out some of the final tourist spots on my checklist. When evening arrived, it was time to give it one more try at catching the local music scene. I’d caught a cultural event via flamenco. At Teatro Central, I saw some Anglo-Saxon performers. Now I wanted to try and catch an actual local Sevilla band. Looking through the Lonely Planet guide book, I decided on a venue called La Imiperdible located in the Plaza San Antonio de Pauda. Off I went. Either I was looking in the wrong place (which is highly possible considering how difficult it is to find certain places in Sevilla) or it was shut down. I suspect it was shut down because I know I was in the correct plaza.
Hmm, I decided I’d press onwards to Alameda de Hercules and take a look around to see if I could see anything going on there.
I went up and down the long plaza. I heard music from the second floor of a building, but after looking up at the balcony I determined it was a birthday party. I eventually arrived at Fun Club. Would you know it, the gates were open and there stood a trio of girls waiting in line. There was a poster on the gate. Hey, some live music.
Now at this point it was 10 p.m. and I got this brief wave of hesitation hit me. I nearly backed down. I got worried regarding my sleep. I was planning on waking up at 4:30 a.m. to catch my 7 a.m. flight. But the moment of hesitation was only brief as I started to feel a little stupid for hesitating about a 10 p.m. show when I normally don’t arrive till 10 p.m. at various Los Angeles music venues. And anyways, I needed to use the bathroom. I waited outside for about 20 minutes before they let us in at around 10:10 p.m. At the gate, I saw a trio of friends hanging out so I decided to ask them a question just to make sure there was in fact live music for the night and not some DJ. I was told yes.
Fun Club. Think Silverlake Lounge, but slightly larger. Also visualize the smallest urinals known to mankind. I would have taken a photo except for the fact that I felt it would make me look like a pervert if some guy walked into the bathroom while I was taking the photo.
The first band on stage, Tercer Hombre, looked like a new band. They had a camera girl along to video their set. They gave us a thirty minute set. After their set, I was approached by the band along with the video girl. They asked me in Spanish if I’d send them the photos I’d taken. I mentioned I spoke only English, so one of them asked the question in English. I said gladly and was provided an e-mail address. Once I got back to California I did send them the photos.
There was about a thirty minute break (I was starting to get this feeling that thirty minutes between sets were standard) before the second band, la Desgracia, hit the stage for about 45 minutes.
Similarities with the Los Angeles venues:
First, most folks showed up between the first and second band. So like Los Angeles.
Second, for the first band, everyone was at least 5 meters from the stage except for me and the video girl. After the place filled up, folks pressed towards the stage for the second band.
Third, the ladies were dancing, the guys were standing stiff as rocks.
And interesting note: in Spain they roll their own cigarettes.
In between the two bands, I was approached by the folks I’d spoken to outside. They were very kind. The guy wondered why I was wearing ear plugs. One of the gals teased me about them. He insisted the music was not too loud and that the size of the crowd lessened the impact of the noise. I told him I wanted to protect my ears due to the fact that I saw way too many bands. He said in final that the next band was on in five minutes and that he was friends with one of the band members. He also said that he and his friends were all friendly and to please say hi and talk further.
Ah, so kind, but after the final band of the night I snuck out without saying my goodbyes. I was fearful they’d ask me to party with them till the early dawn and I had my early departure time to consider (my understanding is that the dancing starts at midnight and ends at 8 a.m.). Sorry for bailing on you all, my Spanish music friends.
My time at Sevilla hadn’t started off on the right feet (that’s right “feet”, not “foot”), but by the time I met my taxi at 4:30 a.m. I was a little depressed to leave Sevilla. In the end, I had a lot of fun. And as if to say good-bye, it was raining as I left.
