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) (more…)
Join Notes from Vivace in this 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. Part III will be up on Tuesday April 26th. For Part I (Getting to Sevilla) click here . For Part II (Sightseeing in Sevilla) click here.
Quick Summary of My First Days in Sevilla
Okay, so if you’ve gotten this far with me, you probably get the feeling that my time in Spain wasn’t off to the best of starts and I’d have to agree.
- First, Iberian Airlines didn’t give me the best experience.
- Second, I arrive in Sevilla in the pouring rain.
- Third, I had a small issue pop up regarding money.
- Fourth, it was just freezing.
- Fifth, I was having serious troubles walking due to multiple blisters which I suspect was driven by my shoes getting soaked. Summary of the attack of the blisters: Day 1. small blister on right foot. Day 2. small blister on right foot now a large blister, small blister developing just above larger blister, blister forming on left foot. Day 4. blisters on the back of both heals. Day 5. so much pain.
- Sixth, jet lag.
But come day four, life turned around. My small money problem became a non-issue. I worked around the freezing temperatures by wearing four layers of cloths. And as for the blisters . . . at least I was able to walk.
This turn around in my vacation was helped by the fact that I took off to Córdoba. First though I slept in ’til around 9 a.m. After waking and realizing how late it was (subjective, but I had a train to catch to Córdoba), I: jumped out of bed, took a shower, dressed, ran off to catch Bus C3 (which happened to stop right in front of my hotel – if only I’d been able to locate it on my first day), and found my way to the train station. I took the bus a couple stops too far and had to back track. I ran up to the ticket counter and asked for a ticket to Córdoba. The lady mentioned some amount in Spanish that I totally didn’t understand. I handed over a €50 bill. She smiled, took my money and returned €17 to me. €33 euro. What? Based on the Lonely Planet book, I was expecting something around €24 euros. Oh well, I was off on the AVE train (bullet train).
I ran towards the train as I didn’t have much time left to board. One of the officials looked at my ticket and pointed out that I needed to put my bag through the x-ray machine. I ran back and put my bag through. I then ran towards what I thought was the proper train, but the official pointed me to another train. I entered and found myself in a really nice car and was handed an earpiece to listen to music on my trip to Córdoba. How about that? The bullet train I was taking stopped off at Córdoba on its way to Barcelona. Barcelona was a ten hour trip, which made me wonder why anyone would take the bullet train to Barcelona versus just taking Iberian Airlines – oh wait . . . I got to Córdoba with great speed. I love this bullet train concept.
Once in Córdoba., I went to the tourist office where I was told that I could either take the bus to the Mezquita or walk it. Walking it would take twenty minutes, I was told. I headed towards the bus – the blisters, the blisters. But then I got this urge to just walk it. I was only going to spend one day in Córdoba, so why not walk it to get a feel for the city.
While on my way, I ran into a guy from Malaysia. He was in a panic. He had a ticket to see Medina Azahara (a palace-city outside Córdoba). As we were crossing a major street, he asked if I knew the direction to the bus for Medina. We slowed down during our conversation and he ended up dragging me across the final stretch of the crosswalk just as cars were about to zip by. I told him I was off to the Mezquita and wasn’t able to help him.
As always in Andalusia, I got lost trying to find my way to the Mezquita. Lost is a relative term here. I wasn’t lost like I was lost on my first day in Sevilla. I was heading in the right direction; I just wasn’t sure where I was exactly on the map. I eventually got to the Mezquita. Let me just say that the Mezquita is unbelievable in its calmness. The Mezquita is a mosque first and a cathedral second. From my understanding via the audio tour, the land was purchased from the Christians to build a mosque. (I’m not sure if purchased is the right term. I’m not saying that money didn’t exchange hands. I’m just guessing it was more like eminent domain.) A beautiful mosque was built. When the Christians re-conquered the land, they built a beautiful cathedral in the middle of the mosque. It is fascinating.
“When the Christians re-conquered the land, they built a beautiful cathedral in the middle of the mosque. It is fascinating.”
After checking out another tourist spot, I headed back to the train station. I bought a ticket expecting to pay €33 euros, but was only charged €16 euros. My car wasn’t as awesome cool as the car I road in for my trip to Córdoba, but I have to say that I would have gladly paid €16 euros to get to Córdoba. I wanted to take the bullet train to Córdoba and back, I just didn’t need to ride in a fancy car with earphones to do so.
