After an unintentional Friday night out last week, which took in…

– a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant

– a power of wine before the food (mmm, ceviche) arrived –

– a plaza-full of squat bars

– a West African band (to my delight)

– dancing to bassy-dub-type sounds (also to my delight)

– a robbery (to no delight whatsoever)

– a contender for the worst toilet in the Western Hemisphere (to my nausea)

– and walking in a circle for an hour or so before finding the way home

…my Saturday plans were in ruination and I had to spend the entire day languishing, day-dreaming of eating the eggs and toast I was too sickly to get up and cook, and, unexpectedly, feeling an anxious longing to be among greenery, shrubbery, foliage, lush gardens of green.

Sunday, I did the only thing I could to soothe my botanical desires and took an afternoon stroll down by the Guadalquivir and into Maria Luisa park:

Muelles de la...

Not exactly verdant, but one of several fountains along a tidy section of the riverbank, which I assume are dedicated to the various barrios of riverside industriy that would at one time have been present, each fountain bearing a different name.

I put on my 50mm lens since I hadn'y used it is a while, a nice low f-number for making  a bokeh effect of the pink bush.

I put on my 50mm lens since I hadn’t used it in a while, a nice low f-number for making a slight bokeh effect of the pink bush.

GREEN - just what I was after. This was some sort of cheese plant sort. I had an obsession with cheese plants as a child. There was a huge one in the doctors' waiting room. See, cheese has always been on my mind...

GREEN. Just what I was after. This was some sort of cheese plant. I had an obsession with cheese plants when I was little. There used to be a huge one in the doctors’ waiting room. See, cheese has always been on my mind…

Children on tricycles, terrorising the park-going public. At some point I also saw a family of half a dozen or more, careering around on one of those bus-pedalo things, hooting ans screaming and having the time of their lives.

Children on tricycles (albeit with four wheels), terrorising the park-going public. At one point I also saw a family of half a dozen or more careering around on one of those bus-pedalo things, hooting and screaming and having the time of their lives.

Any musings of paradise were swiftly brought to an end, however, when I returned to my street and to the rubbish strike. This was on Sunday - they only called off the protest yesterday. The rubbish mountain is still there. You can imagine... On a political note,

Any musings of paradise were swiftly brought to an end, however, when I returned to my street and to the rubbish strike. This was on Sunday – they only called it off yesterday. The rubbish mountain is still there. You can imagine…  Despite the disruption, though, the strikers didn’t win any concessions and for that, I’m sad. Hard times in España, true dat.

I was refreshed and ready to take in a touch more nightlife again by Sunday evening, heading to Ánima for some live musics – a bar Andalucian in appearance, with an Austrian dueño who serves goulash and mulled wine, and, it seemed, frequented by a fortunate wealth of fit, bearded men. The band wore black hats and played in a klezmer style. I must say, I was relieved to find that there is a little music culture going on in Seville after all. I’d been starting to worry…

I made it out on Sunday night again to this venue, with

Ánima. You can just make out a silhouette of hat and clarinet by the door frame. Beard+hat, by the way – win-win combination.

It has been a busy old time this last week and two days. Last weekend started with a Friday night cheese-and-wine fest with folks from work, and ended with not remembering getting home sometime around 4am.

One for Dr John - Doctor Bar, with syringe lampshades and anatomical drawings on the wall. I don't remember taking this photo. I feel it's quite telling of the latter end of that Friday night.

One for Dr John – Doctor Bar, with syringe lampshades and anatomical drawings on the walls. I don’t remember taking this photo, which is quite illustrative of the latter end of that night really.

This then posed some challenges for Saturday morning, when I was headed to Córdoba with my flatmate and a few other chicas. We weren´t getting the the train until lunch time, but nevertheless ended up in a mad rush, having to change buses and flee through the train station. That´s surely the only way to go anywhere though, right?

I was excited to get out of the city for the first time since arriving, see some landscape, some hills, some Andalucían streets the same but different. There was a medieval market on that weekend, which we hadn’t quite known what to expect of but it turned out to be a big affair.

Meat was the over-arching theme of the fair.

Meat was the over-arching theme.

Giant and unseemly shaped vegetables, a close second.

Giant and unseemly-shaped vegetables, a close second.

Face-painted men in leather playing bagpipes! Man, medieval times were exciting...