Of course, the vacation adventure didn’t end there. The flight from Sevilla to Madrid was uneventful. At 5 a.m. the airport was packed with folks flying out, but everything went smoothly. I arrived a little after 8 a.m. in Madrid, three hours plus till my flight to Chicago. I looked at the schedule board to see what gate number I needed to head towards. My flight was so far in advance that it didn’t show up. I was 99% sure that I needed to head to another terminal, but I just wanted some reassurance so that I wouldn’t have to go through security twice.
I waited around for awhile, but my flight number didn’t pop up so I decided to just take the tram to the other terminal. I got to the other terminal and I didn’t have to go through a security check. It was just a punch of my passport. Hmm, I am going to the US, right?
Once over at the other terminal, I finally noticed my flight number pop up on the schedule board. My flight was leaving from Gate R18. I looked around and didn’t see any signs for Gate R18. I saw signs that said something like R30-R50, but nothing for R1-R29. Whatever. Considering how much time I had before the departure of my flight I had time to wander around. At this point, the blisters on my feet were causing so much pain (and the fact that I’m convinced I walked close to 45 kilometers that week) that I was more than happy to travel along the moving walkway. As the walkway moved me along, I noticed a sign for Gate R18. This was a not a vacation friendly airport in Madrid.
I was starving so I went for a way too expensive cheese sandwich. Three US business travelers sat at a table near me and started on a conversation that had also perplexed me, “Why didn’t we need to go through security?”
Another tried to explain the logic, but a third kept on trying to poke holes into his reasoning. Oh well, at least I didn’t need to take off my shoes.
I got up to walk to the sitting area and happened to look up at the schedule board. My gate number had changed to Gate U74. This was way down on the opposite end of the terminal. So off I went again, my feet in serious pain. As I headed down the appropriate corridor, I was once again given no indication of where Gate U74 was, but I was now a skilled navigator of the Madrid Airport and knew that a sign would eventually pop up.
At this point, there was about an hour before boarding. As I approached Gate U74 I noticed yellow warning tape blocking off the area. I could not pass through to sit near the gate. Oh yes, I now felt like I was heading back to America. A few moments later, I noticed the three business travelers arriving at the gate area, as well.
An hour passed and the boarding procedures began. We started down the jetway and then the line just stopped. I was thinking that this just didn’t feel right. Any sort of log jam couldn’t possible take this long to clear. Soon enough an Iberian employee came through the jetway speaking to various individuals in Spanish. One lady (one of the three business travelers) called out, “English, please.” A Spanish gentleman repeated what the employee said in English, “He said there are technical difficulties and we all need to go back into the terminal. They’re going to have all of us re-board later.”
The lady turned to her colleagues, “That just can’t be right. If we all go back to the terminal, aren’t they just going to need to re-ticket us all? That’s going to be a big mess.”
The Spanish gentleman responded with an important detail, “He said the ticket stub is fine.”
With that reassurance, we all started to head back to the terminal with the business woman complaining, “Iberian Airlines is the worst. I will never take Iberian again.”
Thirty minutes later we were allowed to re-board the jet which now had a departure time of 12:50 p.m. As the jet towed away towards the tarmac, I promptly fell asleep. I woke up thirty minutes later. I checked my watch and thought, “Wow, I slept through the take-off.” Not so quick. I looked out the window. We were parked on the tarmac. After an hour, we finally took off. A two hour delay, which made me worry about getting to my connecting flight.
Now was there really a technical problem with the plane? Perhaps, but I later learned that the Madrid flight controllers went on strike that day. Now the timelines don’t match up, similar to how the al-Qaida arrests and the police at the Granada train station don’t align. The strike occurred in the evening, but I can’t help but wonder if some preliminary protests were happening earlier in the day that prevented my flight from taking off in time. The flight controllers strike was so bad that a major futbol game was cancelled – per a friend who is a big futbol fan.
Even though our flight was delayed by 2 hours, it appeared that we made up 1.5 hours. I think the pilot was gunning the engines throughout. When we landed at Chicago, I swear it felt like one of the fastest landings and quickest slamming of the breaks ever. I wasn’t the only one who felt like that. Folks started to clap. A person across from me looked over and said, “Wow.” I replied with a “Wow,” as well.
