Seeing as all our travel plans this year (and the next…?) have been put on hold, to ease the wanderlust I’ll post throwback photos every week from our past trips. Join me as I travel from my sofa!
There are oranges almost everywhere in Seville, or at least, in the places tourists like the Hub and me frequented. There are trees heavy with orange fruit, fallen oranges on the ground, oranges accidentally squashed underfoot, mouldy oranges, oranges not yet quite ripe.
However temptingly orange and Sunkist-like the fruit looked, the general advice was not to pick one up and eat it. Notice the locals don’t do that either? That’s because Seville oranges are bitter. The British actually use it to make their beloved marmalade. So, we just contented ourselves with deep breaths of the fresh citrus-scented air.
In Seville we took long, leisurely walks all over the city. It was small and compact, and the number of “must-sees” was just right for a short weekend break. Unlike other European cities we had been to, we didn’t feel as pressured to be out and about all the time, and we even had time for a siesta in the afternoons.
We managed to get one of seven lovely rooms at a small hotel on Calle Zaragoza. The breakfast at the Taberna restaurant was exceptional – fresh squeezed orange juice, hot baked bread with sweet olive oil for dipping, coffee with kick, and slices of Jamón Serrano.
The hotel was within walking distance of the Seville Cathedral, the largest Christian church in the world. The cathedral’s towering Gothic arches allow the building interior to have a temperature markedly different from the outside – inside it was cool and perfect for muni-muni (deep thinking).
While we were there, we also climbed up the cathedral bell tower, also known as La Giralda. It had fantastic rooftop views of the city. The climb was made easier by the fact that it was a ramp rather than steps, the original design being intended for men on horseback. It was still quite steep though.
In Barcelona, bull-fighting had been banned since the year before our trip. I’m not too sure about Seville, but when we were there the season hadn’t started yet so we just went to the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza for the tour and a visit to the museum. I’ve never seen a bullfight before– and I’m not too sure I want to.
We toured the usual spots in Seville – the Real Alcazar, a luxurious Moorish palace with intricate designs on the walls and ceilings, the Plaza de España, a lovely square that was apparently used in a Star Wars film for its other-worldly feel, the Casa de Pilatos, a well-preserved urban mansion that reminded me of old Spanish-era houses in the Philippines.
Seville was the first Spanish city we had been to, so we were really keen on seeing authentic flamenco dancing. Walking around the back-streets we chanced upon a small, cosy theatre on Calle Alvarez Quintero. The flamenco show started at 9pm and costed a mere €17 back then (€15 if you’re 26 years old and below). We were treated to passionate (in the guy’s case, the hip-swaying, furrowed-brow crooning, really intense kind of passionate) flamenco dancing and singing. Eyes closed one could easily imagine oneself walking in a fruit-laden courtyard, bathed in red-orange hues in the style of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, or eating tapas on a rustic table in a small whitewashed kitchen.
Then again, I could be over-romanticising things.
We made a side trip to the Archivo de Indias, a library of documents related to the Spanish colonization of the New World. The building itself was built in 1598. I wanted to go see if there was anything about the Philippines in there.
We watched a short video presentation about the history of the building itself and the neglect it experienced – apparently, at some point it even became a halfway house for the homeless. It’s been renovated extensively since. The day of our visit, the exhibit was mainly about Latin American colonies. The only mention of the Philippines was a tiny dot on an old brown map exhibited behind glass.
Sometimes, I catch myself talking casually about difficult times in world history and feel an odd twinge of guilt. My colleagues in a previous workplace included a British national and an Argentinian. I recall discussing colonies and empires with them over our lunch breaks. (It was the Argentinian who asked me if I ever felt upset about having to apply for a Schengen visa, given we were colonised by the Spanish for centuries. According to him, we should get a free pass since the Philippines was practically a part of Spain. Suffice it to say, a lunch hour was not enough for that conversation.)
I’ve mentioned how much I liked grocery stores in a previous post. Same thing goes when we travel; we make it a point to stop by one in the places we visit. I feel that I get a glimpse into a country’s culture by looking at what they buy. I also find we have more in common than we think.
Anyway, we found these biscuits in the store we went to:
The Filipinos biscuits were doughnut-shaped, and came in milk chocolate or white chocolate flavours. It had either a light-coloured biscuit inside (similar to rosquillos biscuits in the Philippines, except Filipinos biscuits didn’t have scalloped edges) or a dark-coloured biscuit.
I remember reading about these Filipinos biscuits many years ago in the Inquirer when some congressmen thought the name an insult (note these biscuits have been in the market for over 40 years). The foreign secretary at that time, Domingo Siazon, attempted to counter the protest by noting that Austrians do not complain that small sausages are called “Vienna sausages.” (How about Belgian waffles, Hawaiian burgers, French toast?)
Names aside, it was a tasty biscuit.
Think critically dear readers,