Face-painted men in leather playing bagpipes and drums. Medieval times were well exciting!

Horns and red trousers a-plenty!

Horns and red trousers a-plenty!

The above photo exhibits two delights of the day – one being the horn clutched on the right there – mulled wine from a horn, the hangover cure to beat all. The horns were all the rage within the market arena, but were met with judging glares when we bared them in the outside world…

In the background there you can also see a red-trousered man. My attention was first brought to red trousers by this website. Sevilla (and Córdoba, it seems) is awash with red-trouser wearers and they have become my obsession. Red trousers are a particularly popular weekend choice among the andaluz male. Córdoba also offered a new delight of bright blue trousers, which almost equalled the red in number.

Street art (literally) in the style of the street name letters. 'At last I have found you'.

Street art (literally) in the style of the street name letters. ‘At last I have found you’.

There's not a whole lot going on in Córdoba , but you can find the biggest tortillas en el mundo! There the size of, goodness, I don't know, a whole baby? If you flattened it out...

There’s not a whole lot going on in Córdoba , but you can find the biggest tortillas en el MUNDO. They’re the size of, goodness, I don’t know, a whole baby? If you flattened it out…

Córdoba’s small (or at least feels small, despite being a city of 300,000 people), a one-horse town when it comes to nightlife, but we squeezed all we could out of our one night away and after a visit to a ‘fairy’ bar, a variety of dubiously-coloured shots, and dancing (and singing – !!) along to Elvis, Bon Jovi and some questionable Spanish rock, we clung on until a respectable 7am.

Unfortunately for Sunday, this meant an accumulative hangover and some very bad bus/food choices.

I survived on into the next week though, and if the medieval market had been the close of winter, spring had most definitely arrived by mid week. On my lunch break I was able to bask in the sun and breathe in the aroma of the cypresses released by the heat. Winter is DEAD! Roll on the summertime…

Basking

I had three tasks to fulfil this afternoon, all of which remain undone to nag another day. Instead, I went out into the wild gale that had woken me more than once in the night.  It was strangely enticing – an Andalucían storm.

Que vientoso! This was the only shot I'd initially set out to take today, one portraying the mad wind.

Que vientoso! This was the only shot I’d initially set out to take today, one to illustrate the mad wind.

I wanted to get some more postcards to send home so headed for the touristy district surrounding the Cathedral , then decided to wander on into Barrio Santa Cruz, also touristy and the surest place to lose your bearings in a flash. Narrow alleys of meandering trajectory, designed to keep out the choking summer heat; high, blank walls masking lush, fountained wombs from the curious flaneur.

But, I digressed... into monochrome. Look up in Santa Cruz, and this is what you may see. These iron sun-ray semi-circles that commonly designate the division between buildings in a block here

But, I digressed… into monochrome. These iron sun-ray semi-circles that commonly designate the division between buildings in a block, actually remind me of Havana. Of Calle Virtudes and my wonderful ‘casa particular’, where you could see these same things from the roof terrace.

The city took me by surprise when I reached the outer edge of Santa Cruz and crossed over a busy road into an area previously unknown. The transformation was stark – in a few steps from sightseers paradise to urban, recession reality. Abandoned factories, Soviet-style tower blocks on the horizon; sirens, smashing glass and yells of what I knew without doubt to be aggressive drunks, all carried on the screaming wind. It’s the first time I’ve stumbled upon a part of Seville like this, and I must say, I liked it.

'The rich Spaniards die first'. Seville, I think, like to think itself a bit 'pijo', a bit superior. But 'la crisis' looms here just as hard. There's a lot of homeless in Sevilla, and this abandoned market, scrawled with anarchist grafiti (mostly less incendiary than the statmement here

‘The rich Spaniards die first’. Seville, I think, likes to think itself a bit ‘pijo’, a bit superior. But ‘la crisis’ looms here just as hard. There’s a lot of homeless in Sevilla, and this abandoned market, scrawled with anarchist graffiti (most less incendiary than the above) strikes as one of their many haunts.

I’d already decided to shoot in monochrome due to the cloudy weather and resulting poor light. I couldn’t have done justice to the yellows and reds of the stucco, the oranges in the trees (the streets stank of oranges today, by the way, cast from the trees by the storm and smashed upon the pavement). But now I started to wonder if perhaps I just like to seek out the dark in places. Here I am, seeking with intent to turn up the dark side of the colourful crown of Andalucía.  This says more about me, of course, than it does about Sevilla.

