In contrast to the very travel heavy blog post I wrote last, this one will stay a little closer to home. These past few weeks have mainly comprised of me churning out work for both Seville and Sheffield, reading, cooking, flamenco dancing (more on that later!) and just meandering around this beautiful city. This week I have had no classes because of Feria (the annual spring festival of Sevilla) so, as well as getting lots of work done, I’ve been going on purposeful purposeless walks to split up my day…organised spontaneity if you will. I’ll pick an area to wander to, and just enjoy the journey. And in doing so, i’ve stumbled upon some really sweet little streets, independent shops and cafés that I otherwise might have not seen or ignored.
One of my favourite areas in Sevilla to amble through is called Alameda which, fortunately, is right on my doorstep. I’d visited the main plaza ‘Alameda de Hércules’ quite a few times which is full to the brim of cool coffee shops, bars and tapas restaurants. But what I hadn’t really explored were the little streets that branch off of the plaza, each dotted with independent shops, organic greengrocers and little cafés. You walk down one street that seems a bit run down and dodgy but then turn the corner and find a really well curated vintage shop or a handmade jewellery boutique. The other day I wandered through the weekly flea market that is held there, rummaging through all the old broaches, coins and flamenco dresses, and soaking up the hustly-bustly vibe. That’s one word I would definitely use to describe Alameda – ‘vibe-y’; there is a definite lack of urgency that makes the area feel very relaxed. That, and the occasional waft of incense or cigar smoke.
Another area I have absolutely fell in love with, is Santa Cruz. It is the home of the cathedral and the alcázar, and I walk by it everyday on my way to University, so I am fairly well acquainted with the area. But i’ve recently been heading over there with no agenda, taking a left where I would normally take a right, and just seeing where I end up. The thin, white-walled streets with overhanging pink flowers fill all my ‘Brit abroad in a hot European country’ dreams, and I can amuse myself by walking around pretending I’m in some old romantic film. Once you’ve pushed your way through the often overwhelming amount of people swarming around the cathedral and alcázar, it’s actually quite a tranquil area, and there are a fair few artisan “ceramica” to browse through.
But aside from exploring, I have also taken a couple of trips to Feria this week, which has definitely been an experience to remember. It’s held in Los Remedios, an area on the other side of the Guadalquivir river to the city, and it is basically a celebration of all things ‘Spanish’. It is like a little village that pops up every year, but instead of houses you have marquee type structures called ‘casetas’ with their own bar and dance floor, instead of cars on the road you have a procession of horse and carriages, and instead of a measly ‘welcome to…’ sign you have the towering arches of a huge ‘portada’ (pictured below). Everyone is dressed to the nines; the men in suits and the women in flamenco dresses with flowers in their hair and decorative shawls draped over their shoulders. There is also an amusement park just next to it on Calle del Infierno or “Street of Hell” which, bizarrely enough, didn’t seem as appealing to me, so I just stuck to soaking up the atmosphere spilling out onto the streets from the thousands of casetas.
Although there are a handful of public casetas, the majority of them are privately owned and you can only enter if you are a member or are invited by one. I had the privilege of being invited into one by one of my classmates whose Dad was the caseta’s musician for the night. As soon as I arrived, I was ushered in and immediately found myself with “rebujito” (a kind of white wine spritzer that is typical of Feria) in one hand and a plate of “pescaíto” (fried fish) in the other. I was made to feel so welcome; my friend brought me a flower to put in my hair so that I fitted in and her Dad was constantly making sure that I was fed and watered. Shortly after I arrived, the music started playing and the whole caseta erupted with joy. At first, I watched on as members of the caseta showcased their skill for the “Sevillana” (the traditional folk dance of Sevilla, similar to flamenco), twisting and turning in perfect harmony with the strum of the guitar and beat of the cajón. But soon enough, my friend got me on the dance floor, reassuring me that if I kept my arms up in the air and followed her, everything would be fine. I had the best time honing my inner Spanish señorita with no care in the world, and no clue to what I was actually supposed to be doing.
I went to bed that night with buzzing feet and a full heart. It’s experiences like that, and just taking time to ‘be’ in the city, that have helped to remind me why I love doing what I am doing, something which can be easy to forget when I’m sat struggling to keep up in linguistics class. I’m back at uni next week which will be one of my final weeks here in Sevilla…how has that happened?! I’ve also got a lot to look forward to in these next few months, including a couple of visitors and a VERY special wedding, so I’m feeling quite positive as my year abroad draws to a close. But for now, I think I’ll go and take a shower to cool off from the 35 degree heat… I hope you’re keeping well!