Anyways, I ran into my Malaysian friend back at the train station. He had in fact made it to Medina and had also made it to the Mezquita. I couldn’t help but wonder how he’d gotten to both locations within the time allotted, but good for him. I also learned he was flying out of Sevilla that night. I’m personally too cautious to travel to another city on the day of my flight – the fear of missing the train or it breaking down would have driven an anxiety attack.
Join Notes from Vivace in this 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. Part II will be up on Tuesday April 19th.
A little over a year ago, I read a book called “Peace Be Upon You: Fourteen Centuries of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Conflict and Cooperation” by Zachary Karabell. The result was a fascination with Andalusia, specifically with Córdoba. I decided I was going to take a vacation in Andalusia. While doing my research on Córdoba, I ran into a problem: via Expedia, all flights came into Sevilla and from there it appeared I’d need to take a bus or train to Córdoba. I do love to travel, but I lack a gene for great adventures. Coming into Spain after 20 hours plus of getting myself to the airport, sitting in the cramped quarters of an airplane, running through airport terminals/concourses, having a lack of sleep and then trying to find my way to a bus or train to get to Córdoba just didn’t hold much of an appeal. So I decided that since the planes landed in Sevilla that would be my headquarters for my six days in Andalusia.
Los Angeles in the Wee Hours
A Friday morning arrived and my alarm clock went off at 4 a.m. I jumped out of bed like a rocket and I couldn’t help but wonder if my upstairs neighbors were a bit irritated – but considering that they often have a desire to play the piano at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, I figured all was fair. The first morning bus that would take me on my journey to LAX was at 5 a.m. I piled some final items into my suitcase, ate a quick continental breakfast and headed out the door. There is nothing really interesting going on at 5 a.m. except for the occasional car driving past (see picture on right). So I was glad when I found brief amusement while waiting at a red light. An SUV pulled to a stop. The driver was in an apparent rush to make a left hand turn. Instead of just running the red light, the driver made a right hand turn, did a three point turn and then headed in the correct direction. I half wondered what the driver would have done if the street light had turned red – probably would have ran the light and nearly run me over while I was crossing.
The bus arrived with a handful of people on board. It never got crowded during the trip to downtown Los Angeles, but there were enough people on the bus to make me wonder why so many people woke up so early. In general, folks got off in the Jewelry District between 4th and 5th Streets. My other interesting observation in the wee morning hours was when we got to 7th Street, my departure point. Two of us got up to exit the bus. The driver called back to us as the bus waited at a red light, “Do you want to get off now or on the other side of the street?” I indicated I’d wait, the other passenger said he’d get off now. The doors opened. The light turned green, the bus drove a few yards and I got off on the other side of the street. As I headed up to the 7th Street Metro, I noticed the other guy crossing to my side of the street. And well, eventually, I figured out that I also needed to cross to the other side of the street to enter the 7th Street Metro stop. We had each gotten off on the wrong side of the street.
Once at LAX, I was expecting to see those body scans that were causing passenger protests, but either I wasn’t asked to use one or LAX hadn’t yet installed them.
While at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport I sat next to an inspiring singer and her teacher. The young lady spoke in Spanish, the teacher replied in English. I was taking Iberian Airlines to Spain and so all the announcements were first made in Spanish and then in English. With all this Spanish being spoken, I started to get the sense that I was really off on my vacation.
While boarding the plane, I got to my seat and an elderly man was sitting in my seat. The jet was nearly empty (which I found strange considering how you read that airlines pack their jets full of passengers). I’m like, That’s just stupid, you can’t just find your own seat. I figured out later that his family was in the row in front of my seat. I felt a little guilty and was going to offer to exchange seats with him, but since the flight was only about 25% full everyone eventually moved around to create their own personal airline jet beds – almost like flying in first class. At this point, it was near 3 p.m. Los Angeles time, but around 5 p.m. Chicago time. When I arrived in Chicago, it was late afternoon and the sun was out. As we were leaving, I looked out the window and it was dark. I was thinking, What’s going on with that. Why is it so dark outside? It’s the middle of the afternoon. And then it dawned on me that it was nearing 5 p.m. in Chicago. This brought on a sense of confusion, which would continue.
That was a small shock, but a bigger shock happened next. As we were preparing for take-off; elevator music, Muzak, blasted through the airplane cabin. What? This vacation was starting off on the wrong foot. And to make matters worse, the airplane looked old and worn down compared to the jet I’d taken previously while flying across the Atlantic. There was no private video screen on the back of the seats so that I could spend my time watching movies or television sitcoms of my choice. Instead, we all got to watch “Salt” (not that I didn’t enjoy seeing “Salt” in the theater) on drop down screens that were so bad that at times all you’d see was Angelina Jolie against a background of white.
