I’ve always been close to my aunt but her husband was a mystery to me for a long time. He is a gentleman of very few words. I don’t really recall having a conversation with him until I was in university. I used to be afraid of him as a child but the past few years have gotten us closer, and my respect and admiration continue to grow both for him and my aunt. They are explorers and adventurers who never failed their weekly mountain climbing outing with friends (rain, snow, hurricanes, no matter the weather) for close to 30 years. I think it’s amazing that my uncle writes poetry and has literally “studied” the dictionary. He watches Japanese dramas in Japanese, and the two of them traveled to Japan a few months ago with just their backpacks. My aunt, who is in her 70s, was inspired enough to start taking Japanese lessons this summer. But that’s nothing compared to her husband who started acoustic guitar lessons after he turned 80- when he’s not traveling, he practices everyday for at least an hour. You never stop learning, right?
So I wasn’t at all surprised to be handed a list by my uncle when he arrived in Spain. He’d done his reading and research, and wrote out a list of places he wanted to visit while we were in Barcelona. Throughout our trip he and I often had discussions about Spanish culture, economy, language, and such. Everyday as we set out in the morning he’d check to make sure he had a pen and a piece of paper so that he could make note of where we went, along with his observations and thoughts. He was constantly jotting something down. Just the way I’m writing my blog posts I have a feeling my uncle is working on his prose right now, re-living our trip to Spain. I hope he’s smiling like I am.
I really wish we had an extra day or two, to travel to Córdoba and/or stay longer in Granada and Sevilla… but I wanted to have enough time in Lisbon and when I found out about the flamenco festival in Sevilla, I changed our plans to make sure we could attend a show. La Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla takes place every other year in September. We were incredibly lucky to take in a show during our visit. We had a nice train ride from Granada to Sevilla but I was stressed about picking up our pre-purchased tickets (I’d gotten an e-mail saying that I had to pick them up by 2PM but our train didn’t get in until 4PM!). I practically ran to the theater half expecting it was going to be a fruitless mission, but miraculously the automatic ticket machine worked and I was able to collect all of our tickets. Whew!
I loved our hotel, Alma Sevilla, which used to be a palace (Alma Sevilla Palacio de Villapanés). During the tour of the hotel we learned that it took 3 years to renovate and saw by the grand staircase the family coat of arms. It was an elegant yet modern place, and the fact that everything in the minibar was free was a fun bonus (of course it’s all calculated into the price of the room but I’d never had that before). Seeing the various knobs and control panels, including three different settings for the shower, I was concerned about the ease of use for the seniors but they figured it all out. It was a beautiful place to call home for our brief stay in Sevilla.
From the rooftop pool area we could see all the way over to the cathedral and the Giralda tower.
As fate would have it the restaurant I wanted to go for lunch with my family was just closing and we ended up in Plaza Santa María Blanca looking for food. It was an odd time of the day and almost every shop was already closed or about to pull the shutters down, except for Café Carmela. It didn’t occur to me until I went inside the restaurant to use the bathroom that it was a place Paula and I had gone to for breakfast two years ago. And then it came back to me… It looked like a tourist trap but I remembered having a good hearty meal. And sure enough, this time around everything we ordered was good! We all commented how much we enjoyed the food and I later read the dining section from Rick Steves’ book to see the place recommended. I was just “winging it” but things were working out surprisingly well… kind of.
Sevilla is a much bigger city than Granada (the fourth largest in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia) but I didn’t take any public transportation during my last visit, preferring to walk everywhere and never crossing over to Triana. Well, for this trip we weren’t staying in barrio Santa Cruz, the neighborhood I was familiar with. And for the flamenco show we had to go to Teatro Central on the other side of the river. I don’t know why I didn’t just ask the front desk at the hotel but I was sure I could figure out where the bus stop was… we eventually found it after asking several locals (they were all very kind and helpful), but I felt bad that I dragged the seniors around like that. That’s what happens when you’re not on an organized group tour and travel independently, right?
The bus driver made an “illegal stop” in front of the theater for us so that we didn’t have to walk far and thanks to him, we were comfortably seated before the curtains went up. The show we were fortunate to see was entitled REW by Cía Proyecto GR. Here is a link to La Bienal site where you can see a clip of their performance or check out their video on YouTube. It’s spectacular. I don’t know much about flamenco but this wasn’t your traditional/old-fashioned flamenco; it had a contemporary flair to it and even incorporated ballet during the last act. I was mesmerized by the dancers, the musicians, and the costumes. It was seriously awesome. We were so energized by the performance that we decided to walk back to the hotel, a good 30-40 minutes from the other side of the river. The whole family was into the idea and surprisingly I was the only one who thought we should take the bus/taxi. It was after 11PM and did I mention the seniors being in their 70s-80s? I guess I know where I get my love of walking comes from.
We had our culture fix now but there was so much to see and do in Sevilla! I felt a bit anxious about being able to show everything to my family, but tried to remain calm and collected. Where and what tomorrow?! Yeeeep!
Alma Sevilla Hotel Palacio de Villapanés: Calle Santiago, 31, Seville, Spain
Café Bar Carmela: Calle Santa María la Blanca 6, Seville, Spain
If we visited Sevilla any other time of the year, I would have taken the family to see this flamenco show: Casa de la Memoria de Al-andalus @ Calle Ximenez de Enciso, 28, Seville, Spain