Two weeks now into this trip and after a hard day of travel yesterday we took it easy today, having a nice breakfast in and then taking an easy walk to Cortes Ingles for some lunch supplies. Being Saturday, the cathedral square and the surrounding streets were already very busy with tourists. We picked up our daily International New York Times at a kiosk in Plaza Nueva which fronts the Ayuntamiento (town hall.) A couple of boys had gathered a crowd to watch them break-dancing, something that has inexplicably made a comeback here having seen it in Barcelona, too. The grocery store was not very crowded and we spent a lot time looking at all the interesting things they offer, far more diverse items than any store in the US, even upscale places like Whole Foods. We bought some more Iberico ham, crème Catalan for desert, a bottle of Spanish white and two small loaves of fresh bread. On the way home we took advantage of an unusually empty Starbucks to grab a couple of iced drinks.
Here and there were a handful of small groups in matching t-shirts, both young women and men, milling around the square and by our apartment on Mateo Gagos when we got back. I wasn’t sure what their story was until later when after lunch we were sitting around and started to hear singing and clapping. First it was that old Spanish favorite “Cielito Lindo” and then of all things, “Yankee Doodle.” I opened the shutters and looking down from the balcony saw one of the groups singing outside our building, much to the amusement of the tourists on the street. I still don’t know what they’re about, but now I know what they’re doing. The singing went on sporadically for the rest of the afternoon.
Spain is notoriously on the wrong time zone and right now, with Daylight Saving in effect it’s even worse. We still had sun on the tops of the orange trees out front well past 8PM. Of course it makes choosing a dinner time tough since it’s not socially acceptable to eat while it’s still daylight. So we went for a long stroll around the neighborhood past our other favorite apartment and the cool tile store before grabbing a table at the restaurant downstairs from this apartment. The main reason I like it is that they have a big plate of grilled vegetables on the menu, unlike most restaurants that collectively seem to feel that potatoes are adequate. Sometimes though you just feel like vegetables and that’s what we ordered along with smaller portions of fried cod and carrillada, my favorite Iberian stewed pork cheeks.
Over dinner we talked about why we keep coming back to this place, year after year. I remarked earlier today while walking past La Giralda, Sevilla’s signature landmark, that I no longer look up and say “wow” when just walking around. Instead, we walk with the comfort of knowing this place, and that’s of course a big part of what motives our return, year after year. But familiarity is not just it – I know Dalian equally as well as Sevilla, yet when January rolls around you don’t hear me saying, “it’s time to start booking our trip to China.” I think there is more than just knowing a place to make you want to return. The food? Definitely. The Culture? Yes, there is something special about spending time in a place with 2500 years of civilization under your feet. It must be a combination of comfort and interest that makes a place irresistible, coupled with how easily you can do what you want to do. We like to walk around and take in the sights, and Sevilla is certainly a place that fulfills that desire.
After dinner we took one last stroll around the cathedral and back to our place. The new moon was hugging Giralda’s side and I got the best photo I could of it with my little camera. High above, repeating the same pageant that has occurred for the last 1000 years, Swifts wheeled around the cathedral’s spires, chattering their weird bird language and dining on a host of insects. Two Eurasian Hobbys, a small falcon and similar to our Kestrel were doing the same, only dining on Swifts. Bats flew in and out of the orange trees down by us, staying well out of the interest range of the Hobbys.
Now it’s back home for a little desert of chocolate-covered stroopwafels and a bit of relaxation before turning out the lights on another day well spent.