The Iberian jet left Chicago behind schedule. Being my mathematical self, I started to do some calculations in my head. We were flying into Madrid and from there I was supposed to catch a flight to Sevilla. I only had an hour to get to my connecting flight. Was I going to need to go through customs? If so, I doubted very much that I’d make it to my connecting flight. Maybe I went through customs in Sevilla? That might make better sense. I felt like asking one of the flight attendants if I might miss my connecting flight, but decided not to do so. As we debarked from the plane, I saw two Iberian employees surrounded by fellow fliers. I decided I better join in on the conversation. “Sevilla?” I asked. “Talk to her,” was the response. I went to the other Iberian employee, “What’s your surname, please?” I gave it to her. “Here’s your new boarding pass. You now leave at 11:50 a.m.” (Note the time – a.m. versus p.m.) Now not only was my vacation getting off on the wrong foot by Iberian blasting Muzak and by them making Angelina Jolie look like a ghost at times, but now I was a bit angry. Why hadn’t they said anything before we landed that folks on their way to Sevilla were going to get assigned to another flight? I tried to think through the flight to try and recall if anything was announced over the speakers – even in Spanish – but nothing came to mind (though I suppose it could have happened while I was sleeping). What’s up with this Iberian Airlines? I could have gone running through the Madrid Airport, trying to get to my flight, only to learn after stressing myself out that they’d already taken care of me. I was simply left with an if-you-feel-you-won’t-make-your-flight-and-then-if-you-see-one-of-our-employees-at-the-gate-make-sure-you-talk-to-that-person attitude. (I later determined that there were probably ten of us that missed our flight to Sevilla – one was a college kid who was flipping through a college schedule, making me think she was going to spend a quarter or two in Sevilla learning Spanish, lucky girl.)
In fact, that initial one hour break would not have been enough time to catch my flight to Sevilla (so perhaps Expedia is to blame). We had to re-check carry-ons and there was a crowd in front of me. At this point, I started to get a feel for Spanish culture. I’d read that queuing was very important in Spain and you better watch it less you accidentally cut in line and get called out for it. Well, I’m not so sure that brief read was all that accurate. Oh, they loved to queue, but as I stood in line, I started to notice folks sneaking past me. It got to the point where I decided no more. When we got to the tables where the bins were, I noticed one couple grabbing a couple bins for their shoes and make an attempt to cut in front of me. I refused to let them do so, compromising my comfort level with personal boundaries by sticking as close as possible to the folks in front of me.
That didn’t stop one woman who jumped way in front of us all. She tossed her things on the x-ray machine – who cares about putting your stuff in a bin, just toss it onto the conveyor belt. When she went through the metal detector she set the detector off and was waved back. She whipped off her belt and tossed it atop the rest of her stuff. She still set off the metal detector and got herself a full body search.
There is more on this queuing in Spain. As we waited to board the Iberian flight to Sevilla, folks began to line up to board the plane well in advance of any announcement from the Iberian employees. I decided I better do what every single Spanish citizen seemed to be doing and scurried into the line. A trio of other Americans also rushed into line. I over-heard them talking to each other. “They really get in line early here, don’t they?” “Yes, but I figured I’d better get in line, as well. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
As the plane landed in Sevilla, I looked out the window and it was pouring rain. This wasn’t a surprise. I knew in advance to expect rain every single day of my trip. Once off the plane, I headed towards the tourist office in the airport. I was told where to catch the airport bus to Sevilla and that I was to take the city Bus C3 (which was just a corner’s throw away from where the airport bus stopped) from there. Everything seemed to be coming together. And in reality, it wasn’t that bad that the Chicago flight had gotten delayed, because if I’d caught the earlier Sevilla flight I probably would have gotten to my hotel a couple hours before the check-in time. That feeling that everything was improving ended once I got onto the bus. The bus was packed with fellow tourists. Suit cases all over. The driver used a towel to defrost the windshield. And as we drove towards Sevilla, the driver had to yell out the street stops (admittedly, Los Angeles bus drivers have to do this sometimes, as well; but isn’t public transportation supposed to be better in Europe). Luckily, I didn’t have to get off until the last stop — though even when we got to the last stop I was dependent on a kind tourist who informed me that we were at the last stop. If I had needed to get off at one of the other stops, I’m rather sure I’d have gotten off at the wrong stop. (Random side notes: Interestingly, as my eyes wondered around the bus, I noticed various folks with guide books – all the guide books were in English even while the folks reading them were conversing in other languages. Also, I noticed one individual using GPS on his smart phone. Listening to our driver yelling in Spanish, I started to have smart phone envy.)