I do have a fascination with the undersides of bridges. This one made a welcome reprieve from picturesque, historical central Sevilla.

I have a fascination with the undersides of bridges. This one made a welcome reprieve from the picturesque history of the centre.

Rain started to spit through so I turned back towards the Old Town. As I crossed back over the main road a jogger came the other way. Statuesque; not Spanish. I caught his eye; he looked Irish. He smiled at me, and left me wondering just what it is that I want…

Blowing in the wind - storm-blasted palms, shedding debris all over town.

Blowing in the wind – storm-blasted palms, shedding debris all over town.

On the way home I stopped off for a merienda (afternoon tea, usually consisting of coffee and cake, to tide you over until the late Spanish evening meal) at a place opposite the Cathedral. Good service is hard to come by here, most ‘hospitality’ staff suffering from catatonic indifference. But the first time I went into this place, after a morning of frustrating bureaucracy when I’d only just moved here, I hadn’t even got my coat off and the waiter was there to ask what I’d like to drink. The same guy was working this afternoon and despite the place being packed full, he acknowledged me right away. A blue-eyed man, sallow-skinned, heading towards middle-age and carrying a little weight. My favourite Seville waiter so far (even more than the beautiful boy who served me on my first day here, so beautiful I couldn’t even get out the words ‘quiero pagar’).

End of the road

I tried to lurk in this road end, waiting to better frame the next passer-by. It seemed wise to call a halt to this, though, when a scooter came racing round the corner. Playing pedestrian (or dim-witted photographer) in Sevilla is not the safest pursuit.

I was sat in a stool facing the back wall, the only free seat. At first this seemed a terrible position for people-watching (surely the best thing about stopping out for a coffee), but there was a small, immaculately clean mirror on the wall in front, positioned perfectly, like looking through a letterbox onto the café behind me. It seemed a great opportunity for a few sneak-shots, but alas, the camera battery did what it had been threatening for over an hour, and died.

Religious motifs and icons for sale. Que catòlico...

Religious motifs and icons for sale. Que católico…

Last Sunday (it rained today); a stroll from Arjona, down the riverbank and into town…

Man with a nice back. Looking over the Guadalquivir to Triana.

Man with a nice back. Looking over the Guadalquivir to Triana.

Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), originally a Moorish guard post, used by the Spanish to store gold plundered from the Americas. A classic Seville landmark.

Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), a classic Seville landmark. Originally a Moorish guard post, later used by the Spanish to store gold plundered from the Americas.

There are always rowers and kayakers going up and down the Guadalquivir. They're incredibly picturesque, especially at sunset.

There are always rowers and kayakers going up and down the Guadalquivir. They’re incredibly picturesque, especially at sunset – the way the ripples sweep out across the water. This isn’t a great shot – out of focus and I clicked the shutter a little too late. But I think the rowers will offer up many more opportunities…

Late afternoon silhouettes on the Puente de San Telmo, one of multiple bridges that now cross the Guadalquivir.

Late afternoon silhouettes on the Puente de San Telmo, one of multiple bridges that now cross the Guadalquivir. The barrio of Triana, on the other side from the old town, still maintains its independence from Sevilla, for many centuries only connected to the city by one bridge.

This one is a cheeky crop, but I wanted to be able to see the old lady's face better. I like the light and the colours in the scene, on the last day of Christmas.

This one is a cheeky crop, but I wanted  the old lady’s face to be more visible. I like the light and the colours in this scene, on the last day of Christmas.

Luminoso, on Calle Alfonso XII. Seville has quite a lot of these ridiculously ostentacious furnishings shops, in which I never see any customers.

Luminosity on Calle Alfonso XII. Seville has quite a lot of these ridiculously ostentatious furnishings shops, in which I never see any customers.

There was a vast and varied spread of cheese on offer at the Hogmany party last week. Cheesey-cheesey-cheese-cheese, I love it so. Sometimes I even dream in cheese….

Sadly, though, I was to discover that its talents are not all-reaching after all, and in fact the power of cheese to soak up alcohol – despite how well it goes with wine – is notably limited. No matter how many slices of fromage goodness I shuffled in on top of the cava, it was not enough to allay the fact that I hadn’t had a proper tea.

