Spanish Sahara

Saturday 23rd September
Flying from one Spanish city to another had felt like an unnecessarily luxurious way to travel but given the extortionate prices we were quoted for taking the train, catching a plane from Barcelona to Seville ended up being our only realistic option. While we had departed from Catalonia in a torrential downpour that had me fearing for the life of the laptop that was residing in my not entirely waterproof backpack, we emerged from Seville airport into a muggy, stifling heat. A short bus journey through a rather uninspiring network of modern hotels, shops and office blocks led us right up to the gateway of the old town, the park Prado de San Sebastian.

As had become customary with our first foray into a new city, we were insufficiently confident of our ability to navigate the public transport system straightaway so proceeded in search of our hotel on foot. Thankfully, it was a relatively straightforward route to Gloria, a charming hostal on the Calle de San Eloy authentically decked out with ornate tiles and, bizarrely, a plant that whistled every time you walked past it. We would have no hesitation in recommending the place to other travellers in search of cheap accommodation were it not for a bed that creaked deafeningly at the merest attempt to roll over (a nightmare scenario for a restless sleeper such as myself).

And while I’m on the subject of accommodation, a brief aside on the topic of showers in mainland Europe. Why oh why do none of them seem to possess a holder for the shower head? One would have thought that such a basic accessory would have been ubiquitous but in nearly all of the hotels where we stayed one was forced into feats of physical exertion that would have proved troublesome for an octopus. On one occasion, my valiant attempt to juggle shower head and shampoo bottle whilst simultaneously massaging said shampoo into my hair ended with all items slipping disastrously from my hands and a rather painful bruise on my right foot.

Anyway, back to Seville. We found the city to possess an entirely different atmosphere to Barcelona, with the seemingly perpetual sunshine clearly having influenced the design and colour of the squares and buildings. The pale yellow stone that dominates lends the city a bright and airy quality while even the narrow lanes felt warm and inviting compared to Barcelona’s, which could sometimes seem dark and dingy. While the backstreets provided hours’ worth of bargain shopping potential, the handful of squares were a perfect setting for drinking and dining. The area Barrio Santa Cruz quickly established itself as a favourite and we ended up returning to the café-bar Carmela on our second night on account of its excellent but very cheap tapas.

Sight-seeing wise, we were inevitably left in awe of the vast Cathedral and were grateful to the designers of the Giralda Tower for installing non-tiring ramps rather than steps for the ascent to the top, where the spectacular views over the city provided a major highlight of our visit. We almost didn’t bother with the Plaza de Espana and only did so because it was close the ticket office for the bus we needed to catch to Tarifa but thank god we did. A staggeringly giant semi-circle of ornate buildings representing all the cities of Spain, it resembled what the great piazzas of ancient Rome have always looked like in my imagination.

Finally, if anyone can tell us what the huge, futuristic structure they’re building near Larana is, we’d love to know, though if it’s anything other than a theme park tribute to The Jetsons I’ll be sorely disappointed.


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