I did make my connecting flight in Chicago – even considering the fact that a US Customs Agent gave me the hardest time about re-entering the US. “So you went to Spain by yourself?” “Yes.” “You didn’t meet anyone in Spain?” “No.” “What did you do in Spain?” “I was in Sevilla.” “Isn’t that in Spain?” “Yes.” Luckily, I wasn’t given as hard of a time as a young lady in front of me. She was probably a legal resident versus a citizen. They asked her a number of questions. They scanned her eyes. They asked for her finger prints. They finally took her to an office for questioning while a person who appeared to be her grandmother was allowed through within moments. (My guess, the girl was cute, and the custom agents wanted to spend more time “talking” to her.)
Noticed: An Iberian flight attendant pouring tomato and pineapple juices down one of the toilets. A way to clean out the smell?
Note to self: Never put a winter jacket into a carry-on. It makes it too large for the overhead bins. I made it from Los Angeles to Chicago to Madrid to Sevilla and back to Madrid and to Chicago with my carry-on, but as soon as my jacket went inside I was forced to check my luggage. (Yes, I could have taken the jacket back out, but I was feeling pressured to board the plane.)
Interestingly: All the jets were near 100% capacity except for the jet from Chicago to Madrid. I found that strange. Everyone must come and go. Why would the flight to Madrid be perhaps 25% full, but the flight into Chicago be at nearly 100%?
Towards the end of my time in Sevilla, I got a major craving for a burrito. When I got home around midnight (9 a.m. in Spain) — even though I was exhausted beyond belief, I got a burrito from the nearby late night fast food restaurant in my neighborhood.
I also got a major craving for potato chips. Luckily, my hotel was next to a grocery store. One evening I walked in and grabbed a bag of BBQ chips. I started to snack. “This stuff doesn’t taste like chips to me.” I looked at the ingredients and noticed the ingredient corn meal – just great.
I could have checked out L.A. Guns in Sevilla at a place called Sala Q; however, it was so far from my hotel and in my mind the metro system in Sevilla wasn’t the best and considering the weather, I just decided not to check them out.
Delorean (a Spanish band) has made a name for itself in the Los Angeles local music scene, but no one I talked to had heard of them in Sevilla. Of course, why I expected everyone in Spain to have heard of this awesome band is probably like the guy from Singapore who felt that Los Angeles and San Francisco are two next door city neighbors.
Never trust the travel book you buy when it comes to cost estimates.
I am telling you the honest truth: the girls that worked at the Sevilla Cathedral could probably work the fashion runways anywhere in the world. I got an audio guide for the cathedral. One of the young ladies was giving me directions on how to use it. I wasn’t listening to her. I was just mesmerized. Mesmerized. Isn’t this a cathedral, a place of worship? Bad thoughts, bad thoughts, must think of something else.
A brief comparison between Prague and Sevilla
Sevilla: No real fear of getting pick pocketed. Everyone was very friendly. If someone noticed that you were trying to locate a street name (which was actually somewhat difficult even after a few days in the city), an older gentleman would almost always stop, give you a tap on the shoulder and point to the street sign.
Prague: A bigger music scene. A more useful public transportation system. And actually a more beautiful city (hopefully, no one from Sevilla comes across this blog).
Now comparing cities might not be appropriate. A fellow tourist I ran into reminded me that I should appreciate each city on its own merits. He is probably right, but I just can’t help it.
Saturday: Walked around city, fun club: 7 miles.
Sunday: Cathedral. Cultural. Eat: 8 miles.
Monday: Granada: 3 miles.
Tuesday: Cordoba/Flamenco: 6 miles.
Wednesday: Teatrco Centro twice/Basilica/Casa: 15 miles.
Thursday: Alcazor/Fun Club: 6 miles.