Recently I flew home from a 24-day solo trip to Lisbon, Porto, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Seville, and Lisbon again. If you like, you can start from the beginning here.
Day Nineteen - Seville
I'm in my little cell, listening to kids play kick the can with a smushed coke can right outside my window, and I've given up all hope of a nap this afternoon. Seville has some of the most beautifully decorated buildings I have seen so far on the trip. They are usually covered in intricately painted tiles, or ornate carvings, or both; there is definitely some Arabic influence in the ornamentation, whether in the patterns of the tiles, or the shapes of the carved arches and towers. I was stunned at the beauty of the Alcazar.
The original palace was built some time in the 12th or 13th centuries, but it was heavily renovated, reconfigured, and added to for Isabella and Fernando in the 15th - 16th. Each room was covered - completely covered - in decorative tile, each courtyard sculpted beyond belief. It's hard to imagine it, somehow, as a home: a few plaques said such-and-such a room was perhaps the bedchamber, etc., but since everything is devoid of furniture it's very hard to see it.
After Alcazar I headed to the Plaza del Toros and that was truly fascinating. The tour was all in Spanish, but I was able to understand quite a bit of it, thanks to our very expressive and gestural guide. From what I understand, bullfights happen there in the summers, and what I never knew was that it's not just the matador: they fight in teams. The matador is simply the first and last fighter of the event, and there are two other fighters who have 5-minute sets each. Before some regulations were passed in the early 20th century, many bulls and bullfighting teams would fight at the same time, and even dogs and cats were somehow involved. "Chaos!" said our guide.
She also said that since this bullring was opened, only 3 people - and only one of them was a matador - have been killed in the ring (it doesn't seem like a fair fight, exactly). And when the matador was killed, they not only killed the bull at fault, they also killed the bull's mother. Her lovely little head was actually mounted right there in the museum. It's a pretty grisly thing.
I had a couple of less-than-spectacular meals today (Author's note: so less-than-spectacular in fact that I can't even remember them and hence no food illustrations this post. Sad face.) I find myself longing for Basque tapas and their easy-to-navigate, what-you-see-is-what-you-get deliciousness.
I am also longing for a toilet that works properly. Yes, this morning my toiled not longer flushed. Actually, to be more accurate, the tank no longer fills up with water (if it ever did). So, as I discovered, when you personally fill up the tank with about 25 little glasses of water from the sink, it actually will flush. If this is some karmic lesson on conserving water, I am not amused. But then again, it's really effective. (Some of you readers might, at this point, be wondering why I didn't alert the hostel staff as to my predicament. Short answer: I don't know. I thought about it, but then for some reason I convinced myself that it was fine and I would make do. Sigh.)
I think I'm starting to get a little tired of being on the road. My restaurant and transaction Spanish have improved quite a bit, but I'm starting to count down the days until my flight home. I'm sorry, Seville, it's not you, it's me. But something about this city does feel a little more touristy somehow. Maybe it's the part of town where I'm staying? I mean, Madrid and Barcelona were certainly touristy, but I was staying slightly out of their centres in those cities.
One thing I do love here, though, are all of the genuine Flamenco shops. Even in the El Corte Ingles department store there's a flamenco section on the kids' floor, and a shawl (mantilla?) and hair comb counter on the accessories floor. The dresses are so brightly patterned and ruffled and, well, beautiful. I also love seeing the older couples strolling home after their glass of wine, arm-in-arm, the wife in her fur coat. I see them and completely romanticize their lives. And then I wonder to myself if they've ever been to a bullfight.