At the last stop, us remaining tourists exited near Plaza de Juan de Austria. At this point, I found myself in a state of confusion. (more…)
Twenty Questions. I haven’t played that game in a long time…not voluntarily at least. A few days ago I came across someone who seemed determined to engage me in a round of this. The topic? My name.
The inquisitor started off with a rapid-fire round of basic questions I’ve heard a million times including:
“How do you spell it?”
“What does it mean?”
Sun-bright, Glowing (finally all of those ‘Siria is very bright’ remarks growing up finally make sense) On a side note, I didn’t know the meaning of my name for most of my life and doubt my parents did when they christened me with this. The name could’ve meant “your daughter is easy” for all they knew (FYI-I’m not).
Lesson to be learned: Parents, look up the meaning of a name before selecting it.
“Are you Syrian?”
I think I am basically soliciting this question, as normally when I introduce myself and people look bewildered at my name I add “Siria like the country but spelled differently.”
However, no I am not Syrian. Not that I know of. Perhaps somewhere along the way … did the Spanish/Portuguese/Mexicans go to battle with Syria somewhere in history? If so, then maybe.
The previous question is usually followed by either “Are you Middle Eastern?” or “Are you Persian?”
No, see the previous answer. Although, I now know Siria is of Spanish and Persian origin.
“How did your parents come up with that?”
A friend of my mom’s in high school had this name and she thought it was different and liked it.
After the interrogation is over they usually have a closing line of something to the effect of “That’s pretty, it suits you.” To which I usually reply “Thanks, it’s different.”
Slight variations of this back and forth are common occurrences in my life, happening probably at least once a week due to the high volume of new people I constantly meet.
As a child, I hated the uniqueness of my name for the attention it would bring me as I was super-shy. My middle name wasn’t much better to go by (here’s a clue it means “Victory-Bringer”…yeah I know I am Siria – the “Sun-Bright/Glowing Victory Bringer”).
Why couldn’t I be an Amy/Jennifer/Susan/Megan/Sarah like the other little girls? Even my brother got a normal name. Who cares if there were multiples of each at school? At least no one mispronounced their names (Sierra, Serina, Seria, Sariah, Suri) and most importantly they never had to special order their personalized souvenir keychains/coffee mugs/pens and wait 4-8 weeks for delivery. Nope they could have them same day.
I’m not really complaining as I’ve sort of grown into my name and can’t imagine having another (I was informed as a child by my parents that my name was to be Vanessa, but they changed their minds). Also, it seems that the older I get the less of an anomaly it is as people with different, interesting names surround me more and more these days.
My answers to the questions posed to me regarding my name have long since become automated (eventually I may just start directing them to this column entry or print out copies of it to keep handy) and don’t really annoy me ever as I am fine with people’s curiosity. I can’t help but wonder how the other Sirias of this world (I’ve only met one in my lifetime) address the same questions.
This past weekend, I dragged Amanda Jones and Lady Di with me to the going away dinner for one of my former co-workers. I was sad to see him go, but happy for him and his new opportunity at the same time. As we were all parting ways the topic of hello/good-bye greeting rituals in other countries came up. A kiss on each cheek for Quebec, Spain, Portugal, or Mexico (among other countries I’m sure) and one extra kiss for a total of three air/cheek kisses from the Swiss, French, and I believe Italians (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t feel like looking it up). I have experienced most of these customary cheek and air kiss greetings since I was little. We laughingly discussed those that we’ve sometimes encountered that will skip the cheek and try to kiss you on the lips catching you completely off guard. Most of the time you just laugh it off and escape politely as quickly as possible.
Funny enough, Lady Di and I were just trying to explain how lengthy of a process saying hello and good-bye can be just a few days prior to two of our new guy friends Jamie (native Irishman) and Robert (a native Brit) when we go out. Our expansive circle of friends seems to have adopted the hug as our official hello and goodbye greeting. For the most part, the hugging stays manageable, but with one particular group of friends that we have in common it can be endless. The problem (although it’s a welcome issue) is that we all know each other, and there are certain events that can bring us all together…it is then that a few hugs can turn into literally hundreds. I’m not sure how it began, but we all do it and most new people generally take to it very quickly as well.