No matter, Cheese, I forgive you. Though Spain has many fine cheeses to offer, you still can’t beat a classic vintage cheddar. Yesterday I bought a big ol’ expensive block out of the ‘imported’ section in El Corte Ingles (ginormous, overpriced Spanish department store). And just right now, Cheese and I made our peace. Mmm, cheese before bed, as it should be. Hello, sweet dreams…

 

Cheeses of the World!

[image: gmushrooms.com]

I’d awoken with a headache and horrible, foggy eyes from sleeping with my contacts in after I don’t know how many hours sleep, but not many.  The flat was silent and stale smoke pervaded, but there had clearly been an effective pre-bed tidy-up, so I didn’t feel too bad about heading home. It would be about a 25 minute walk back to my place. For once I was glad to see a grey sky, since I’d neglected to bring walk-of-shame sunglasses. I’d anticipated making the walk through the Alameda and into the centre as quickly as possible, to breakfast and my bed at the other end, but there was something so satisfying about those streets this morning…

Calle Miguel de Carvajal, one of many interesting street names in Seville which I must investigate.

Calle Miguel de Carvajal, one of many interesting street names in Seville to investigate.

In contrast to New Year’s Day at home, which has something of the post-apocalypse about it – desolate street scenes with occasional bands of refugees, fleeing, bedraggled from a night of kamikaze boozing, or family units wrapped up to the hilt against a bitter northerly wind, journeying to share sustenance with elders; barely a vehicle on the road and absolutely no public transport – the streets were full of people. Walking dogs, jogging, or dressed in smart coat, umbrella in gloved hand, as if out for a Sunday stroll. And there were buses running. Given the Spanish fondness for holidays and – dare I say it – not working, I was a little surprised. All of the shops and most of the bars and cafes, however, remained closed. It was a great opportunity to feel Sevilla differently, without the distractions and the bustle of commerce, of shoppers, of the crowds taking tapas. The dull light added an unexpected, soft peace, and right away I made the decision not to take the quickest route home, but to turn in another direction and find a path previously unknown.

Vespa under orange trees.

Vespa under orange trees, que Sevillano.

Rain on Plaza del Museo,  a marble, hedged patio endowed with two huge, ancient fig trees, outside the Museo de Bellas Artes and five minutes from my flat.

Rain on Plaza del Museo, a marble, hedged patio endowed with two huge, ancient fig trees, outside the Museo de Bellas Artes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turned midday and the bells on all the multitude of churches clanged.  Along with the Chino bazaars, they were the only thing open. Seville is a city of twisty-turny streets and alleys, without hills, and so churches come upon you unexpectedly – a high, flat stucco wall suddenly merging out of a block of apartments. Through one great, studded wooden door, I saw a set of Franciscan sisters in white habits. Through another, I heard Gregorian chant benedictions. I walked on but the sound echoed in my head, and the tinny pop music from a café a few streets on seemed unbearably empty. I tried to find my way back, not sure that I would – the streets here are tricksy like that – but then the church came out of nowhere again and I heard the monks. I lingered in the small plaza outside, under the ubiquitous orange trees (they have fruits, even at this time of year) where someone had parked their Vespa, and listened, trying to pretend I wasn’t. I’m not religious and I always feel a bit awkward and embarrassed to show interest in it. There are moments sometimes though, like that one, where I understand it…

Door to the church of the Gregorian chanters.

Door to the church of the Gregorian chanters.

The unusual motif outside the church of the chanters. The saint is Guadalupe, but I'm not sure of the significance of the turbaned men who flank her.

The unusual motif outside. The saint is Guadalupe, but I don’t know about the turbaned men who flank her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walked on, and around the corner this time (I chose a different one) I could hear above me a continuing party with a soundtrack of funk. I smiled, felt a little envious, and carried on into a shabbier area, with broken bottles, swept piles of revelry rubbish, and homeless sleeping behind cardboard ramparts.

Walking the damp streets of my new city this morning, I really felt that I was starting this new year in the best possible way. I’d celebrated the previous evening with my fabulous new colleagues in my new job. Here I was, exactly one month into my stay in Seville, first wages in the bank, a spacious place to live, and no longer a waif. A whole year ahead of me to explore and love and hate this country that’s been on my mind so many years. I can relax! For a bit, anyway…

A man out for a New Year's Day stroll.

A local flaneur, out for a New Year’s Day stroll.